Guzman 'in shock' after being asked to switch positions

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Earlier this week I discussed the possibility of Cristian Guzman shifting from shortstop to second base for the Nationals next season, and Bill Ladson of MLB.com reports that general manager Mike Rizzo and manager Jim Riggleman officially broached the subject with him during “a private meeting” yesterday:

Guzman, who did not give Rizzo and Riggleman an answer, was in shock and told them he never played second base in his life. The only other position Guzman has played other than shortstop was in the 2008 All-Star Game when he played third base for the National League team. If Guzman agrees to the switch, that means the Nationals most likely will look for a shortstop during the offseason.

Given his “shock” can we assume that Guzman isn’t a Circling the Bases reader? Darn. Anyway, he has one year and $8 million remaining on his contract and presumably will get over his shock and eventually agree to the switch. Last night rookie Ian Desmond began building his case to replace Guzman at shortstop in 2010, going 2-for-4 with a homer and four RBIs in his major-league debut after the 23-year-old former third-round pick hit .330/.401/.477 in 97 games between Double-A and Triple-A.
Guzman’s modest .295/.317/.409 hitting line this season would be slightly below par for second base, where the average player has hit .271/.335/.418 this year. However, his combined .310/.340/.432 line during the past three seasons would put him solidly above average at second base and in theory at least his defense would be better there than at shortstop. However, my favorite Nationals fan and NBC Washington columnist Chris Needham isn’t so sure:

This is why the move doesn’t make a ton of sense to me. Guzman’s problem is his lateral range. He doesn’t move from side to side well, in part, because of some nagging foot problems. He doesn’t have problems throwing, besides the occasional error. And he doesn’t really bobble the ball that often–he’s relatively sure-handed. So it’s not like moving him to second base would compensate for a bad arm, or let him pick up the ball and still throw the runner out after booting it. Moving him to second base doesn’t address any of his weaknesses, and it takes away a few of the things he does do well defensively.

If he goes from being a below-average defender at shortstop to even an average defender at second base the move could pay off for the Nationals, but if Needham’s concerns about the transition are correct Guzman would probably have even less all-around value at his new position. Either way, the Nationals will surely be trying to shop him this offseason after pulling Guzman back off the waiver wire when the Red Sox claimed him last month.

Mets leaning on Jay Bruce, Neil Walker as Lucas Duda insurance

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 12:  Pinch hitter Lucas Duda #21 of the New York Mets walks back to the dugout after striking out for the first out of the ninth inning against Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  The Dodgers won 5-0.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.

Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”

Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”

The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.

Jason Kipnis diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians celebrates after scoring a run on a wild pitch thrown by Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs (not pictured) during the fifth inning in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.

There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.

Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.