Jan 7, 2014, 6:00 AM EDT
One of the Nationals’ top priorities over the next couple of months, as previously mentioned here and elsewhere, is to sign Ian Desmond and Jordan Zimmermann to long-term contract extensions.
Why now? Because each player is two years away from free agency, and that’s usually the most popular window of opportunity to lock a guy up. Wait another year, and players are more inclined to test the open market and see just how much they can get once multiple clubs are in the running.
It’s the exact same situation the Nationals and Ryan Zimmerman found themselves in two years ago, and the end result was a 6-year, $100 million extension that runs through at least 2019.
So, what kind of numbers might it take to keep Desmond and Zimmermann in D.C. for the long-term? We’ll tackle Zimmermann’s case in the next few days, but let’s focus today on Desmond, who over the last two seasons has firmly established himself as one of baseball’s best shortstops.
How good has Desmond been? Well, among all qualifying shortstops with at least 1,000 plate appearances over the last two years, he ranks first in OPS (.812), slugging percentage (.480) and RBI (153), second in homers (45) and batting average (.286) and third in WAR (7.1).
That’s elite company, and so Desmond certainly can make a case that he deserves a contract comparable to other elite shortstops. What do other elite shortstops make? Well, there are currently six others earning an average of at least $10 million per season: Jose Reyes, Derek Jeter, Troy Tulowitzki, Elvis Andrus, Hanley Ramirez and Jimmy Rollins. The first four names on that list each earn more than $15 million per season.
Desmond made a relatively paltry $3.8 million last year, his first as an arbitration-eligible player. If he goes through the arbitration process again this winter, he stands to earn a nice raise, probably something in the range of $7 million.
That’s still a far cry from $15 million a year, but that’s how much Desmond undoubtedly would command if he puts together two more strong seasons and then hits free agency.
On top of that, Desmond remains young — he just turned 28 in September — and he has kept himself on the field, playing in at least 154 games three of the last four seasons.
So, what does that all work out to in years and dollars? Seems to me a 7-year, $100 million deal would represent fair market value. Desmond would make more than $14 million per season and would be signed through age 34.
Sure sounds reasonable for one of baseball’s best shortstops, not to mention one of the Nationals’ best players and clubhouse leaders.
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