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Nationals shortstop decision could be coming 'pretty soon'

The Nationals hope to come to a decision in the competition between Ian Desmond and Cristian Guzman "pretty soon," Manager Jim Riggleman said. The Nationals need to determine which player will start at shortstop with enough time remaining in spring training to allow the loser ample opportunity to play other positions in preparation for the season.

"If one of those two guys was going to be on the ballclub and not be the shortstop, we need to get him some work in other places," Riggleman said. "We need to make that call pretty soon, just so whoever we're not going to play there, we're going to have to start moving them around."

Guzman has never played any position except for shortstop in his career, and Desmond has played outfield only sparingly this spring. If Desmond wins the job, the Nationals want to Guzman play other infield positions. If Guzman wins, then the Nationals will send Desmond to the minor leagues where he can every day. General Manager Mike Rizzo has maintained this spring Desmond will be a regular player in the majors or with Class AAA Syracuse.

By Adam Kilgore  |  March 26, 2010; 5:09 PM ET
Categories:  Ian Desmond  
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Next: Right field production and the Nationals

Comments

Give the Kid a chance!

Posted by: mjwies11 | March 26, 2010 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Instead of continuing to contemplate how messy the Nats have made this faux competition, enjoy the irony of Guzman's play of a lifetime behind 2b last year as part of the ESPN defense highlight reel.

Posted by: paulkp | March 26, 2010 5:55 PM | Report abuse

"We need to make that call pretty soon, just so whoever we're not going to play there, we're going to have to start moving them around."—Riggleman.

Wow, with a keen brain like that, even if it's articulating a semi-thought, the Nats are in great hands.

Posted by: JohnRDC | March 26, 2010 6:26 PM | Report abuse

Guzman has become the focal point for the wrath of a lot of fans, and he's earned a chunk of it over the last five years. The real rift is coming from him finally being pushed by someone younger. Is Desmond really ready to step in? None of us know for certain; We can only prattle on about what we "see".

The next few days will play out, and a decision will be made; But as the surviving Templar Knight warned, "But choose wisely"...

Posted by: BinM | March 26, 2010 7:32 PM | Report abuse

In my completely uninformed opinion (totally unlike the rest of the unwashed & equally non-knowledgable Natosphere), as a FAN I want Desmond starting everyday at SS and Guzman as the every-other-day utility IF.

It's Spring, dammit! Trim the weeds and let the Nats sprouts grow!

Posted by: 1stBaseCoach | March 26, 2010 8:44 PM | Report abuse

If it wasn't comical it would be pathetic. StanK, Rizzo and now even Wiggleman are constantly talking out both side of their mouths. Like I said earlier, (as heard on the MLB Network) the two most dreadful teams to watch this year are the Pittsburgh Pirates and the well you all know who the other team is! Jeez, isn't there anything after 6 years that make this all just go away?

Posted by: TippyCanoe | March 26, 2010 8:54 PM | Report abuse

tippy canoe, the nats do have a pretty serious dilemma in trying to decide who's the better option. guzzie is steady. he's gonna give you .300 BA, .320 OBP, and won't make routine errors. none of that is sterling. desmond might have more upside than Guzman at the plate and greater range, but makes more simple errors and hasn't proven his consistency yet at the plate either. then throw in guzman's salary situation and the fact he's never played 2 minutes at another position, and you have a pretty good dilemma. rizzo inherited bowden's contract, don't blame him for having trouble figuring out what to do now. neither options are great.

Posted by: destewar | March 26, 2010 9:11 PM | Report abuse

Absent an unlikely trade or free agent signing, I'm going to swim upstream here: it's Guzman's job until the kid proves different, and he hasn't.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | March 26, 2010 9:39 PM | Report abuse

Guzzie's a known quantity, as much as Livo or Dunn or Willingham or Morgan. He is what he is. If Desmond were obviously better, that would be different, but the fact that there's no consensus answers that question. Go find a shortstop for 2011.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | March 26, 2010 9:41 PM | Report abuse

in the meantime, cheer up and look forward:
http://tinyurl.com/yfy9d2z
Bryce Harper

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | March 26, 2010 9:52 PM | Report abuse

@Tippy:
Not that it matters, but the Royals (except Greinke), and the Padres (except Gonzalez), are every bit as gruesome, imo - It just shows what years of bad management leads to. I'm willing to give Rizzo another 12 months to show the fans something here in DC. The Pirates, Padres, & Royals are now sinking in boats that they built.

