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'No decision has been made' on Nationals shortstops

You have perhaps seen the Tweet this afternoon by SI.com's John Heyman that stated Ian Desmond will be the Nationals starting shortstop and Cristian Guzman will be a utility player. The report, according to Manager Jim Riggleman, is premature.

"No decision has been made," Riggleman said this afternoon.

The Nationals have declared the shortstop position an open competition, and based on performance Desmond has clearly been the better player. Desmond has been a revelation during spring training, posting a .396 on-base percentage and a .535 slugging percentage. Guzman, meantime, has yet to prove he can make the deepest throw required of a shortstop following the shoulder surgery he underwent last fall.

Still, Guzman is a veteran and a .305 hitter (albeit with a .334 on-base percentage) over the past three seasons. "It's hard to dismiss him at shortstop," Riggleman said.

One problem with making Guzman a utility player is that he has not played any position but shortstop all spring. In the 1,272 games in which Guzman has played the field in his career, he has never played anything but shortstop.

"If we were going to make Guzman a utility guy, we'd be running out of time," Riggleman said.

On Tuesday night, General Manager Mike Rizzo reiterated the stance he has held all spring. Desmond is going to be an everyday shortstop at either Class AAA Syracuse or with the Nationals.

"I'm not going to speculate," Rizzo said. "I've always said Desmond is going to be an everyday player somewhere, either in the big leagues or in Triple A. We'll stick to that statement. The competition is going to go on, and we'll see where we're at in 13 days."

Complicating matters, Guzman is set to make $8 million this season, a salary that makes him an improbable trade chip. The Nationals will not determine roles on the team based on financial matters, Rizzo said earlier this spring.

By Adam Kilgore  |  March 24, 2010; 1:59 PM ET
 
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Comments

For those of us wishing that Ian Desmond is the Nationals' starting shortstop in 2010, I keep hearing this voice in the back of my mind saying ....

.... be careful what you wish for -- it might come true.

It's like taking out that girl you've had a crush on all semester; you finally find out if she's as "perfect" as you'd envisioned.

What if we see Desmond as our opening day shortstop and he's not the answer?

Eesh ....

Posted by: rushfari | March 24, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse

I saw Heyman at the last two Nationals games talking to Nationals officials. I'm not saying he's right. I'm just saying he was there.

Posted by: raymitten | March 24, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Desmond has committed five errors already--there is a flip side to this.

But Desmond should be our shortstop and Guzman should be traded for peanuts. If you're not gonna give us Strasburg yet and gonna start Harris in right at least give us this.

http://baseball.realgm.com/

Posted by: CJArlington | March 24, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

rushfari, I agree 100%, but let's find out if Desmond's the one or if we need to find another one to play there in the future. We should find out while we are still losing 90 games a year IMHO.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | March 24, 2010 2:51 PM | Report abuse

The decision on Olsen should tell us whether or not Rizzo is right about the Nats not determining team roles based on finances.

If that is so, there is no reason for Olsen not start the season in Syracuse.

I, too, am ready to dance with Desmond.

Posted by: lowcountry | March 24, 2010 3:06 PM | Report abuse

I'm taking the cautious approach - Let's see if 1)Guzman's shoulder can bear up, and 2)Desmond can hit something other than fastballs. Guzman is the known quantity at this level, good or bad; Desmond is relatively unproven at the MLB level, both offensively & defensively.

If Guzman proves he can make throws from the hole in the next 10 days, I'd stick with him, but hope somebody asks about a trade (If sombody offers more than a fungo bat & a ham sandwich - YES, and we'll eat the salary). If not, it's Desmond (& hope his fielding gets more consistent).

Posted by: BinM | March 24, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Desmond has earned a shot with his bat. His glove is still a bit shaky, but I can live with that because he has the ability to improve that. I don't think Guzman is tradeable at this point, even for a bag of used balls and splintered maples.

Posted by: cokedispatch | March 24, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Hence the problem of an unproven commodity although I do agree Desmond has upside potential.

My biggest concern isn't ID at shortstop so much as it is whether Guzy is healthy to step in if ID falters.


Posted by: dmacman88 | March 24, 2010 3:46 PM | Report abuse

let's face it, while desmond's defense has been lacking a bit, guzman's isn't exactly stellar, either. and that's *without* taking his potential arm problem into account.

now is the time to find out if desmond is ready. this season.

if guz can't play second as a util guy, perhaps desomond can move over there sometimes when kennedy needs a break and guz can play short those days. that is, if his arm is healthy enough to play SS.

Posted by: sec231 | March 24, 2010 3:49 PM | Report abuse

If Guzman proves he can make throws from the hole in the next 10 days, I'd stick with him, but hope somebody asks about a trade (If sombody offers more than a fungo bat & a ham sandwich - YES, and we'll eat the salary). If not, it's Desmond (& hope his fielding gets more consistent).

Posted by: BinM | March 24, 2010 3:21 PM
____________________________________________________________

What if they trade Guz for a half eaten pizza and 2 liter bottle of Coke and Desmond lays an egg.

Then What? Alberto Gonzalez as the starting SS?

Ah, no thanks.

Posted by: Section505203 | March 24, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

oh, and this quote confuses me.

