7:57pm: A White Sox official suggests to Bob Nightengale of USA Today that any prior efforts to pursue Desmond are not likely to prove fruitful, saying: “that ship has sailed.” (Twitter link.)
3:14pm: The White Sox are among the clubs considering Ian Desmond, tweets Jon Heyman. The fit between the two sides has long made sense, on paper, but there’s been little reported that has suggested genuine interest from Chicago’s end of the matter.
Desmond rejected a qualifying offer from the Nationals and, as such, would require the Sox to forfeit the No. 28 overall pick in the draft, which they received as compensation for the loss of Jeff Samardzija to the Giants (Samardzija rejected a qualifying offer of his own). Notably, that pick would creep up to No. 27 overall were the Orioles to sign Yovani Gallardo, as is rumored to be likely. GM Rick Hahn has recently talked about the value of that pick to the White Sox, but the Sox do have a protected first-round selection at No. 10 overall, which would leave them with at least one premium selection and a sizable amount of slot money accompanying that pick even in the event that a deal with Desmond ultimately comes together.
Adding Desmond to the fold for the White Sox would allow the team to use Tyler Saladino — a strong defender at multiple infield positions but by most accounts a light bat — in a utility capacity next season. Saladino was brilliant in the eyes of defensive metrics (+12 DRS, +5 UZR) in a tiny sample of 477 innings, but he batted just .225/.267/.335 in 254 trips to the plate. Desmond, of course, had the worst season of his career at the plate, but he did rebound after a terrible first half by slashing .262/.331/.446 after the All-Star break. His escalating strikeout rate is a cause for concern, but Desmond would bring considerably more offensive upside to the table than would Saladino. And, while his defense was highly questioned after a bizarre start to the 2015 season that saw him make eight errors in 12 games, he righted the ship for the remainder of the season. While his 19 errors across his final 143 games were still higher than a team would like to see, that’s a far more passable rate than that which he showed early in the year. Desmond may never be a standout defender, but he’s been adequate at the position by measure of defensive metrics.
Desmond would be the third right-handed bat added to a White Sox lineup that has already acquired Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie via trade this offseason. Despite their hitter-friendly home park, the White Sox ranked 28th in all of baseball with 622 runs scored last season. Hahn and his staff have placed a clear emphasis on bolstering the lineup in an effort to support a rotation fronted by a potentially elite trio of Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Carlos Rodon, and the fact that they addressed the back of their rotation with a low-cost flier on Mat Latos ($3MM) would seem to leave money for a run at Desmond.