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Roster review: Ian Desmond

Oct 17, 2015, 10:25 AM EDT

USA Today Sports Images

Age on Opening Day 2016: 30

How acquired: 3rd round pick, 2004 draft (Expos)

MLB service time: 6 years, 27 days

2015 salary+bonuses: $11 million

Contract status: Free agent

2015 stats: 156 G, 641 PA, 69 R, 136 H, 27 2B, 2 3B, 19 HR, 62 RBI, 13 SB, 45 BB, 187 SO, .233 AVG, .290 OBP, .384 SLG, .674 OPS, 27 E, -3.7 UZR, 1.7 WAR

Quotable: “When I got drafted by the Expos, they didn’t know where the team would be. But they couldn’t have found a better home. I’m extremely proud to say that I was a Washington National.”

2015 analysis: Ian Desmond took a calculated risk in passing up a contract extension and betting on himself in the 2015 season. His hope was a fourth straight year of Silver Slugger numbers before entering free agency as one of the biggest names on the market, a rare breed of shortstop these days who would command upwards of $150 million from the richest teams in baseball.

That didn’t exactly go as planned, as Desmond played some of his worst ball in years for much of the 2015 season, both on offense and defense. Desmond had a .599 OPS as late as July 22 and was hitting just .214 on Aug. 4. He also committed eight errors in his first 12 games. If Matt Williams had benched him at any point through the first four months, few would have been shocked. He was that bad and at one point appeared to have lost himself a ton of money in free agency.

But Desmond did rebound, perhaps not completely, but he did. After batting .211/.255/.334 with seven homers in the first half, he hit .262/.331/.446 with 12 home runs after the All-Star break. In August he hit .314 with a .914 OPS and six homers. It was enough to get him up to 19 home runs, which ranked third among shortstops. Desmond will not command the money he would have if he was a free agent last winter, but the seven-year veteran should still be a highly sought after player this offseason given all the other attributes he brings to the table.

2016 outlook: The chances of Desmond returning to Washington, the only MLB home he has ever known, are very slim. Judging by his comments both leading into the 2015 season and throughout it, Desmond has clearly prepared himself for the possibility of not returning as a National. There are several reasons why that is probably for the best not only for the Nats, but perhaps Desmond as well.

For one, the Nationals have depth in their infield, most notably with the emergence of top prospect Trea Turner. Signing Desmond to a long-term deal would be a risk for the franchise and one they probably can’t take given the contracts of Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman. If Desmond’s deal didn’t work out, the Nats would have serious payroll issues.

And for Desmond, it is still good timing to find a new home, even with his drop in numbers. He will enter free agency as the most accomplished player at his position. If a team is on the market for a shortstop, especially if it’s a young team who could use some veteran leadership, Desmond could be a very attractive option.

The one question long-term that could perhaps come into play in negotiations this winter is where Desmond fits defensively. With his penchant for errors – he’s finished in the top three for most at his position in three straight years – will teams want to sign him to play third base? At shortstop several of his numbers look unique, but at third his low OBP and high strikeout-rate might become more obvious.

  1. NatsNut - Oct 17, 2015 at 11:01 AM

    I think all of baseball knows what they’re getting with Desi, even with low ’15 numbers. I bet he gets a very nice deal.

  2. trfwans - Oct 17, 2015 at 11:21 AM

    Chances of Desmond returning in 2016 have to be listed as “very slim” because “when hell freezes over” is being reserved for Papelbon.

    • ArVAFan - Oct 17, 2015 at 11:23 AM

      +20

      • natsfan1a - Oct 17, 2015 at 11:26 AM

        +20 and -58

  3. joemktg - Oct 17, 2015 at 12:44 PM

    Why bother? Filler for a Saturday post?

    • therealjohnc - Oct 17, 2015 at 9:50 PM

      So you know that in offseason, it’s time for roster reviews and predictions about offseason moves, right? Because it’s 172 days until the next Nats game.

