NASHVILLE, Tenn. — As the rumor mill has churned at the winter meetings, one name that came up often on Monday was that of Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa.
The are diverging opinions on Espinosa in the organization with some feeling that Steve Lombardozzi could give the team more consistency offensively and others feeling that Espinosa, already an elite defender, has more offensive upside and can continue to mature.
Espinosa hit .247 with a .315 on-base percentage and clubbed 37 doubles and 17 home runs, but also led the league in strikeouts with 189.
But two of his biggest supporters remain Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo and manager Davey Johnson.
Johnson reiterated that support, and the fact that he still views him as his starter, on Tuesday.
“I understand Danny very well because he reminds me of myself,” Johnson said. “He’s stubborn. But he told me in the last month of the season that his goal every year is to improve a little bit. I thought he made giant steps this year.”
The Nationals saw their faith in a young player who was still figuring some things out rewarded this season when they watched Ian Desmond break out. Desmond credited a lot of different reasons for why he was able to put together his All-Star year, but one of the primary ones was the confidence instilled in him by his manager and how that allowed him to flourish.
Johnson hopes the same will be true of Espinosa.
“(Espinosa’s) got a guy who wants his job and thinks he’s better than him in Lombardozzi — and I like Lombardozzi also,” Johnson said. “But I think Danny’s going to come into this year with a mindset kind of like Ian Desmond came into last year. And it’s going to be his job to lose.”