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.