At the beginning of the year, the Nationals’ infield might have seemed a strength. Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond, Anthony Rendon and Adam LaRoche, with Danny Espinosa in reserve? Especially if you told then’s version of yourself that LaRoche would resurge and Rendon would surge, you’d be happy with what you had.
Even with the injury to Zimmerman, you could argue that that a team with a 93% chance of making the playoffs might be fine with their current infield. Sure, Espinosa is hovering too close to replacement level for comfort, but they could win enough games with him in there to make the postseason, and Zimmerman might be healthy by then.
And the upgrade over Danny Espinosa is undebatable. Though Espinosa has recovered some of his value from his nadir, and is showing some power and speed, there are two facets of his game that have not recovered. His league-average or better walk rate has not returned (5.6% BB%), and his glove is not rated well this year (-1.1 UZR). Cabrera should be able to match that defense with the shift from short, and his offense is just about league average these days.
They’re trading a potential shortstop for a couple months of a second baseman. You can’t debate that. Even as he’s moved on to other positions, Zach Walters played twice as many games at short than any other.
But even while you acknowledge the risk, you can point to the risk inherent in Walters. Not only as a prospect, but as a prospect with a low walk rate and a high strikeout rate. Prospects with that sort of a profile at 24 years old in Triple-A had an 88% bust rate according to Chris St. John’s work.
So, yeah, they took a chance. A chance that has about 12% likelihood of burning them.
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