WEDNESDAYDAY, March 30, 2016

Ian Desmond Poised for Bounceback 2016 Season after Encouraging Spring Training

Source: Forbes published by Simon Ogus, Contributor

 

Free agency often presents a major windfall opportunity for professional baseball players, but as in any free market, things don’t always turn out the way you expect.  Just ask Ian Desmond, who signed with the Texas Rangers in February to play in the outfield, a major shift from his previous position of shortstop, which he played for seven seasons with the Washington Nationals.

 

What is equally shocking about his new contract is that not only did Desmond have to make a position change for this deal, but the contract was for $8 million. While I’m not trying to drum up sympathy for someone who makes 149 times that of the average American family, it represents a major decline in salary from what he expected to earn just a few years ago.

 

In November, Desmond declined the Nationals’ qualifying offer of $15.8 million and in 2014 he declined to re-sign with the club for a seven year, $107 million contract. While he is now going to the Globe Life Park, which has been generally advantageous for hitters, he will now have to create value for himself as an outfielder, a much more difficult challenge than when he was playing the more premium position of shortstop.

 

2015 was a tough year for Desmond, who played inconsistently, posting the lowest batting average (.233), hit total (136) and on-base percentage (.290) of his career, coupled with 27 errors in the field. These struggles negatively impacted the 30-year old shortstop’s value during the off-season which is why he is only now signing, after Spring Training has already started. That said, his contract is so reasonable in these times for baseball, where pitchers get over $1 million per start, that it could be a relative steal for the Rangers.

 

Texas is expected to play Desmond in left field while Josh Hamiltonrehabilitates his knee.  He will also be used as a utility man with spot starts in the infield. The move will provide even more depth for a team that has high expectations for 2016. Following a surprise last season and an AL West Division Title, the Rangers enter the upcoming season with a strong pitching staff and most of the big bats which propelled them into the postseason.

 

Desmond is batting .375 with 15 hits and a 1.001 OPS in spring training for the Rangers and many on the team have been impressed by his play in the outfield. He’s flashed the leather with some excellent highlights this March.  Desmond is looking less like a band aid, considering Hamilton’s absence, and more like an upgrade.

 

Jeff Banister, reigning AL Manager of the Year, led the Rangers to an 88 win season despite losing Yu Darvish, one of the best pitchers in baseball and being .500 at the All-Star break. Banister became one of the few managers in MLB history to win the award in his first full season as skipper. His success, coupled with well-crafted personnel moves by GM Jon Daniels which landed superb relief pitching and ace pitcher Cole Hamels, could make the Rangers a force if they are able to make the postseason once again in the competitive American League.

 

The 2015 team lost to Toronto in a tightly contested five-game contest in the American Divisional Series, but the expects to get Darvish back in May and adding Desmond, another former All-Star, should aid their quest to win the first World Series ever for the franchise.

 

 

Simon Ogus is the COO of SportTechie.com. He can be followed at @SportTechie and reached at simon.ogus@sporttechie.com

 

 

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