Posted by: BinM | March 26, 2010 9:53 PM | Report abuse

try this one
http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20100325&content_id=8943270&vkey=news_mlb&fext=.jsp&c_id=mlb

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | March 26, 2010 9:54 PM | Report abuse

Woah, in one breath you warn us away from an untested and unproven commodity, in the next you talk up Bryce Harper?

Just Say No to HS drafts....

Posted by: swang30 | March 26, 2010 10:12 PM | Report abuse

Here's hoping it's Desmond, with Guzman the first pinch-hitter off the bench. When the Nats are contenders in a couple of years it's not going to be because Guzman and his free-falling OBP are in the lineup. Let the kid learn on the job.

Posted by: InTheCheapSeats | March 26, 2010 10:39 PM | Report abuse

Desmond is 24, and still young and may yet be good, but hardly untested, or 17. I think he's not the answer. And I wasn't talking up Harper so much as whistling past the graveyard of 100-loss seasons. Just sayin.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | March 26, 2010 10:50 PM | Report abuse

and they were separate breaths.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | March 26, 2010 10:51 PM | Report abuse

I'm shocked that people consider this a close call.
Guzman has played 10 years of MLB ball. He has a career .307 OBP. For those of you who are uninformed about such matters, a .307 OBP sucks.
If he sported a big hefty slugging percentage, may be a .307 OBP is tolerable. His career SLG is .386. Trust me, that's not hefty.

This is a silly debate. There is no upside in Guzman, none at all. At best, he's a below average defensive shortstop. And he's proven pretty consistenly over 10 years that he is also a below average hitter.

Playing Guzman clearly states that we're good with mediocrity, that being OK offensively and defensively is good enough to secure you an everyday role with the Nationals.

And Ian Desmond?
Yeah, he has issues defensively.
And yeah, that's not ideal, not at all.
But the kid hit .354 in AAA last year. His OBP was .401 and he slugged .477.
And in a September call up to MLB, he hit .280 and slugged .561.

To some degree Desmond has earned this.
And to an equal degree, Guzman has conceded this.

This spot should be Desmond's, and it isn't even close.

Guzman has not done nearly enough to keep it.

Posted by: Sunderland | March 26, 2010 10:55 PM | Report abuse

The SS situation is anything but clear. Remember that Guz got off to a very hot start last year. He was actually leading the league in mid-May at about .360 (and yes, I know he was the last NL regular to draw a walk). If he gets off to another hot start, maybe -- just maybe -- if a contender's SS gets hurt, the Nats can eat some salary and work a trade Guz would agree to.

It's not really fair to knock him on his contract. At the time, it seemed like a pretty good deal, and he was actually giving the team a hometown discount. He said he wanted to repay the Nats for that awful '05 season (which we know in retrospect was in large part because of his vision problems.)

All of this, of course, is dependent on whether he actually can make the throw from deep in the hole. And I share others concern that way too many balls get through up the middle. If he can't throw, or get his uniform dirty, there's no contest.

But if he can, I say he has to keep the position, because he really can't play anywhere else and so is useless off the bench. I'm a bit puzzled that Desmond wasn't considered a RF possibility, but I would rather see him play every day, however briefly, than rot on the Nats' bench.

These things tend to have a way of working themselves out through unforeseen circumstances. That's my hope.

Posted by: nats24 | March 27, 2010 12:41 AM | Report abuse

Sunderland and Nats24 make very valid and contrasting points in the debate. Rizzo HAS to see the business side -- as well as Guzman's professionalism and "upside".

Desmond is my preference. However, I agree with the Rizzo-Riggleman strategy of "groundball-pitchers-to-a-solid-defense". This DOES NOT work with an error prone infield; Dunn is a serious problem, Desmond also needs work.

At least with Guzman you have a known tho mediocre) on defence. Starting Guzman sends a message to Desmond that he needs to get better at SS, and that's why Rizzo would like ID playing SS every day. So he can REPLACE Guzman in 2011 (or down the stretch in 2010 when Rizzo is able to make a trade with Guzman).

Posted by: nattydread1 | March 27, 2010 2:22 AM | Report abuse

**These things tend to have a way of working themselves out through unforeseen circumstances. That's my hope. ** Nats24

You're certainly right there. The baseball way is to just keep making non-committal comments, and let time keep ticking away. And there's certainly a reasonable chance that we are sitting here 7 days from now with an obvious, short-term, answer.

Guzman's arm is strong? Desmond boots another grounder? Send the kid to AAA.

