The San Diego Padres are having ongoing discussions with the agent for free-agent shortstop Ian Desmond, according to major-league sources. While there’s a natural fit between the parties, no deal appears close — yet.
Two months into the offseason, the position-player sector of the free-agent market remains a multimillion-dollar staring contest. For those growing weary of the wait, it’s encouraging that the most logical scenario in the entire industry — Desmond to San Diego — remains alive.
Desmond hit 88 home runs over the past four seasons, 17 more than the majors’ next-highest full-time shortstop, Troy Tulowitzki.
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Over the same span, the Padres scored the second-fewest runs in the big leagues. Only one player on the team’s current roster — outfielder Matt Kemp — hit more than 15 home runs in the majors last year.
The Padres’ incumbent shortstop, Alexi Amarista, had the worst OPS (.544) of any National League player with at least 300 at-bats in 2015. But San Diego general manager A.J. Preller wasn’t overly aggressive in pursuing Desmond in November and December for a simple reason: Demand from other teams in the shortstop market is virtually nonexistent.
The Chicago White Sox could upgrade over Tyler Saladino, who managed a .602 OPS in 68 games as a rookie last year. But the White Sox already added payroll this offseason at third base (Todd Frazier) and second base (Brett Lawrie), and are heavily involved in the free-agent outfield market. Chicago GM Rick Hahn has other offensive priorities and appears comfortable with Saladino’s glove at shortstop.
So unless another team gets creative — e.g., the St. Louis Cardinals moving Jhonny Peralta to first base — Desmond’s best opportunity to play shortstop every day will be in San Diego. Perhaps Desmond would move to another position for the right team and manager, but every game he’s started over the past six seasons has been at shortstop.
Desmond didn’t spend a career working toward free agency, with the idea that he’d need to change positions once he arrived. Surely, he knows what he wants. For better or worse, the Padres do, too.
● With so many free-agent alternatives still available at the position, this isn’t the optimal time to trade an outfielder. But look for the Milwaukee Brewers to move left fielder Khris Davis at the July non-waiver trade deadline, if not before then.
The Brewers are beginning a full rebuild under first-year general manager David Stearns, and Davis (with a powerful bat and manageable salary) is one of his best trade chips.
Since the start of the 2013 season, Davis is one of only two major leaguers to hit at least 60 home runs while playing in 325 or fewer games. The other is Jose Abreu.
● With Jonathan Papelbon projected to open the season as the Washington Nationals’ closer, the team is still trying to trade the man he displaced from the role, Drew Storen.
GM Mike Rizzo’s plan for Storen to set up for Papelbon soured almost immediately after last year’s trade deadline; Storen struggled to a 7.56 ERA following Papelbon’s arrival, and Papelbon’s season ended after he choked NL MVP Bryce Harper during a dugout fracas.
Storen is projected to earn $8.8 million in his final year of arbitration, according to MLBTradeRumors.com; that’s too expensive for a number of would-be suitors. But the Nationals don’t appear to have room for Storen’s salary or arm in their 2016 bullpen, after adding Shawn Kelley, Trevor Gott, Yusmeiro Petit and left-hander Oliver Perez this winter.
● The Los Angeles Dodgers now have only four left-handed pitchers in their projected starting rotation, after reaching agreement with right-hander Kenta Maeda.
But assuming Clayton Kershaw, Brett Anderson, Scott Kazmir and Hyun-jin Ryu remain healthy, the Dodgers could make a run at the single-season franchise record for games started by left-handed pitchers: 112, set in 1965, according to STATS LLC.
The most notable among those 112? Sandy Koufax’s perfect game on Sept. 9, one of his 41 regular-season starts in a year that concluded with his shutout of the Minnesota Twins in Game 7 of the World Series.