Rockies Sign Ian Desmond in Stange Move

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Updated: December 7, 2016

In probably the weirdest move of the winter so far, the Colorado Rockies have signed Ian Desmond formerly of the Texas Rangers and Washington Nationals. Desmond played mostly in center field last season after spending most of his career at shortstop with the Nationals, but will apparently play first base on the Rockies. The contract is for five years and $70MM with a $15MM option for a sixth year.

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This is quite a puzzling move by the Rockies as they weren’t linked to Ian Desmond at all during the free agency process. The outfield is packed right now with Carlos Gonzalez, David Dahl, Charlie Blackmon and Gerardo Parra along with prospect Raimel Tapia waiting in the wings. Even if they made a trade here, he’d probably still be locked in at first base.

Desmond had a breakout year for the Rangers last year, but it was mostly in the first half. The second half stats don’t look bright as you can see below.

Split G H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BA OBP SLG OPS
1st Half 89 113 22 2 15 55 15 .322 .375 .524 .899
2nd Half 67 65 7 1 7 31 6 .237 .283 .347 .630
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/7/2016.

 
To me, this is a serious red flag. After all, this is the same guy who went from an .845 OPS in 2012 to .674 in 2015. Before last season he was considered a bust and a guy who threw a lot of money away by not signed a big extension with the Nationals. He was forced to sign that one-year deal with the Rangers, to play a position he never played before in the majors, to rebuild his value. It seems to have worked, but will it work for the Rockies? A quick look at his career numbers show that his second half might be closer to who he really is than his first half breakout.
 

Year Age G H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
2010 24 154 141 27 4 10 65 17 .269 .308 .392 .700 89
2011 25 154 148 27 5 8 49 25 .253 .298 .358 .656 80
2012 ★ 26 130 150 33 2 25 73 21 .292 .335 .511 .845 125
2013 27 158 168 38 3 20 80 21 .280 .331 .453 .784 113
2014 28 154 151 26 3 24 91 24 .255 .313 .430 .743 103
2015 29 156 136 27 2 19 62 13 .233 .290 .384 .674 82
2016 ★ 30 156 178 29 3 22 86 21 .285 .335 .446 .782 104
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/7/2016.

 

The league average first baseman in 2016 hit .259/.337/.453 in 2016. That’s a .790 OPS or eight points higher than Ian Desmond in 2016 which was also the second best season of his career. The Rockies as a team ranked 22nd in OPS among first baseman at .745 in 2016 so this is an upgrade.

Desmond should be a plus defender at first base as guys who have handled shortstop and center field typically can play anywhere. He’ll also could see a boost in his hitting numbers from playing half of his games at Coors Field, but overall I just don’t get this move. The Rockies are giving up a first round pick thanks to Desmond’s qualifying offer from the Rangers and I just don’t see how he is worth that. Not just any first round pick either, the 11th overall pick.

There were plenty of first base options out there that could’ve provided more bang for the buck like Chris Carter, Dae-ho Lee or even Mark Trumbo (who I believe will see his price come down before he signs). Signing a guy who has looked done for parts of 3/4s of the past two seasons is not a good look.

I know the Rockies want to contend and this deal could look good if Desmond plays like first half Desmond next year, but that is a pretty big if and one that I personally wouldn’t be betting on. The Rockies simply aren’t a team that should be spending big money on free agent hitters as they’ve done a great job of developing their own over the past few years.

Contract Details
Year 1 $8MM
Year 2 $22MM
Year 3 $15MM
Year 4 $15MM
Year 5 $8MM
Year 6 (option) $15MM option / $2MM buyout
Additional: $1MM bonus and NTC if traded

Credit: Joel Sherman
 
This definitely seems like a move to put the Rockies in contention this year. Is it enough? In a loaded West, I don’t really think so. The Dodgers will still be good, the Giants will still be good and the Rockies will be fighting a Wild Card. The playoff picture shows the Cubs, Cardinals, Mets, Nationals, Giants and Dodgers all in the mix. Where do the Rockies fit in that picture?

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