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What should the Rockies do with Ian Desmond?

Let’s look at the rest of this season and into next season.

We’ve just completed the third year of the Ian Desmond experience. From Ian Desmond, first baseman, to now, it has been quite the journey.

Unfortunately most of that journey has involved bad production from Desmond. The 2017 and 2018 seasons were bad, and while the 2019 season had a moment in time where it looked like he was going to have a good season, he has been bad again. Sam Bradfield wrote an article here in June about how Desmond was one of the team’s best hitters at the time. Since then it hasn’t been great:

  • July: .243/.291/.419
  • August: .212/.288/.379
  • September: .182/.229/.364 (through 10 games)

But we’re not here to review Desmond’s season — we’ll save that for our upcoming “Reviewing the Rockies” series. We’re here to discuss what the Rockies should do with Desmond for what’s left of this season and beyond the end of this season.

They should stop starting him

There is simply no reason for Desmond to be getting starts ahead of Raimel Tapia or prospects like Yonathan Daza and Sam Hilliard. The Rockies will still play Desmond, of course, but the bulk of the at-bats should go to the younger players so that they can get some experience and so the team can start to assess their future.

Given Bud Black’s enthusiasm for double switches, that probably still leaves playing time for Desmond when he doesn’t start. This would change how they use him and where the bulk of that time goes.

They should move him around the field more

For however long Desmond remains with the Rockies for the two years that are left on his deal, they should do their best to be creative with how they use him. If they’re ever willing to stop using him as a regular starter, they should consider him for a super-utility type role.

Am I excited about seeing Desmond at shortstop or first base again? Hardly. But with the challenge of navigating a short bench, that versatility could still be a net positive — even if versatility, in this case, is very much a “jack of some trades, master of none” situation on defense.

The Rockies can at least look to take advantage of Desmond’s ability to cover multiple positions off the bench. That helps us transition to what they should do with him after this season.

They should have him on the bench on Opening Day 2020

This point is certainly joined up with the point about the Rockies not starting Desmond for the remainder of this season. But for a team that needs to show a willingness to shake things up, especially coming off a disastrous season with some bad PR, there would be some symbolism to not forcing Desmond into the fifth spot in the starting lineup on Opening Day.

They should use him in a platoon

Or platoons! Part of his existence as a super-utility type player could be starting against left-handed pitching. He’s still pretty good against lefties — .293/.352/.605 with 12 home runs in 183 plate appearances this season — so this could maximize that skill. He could play in the corners of the outfield or even in the infield in a pinch.

So, as you have surely noticed by now, all of these options have the Rockies keeping Desmond in 2020. There is another option, and it’s probably the one the most people will feel strongly about.

They should designate him for assignment

We’re three years into that infamous five-year, $70 million deal. The Rockies have tried like crazy to get Desmond on track to get value out of this contract. Mostly they’ve done this by giving a bunch of playing time. They’ve moved him around the field and the lineup.

Save for the occasional hot streak, it just hasn’t worked. He’s at -3.3 rWAR for his Rockies tenure. The Rockies need to lengthen out their lineup next season. One way to do that would be to cut their losses, move on from Desmond, and upgrade at the spot he would have occupied.