One of the more interesting tales about knowing how to read the map of free agency is how Ian Desmond declined a big extension from the Washington Nationals, rejected the qualifying offer and then had to settle for a one-year deal worth almost half the money, signing with the Texas Rangers.
Desmond isn’t even going to be a shortstop anymore, instead moving to left field. He could have signed a $15.8 million qualifying offer but rejected it, and will play for $8 million in 2016. Not that it’s a sum to be scoffed at, but considering the kind of money he had in front of him, including the $107 million, seven year extension had coming from the Nationals a year before, he made a lot of bad choices along the way, unless the goal wasn’t to maximize his earning potential.
It comes down to Desmond having a bad 2015, and now he’s gambling again on one season to bring his salary back up. Desmond was thinking about making $20 million a season or around that number once the next contract came up, but his poor performance last season in comparison to his hitting form from 2012 through 2014, landed him in a difficult spot, just with the free agency market changing significantly. Suddenly, teams are more than willing to risk losses while developing younger and especially cheaper players.
There’s an interesting debate on various websites regarding whether Desmond was worth giving up the 19th overall pick for. It probably matters if he’s going to be the Silver Slugger guy, with a .275 batting average and a .788 OPS, averaging 23 home runs during his impressive stretch, or the one from 2015, hitting 19 home runs but batting just .233 and posting a .674 OPS.
And while Desmond may have a point about the system and the qualifying offer needing change, it’s quite to safe to say that if there was an award for a player and his reps for holding out too long and missing the right moment to strike in free agency, Desmond and his team would be the unanimous winners.