Finally an Ian in the Outfield: Desmond Does What Kinsler Should Have

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Full disclosure, Jon Daniels is a much smarter man than I. With that being said, the signing of Ian Desmond is a move JD has made more on a prayer with just a small side of intellect.

The Texas Rangers announced the signing of the 30-year-old shortstop to a one-year, $8-million contract on Sunday. According to multiple reports, Desmond passed his physical on Sunday evening and will be in camp on Monday.

 

The deal was made in hopes of Desmond transitioning into an everyday left fielder and not to compete with Elvis Andrus or Rougned Odor in the infield.

It also comes roughly one year after Desmond turned down a seven-year, $107 million contract extension to stay with the Washington Nationals. Desmond also turned down a $15.8 million qualifying offer made by the Nationals at the beginning of the offseason and because of that the Rangers will have to forfeit the No. 19 pick in next spring’s first-year player draft. Losing the pick stinks, but the Rangers did pickup the No. 30 overall selection in the same draft after Yovani Gallardo signed with Baltimore.

To those points, I say well done, JD, you stole this one.

Fans should be warned to proceed with caution and to temper expectations, because as William Shakespeare once said, “All that glistens is not gold.”

Ian Desmond is a name that fans – especially fantasy baseball enthusiasts – are quite familiar with. He has slugged an average of 22 homeruns over the past five seasons and missed just 66 games since his first full season in 2010.

Yes, Desmond brings with him some much needed athleticism and, unlike the last Ian in Texas, his willingness to change positions eight years into his career speaks volumes to his desire to be on the field in any capacity. For those who may have forgotten, Ian Kinsler was once approached during the 2012 offseason about a potential move to first base or the outfield and opposed both.

But, and it’s a big one, his right-handed bat and the numbers associated have been in a rather steep decline over the last three years. We are also left to assume that he is going to be able to easily make the transition from infield to outfield and prove that it’s possible to teach an older dog.

Even though he is only one-year removed from three-straight silver slugger awards at shortstop, Desmond’s batting average has dropped each year from .292 during his lone All-Star selection in 2012 to a putrid .233 last season. The same goes for his slugging percentage – .511 to .384 – and OPS – down to .674 from .845.

He also recorded career lows in hits (136) and stolen bases (13) since he established himself as a full-time player, while posting a career-high 187 strikeouts. These trends reflect one of two things – either the Sarasota, FL native is going to continue his downward spiral towards mediocrity or he is destined, and potentially fueled by a second chance at a final payday, for a huge bounce-back campaign.

There is also the obvious fact that Desmond is not an outfielder.

He has logged just 22 outs in the outfield since being called up to the big leagues on Sept. 10, 2009. That is not to say that he does not have the tools or ability to man left field. In fact, his speed and arm strength could eventually make him a better option in center than Delino DeShields as the season moves on. Desmond’s arm strength would be an immediate upgrade over DeShields’ and if he happens to transition smoothly I would not be surprised one bit if he bumps the second-year leadoff hitter to left.

Another plus is that Desmond could potentially give the Rangers a super-utility player who can log games at short, third, second, first and any of the three outfield spots. The versatility could allow for newly signed Justin Ruggiano to spell Mitch Moreland at first base against lefties, open a spot for Drew Stubbs to fill a bench role as a late inning defensive replacement and keep the younger guys in the minors while they accumulate needed reps.

That is, of course, dependent on his ability to relocate his swing. It is also dependent on his ability to actually keep from being a defensive liability in the outfield. This is not drunk league softball and players cannot be repositioned all willy-nilly at the drop of a hat.

There will be errors, bloopers and gaffs, and maybe more than we are prepared to watch. But at least the signing has potential and, at this point, that is about all to ask for from the cash-strapped front office.

Now, raise your hand if you thought the Rangers were going to enter into a “win now” window and potential World Series run with two middle infielders in the outfield. Now use that hand to slap yourself because there is no way in hell you did.

But, According to Nats fans, Texas is getting one of baseball’s finest men of character.

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Desmond is also the father of three young boys, and

 

has an A+ Twitter game with tweets such as this one….and an odd number of steaks.

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Travis M. Smith
Travis has been a baseball fanatic since birth, and, according to his parents and multiple other reports, at the sophisticated age of three had the near-superheroic ability to regurgitate the statistics of every member of the 1992-93 Texas Rangers . The 2015 Tarleton State graduate dabbled in baseball at the collegiate level before falling into journalism and works full-time as the managing editor of the Glen Rose Reporter.

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