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The Ian Desmond dilemma

Colorado Rockies news and links for Monday, November 9, 2020

Just a couple Sundays ago, we officially received word that Ian Desmond was being reinstated after sitting out the 2020 season. Nick Groke of The Athletic noted that just because he was reinstated back on the 40-man roster, there is still no guarantee that he’d be playing for the Rockies in 2021.

What does that mean? Well, it could mean one of two things:

1. Ian Desmond may consider retiring. He’s 35 and played in the majors for 10 years; maybe he’d like to move on and focus on other things.

2. The Rockies could be considering designating him for assignment and moving on. They could move on from yet another free agent acquisition that didn’t work out the way they hoped. This would require the Rockies to pay him the remaining $8 million left for the 2021 season and possibly another $2 million for the buyout he was headed for after the 2021 season.

But before we eventually find out Desmond’s fate in Colorado, it’s worth looking closely at what he’s done as a member of the Rockies.

The case for Ian Desmond

On the offensive side of the ball, Ian Desmond has a clear strength: hitting off of left-handed pitchers. In 2019, he hit .297/.350/.626 in 182 at-bats with 14 home runs against lefties. He can be useful if used as part of a platoon in the outfield.

Speaking of the outfield, he’s no Jackie Bradley Jr. out there, so he perhaps he’d be best utilized as a DH if the role returns to the National League.

Because of the large contract he received in 2017, expectations were set high by the Rockies front office. However, if you look at his average over his seven seasons in Washington (.264/.312/.424) and compare them to his three seasons in Colorado (.252/.313/.429), they aren’t far off. Of course these are averages, and Desmond has had a few years of batting .280+ with 20+ home runs and some where he only hit in the .230’s and .250’s. But what these overall numbers show is that the Rockies on average got about what they signed up for. They had the data and hoped for more but got mostly the same.

The case against Ian Desmond

We saw how good he can be against left-handed pitchers, but we didn’t talk about him versus righties. In 2019 he batted .226/.282/.375 against right handers. He’s proven that he can’t be a full time starter, but are the Rockies really committed to having an expensive platoon man?

If you combine those offensive numbers with his inability to be an average outfielder (-21 DRS playing center field in 2019), you get a minimal contributing player. With no guarantee of a DH this next season, he could be taking up a roster spot that could go to someone else with a higher ceiling.

For the most part, he’s been inconsistent year-to-year throughout his career and especially in Colorado (.236 BA in 2018). He’s 35 with a year left on his deal; maybe it’s time to bite the bullet and give him his money early and send him on his way.

Looking forward

Although he hasn’t been as bad as Bryan Shaw or Jake McGee were in Colorado, it’s a similar situation where they may decide to move on from Desmond just before the season. Or maybe the Rockies will go the Wade Davis route and give him a chunk of the 2021 season as a last chance.

How do you feel about Desmond? Is he a goner or will the Rockies ride his contract out?


Will Ian Desmond be on the 2021 Opening Day roster?

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Rockies critical crossroads: Colorado faces choice between keeping Trevor Story or Nolan Arenado | The Denver Post ($)

Patrick Saunders analyzes the looming decision for the Rockies of whether or not to move one of their franchise cornerstones. He looks at the financial factors that have put the Rockies in this difficult position.

Colorado Rockies: Did you know this about Trevor Story’s 2020 season? | Rox Pile

A Trevor Story appreciation post highlighting his 2020 season. This includes his three separate hitting streaks, two months of consistent .280+ hitting and one of the few players to reach double digit home runs.

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