Thursday, September 8, 2011

Why Ian Desmond is the Brewers' answer at SS

by Luke Hoeppner

Milwaukee Brewers starting shortstop, Yuniesky Betancourt makes $4MM this season and has a team option for next year at $6MM with a $2MM buyout.  I propose the Brewers attempt to trade for Washington Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond and buyout Betancourt next season.

Today, Stephen Lombardozzi is starting at 2B for the Nationals.  I bring this up because he's supposed to be their everyday 2B next year and they plan to move Danny Espinosa to SS, his natural position.  There are reports that the Nats are interested in trading Desmond and I don't think the Brewers would have to give up that much.  Its not going to take a Brett Lawrie to get him...perhaps like a prospect ranked 5-10 in our system. 

Ian Desmond makes $441,500 this season.  He's arbitration eligible for the first time next season and doesn't hit free agency until 2016 meaning he's under team control for the next 4 years.  So far this season, Desmond has 7 HR, 39 RBI, 53 runs, and 22 SB while hitting .244/.291 in 547 PA.  In 2010, Desmond hit .269/.308 while playing an entire season.  Betancourt has 10 HR, 56 RBI, 45 runs and 2 SB while hitting .259/.288 in 517 PA this season.  So basically, Betancourt has slightly more power and Desmond has significantly more SB.  I think the differences in RBI and R are mostly a reflection of spot in the batting order (Desmond has hit leadoff among other spots, whereas Betancourt has hit 6th or toward the bottom most of the season).  Desmond seems capable of hitting around .250-.270, 8-10 HR, and 25 SB.  Plus, he's only 26 so there is upside here.  This is only Desmond's 2nd full year in the majors.  Perhaps he peaks in the next year or two and manages to hit .270-.280, 15 HR, and 30 SB. 

Next, let's look at defense.  UZR (ultimate zone rating) is a common metric for defense.  Betancourt has a UZR of -8.9 this season compared to Desmond's -2.3.  However, Betancourt has committed 17 errors in 1127 innings compared to Desmond's 22 errors in 1137 innings.  While Desmond isn't known as a great defensive SS, he at least won't be any worse than Betancourt defensively.  Given Desmond's superior UZR and roughly similar number of errors, one would expect Desmond to be a modest defesive upgrade over Betancourt.

I think Desmond would be a much cheaper option with some nice upside.  Also, he'd provide some speed for the Brewers.  Given his low OBP, I don't think he projects as a leadoff hitter, but he'd fit nicely toward the bottom of our lineup.  The Brewers should buyout Betancourt for $2MM and trade for Ian Desmond.

See you in another life, brotha!

1 comment:

  1. That would be beautiful. Yuni is a stopgap/journeyman SS but a trade like this could solidify the Crew's Infield despite the (expected) loss of Prince Fielder.