- The Washington Times - Monday, December 15, 2014

Ian Desmond has heard the trade rumors. He’s paying attention to free agent moves. He knows the Washington Nationals are going to do what they judge is best, and that may not include paying him a lucrative sum to continue as their shortstop.

Desmond, 29, arrived at NatsFest on Saturday with clarity, but not a new contract. He’s entering the final season of a two-year, $17.5 million deal after winning his third consecutive Silver Slugger Award at shortstop.

“That’s part of the business,” Desmond said. “The Nationals didn’t get here by sitting still. [General manager] Mike [Rizzo has] done a great job since Day One. He’s going to do what’s necessary, and if me being moved is part of that, so be it. As of right now, I’m here until 2015 and I’m doing everything I can to work as hard and be ready and prepared for 2015.”

Multiple reports have said Desmond turned down an extension last offseason that would have paid him around $90 million for five seasons. Desmond said Saturday there was nothing new to report about negotiations and joked with reporters that they would be the first to know.

“Look, this isn’t my first day on the job,” Desmond said. “I understand what’s going on. I wouldn’t respect Mike the way I do if he just sat on his hands and did nothing. That’s not how this organization got here and it’s not how it’s going to continue to move forward. Hopefully, I’m a part of it. If not, I’m going to still be rooting for them.”

One thing Desmond was unequivocal about was his desire to remain with the Nationals. Most free-agents-to-be say that about their current clubs, though many don’t have the legacy Desmond has with the Nationals. The club was still the Montreal Expos when it drafted him out of Sarasota (Fla.) High School in 2004.

“I’ve got family in this organization,” Desmond said. “I’ve got guys that I consider dad in this organization. I’ve got guys that are just like my brothers. I was 18 when I signed. I had like four armpit hairs. Now, I’ve got three kids. [Nationals bench coach] Randy Knorr has seen that every step of the way. You know what I mean? I mean, [head clubhouse attendant] Mike Wallace was showing me the ropes when I was a kid.

“This is an organization I’ve been with for a long time. Obviously, I want to be here and play here. Like I said this is a business. If I’ve got to go, it’s not going to affect the way I play. I’m still going to go out there and play as hard as I can, like I’ve been doing for the last 11 years.”

Desmond hit .255 last season, his lowest average in three years. His OPS declined for the second consecutive season. However, for the third consecutive season, he hit more than 20 home runs and stole more than 20 bases. The moderate dips at the plate, plus the playoff loss, left him irritated with certain aspects of last season.

“I think last year I did some good things,” Desmond said. “I’m pretty unsatisfied with a lot of other things. But, you know what? We made it to the postseason. We won the division. Individually, I got the Heart and Hustle Award, was a Roberto Clemente [Award] nominee, won my third-straight Silver Slugger. A lot of good things happened in a year I felt like was a pretty down year for myself.

“Sometimes, it starts spinning out of control and you can’t really stop it. That’s the way, for me at the plate, it was a lot last year, where I just couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do. I just kind of scuffled. Like I said, you scuffle all year and still win a Silver Slugger and play 150-something games and drive in 90 runs — I mean, I was hitting ninth a couple of years ago in the National League. I think those are some pretty easy things to swallow, considering a lot of people were ready for me to be out of here five years ago, saying I wasn’t able to hit. Now, I’ve won three straight Silver Sluggers. I’m excited about that.”

Desmond’s offseason has been filled with golf and fatherhood. Shortly after the playoffs, his third son was born. The newborn is sleeping well, Desmond said, which provides him with sleep.

New contract or not, it’s on to next season.

“Right now, basically, I’m just getting myself ready to have a good 2015,” Desmond said. “I’m looking forward to it. I’m anxious to get out there and play. The season didn’t end the way we wanted it to. I think that kind of left a bitter taste in a lot of our mouths.”

• Todd Dybas can be reached at tdybas@washingtontimes.com.

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