Sunday, March 28, 2010

Ian Desmond: Starting Shortstop

I admit, I really didn't see this coming. After the excessive deference paid to Cristian Guzman last fall and the fact that Guzman hadn't logged any innings at all at second base, I figured there was no chance that Ian Desmond would get the nod.

And I wouldn't have raised holy hell if the team went with Guzman to start the season either. It's a long year, and if the team waited till May to make the change, that would have eased the pressure on Desmond a bit. And this move is riskier. If Guzman flips out and Desmond flames out, the Nationals could quickly go from two options at short to none.

But now that it's done, I'm pretty psyched. Desmond has real talent. He's done everything possible to show that the bat will play. He's still making too many errors, but let's face it--a routine play in Syracuse isn't much different than a routine play in the majors. You just have to hope it gets better at some point.

Plus, if Guzman is the safe choice, it's a safe choice with no upside whatsoever. Even when Guzman was at his best, all you could do is hope for good luck on balls in play. He never walks and has very limited power, and a below-average glove. His contact skills are excellent, but if that's your only tool, and you don't even have particularly good speed, there's just no path for improvement.

Of course there's now talk again of trying to trade Guzman. I'm not sure given the team's extreme lack of depth at the position that it makes sense to do that yet. But let's get one thing straight: people who say it's impossible to trade him because of his contract are wrong. If Milton Bradley and the $20 million owed him can be traded, anyone can be traded. You just have to do what the Cubs did: trade Guzman for a player with a contract as bad as his. And to do that, the team needs to make a deal with the sole aim of making the team better, not to save money.

Finally, given this news, the two-year, $16 million contract that Jim Bowden gave Guzman in July 2008 now really has to be considered one of the worst contracts in baseball over the last few years. For the cost of that one starting season with a .306 OBP and below-average defense, Bowden could have signed Randy Wolf and Jon Garland last year and still had almost $4 million left over.

So congratulations to Demond, and here's hoping that the interminable Cristian Guzman experience really truly is over.


estuartj said...

Bravo Rizzo for making a baseball decision over a financial one.

In the end they might be able to move Guzman more easily as a utility guy than as a SS. They'll still either have to each about half his salary or trade him for an equally bad contract (any RFers come to mind?), but as you say, with the team's infield depth nearly non-existant (and Kennedy being Kennedy) it's better than even money Guz is here for the whole season.

Ben said...

If there was a trade market for Guzman he would have been gone a year ago.

Guzman will be released before opening day but, there will not get a trade for him.

Anonymous said...

It's easy to look down on the Guzman deal in hindsight, but at the time it made sense. He came off of a 1.4 WAR season in 2007 in just 46 games (4.5 prorated to a full season) and a 2.9 WAR season in 2008 that made him an All-Star. The Nationals had literally no other options at SS at the time. Desmond looked like a bust. He was only 30 at the time so we weren't paying for his mid-30 seasons. He looked like a decent stopgap until the Nats found a better option.

I'm surprised you would use a results-based look to decide whether you liked the process when you derided it in the past. The process was fine at the time, but the results disagreed. Why don't you say that the Willingham/Olsen deal was good because of the results rather than continue to go on a spiel that the process was wrong.