Ian Desmond, who signed a a five-year, $70 million deal with the Colorado Rockies last week, isn’t sure he’s ever played the position he’s just been signed to play.
“I can’t ever remember playing first,” he said at his introductory press conference Tuesday, when asked if he’d played the position at any level. “But I’m not going to use that. That doesn’t matter. I’m a big leaguer. I know what it takes to be prepared every day, and that’s what I’m going to do.”
The Rockies are banking on it. Colorado already has David Dahl in left field, Charlie Blackmon in center field, Carlos Gonzalez in right field and Gerardo Parra and Raimel Tapia ready to fill in as reserves. And the club already has home-run smashing youngster Trevor Story at shortstop.
That means Desmond is going to have to learn a position he’s played exactly zero games at in the big leagues. Desmond has already proven adept at switching positions in his eight-year MLB career, and he’s going to have to do it again. He was the Nationals’ shortstop for seven seasons, and then made the move to outfield with the Rangers a year ago.
“Last year I think was enough proof for me to believe in myself to do this,” Desmond said. “To not only learn to how to play left in the short term, then to transition to center field with no practice … I feel like I had a pretty successful time last year with a ton of help. And I believe that through conversations, they’re going to give me all help I need to be the best I can be here.”
Desmond and Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich also emphasized how Desmond’s athleticism and versatility could be valuable. Desmond hit 22 home runs and stole 21 bases last season, and he’s reached that 20-20 benchmark four times in his career. He’s also capable of sliding over to shortstop or one of the outfield spots if there are injuries or someone simply needs an off day.
“I want to be someone who the manager can look at and say, ‘Hey, this guy provides me with the best lineup I can have today,’” Desmond said. “So I’m going to work as hard as I can right now to be the best first baseman I can be, and also keep the other tools fresh as well.”
When news of the deal broke last week, some wondered if acquiring Desmond meant another deal — possibly trading away Blackmon or Gonzalez for pitching? — could be on the way. But Bridich downplayed that in the press conference.
“We signed Ian to be our first baseman,” Bridich said. “There’s been way too much conversation, there’s been way too much talking and planning for us to say otherwise right now. But there are certainly other priorities for this team as well. We’re focused on a lot of different things to make this team better. I don’t think our offseason is done yet. Our winter is not finished yet. But Ian is our first baseman.”
It’s an odd fit defensively. But the move does leave Bridich with cards to play down the road.
And in the meantime, adding Desmond to a lineup that already includes Blackmon, Lemahieu, Nolan Arenado, Gonzalez, Trevor Story and David Dahl is downright scary on paper.
“When you think about the talent and the athleticism in our infield with Ian playing first base,” Bridich said, “I think it’s significant and it’s exciting.”
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