The Rangers Make a Questionable Deal with Desmond

On Sunday morning, the final big free-agent domino, Ian Desmond, fell. Following both Yovani Gallardo and Dexter Fowler finally finding homes for 2016, Desmond found a home of his own. But it may not have been the home he thought it would be.

With spring training already in full swing, it was really only a matter of days before Desmond would find a landing spot. The Texas Rangers had reportedly been interested in Desmond on and off throughout the offseason, but on Sunday the team finally pulled the trigger. While not many would argue that Desmond isn’t a bargain at $8 million, the move still comes as quite a surprise and also comes with some questions.

Now as it is pretty well known at this point, Desmond is a shortstop and will be entering his eighth season playing in the big leagues. Desmond is coming off a down year in which he was unable to replicate his strong offensive performance of previous seasons. Although many figured his offense would be the biggest question mark as it pertains to his free agency, an even bigger question mark arose. Despite only really playing shortstop for nearly the entirety of his career, Desmond has been signed to be the Rangers left fielder, at least in the short term.

Despite Desmond’s poor showing in 2015, the Washington Nationals still extended him a qualifying offer, an offer which he subsequently denied. Due to the draft pick compensation attached to signing him, his market failed to materialize. The two teams who seemed like the likeliest fits, the San Diego Padres and Chicago White Sox, both found solutions elsewhere, leaving Desmond with no likely fits.

In the face of this uncertainty, Desmond and his agent started to push Desmond as a sort of super-utility player, emphasizing Desmond’s ability to play several positions around the diamond, including throughout the infield and in the outfield as well. It was this push that allowed Desmond to sign with the Rangers to play left field, and likely play in the infield as well as needed.

For Desmond, this move made complete sense. Not only does he get $8 million for next year (more than he would have gotten if he waited until after the draft), but he also has the chance to once again prove himself and earn an even bigger contract for 2017 and beyond. Desmond bet on himself when he declined the seven year, $100-plus million contract extension he was offered by the Nationals back in 2013. Next season is his chance to once again prove he is worth that kind of long-term money.

For the Texas Rangers, this deal is quite a bit more perplexing. Not only did the team give up their first round draft pick (19th overall) to sign Desmond, but they also don’t really have somewhere to put him full time. Some of that cost will be offset now that the Orioles signed Yovani Gallardo, as the Rangers will gain a pick after the first round. There may not be a significant difference in value between the original pick and the compensation pick.

While he will start the season in left field due to Josh Hamilton’s injury, there is no real path to playing time once Hamilton does return. The infield is full with Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, and Rougned Odor and, at this point, it seems like Desmond will just a utility player and injury fill in for the Rangers in 2016. At $8 million that’s not a bad deal, but the cost of the draft pick makes it even more expensive, and that much more questionable.

Independent of the monetary concerns involved, it also is hard to see Desmond profiling as an everyday outfielder. Desmond did not hit enough as a shortstop in 2015, so it’s hard to believe he can hit enough to be a full-time left fielder. Add to that the alternatives the Rangers already had in house, with Joey Gallo being at the top of the list, and this move comes with it’s fair share of question marks.

The Rangers may benefit greatly from this move, or it could come back to haunt them. As with just about every free-agent move, it really could go either way. Ian Desmond has been betting on himself since 2013. Now it’s time for the Rangers to do the same.

One Response

  1. Ceph

    Couple of bad sports points here regarding this deal for the Rangers. First off you argue that the Rangers don’t have anywhere to put Ian full time. It seems to me that Ian will be the Rangers everyday left fielder. Josh Hamilton’s career might be over, and one certainly could not expect more than 50 games from him next year. But even if Ian does repeat his subpar offensive numbers from last year, he’s still 1-1.5 wins better than Josh has been since 2012. Next off, Gallo will be in AAA until September. His promotion last year was an obvious mistake (he’s striking out half the time, literally). He has a hole in his swing that must (hopefully will) be corrected in the minors in 2016. I think the Rangers would like for Nomar Mazara to play at Round Rock this year as well. The other options, Ruggiano, Stubbs and Rua are replacement level. So uh, yea… I see this as a great deal for the Rangers and I think the consensus is that its a good deal, esp as Desmond doesn’t represent a long term commitment. Study a little more before hackin’ out your 700 words next time.


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