Report: Nationals Nearly Traded Ian Desmond To Mets


Before the Tampa Bay Rays traded utility player Ben Zobrist and shortstop Yunel Escobar to the Oakland Athletics on Saturday, there was a rumored three-way deal between the Rays, New York Mets, and Washington Nationals that almost went down.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports and MLB Network reported Sunday night that the three teams were talking about a deal that would have sent Nationals’ shortstop Ian Desmond to the New York Mets. The Nats would have received the combination of Zobrist and Escobar with the Rays receiving some of the Mets’ upper-tier prospects.

It was reported that the Mets were the team who did not want to do this deal because of the Rays asking for starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard as one of the players on their list.

Another problem in this deal for the Mets is that Desmond is a free agent at the end of the year. While the team could have offered him a qualifying offer, it would have been tough for the organization to give up their top pitcher in the minors despite their need for an upgrade at shortstop over players such as Wilmer Flores and Ruben Tejada.

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Desmond has proven over the course of his career that he can hit the ball out of the park at Citi Field, a place better known for being a pitchers’ park. In 47 career games, the 29-year-old shortstop has hit .263 with nine home runs and 27 RBI’s. This includes seven RBI’s at Citi Field each of the last two seasons.

When you look at this proposed deal as a Nationals’ standpoint, it would have been a win for the organization and GM Mike Rizzo. While the team would give up one of their young core players in Desmond, he has turned down numerous extensions and it seems as if he is willing to test the free agent market at the end of the upcoming season.

We have discussed at length here on District On Deck about the benefits of getting Ben Zobrist as a player who could have filled needs at both second base and even in the outfield, depending on if anybody got hurt. Zobrist does only have one year left on his deal, but he does help the Nationals towards their goal of a World Series title in 2015. Plus, Escobar would have been a good piece for the Nationals to acquire.

The organization had to be familiar with Escobar from his first four years in the league with the Atlanta Braves. During that time period, he hit .291 and had a .368 on-base percentage. Last season, in Tampa Bay, the now 32-year-old shortstop hit .258 with seven home runs and 39 RBI’s. His fielding, however, has taken a hit in recent years. His 16 errors in 2014 were tied for fifth among all shortstops in baseball. 

You have to wonder if a move back to the NL East would have improved Escobar’s offensive production since he has hit barely over .250 each of the last three seasons in the AL East with the Blue Jays and Rays. Plus, Escobar signed a two-year extension for $12 million with a team option in 2017 back in April. Not to mention, the Nationals would not have had to give up A.J. Cole or Lucas Giolito in this deal, two of their top pitching prospects.

Mike Rizzo deserves credit for trying to pull off this kind of deal and it shows you that the team is willing to trade Desmond if it helps their team both now and in the future. With so many Nationals scheduled to hit free agency next offseason, Rizzo has to start deciding which ones he wants to extend and which could the team afford to lose. Could Desmond be on the latter end of that decision?