Ian Desmond never missed a chance to extol his love for the Texas Rangers after joining the club in February.
Sure, Desmond was grateful to find a home (for $8 million) after turning down a qualifying offer from his former club, the Washington Nationals, following a disappointing 2015 season.
But Desmond instantly became one of the most willing and reliable spokesmen in the Rangers’ clubhouse. He did it when struggling the first two weeks of the season, he did it when his season turned around and he earned an All-Star nod, and he did it down the home stretch and in the postseason. He was the consummate team player and his teammates and front office loved him for it.
The door hasn’t been closed on either side with any of our free agents. There’s an openness across the board. We want to get a lay of the land on certain things before we move forward.
Rangers GM Jon Daniels
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The Rangers, who extended the MLB $17.2 million qualifying offer to Desmond, hope that mutual admiration will influence his decision this winter.
“If a guy doesn’t want to be there it makes it pretty easy,” Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said Tuesday from the GM meetings at the Omni Resort. “We want players who fit the team. It’s not a cookie-cutter deal at all. We want guys with personality, but who have that same value system, the intensity, the competitive level, and he certainly fits that.”
So if both sides are open to it what’s the holdup? Desmond, 31, needs to hear what the market is willing to pay him and for how long. He famously turned down a seven-year, $107 million deal from the Nationals before the 2014 season. And then he turned down the Nationals’ $15.8 million qualifying offer after the 2015 season before settling with the Rangers, who moved him from shortstop to the outfield.
Desmond’s contract history suggests he’s willing to consider more than just bottom-line dollars, and that could benefit the Rangers.
86 RBIs for Ian Desmond in 2016 for the Rangers, who had his best season in five years.
“I don’t know if it’s something that is going to happen quickly,” Daniels said. “He’s got a lot of options and we’re looking at ours. We’ll see what happens.”
Desmond had his best season since 2012, hitting .285 with 22 homers, 86 RBIs and a .335 on-base percentage, which is tied for his career-best. He did struggle in the second half, hitting 85 points lower and dropping from 15 homers to seven and 22 doubles to seven. But he proved that he can play center field, although there is still some room to improve, especially on routes and relay throws.
His ability to play either infield or outfield makes him even more attractive to possible suitors, who reportedly include the Baltimore Orioles. They are interested in Desmond for a corner outfield position.
“I think it’s a benefit to him in the market too. If you only play one position you only fill a team’s needs that only have that spot open. If you play five spots then you appeal to everybody,” Daniels said. “The door hasn’t been closed on either side with any of our free agents. There’s an openness across the board. We want to get a lay of the land on certain things before we move forward.”
If Desmond signs with another club, the Rangers will get a draft pick as compensation.
The Rangers corner infielders were a step above in 2016 and Tuesday night they were recognized.
First baseman Mitch Moreland and third baseman Adrian Beltre won American League Gold Gloves, an award that recognizes defensive excellence.
It’s Moreland’s first Gold Glove honor and third baseman Beltre’s fifth, including three with the Rangers.