Longtime Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond is expected to pass on the qualifying offer the team extended last Friday and fully jump into the free agent waters for the first time in his career. The one-year, $15.8 million offer expires at 5 p.m. tomorrow. If Desmond does decline and sign with another team, the Nationals will receive a first-round draft pick as compensation.
Beloved by the fans in Washington, Desmond has played his entire career within the Nationals/Expos organization after Montreal drafted him out of high school in the third round in 2004. He debuted in the majors in 2009 with a homer in his first game and went on to become one of the best hitting shortstops in baseball, claiming three straight Silver Slugger Awards from 2012-2014.
During that time, Desmond watched the Nationals build their way up from the cellar in the National League East to claiming two division crowns while becoming a perennial contender. The 30-year-old indicated during an interview Wednesday on SiriusXM’s MLB Network Radio that he wants his next team to have similar postseason aspirations.
“I want to be part of something bigger than myself,” Desmond said. “I want to win a World Series. I want to be able to make an impact on the team I’m on and also I want to learn from the players that I’m around. So I think there’s numerous factors that go into it. There’s a couple. Ultimately, I think it’s going to come down to who the best opportunity to win a World Series is with.”
Desmond, who made $11 million in 2015, is likely to command a five-year deal in the range of $80 million on the open market. The Mets, Padres and White Sox are three teams reported to be interested in his services.
“I don’t discriminate,” Desmond joked on MLB Network Radio. “I love baseball, no matter what league, what division, any of that stuff. I’ve never played in the American League. I’ve obviously played interleague, but I’ve never been in the American League. That would be a new experience, a fun experience. But I was basically raised in the National League and I love the way the National League game is. I think I’m a National League guy, but it’s not to say that I wouldn’t be able to embrace a new challenge.”
Desmond was also asked about Bryce Harper’s maturation this past season after the slugger was recently named a finalist for the NL Most Valuable Player award. Harper has pointed to Desmond as one of the key mentors in his development since entering the majors in 2012.
“What a blessing that was for me and my teammates to watch him go out and perform the way that he did last year and from the minute he got called up to the big leagues,” Desmond said on MLB Network Radio. “The kid’s an unbelievable ballplayer. He’s extremely passionate, as we know. And to be honest, I know - I don’t think, I know - that he’s got more in the tank.”
Harper mentioned his excitement on Monday night with veteran baserunning guru Davey Lopes joining the Nationals staff as first base coach. The slugger swiped 18 bases in his rookie season and Desmond sees Harper reintroducing that weapon to his arsenal.
“He’s not a slow kid,” Desmond said on MLB Network Radio. “I think having Davey Lopes at first base, he’s gonna steal bags. He’s not slow, he can steal bags at the major league level. And think about that - the guy is walking 120 times and give him the green light a couple times, he steals 20 or 30 bags, hits 30 or 40 homers and drives in 100. I mean, at 22 or 23 years old. Give me a break.”