Nick Cafardo's baseball column in today's Boston Globe suggests that the Nationals are one of a handful of clubs in discussion with the Tampa Bay Rays to acquire shortstop Jason Bartlett.
Make no mistake about it: Bartlett is a good player. He just turned 31. He's solid defensively. He's a .281 career hitter. He puts the ball in play; he's never struck out 100 times in a season. He's got 24 games of post-season experience.
On the downside, his batting average dropped 66 points this year. He can be a free agent in 2012.
Was 2009 a fluke? He homered 14 times, nine more than any other season. He stole 30 bases, 19 more than he swiped in 2010.
Why would the Nats be interested? Well, he's better defensively than Ian Desmond, and 2009 showed that he's capable of similar offense. If trading Desmond is necessary to make an impact trade that improves the club in another department, Bartlett would be an adequate replacement. Rays' executives have raved about his leadership qualities. Or, perhaps Washington would simply acquire Bartlett to flip in another deal. The Rays are interested in young, low-priced bullpen help, and the Nats seem to have some surplus there.
It's apparent that Mike Rizzo is open to doing something creative. The Rays are looking to dump some salary, and they have an excess of middle infielders. Perhaps there's a fit to be found.