Ian Desmond’s winter did not progress as expected, as he landed with the Rangers on a one-year, $8MM deal after turning down a $15.8MM qualifying offer from the Nationals. Even more surprising than the magnitude of the contract was the fact that he’ll be shifting off of the shortstop position in Texas. As Desmond begins preparing to move to left field, at least for the time being, here are some reactions to the signing:
- Desmond seems determined to make the best of the situation, as Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports reports. He expressed frustration in the impact of the qualifying offer system on his market, but even as he said “it’s clear that something needs to change,” he made equally clear that he won’t let that get in the way of his new opportunity. “I’m extremely excited,” Desmond said. “I’m extremely grateful, also. … As for swallowing my pride and learning a new position, that’s not going to be a problem.”
- From the Rangers’ perspective, too, the move represents — at least in some part — an effort to make the best of a trying situation, as Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports. The injury issues surrounding Josh Hamilton left the team without a clear solution in left field, and now Desmond will be tasked with that job. GM Jon Daniels made clear that Elvis Andrus will be the team’s shortstop, and also that Desmond is slated for regular duty in left — meaning that Hamilton’s own role will be determined when he’s back in action. “This move is about 2016, about adding a winning piece and a winning man,” said Daniels. Meanwhile, Desmond added that he’s long thought about playing in the grass, and is most committed to the same ideals that Daniels described. “I made the decision when the offseason began I wanted to be part of something more than just our names on the back of our jerseys; I wanted to win,” he said. “I felt that if to do that, I needed to move positions, I would consider it.”
- ESPN.com’s Keith Law rates the signing as a rare miss for the Texas front office, arguing that Desmond’s bat isn’t good enough to justify the sacrifice of the 19th overall pick in the upcoming draft. There are a variety of options on hand who might be expected to provide similar overall production, he reasons, citing several traditional outfielders as well as conceivable converts such as Jurickson Profar, Ike Davis, and Joey Gallo. Law does note that there’s some potential value in Desmond’s versatility, including that he could present a theoretical alternative to Andrus at short, as well as the clubhouse presence he brings.
- Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs, meanwhile, sees the sense in the signing for Texas. By his reckoning, Desmond has a reasonable amount of upside, has shown the kind of athleticism and work ethic to believe he’ll turn into a solid outfielder, and could conceivably step in on the left side of the infield or move around the field if a need arises. For Desmond, argues Sullivan, the deal obviously represents a disappointment in light of the reported extension offer he rejected from the Nationals, but that was a justifiable decision at the time.
- The Mets never strongly pursued Desmond, even before they added Asdrubal Cabrera, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network (via Twitter). New York “didn’t see the value early,” Heyman writes. The Rays and other clubs were in on Desmond at the end, according to Heyman (on Twitter). Meanwhile, the Orioles checked in on the free agent, but they never made a formal offer, he adds.
- Other organizations did, however, show earlier interest, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney writes. The issue, per the report, may have been that Desmond and his representatives simply held out too long. It’s not entirely clear whether that approach was driven by hopes of getting a significant contract or disinterest in signing in a “super-utility” role, but Olney seems to suggest that some possible avenues to a bigger deal were not taken when they were available.
- It’s not hard to understand why Desmond would have sought a contract and playing situation commensurate with his high overall level of performance, of course, but Olney notes that his new role in Texas may close the door on the possibility of a major future signing as a premium up-the-middle player. It will certainly be interesting to see whether he gets a chance to show his form elsewhere on the diamond. Scouts tell Barry Svrluga of The Washington Post (on Twitter) that Desmond has the athleticism to be an outfielder, but they also feel that he could have stayed at shortstop without issue.