Washington Nationals' Future Plans At Short? Does Ian Desmond Get Another Year, Or Do The Nats Explore Options?

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 11: Ian Desmond #6 of the Washington Nationals celebrates with teammates after scoring in the sixth inning against the Houston Astros at Nationals Park on September 11, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

Last week it was New York Post baseball writer Joel Sherman who wrote that the Washington Nationals come up often when he talks to baseball officials about possibile destinations for soon-to-be free agent Jose Reyes. "When I ask officials around the sport for a list of teams they imagine being players for [Jose] Reyes," Mr. Sherman wrote, "the Nationals are routinely in the discussion, especially since their current shortstop, Ian Desmond, has regressed this year." Signing Reyes would surely create the same sort of splash the Nationals did on the eve of the Winter Meetings last year when they signed Jayson Werth to a shocking 7-year/$126 million dollar deal. 

FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal, however, in an article today entitled, "A though for J-Roll", says that the deal with the former Phillies' outfielder may cause the Nats to take a more cautious approach this winter, since, "... they overreached with Jayson Werth last winter and at some point need to extend third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who only is under contract through 2013." 

Mr. Rosenthal does mention Jose Reyes, along with Prince Fielder, as names the Nats could consider this winter, with the possibly of signing Reyes contingent upon the Nationals making a decision on Ian Desmond's future, "... either trading him or making him a super-utility man," though Mr. Rosenthal acknowledges that, "Desmond, after a horrible start, has batted .286/.358/.433 since July 5." But the other possibility the bow-tied FOXSports.com suggests the Nats might consider is a former teammate of Werth's from Philadelphia: 

"Then again, if the Nationals set their sights lower, perhaps Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins would be a target. Rollins, who turns 33 on Nov. 27, has bounced back offensively and figures to remain with the Phillies, who lack an internal replacement. But the Nats would benefit from Rollins’ defense and leadership, too." 

Rollins is 33. Reyes turned 28 this year. The Phillies' shortstop is in the last year of a 6-year deal that pays him $8.5M in 2011. While there was talk earlier this year about Reyes getting Carl Crawford money, SI.com's Jon Heyman, in an article earlier this summer entitled, "No sign Reyes wants Crawford money, but Mets star will get paid", wrote that, "Five competing baseball executives interviewed about Reyes' value as a free agent ran the gamut on their guesses for Reyes' eventual take, from $45 million for three years to about $108 million for six." 

Reyes, who's played 112 games so far, as he's once again dealt with different injuries this season, has the highest AVG (.332), second-best OBP (.375) and second-best SLG (.489) amongst NL shortstops. The Mets' SS is tied with Troy Tulowitzki atop the NL with 142 wRC+, is second overall with a .379 wOBA, has the second-highest BABIP (.350), but the third lowest UZR/150, -5.2, to Desmond's -5.1 and Rollins' +4.2. Reyes has the third-most errors, 18, to Desmond's second-best in the NL, 22, (Rollins has made just 5), with the National League's second-highest WAR (+5.1) to Desmond's +0.8 and Rollins' +3.6.

Rollins, in his 12th MLB season, has a .267/.341/.400 slash this season to Desmond's .244/.290/.354, but the Nats' shortstop is three years younger than Reyes, eight years younger than Rollins, and has turned things around some in the second-half offensively. Does Desmond get another year to put it all together at the major league level, or should the Nats pursue one of the sure-to-be-expensive shortstop options available this winter?

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