Ian Desmond’s status as one of baseball’s best shortstops was further validated tonight as he won the Silver Slugger award, an honor given to the top offensive player at each position in the National League as voted by coaches and managers. Desmond, the only Nationals player to claim a Silver Slugger this season, won for the second consecutive season.
Desmond, 28, finished second in the NL with 20 home runs, third with a .280 batting average, second with a .331 on-base percentage and second with a .453 slugging percentage. Rockies superstar Troy Tulowitzki beat Desmond in every category, but he played 32 fewer games due to injury. Desmond, who stole 21 bases and led all shortstops with 38 doubles, also played 12 more games than Brewers finalist Jean Segura.
“I play the game the way I do out of respect for the players who came before me,” Desmond said in a statement released by the team. “It’s an honor to be selected for the Silver Slugger and it is humbling to know that it is voted on by National League managers and coaches.”
The great Tulowitzki aside, Desmond has become the league’s top hitter at a position where offense has become scare. As he enters his fifth professional season, no shortstop has hit more home runs, driven in more runs or smacked more than over the past two years than him. After two trying seasons, Desmond blossomed under Davey Johnson and became a central figure within the clubhouse.
“Ian’s a good player, someone that I consider one of the best shortstops in the game,” Tulowitzki said at this year’s All-Star Game. “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.”
Desmond will be eligible for free agency following the 2015 season, and signing him to a long-term contract extension – similar to the six-year, $100 million deal Ryan Zimmerman signed in the spring of 2012 – is shaping up as one of Washington’s priorities this winter. As another point of comparison, the Rangers signed shortstop Elvis Andrus to an eight-year, $120 million extension two years before he was due to come up for free agency.
The Nationals broached the idea of an extension with Desmond’s agent last spring, and those talks are expected to restart this winter, likely at the end of the offseason. Desmond has said he would consider a deal, but not at a discount. Desmond will likely make between $6.5 million and $7 million in his second year of arbitration eligibility.
“Desi is one of our core players,” General Manager Mike Rizzo said at the end of the regular season. “He’s one of our leaders on the team. If there’s a deal out there that we can get done that keeps him here for the long-term, it would be certainly up there on the priority list. It’s going to be a deal that would have to work for both parties.”
Aside from Desmond, Jayson Werth had the strongest case to win a Silver Slugger. Werth, who hit .318/.398/.532 with 25 home runs, was beaten out by Michael Cuddyer, Andrew McCutcheon and Jay Bruce in the NL outfield. Ryan Zimmerman, whose strong finish made him a candidate, lost to Pedro Alvarez at third base.
Since the Nationals moved to Washington in 2005, they have claimed seven Silver Slugger trophies. Zimmerman has won three. Last year, Stephen Strasburg and Adam LaRoche each won one. Alfonso Soriano won in 2006.