Ian Desmond may not have been selected to yesterday’s All-Star Game, but he received a strong endorsement from the current standard bearer at his position.
“Ian’s a good player, someone that I consider one of the best shortstops in the game,” said Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, the National League starter. “A couple years back, I think his error total was real high. He’s cut down on those. Anytime you get an offensive shortstop, he’s going to be a key piece to a team. I think Washington needs to sign him. He’s going to make a little bit of money, but he deserves it.”
You don’t often see a player stump for an opponent to receive a contract extension, especially unprompted – Tulowitzki was asked about Desmond’s performance, not his contract status. Tulowitzki certainly had a point, though, one that we’ve discussed here before.
Desmond is eligible for arbitration this winter for the second, and he will be a free agent following the 2015 season. Tuesday, FanGraphs.com ranked Desmond as having the 34th-highest trade value in all of baseball, pointing out he has racked up nearly three more wins above replacement than any other shortstop since the start of 2011.
The scarcity at his position will only make Desmond more expensive to sign should he reach free agency. Tulowitzki stands as the clear-cut top shortstop in baseball, but he is signed to a massive contract through the end of the decade. J.J. Hardy will become a free agent after the 2014 season, but by that point he will be entering his age 33 season. Andrelton Simmons, Everth Cabrera and Jean Segura have created a promising next wave of shortstops, but they will remain under team control for years to come.
Desmond could eventually be the rarest of commodities: a marquee shortstop in his prime available in free agency.
“Shortstop was a weak position for a little bit, but I think it’s getting stronger,” Tulowitzki said. “Those guys helped. It’s a position where, if you can have someone who’s pretty offensive, it’s going to give you a leg up, that’s for sure.”
While Tulowitzki has set the standard, Desmond has actually been more valuable over the past two years because of his ability to stay relatively healthy. He spent four weeks on the disabled list last year with an oblique strain. But he also has played 94 of the Nationals’ 95 games this season.
“It’s a demanding position, no doubt,” Tulowitzki said. “A lot of people ask about my injuries. I think there’s a couple things going against me. No. 1, I’m bigger than shortstop. Second, I play at Coors Field, which is demanding on your body. Something everybody is faced is a 162-game season. It can get long, for this position especially.”