Monday afternoon GM Mike Rizzo decided to improve the Nationals middle infield depth by claiming veteran shortstop Cesar Izturis off waivers from the Milwaukee Brewers. In corresponding roster moves for the Nationals, Mark DeRosa was placed on the 15-day disabled list and Triple-A LHP Atahualpa Severino was designated for assignment. The Nationals needed some insurance in the middle infield with Ian Desmond on the disabled list indefinitely with an injured oblique and Mark DeRosa struggling with an injured groin, leaving middle infield duo Danny Espinosa and Steve Lombardozzi without a backup. The Brewers received noted infield prospect Jean Segura last month in the blockbuster Zack Greinke trade with Anaheim and were eager to promote him to the big leagues, thus making Izturis expendable. The Nationals claimed Izturis, meaning they are responsible for the balance of his $875,000 salary for 2012, but were not forced to part with a player to obtain his services.
Cesar Izturis, 32-years old and a 12-year major league veteran, is batting .235/.248/.333 with 2 home runs and 1 stolen base thus far in 2012 and is a .255/.294/.323 career hitter spanning 4,217 total at-bats. A switch-hitter, Izturis for his career has superior numbers against left-handed pitching, with a .264/.298/.335 batting line with 7 home runs verses .250/.293/.316 and 8 home runs against right-handers – perhaps the Nationals use Izturis in a platoon with Steve Lombardozzi (career numbers .210/.269/.242 vs. LHP) until Ian Desmond returns, consequently shifting Danny Espinosa back to second base. Although his hitting leaves something to be desired, Izturis’ reputation has been built on being a dynamic, well above-average defender, one whom is particularly proficient at both second base and shortstop. Izturis won a gold glove in 2004 and his career fielding percentage of .981 is well above the average in that span of .973, further cementing his status as an outstanding defensive infielder. Not to mention logic tells us any 12-year veteran with a career OPS (On-Base Percentage Plus Slugging Percentage) of .616 must be an outstanding defender to justify his being a starter in the major leagues.
This waiver claim should not be made into more than it is, but Cesar Izturis provides the infield depth the Nationals desperately needed as they anxiously wait for Ian Desmond to heal from his injury. Izturis could receive some at-bats in the upcoming weeks providing a rare day off for Danny Espinosa and conceivably platooning with Lombardozzi against left-handed pitching at second base: eventually when Desmond returns, Izturis will provide excellent middle infield depth and versatility off the bench. The Nationals may have to make a roster decision between Mark DeRosa and Cesar Izturis later this month when DeRosa returns, but if the injury lingers past September 1st when the major league rosters expand, they would only have to make a choice between the two if and when they reach the playoffs in October. While Izturis’ acquisition should not have a dramatic effect on the Nationals win-loss record down the stretch, this was a smart transaction for GM Mike Rizzo to protect the team in case they receive yet another injury to the middle infield, because Izturis is capable of managing either shortstop or second base for a week or two without hindering a team. This is not a particularly exciting move but a productive, no-risk attempt by the front office to improve and protect the Nationals chances of reaching the playoffs this fall.
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