While a lot of people would be happy signing a contract to play baseball over the next year for a salary of $8M, long-time Washington Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond will look to rebuilt his value as a member of the Texas Rangers, while also wondering what could have been.
A couple of years ago, fresh of the heels of a back-to-back Silver Slugger Awards and a very successful 2013 season, Desmond was offered a seven-year extension worth $107M, which he ultimately turned down with eyes on free agency.
Now, two years later, free agency has come and gone with Desmond having to settle for a one-year $8M deal, and oh yeah…he’ll also be playing left field rather than shortstop this season.
With Elvis Andrus already signed to a long-term deal as the club’s shortstop, Desmond will roam the pasture in Arlington, which could help him reconstruct his offensive game as he’ll look to recoup some of the lost free agency dollars next winter.
Over the past four seasons, Desmond’s numbers have been in steady decline. After hitting 25 homers and hitting to a .292/.355/.511 slashline in 2012, Desmond turned in a 19 HR, 62 RBI campaign while hitting to a .233/.290/.384 slashline in 2015. His OPS+ has also dipped 45 points in that time from 125 in 2012, to 80 last season.
Desmond’s defense, never his strong suit, was also an issue in 2015, as he committed 27 errors at 155 games at SS.
Desmond, as well as Ranger fans, hope he can follow in the footsteps of a former Ranger, Nelson Cruz, who was able to rebuild his value after draft pick compensation ruined his vision of a high-dollar payday two offseasons ago.
After a number of successful years in Texas, Cruz, like Desmond, was on the free agent market. After weeks on top of weeks passed, Cruz was no closer to the long-term deal he desired. Eventually, Cruz chose to sign a one-year $8M deal with the Baltimore Orioles prior to the 2014 season. What happened? Cruz became a steal for the O’s after belting 40 HRs and driving in 108 Runs for the playoff bound club, while also making the All-Star team and finishing 7th in the AL MVP race.
Cruz was then able to parlay that effort into a four-year $57M payday with the Seattle Mariners. What did he do after being rewarded? He followed that up with a nice 44 HR, 93 RBI campaign, which saw him hit to a .302/.369/.566 slashline, while making another All-Star team, winning a Silver Slugger Award, and finishing 6th in the MVP balloting last year.
The 30-year-old Desmond has a chance to rebuild his value playing on a good team surrounded by other good hitters, in a very hitter-friendly park, while also playing a less defensive demanding position.
It’s awful hard to pass up and extension that essentially leaves $100M on the table. Ian Desmond did that. Hopefully he can rediscover his stroke, clear his mind of the frustrating winter he endured, and be a viable cog in what is expected to be a contending team in the AL West. He’ll have a lot to prove to the doubters, his checkbook, and to himself as he looks to rebound in 2016.