===
General Manager Mike Rizzo said. "I'm not concerned at all. He's 100-percent healthy. The arm works good. It feels good for him. It's an arm strength thing right now.
---

i guess we must look at "100 percent healthy" from different perspectives. i'm looking at it from a baseball perspective. if he doesn't have the arm strength to throw across the diamond like a SS needs to, then he's not "baseball" healthy. and he's certainly not 100%.

Posted by: sec231 | March 24, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Rushfari, let's assume the worst--Desmond doesn't do the job. (I don't think that's going to happen, however....)It's not as though Guzman is the answer to anything. He certainly hasn't been in his expensive tenure with the Nats. If worse goes to worse with Desmond, then the Nats go to Brunett? or Gonzalez whose defense, at least, is better than Guzman's.

Posted by: jcampbell1 | March 24, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Here's an "out-of-the-box" thought to consider - Would Rizzo/Riggleman think about employing a 6-man rotation from June to the All-Star break, just as an experiment?

Bring Strasburg up & start him on June 13, just before the off-day (June 14); It saves him from a "Super-2", and gives him five starts before the All-Star break. If it doesn't work, go back to a 5-man for the rest of the season.

Posted by: BinM | March 24, 2010 4:02 PM | Report abuse

231:

I think being "100% healthy" means a player can make the everyday, average plays with consistency; Guzman's question marks are whether he 1) Has range to his right, and 2) Can he make the throw to first "from the hole" (on-the-grass at SS to 1B) in time?

Posted by: BinM | March 24, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Umm, no; Then we're screwed, because your 'option C' was probably released in April. Let's be honest - Guzman is a 10/5 MLB player; He's holding "big slick" in terms of a trade. Regardless of contract value, he'll start the season at SS unless he's injured.
-------------------------
What if they trade Guz for a half eaten pizza and 2 liter bottle of Coke and Desmond lays an egg.
Then What? Alberto Gonzalez as the starting SS?
Ah, no thanks.
Posted by: Section505203 | March 24, 2010 3:50 PM

Posted by: BinM | March 24, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

BinM:

there was a post on one of the many Nats blogs awhile back suggesting the same thing or even going further with 7 starters. It actually makes decent sense but as you say is out of the box so it won't get a shot. I like the idea though.

Posted by: sjm3091 | March 24, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

sjm:

A seven-man rotation seems a bit too much all at once, but a six-man might work over a short periods of time, particularly when trying to stretch young pitchers out over the season.
Maybe that's the 'next new thing' in MLB - Six-man rotations with five-or-six man bullpens.

Posted by: BinM | March 24, 2010 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Bruntlett has gotten a lot of time at SS this spring.
_______________________________
What if they trade Guz for a half eaten pizza and 2 liter bottle of Coke and Desmond lays an egg.
Then What? Alberto Gonzalez as the starting SS?
Ah, no thanks.
Posted by: Section505203 | March 24, 2010 3:50 PM


Posted by: BinM | March 24, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: lowcountry | March 24, 2010 4:39 PM | Report abuse

The bottom line is, Guz ain't going no where regardless of whether he starts or not. As BinM said he is a 10/5 guy. Factor in that he is making 8 million and other than an unproven Ian Desmond the Nats have no everyday SS as a fall back option. Brunlett and Gonzalez are utility guys that can give a start once every blue moon, they are not season long answers.

Posted by: Section505203 | March 24, 2010 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Let's see: The Nats have a shortstop with limited range and a questionable arm, who didn't hit much the second half of last season. They have a rookie replacement who also is iffy in the field.

They don't know who is going to play RF or how much offense they can get out of the position.

The first baseman has no range and bit of an iron glove.

The best starter relies on ground ball outs. Beyond him, the Nats have a bunch of question marks as starters and in the pen.

We're all hoping a 38-year-old catcher can be the player he used to be.

Why am I kind of worried about this season?

Posted by: nats24 | March 24, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

The Nats sign MacDougal to a minor league contract?!?! Yikes.

Posted by: nervousnatsfan | March 24, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

binm...

if you "can't make the throw to first from the hole," you "can't make the everyday, average plays with consistency."

that's an every day play. that's a pretty basic skill for a SS. granted some do it better than others, but his best throw from there right now is air mail.

if you can't do that, you're just not ready to play SS in the major leagues. and in my book, you're not 100%.

Posted by: sec231 | March 24, 2010 5:40 PM | Report abuse

nats24:
You're allowed to be worried about the 2010 season. With less than two weeks left in Spring Training: Shortstop is still a question mark,and RF has become a 'platoon' position (for better or worse).

But to the better, even though the entire staff is generally ground-ball pitchers, they are still improved over the the 2009 version, and Pudge is a HUGE improvement over the poor schlubs like Bard/LoDuca/Estrada/Schneider and others they've trotted out behind the plate over the past five years.

Posted by: BinM | March 24, 2010 6:04 PM | Report abuse

Guzman's contract is a sumk cost, it gets paid whether he plays or not, barring a trade (not likely). He won't be here next year so it seems prudent to start looking for the next SS. Maybe he can function as the backup and a pinch hitter but his semmingly inflexible mental disposition would seem to work against that. At any rate, I just don't see him as the starting SS for the entire season. Why keep him as the starter when you know he'll be gone? It's not like they need him to stay in contention. If his shoulder doesn't come around they just might cut him loose at some point.

Posted by: Natmeister | March 24, 2010 7:11 PM | Report abuse

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