The Washington Nationals avoided arbitration and agreed to terms with shortstop Ian Desmond on Friday on a one-year, $3.8 million contract for the 2013 season, according to a source with knowledge of the agreement.
Desmond, who is coming off a career year in which he established himself as one of the best shortstops in the league, will get a nearly $3.3 million raise in his first year of arbitration.
Desmond set himself up for that handsome raise with a year that was among the best in baseball for his position. An All-Star selection, the Nationals’ shortstop hit .292 with 25 homers and a .511 slugging percentage despite missing nearly six weeks due to an oblique strain — which he played while battling for some time as well. He was also one of the team’s best players in their abbreviated postseason run, his first major league playoff experience.
The Nationals were thrilled to see him put everything together this season, a reward for the faith and patience they showed in him in previous seasons, even when some called for the Nationals to go another route and possibly trade him.
“Nobody’s untradeable,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo told The Washington Times just before the All-Star break for a feature story on Desmond. “But he was one of the core group of guys, and it would have taken a big, big time upgrade to trade him. This guy was a winner. A makeup player who was a big part of where we were going — and he would show you flashes of skills that it takes to be a guy that you’re going to build a team around, not a guy you’re going to get rid of.”
Asked to reflect on how far Desmond had come at that time, a few days after he was named to the All-Star team, Rizzo’s pride was obvious.
“How ‘bout that?” Rizzo said. “This is as good as it gets for an old player development guy like me.”
The Nationals and Desmond broached the topic of a multi-year extension at some point during the 2012 season but Desmond, preferring to focus on the task at hand, decided to halt the discussion until the offseason. The sides agreeing to the one-year terms on Friday does not mean they cannot still continue to explore a multi-year deal. Desmond, 27, will not be a free agent until after the 2015 season.