Ian Desmond is the biggest shortstop name on the block and one name that fans seem to want if their team needs a shortstop. He was one of the better overall players from 2012-2014. In the 2013 offseason, the Washington Nationals reportedly offered him a seven-year $107 million contract. The breakdowns of the contract are not known so we don’t know what the AAV was or if there was an opt out or not. What we DO know is that it would have started this season, so in reality its a 9 year deal worth around $124 million if you include the two final years he had worth around $17.5 million.
Did Desmond make a mistake turning that down to gamble on him getting more in free agency?
Since 2012, Ian Desmond’s numbers have fallen every year. In 2012 he slashed .292/.335/.511 with a wRC+ of 128. He struck out 113 times (20.7%) while only walking 30 times (5.5%). His advanced fielding has him at a 6.0 UZR/150 with a -6 in defensive runs saved. Desmond finished the year with a WAR of 4.7.
In 2013, Desmond slashed .280/.331/.453 with a wRC+ of 116. He struck out 145 times (22.1%) and walked only 43 times (6.6%). His advanced fielding has him at 4.4 UZR/150 with a -3 defensive runs saved. Finished with a WAR of 4.8.
There are not many differences there. If anything, Desmond improved his walk rate and played slightly better defense in some regards. On the flip side, his contact rate was falling, as you can tell by his rise in strikeouts and his range has fallen slightly. The UZR metric, however, is fraught with difficulties, and can fluctuate from year-to-year. Still, it’s declining.
The next year, 2014, saw Desmond slash .255/.313/.430 with a wRC+ of 108. He struck out 183 times (28.25) and walked only 46 times (7.1%). His advanced fielding has him at 0.1 UZR/150 with a two defensive runs saved. Desmond finished with a WAR of 4.0. By now, the decline in UZR seems to be a legitimate trend, not a yearly fluctuation. Desmond’s offensive numbers are down across the board, and he is striking out at an even higher rate.
Last season, Desmond slashed .233/.290/.384 with a wRC+ of 83. He struck out 187 times (29.2%) and walked only 45 times (7.0%). His advanced fielding has him at -3.7 UZR/150 with one defensive runs saved. He finished with a WAR of 1.7. Desmond struggled mightily the entire first half of the season, but did pick things up slightly after the All-Star break.
There is a huge gap there between 2012 and 2015, and even a bigger one between 2014 and last season. Desmond’s range has fallen off from slightly above average to slightly below average. His strikeouts are getting out of control, and although he is walking more, his BB to K ratio is getting worse. Overall, I see a huge dip in performance and it wasn’t just from last season. Ian Desmond is on a steep decline, and will only get worse now that he is 30.
You can’t really blame Desmond for turning down the extension. At the time, he was one of the best offensive shortstops in the league, and had never hit free agency. Almost any baseball player would do the exact same thing Desmond did. He took a gamble on himself that he would continue to perform at an MVP level, but he hasn’t done that in two seasons and therefore, its cost himself millions. Ian Desmond should take a one-year prove it deal with either a team option or opt-out clause the following year. That way he can up his value again and hopefully getting him up to his $107 million value that he turned down from the Nationals. Otherwise, the market for Ian Desmond over the rest of the offseason looks very limited.