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Arizona Diamondbacks 2B Free Agency Upgrade: Ian Desmond?

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Could former Nationals SS Ian Desmond provide a better alternative than Howie Kendrick as a potential upgrade at the 2B position.

Could Ian Desmond be the Diamondbacks answer at the 2B position?
Could Ian Desmond be the Diamondbacks answer at the 2B position?
Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

We all know the Diamondbacks are linked to Howie Kendrick and there's interest for the Diamondbacks to sign him. Personally I find that move to be unnecessary because I think he's very close to a major decline. There is more risk than upside towards signing Howie Kendrick, to which I suggest either the Diamondbacks go in-house or look elsewhere on the free agent market. Today, Fangraphs suggests that there is a better alternative in the free agent market for a 2B than Kendrick. So who is the player in question? It's Ian Desmond.

Here's a look at Ian Desmond's numbers since 2012:

Year Age PA OPS+ wRC+ ISO DRS K% fWAR bWAR
2012 26 547 125 128 .218 -6 20.7 4.7 3.4
2013 27 655 113 116 .173 -3 22.1 4.8 3.6
2014 28 648 103 108 .175 +2 28.2 4.0 3.9
2015 29 641 80 83 .151 +1 29.1 1.7 2.0

Ian Desmond is probably a name on the surface that would make us all want to avoid like the plague for obvious reasons. Desmond takes ill-advised wild hacks that leads to strikeouts, makes concentration errors in the field, and can lose his composure at times when struggling. Over the last three years, the numbers have been trending in the wrong direction and that has hurt his free agent stock. No one wants to meet Desmond's price because of the issue of volatility. However, it's clear that he presents an upgrade over Chris Owings at 2B, even in his horrible platform year. Desmond is an ideal candidate for the Dbacks to take on a short-term deal if he's willing to do so.

Desmond will be moving from SS to 2B with a more steady defender in Nick Ahmed manning the position, so Desmond would move over to 2B. The last two years, he's saved 3 runs at SS in over 2700 innings which means defense isn't an issue although it would take some time to get comfortable with the new position. In addition to the glove, Desmond has baserunning value although age is a factor since Desmond will be in his age 30 season in 2016. Desmond has rated as a very good baserunner the last three years and the Diamondbacks love to push the envelope on the bases. In addition, the deep gaps at Chase Field should improve the XBH numbers for Desmond and he has plenty of power to spare, so it shouldn't take away much from his home run production.

To sign Desmond, it may require at least a 3 year deal north of $15M per season. Desmond posted 3 straight seasons of 3+ bWAR and 4+ fWAR before falling off the table in 2015. Moving to the NL West could increase his production at the plate with more games played at Chase Field and Coors Field. The Diamondbacks could try to sweeten the deal with a potential opt-out that would allow Desmond to opt out if he returns to his 2012-2014 form at the plate. However, given his age I don't think Desmond is looking to do a short-term deal and then re-establish his value. He's probably looking to cash in one final time and wants 4+ years. I'm not sure if the Diamondbacks would be willing to commit to a deal that long, particularly since they have a top 2B prospect about to start the 2016 in AA Mobile.

If the Diamondbacks ultimately decide to forfeit their Competitive Balance A pick to sign a FA to upgrade the 2B position, perhaps Ian Desmond would be a better option than Howie Kendrick. Desmond is two years younger and presents more defensive and baserunning value than Kendrick, even with the dropoff in production at the plate. In addition to the value outside of his bat, Desmond has also proven durability, playing 150+ games the last three seasons and 4 of the last 5 seasons. Of course, there is also the option for the Diamondbacks to essentially table the idea and go with their in-house options.