Ah, February. When baseball men dream their biggest dreams. When they look at a young man, not even fully grown, and see all the things that baseball men want to see. Even though all those things usually aren't really there. But who can blame them? Without dreams, why continue? Why rise from one's bed each morning? Why anything?
Which brings us to young Anthony Rendon, who on some Florida mornings just might look like the most impressive young man on Earth to baseball men who still dare to dream. In The Washington Post, Adam Kilgore:
The baseball men running the Washington Nationals know conclusions should not form in one spring training week, but with Anthony Rendon they can’t help themselves. Front-office officials watch his sweet swing and whisper he’ll hit third someday. Scouts watch him field groundballs and declare he could win a Gold Glove. Coaches throw him batting practice and shake their heads.
His future contains one uncertainty. Rendon played third base in college, but after Ryan Zimmerman signed his six-year, $100 million contract extension Sunday that includes full no-trade protection, the Nationals already have their third baseman.
Zimmerman’s deal, for now, will not alter the Nationals’ plan for Rendon. He will alternate between third base, shortstop and second base during spring training. When he begins his minor league season — likely at Class A Potomac, perhaps Class AA Harrisburg — he will play third base, period.
Question: Why would the Nationals assign Rendon to third base, period, when they've just locked up Ryan Zimmerman basically forever?
Answer: Because they're not sure Zimmerman will stay healthy and productive forever.
Follow-up Question: If they're not sure, why did they commit $100 million?
Actually, I'm not convinced the Nationals' "plan for Rendon" is set in stone. If he looks good at shortstop and/or (more likely) second base during spring training, you never know. Maybe the future is now. Or perhaps the Nats believe Ryan Zimmerman's future is first base. Seems an odd thought about a guy who won a Gold Glove in 2009, but Zimmerman did have some struggles at third base last season, and perhaps he would be more durable at first?
Ultimately, you simply want Rendon in the lineup and you want the best defense you can put on the field. But it seems to me that if second base is in Rendon's future, you might as well begin that transition soon, because you might want him in the lineup as soon as 2013, when by most accounts this team should be ready to compete for a playoff spot.
Just one little problem, though ... The Nationals already have a second baseman and he's pretty good. Danny Espinosa does strike out a ton and he's hardly a Gold Glover, but he's still young and he'll probably be a better baseball player than Rendon in 2013.
Ian Desmond, on the other hand ... I think you can make a pretty good case that Rendon should be playing a lot of shortstop this spring, and perhaps into the summer. Because if the Nationals have one obvious hole, both now and down the road a few years, it's there. If Rendon can play a passable shortstop, this could be a pretty scary lineup in a year or two.
Assuming, of course, that everyone's dreams haven't deceived them. Anthony Rendon hasn't yet played a single inning in a professional baseball game.