Here's another interesting rumor as the winter meetings draw to a close. The last 24 hours have been wild, as the Mariners dodged a Matt Kemp bullet as well as overpaying for Yoenis Cespedes, as both outfielders are headed to San Diego and Detroit, respectively. That leaves the Mariners still searching for their right fielder, but everything has been quiet on the Melky Cabrera front for a number of days, as well as Alex Rios, or anyone else for that matter.
Instead it's Ian Desmond who has been mentioned, who's an intriguing rental. Desmond, 29, has just one year remaining on his deal at $11 million, and has reportedly declined a nine-figure extension from the Nationals, leaving him to hit a ripe free agent market after the 2015 season. Desmond has seen his offense decline each of the past two years, finishing 2014 with a 108 wRC+, .175 ISO, and a whopping 28.2% K rate. Despite the decline and semi-glaring red flags in strikeouts and contact rate -- his O-Contact% plummeted to 53.5% -- Desmond still finished with a 4.1 win season, his third straight year of 4 wins or more.
Desmond continues to be a plus defender at best and an average one at worse, and while the offensive profile causes some pause, there's minimal risk of a total collapse in 2015. Steamer isn't so kind, projecting Desmond for a 2.9 win season after surely taking some of the previously noted declines into consideration.
This is what we know so far.
Shortstop is a position of great depth for the Mariners, an absolute luxury in today's game. I've mentioned this before, but despite Brad Miller's awful first half, the Mariners still managed 3 wins out of the position, thanks to a second half surge from Miller and Chris Taylor's solid debut. Miller is a clear candidate for positive regression, while Taylor could see his .394 BABIP come back to earth. Is it far-fetched to suggest both could combine for 3 wins yet again? If Steamer projects Desmond for 2.9 wins, moving Miller for Desmond could actually result in a lateral move. In theory.
Then again, there is value in reliability, especially in a year when the Mariners are clearly going for it. And as much as we like Brad MIller around here, he's undoubtedly part of a position that could be a major problem for the Mariners. There's little question that Desmond locks down shortstop, so why wouldn't the Mariners be interested? It's a concern from our end too, which is why we've suggested Ben Zobrist before, and (spoiler alert) will suggest him again in a few days.
If the Mariners could find a way to hold onto Brad Miller in exchange for Desmond, then I have some mild interest. He's without question an intriguing rental, and despite Miller's upside, we are all now very aware of his downside.
There's not much more to discuss now until we know the proposed cost, if there is any. Perhaps the Mariners found anything centering around Miller to be a non-starter, or maybe they're still holding one of Miller or Taylor to use in a trade that isn't for another shortstop. After all, that would make a whole lot more sense.
In general, the discussion about renting players is a tricky, uncomfortable one. It only feels worth it if the Mariners get to the playoffs, and even then, if they fall short in a single wild card game, was it worth losing 5 years of control for somebody like Chris Taylor? Taijuan Walker? Boiling it down to 5 years for 1 game makes the skin crawl. But that's how it's done by many, and the way the Mariners are now structured around Cano and Cruz, they're likely going to be one of those teams.
I have a feeling a rental is coming, and the cost will represent a new philosophy that will make a lot of us squirm. The rebuilding era is over. It's going to get weird.