The Nationals got some good news on Sunday regarding their biggest injury concern this spring, as Ryan Zimmerman made his 2016 Grapefruit League debut against the St. Louis Cardinals. Zimmerman was the Nats' designated hitter after missing nearly two weeks due to plantar fasciitis in his left foot.
On the same day Zim returned to the lineup, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports wondered in his Sunday column if the Nats may be smart to trade for infield help. Rosenthal's reasoning was that Zimmerman is dealing with a persistent injury and his health remains a concern, even though he's back on the field. In order for Zimmerman to be ready for Opening Day on April 4, he will need to avoid setbacks as he builds on at-bats this spring.
If Zimmerman ends up missing regular season games, there seem to be two contingency plans. Either they slide Clint Robinson in to start at first base in Zimmerman's place, or they move Daniel Murphy over to first and keep Trea Turner in the lineup at second.
Turner has been impressive this spring and presents the higher ceiling of the two scenarios as a top prospect. But the Nationals have suggested he will not begin the season in the majors. Not only did they add more depth at the shortstop position this winter by signing Stephen Drew, but comments made by GM Mike Rizzo and manager Dusty Baker just this week show how they feel about Turner and his development.
Here is what Rizzo said on Buster Olney's podcast:
"He's got one full season of minor league baseball under his belt. He's a guy that could use some more at-bats in the minor leagues."
And here is what Baker said on MLB Network Radio on Friday:
"I don't know," Baker said. "It's kind of an outside [chance]. Right now you've got to give an opportunity to [Danny] Espinosa... Trea is going to be the incumbent shortstop or second baseman here, some day, it's just a matter of him waiting his turn -- a lot of times I've noticed -- I mean, I love young players, I mean, nobody loves them more than me, but, on the other hand, we have a tendency to ruin and rush young players sometimes."
They aren't exactly beating around the bush. If you take them at their word, it would seem Robinson has the best chance to step in if Zimmerman isn't ready.
The Nationals would likely be fine in either situation, with Robinson or Turner. And one could argue a trade to bring in somebody new is not necessary either, given their infield depth.
The Nats have some decent infield options for their bench between Scott Sizemore, Jason Martinson, Brendan Ryan and Chris Bostick. All playing well so far this spring, but are on the outside looking in the mix for roster spots. That group could produce a viable option if Zimmerman misses any time.
If the Nationals do trade for infield help, as Rosenthal suggests they could, it would show exactly how worried they are about Zim's left foot, given they appear to be well-prepared to compensate for his absence, at least in the short-term.