Nationals Baseball: A quick thought on re-signing Ian

Friday, February 26, 2016

A quick thought on re-signing Ian

With the recent Dexter Fowler return to Chicago, the idea of Ian Desmond returning has gotten more interest. I don't think the Nats will re-sign Ian. I think they probably have a budget that doesn't allow it. I think they have a plan in place for the rise of Trea Turner that they like. I think they are petty when guys decline their low, but within market value, deals. I think that they have some trepidation on whether the production that Ian would have would outpace Espinosa/Drew (I don't share this). I also think Ian probably has a multi-year deal waiting for him after the draft.

In short I'd be very surprised if he's came back.

Now would I re-sign Ian? Assuming it was a one-year deal and not expensive? Probably for the reason I noted. I think there is a good chance that he outperforms Espy/Drew. But it's not a slam dunk for me either and I don't even have all those other reasons to think about.

For me the question is about leadership. Not that Ian wasn't a good clubhouse leader, just that he was one at all. From the outside - this should have been Zimm's team, but he doesn't want it or have that in him. Other Nats who have been here a while ZNN, Stras, Ramos, Gio, Espy, they either didn't want it or play at a level that makes it hard for them to claim it. Werth seemingly wants it but has spent his time here flippantly breaking laws, undermining managers, and telling everyone how great he is, all while injuries force him into bi-polar episodes of play. Ian almost was a leader by default. Someone gets the mantle placed on him. But Ian didn't seem a forceful personality and didn't carry the team on the field. It was Ian's team but in the broad sense. It was a collection of good players who played well and, you know, maybe things work out for them in the end.

But now there is someone on the team who is a forceful personality and can carry the team. There is someone who seems to step up his game when it's important (and seeming to do this is the most important part - it's about perception). This should be Bryce Harper's team. He should lead the Nats in the clubhouse. The Nats should live and die with him.

By bringing Ian back you set the old ways back in place. Quiet, heads down, get it done and move forward. That's not a terrible thing, but when it hasn't quite produced results and you have a reasonable alternative... why go back?

I don't know. I'm not a player in the clubhouse. I'm not even a media guy who is there everyday and can take the temperature of the team. But from the outside looking in I say put a C on the Bryce's chest and run with that.

19 comments:

Puck_Fapelbon said...

Me and my son call grounders "desies" so definitely been a huge fan of his but last year was just plain hard to watch......it's hard to see an ex-Nat favorite hung out on the market because of the draft pick but this is protecting small market teams....Good luck Ian but looking I'm forward!!!! Trea Day!

blovy8 said...

Harper...are you, the soulless automaton, actually BUYING into this leadership thing? That captain stuff is for hockey. Every time I saw Jason Varitek with that C on his jersey, I started laughing.

Donald said...

While I like Ian, I'm pretty sure the Nats have moved on. While I agree that he would be better than Espinosa and Drew, we are hopefully only talking about a few months. I think Turner has the potential to add more value and you don't want him blocked. As for leadership, it'll be interesting to see who steps up. I think Scherzer is a leader, but I get the sense that pitchers and position players choose their own leaders. I wonder if there's any back story behind Bryce making a point of saying he isn't a leader this spring. Did he feel like the Papelbon incident was about veterans trying to put him in his place? If guys like Zimm and Werth didn't stick up for him over Papelbon, I could see him feeling that way.

Harper said...

PF - I think moving forward is the right call because by the start of 2016 this Nats team is going to resemble little of the 2012-2014 squad.

blovy8 - not buying into it as much as saying "I don't know, maybe", which is kind of my view on any "intangible". They exist. The impact is close to impossible to measure. So... try it if you feel like it. Mix things up. But you know, put a winning team on the field first.

Donald - yeah Scherzer seems to be that rotational leader with Gio hanging around as the crafty lefty vet. They definitely choose their leaders though and for all I know Bryce in the clubhouse doesn't show what he needs to. From outside though - he seems passionate, not distant, problematic, or disliked, and he's definitely great at baseball so it seems possible he could step into that void.

