Washington Nationals: Was Trading Danny Espinosa A Mistake?

rjuckett
Oct 10, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Washington Nationals shortstop Danny Espinosa (8) throws to first base during the second inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in game three of the 2016 NLDS playoff baseball series at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 10, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Washington Nationals shortstop Danny Espinosa (8) throws to first base during the second inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in game three of the 2016 NLDS playoff baseball series at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Washington Nationals bench depth is thin after his trade. Is Wilmer Difo’s limited experience enough if an injury happens?

Yes, that is a strange question to ask, considering the Washington Nationals and fans were ready to move on from the Danny Espinosa era.

Consider this, unless Washington either re-signs Steven Drew or signs an experienced middle infielder via free agency, the lone player on the roster that can spell Trea Turner or Daniel Murphy is Wilmer Difo. That does not leave you with a feeling of confidence.

Difo, of course, is a capable player. In the minors, he flashed lightning speed on the bases, swiping 49 bags for Single-A Hagerstown in 2014. Last year at Double-A Harrisburg, he pilfered 28 in 39 attempts in 104 games. When he gets on base, he is a legitimate threat.

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The question with Difo is, with one game of experience at Triple-A Syracuse, does he have enough experience to be a bench player in Washington? Twice, he received that important September cup of coffee with the Nats. Last season, he got into 31 games with the big club and was the last out of Game 5 of the NL Divisional Series.

He played well enough to make the playoff roster, but Difo is now in a position where he will be asked to play an important role late in games with little more than Double-A experience. Instead of getting in almost every game, the 24-year-old will sit for days on end.

Washington is begging for trouble right now. With three spots open on the bench, once you figure Jose Lobaton as the backup catcher, the dugout is thin. Too thin and it did not need to happen.

Sure, Espinosa went public with his displeasure on getting benched. With the Los Angeles Angels, his .209 batting average and 174 strikeouts are now their problem, not the Nats. But, in moving the disgruntled infielder, and not having Drew under contract, Washington loses the one player who can come off the bench and handle the middle infield with the glove.

Difo may turn into that player. He hits for a decent average and strikes out a third of what Espinosa did. Is he fully developed though? Will sitting on the bench with 10 at-bats a week be better than playing every day in Syracuse or Harrisburg?

With Daniel Murphy committing to the World Baseball Classic and Team USA this spring, Difo will get plenty of playing time with the rest of the starters. No one is questioning his credentials as a player.

In their haste in dumping an unhappy Espinosa, are they sacrificing Difo’s future by not giving him a regular role now? At his age, he should be starting somewhere, not riding the pine.

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So, yes, until we know what the roster will look like heading north, trading Espinosa was a bad idea. The depth behind Turner and Murphy is too thin.

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