With teams across Major League Baseball making such an effort to lock up their own young players long term, there have been rumors swirling for more than a year that Ian Desmond and the Washington Nationals have been working on a potential contract extension. There don’t appear to be any indications that the two sides are any closer to a new deal, but while discussions have primarily remained behind closed doors we’re starting to get a feel for what Desmond’s camp might be asking for.
Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post conducts a weekly chat with fans – one that’s open to questions on the Nationals, Washington Redskins, and Washington Capitals but he’ll often touch on just about anything that’s asked. His latest chat – conducted on Tuesday, the 18th – featured a question focused on how signing Masahiro Tanaka will impact the New York Yankees both in the short term and long term. Boswell’s response was lengthy, ultimately leading to the point that players love playing in the Bronx. Even with changes to the roster (Derek Jeter’s pending retirement plus the increasing age of the rest of the roster), players will still always want to play in New York.
Boswell continued, connecting his thoughts to comments that Desmond has apparently made to reporters in recent weeks – complimenting the Yankees organization, noting that their success has been predominantly built on their ability to sign veteran free agents to complement their roster. Boswell then followed into some insight into Desmond’s ongoing contract negotiations:
The grapevine has it that Desmond has already turned down a contract extension from the Nats for more than Adam Jones’ deal in Baltimore ($85.5M/7 years) and may have even passed the $90M level. But if you are talking about seven years that’s not such an astronomical average salary for a Silver Slugger shortstop. Still, it’s not going to be easy to get either Desmond or Jordan Zimmermann signed to long term extensions. They’re now signed through 2015, after which they are free agents.
Washington and Desmond agreed on a two year, $17.5 Million deal in late January to avoid arbitration. The deal will cover 2015 as well, Desmond’s final arbitration year. It would presumably buy the team some time to work on an extension, but one has to wonder just how lucrative a deal Desmond could be looking for. There is no perfect comparison when viewing a shortstop versus a center fielder. Both are key positions, with varying offensive profiles. Jones is arguably among the top center fielders in the AL. Desmond is among the top shortstops in the NL. Jones emerged earlier in his career than Desmond did and had more of a track record under his belt at the time he received his contract extension from the Baltimore Orioles.
Jones is likely the better player of the two, so is it fair to suggest Desmond should receive the higher salary?
It’s reasonable to expect that the two sides will continue to work towards a new deal. There’s no immediate rush to complete a deal, though another solid season from Desmond will certainly help his case as he gets closer to free agency. The 2016 free agent class at shortstop does not project to be a strong class – headlined by Desmond and a 35 year old Jimmy Rollins – so the longer it takes to reach an agreement the more likely he could be to want to test that market.