Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.com reported Sunday evening that José Reyes accepted a 6-year, $106 million deal with the Miami Marlins. That's one whole heck of a lot of money in a state without income tax. This obviously changes the market for shortstops quite a bit.
Only one Type A Free Agent shortstop remains, Jimmy Rollins. Rollins was the NL MVP in 2007, but has posted disappointing numbers since. In the last 4 years, his slash line is .261/.325/.412. After that, the market consists of candidates that are far less impressive: Alex Gonzalez, Rafael Furcal, Yuniesky Betancourt, and Alex Cora, among others.
As a result of Reyes' huge contract and a weak market otherwise, trade interest in shortstops may significantly increase for teams that still have a need for one. One thing that the Washington Nationals have no shortage of, though, is talent at shortstop. Ian Desmond has been the team's starting SS for 2 seasons, filling the role admirably for the departed Cristian Guzman (remember him?). Though his defense got much better in 2011, his OBP somehow got worse. He reached base at just a .298 clip, which is far, far below league average; his OPS+ was just 80. He struck out 139 times. It's certainly nothing like what you'd hope to see from someone that hits near the top of the order, which is another need for the organization.
The Nats do have options to fill in at short should Desmond depart. Many called for Danny Espinosa to take over for Desmond throughout the 2011 campaign, and he would certainly move over there if Desmond was moved this offseason. There is no doubt that Espinosa would be a marked defensive improvement over Desmond, and his .323 OBP isn't ideal, but it's a full 25-points better than Desmond's. This would leave Steven Lombardozzi to take over for Espinosa at second base the season after Lombo earned the 2011 Position Player of the Year in the Nationals minor league system. The team could do worse.
Because of an unbelievably weak Free Agent market for shortstops, this could benefit the Nationals in several ways. The Nats could finally have a trade chip for the CF they've been coveting for years. Desmond would have to be part of a package that included some minor league talent, but the Nationals could conceivably come away with something significant, like BJ Upton of the Tampa Bay Rays, an organization in need of a shortstop.
The Nationals are no longer in the building phase, they've moved on and should be ready to make a splash this season. The Marlins just made that a lot harder in an already difficult NL East by signing Heath Bell as their closer and José Reyes as their shortstop. Who's to say they won't go out to grab either Mark Buehrle or CJ Wilson before all is said and done? The Nats have to stay competitive by making moves to make their club better now, or else the future may pass them by.
This is a hard one. This is what GMs are paid big money for, to make tough decisions. We all saw Desmond finish the year strong after a bad season overall. It would seem like he will come back and have a better season. But it is true that his value is higher now than it has ever been before. I'm as close to 50-50 on this as possible. I'm more in favor of having "home-grown" players in our clubhouse, and Davey Johnson loves Ian Desmond. I'm just not sure we can get someone better. I keep hearing about B.J Upton, and I don't like the idea of bringing him to the National league, I think he would struggle. I think either way, we are on track to do something special next year. The "dream teams" like the Miami Heat and the Maimi Marlins want will backfire.
Seeing as Desmond does not factor into the Nat's long term plans (at least I hope not...hard to justify a 4/1 SO/BB ratio and sub-300 obp without significant power), it would be great if they could get value for him now. Unless he has a great year this year, his value will only diminish in the future as he ages and reaches arbitration. A team could do a lot worse than Desmond as a utility infielder, but if that same UI can be traded in a package for a long-term starter, who wouldn't do it?