When Melky Cabrera’s PED suspension was announced yesterday, Alfonso Soriano was the first name on most Chicago Cubs fans’ lips.
The second was David DeJesus.
The hurdles that make Soriano largely untradable – his no-trade rights, his age (36), his contract ($18 million per year in 2013 and 2014) – are mostly absent with respect to DeJesus. He has no such no-trade rights, he’s just 32, and he’s signed to an eminently reasonable contract, which pays him just $4.25 million next year (and includes a $6.5 million team option for 2014 with a $1.5 million buyout).
And, like Soriano, DeJesus has been productive. His line - .270/.363/.399 – isn’t overwhelming, but it’s good for a 107 OPS+. Add in the fact that he plays good defense in any outfield position and runs the bases well, and you’ve got a valuable addition to almost any team.
That is all to say, it makes sense that DeJesus’s name would come up in trade rumors with a team like the Giants, among others, looking to add an outfielder.
But could the Cubs actually trade him? Would they? Should they?
As for the “could the Cubs,” the issue there is the August trade waiver situation. In order to trade DeJesus to the Giants, for example, he would either have to clear waivers (in essence, be offered for free to every team in baseball (contract and all), and each team would have to say, “no thanks”), or would have to be claimed by the Giants and by no other team with a worse record in the NL. I could certainly see the Giants claiming DeJesus, given his reasonable contract. But might a team in the NL with a slightly worse record step in and claim him first? We don’t know when exactly DeJesus will be placed on waivers (or if he has been already), so we don’t know exactly which team would have priority over the Giants at the time of the claim. The Dodgers, you’ll note, have a better record than the Giants by just one game – if they flip spots before DeJesus is waived, you better believe the Dodgers will claim DeJesus to block him from going to the Giants, knowing full well that the Cubs aren’t going to let him go for nothing, and knowing that they aren’t actually going to make a decent offer in trade. Thus, DeJesus would stay with the Cubs.
Could the Cubs trade DeJesus? Sure, it’s possible. But it isn’t a slam dunk.
As for the “would the Cubs,” the issue is primarily tied to what kind of value DeJesus could net in return. If DeJesus could land the Cubs a pitching prospect with number 2 upside, for example, they’re pulling that trigger. When the Cubs signed guys like DeJesus and Paul Maholm (not to mention trading for guys like Ian Stewart and Chris Volstad), I’m sure there was at least some thinking that perhaps they would rebound, and generate significant trade value. But you can’t just go trading away every free agent you sign within the first year, otherwise you’ll never sign another free agent again (at least not the ones you really want). So, there has to be some measure of restraint when putting together these deals. Would DeJesus net enough in trade to make the Cubs pull the trigger? Well, as noted, his contract is good, and his production is above average. But, short of a desperation situation like in San Francisco, is he really a significant upgrade in the outfield for the various contenders around baseball? If you go team by team, you’ll find that there are very few top teams for whom DeJesus would be a clear and obvious upgrade. Don’t get me wrong, he could play on just about any team … if they didn’t already have a completed outfield.
Would the Cubs trade DeJesus? Sure, if the price was right. But I’m not sure the price would reach that level.
Finally, as for the “should the Cubs,” the issue here is closely related to the “would they.” If DeJesus could net a haul in prospects, the “should they” becomes the same as the “would they.” They should and would. But, because I’m not sure DeJesus would net a huge return, it’s fair to question whether his value to the Cubs is greater on the roster than off. Consider this: if DeJesus were gone, the Cubs would head into the offseason with an outfield that consisted of a guy they desperately want to trade (Soriano), a young player who is probably still a question mark (Brett Jackson), and a flash in the pan who’s probably more of a first baseman (Bryan LaHair). The Cubs’ performance in 2013 may not be of tremendous import to everyone – I’m referring to those of you who believe the Cubs are going to be terrible next year no matter what – but it never makes sense to throw away a season in January. DeJesus is cheap and productive, and the Cubs could always deal him mid-season next year if they were so inclined.
Further, DeJesus provides value not only on the field, but also in the clubhouse. He’s a hard-worker, an upbeat type, and he’s almost certainly a positive influence on the Cubs’ young core (see this recent ESPNChicago piece – DeJesus relishes the opportunity to be a mentor). I’m not going to bust out Chemistry Cat, but having steady, positive, veteran influences around a young team has value that is difficult to quantify. DeJesus (and Soriano, frankly) is the kind of guy that adds something to an organization beyond his stat sheet. Whether what he adds, when taken together with his production, is enough to convince the Cubs to keep him in the face of a good trade offer, well that’s a separate discussion entirely.
Should the Cubs trade DeJesus? Sure, if they’re faced with an undeniable offer. But I don’t think one is coming, and I think I’m OK with that.
So, ultimately, what happens with DeJesus? I suppose I’m not sure that his value as an upgrade to another team is sufficiently high enough to overcome his value to the Cubs in 2013. I’m also not sure, as I said, that DeJesus would clear waivers (or would make far enough up the ladder to a team willing to part with a significant package for him).
Taken together, I don’t think DeJesus will be dealt this month, or in the offseason. This front office will always consider offers, of course, and you never know what might come down the pipeline.