If Desmond won’t stay for $90 million, Nats need to start shopping

Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond reportedly could have had a six- or seven-year deal worth up to $90 million, but he turned it down.

Evan Habeeb/Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Turn down $90 million, and it’s probably safe to assume that your team is going to start looking for a potential replacement.

The Nats are actively seeking to add a young shortstop, one who could inherit the position if Ian Desmond departs as a free agent after 2015, major league sources say.

Desmond, 28, rejected the Nationals’ offer of a lengthy extension last offseason, settling instead for a two-year, $17.5 million contract that will expire after next season.

The offer was seven years for more than $85.5 million, according to The Washington Post’s Thomas Boswell, at least six years for $80 million to $90 million, according to CBSSports.com‘s Jon Heyman.

The numbers might even have been higher — as high as seven years, $98 million, according to one source. But Desmond, at least for the moment, apparently prefers to test the open market.

Infielder Danny Espinosa, under club control through ’17, could take over short if Desmond bolts. Espinosa, though, is a career .228 hitter with a .688 OPS, motivating the Nats to pursue other alternatives.

"We have an exceptional shortstop, and we’d like to keep him," one club official said. "We’re not going to discuss who we’re looking at, and we’re always looking for all sorts of good young players."

Catcher Sandy Leon, outfielder Steven Souza and infielder Zach Walters are among the major-league-ready prospects whom the Nationals could dangle for a shortstop.

The Nats probably would be less inclined to move pitchers such as right-handers Lucas Giolito and A.J. Cole, considering that the team is in the same position with righty Jordan Zimmermann as it is with Desmond, dealing with a potential free agent after 2015.

General manager Mike Rizzo, before signing Zimmermann to a two-year, $24 million contract last winter, said he would consider trading the pitcher if the two sides could not come to an agreement.

The Nationals almost certainly would not trade Desmond or Zimmermann while contending for a postseason berth. But they could entertain offers for one or both this offseason as the two enter their free-agent years.

In the meantime, the Nats are not going to sit still. They’re looking for a young shortstop. They cannot count on keeping Desmond.