If this season has taught us anything, it’s that the Texas Rangers should do everything possible to keep outfielder extraordinaire, Ian Desmond.
Ian Desmond came to the Texas Rangers this past offseason as a true value player. Not interested in entering bidding wars for free agents, Jon Daniels and assistant Thad Levine avoided the high profile players on the market; instead, they sat back and let the market come to them.
The always-creative Rangers brass did just that when they signed former Washington National, Ian Desmond, to a one year deal. It was a move that appeared to come completely out of left field…err…I mean shortstop.
After all, Desmond, the lifelong shortstop, played the same position as the Rangers Elvis Andrus. And at the time, Andrus, entering year two of his eight year contract extension, was about as untradeable as there was in this league. Something clearly had to give.
Just yesterday, the Rangers gave him a one-year qualifying offer, but a long-term deal is still clearly preferable for both sides.
It didn’t take long for news to break that Desmond would be making a position switch to left field, filling the enormous void of the perpetually injured Josh Hamilton, and leaving any infield controversy at the door.
Fans and media reacted to the acquisition with trepidation. The Texas Rangers were essentially forfeiting a valuable pick to sign Desmond.
And Desmond, coming off his worst year as a pro, was making a very significant position move at the ripe age of 30.
Fast-forward to today and Ian Desmond has become an integral part of this Texas Rangers team, both on the field and in the clubhouse. He not only handled the duties of left field, but he was able to pull off center field as well.
Before the all-star break Desmond ranked in the top-5 in ultimate zone rating (a metric which measures fielding and range). He was also well above his career averages in batting average, OBP, SLG, and OPS.
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After the break it was a different story. He finished in the middle of the center fielder pack in WAR, and hit just .237. While it’s clear he wore down, he remained a valuable member of the franchise and valued teammate to all.
Consider all that happened with Desmond last season and it’s pretty remarkable. He turned 30, switched teams, switched leagues, changed positions, and earned a trip to the all-star game.
That’s not too shabby for a guy coming off his worst season of his career in 2015.
Clearly this all going to come down to price. The Rangers know they must look out for the long-term health of the payroll. They can’t afford to throw too much money at another aging player and risk not having enough to re-sign their highest priority 2018 free agents, Yu Darvish and Jonathan Lucroy.
Just yesterday, the Rangers gave him a one-year qualifying offer, but a long-term deal is still clearly preferable for both sides. The move was a smart one. It will cost them in excess of $16M in 2017 should he accept, and at the least a first round pick in compensation should he decline and sign elsewhere.
At the deadline, Daniels and Levine worked to upgrade the roster. In the process of their wheeling and dealing they traded away on-the-cusp prospect, Lewis Brinson. Brinson once projected as the center fielder of the future, making a player like Ian Desmond a progress stopper next season. Now, with Brinson gone and no prospects in sight, the stage has been set for Desmond to return.
Desmond offers versatility to play a number of outfield positions without directly blocking the progress of a highly regarded prospect.
Will the Rangers attempt to re-sign Ian Desmond long-term?
"“I think he stands for everything we believe in and what we want our young players to be and what we want our veterans to emulate,” Levine said. “His performance speaks for himself but what he does for our franchise outside the white lines has been equally impressive. Equally valueable. We’d have genuine interest (in re-signing him).”"
Ian Desmond is exactly what the Rangers organization stands for, personified. After having passed on a multi-year deal once before, it’s unlikely he will again, meaning the Rangers won’t have to break the bank to keep him in the clubhouse beyond this year, especially after his poor post-All-Star performance .
The Texas Rangers would be wise to re-sign Ian Desmond if the price stays reasonable because Desmond is the perfect player to win now and bridge the next generation of prospects in 3-4 years.