Monday, as it turned out, was the day that Ian Desmond had picked to turn the page.
The statistics page. The free agent’s remorse page. The What-the-Heck-Happened-to-Me-in-2015 page.
Desmond was in his new team’s spring training clubhouse, wearing his new Texas uniform, politely answering questions about how his free agency path led him to the Rangers.
“To be completely honest, I had today, my first day of camp, earmarked for when I put last year behind me,” he said.
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Turning the page won’t be that easy, of course. Certain to shadow Desmond is the fact that the former Washington shortstop turned down the Nationals’ seven-year, $107 million contract offer in 2013, believing that a future season would reap more.
He also, as with most major league free agents, declined a $15.8 million qualifying offer this winter from his former team.
When he failed this winter to attract any generous suitors, the Rangers jumped in and signed Desmond on Monday for one year at $8 million.
I’m coming here completely humbled and ready to be a part of the Texas Rangers organization.
Newest Ranger Ian Desmond
The qualifying offer system is broken, Desmond knows. But it’s not his job to fix it.
“I’m coming here completely humbled and ready to be a part of the Texas Rangers organization,” he said.
The average spreadsheet-wielding fantasy dork contends that projections show that Desmond’s career is on the decline. He had his worst season in 2015, finishing with a .233 batting average and only a .674 on-base-plus-slugging.
Nationals-watchers, however, note that Desmond began the season playing dreadfully in the field, squandering routine plays, and the dismal start seemed to shackle him mentally for the rest of the season.
Whatever. When Rangers general manager Jon Daniels kicked the tires on free agent Desmond two months ago, he couldn’t help but remember the Desmond from the early scouting reports.
“It’s a natural fit for us,” Daniels said Monday. “He’s the kind of player we look for — an elite athlete, with tremendous make-up. Whoever you ask, it’s universal.
“This guy is a big-time competitor, who plays hard, runs hard, pushes other players and is naturally athletically gifted. And big right-hand power.”
To those who looked askance at the deal and were waiting for some other spiked foot to fall — like a trade involving incumbent shortstop Elvis Andrus — Daniels had a pronouncement:
“He’s our left fielder going into the year — and all year.”
All year, the media said, blinking?
“Ian Desmond is our left fielder,” Daniels repeated.
As for Hamilton, who was professed all winter to be the club’s answer at that position, Daniels explained, “We’re going to get Josh healthy. And then, as he comes back, we’re going to look for him to be a contributor on this club.
“Where that goes and how many days, we’ll see.”
Desmond isn’t a place holder in left field, in other words. He’s the team’s new left fielder.
3 Silver Slugger awards won by Desmond as NL’s best hitting shortstop
And Hamilton is Josh Hamilton, bench guy. If he ever gets healthy enough to play again — a true “if” at this point — the Rangers will see what’s available.
I don’t think the team is punishing Hamilton. I think it’s seeing him, crutches and soon-to-be-35-year-old body, maybe for the first time.
Desmond, meanwhile, could not have had a more inviting, red carpet first day. He explained how a phone conversation with Michael Young, who assists Daniels in the front office, helped to seal the deal.
He can definitely do serious damage in this lineup, especially from the right side. It's a huge way to balance us out.
Teammate Cole Hamels
Desmond said he was aware that Young had to change positions twice while with the Rangers, but also that he was impressed with the way Michael and the club had mended fences.
“He really spoke very highly of the Texas Rangers organization,” Desmond said. “Michael told me how awesome it was in Texas.”
Pitcher Cole Hamels has played against Desmond more than any other Ranger, and he also gave his endorsement.
“I know he can hit,” Hamels said. “He’s got tremendous speed and tremendous power. I think this is going to be really good for him in this clubhouse. I think being in the American League is going to bring up his hitting game.
“He can definitely do serious damage in this lineup, especially from the right side. It’s a huge way to balance us out.”
Desmond likely will slide into the No. 5 spot in the Rangers’ lineup, giving it righty-lefty balance.
As the newest Ranger said, his first attempt at free agency humbled him. His new job — left field for the Texas Rangers — beckons.
Yes, he settled for a one-year deal for $8 million, but he said, “I’m not running from something — I’m running to something.
“Free agency is about the opportunity to choose what you want to do. That’s the beauty of it. And this is what I chose.”
The Rangers seem more than happy to help him turn the page.