  4. Jeff - Oct 17, 2015 at 12:49 PM

    Bostick and Difo give brass confidence
    In letting Dessy go ( Chisox??).
    Will brass do the right thing in securing
    A draft pick via his Free Agency via
    Giving arbitration avenue ??

    • unkyd59 - Oct 18, 2015 at 9:51 AM

      Confusing sentence……

      “Will brass do the right thing in securing
      A draft pick via his Free Agency via
      Giving arbitration avenue ??”

  5. Section 222 - Oct 17, 2015 at 12:59 PM

    One last chance to tell my Desi story. Several years ago, my group was invited to sing over at Washington Hospital Center for Nationals Day. We warmed up the crowd, which was mostly seriously injured patients. And then we left the room and passed the designated Nats as they arrived — Clip, Storen, and Desi. They were dressed casually, with Nats jerseys or sweatshirts. Clip and Store looked kind of normal — tall, handsome, but nothing out of the ordinary.

    Desi looked like a bronzed Greek God. Very charismatic as he shook hands with the staff and greeted the patients.

    I predict, like NN, that he’ll get his big contract, almost certainly bigger than the one the Nats offered him. He had a bad year, but I don’t think he’s in decline. And he has a ton to offer a team in the clubhouse and off the field.

    It’s time to move on, for both Desi and the Nats. But make no mistake, he’ll be missed.

  6. ArVAFan - Oct 17, 2015 at 1:16 PM

    I’ve met him a few times (more than any other Nats player). He was doing a fundraiser (via Indigogo) for the Children’s Tumor Foundation. I bought the “batting practice and on-field meet and greet” package in the auction. Because batting practice was cancelled that day due to extra innings the night before, he could have asked to re-schedule–but instead he showed up, spent a lot of time chatting and taking photos with us. The package was supposed to include tickets to that game, but we already had tickets, so he said ‘let me get you something else,” went back in the clubhouse and signed balls for each of us. He also had the fundraising coordinator call me back later to make sure I felt we’d gotten our money’s worth, given that batting practice was cancelled.

    I was wearing his special Indigogo t-shirt in Viera this spring, he spotted it, and we spoke briefly (he didn’t want to be late for one of MW’s drills). Then this summer, at the Zims Foundation fundraiser, we spoke again (staying away from his on-field performance, which given what it had been so far in 2015 would not have been a comfortable topic). He remembered us from the on-field meeting, including which section we sit in, which is how I know he wasn’t faking the “sure, I remember you.”

    Whatever team gets him, gets a good guy. I won’t miss the errors and the strikeouts, but I will miss him. Good luck, unless you’re playing against us. In that case, feel free to strike out.

    • Sonny G 10 - Oct 17, 2015 at 5:07 PM

      Nice story ArVaFan. Thanks for sharing. +10 on your third paragraph.

  7. jskurtzke - Oct 17, 2015 at 1:56 PM

    With the class and leadership skills he demonstrates, Desi strikes me as a future MLB manager

    • JayB - Oct 17, 2015 at 4:02 PM

      he sure is not coachable so there’s that……Swing from the heels with no outs and guy on 2nd with two strikes…that said…he is going to be missed as a person if not a player

      • npb99 - Oct 18, 2015 at 5:22 AM

        I agree with that – miss him as person, not as player.

  8. dcphanatic - Oct 17, 2015 at 2:04 PM

    I have always liked Desmond, since the days of his September call up. He was so aggressive at the plate and that ball came out of that bat screaming. But I think he cost the Nats at least five, and as many as nine games this season. The Nats need to improve their defense, and need to strike out less. They need to be able to manufacture runs and in order to do that they need to improve their situational hitting. All those things are beyond Desi’s skills set at this point in his career. Will not be surprised if I we him again in a Mets uniform or with the Yankees. Now won’t that be a hoot!

    • Doc - Oct 17, 2015 at 2:16 PM

      Time for both Desi and the Nats to move on.

  9. chaz11963 - Oct 17, 2015 at 2:38 PM

    Desi is a class act. We met him at the Nats Gala, along with many others. He was so poised and confident. He has great baseball skills, but his greatest skill is leadership.

