Ian Desmond: Should he stay or should he go?

Texas Rangers' Ian Desmond gets ready to bat during the third inning of a spring training baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers Friday, March 4, 2016, in Surprise, Ariz. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

In February, the Rangers went into spring training with a glaring hole: They only had two reliable every day outfielders. With Josh Hamilton‘s health in question and Ryan Rua‘s ineffectiveness against righties, the Rangers needed someone they could count on day in and day out.

On February 27th, the Rangers signed Ian Desmond to a one year, eight million dollar deal. Desmond, a converted shortstop, signed to bridge the gap for Rangers outfield prospect Lewis Brinson, who is projected to be major league ready by Opening Day 2017. 2015 was Desmond’s worst statistical season, hitting .233 with 19 homers and 62 RBI. Desmond reportedly passed up a 100 million dollar contract seeking a bigger one after 2015, but those plans didn’t come to fruition due to his below average season.

Desmond came aboard with the idea that he was a one year wonder, keeping the throne warm for Brinson’s inevitable debut. His .305/.354/.490/.843 slash line to date has given pause to the people prematurely cleaning out Desmond’s locker. If the 2016 season ends with Desmond’s stats looking like they do now, he’ll command between $18m and $22m a year. He’ll turn 31 in September, which reduces his expected contract length to four or five years.

Desmond’s future with Texas doesn’t come without questions:

Can the Rangers afford that kind of contract?

With the contracts of Prince Fielder, Shin-Soo Choo, Elvis Andrus, and Cole Hamels the Rangers have a lot of money tied up for the foreseeable future. They’d have to rid themselves of at least one of these contracts, while finding another team to subsidize part of Fielder’s contract to have a shot at Desmond.

If they do re-sign Desmond, what happens with Brinson?

Assuming that Brinson will be on the Rangers 40 man roster going into 2017, this decision is easy. Brinson slides into the centerfield spot, with Desmond taking over in left, keeping Nomar Mazara in right. If Choo is still here, he becomes your primary DH and filling in every so often in the outfield. While this scenario pushes Fielder out the door, this is the most likely situation to occur if both Desmond and Brinson play here in 2017.

Given all the factors involved, should the Rangers retain Ian Desmond?

Coming into the season I was against signing Desmond long term, on the account that signing him would end their chances of retaining Yu Darvish. With his recent on field production and seamless transition into the team’s familial clubhouse, that stance has shifted. Having a veteran presence like Desmond for the next few seasons would be huge, even if his production peters out as he ages.

The money factor will be huge in determining what chance Texas has with Desmond. How much do they have? How much are they willing to spend? Will they take a shot at Darvish even with Desmond on the books? Time will tell.

One thing I do know: I feel pretty good about having Desmond in the middle of my lineup for the next 99 plus games. Anything after said 99 plus could come at a steep cost, but what good baseball player doesn’t in 2016?

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Jeff Cooperstein
I'm a Junior at UNT, and a lover of all things sports.
@JCoopJR27

2 comments

  • I would be against signing another (likely) corner OF on the wrong side of 30 to a long-term deal who isn’t a special, cornerstone player. Especially if that $ could be used to pursue another top pitcher to pitch alongside Hamels at the top of the rotation in the 2017-2018 off-season, or if the OF situation in 2017 takes a negative turn.

    Let’s take a look at the current crop of Starting Pitcher/OF FAs for the 2017/18 off-season:

    David Price (opt-out likely)

    Clayton Kershaw (opt-out likely)

    Matt Harvey

    Jose Fernandez

    Shelby Miller

    Dallas Kuechel

    Garrett Richards

    Jose Quintana

    Jake Arrieta

    There are also some great OFers on the 2017/18 list:

    Bryce Harper

    Andrew McCutchen

    Jason Heyward (opt-out option)

    Michael Brantley

    Adam Jones

    Lorenzo Cain

    A.J. Pollock

    While I’m aware that some of these guys will be locked up before then, I would rather allocate the resources towards a deal for one of these players if the cost for Desmond is going to be 5/$100 or in that ballpark.

  • Joseph Pytleski

    Great points. Again, though, we better hope (and pray) that Fielder keeps hitting this season to give the FO the option of dealing him without hamstringing the budget.

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