Age on Opening Day 2016: 30
How acquired: 3rd round pick, 2004 draft (Expos)
MLB service time: 5 years, 27 days
2015 salary+bonuses: $11 million
Contract status: Free agent
2015 stats: 156 G, 641 PA, 69 R, 136 H, 27 2B, 2 3B, 19 HR, 62 RBI, 13 SB, 45 BB, 187 SO, .233 AVG, .290 OBP, .384 SLG, .674 OPS, 27 E, -3.7 UZR, 1.7 WAR
Quotable: "When I got drafted by the Expos, they didn’t know where the team would be. But they couldn’t have found a better home. I’m extremely proud to say that I was a Washington National.”
2015 analysis: Ian Desmond took a calculated risk in passing up a contract extension and betting on himself in the 2015 season. His hope was a fourth straight year of Silver Slugger numbers before entering free agency as one of the biggest names on the market, a rare breed of shortstop these days who would command upwards of $150 million from the richest teams in baseball.
That didn't exactly go as planned, as Desmond played some of his worst ball in years for much of the 2015 season, both on offense and defense. Desmond had a .599 OPS as late as July 22 and was hitting just .214 on Aug. 4. He also committed eight errors in his first 12 games. If Matt Williams had benched him at any point through the first four months, few would have been shocked. He was that bad and at one point appeared to have lost himself a ton of money in free agency.
But Desmond did rebound, perhaps not completely, but he did. After batting .211/.255/.334 with seven homers in the first half, he hit .262/.331/.446 with 12 home runs after the All-Star break. In August he hit .314 with a .914 OPS and six homers. It was enough to get him up to 19 home runs, which ranked third among shortstops. Desmond will not command the money he would have if he was a free agent last winter, but the seven-year veteran should still be a highly sought after player this offseason given all the other attributes he brings to the table.
2016 outlook: The chances of Desmond returning to Washington, the only MLB home he has ever known, are very slim. Judging by his comments both leading into the 2015 season and throughout it, Desmond has clearly prepared himself for the possibility of not returning as a National. There are several reasons why that is probably for the best not only for the Nats, but perhaps Desmond as well.
For one, the Nationals have depth in their infield, most notably with the emergence of top prospect Trea Turner. Signing Desmond to a long-term deal would be a risk for the franchise and one they probably can't take given the contracts of Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman. If Desmond's deal didn't work out, the Nats would have serious payroll issues.
And for Desmond, it is still good timing to find a new home, even with his drop in numbers. He will enter free agency as the most accomplished player at his position. If a team is on the market for a shortstop, especially if it's a young team who could use some veteran leadership, Desmond could be a very attractive option.
The one question long-term that could perhaps come into play in negotiations this winter is where Desmond fits defensively. With his penchant for errors - he's finished in the top three for most at his position in three straight years - will teams want to sign him to play third base? At shortstop several of his numbers look unique, but at third his low OBP and high strikeout-rate might become more obvious.