I admittedly arrived late to the party on the "Angels and Nationals should consider a smaller trade" piece written by Matthew Pouliot of NBC Sports Hardball Talk. Pouliot doesn't go far into depth, but suggests that rather than worry about a Peter Bourjos to the Nats deal, the teams should consider a Jesus Flores for Alberto Callaspo swap. Now, I'm not one to say whether it's fair from the Angels' perspective; with Chris Iannetta down for 6 weeks, they need catching help. I do think it would be a solid move for the Nats. Here are 4 reasons why:
1. The deal would allow the Nats to send Danny Espinosa to AAA to find his swing.
Currently, the Nats have three guys on the 40 man roster who can play 2B and/or SS: Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa and Steve Lombardozzi. That's already pretty risky. When Mark DeRosa is healthy, you have 3 and 1/2, but that's about as good as you'll get. Espinosa needs a trip to Syracuse to concentrate on his swing against lower competition where the pressure is off and results matter less, but the Nats can't send him there unless they add another middle infielder. Benching him in favor of Lombardozzi is fine in theory, but Espinosa's swing isn't going to get better sitting on the bench, either. Acquiring a solid utility guy in Callaspo would allow the Nats to send down Espinosa without stretching the bench too thin.
2. It would improve the team in the short term without hurting it in the long term.
Acquiring Callaspo and sending Espinosa to AAA would likely thrust Lombardozzi into a better playing time situation where his .295/.377/.344 triple slash could thrive out of the leadoff spot. Callaspo isn't a slouch either, hitting a Desmondian .250/.301/.309 to start the year but with a solid .280/.335/.386 triple slash over his 617 game MLB career, a track record that suggests improvement. Danny Espinosa (.193/.279/.278) and Mark DeRosa (.081/.227/.081) have been outright terrible, so a situation where Lombardozzi and Callaspo absorbed their playing time would prod the Nats' mediocre offense in the right direction.
3. Jesus Flores is fairly easy to replace.
Yeah, the Nats dealt away Derek Norris and Wilson Ramos' glove has been a little shaky so far this season. But Jesus Flores isn't the answer anymore. He's either injured or a backup (averaging less than 53 games total played over the past 6 seasons) and is looking like your run-of-the-mill backup catcher (career .253/.303/.356 and .208/.256/.292 since missing the 2010 season) who is nearing his 3rd year of arbitration (where he'll creep into the $1 million range). Jhonatan Solano isn't going to develop into more than an ML backup, but his defensive game is already there and he hit .275/.325/.388 for Syracuse last season. Plug him into an ML role once he gets off the 7 day DL in Syracuse and he can't fare much worse than Flores. Carlos Maldonado has 3 cups of coffee in the majors and can hold his own if needed. Switch-hitting defensive stud Sandy Leon is developing into a nice piece for the future in Harrisburg. James Skelton, whose Beyond the Box Score favorite status has faded since 2008, but has a weird ability to get on base a ton despite hitting for a very low average (career .221/.369/.305 hitter in AA).
Mainly the point is: Flores isn't that good in the first place, so whatever warm body Syracuse deems ready will turn out just fine.
4. Versatility, versatility, versatility.
Yeah, the Nats will eventually get the likes of Morse, Werth and DeRosa (I hope not) back and could get help from guys like Anthony Rendon by the end of the season, but the Nats could easily find a place to stash both Callaspo and Lombardozzi, who can both play pretty much any position besides pitcher or catcher (and I'm sure both would do either if you asked them). And omg, both can switch hit. Having 2 guys on the bench that can hit from both sides, get on base, play any position in the field...is this only a fantastic idea to me? Ideally, the Nats could carry this roster towards the end of the year:
C - Ramos
IF - LaRoche, Espinosa, Desmond and Zimmerman
OF - Morse, Harper and Werth
Bench - Solano, Callaspo, Lombardozzi, Tracy and Ankiel.
That's 1 R, 2 S and 2 L off the bench and with decent defense, speed and power abilities. (I took off the following for the following reasons: Nady and DeRosa can't hit and can't make up for it with the glove. Davey won't play Tyler Moore so might as well send him back to the Cuse and get him normal playing time. Bernadina just isn't that good, but I would be happy cutting Ankiel too).
The Flores for Callaspo thing isn't even a rumor, just a suggestion by a national blog, but I'd be very happy with such a move.
Now that Ramos is likely done for the year, the Nats shouldn't make the move. Jesus Flores is still easily replaceable, but adding 2 new C to a team can't be good for continuity's sake.