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Is Desmond MLB's best shortstop?

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Is Desmond MLB's best shortstop?

Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond had by all accounts a breakout season for Washington in 2012. He upped his batting average and power numbers significantly, and in turn cut down on errors which had always been his most glaring flaw. The combination of improvements he made turned him into a National League All-Star, a Silver Slugger, and a Gold Glove finalist.

Desmond was one of the best players on the N.L. East champion Nationals and, with a closer look at the numbers, may have been the best shortstop in the majors in 2012.

Take a look at Desmond’s 2012 stats and where they rank in baseball among shortstops:

.845 OPS – 1st in MLB

.292 BA – 3rd in MLB (1st in NL)
25 HR – 1st in MLB

73 RBI – 2nd in MLB

21 SB – 7th in MLB
72 R – 7th in MLB

Tops in the league in homers and OPS, and with 21 stolen bases to complement, no one at the position provided the tools Desmond did in 2012. He, at least at the moment, is arguably the most versatile shortstop in the majors.

Desmond reaching this height was aided by several factors. For one, Derek Jeter and Jimmy Rollins are older and not the MVP’s they used to be. Jeter and Rollins both had solid years, especially for their age, but Desmond’s youth gives him better range and a higher upside. Desmond also posted his numbers despite missing 32 games to an oblique injury.

Another thing working in Desmond’s favor was the absence of Troy Tulowitzki for most of the season. The Rockies’ shortstop is a two-time winner of both the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards in the National League. He had posted three consecutive seasons of at least 27 homers and 92 RBI before missing most of 2012.

Even if Desmond’s distinction is the league’s best shortstop is qualified in that way, he represents a type of player that is much more rare than it was just a few years ago. Few teams have shortstops than are very good defenders and produce at a high level at the plate quite like Desmond.

If you go ten years back to 2002, Desmond’s numbers wouldn’t stack up quite as well. Back then five different shortstops hit at least 24 homers and three posted at least 120 RBI. Desmond’s OPS would rank fifth instead of first and his runs scored would place 15th.

Offensive numbers around baseball are down overall since 2002 which was during a sort of heyday for power-hitting shortstops. And as the league has changed, fewer and fewer shortstops like Desmond have emerged. While the position has moved more towards a focus on defense with few players being big producers at the plate, the rarity of Desmond’s talent is clear.

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Bryce Harper sends 'Wow' tweet after Nationals trade for Adam Eaton

Bryce Harper sends 'Wow' tweet after Nationals trade for Adam Eaton

Nationals star Bryce Harper has had an eventful week, which included finding out that he might not be the Nationals star much longer. 

An anonymous club executive said that the Nationals won't meet Harper's demands for a 10-year, $400 million contract, and are prepared to let him walk when he becomes a free agent after the 2018 season. 

That happened on Monday, then on Tuesday Washington missed out on trading from White Sox ace Chris Sale, who ended up going to Boston. 

And then on Wednesday, the Nats ended up trading their pile of top pitching prospects to the White Sox anyway, but instead of getting Sale, they got centerfielder Adam Eaton

Eaton, 28, has never been an All-Star. But he finished last season with a .284 batting average, .362 slugging percentage, 59 RBIs and 14 home runs. He's also an asset defensively in the outfield. 

But the pitching prospects Washington gave up – Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning – amounted to a steep price for Eaton. So steep that the Nats reportedly offered almost the same package of prospects for Sale. 

Within minutes of the Eaton trade news breaking, Harper tweeted this. 

He followed it up with a message of welcome a few minutes later.

Obviously, the initial tweet is what grabbed peoples' attention. But who can really say if Harper meant it as a positive or negative reaction to the Eaton trade? Frankly, it might not have anything to do with the trade at all. 

Plenty of other "wow" things happened this week. 

MORE NATIONALS: Dusty Baker takes part in “Play Ball” clinics in D.C.

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Nationals deal top prospects Giolito, Lopez and Dunning to White Sox for Adam Eaton

Nationals deal top prospects Giolito, Lopez and Dunning to White Sox for Adam Eaton

The Washington Nationals were unable to trade the farm to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for former Cy Young winner Chris Sale. But still looking to make a splash, the Nationals went back to the White Sox, and have made a deal.

Multiple sources have confirmed that the Nationals will trade Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and 2016 first-round pick Dane Dunning to the White Sox for outfielder Adam Eaton, pending physicals.

Eaton, 28 years old, will be entering his sixth season, having played two seasons with the Diamondbacks and two season with the White Sox.

Eaton has never made an All-Star team, but has a solid OBP of .357 and has back-to-back seasons of 14 home runs and at least 50 RBIs. He also has a very friendly contract, having recently signed a five-year, $23.5 million contract.

In return, the White Sox get a treasure trove of prospects.

Giolito is the top prospect in the Nationals' organization and one of the top prospects in all of MLB. He appeared in six games for the nationals in 2016, finishing with a 6.75 ERA and 11 strikeouts. Lopez, the No. 4 prospect in the organization, appeared in 11 games in 2016, finishing with a 4.91 ERA and 42 strikeouts.

Dunning, one of the ace of the Florida Gators' staff, was selected by the Nationals with the 29th pick of the 2016 MLB Draft.

But considering the Nationals were willing to give up numerous top prospects for Chris Sale or Andrew McCutchen, it's puzzling that the Nationals would receive just Eaton in return.

Heading into the 2016 winter meetings, it was well known that the Nationals were interested in making a big splash and shaking things up.

It looks like they're doing just that.