One of the biggest risk-reward picks heading into 2016, Ian Desmond delivered for the bold, reviving his power-speed combination while posting his highest batting average since 2012. His career-high .350 BABIP may seem like an outlier, but his career .326 clip on balls in play and another year with a high groundball rate say it wasn't. Desmond's landing spot in free agency was ideal, too, as his floor has stabilized with the move to Colorado while his ceiling is higher than it's ever been. Unfortunately, he's lost shortstop eligibility in most formats and it's uncertain if he'll ever regain it as the Rockies are planning to play him primarily at first base. Regardless, there's still a ton to like here from a fantasy perspective -- a high-average, 20-20 season would easily put him among the top 100 earners by season's end.
Desmond has worked extensively on learning his new position (first base) since signing a five-year, $70 million contract with the Rockies this offseason, MLB.com's Thomas Harding reports. He has worked at the position this offseason, both at his home near Sarasota, Fla., and in special sessions with manager Bud Black, coach Ron Gideon, third-base coach Stu Cole and first-base coach Tony Diaz. While the Rockies' signing of Desmond with the intention of having him move down the defensive spectrum to first base has been largely criticized by analysts, the move to Colorado is excellent for his fantasy value, at least as long has retains his outfield eligibility in 2017.
Desmond agreed to a five-year, $70 million contract with the Rockies on Wednesday, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports. There could be another shoe or two to drop, as it is unclear where Desmond will see everyday at-bats on this current Rockies roster, however, he will certainly be in the lineup every day, one way or another. Carlos Gonzalez and Charlie Blackmon have long been rumored as potential trade candidates, which would be one way to open up a spot for Desmond. Another option would be finally transitioning Gonzalez to first base, which would also open up a spot in the outfield. Rosenthal also speculates that Desmond will play some first base this season, although that would seem to be a waste of his defensive versatility. This is obviously an excellent development for Desmond's fantasy value, as Coors Field is notorious for boosting player's batting averages, and that is the one aspect of Desmond's game that has been unreliable in recent seasons. The one negative is that Desmond now appears unlikely to move back to shortstop anytime soon, with Trevor Story entrenched there in Colorado. This signing means the Rockies will forfeit the No. 11 pick in next year's draft, which is a steep price to pay. The deal comes with a $13 million club option for a sixth year.
Desmond rejected the Rangers' one-year, $17.2 million qualifying offer Monday, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports. It wasn't completely clear whether or not Desmond would accept the qualifying offer at first, but given his strong 2016 campaign in which he hit .285 and swatted 22 home runs, he decided to test the free agent market. The 31-year-old boasts the ability to play both infield and outfield, although some suitors may be turned off by the need to give up a draft pick in order to sign a deal with him.
The Rangers will extend a $17.2 million qualifying offer to Desmond, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports. Coming off a 2016 campaign that saw Desmond hit .285/.335/.446 with 22 home runs and 86 RBI, it makes sense that the Rangers are making an effort to keep the 31-year-old around. However, there's yet to be an indication as to whether or not Desmond will accept the offer. Although he's traditionally played shortstop, Desmond spent all of 2016 in the outfield.
Desmond is out of the lineup Sunday against the Rays. With Desmond out of the lineup, the Rangers will deploy and outfield of Nomar Mazara, Carlos Gomez, and Shin-Soo Choo. Coming off a disappointing 2015 campaign, Desmond has enjoyed a resurgent season and posted a .285/.335/.446 line.