Breakdown of the Ian Desmond Signing

Sep 17, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond (20) hits a two run home run against the Miami Marlins during the second inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 17, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond (20) hits a two run home run against the Miami Marlins during the second inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports /

On Monday, the Texas Rangers announced that they have signed free agent shortstop, Ian Desmond to a one-year, $8 million contract.

The Ranger ball club has made possibly their biggest free agent acquisition of this offseason by signing shortstop Ian Desmond to a one-year deal worth $8 million. Desmond spent last season with the Washington Nationals where he hit .233 in 156 games with 19 homeruns and 62 RBIs. Statistically this is Desmond’s worst year of his career at the plate with his average 20 points below his previous career low and and 29 points off of his career average. In regards to power, his homerun and extra-base hit numbers are still on par with the rest of his career which is a benefit for a Texas team who is in need of some right-handed power.

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With this signing, the Texas Rangers are transitioning Desmond from shortstop to left field to replace Josh Hamilton who is currently out through April but may be out even longer. With Desmond transitioning to left field, all signs point to him taking over as the top left field option and being the Opening Day starter. Desmond is making the transition with a limited amount of time of previous service time in the outfield. In 2009 he played one game for the Nationals in right field which shows he’s practiced out there some, but he does lack experience.

As he makes this transition, questions now arise about how smooth Desmond’s transition will be. In recent memory, there has been a couple of notable infielders who have attempted the transition to the outfield. Most recently would be Hanley Ramirez of the Boston Red Sox who made the switch in 2015 to not-so-great results. One of the biggest detractors to Ramirez’s transition was his struggle dealing with outfield walls and the corners. He had trouble reading the ball off the wall which led to a lot of extra running for whatever team was fortunate enough to be playing against him that day. Along with that he had difficulty reading fly balls and tracking them often misplaying simple balls or making the easiest of plays look difficult. Where Desmond differs from Ramirez in his abilities is his raw athleticism which the Ranger front office thinks will help with the process.

Another notable name that has made the transition in recent years with more success is former Texas Ranger, Alfonso Soriano. Soriano was a natural second baseman in his time here in Texas and made the full-time switch to left field with the Chicago Cubs in 2010. After making the switch Soriano saw no major drop-off at the plate, hitting about .245 for the next four seasons and even being in the NL MVP discussion in 2012. Soriano’s fielding maintained decently after his transition partially due to his natural athleticism similar to that of Desmond’s.

Where the Desmond deal starts to become interesting is what will happen when Josh Hamilton returns from injury. If Desmond can come into the lineup and make a quick impact in the month of April, questions will turn to what to do with the Rangers slight surplus of outfielders. When Hamilton returns, Texas would conceivably have 5 players on the roster all with left field experience/ability which would leave the Rangers with the ability to work some trades to bolster their rotation or add a more consistent piece behind the plate.

Option 1:

The first option for Texas once they return to full strength would be to trade off Ian Desmond to a team looking for a consistent player with some veteran experience for a catcher or mid-rotation starter to bolster some of the weaker parts of Texas’ roster.

Option 2:

The second option would be to trade away some of the left field platoon pieces they have such as Josh Hamilton, Ryan Rua or Justin Ruggiano to try and get some young, mid-quality players. Out of these three, Hamilton is the least likely to be traded because he costs the Texas Rangers nothing thanks to the Los Angeles Angels.

Option 3:

This option is probably the more surprising idea but possibly one of the most cost-effective. Assuming Desmond is healthy and hitting decently well and Profar is healthy and seems to put up decent numbers, Texas could go the route of trading Elvis Andrus. Andrus seems to have peaked in the past year and is due quite a bit of money over the next couple of seasons. Team’s would likely offer up quite a bit for a young player like Andrus which could put Texas in the driver’s seat of any trade negotiations.

However, only time will tell regarding the future of the Texas Rangers left field platoon, and the month of March and Spring Training games will play a big role in what decisions may be made along the way.

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