Get­ting some first aid

Rockies fill their cor­ner pocket with ver­sa­tile free agent Ian Desmond

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Pa­trick Saun­ders

na­tional har­bor, md.» The Rockies, usu­ally quiet at base­ball’s winter meet­ings, came out of hi­ber­na­tion Wed­nes­day to pull off a ma­jor sur­prise by reach­ing a con­tract agree­ment with freeagent out­fielder/in­fielder Ian Desmond, ac­cord­ing to ma­jor­league sources.

The Rockies in­tend to con­vert Desmond into a first base­man to fill one of the team’s big­gest voids, but he has the ver­sa­til­ity to play both the in­field and out­field.

Desmond, 31, agreed to a fiveyear, $70 mil­lion con­tract, pend­ing a phys­i­cal. Rockies gen­eral man­ager Jeff Bridich said Wed­nes­day night that he could not of­fi­cially con­firm the sign­ing be­cause there were pend­ing fi­nal de­tails to be worked out. Be­cause Desmond de­clined the Texas Rangers’ qual­i­fy­ing of­fer, the Rockies must for­feit their firstround (No. 11 over­all) pick in the 2017 draft.

Rockies all-star third base­man Nolan Are­nado was sur­prised — but pleased — by the news.

“I was shocked when I first heard, be­cause I didn’t think he was in our plan be­cause there weren’t any ru­mors about him, of stuff like that,” Are­nado said. “But I’m ex­cited to play with him. I’ve heard he’s cool and a great team­mate.

“I think some peo­ple had doubts about him, but he proved them wrong last year and had a good sea­son. I re­ally re­spect that.”

Desmond hit .285 with 22 home runs and 86 RBIs in 156 games for the Rangers last sea­son. An ath­letic, 6-foot-3, 215-pounder, Desmond throws and hits from the right side. He has pri­mar­ily played short­stop in his eight-year ma­jor-league ca­reer, but played in the out­field last sea­son with the Rangers.

He has never played first base in a ma­jor-league game. How­ever, Jayce Tin­gler, a for­mer Rangers out­field coach who has since moved into the front of­fice, said Desmond can make the tran­si­tion.

“The Rockies are get­ting a re­ally good all-around base­ball player. I mean re­ally good,” said Tin­gler, who helped Desmond tran­si­tion

from short­stop to out­field dur­ing spring train­ing last sea­son. “I was im­pressed with how smooth he moved from short to left field and cen­ter field. I think it’s a credit to his un­der­stand­ing of the game.”

Tin­gler said he thinks Desmond has “ter­rific strength, speed and hand-eye co­or­di­na­tion,” and then added: “In my 11 years of coach­ing base­ball, I would have to say Ian is one of my all-time fa­vorite peo­ple. He’s a great club­house guy. I want to stress those things.”

As a short­stop, Desmond rep­re­sented the Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als in the All-Star Game in 2012, a sea­son in which he bat­ted .292 with 25 home runs and 73 RBIs. He hit .280 with 20 home runs and 80 RBIs the next sea­son.

The Na­tion­als hoped to re­tain Desmond with a long-term deal, but he re­jected a sev­enyear, $107 mil­lion con­tract-ex­ten­sion of­fer that would have bought out the fi­nal two years of ar­bi­tra­tion el­i­gi­bil­ity. He even­tu­ally signed a one-year, $8 mil­lion deal with Texas.

Rockies gen­eral man­ager Jeff Bridich had tar­geted first base as a po­si­tion he wanted to up­grade this off­sea­son, say­ing he was “keep­ing all av­enues wide open” in his search. Bridich pre­vi­ously con­firmed that the Rockies had checked in on a num­ber of costly, high-pro­file first base­men, in­clud­ing free agents Mark Trumbo, Ed­win En­car­na­cion, Chris Carter and Mike Napoli.

Also, Bridich con­firmed that the Rockies had pre­lim­i­nary trade talks with the Chicago White Sox re­gard­ing slug­ging first base­man Jose Abreu.

In the end, the Rockies went with Desmond, a ver­sa­tile ath­lete who could play mul­ti­ple po­si­tions for Colorado, even though his main spot will be first base.

Bridich and Rockies owner Dick Mon­fort have said the Rockies would in­crease their pay­roll this sea­son. Colorado fin­ished the 2016 sea­son with a club-record $120.58 mil­lion pay­roll, but that still ranked 19th in base­ball.

Bridich also has re­peat­edly said he wants to up­grade the Rockies’ bullpen.

David J. Phillip, As­so­ci­ated Press file

Ian Desmond hit .285 with 22 home runs and 86 RBIs in 156 games for the Texas Rangers last sea­son.

Jeff Rober­son, As­so­ci­ated Press file

Ian Desmond, who throws and hits from the right side, has pri­mar­ily played short­stop in his eight-year ma­jor­league ca­reer, but he played in the out­field last sea­son with the Texas Rangers.

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