The San Diego Padres need for a shortstop is clearly evident. Everyone around the game of baseball is aware of their need. The 2015 season saw the Padres start Clint Barmes, Alexi Amarista, Will Middlebrooks and Jedd Gyorko at the position. None of the four are viable players at a position of much importance to a team. You cannot continue to put mediocre talent out on the field every night and expect to compete.
When the off-season rumors start to fly, you can be sure the Padres will be linked to every and all shortstops available. They could address their need by trading for an Elvis Andrus, Jose Reyes, Jean Segura or Starlin Castro. Each have particular issues in limiting their attainability and making trades is not always an easy task to complete. Fans think it is, but that’s not the reality of it when you speak of contracts and players value.
The free agent market has one huge name available at shortstop. The Padres could address their need without having to mortgage anyone from their depleted farm system. Ian Desmond once rejected a deal in the neighborhood of $107 million dollars for seven total years from the Nationals. His stock has taken a hit since then and he can only hope for about 3/4 of that money now. Would the Padres be able to afford Desmond and would he be a good fit for the teams current squad? Those are the questions that need to be explored by the Padres.
Ian Desmond brings a rare combination of speed and power to a position that is traditionally a weak hitting position. He has over 100 home runs and 100 steals in his seven-year career. The tall right handed shortstop has always been able to hit the ball with authority, but some question the dynamics of his swing and his inability to make contact continuously. He has regressed with the bat some, but still the power remains and that in itself is very tantalizing for a Major League franchise. Who will sign the talented shortstop?
There are obvious positives and negatives to Desmond and his game. The Padres are in no position to just throw money away so they must do their homework on Desmond. He can chase the face of a franchise or could easily be one of the worst contracts in the game. There is a very fine line, and the label of “sure thing” is no longer on Desmond’s side. Let us review some positives and negatives to his game and explore the possibility of Desmond in San Diego for the 2016 season. With A.J. Preller at the helm of the Padres anything can truly happen.
The first positive is Desmond would be the undisputed starter for the Padres and he would also be the franchises best option at shortstop since the first couple of seasons of Khalil Greene. He has the ability to be a difference maker in the line-up and has been consistent in terms of playing time. Desmond has made 154 starts at shortstop for five out of the last six seasons. The only time he missed was in 2012 when he had an oblique injury and missed the start of the season. Other than that he has been an everyday player for the Nationals.
He plays everyday and brings right handed pop to the lineup. To get that production from your shortstop is rare. Desmond hit 19 home runs last year and stole 13 bases in 156 games for the Nationals. He has 110 career home runs in his seven seasons and has amassed a WAR rating of 15.5 for his career and a WAR rating of 2.0 in 2015.
Desmond could immediately hit in the middle part of the order for the Padres. He would also fill a huge need for the Padres, but he does come with some negatives that need to be addressed. Desmond did hit .314 last year with six home runs and 18 RBI’s in 102 at bats. The potential is there and he shows flashes of brilliance, but the game of baseball is about consistency and that is what he lacks.
As bad as the Padres are in need of a shortstop, is it wise to be invested into yet another player over the age of 30? Desmond will command and get at least $12-18 million dollars on the open market. He is 30, so teams will be reluctant to go much more than four years with the length of his deal. Ballpark figure for Desmond will be in the $65 million dollar range. The Padres can afford him, but what does he bring to the table?
Desmond’s 2015 year shows another decline in his numbers. He has declined in batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage in each of the last four seasons. In that time his strike out numbers have risen to a career high 187 strike outs last season. Desmond punches out a lot and that is a huge concern. His batting average tailed off to a career low of .233 last season. He from time to time, looked lost at the plate. Case in point….Desmond hit .173 in June and July for the Nationals last season and struck out 62 times in 172 at bats. A very unproductive two months for Desmond.
The salary and hitting concerns are a factor, but his defense is also a question mark. Desmond is not known for his glove and his defensive numbers back that up. He has 27 errors last season resulting in a .960 fielding percentage. That is below the average Major League shortstop. He has a career .962 fielding percentage, which is also below the norm for a Major League shortstop. There are just a ton of negatives associated with Desmond but he does have the potential to be a very special player in the league.
The Padres will surely kick the tires on Ian Desmond. With a huge whole at the position, the team would be foolish not to. In the end the negatives outweigh the positives with Desmond though. A.J. Preller needs to adjust the Padres roster and lineup and Desmond just isn’t a good fit presently. Putting him in the order with Matt Kemp, Jedd Gyorko, Wil Myers and Derek Norris, exposes the Padres as being too right handed. Not to mention his strike out totals. Teamed with Kemp and company the Padres might lead the Major Leagues in strikeouts.
In the end I believe Desmond ends up with a team that can afford to pay him top dollar. Look for the Seattle Mariners, the New York Mets, Los Angeles Angels and New York Yankees to be in the bidding war for his services. Desmond is a good player, but his age and regression as a hitter are too much of a risk for a Padres team that is already in need of a little luck.