Separately, I’ll be doing something more akin to a “farewell” post to one of the most tenured Cubs (amazingly), but, for now, this is your roundup of the reactions to/analysis of yesterday’s surprising David DeJesus trade.
- … but was it really a “trade”? Strictly speaking, yes, the Cubs traded DeJesus for a player to be named later. It was a trade. But I’m throwing up them there quotes because I’m wondering if this is really more of a waiver-claim-and-let-the-guy-go type situation than a true “we’ve just got to have that guy, here, take a good prospect” situation. According to multiple reports, DeJesus did not clear waivers (which would have been shocking), and was instead claimed by the Nationals (so DeJesus didn’t make it too far up the waiver ladder in the NL, and didn’t make it to the AL at all). From there, the two sides worked out a trade. In my experience, working out a deal with a claiming team in August is extremely rare (it’s a market of one, so the reasons should be obvious), unless the waiving team was mostly happy to be parted with the contract. In that kind of deal, you’d either see the receiving team simply take the player and his contract with no compensation going the other way, or you might see a PTBNL included. Once we divorce ourselves from whatever attachment we have to DeJesus and to whatever beliefs we have that he had notable trade value, aren’t we left with data that suggest this was just one of those August waiver dumps?
- I know it’s hard for many folks to hear, given how popular DeJesus was with Cubs fans. In terms of production on a going-forward basis, however, the Cubs were in a tricky spot. On the one hand, DeJesus can produce adequately in center field, but his defense was only so-so there. He could play solid right field defense, but his bat really didn’t carry the day. So the Cubs were going to be faced with a $6.5 million decision (his 2014 option) going into next year: keep DeJesus around because he does so many things well and is an important veteran influence on the team, even though he could quickly become a very expensive fourth outfielder? Or let him go, save some money, and see what happens in the offseason? I hate to say it, but I don’t think I can fault the Cubs on this move even if the PTBNL ends up being a nothing.
- Relatedly, the savings to the Cubs here are very interesting. On the one hand, they saved about $1 million in salary and $1.5 million in a buyout owed to DeJesus if they declined his 2014 option. But would they have declined the option? It was $6.5 million, so, to the Cubs, it was a $5 million decision ($1.5 million was owed either way). Isn’t DeJesus in 2014 worth $5 million? Maybe so, maybe not, but, if he was, then you could argue that the Cubs saved $7.5 million in the deal. (Of course, I’d box your ears for making that argument, and respond that, if the Cubs didn’t want DeJesus, they could simply buy out the option and save the $5 million that way – the $5 million was never really at stake unless the Cubs chose for it to be in 2014.)
- Other factors undoubtedly weighing on the Cubs: the desire to see Brian Bogusevic and Ryan Sweeney get regular starts the rest of the way before making offseason decisions on them; the possibility that Junior Lake grabs center field and runs with it; the impending 40-man roster crunch; wanting the flexibility to pursue a bigger batted outfielder without having to displace Lake from a starting spot (or Bogusevic/Sweeney from a bench spot).
- We’ll see if the Nationals think DeJesus is worth $6.5 million. An early report from Bob Nightengale suggests they don’t, saying that they have “no intention” of picking up his option. DeJesus, at $6.5 million, certainly would be a very pricey fourth outfielder for the Nationals, but if they didn’t want to keep him for 2014, what was the point of picking him up in the first place? The Nats say they still want to make a run this year, but they’ve got something like a 1% chance of making the playoffs, and a bench bat doesn’t tick that up to more than, say, 1.5%, tops. So, what’s the deal? Buster Olney thinks it may have been a waiver blunder by the Nats, hoping to block a higher team, and presumably believing the Cubs would pull DeJesus back. If that were true, though, why did the Nats even send a PTBNL to the Cubs? They could have simply said, “look, Cubs, we don’t actually want him. We’re not giving you anything. If you stick us with him, that’s one thing, but we’re not trading anything for him.” They didn’t do that. They consummated a trade, as thin as it may prove to be. In other words, the Nats clearly wanted DeJesus, even if just a tiny bit. The question of why will linger for some time.
- Of course, according to Ken Rosenthal, the Nationals immediately placed DeJesus back on waivers after the deal, suggesting they really don’t want to keep him. Keep in mind, teams place every theoretically movable player on waivers in August, so this is likely just the Nationals being smart. You place him on waivers, and see if he clears. Then you can trade him later in the month if you decide your miracle run isn’t happening. If he gets claimed, you decide whether it’s worth $2.5 million (and/or $6.5 million next year) for DeJesus, and maybe you let him go, too. You can see some quotes from the Nationals on the trade here, and it kind of sounds like they would like to bring him back next year. Then again, that’s probably just something you say in that situation.
- If, after all of this, DeJesus does wind up back in the free agent pool, you could see the Cubs go after him. Yes, I know that’s the thing that every fan says/hopes after a guy is traded, and it almost never happens. In this situation, there are at least three reasons it could actually happen: (1) DeJesus is not a superstar on the verge of massive dollars in free agency – role players can come home again, especially if there prove to be cost savings for the team; (2) DeJesus and his family set up shop just west of Chicago; and (3) the Cubs really do seem to like DeJesus’s presence on the club.
- To that last point, here’s what GM Jed Hoyer said of DeJesus yesterday (per CSN): We really like David a lot. I’ve told his agent [that] and I know Theo told David directly. I’m willing to talk to him about bringing him back at some point. I think he’s a good mentor for our young guys. I like his approach at the plate. I hope [Washington] can make a run and he can be part of that.” As a fourth outfielder making something considerably less than $6.5 million, DeJesus might actually be a perfect fit for the Cubs in 2014.
- You can see additional quotes from DeJesus, his teammates, and Hoyer on the trade here, here, and in that CSN piece.
- For now, we’ll see more of Brian Bogusevic (just activated after a long hamstring injury battle) and Ryan Sweeney (eligible to come off 60-day DL in a little over a week (ribs)). Each has a legitimate shot of being a bench outfielder for the Cubs in 2014, subject to the tricky business of figuring out the 40-man roster over the offseason.