Today, as had been rumored for a bit now, the Chicago Cubs signed outfielder David DeJesus to a reported two-year, $10 million contract. He gets $4.25 million in each of the next two years. The deal includes a team option for 2014 at $6.5 million, with a $1.5 million buyout.
DeJesus, 31 (32 next month), played his first season outside of Kansas City last year, in Oakland, and struggled, putting up a .240/.323/.376 line in a little over 500 plate appearances. He primarily played in the corner outfield spots in recent years, and is expected to be given a shot at the full-time job in right field next year (depending on how the outfield shakes out over the rest of the Winter). The move suggests top prospect Brett Jackson will not have a starting spot in the outfield unless one of Marlon Byrd or Alfonso Soriano are moved before Opening Day (there are rumors that this is a precursor to a Soriano trade, for what it’s worth). It also ensures that Tyler Colvin will be a 4th outfielder, at best, to start the year. Reed Johnson is even less likely to come back now.
For his career, DeJesus is a .284/.356/.421 hitter. The OBP is great, but it obviously isn’t the kind of power you expect to see out of a corner outfielder. Still, DeJesus plays above average defense, which has been something of a problem in the Wrigley outfield for a number of years. He’s patient at the plate, hits lefty, and is a veteran presence – all of which make him the kind of player Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have proclaimed to be their target this Winter.
Even in a down year, FanGraphs says DeJesus was 2.2 WAR player last year (“worth” $10 million), thanks to solid defense. It’s fair to expect him to bounce back offensively in 2012, after an unusually low .274 BABIP last year (batting average on balls in play – his career mark is .316, and a drop like that is usually attributable to mere bad luck, which tends to course correct the next year).
A two-year deal for DeJesus is acceptable, and the $5 million annual rate is a million short of what he made last year. It’s on the high end of what I’d previously estimated DeJesus would get (I said two years, $8 to 10 million), but that’s probably to be expected in the new CBA era.
The addition, at a relative value rate, doesn’t preclude the Cubs from making more substantial additions at the corner infield spots, and in the rotation. That, I suspect, was probably a big part of the allure of DeJesus.
Another allure? I get to say “Nobody F’s with DeJesus” over and over again this year. I can’t wait until the first Enhanced Box Score where DeJesus has a good game…
On the balance, it’s a solid move. Not earth-moving, but a good first step. I suspect it’s but one piece of a large, very exciting puzzle.