Let’s Get Weird: Ian Desmond Is a Rockie

Hoo boy, here we go. Welcome to prime hot-stove season, everyone. Ian Desmond is going to the Colorado Rockies, and he’s going to be paid $70 million to play there for five years. And, according to various reports, the Rockies may be looking at him as a first baseman. This move is the equivalent of the Denver Broncos signing Lionel Messi. It’s unexpected. It’s bonkers. It’s newly legal in Colorado, and Jeff Bridich is into it.

Man, let’s think about this for a minute. Ian Desmond was a lost cause a year ago. He had imploded in glorious fashion in Washington and then took a pillow contract with the Rangers to play a super-utility man. He wound up moving the outfield and recorded roughly average overall defensive numbers there. He also put together a 106 wRC+ for the year… but just a 65 wRC+ in the second half. Did he go back to being his 2015 self? Was it just a prolonged slump. Was he really a decent hitter once more?

We’re going to find out. We’re also, apparently, going to find out if he can play first base. Or… are we?

I mean, is Ian Desmond really going to play first? Committing $70 million to a guy to play a position entirely foreign to him seems strange. Asking him to play first base after he’s just finished a roughly average offensive season is also strange. If the Rockies wanted to move an outfielder to first base, they could’ve just done so with Carlos Gonzalez, whose defensive skills have been declining for some time now. Instead, the Rockies are going to stick Desmond there and cross their fingers.

Or perhaps they won’t. Consider: the Rockies have a colorful history when it comes to this sort of decision-making. A few years ago, for example, the club added Gerardo Parra to a roster that already included three starter-type outfielders. The size of the commitment to Parra (three years, $27.5 million) also seemed large, given the club’s other weaknesses. So, if the current edition of the Rockies followed the acquisition of Desmond with a reliever or two and called it an offseason, then yeah, this would continue that lovely tradition. But if they do more than that, the Rockies are in business. And I think that’s precisely what’s about to happen.

About a month ago, I wrote an article about the Rockies’ place on the brink of contention. Paul Swydan, who wrote the InstaGraphs version of this article, got mad at me for stealing his biannual article shtick. In my piece, I concluded that because the Rockies were flush with prospects, impact big-league talent, and intriguing pitching, that they should begin the process of pushing their chips towards the center of the table. Part of what I proposed was signing Edwin Encarnacion to play first base. The need was there, the fit was there, the dreams of Encarnacion mashing dinger after dinger at Coors Field were there.

That was before there were reports of Encarnacion’s price falling, and before there were whispers of the Rockies speaking to him. Desmond’s signing should not preclude the Rockies from going after Encarnacion. If anything, it should encourage it.

By signing Desmond, the Rockies have just punted the 11th-overall pick in the draft. That’s a big deal. And it’s quite a pill to swallow in the name of adding Ian Desmond to your ballclub. So why stop here? Losing the 11th-overall pick is a signal that the Rockies should be ready to stop rebuilding and to start winning. Not in some hazy future, but now. So if you’re going to punt the 11th-overall pick, let’s punt the second round, too. Go all in. Push the chips to the middle of the table. Go sign Encarnacion.

Or, if the Rockies still want their second-rounder, Jose Abreu is available, isn’t he? The White Sox raised the white flag (possibly made of white socks, who knows) when they shipped Chris Sale to Boston. Abreu will probably be following him out the door at some point soon. He’d be a lot of fun at Coors Field, and the Rockies could also grab a good reliever in the process by taking David Robertson along for the ride. Colorado has more than enough young talent to pull such a move off.

They could get even more young talent with another trade. If Desmond is going to play the outfield, the Rockies will need to make room for him. Given how many teams are looking for center fielders, and that the best non-Andrew McCutchen option on the trade market might be Jarrod Dyson, imagine what could happen if the Rockies were to dangle Charlie Blackmon out there. Blackmon is coming off a 3.9 WAR season and is still relatively young at 30. He could be an important part of a contending club next year. The Rockies could turn him into a big-league-ready arm or two, which would make room for Desmond. So, let’s recap and look at the potential lineup.

  1. DJ LeMahieu, 2B
  2. David Dahl, LF
  3. Nolan Arenado, 3B
  4. Edwin Encarnacion/Jose Abreu, 1B
  5. Carlos Gonzalez, RF
  6. Ian Desmond, CF
  7. Trevor Story, SS
  8. Tony Wolters, C
  9. Pitcher

I’ll buy that. This would be an expensive undertaking, and one that will cost the Rockies more than a few prospects. But that’s a price worth paying for a shot at the playoffs, and the Rockies are ready to win. If Desmond is their big buy of the winter and he really does play first base, it will be a ridiculous move worthy of derision, unless he morphs into a plus first baseman and hits like a first baseman.

That’s the most likely outcome here. But, if this is the first step in the Rockies going all-in, then I hope you enjoyed Rocktober. Because if Bridich plays this well, it might just be coming back.

We hoped you liked reading Let’s Get Weird: Ian Desmond Is a Rockie by Nicolas Stellini!

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Nick is a columnist at FanGraphs, and has written previously for Baseball Prospectus and Beyond the Box Score. Yes, he hates your favorite team, just like Joe Buck. You can follow him on Twitter at @StelliniTweets, and can contact him at stellinin1 at gmail.

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TheChaosPath
Member
TheChaosPath

Let’s get weird and not spell it Rocky for some reason

Shirtless George Brett
Member
Shirtless George Brett

“Some reason” = because the team is named after a specific mountain range not a fictional boxer?

London Yank
Member
London Yank
Nelson S.
Member
Member
Nelson S.

The Rocky Mountian Range. I know “Rockie” is the convention baseball uses, but it is wierd

kbn
Member
kbn

It’s also the convention commonly used by regional locals to describe singular members of the mountain range, despite the name “Rocky Mountains”. Though, clearly, that’s not something which comes up very often. We usually just say the name of the specific mountain (e.g. Long’s Peak).

Ruben Amaro Jr.
Member
Ruben Amaro Jr.

“Wierd” is wierd way to spell weird.

jsolid
Member
jsolid

I will assume you misspelled “weird” on purpose, because that’s a good one.