The news seemed to come from nowhere, and given what we’ve learned since, perhaps it did. The Chicago Cubs unexpectedly dealt David DeJesus to the Washington Nationals for a player to be named later, after Washington places the prevailing claim on him during his time on revocable waivers.
My immediate assumption was the one I still believe to be the sole acceptable explanation: This is a move about 2014 for Washington, who now have a $5-million decision about a man who fits nicely as a fourth outfielder who can step easily into any starting role if and when the Nats’ injury-prone outfielders get hurt. He also gives them the flexibility to shop Denard Span, their incumbent center fielder and a disappointment in 2013.
No one seems to agree with me, and even the facts have begun to controvert that. The Internet consensus seems to be that the Nationals, despite trailing even in the race for the second Wild Card by 9.5 games, picked up DeJesus for the stretch, and will decline their club option for DeJesus’s services in 2014.
I opined immediately, and I stand by this, that the Cubs must have a modestly attractive asset coming back in the PTBNL, or else this made no sense. The Internet refutes that, too. Only time will tell there, but strangely (and ominously, to me), DeJesus is right back on waivers tonight as a member of the Nationals, according to multiple reports.
This is a man who’s proved himself a surprisingly adequate defender even in center field; who has a consistent and patient approach at the plate; and who can hit for some power, against right-handed pitching. He’s under contract for less than the market rate of a single win above replacement next season. He’s a good guy to have around, from a soft-factors standpoint.
It’s an impenetrably peculiar set of decisions, for me. The Cubs should want something good in return for that player, or be willing to retain him. Any team wiling to pay what the team should have demanded for him should have immediate, even urgent use for him. The Nationals, though, should be focused on 2014, and have a fairly well-stocked outfield as it is.
Buster Olney mused that claiming DeJesusay have simply been a mistake on the Nats’ part. Matthew Pouliot of Hardball Talk (he’s not great) suggested, in response, that perhaps the Nats didn’t know about the $1.5-million buyout on DeJesus for next season. Both are foolhardy notions. The Nationals had a good reason for submitting a claim on DeJesus. It might have been that they thought the Cubs would pull him back, or that they would dismissively convey DeJesus to them for nothing. It might be that they wanted him not to end up in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh or Atlanta, teams for whom he could play important games against the club next season.
The best explanation remains that they actually want the player. I still see a fair return and the picking up of DeJesus’s option as distinct possibilities. If it does turn out that the Cubs get only salary relief, though, and that Washington lets DeJesus go, I’m at a loss, and for me, both teams screwed up.Next post: Redirecting Conversations: Ryan Dempster’s Suspension and Yasiel Puig’s Benching
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