Nationals avoid arbitration with Ian Desmond

Richard Lipski/AP

Richard Lipski/AP

The Nationals and Ian Desmond avoided arbitration by agreeing on a contract that will pay him $3.8 million for the 2013 season, according to a person familiar with the deal.

Desmond, 27, was eligible for arbitration for the first time and earned a well-deserved and significant raise for his breakout season in 2012 in which he earned $512,500. He was a Gold Glove finalist, won a Silver Slugger Award, earned some fringe National League MVP votes and could have been perhaps the team’s MVP if not for an injury.

Desmond seemed like candidate to strike a multi-year deal with the Nationals, a way to buy out some or all of his arbitration years, potentially save some money and avoid this yearly process. He is under team control until 2016. An extension can still be revisited or struck at a later date.

Desmond posted a slash line of .292/.335/.511 and smashed 25 home runs and drove in 73 RBI — both far above his career highs — despite dealing with an oblique injury during the middle of the season that forced him to miss 25 games. He is one of the organization’s few remaining links to the Expos — who drafted him in 2004. He blossomed into one of the best, if not the top, shortstop in baseball and his salary is a relative bargain.

Desmond’s deal came on the deadline for teams and arbitration-eligible players to exchange figures. Now, only two of the seven arbitration-eligible players have yet to strike deal: Tyler Clippard and Jordan Zimmermann. All the arbitration-eligible players are under team control, and this process is merely to determine their salaries for the 2013 season.

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