Ian Desmond will start the season as the Nats everyday shortstop. While we await the reaction from the home of Guzmania, it is hard to see anyone arguing with this move.
Guzman is a 32 year old, who outside of a couple of years, has shown himself to be a terrible offensive player, unable to hit for power or get on base with any consistency. His defense has been steadily on the decline as well and now he's dealing with a bum shoulder.
Ian Desmond, on the other hand is... umm... well he's younger, 24 for most of this year, and he's at least for a short time shown himself capable of playing in the major leagues. That's all you really need to give him a shot, and if you are being honest with yourself, that's all you really can say about him.
I know Nats fans want to believe that Desmond is a superstar waiting to happen, but that's not likely. Yes, he did hit well while up with the Nats last season, but that was mainly because of a SLG percentage around .100 pts higher than anything he ever did as a minor leaguer. For those that enjoy fancy stats, his isoSLG was .281 last year, while his best in any single year in the minors was .164. That is what we call an unsustainable result. Yes, he did hit well early in this Spring, but if you haven't noticed after starting the month off batting .476 in the first 8 games, he has hit .194 in the next 13 with only 2 doubles. Yes, he did hit well in the minors last year, but it was the first time ever in 5 minor league seasons that he had success anywhere near that level. Prior to 2009 he was carrying something like a .240 / .315 / .375 line in the minors. If Desmond was 27, I would say that he is the poster child for outsized expectations.
But he's not 27, and he won't be until late in 2012. That's the most important thing. Desmond will probably be offensively as productive this season as Guzman would have been (likely lower BA, likely higher SLG), but with a season under his belt he's still at the ages where he will likely improve slightly in the future. Assuming a decent 2010, the Nats could pencil in for a few seasons a perfectly average SS and they could turn their concerns (and their pocketbook) elsewhere. (If you are wondering, it is possible Desmond could blossom into a 25 homer guy, it's also possible he could also crash and burn and be unable to sustain a batting average above .250. It's difficult to project given his strange immediate improvement. Let's try to temper our speculations)
When it comes down to it though, this wasn't a Desmond move, it was a Guzman move, as much as the Nats try to tell you otherwise. They wanted Guzman to play, but he couldn't. They already knew he couldn't hit, and now he can't field. They'll try to give him time to get healthy so they can "showcase" him later in the year but starting him on Day 1 would have been good for no one. It may not be Desmond's time yet (or ever) but Guzman's time has almost certainly passed.