The Nationals have made a lot of smart moves since tossing Jim Bowden over the side last year. Giving the reins to Mike Rizzo is one. Setting aside their Boras-phobia and paying for Strasburg was another. Sticking with Jim Riggleman was the right move in my mind as well.
The latest? Making it clear that Cristian Guzman is not their shortstop anymore. They’re going to stick him at second, Riggleman said yesterday, and it’s the smart way to go. Any young, building team (there is no “re” about it in their case) needs solid defense in order to get the young pitching staff through their inevitable early struggles. The classic example of this is the Braves chucking any hope at offense and putting Rafael Belliard at short back in 1991. The Nats aren’t there yet — this is still very much like the 1988-89 Braves we’re dealing with here — but if the Nats put a solid glove at short next to the Gold Glove-winning Ryan Zimmerman, they’ll really be doing themselves — and their pitchers — a favor.
So who goes to short? Rosenthal reports that Rizzo is looking at Adam Everett and Alex Gonzalez. Riggleman mentions prospect Ian Desmond. Desmond has been described as having excellent range and a great arm, though he has been erratic at times. He showed some nice hitting skills in his brief callup last year, but if I’m the Nats, any offense I get from short is gravy.
If Everett or Gonzalez can be had on the cheap, sure, plug ’em in on a one-year deal and give Desmond a little more time to ease into things. If not, just take the plunge with Desmond.
What’s the worst that’ll happen? The Nats will lose some games?
The dust hasn’t quite settled after right-hander Dellin Betances‘ arbitration hearing with the Yankees on Saturday. The case was decided in the team’s favor, awarding Betances with a $3 million salary for the 2017 season instead of the $5 million he initially requested. Yankees’ president Randy Levine held a press conference to voice his outrage over the figure presented by Betances and his agency, saying it had “no bearings in reality” since Betances does not have the elite closer status required for a salary bump of that magnitude.
Needless to say, the comments caused some consternation within Betances’ camp. The reliever publicly addressed the outburst, telling the press that he was prepared to put his differences with the team aside until he heard what Levine had to say. Via MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch:
Players union executive Rick Shapiro and Betances’ agent, Jim Murray, also spoke out in the right-hander’s favor. Shapiro presented Betances’ case during the hearing on Saturday and called Levine’s comments “an absolute disgrace to the arbitration process and to all of Major League Baseball.” In a report from FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, Shapiro added: “The only thing that has been unprecedented in the last 36 hours is that a club official, after winning a case, called a news conference to effectively gloat about his victory – that’s unprecedented.”
Murray spoke exclusively to Rosenthal, accusing the president of effectively bullying the 28-year-old during the arbitration process and claiming that Levine had both mispronounced Betances’ name throughout the hearing and blamed the reliever for “declining ticket sales and their lack of playoff history.” Like Betances, Murray said that the agency was ready to accept the arbiter’s decision and move on before Levine’s decision to air his grievances to the media. “The only person overreaching in this entire situation is Randy,” Murray told Rosenthal. “He might as well be an astronaut because nobody on earth would agree with what he is saying. Even the others in the room would disagree with him.”
Royals’ manager Ned Yost is shaking things up in 2017, starting with left fielder Alex Gordon. Yost told MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan that “every scenario is open,” and expects to utilize Gordon in right and center field this spring while he figures out where to position Jorge Soler and Brandon Moss.
Gordon, 33, hasn’t manned right field since a three-game experiment with the Royals back in 2010 and has yet to play center field during any regular season to date. The focus, however, isn’t on Gordon’s capabilities. Among the three outfielders, he carries the best defensive profile and appears to be the most versatile of the bunch.
According to Flanagan, Soler and Moss are average on defense and will continue working closely with Royals’ coach Rusty Kuntz as the season approaches. One arrangement could see Gordon in center field, flanked by Soler in right field and Moss in left, though Yost foresees Soler taking some reps at DH if his defensive chops aren’t up to snuff.
While Moss is prepared to see starts at either outfield corner, Yost appears to be set on keeping Soler in right field, at least for the time being. The club is hoping for a bounce-back season from the 24-year-old outfielder, who was acquired from the Cubs in December after batting a lackluster .238/.333/.436 and sustaining a slew of minor injuries throughout the 2016 season.