So free agents to be coming off a sub-par season now have a lesson object in Ian Desmond. If you receive a qualifying offer, take it. Teams won’t want to pay a premium for a player plus lose a pick on a player with question marks. The result, as we already know, is Desmond’s less than qualifying offer signing by the Texas Rangers.
Contracts aside, Ian Desmond’s season really was not radically different from his 2014 campaign. What may have looked like an outlier in the strikeout department after 2014 may now be Desmond’s baseline with him having gone from a low-twenty-percent strikeout player to one who is now approaching the 30% mark. Obviously maintain that high a strikeout rate places a lower ceiling on his batting average and on-base percentage. A .250/.315 level is that ceiling barring a shift back towards his pre-2014 performance levels`.
Another disturbing trend with Desmond’s game has been a three-year jump in groundballs by precisely 10% from 2013 to over 50% of the time each of the past two seasons. His fly ball rates have trended downwards the past four years though to be fair, have always ranged in the low to mid-30% range. The move to Arlington may be one contributing factor that arrests any further erosion of his home run totals, but it is not guaranteed.
Desmond also witnessed a drop-off in stolen bases and his overall speed scores to the lowest of his career. A return to the 20-plus stolen base level on the wrong side of thirty is far from a given.
Demond did enjoy a much better second half than the first half but actually did so while increasing his ground ball rates despite posting huge home run on fly ball numbers in the months of July and August while actually striking out more frequently than he had earlier in the season.
The righty will, as a result of having signed with a club with a deep infield, have to man a new position in left field. Ostensibly he’ll also receive some playing time at shortstop and perhaps even second base on days off or should injuries occur, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll get enough playing time to continue to qualify as a middle infielder past 2016. Things will also get further complicated once Josh Hamilton returns from the disabled list around the first of May. Hamilton was originally slated to be the everyday left fielder but now will have to compete with not only Desmond, but Mitch Moreland, and Prince Fielder for playing time as well. It remains to be seen who will be the playing time loser in that equation.
This all said, Ian Desmond still should be worth a double digit bid in AL-only leagues on draft day. He is still a player with 15-15 homerun and stolen base tools, if not 20-20 tools who will qualify at shortstop for at least this coming season. Just be wary that there may be some definite high and low points over that time.