LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Danny Espinosa's future with the Nationals has been in question since the struggling second baseman was demoted last summer and never returned to the big-league roster.
But would the Nats prefer to trade Espinosa now, despite his relatively low value, or do they still believe he can play an important role on the club moving forward?
General manager Mike Rizzo talked up Espinosa on Monday during his first media session of the Winter Meetings, this only minutes before Yahoo! Sports reported the Nationals are "shopping" the 26-year-old infielder.
Upon trading away utilityman Steve Lombardozzi as part of last week's acquisition of right-hander Doug Fister, Rizzo said Espinosa would come to spring training and compete for a roster spot, potentially as a backup at both second base and shortstop.
Rizzo expanded on that Monday, suggesting Espinosa could also back up Ryan Zimmerman at third base.
"I think Danny Espinosa could go and play third base extremely well," Rizzo said. "A guy who can play shortstop the way he plays shortstop, and a guy who can play second base the way he plays second, I have all the confidence in the world that he can go to third and handle the position defensively."
Originally drafted and developed as a shortstop, Espinosa switched to second base shortly before making his big-league debut in Sept. 2010, with Ian Desmond already entrenched on the left side of the infield. He remains a gifted defensive player at either position and could find his ticket back to the majors as a backup at all three infield spots.
If the season began today, Espinosa likely would make the club over Zach Walters and back up Desmond, Zimmerman and second baseman Anthony Rendon. The Nationals still may sign a veteran who could come into camp and compete for the job, but Rizzo appears to like the idea of Espinosa making the roster.
Which isn't to suggest Rizzo wouldn't deal Espinosa if the right offer was made.
"You can never be close-minded about a trade," the GM said, speaking generically, not about any specific player. "Teams ask for different guys all the time. We're open-minded, and we certainly listen to all ideas and weigh all options. If something makes sense for us, we're certainly not afraid to make a trade."