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Woody Paige: What were the Rockies thinking when signing Ian Desmond

Woody Paige: What were the Rockies thinking when signing Ian Desmond
Posted at 7:50 PM, Dec 08, 2016

DENVER -- Two national baseball commentators who I know and trust – Buster Olney and Jim Bowden – have termed the Rockies’ signing of free agent Ian Desmond a ”head-scratcher."

I respectfully disagree. Its’ a "hair-puller-outer."

Desmond is not a closer. He is not a first baseman. He is not the difference between a usual also-ran finish and the first division title in franchise history.

Desmond was a very good shortstop. He’s now a good converted center fielder.

What were the Rox thinking? Were the Rox thinking?

General manager Jeff Bridich just spent $70 million guarantee on a guy who will turn 32 next season and has a career batting average of .267 and an on-base percentage of .335. And they apparently will try to turn him into a home-run hitting first baseman when a.) he has never hit more than 25 home runs (2012) and b.) has never played first base.

Bridich is a Harvard graduate. I went to the University of Tennessee, which will never be designated the Harvard of the South. But Mutt feels he’s smarter than Jeff on this decision.

The Desmond Deal is the most ever disbursed by the Rockies on a free-agent position player. Owner/president Dick Monfort promised his dwindling season-ticket base the franchise would increase the payroll during the off-season.  People were sort of hoping that he would splurge on a quality relief pitcher, or three, and a legitimate veteran first baseman.

There had better be something else that would knock our Rox socks off.

I had proposed earlier in the week that the Rockies make a trade with the White Sox, who are having a close-out sell (sale!) on experienced players, as they have proven with pitcher Chris Sale and outfielder Adam Eaton.  Chicago is loading up with prospects to try to compete against the crosstown Cubs for attention.

I suggested the Rockies swap Carlos Gonzalez and his $20.4 million deal in 2017, and a couple of minor-leaguers for first baseman Jose Abreu and reliever Nate Jones, who is ready to be a big-boy closer. Colorado could slip David Dahl and Raimel Tapia into starting outfield spots.

They’re still stuck with Gerardo Parra, Bridich’s big bust signing last off-season.

The Rockies could have had Abreu when he first came from Cuba, but they underbid the White Sox by $5 million. All he’s done in three season is hit for average (.299) and hit homers (91) and drive in runs (308) while playing in 159 games last year. After upcoming arbitration, he’ll probably make $12 million next year – or $2 million less than Desmond. Jones, who had a 2.29 earned-run average in 71 appearances (5-3 record) as a reliever, will make $2 million.

Two for the price of one.

Or, consider this important fact: Mark Melancon signed as a free agent with the Giants for $68 million over four seasons. Melancon is the same age as Desmond. He is a closer, the Rox major need. He was born in Wheat Ridge. He played at Golden High School.  He knows how to pitch in altitude. And he’s had 178 saves in the past five seasons.

Melancon could have been signed for fewer seasons and less money than Desmond, The Man Without A Position.

And it would have been a tower. They get Melancon and keep him from a division rival. He probably gives San Francisco another playoff spot. And the Rockies don’t have a closer.

Oh, and this is critical, the Rockies will give up the 11th pick in the first round to the Rangers, Desmond’s last team.

It also should be remembered that after he was chosen to the All-Star team last year, Desmond’s numbers dropped significantly in the second half. And he was among the worst defensive center fielders in the National League.

There was loose talk Thursday that the Rockies might go after Chicago third baseman Todd Frazier and move him to first. He hit .225 the past season. The Rockies could have two players who aren’t first baseman, three if you count Parra (who was awful in his few tries last season), or four, if Cargo stays and occasionally moves to the infield.

And they still don’t have a closer, or a veteran starting pitcher.

Bridich always acts as if he is the wisest person in the room, just as his mentor Dan O’Dud thought. Bridich better wise up, this wise-acre thinks.

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