The Rockies surprised most everyone when they signed Ian Desmond to a five-year, $70MM contract. But eyebrows really shot up when the team said that it intends to utilize the shortstop-turned-center fielder at yet another new position: first base.
While there’s little reason to suspect that Desmond isn’t capable of handling the position defensively, it’s a bit of an odd fit. Desmond has settled in as a solid-but-not-great hitter who contributes quite a bit on the bases, making for an offensive profile that isn’t substantially better than a variety of other players who are presumably available for much less money. His real value lies in the fact that he can do those things while also playing premium defensive positions.
It’s debatable just how good of an outfielder Desmond will be going forward, as his initially strong metrics slipped over the course of the 2016 season. He could probably still contribute all over the infield, too, as he retains the athleticism and arm strength that made him a quality shortstop in the not-so-distant past. (The miscues, alas, probably mean he won’t again play short unless a mid-season need arises.) That versatility led some to suggest that Desmond could sign as a Ben Zobrist-type, everyday utility player.
To be fair, Colorado could plan to keep Desmond at first for just a single season, shifting him back to the outfield in 2018. And the team could value the fact that he’d represent an option elsewhere if there’s an injury. But free-agent contracts are signed primarily for the contributions that a player provides in the early years of a deal, and it’s arguable that Desmond will represent a fairly middling overall option at first, which is traditionally the realm of quality batsmen who simply can’t field other positions.
Of course, the Rockies also still possess a seeming glut of left-handed-hitting outfielders. Desmond makes a good bit of sense as a right-handed outfield piece to join that mix, with one pre-existing player being cashed in via trade. Both Charlie Blackmon and David Dahl can handle center; Carlos Gonzalez is still viewed as an everyday corner piece; and Gerardo Parra was signed to be a heavily-used fourth outfielder. All four hit from the left side, as do other potential MLB options such as Jordan Patterson and Raimel Tapia.
So, whatever the team’s true intentions, it remains plausible to imagine that a trade will open up a move of Desmond to a corner outfield spot, with the Rockies adding another player (or multiple players) to play at first. The free-agent market remains chock full of possibilities. Mark Trumbo and Mike Napoli could be signed as everyday options, though only the former has clearly been linked to Colorado. We’ve heard of at least some interest on the Rox’ behalf in Chris Carter, who might conceivably take the lion’s share of the work while being paired with a lefty bat. Brandon Moss, Logan Morrison, Pedro Alvarez, and Adam Lind could represent left-handed platoon options, with any number of righties joining them to face opposing southpaws. Luis Valbuena and Trevor Plouffe are primarily third basemen, but could also represent fits. (Highly-regarded prospect Ryan McMahon could also be a factor at some point; the left-handed hitter only just turned 22, and didn’t exactly dominate at Double-A last year, but could conceivably be ready later in 2017.)
There are trade possibilities, too, whether or not that might come in a hypothetical swap involving one of the outfielders. Colorado has explored a deal for White Sox slugger Jose Abreu, who would represent a major acquisition. His teammate, Todd Frazier, is surely also on the blocks, and could conceivably be shifted across the diamond from third, though that’s pure speculation. It’s hard to see any other established regulars being made available at this stage; the Padres’ Wil Myers, for example, would probably only be dealt at a tremendous price. And other quality, controllable pieces likely wouldn’t be available unless the Rockies were willing to part with Dahl or a top prospect. But part-time options — most notably, perhaps, Matt Adams of the Cardinals — could well be had for a modest return.
Given the lay of the land, what’s your best bet as to how the Rockies end up filling their first-base job in 2017? (Answer options randomized; app users can weigh in here.)