Guzman's arm ails him? Place him on the DL, talk about how he looked real good but just needs time to strengthen his arm, and let ID play SS. This then defers a real decision a few more weeks.

Posted by: Sunderland | March 27, 2010 7:22 AM | Report abuse

Even if they had to eat some salary, a Guzman trade would clear the situation up. If Guzman lost the job, would he be a distraction in the clubhouse?

Posted by: derwink | March 27, 2010 7:30 AM | Report abuse

If he can stay hungry after a demotion, I guess I am more up for Guzman getting the job, even though I would rather Desmond be our shortstop. Guzman would have to start hot to make it worthwhile.

I just think that Desmond has missed a slam-dunk by making the errors. Since it isn't absolutely imperative that he start over Guzman, we need Guzman to start hot, and be traded to a team when a desperate need comes up. The Nats eat some salary, Desmond comes to DC and enjoyed SS until Danny Espinosa takes it away from him.

+1/2St.

Posted by: kevincostello | March 27, 2010 7:40 AM | Report abuse

"enjoys shortstop", that is.

Posted by: kevincostello | March 27, 2010 7:41 AM | Report abuse

From the business side, certainly nothing would be better than for Guzman to play well in April.

And it just seems so unlikely that both Furcal (LAD) and Reyes (NYM) can both stay healthy for 8 straight weeks.

And +1/2St., yeah, ID has perhaps literally let a golden opportunity slip through his fingers this spring.

Posted by: Sunderland | March 27, 2010 7:59 AM | Report abuse

'Guzzie's a known quanity'--Yeah, that's my problem with him and don't compare him to Willingham or Morgan--their knowness is better than Guzman's knowness.
And Harper appears to be in a class of his own, high school or not. The Nats, aside from unforseen circumstances, have to select him in the draft. It's not like the system has many good position players to choose from.

Posted by: jcampbell1 | March 27, 2010 8:08 AM | Report abuse

'Guzzie's a known quanity'--Yeah, that's my problem with him and don't compare him to Willingham or Morgan--their knowness is better than Guzman's knowness.
And Harper appears to be in a class of his own, high school or not. The Nats, aside from unforseen circumstances, have to select him in the draft. It's not like the system has many good position players to choose from.

Posted by: jcampbell1 | March 27, 2010 8:08 AM | Report abuse

... Oh, No! Not another damned Expos reference.

... yup!

http://tiny.cc/d6uir

Go Nats!!

Posted by: natscanreduxit | March 27, 2010 8:14 AM | Report abuse

Desmond is an error machine. He will let in more runs than he drives in.

Posted by: fpcsteve | March 27, 2010 9:42 AM | Report abuse

But we have a plan. What does the plan say to do?

Posted by: gbooksdc | March 27, 2010 10:24 AM | Report abuse

Unless Guz cannot throw, Ian goes to Cuse. This is very likely no race at all. Guzman may be hitting well over .300 by June and he may accept a trade to a club in need of a SS. The Nats will never have the chance to get something for the guy if he does not play. And the fact is that only Jeter and Hanley Ramirez have out-hit Guz the last several years, and Desmond's glove is not exactly an Electrolux at this point either.

Posted by: dfh21 | March 27, 2010 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Of course they'll go with Guzman. How do I know? Cause it's the dumb thing to do and the Nats are dumber than dumb. It's another 100 loss season so what difference can Guzman make. Why is it DC teams never give young guys a chance. Coincidently, DC teams, all of them, are predictable, perennial losers. They never develop talent, just waste it. Hell, they just sent the 2 best pitchers on the team to the minors. Only an idiot would support this mess.

Posted by: lp_lodestar | March 27, 2010 11:13 AM | Report abuse

i don't think its all that complicated...lost 103 games with Guzman's contributions last year...if G can't throw the ball from short - he won't be able to help...might end up doing just as well as last year.

he's gone anyway after his contract...lets get younger, faster and start on the future..play Desmond...what's the worse that could happen, lose 103 games.

I knew Jim R from college days...I trust his judgment and would live with the consequences.


Posted by: outrbnksm | March 27, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

"Coincidently, DC teams, all of them, are predictable, perennial losers. They never develop talent, just waste it."
yeah, and the Caps are the worst DC offenders of all--losers with a lot of wasted talent. Congreatultions on blowing up your argument on the Nats by being wrong on the facts concerning the other teams in DC.

Posted by: fpcsteve | March 27, 2010 2:53 PM | Report abuse

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