Harper said...

PF - I mean 2017. Time, it goes so fast.

Alan Wiecking said...

Nope, Dusty's already addressed the Royce as leader thing, saying that he's too young but could be that guy one day.

"How many people are going to follow the youngest kid in the room? And just because you're the most talented doesn't mean that you're the leader," Baker said Monday at Spring Training. "I don't think it's really fair to put that even on [Harper]. I think he has some good examples when he does take over a leadership role.

What's Michael Morse doing nowadays.......

Anonymous said...

Speaking of the "Royce" thing, am I the only one who saw that as an intentional jab at Bryce by Baker, bordering on open disrespect?

I find it just about impossible to believe that Baker actually thinks that Bryce Harper is "Royce" Harper. If he does, that's a very bad sign for us, because it could mean that his mind is already starting to go on him.

Harper said...

Alan - making leadership equate to age is dodgy especially when it doesn't line up with experience (Bryce's ML experience will fit squarely in the middle of the Nats roster). Plus it's not like there's a leader sitting there that Bryce would be jumping over. All the same guys + Revere and Murphy. But again - my two cents. Team has to decide.

Anon - Gotta put the rooks in their place. "But he's not a...." SHUT UP ROOK!

blovy8 said...

Clearly, Dusty wishes he had Royce Clayton instead of Harper. Far too much OPS on this team, what can he manage?

I guess Papelbon must be set up to be a 2016 leader. He makes a lot of money. He's played a long time. He established himself as the arbiter of the unwritten rule book almost immediately upon arrival. He's got an established, important role. He often gets to be the last guy the camera shows. He's the guy in spring training telling Gio to do the drill for covering first over again, which of course Gio's sure to forget about 10 times during the season anyway as is his custom. But leaders matter - until they embarrass everyone in public by acting the same way they do in private...

John C. said...

I read the "Royce" thing as most likely a slip of the tongue that has become a point of humor - an "in joke" kind of thing. One that Bryce is on board with and thinks is hilarious.

I also think that Bryce obviously defers to Werth and thinks that he IS a leader, no matter what internet commenters have to say about it. Bryce mentioned two players in his MVP acceptance speech - Desmond and Werth. From where I sit it seems like a fair number of fans (not all) have allowed their frustration with Werth's performance last year to piggyback on their frustration with his 2011 and with his salary to tar their perception of him in other contexts. Of course, he doesn't get much credit in those circles for bouncing between good and excellent in 2012-14, or for being regularly cited as a team leader by players, coaches and members of the Nats' organization.

Of course, I don't spend much time parsing tea leaves and/or projecting myself into a player's space and imagining hurt feelings. YMMV

On the main topic, I think that the Desmond ship has sailed for a variety of reasons. The Nats are committed to Zimmerman, Murphy and Rendon at three infield spots and have a stack of players (Turner; Espinosa; Drew; Difo) lined up for the sole remaining position. Is Desmond better than those options? Maybe. He's absolutely better than Drew or Difo, probably better than Espinosa - but of course the organization is committed to Turner as the SS of the future. And at what cost? It's not just the money, it's the other commitments, too. Desmond isn't going to accept a job where he has to fight for playing time, because it's only by being a starter that he will be able to re-establish his value. And to commit to Desmond the Nats have to believe that last year wasn't a continuation of a bad pattern. It would mean that the team has Drew and Espinosa on the bench with Robinson, Lobaton and MAT (they'd need the extra OF to be RH, which means MdD to AAA). Turner would have to go to AAA for essentially the whole season, because there's no point to him riding the pine, he's go to play. And if he's ready and Desmond struggles? The drama just isn't worth it for anyone concerned.

Anonymous said...

I guess that in sports, if most of your teammates think of you as a leader, then by definition you are one.

If Werth is that respected, then God bless him; I guess he has earned it. I do wish that he would act like more of a responsible leader more often though.

Alan Wiecking said...

