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Astros: Make a Play for Ian Desmond?

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Sep 30, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers center fielder Ian Desmond (20) makes a catch in the second inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 30, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers center fielder Ian Desmond (20) makes a catch in the second inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports /
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Offense may not be the Astros primary concern this offseason. But if the opportunity arises to improve the lineup, it may be wise to explore each avenue.

Whenever your lineup features the likes of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and George Springer, the offense is already in steady hands. Then you have to account for Yulieski Gurriel, Evan Gattis, and Alex Bregman.

But why stop there? Say if a certain hitter that could add another potent bat to an already impressive lineup, why not pursue it?

The hitter I have in mind is none other than Ian Desmond. You know, the guy that the Texas Rangers signed last year to a deal that became all reward, no risk?

The former Washington National had a rebound season in 2016. In fact, he was one of the primary reasons that the Rangers offense performed well in light of the sudden retirement of Prince Fielder and the injury of Shin-Soo Choo.

2016 statistics: .285/.335/.446, 106 wRC+, 21 HR

2015 statistics: .233/.290/.384, 83 wRC+, 19 HR

However, here is a word of caution: the 2016 season splits.

In 2016, Desmond started off strong for the Rangers. His wRC+ in the first half was an impressive 138. But his wRC+ in the second half of the season was a mere 65. Any team interested in his services will surely examine his second half with an eagle’s eye.

While that doesn’t exactly help Desmond’s leverage with any team that is wanting to acquire his services, it won’t greatly hamper his cause. Some team out there, even the Astros, could ignore what was a blip on the radar.

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Here is one interesting statistic that could help Desmond’s case even more: a 145 wRC+ in high leverage situations this past season. Just some food for thought.

Overall though, the numbers improved for Desmond in his possibly lone season with Texas. And that alone could lead to a big payday.

Of course, the Astros cannot even dare to think about signing Desmond to such a discount of $8 million. The veteran infielder now has left and center field on his resume. And he appeared to have regain his hitting touch. That is an attractive skill set to have in such a barren free agent market.

The ability to play multiple positions all over the field should appeal to the Astros. After all, the team’s outfield outside of Springer was one of the least productive in baseball. And while there are talented outfielders in the minor leagues and active roster, the possibility of an immediate contributor next season in both left and center field is rather slim.

So why not hedge your bets with Desmond?

A -4 DRS is not that encouraging, the narrative on Desmond’s defense was one of promise and stability. His glove won’t make you forget about Jake Marisnick in center field though. But he is adequate enough.

From a on the field perspective, the act of pursuing Desmond seems like a rather logical one. He can slide in to help to fill the roles of what Colby Rasmus and Carlos Gomez were meant to be for the Astros.

But there are two caveats with signing Desmond for the Astros: compensation to the Rangers and the money required to attract him to Houston.

The fact that the Rangers extended a qualifying offer to Desmond makes the situation with any prospective team interesting to watch. For example, the Astros would had to sacrifice their first round pick (16th overall) to sign Desmond. And the kicker is that the pick would go to Texas, arguably Houston’s chief rival today.

Then there is the issue of money, which is always a concern with the Astros. In fact, it is possible that Desmond earns anywhere from $12-$15 million annually on a three to five year contract. Will Houston’s ownership group want to fork over that much money to a player that is already 31-years old?

Next: Astros: Contingency Plan for the Outfield

These are all valid concerns for Houston. However, the opportunity is there to improve the club and overtake the Rangers in the AL West. And what better way than poaching one of your rival’s top players?

**Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs**

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