The Rain Delay

Hard-Hitting Baseball Analysis

Reaction: Ian Desmond Signs Puzzling Deal with Rangers to Play Left Field

This is an archived post from my prior blog, The Sprained Ankle. It was posted March 1, 2016.

Last week, I speculated where former Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond would land. I put time into evaluating each team’s prospects at shortstop and narrowed down the potential suitors to the following: the Colorado Rockies, Chicago White Sox, and Tampa Bay Rays. So, naturally, Ian Desmond pulled some devious chicanery on me and did something that came out of left field – quite literally, in fact.

It has been a trying offseason for Desmond, but even the most pessimistic pundits could not have predicted the paltry contract he would ultimately sign. By signing his client to a meager $8 million on a one-year deal (of course, for a lowly proletarian like myself, that’s an incomprehensible amount of money), super-agent Scott Boras tacitly acknowledged that he misread the market for Desmond’s services. The $8 million represents half the money Desmond would have received had he accepted the Nationals’ qualifying offer at the dawn of the offseason. Making matters more frustrating for Boras and Desmond is the lucrative 7-year, $107 million extension the duo rejected in 2014.Ian Desmond

Despite eschewing two objectively better offers, Desmond’s pact with the Rangers does provide some upside for the Rangers new, embryonic left fielder.  For one, Desmond will play his home games in a certified hitters’ haven that will provide him with ample opportunities to pad his statistics during his second consecutive contract season. Desmond also has the privilege of joining a team that appears poised to contend deep into the season, a presumably important factor for a player who hasn’t played on a losing club since 2011.

But still, this deal puts a definitive period on an offseason that has been an utter disaster for Desmond and attaches a rare-but-damaging scarlet letter to Scott Boras, who has built a well-deserved reputation as baseball’s most ruthless negotiator. This situation for Desmond simply has way too much risk and has the potential to greatly imperil Desmond’s career.

As Hanley Ramirez demonstrated in left field last season, the ability to switch positions is not something to be taken for granted, even in left field, which is regarded as one of the game’s easiest positions to master. Conventional wisdom dictated that Ramirez would make a relatively smooth transition to left field. After all, if an air-headed Manny Ramirez could trudge his way toward a couple fly balls a game, why couldn’t a former shortstop do it? While I am ashamed to admit that I was a proponent of this train-of-thought last offseason, I will not make the same mistake again. Changing positions can be a laborious task for a player, and have deleterious effects if it goes awry.

To be fair, Desmond is much more athletic and lithe than Ramirez, who gained a tremendous amount of weight in the 2014-2015 offseason in an apparent effort to bulk up and augment his power numbers. The body transformation rendered Ramirez’ flexibility obsolete, as he haplessly chased after fly balls with the efficiency of a blind bat. Still, much of Ramirez’ issues boiled down to his inability to read and track fly balls, a skill that takes time to grasp, even for the most adroit of outfielders. And while Ramirez had an entire offseason to prepare for his looming showdown with the tricky intricacies of left field, Desmond only has a little over a month to get up to speed.

What happens if Desmond is unable to conquer the spacious left field of Globe Life Park? With so little committed to him, the win-now Rangers will not hesitate to bench him in favor of Justin Ruggiano, Ryan Rua, Josh Hamilton, or even top prospect Joey Gallo. And with the double play combination firmly established with Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor, Desmond’s at-bats could be few and far between.

Even in the event that Desmond plays left field at a proficient level, he will hit the market in 2016 as a 31-year old a year removed from playing the position (shortstop) that was the root of a substantial portion of his value. And even if Desmond returns to his 2012-2014 robust form at the plate, his numbers look far less impressive through the distorted lens of executives who expect more productivity from a left fielder. So, essentially, in order to parlay his 2016 season into the lavish pay day he wants, Desmond will have to overcome a position change and a disconcerting four-year decline in his offensive numbers. And if he’s unable to do it, Ian Desmond will long rue the day he turned down $107 million from the Washington Nationals.

RSS
Follow by Email
Facebook
Google+
http://theraindelay.com/2016/03/09/reaction-ian-desmond-signs-puzzling-with-rangers-to-play-left-field/
Twitter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

The Rain Delay © 2016 Frontier Theme
RSS
Follow by Email
Facebook
Google+
http://theraindelay.com/2016/03/09/reaction-ian-desmond-signs-puzzling-with-rangers-to-play-left-field/
Twitter