The Washington Nationals finished at 83-79 in 2015, an underwhelming result given that many expected them to be a top contender for the World Series heading into the season. With a returning core highlighted by MVP-winner Bryce Harper and pitchers Max Scherzer, Gio Gonzalez, and Steven Strasburg, however, the club should still be in position to make a run at the pennant winning Mets in the NL East next season.
The Nationals have suffered some personnel losses this winter and now face some questions in their infield with the loss of Ian Desmond via free agency and the trade of Yunel Escober to the Angels. According to a report from Ken Rosenthal earlier today, it appears that GM Mike Rizzo is now in the market for some additional infield depth, specifically at the keystone.
Sources: #Nationals want to add a second baseman, preferably a left-handed hitter. One possibility: Free agent Kelly Johnson.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 14, 2015
In a second tweet, Rosenthal goes on to say that right-handed hitting Danny Espinosa is likely to begin the season as the Nationals' shortstop but then could move into more of a platoon/utility role once top SS prospect Trea Turner is deemed ready. Though Rosenthal specifically mentions Kelly Johnson as a potential fit, our own beloved local nine are in possession of a left-handed hitting second baseman.
There's been no indications that Slingin' David Stearns is looking to trade Scooter Gennett, but given that the club is reportedly listening to offers on all of their players, Scooter could certainly be a player that could be on the move this winter. He'll turn 26 next season and is coming off the worst year of his big league career, slashing just .264/294/.381 and 0.2 fWAR in 114 games. He came into the season looking to shed the "platoon" label and establish himself as an everyday player, but battled a freak hand injury early on in the season after cutting himself in the shower and was optioned to AAA Colorado Springs in May after posting a .403 OPS (-5 wRC+) through his first 69 plate appearances.
After returning from his banishment to the minor leagues on June 11th, however, Gennett's numbers through the rest of the season were much closer to his career norms. In his final 322 plate appearances Scooter hit .287/.314/.419 with five home runs among 27 extra base hits. That was good enough for a 94 wRC+, which was actually a tick higher than the 93 wRC+ that the average MLB second baseman produced in 2015.
At this point, it's pretty much established that Scooter is what he is and doesn't have much room to improve any further. He'll always be a platoon player and has never demonstrated an ability to be able to hit left handed in the majors, posting an almost unbelievably bad .124/.147/.150 line (-29 wRC+!) in 119 plate appearances with a 28.6% strikeout rate across the last two-plus seasons. He doesn't walk much (4% for his career), but he doesn't strike much, either (16.2%). He's limited to just second base defensively and is about as average as you can get at the position with 0 career Defensive Runs Saved and a -3.0 UZR in a shade under 2300 career innings.
Just because one is labeled as a "platoon player" doesn't mean he cannot have value, however. Scooter has hammered right-handed pitching to the tune of a .307/.339/.458 batting line in 976 plate appearances to this point in his career for a wRC+ of 115. His .137 career ISO shows he's got a little bit of pop in his bat, too. It wasn't long ago that he was valued at 1.7 fWAR in a platoon role with Rickie Weeks at second base in 2014 and one could easily envision Scooter sliding successfully into that role with Washington.
Scooter has another four years of club control remaining but given the Brewers depth in the infield, there's not really much of a reason to keep him if a team offers the club anything of value for him. Gennett's trade value is probably limited given his lack of positional flexibility and upside and the fact that he's only usable against righties, but he could probably still fetch a decent flyer to two. 1B/3B Matt Skole or C Raudy Read are two lower-rated prospects in Washington's top 30 that could potentially fit into the Brewers' minor league system. Stearns has shown us that he's not afraid to go after younger and lesser known prospects with the Adam Lind trade though so it's probably a fool's errand to speculate on what sort of return he could seek in exchange for Scooter Gennett.