Nationals react to Desmond's signing, position switch

VIERA, Fla. - Ian Desmond finally has a new home. And a new position.

Desmond has agreed to terms on a one-year contract with the Rangers worth $8 million, according to's Ken Rosenthal. Surprising as the low dollar figure and late timing of his signing is, even more surprising is the fact Texas plans to play the lifelong shortstop in left field.

Such was the state of this offseason for Desmond, whose stock plummeted due to the combination of a subpar year with the Nationals, baseball's controversial qualifying offer system and an overall dearth of teams in need of a shortstop.

Ian Desmond curtain call sidebar.jpgDesmond certainly didn't expect to find himself in this situation when he turned down the Nationals' $15.8 million qualifying offer in November, confident he'd get multi-year offers from other clubs. But a frustrating season that saw him hit .233 with 19 homers, a .290 on-base percentage and .674 OPS hurt him, as did the qualifying offer system. (Teams that sign players who declined those offers must forfeit their top draft pick.)

The Nationals will get a compensatory draft pick in exchange for losing Desmond, as they did when Jordan Zimmermann signed with the Tigers, and now will own both the 28th and 29th picks in this summer's First-Year Player Draft. They lost their first-round pick when they signed Daniel Murphy to a three-year contract in December.

Desmond's former teammates waited anxiously with everyone else, wondering how the saga would play out. When they got the news this morning, they expressed mixed emotions for their good friend.

"It's a tough situation, obviously, and a situation that's kind of hard to believe he was in," first baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. "But that's the way it is, and I'm just happy he got a job and a chance to go out there and do what he loves doing. I would not be surprised if he goes there and does something special for this one year."

"It's probably not exactly what he was hoping or looking for," left fielder Jayson Werth said. "But at the same time, he's got to be happy that he's not waiting until May or June. You're really behind the 8-ball then. Great player, great person, good friend. I hope he does well."

Teammates do believe Desmond will do well in his conversion to the outfield. He only has two games of experience in right field, totaling 7 1/3 innings in 2009-10 under former manager Jim Riggleman, but teammates believe his natural abilities will translate well at a new position.

"Anyone can play left," joked Zimmerman, who found himself learning how to play left field in midseason 2014. "Ian's a great athlete. I wouldn't be surprised if he does great things out there. He's one of those guys who's willing to learn. His work ethic is through the roof. And his ability on the baseball field, it's pretty special."

It was a strange end to this saga for Desmond, who did have opportunities to make out much better. He turned down a five-year, $89.5 million extension offer from the Nationals in 2014, a deal that combined with the two-year contract he already had would have paid him a total of $107 million to stay in Washington through 2020.

Desmond's situation was monitored closely throughout the baseball world because he was the last remaining free agent who declined a qualifying offer this winter. His case only further convinced some ballplayers that the system needs to change when they negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement with Major League Baseball before next season.

"I think all players are united on this," right-hander Max Scherzer said. "We're extremely disappointed in how the qualifying offer is impacting some free agents. This is something that has to be addressed in the next CBA. And I feel like all the players, the young players to the old guys, everybody realizes this is a problem and it must be addressed with the owners."

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