Mariners linked to Ian Desmond

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports tweeted this afternoon that the Seattle Mariners and Washington Nationals have discussed Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond on “multiple occasions” and that Washington “likes” Mariners shortstop Brad Miller.

A six-year veteran, Desmond has won the Silver Slugger award each of the last three years although his offensive numbers showed decline in 2014. He led all major league shortstops with 24 home runs and 91 RBI. But, his batting average (.255), on-base percentage (.313) and slugging percentage (.430) were his lowest since 2011. On top of that, he struck out a career-high 183 times; fourth highest in the majors leagues.

Despite his offensive decline in 2014, the right-handed hitter would still provide a significant upgrade over the 2014 tandem of Miller and/or Chris Taylor. The 29-year-old posted a 4.1 fWAR last year; third best in the majors. The Mariners shortstop platoon contributed a combined 2.8 fWAR. Also, Desmond averaged 23 stolen bases during the past four seasons, more than twice as many than any projected 2015 Mariners starter posted in 2014.

Desmond has been a durable performer who only has one stint on the disabled list during his career, when he missed 25 games in 2012 due to an oblique strain.  Otherwise, one-time all star hasn’t missed more than two games in any season and has averaged 156 games during the last two years.

If acquired by Seattle for Miller, Desmond would certainly supplant the 24-year-old Taylor as the Mariners’ starting shortstop. In Washington, he primarily batted fifth; playing 87 games in the fifth spot and 37 games in the sixth spot in the lineup during the 2014 season.

Desmond, who reportedly rejected a seven-year/$107 million contract extension last off-season, is in the final year of two-year/$17.5 million contract and will be a free agent after the 2015 season. Since General Manager Jack Zduriencik has repeatedly stated his reluctance to trade players with multiple years of club control for a one-year player, it’s difficult to imagine Seattle giving up Miller (who can’t become a free agent until 2020) for a one-year player.

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