Two major hurdles stand in way of Rays signing Ian Desmond
We've written for a couple weeks now about the possibility - albeit unlikely - of the Rays signing free agent SS Ian Desmond, who has failed to get the type of big-bucks contract he was expecting going into the off-season.
And with the start of spring training just a little more than three weeks away, the time to sort out if it is possible is approaching.
For the Rays, there are two major hurdles in signing Desmond, who turned 30 in September.
One would be the terms. Desmond made $11-million last season with Washington and turned down a qualifying offer, which was a one-year, $15.8-milliom deal, expecting he would do better on the open market.
That Desmond has indicated he would like to play for the Rays, that he is from Sarasota, that he is represented by the same agency as Rays manager Kevin Cash (Sports One Athlete Management) and that he is close friends with Rays OF Steven Souza Jr. are all factors.
But he is still going to want to get paid.
If he was amenable to a one-year deal, which in theory would allow him to rebuild his value and go back on the market next year, the Rays would have to figure out how far they were willing to go salary wise. They might be more interested if they could get Desmond to agree to a 2017 option, or for a second year, allowing them to spread the money around.
The other issue for the Rays is that they would have to forfeit their first-round pick in the coming draft, the No. 13 overall pick. Given how important the draft is to the Rays, and that some in the industry value those mid-first round picks well in excess of $10-million, it could be that is the bigger hurdle.
If they signed Desmond for a year and he became a free agent after the season, the Rays would be in a position to get an extra pick back in 2017, though between the first and second rounds. So it could come down to whether they got enough of a bargain on the salary to make it worthwhile to give up the draft pick.
That said, Desmond could be a considerable addition to their lineup.
He is coming off a disappointing 2015 season in which he hit .233 with 19 homers, 62 RBIs and had just a .674 OPS. But his average numbers for the previous three seasons are impressive - a .275 batting average, 23 homers, 81 RBIs and a .788 OPS.
If the Rays did sign Desmond, they presumably would put him at shortstop and move Brad Miller, who was acquired in an early off-season trade from Seattle, to play short, to a utility role.
There are some other teams, such as the White Sox, that could be interested in Desmond as well. So the time to make a decision is nearing.