Yesterday evening on XM 175, former GM Jim Bowden, in response to a caller's question, was emphatic in stating that the issue of Guzman vs. Desmond for starting SS this season should be settled in the field in spring training, and that if Desmond outplayed Guzman, he should without doubt be the starting Nats shortstop. He said that the compensation due Guzman should not be a factor in the decision on whom to play.
Aside from shortstop, the Nats don't have a lot of field positions up for competion - backup and utility fielders would be about it. On the pitching staff, however, there will be fierce competition for the 2-3 available starter slots, and for bullpen openings.
I could see that Scott Olsen might struggle for a while, but recieve the benefit of a non-performance bias due to the fact he's recovering from an injury, and might be perceived as having more upside than say JD Martin.
So my question is related to this. To what extent will the Nats allow competition for the few open spots to be decided by play on the field in ST, vs. by other factors - ie remaining options, relative compensation, perceived upside, etc.?
It’s an interesting question, because there are a few factors that play into it. If you’re talking about Guzman/Desmond specifically, the fact that Guzman is making $8 million will be one of those factors, if for no other reason than the Nationals would love to trade him if they could, and will probably try to showcase him somewhat. Desmond also has options, and those will be part of the equation, too. As much as we’d all like to see this stuff in a vacuum, there are always other forces at work. Take last spring, when Austin Kearns won the starting right field job over Elijah Dukes. Part of that was how poorly Dukes played at the end of camp, but the Nationals were also trying to a) reward a veteran and b) boost his value. But Kearns had a similar albatross of a contract to Guzman. Here’s how I see that battle shaping up: Guzman wins it, but Desmond is starting by August at the latest. That’s without having seen them play a game yet, though, so take it with a grain of salt.