Quick, name the best shortstops in the game.
Troy Tulowitzki. Hanley Ramirez. Jimmy Rollins.
Rafael Furcal, when healthy. Jose Reyes, when healthy. Stephen Drew. Elvis Andrus. Alexei Ramirez. Derek Jeter on his best days.
But really, that’s it.
The scarcity at the position is sharply increasing the trade value of the few promising young shortstops in the game.
Case in point: Ian Desmond of the Nationals.
Desmond, 25, is drawing strong trade interest, major league sources say, and could be a chip the team uses to land a quality starting pitcher.
The Nats will not part with Desmond easily – they value both his potential and his leadership. Yet, the team already has struck out on two free-agent starting pitchers, right-hander Javier Vazquez and lefty Jorge De La Rosa. The most attractive remaining free-agent starter is righty Carl Pavano, who might prefer to stay with the Twins.
A trade, then, might represent the Nationals' best chance to improve their starting pitching.
If the Nationals traded Desmond, they could sign a veteran to play short and keep Danny Espinosa at second. Or they could move Espinosa to short and sign a veteran to play second.
The team is deep in young catching and also has some intriguing young pitching, but 2011 will be a season in which righty Stephen Strasburg will be recovering from Tommy John surgery and outfielder Bryce Harper will be beginning his professional career.
It might not be the right time to trade a player such as Desmond, particularly for a pitcher such as Royals right-hander Zack Greinke, who has only two years left on his contract.
But the Nationals might be tempted on Desmond if they could land a talented young pitcher with comparable service time in return.
— Ken Rosenthal