Here’s some depressing baseball news to start your day: The Texas Rangers have signed former Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond to a one-year deal worth $8 million, and Desmond will spend the season playing in left field.
If you’re unsure about why this news is depressing, it’s probably due to how quickly and completely Desmond fell off a cliff. Before the start of last season, he was one of the best offensive shortstops in baseball—sort of a Troy Tulowitzki Lite—and was worth a lot of money. After back-to-back stellar seasons in 2012 and 2013, the Nationals put a seven-year, $107 million extension on the table, and Desmond turned them down.
And the thing is, he was probably right to do so! This wasn’t a situation in which greed got the best of Desmond, it was a solid 20-20 guy entering his prime years plainly stating that if Elvis Andrus can get eight years and $120 million, he should probably be getting a little more. So Desmond eschewed the security of a below-market contract, and bet on himself. He signed a two-year deal that would allow him to become a free agent heading into his age 30 season.
It was a ballsy play, and it worked out in 2014, as he put together yet another 20-20 campaign and amassed 3.9 WAR. But then last season started, and holy shit did things go wrong in a hurry. 2015 began with him contracting a nasty case of the yips that destroyed any chance he had at remaining a shortstop, and it ended with his bat turning into a piece of balsa wood. 27 errors, 187 strikeouts, and a .674 OPS turned him into the biggest leper on this year’s free agent market.