Alberto Gonzalez started 71 games for the Nationals last season and hit just .265/.299/.351 in 316 total plate appearances, so this year they moved him into more of a bench role and he hit even worse, batting .247/.277/.301 in 198 plate appearances.
Normally a 27-year-old with a career OPS of .623 and back-to-back terrible seasons would be happy with whatever role he can get in the big leagues, but Gonzalez made it very clear during a recent interview in Venezuela that he’s unhappy being a utility man for the Nationals.
Ben Goessling of MASNSports.com did some translating and came up with this excerpt from the interview:
Utility is not going to be me. I want to be is entitled to second base or shortstop, but they are things that one should take it easy. I am young, yet I have time, I have a career ahead and I should not despair. Simply, if they do not give me these positions, you have to accept and expect what they will do me for next year. I come to think of moving to another team, but the Nationals do not want change because for them I’m a good player because I can take any position for my defense. I hope it’s what God wants, whether in Washington or any other.
I don’t want to be too critical of Gonzalez here, in part because I’m sure what he said loses plenty in translation, but Goessling also writes that he “heard a few rumblings earlier this season about Gonzalez chafing at a lack of playing time.” When you can’t crack the starting lineup on a last-place team and have one of the worst career OPS totals among all active players … well, the last thing you ought to be doing is complaining about your role.
According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa declined to attend the team’s annual Winterfest because of his dissatisfaction with management following their trade for outfielder Adam Eaton.
A source told Castillo that Espinosa’s unhappiness stemmed from a belief that the acquisition would jeopardize his starting role in 2017. With Eaton in center field, Trea Turner will likely return to his post at shortstop, leaving Espinosa out in the cold — or, as the case may be, on the bench. The move shouldn’t come as a big surprise to Espinosa, however, as Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo spoke to the possibility of trading the infielder or reassigning him to a utility role back in early November.
Offensively, the 29-year-old had a down year in 2016, slashing just .209/.306/.378 with 24 home runs in 601 PA. Defensively, he still profiles among the top shortstops in the National League, with eight DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 8.3 Def (Defensive Runs Above Average) in his seventh year with the club.
Espinosa will reach free agency after the 2017 season.
The Red Sox might be trying to move the wrong pitcher, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Cafardo revealed that while the Sox have been trying to market right-hander Clay Buchholz, more teams would be interested in trades involving southpaw Drew Pomeranz.
The club appears reluctant to deal Pomeranz, especially because his price tag comes in at a cool $4.7 million to Buchholz’s $13.5 million in 2017. Those who have already expressed interest in the veteran hurlers, including the Twins, Mariners and Royals, also seem put off by Buchholz’s salary requirements as he enters his 32nd year.
Health could be another factor preventing teams from jumping to make trade offers, as Cafardo quotes an AL executive who believes the “medicals on both Pomeranz and Buchholz probably aren’t that great.” Neither pitcher suffered any major injuries during the 2016 season, though Pomeranz missed just over a week of play due to forearm soreness.
Pomeranz outperformed his fellow starter in 2016, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and career-best 9.8 K/9 through 170 2/3 innings with the Padres and Red Sox. He got off to an exceptionally strong start in San Diego, where his ERA dropped to 2.47 through the first half of the year before the Padres dealt him to Boston for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Buchholz, on the other hand, struggled with a 4.78 ERA and saw a decline in both his BB/9 and K/9 rates as he worked out a career-low 1.69 K/BB through 139 1/3 innings with the Sox.