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.
Going to Texas to play left field for peanuts is just about the saddest ending this story could possibly have. Even if Desmond has a resurgent season, he’s lost the value that came from playing a premium infield position. Nobody is going to shower money on a left fielder who hits 20 homers and and struggles to keep his OPS above .700. Making matters even worse is the fact that while Desmond is standing out there in left field, he’ll be looking right at Elvis Andrus’s $120 million ass.
So what’s the lesson here? I guess it’s to always take the money and never believe in yourself.
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