WASHINGTON -- The Nationals remain optimistic about second baseman Daniel Murphy's status for Opening Day after he underwent debridement and microfracture knee surgery on his right knee on Oct. 20, even though it is still a bit early on to tell.The uncertainty around Murphy, however, will not impact the Nationals'
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals remain optimistic about second baseman Daniel Murphy's status for Opening Day after he underwent debridement and microfracture knee surgery on his right knee on Oct. 20, even though it is still a bit early on to tell.
The uncertainty around Murphy, however, will not impact the Nationals' offseason plans. Even if they do not think Murphy will be ready for Opening Day or rehabbing his right knee takes longer than predicted, the club is not expected to chase after another second baseman or middle infielder to serve as his backup.
A major reason for that is the team's comfort level in Wilmer Difo, who they believe took huge strides in showing that he is Major League ready in 2017. His overall numbers look a bit unspectacular, outside of a .271 batting average, but Difo demonstrated what he is capable of during a two-month stretch in July and August when he had the chance to play every day. After Trea Turner fractured his right wrist, Difo emerged as the Nats' replacement at shortstop.
Difo played in 50 games for those two months combined and made 44 starts, compiling a slash line of .343/.389/.483 with four home runs and seven stolen bases. He was spectacular all season at defense, accumulating 14 defensive runs saved at shortstop in 2017. All are reasons the Nationals believe Difo can handle filling in for Murphy if necessary. Some members of the Nats were also impressed with what they saw from infielder Adrian Sanchez in his first Major League stint and believe he could play a role as a reserve in Washington next season.
That does not mean the Nationals should be completely ruled out from making a push to re-sign a player such as Howie Kendrick, but perhaps Kendrick could get more guaranteed playing time elsewhere.
From his conversations with Murphy in the weeks after his surgery, general manager Mike Rizzo remains hopeful that Murphy will be able to make a full recovery and be ready to start the season on time or shortly thereafter. And the Nationals feel they already have some solid insurance on the roster just in case.
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.