The 100 Million Dollar Man
In the winter of 2013, Ian Desmond turned down a contract from the Washington Nationals that would’ve paid him $107 million over seven years. Instead of being set for life, the 27-year-old shortstop chose to bet on himself and lost. Or did he?
Mr. Silver Slugger
When Desmond reportedly turned down the nine-figure offer, he was in the middle of a three-year run (2012-2014) in which he won three consecutive Silver Slugger awards, make an All-Star appearance and accumulate 10.9 wins in value.
Desmond was also a clubhouse leader on a team that won its first division title since that famous 1994 Montreal Expos team that went 74-40 in the strike-shortened season. The Nationals would go on to win the NL East again in 2014, and the team had a 280-206 record during this time.
Heading into his contract year with the team that drafted him in the third round of the 2004 draft when they were still the Expos, Desmond was poised to become one of the three highest-paid shortstops in the game. One of the primary reasons Desmond turned down the $107 million offer, it was rumored to have a considerable amount of deferred money which makes the deal not nearly as attractive as the one Elvis Andrus signed in April 2013.
“I don’t want to sign a deal — and this isn’t to say they’ve offered me this — but I don’t want to sign a deal that is so bad that a future shortstop gets screwed because I signed a terrible deal,” Desmond said. “I’m not going to be that guy, that kink in the chain. I’m going to get a fair deal, or I’m just going to wait.”
The 2015 season saw the Nationals dip from 96 wins in 2014, to 83-79 and finish seven games back of the New York Mets. Desmond’s play in the field and at the plate were at a career low. His 27 errors were second-most for a shortstop in the league behind Marcus Semien’s 34. Desmond’s bat which prompted the large extension offer, had continued to decline for the fourth straight season. His OPS+ went 125, 113, 103 and 81 from 2012-2015.
Market Dries Up
Despite his disappointing 2015 season, Desmond was still poised to get a nice contract when the offseason began. MLB Trade Rumors had him listed as the No. 10 overall free agent and their staff writers predicted he would get a contract in the neighborhood of 5 years, $80 million from the NL Champion Mets.
Much like Nelson Cruz did in the 2013-2014 offseason, Desmond turned down a qualifying offer that would’ve paid him $15.8 million only to see the offers dry up. Much like the Orioles in 2014 with Cruz, the Rangers were the beneficiaries of playing the waiting game on Desmond.
On Leap Day 2016, Desmond signed a one-year, $8 million offer with the Rangers. While it is great money for me or you, it was a far cry from the $15 million AAV he was seeking in a long-term deal or even the qualifying offer he had just four months earlier. One-year deals like this happen all the time in which the player is hoping to showcase their skills for all 30 teams throughout the course of the year with the plan of scoring big the next offseason. The only problem with this for Desmond was the shortstop position was already manned in Texas by the aforementioned Andrus. The 30-year-old who MLB Trade Rumors had argued was the game’s best shortstop from 2012-2014, would be playing a new position on his new team: left field.
So much change for a player in the middle of his career seemed take a toll early in the season. Though Desmond his a notoriously slow-starter (April is his worst month with a career OPS of .696), he was terrible in his first 12 games in which he had a .109/.180/.109 slash line. While he showed signs of getting the hang of the outfield, his play was still a mixed bag:
Since that ugly 12-game stretch to start the season, he has hit .361/.398/.585 with eight homeruns and 10 stolen bases. Combine his hot bat at the plate with his solid defense in centerfield (he moved there permanently after Delino DeShields went to AAA in early May), you can argue that he has been the team’s MVP. For the season, his 2.1 bWAR ranks only behind Adrian Beltre (2.2) and is tied with Colby Lewis.
Desmond is on pace for 22 homeruns, a career-high 31 stolen bases and six wins.
Over the course of the last three years, Desmond has chosen to not only bet on his ability, but to bet big. With a paltry outfield market in the 2016-2017 offseason, Desmond has another shot at being a 100 million dollar man.