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Will Rays chase Ian Desmond? Chris Mitchell's baseball thoughts for for 1-28-2016

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Ian Desmond
Ian Desmond
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Blog Thoughts 1-28-2016

With the signings of Justin Upton in Detroit and Yoenis Cespedes heading back to New York City the Hot Stove is in its vegetarian phase. The Meat of the free agent menu has signed (though Jason Heyward feels more vegetarian than carnivore to me in this analogy) and now its time to pick the bones and move on to the "side-item" free agents.

General Thoughts

Ian Desmond: Free Agent - SS/OF

I wrote weeks ago that I thought he was a deal waiting to be plucked and I haven't changed my view except in one respect. When a player as athletic as Desmond, who has hit 88 home runs and stolen 79 bases over the last four seasons, is connected to the Tampa Bay Rays then there is definitely a disconnect between his "potential" and the industries concerns or thoughts about him. The Rays had the third lowest payroll in both 2014 ($77,061,891) and 2015 ($76,061,707) and they have not splurged this off-season. Concerns about his defense and horrible start to 2015 have clearly scared off evaluators and General Managers.

A knock on Desmond that I admit is valid, in this advanced metric era, is that he had an OBP of .290, an OPS of .674 and he had significant defensive struggles in 2015. That combination is a WAR killer. Desmond has maintained his production in the bulk stats, home runs and stolen bases, but he has declined four straight seasons in the ratios, batting average/OBP/SLG/OPS.

I find it difficult to envision the Rays sacrificing the 13th overall pick in next years Amateur Draft, which is what it will cost them to sign Desmond, or any meaningful amount of money to sign a free agent. I also can't envision Desmond accepting a one-year deal or the Rays agreeing to anything more than three. I never said Desmond didn't have some risk attached, but that is why he is such a potential deal for a team willing to step up and take a chance.

Yoenis Cespedes: New York Mets - LF/CF

The Cespedes contract is one of the better ones I have seen in a long time because it makes great sense for both the payer and the club and as we all know, "sense" and "baseball" are rarely partnered in any story about sports. Cespedes will receive $27.5 million in the first year ($17 million salary and $10 million signing bonus) and he can opt out for a bigger, longer contract, making it a one-year deal. The fans won't be happy if Cespedes leaves after 162 games, but if you could read the Wilpons minds I bet they would be happy. There is no such thing as a bad one-year contract and at worst, this is a three-year commitment for $75 million, making it a very manageable signing for the Mets as well.

My issue: one of the rumors swirling around Boston before the Red Sox traded Cespedes to the Tigers was that he refused to learn a new position and that he refused to play right field. The Mets signed him for the pop and in doing so they are going to have to settle for him as their centerfielder most nights. In 2015 Conforto only had 14 at-bats against left handed pitching so we can expect defensive whiz Juan Lagares to get a lot of those at bats, but if the Mets are going to get the offensive boost that they need Conforto/Granderson/Cespedes will have to play at least 125-130 games.

Cespedes had a 4.0 WAR with the Tigers when he played left field and a 2.7 WAR. In a smaller sample size with the Mets he played both left field and center field, resulting in a full season WAR of 6.7. He had the third best UZR rating (18.8) in baseball according to Fangraphs - Jason Heyward was 20.2 while Andrelton Simmons was 17.3.

The advanced metrics suggest that he can roam centerfield just fine, but the anecdotal evidence and the eye test (remember the inside the park home run when he stood in left field watching the game with the rest of us while  Blake Swihart circled the bases and the flub in the World Series against the Royals?) make me wonder. How does 100-120 games in centerfield impact his offensive output and WAR? The contract looks good as long as Cespedes doesn't become a bust, but it looks like the Mets are attempting to squeeze a square peg in to a round hole here. I can't make a good argument for a Desmond/Murphy/Lagares middle over a Cabrera/Walker/Cespedes one because I liked the Todd Walker trade and I am not a Daniel Murphy believer. Congratulations to the Wilpons, they rented themselves 12-14 months before Mets fans demand their head on a spike because Cespedes opted out. See you in this Blog then.

Yovani Gallardo: SP - Free Agent

In 2015 he had an impressive 3.24 ERA, but his 1.42 Whip screams lucky so I looked inside the numbers. Gallardo ranked 24th in baseball with a ground ball percentage of 49.3% and a HR/FB ratio of 8.8%, the best of his career. He did that in Globe Life Park in Arlington, which ranked fifth in runs scored and 12th in home runs allowed amongst major league parks.

I dread the thought of sacrificing a first round Amateur draft pick to sign Gallardo, but his GB% was in line with his career numbers and getting away from Miller Park in Milwaukee did wonders for his HR/FB rate. Teams could do much worse for a third or fourth starter and at an affordable number and reasonable years. He is worth a Compensation round or second round Amateur draft pick.

Nutritious Nuggets of Humor

* Phil Rogers of told a great story about Harry Carey on MLB Networks morning show "Hot Stove" today. Carey kept a detailed journal because of rumors that meals and drinks might be tax deductible. I don't know what is funnier, to think that Harry Carey spent up to an hour or more per day detailing his life on the oft chance that his "three martini lunches" may be tax deductible or that he drank so much that the tax deduction could be significant. Brings a different perspective to his slurvy, around the horn and back again way of broadcasting baseball.

The Nutritious Nugget: At one point Harry Carey spent 288 straight days in a bar or restaurant. Great stuff. If you aren't watching "Hot Stove" you are missing out. Likeable sidekick Harold Reynolds, the goofy @LaurenShehadi, the hilarious and edgy Matt Vasgersian and the extremely informative @Ken_Rosenthal bring an informative and entertaining 120 minutes of baseball and social media barbs. It's worth the DVR space.

The MLB Wrap Around Podcast Series

My Wrap Around MLB Podcast series is moving along to Tampa Bay and then the Washington Nationals. Here are the AL East Team Podcasts we have completed along with the links to listen to them.

New York Yankees w/ Sirius XM Radio host George Kurtz:

Boston Red Sox w/ CSNNE Writer Sean McAdam:

Baltimore Orioles w/ Sirius XM Radio Host Lenny Melnick:

Toronto Blue Jays w/ Editor Ben Nicholson-Smith:

Some things on the back burner:

** Percolation Nation **

* Rich Hill: Best 2015-2016 off-season signing

* Troy Tulowitzki: From Colorado to Canada

* The Designated Hitter

* MLB Expansion and the Montreal Expos

* The third time through- the next Sabermetric trend

* Coors Field - It's worse than PED's

Chris Mitchell is a staff writer for, a Contributing writer for, SBNation's and He also hosts two Podcasts: "A Podcast To Be Named Later" and "The RotoExperts Fantasy Sports Show" that formerly aired on the Fantasy Sports Television Network (FNTSY). You can find him on Twitter @CJMitch73.