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.

Jose Canseco to join NBC Sports California as an A’s analyst

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Hey, I have a new coworker: Jose Canseco has been hired by NBC Sports California as an Athletics pregame analyst.

OK, maybe he’s not technically a coworker, as the folks at NBC Sports California — formerly CSN Bay Area — and I do not hang out at the water cooler, have potlucks in the conference room or exchange secret Santa gifts at Christmas time, but dang it, I’m gonna TELL people I work with Jose Canseco. The only downside will be people assuming that, because he and I are on the same team, my performance is something less than authentic. Or, perhaps, Canseco may write another book and tell all of my secrets.

Anyway, Canseco will be part of NBC Sports California’s A’s Pregame Live and A’s Postgame Live shows. Live TV can be hard. I’ve done a bit of it, and there is certainly more to that gig than meets the eye. You can’t always prepare for what happens on the fly. I’m sure Canseco will do well, however, as he’s great with coming up with the best stuff off the top of his head.

2017 Preview: Cleveland Indians

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Cleveland Indians.

The Cleveland Indians almost won the World Series without their best hitter for the whole season and two of their starting pitchers for the playoffs. This year that hitter — Michael Brantley — is back and the starters — Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar — are healthy. Oh, and they added arguably the best free agent bat available in Edwin Encarnacion.

Baseball teams love to downplay their expectations, but given where the Indians are at the moment, anything less than another American League Pennant will have to feel like a disappointment, right? Fortunately for the Indians, they stand as the favorites to do just that.

They didn’t lose much in the offseason. Yes, World Series hero Rajai Davis is gone, but the Indians outfield will be fine if Brantley remains healthy. Mike Napoli‘s loss will be felt but it will be made up for with Encarnacion’s bat and probably then some. Coco Crisp left too, but he was not a key part of the equation.

The biggest losses are guys from last year who will start the year on the disabled list, most notably Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall. Kipnis is just starting to work out following time off to rest his sore shoulder. Chisenhall ran into a wall the other day and is being evaluated. There is no sense that either will miss extended time, however.

Otherwise, the lineup should score a lot of runs, with on-base machines Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor setting the table for Encarnacion, Brantley and Carlos Santana, who is entering his walk year. The Indians trailed only the Red Sox in runs scored in the American League last year and they should score a lot of runs this year as well.

The strength of the club, however, remains its pitching. Corey Kluber looked like his old Cy Young self last year, particularly in the playoffs. Danny Salazar built on his excellent 2015 season in the first half before falling prey to injury. Carlos Carrasco posted an ERA+ of 141 before breaking his hand and Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer both stood out for fourth and fifth starters.

The bullpen is excellent too, as relief ace Andrew Miller is joined by Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw and newcomer Boone Logan make up one of the relief corps in baseball.

Pitcher health is probably the biggest uncertainty for any contender, but the Indians have the best pitching in the AL if everyone stays healthy. And maybe even if one or two guys don’t.

It’s hard to find much fault with the 2017 Cleveland Indians. They are the class of their division and, while the slog of the regular season turns a lot of surefire contenders into hash before it’s all said and done, there is no reason to look at the Indians right now and think of them as anything other than the best team in the American League.

Prediction: First place, American League Central.