The Rangers will make a $17.2MM qualifying offer to outfielder Ian Desmond, general manager Jon Daniels told reporters today (Twitter link via MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan). He’ll be the only Rangers free agent to receive one, though that’s not a surprise, as their other QO-eligible players (Colby Lewis and Mitch Moreland) have never been viewed as candidates.
The decision to extend a qualifying offer to Desmond was fairly straightforward, as the shortstop-turned-center-fielder had a terrific season in his lone year with Texas. Signed to a one-year, $8MM deal this past offseason after the multi-year deal he sought failed to materialize, Desmond proved to be one of the best bargains in all of baseball. Although Desmond, who turned 31 in September, tailed off in terms of productivity late in the season, he still finished out the year with a .285/.335/.446 batting line to go along with 22 homers, 21 stolen bases and respectable defensive marks in the outfield considering his lack of experience there. Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating both pegged Desmond as above average in left field in his time there early in the season, and while he drew slightly negative marks in center field from both metrics, there’s reason to believe that a player of his athleticism can post superior marks in 2017 with a year of experience now under his belt.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that Desmond will exclusively market himself as an outfielder. The former Nationals star, who switched agencies earlier this week and is now represented by CAA, is only a year removed from playing shortstop and could conceivably be viewed by teams as an option at other infield positions as well. From that standpoint, his new representatives could pitch him as a jack of all trades that needn’t be locked into one position, and that versatility could prove lucrative.
Even though rejecting a qualifying offer after the 2015 season undoubtedly played a role in Desmond’s struggles to find a significant multi-year deal last winter, it’d still be a surprise if he accepted the offer. Qualifying offers are formally due on Monday of next week, and from that point, players have one week to decide whether they’ll accept or reject. Coming off a much stronger 2016 season and with newfound defensive versatility to pitch to interested parties, Desmond should be able to land a nice multi-year deal in free agency — one of at least four years in length, in my view.