  10. Susanfaulkner - Oct 17, 2015 at 4:23 PM

    When I started watching the Nats Ian became one of my favorite players for the same reasons some of you have listed. Going to miss him. Whatever team gets him are very lucky.

  11. Sonny G 10 - Oct 17, 2015 at 6:03 PM

    This is the start of a new phase for the Nationals. Desi, and Jordan, will be the first of our long term, home grown favorites to depart via free agency. I knew this day would come and would be saddened by it, but this is the maturation of a quality home team. I am so glad we have a quality team to root for.

  12. Susanfaulkner - Oct 17, 2015 at 6:41 PM

    Anybody watching the baseball game right now? I can’t to broken hearted. Next year!?

  13. edshelton2013 - Oct 18, 2015 at 7:59 AM

    There’s no mention of a QO for Desmond. Are we assuming he’ll definitely be offered one??
    What if he decides to stick around another year and try to improve on his 2015 numbers??

    • Susanfaulkner - Oct 18, 2015 at 8:53 AM

      I hope he does come back!!

  14. rgsie - Oct 18, 2015 at 9:53 AM

    Trea Turner will be fine…He’s strong.

    • senators5 - Oct 18, 2015 at 12:31 PM

      Agree, but he must bulk up to meet the grind of a 162 + schedule. He has the look of a 17 yr. old HS senior. BUT,, I think the Nats got a real gem in this kid and he is so fast, which the team desperately needs

      • Susanfaulkner - Oct 18, 2015 at 12:34 PM

        Trea looks about 12. Think he was a good pick.

  15. janebeard - Oct 18, 2015 at 3:30 PM

    One of the lessons of the (please may it be so) brief Papelbon Era is that character actually DOES matter in this clubhouse. Demi had tons of it. It’s pretty clear that the impending loss of his only baseball home got in his head. And I get that people see that as a flaw that a major leaguer shouldn’t have.

    To ME, though, that attachment to the team is a plus, when it’s been harnessed. He was the heart of the team, and it will be an enormous loss to the team. Whatever team ends up with him will be lucky t have him. And if we play that team, I will be rooting for Ian to whack us. At least the first time we see him.

    I’m sorry his agent didn’t tae the bird in hand, when it was offered. I really am.

    • Susanfaulkner - Oct 18, 2015 at 3:35 PM

      Ian received an offer? When?

      • tcostant - Oct 19, 2015 at 1:10 PM

        Before last offseason, $107M over 7 years is what I recall.

      • Susanfaulkner - Oct 19, 2015 at 1:38 PM

        Thanks for the info tcostant

    • Guapo - Oct 20, 2015 at 10:44 AM

      I get that people like Desmond as a person. I’m a nice guy too, but I can’t play short.

      Problem with rooting for Desmond to resign with the Nats means that you are in turn, rooting against the team’s long term success.

      If we just want a team that people like, let’s bring back Morse, Lombardozi, Desmond, and LaRoche. The team will stink, but a stunningly large percentage of the fan base would be happy about it.

      I’d prefer they win. #20 can’t be gone soon enough.

  16. edshelton2013 - Oct 18, 2015 at 7:34 PM

    So, should we even make a QO to Desmond or would he take it and hope for a better year in 2016??

    • Guapo - Oct 20, 2015 at 10:45 AM

      NO! What if he takes it??? That’s the worse case scenario.

  17. janebeard - Oct 19, 2015 at 9:49 AM

    Susanfaulkner, they made an offer two years ago. Various reports place the deal at $104-111 million.

    • Susanfaulkner - Oct 19, 2015 at 10:17 AM

      Thanks janebeard for the info. Sounds like a good deal to me. Sometimes I think agents push for more so they (the agents) can get more. Hey but who am I to judge if I could get more money I would to.

    • Guapo - Oct 20, 2015 at 10:47 AM

      What a stroke of luck for Rizzo, and an awful business decision for Desmond. He cost himself at ton of cash.

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