I'm not sure that Bryce has made it to the point where he could pull another player aside and tell him to suck it up. Yet. By mid-season, maybe. Right now, that guy is still Werth (who would do it) and Zimm (who would probably be the most listened to). I don't believe youth enters into it because it's what the team perceives. Without question, Bryce is near the point of "paying his dues". If Bryce has a May like BRYCE, you'll hear Dusty talking about "that young buck, carrying the team, reminds me of when I had Barry Bonds only 20 years younger." Manage the expectations, look like a genius when you exceed them.

Flapjack said...

It could be that "Royce" is an oblique reference to Rolls (as in bankroll). This offseason young Harper put his foot in it by suggesting speculation about a $400MM extension (roughly three times annual team payroll) sold him short. Baker had to have noticed that. Whatever charitable interpretations we might want to put on Harper's remarks, it was not an example of selflessness. He's is out to set personal records. At this point of his career, he's no more a leader than Bonds was.

Desmond, who also had visions of big contracts, turned out to be something less that what he imagined. Faced with a payday walk year, he came apart. Amid the ruin of season crushing injuries to key players, Ian stood out as a paragon of physical (as opposed to mental) health. He led by the wrong example. Rizzo probably regards Desmond as a (head) case closed.

Royce starts this season carrying the weight of heavy expectations. He carries that weight like a young Tiger. Any manager would love to have him. But if my star player was running off at the mouth about big money, I'd (gently) ridicule him too.

Weav said...

Ian has been on the decline for 4 years. He is a good guy, and was a good Nat.. But please, he is the worst SS in the NL..Maybe MLB. I got so tired of hearing about how awful he is in April/May. He has no eye at the plate and swings at balls so far out of the strike zone. Guys on the local radio shows say the can`t understand why he has not been signed. Its because of what I just wrote. He hit .233 last year and led the league in errors. I heard Texas is interested but not at SS..Outfield. He will play somewhere and I wish him luck. He is a very wealthy man, even if his playing days were at an end, but they are not.

Ryan DC said...

"But please, he is the worst SS in the NL..Maybe MLB." [citation needed]

Anonymous said...

My question about Ian is how he'll adjust to those sliders down and away. He knew they were coming, couldn't stop himself from swinging at them, and couldn't hit them. That's the major question I'd have if I were with a team thinking about signing him.

Froggy said...

Personally happy for Ian and hope he crushes it with the Rangers. Ian is a great athlete and think they got a deal @ $8MM as a super-utility infielder and can easily learn LF if needed.

Good luck to the Last Expo!

Anonymous said...

So, we can finally end the pity party now, right?

Ric said...

@Flipjack: Royce starts this season carrying the weight of heavy expectations. He carries that weight like a young Tiger. Any manager would love to have him. But if my star player was running off at the mouth about big money, I'd (gently) ridicule him too.

This is what happens all the time to Harper, and frankly, it drives me ape shit. When did Harper run off on the mouth about big money? Answer: never.

Harper gave a 10-minute radio interview to Grant Paulsen. Go listen to the full interview; it is available online. I listened to the whole interview live, and again just now to make sure I wasn't mistaken. The guy goes the entire 10 minutes saying the same thing in 40-something different ways. I love being in DC. DC is home. What I like most was when asked what personal accomplishment he as most proud of last season, he answered, "staying healthy."

Then 8:50 into the interview, he was asked "At one point in time baseball executives said you could be the first $400 million player. Do you ever think about your future and what’s possible, in terms of you could break records for the money you make at one point in time?" Harper replied, "I don’t really think about that stuff. I just try to play the years out and do everything I can to help my team win,. But don’t sell me short. That’s what you’re doing right now to me, so don’t do that.” The "don't sell me short" refers to his current salary. The then went on another 60 seconds about playing well, the good team around him, and loving DC.

Every headline: "Bryce Harper: Don't sell me short"

Harper wasn't referring to $400 million selling him short. He was referring to his 2015 salary of $2.5 million as selling him short.