Ian Desmond rejects qualifying offer

Ian Desmond won’t play for the Nationals next year. The 30-year-old, who was drafted by the Expos and has played his entire career in Washington, declined the club’s $15.8 million qualifying offer today.

The Nationals are still waiting on right-hander Jordan Zimmermann to decide on his qualifying offer. The deadline is 5 p.m. today.

Desmond enters the free agent market for the first time and is expected to command a multi-year deal worth at least $75 million. The Mets, Padres, Diamondbacks and White Sox reportedly have interest in signing the shortstop.

Ian Desmond curtain call sidebar.jpgDesmond, a third-round draft pick out of high school in 2004, debuted with the Nats five years later. He quickly became one of the best shortstops in the National League, possessing a cannon of an arm, pop with his bat and speed on the base paths.

Desmond was named an All-Star in 2012 and won his first of three straight Silver Slugger Awards that year. During his six-plus seasons in D.C., Desmond slashed .264/.312/.424 with 110 homers, 432 RBIs and 122 stolen bases.

The Nationals reportedly offered Desmond a seven-year, $107 million contract extension before the 2014 season, which the shortstop balked at. He appeared distracted by the idea of potentially leaving Washington during the first half of this past season, struggling with just a .211 average and seven homers.

But Desmond emerged in the second half, hitting .262 and blasting 12 longballs, just missing his fourth straight season with 20-plus home runs.

Following the final game of the season, and knowing it was likely his last in a Nationals uniform, Desmond fought back tears while discussing his time in Washington.

“When I got drafted by the Expos, they didn’t know where the team would be,” Desmond said. “But they couldn’t have found a better home. I’m extremely proud to say that I was a Washington National.

“This organization has been nothing but good to me. We’ve come a long way, a long way personally and as an organization.”

The Nationals have several options at shortstop in 2016, including moving Yunel Escobar over from third. Escobar played primarily at shortstop during his previous eight seasons in the majors before arriving in Washington. Danny Espinosa and highly regarded rookie Trea Turner are also potential repacements for Desmond.

When Desmond inks with another team, that team owes the Nationals a 2016 draft pick, likely a first-rounder, as compensation.

Note: Orioles catcher Matt Wieters, who was rumored to be targeted by the Nats in free agency, accepted his qualifying offer and remains in Baltimore for the 2016 season.

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