Should the Reds Pursue Ian Desmond?


After missing out on possibly acquiring Yunel Escobar, could the Cincinnati Reds look to the nation’s capitol in one last push to find an upgrade at the shortstop position? Entering the last year of his contract, it has become increasingly obvious that the Washington Nationals are looking to trade Ian Desmond and Cincinnati could be the perfect match.

Acquiring Desmond would be a move for the Reds in the same mold as their trade for Marlon Byrd earlier this offseason – one last ditch effort to win big in 2015 before the drastic overhaul comes next season. Such a move would not only provide more legitimacy to the Reds lineup, but it would also excite the fanbase – something the Reds are in need of following a lackluster 2014 season and trading away one of the team’s most popular players this offseason.

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While Zack Cozart‘s defense is far superior to that of Desmond, it is the offensive aspect of the potential move that increases the tantalizing possibilities. The Reds have had one of the best defenses in all of baseball over the past four years, without anything in the postseason to show for it. An offensive focus could be exactly what turns the tide for the team in 2015.

Though both are 29 years old, Desmond has played five full seasons in the majors compared to three by Cozart. During that time, Desmond has made a name for himself as one of the premier offensive shortstops in the game while Cozart has become synonymous with his defensive prowess.

Here is how the two shortstops compare offensively:

2014 Average: Desmond .255, Cozart .221

Career Average: Desmond .270, Cozart .243

Career OBP: Desmond .317, Cozart .281

Career SLG: Desmond .431, Cozart .365

Career Home Runs: Desmond 91 (17.4 per season), Cozart 33 (10.3)

Career RBI: Desmond 370 (71.6 per season), Cozart 139 (45.3)

Before trading for Desmond, the Reds must first decide if they can afford the shortstop’s $11 million salary. As the Phillies did with Byrd, Washington might be more inclined to include financial assistance if the Reds opt to send a stronger package of prospects in return.

So what would it take for the Nationals to ship Desmond to Cincinnati? Considering that six of the Reds top 10 prospects are right handed pitchers (according to Baseball America), that would be a likely talking point throughout trade discussions. A package that included Cozart and Nick Howard could be enough to get the deal done, though Washington could demand another lower-level prospect in return for covering part of Desmond’s salary.

If we are thinking optimistically, it is conceivable that the Nationals would be interested in acquiring Brandon Phillips in the Desmond deal to allow Escobar to transition back to his native position of shortstop. It might seem like wishful thinking, but the Nationals would have a need if they traded Desmond – unless they have complete faith in Danny Espinosa. Likewise, Washington ownership has shown the willingness to spend the money necessary to improve their team, and absorbing the current contract of Phillips would be within their possibilities.

As we recently pointed out, Cozart’s defense is highly valued in Cincinnati. However, the Reds’ patience may be growing thin in terms of his ability to produce at the plate. By acquiring Desmond, the Reds would immediately have an upgrade in a lineup that would instantly be void of any “easy outs.” In addition, Cincinnati would also have a more productive option at short before the Eugenio Suarez era begins in the Queen City.

While it may seem like a stretch that the Reds would entertain the idea of acquiring a player such as Desmond, owner Bob Castellini‘s desire to put forth a successful (and profitable) product in 2015 is reason enough to believe that Cincinnati could make such a move. With all eyes falling on Cincinnati as they host the All Star Game this season, Castellini can’t afford to have an embarrassment on the field and Desmond would go a long way towards ensuring the Reds’ improvement over a dreadful 2014 season.