|The Nationals picked up middle infield insurance in Alberto
Gonzalez, acquiring him from the Yankees for power righthander Jhonny Nunez.
|Gonzalez, 25, shares a name with the former U.S. Attorney General but
is not related. He began his career in the Diamondbacks organization
and came to the Yankees, along with since-traded righty Ross Ohlendorf
and righty Stephen Jackson, in the deal that sent Randy Johnson back
out to Arizona. Gonzalez is an above-average defensive shortstop with
solid range, soft hands and a plus arm, but he wasn’t the top defender
at the position in the Yankees system—that’s Double-A Trenton’s Ramon
Pena. Gonzalez had not shown he could hit upper-level pitching yet,
hitting just .250/.313/.356 at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and was
just 10-for-66 in his two short big league stints, including 9-for-52
(.173) this season. He’s shown some plate discipline throughout his
career but lacks the power to be an everyday regular at just 5-foot-11 and
This trade is puzzling for the Nationals, who recently extended shortstop Cristian Guzman’s contract for two more years and acquired second baseman Emilio Bonifacio from Arizona for Jon Rauch. Gonzalez is a spare part who does not project as a big league regular. The Nationals are expected to place Guzman on the disabled list, but it seems short-sighted to part with a young, power arm for a low-upside, short-term insurance policy. Maybe Nunez will be just a middle reliever, and maybe he won’t reach the big leagues at all, but he certainly has a higher ceiling than Gonzalez. The Nationals system is thin in the middle infield, but acquiring more utility players is a strange solution.