Nationals vs. Mets: Position-by-Position Breakdown

Toronto Blue Jays v Tampa Bay Rays

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Shortstop — Danny Espinosa vs. Asdrubal Cabrera

Although Ian Desmond is still out there looking for a team to play for in 2016, it remains highly improbable that the Nationals will be that team. Danny Espinosa is currently listed atop the depth chart, but Trea Turner could very well unseat him with a solid spring-training performance. Espinosa is a former top prospect who never quite panned out at the big-league level. In 622 career games, his free-swinging ways have dragged him down to a .230/.301/.391 line.

Even if Espinosa starts the season at shortstop, he’s likely just a stop-gap measure until Turner is ready to start everyday. Last year’s big trade acquisition has batted well over .300 in two seasons in the minors and got a few at-bats with the big club down the stretch last year. Had the Nationals been unable to sign a second baseman, Turner likely would have started on Opening Day. With Murphy added, Turner will get a few more months to develop unless he really tears the cover off the ball in Spring Training.

The Mets signed Asdrubal Cabrera to be their starting shortstop for the next two years. That’s the reasonable assumption, anyway, as they’re paying him over $9 million per year. The 30-year-old veteran of nine seasons is no longer the dynamic All-Star he was with the Cleveland Indians, but was productive offensively for the Tampa Bay Rays last season. Cabrera hit 15 home runs and had an OPS+ over 100 for the first time since 2012. Defensively, Cabrera has lost a step, but he’s still close to league-average at shortstop.

Eventually, Turner will be a fixture at the top of the Washington order, but until he is fully established, Espinosa is too much of an offensive liability.

The Verdict: Cabrera

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