Shortstop Ian Desmond is expected to generate a lot of buzz in free agency this winter, and the New York Mets figure to have a strong interest, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes.
Desmond, 30, is coming off an overall disappointing 2015 campaign, as the Florida native hit just .233 in 156 games. But Desmond was able to recover from an abysmal first half of the season, finishing strong for the Washington Nationals. After hitting just .211 with seven HR and 24 RBI in prior to the All-Star break, Desmond hit .262 with 12 HR and 38 RBI after the break, per ESPN.
Several months into his slump, a conversation with a legendary shortstop may have been what turned Desmond’s season around, he told ESPN in late-July.
“The other day, I was walking to the park, and Cal Ripken was out there signing autographs in the parking lot. He kind of grabbed me, and he said, ‘Hey, back in ’93, through the first 80 games, I was hitting .199.’ He said, ‘I finished with a pretty good year. You’re going to be all right.’ And that kind of gave me a little bit of hope. If he did it and grinded through it, I can too.”
In total, the seven-year veteran hit .233 with 19 HR and 62 RBI in 2015.
While the second half surge was promising, Desmond’s 2015 was not the year he envisioned when he rejected a contract from the Nationals reportedly worth at least six years and $80-$90 million prior to the 2014 season, via CBS Sports. With his sights set on free agency in two years, Desmond’s decision seemed wise after his 2014 season, as he hit .255 with 24 HR and a career-high 91 RBI in 154 games.
— Nationals Daily (@NationalsDaily) October 18, 2015
But the 2012 National League All-Star’s value took a hit after his down 2015. Yet, he still offers a ton of upside up the middle of the diamond. Desmond will not turn 31 until late-September of next season, and he does provide home run power that many middle-infielders do not.
For the Mets, the team figures to have at least one opening in their infield this winter.
Postseason hero Daniel Murphy is set to become a free agent after the season, and reports suggest the Mets will not retain him. The alleged reasons for the Mets willingness to let Murphy leave are because the team does not feel he’ll be worth the contract he will receive, and the team has younger alternatives at the position — including Wilmer Flores and Dilson Herrera.
— MLB (@MLB) October 25, 2015
Flores had a solid season for the Mets in 2015 as the primary shortstop, hitting .263 with 16 HR and 59 RBI in 137 games. Those numbers likely increased the chances of Flores having a starting gig in 2016. As for Herrera, the 21-year-old has only played in 49 games the past two seasons, but the Mets view him as a possible long-term fixture at second base.
While the Mets have options, neither of them boast three Silver-Slugger awards and are as established as Desmond. But there’s one key thing to remember: The Mets are not known to be big spenders, and Desmond still figures to receive a substantial contract in what Heyman called a “robust” market.
For what it’s worth, the Mets did have an interest in trading for Desmond this past offseason, including turning down a proposed three-team trade with the Nationals and Tampa Bay Rays, according to the New York Daily News. The reason being that the Mets did not want to part with flamethrower Noah Syndergaard.
The current consensus is that the Mets will not retain either Murphy or slugger Yoenis Cespedes, despite both of their contributions to the success of the team. So giving a player who had a down season in 2015 a lot of money does not sound like the Mets’ way of doing business.
In addition to the Mets, the Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres, Chicago White Sox, and Minnesota Twins are expected to have varying degrees of interest in Desmond.
[Image by Greg Fiume/Getty Images]