The Rockies have been in the news more than usual in the past few weeks, huh?. Making some more MLB breaking news, Rockies outfielder Ian Desmond recently announced on his Instagram account that he was opting out of the 2021 MLB season, as seen below:
The interesting parts about the post are the “for now” and the “watch how things unfold” ones. Desmond is seemingly leaving an opening for himself to come back and play this season, likely depending on how he feels about the health measures MLB implements to keep the players and the staff secure, which is understandable since he has a full family.
The 35-year-old Desmond is entering the final season of the much-maligned five-year, $70M contract he signed with the Rockies before the 2017 season. The signing was ill-fated from the jump, with the team paying premium money for a non-premium hitter, and made even worse by their decision to play him at first base and then in centerfield and refusing to employ him in a platoon role to best employ his skill.
Desmond also opted out of the shortened 2020 season, making a powerful statement on racism and social injustice in the process and also citing concerns over the COVID-19 situation and the risks it posed to play during the pandemic. For this and for not living up to the contract he received, Desmond has been the target of much animosity from Rockies fans, so now is a good time to remind folks: don’t misplace your anger. Desmond is making the decision he considers right for him and his family, and you should respect that. Period.
Desmond opting out does have some importance in terms of roster decisions, playing time, and more. Let’s see how this piece of MLB breaking news affects the rest of the players.
MLB Breaking News: How Desmond’s Opt-Out Affects The Roster
Desmond was likely to be a frequent presence in the lineup, primarily in left field and maybe making some cameos at first. He was also presumed to be a primary pinch hitter when facing lefties, a role that now may go to either recent signee C.J. Cron (assuming he makes the team) or 28-year old righty Josh Fuentes, who solidified his spot on the team with an okay run of form in mid-late 2020.
The lack of Desmond also means Raimel Tapia now has no opposition to play every single day in left field, which is a positive development for me. The 27-year-old Tapia is a former top prospect for the team who struggled in his playing time up until 2020 when he hit .321/.369/.402, using an opposite-field, contact-based approach that gave his bat speed and natural hand-eye coordination a chance to shine. He’s now the favorite for the job of being the team’s lead-off man. Look at this spray chart below:
There is another way in which Desmond’s absence will affect the team, of course, and that is leadership and clubhouse presence. I know a lot of people roll their eyes at these types of comments, but leadership matters, and Desmond has often been referred to by basically every player in the clubhouse as an excellent influence and one of the best teammates you could have. The Rockies are a very young team with very few vocal figures to lead the charge. Kyle Freeland seems to be emerging in that role, which will be needed because look at this breakdown of their 40-man roster:
So even if this MLB breaking news is received with jubilation by Rockies fans, consider that the clubhouse may not feel the same way. Remember, we don’t see everything that goes on. Desmond’s opt-out may or may not be beneficial to the team, but it’s a man making a decision he considers adequate for him and his family, so more power to him.
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Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images