Evaluating some trade rumors, plus Rizzo on extensions for Desmond, Zimmermann

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - A bit ago, a tweet from Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports came across my laptop saying that the Nationals are currently shopping infielder Danny Espinosa.

The timing of this report was a bit ironic, given that Nats general manager Mike Rizzo had just finished his session with local reporters, during which he talked up Espinosa and his ability to serve as a quality backup at multiple infield positions, including third base.

This much is clear: the Nationals still hold Espinosa in high regard and see him as a valuable member of their organization, but they’re open to improving their club any way they can. If that means dealing Espinosa and adding a different backup middle infielder, then they’ll consider doing so.

“You can never be closed-minded about a trade,” Rizzo said this evening, when asked in generic terms about the Nats considering trades that involve players on their big league roster. “Teams ask for different guys all the time. We’re open-minded, and we certainly listen to all ideas and weigh all our options. If something makes sense for us, we’re certainly not afraid to make a trade.”

We’re all aware of Rizzo’s belief that Espinosa will become a quality major league player. The Nats feel that Espinosa’s offensive potential (particularly his mix of power and speed) combined with his Gold Glove-caliber defensive ability at second base and shortstop give him all the tools needed to play every day at a high level. And while they have a shortstop in Ian Desmond and have settled on Anthony Rendon as their starting second baseman entering spring, they won’t just give up on Espinosa yet.

The fact is, Espinosa’s trade value is pretty low right now after a disastrous 2013 season in which he was demoted and then hit .216/.280/.286 with 101 strikeouts in 283 at-bats at Triple-A Syracuse. The Nats probably won’t get what they feel is equal value for Espinosa in a trade at this point, and they still can use him at the big league level as a versatile backup infielder.

“We feel confident in Danny Espinosa,” Rizzo told me tonight. “He’s a guy who’s done it at the major league level. We know the type of player that he has been and he can be again.”

That’s not to say that the Nats definitely won’t trade Espinosa. But I personally don’t see them shipping the 26-year-old elsewhere unless they get an offer they feel is totally fair.

Meanwhile, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times has reported that the Cubs are eyeing Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard as possible trade candidates. The Cubs are in need of a closer, and the Nats obviously have multiple relievers with closing experience - even excluding Rafael Soriano.

Something to monitor, yes. But as is the case with Espinosa, the Nats won’t give any of the guys they view as major league contributors away. Storen finished the 2013 season strong after a rocky summer, and he and Clippard could give Matt Williams good match-up options in the late innings going forward.

Finally, during my one-on-one video interview with Rizzo this evening, which will be posted here on MASNsports.com in a bit once it has uploaded, I asked where things stand with possible contract extensions for Desmond and right-hander Jordan Zimmermann.

Both Desmond and Zimmermann have two years of arbitration remaining, meaning they are under contract through the 2015 season. I wondered whether the Nats’ lack of remaining offseason needs could lead to them putting more of an emphasis on working out an extension for Desmond and/or Zimmermann, but Rizzo, as usual, wasn’t willing to delve into that topic.

“Those are discussions that will take place in private and in due time,” Rizzo said. “Those are guys that we want to have as part of the organization for a long time. Those are things that we’ll discuss later on.”

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