On Monday afternoon, the Nationals announced a trade for veteran Cubs outfielder David DeJesus. The team’s statement said the Nationals were shipping a player to be named later to the Cubs for the 33-year-old DeJesus, and to make room for him on the roster the Nationals were cutting Roger Bernadina.
“[DeJesus] improves our left-handed side of the bench immediately,” General Manager Mike Rizzo said Monday. “He’s also a guy that is capable of being an everyday player. He can step in there for extended periods of time if there are injuries. He helps us in a variety of ways. He’s really wearing out right-handed pitching right now. He’s a high on-base percentage guy in his career. A consummate professional hitter.”
Later Monday, the Nationals placed DeJesus on waivers, a confidential process. If DeJesus clears revocable waivers, the Nationals are free to trade him. If another team claims him, the Nationals can discuss a trade or pull DeJesus back. So why did the Nationals put DeJesus on waivers the same day they traded for him?
For starters, the Nationals — like all teams — placed many players on waivers, even those acquired during the season, such as outfielder Scott Hairston. But that doesn’t mean the player will be dealt. It is a standard process.
Before the July 31 non-waiver deadline, teams are free to trade their players at will. After that, however, a player can only be dealt if they clear waivers.
Rizzo said the Nationals were interested in DeJesus before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline but the two teams couldn’t agree on a deal at the time. The Nationals then placed a waiver claim on DeJesus after the deadline and hammered out an agreement for the outfielder, who entered Tuesday’s game with a slash line of .249/.329/.400.
Given the amount of money remaining on DeJesus’s contract, there was some speculation in a Fox Sports report that perhaps the Nationals didn’t really want the 11-year veteran. DeJesus is owed just under $1 million for the remainder of this season as part of his $4.25 million salary for 2013. His contract also contains a 2014 club option for $6.5 million with a $1.5 million buyout. According to a person familiar with the deal, the Nationals assumed DeJesus’ entire contract. In other words, they are on the hook for about $2.5 million.
Here’s what helps explain the deal: DeJesus was basically traded for nothing, according to a person familiar with the deal. The Nationals had the option of sending a player to be named later or cash. The Nationals will instead pay a fraction of the waiver fee and will not send a player to the Cubs. The deal was essentially a straight waiver claim. The Cubs unloaded nearly $2.5 million off their books and the Nationals acquired a player they like without giving up a prospect.
What about the option for next season? The Nationals’ outfield of Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth and Denard Span, who is under control for two more seasons, is set. Spending $6.5 million for fourth outfielder in DeJesus doesn’t make much sense. Rizzo said part of what attracted him about DeJesus was that he is under control for another year. A staple of Rizzo’s tenure is trading for players who are under control for more than just that season.
“He’s a controllable player for us,” Rizzo said on Monday. “We have a club option for him after this season. And we’ll have to determine if we want to exercise the club option or if use the buyout clause in the contract.”
One possible scenario could have the Nationals buying out DeJesus for $1.5 million, then negotiating a new contract with the player. Of course, once they buy out DeJesus, he becomes a free agent, free to negotiate a deal with any team.
The Nationals have about six weeks to evaluate DeJesus and see what he offers. He is a versatile defender who play all three outfield spots, hits right-handed pitching well and has a career triple slash line of .279/.354/.417. One potential option for the Nationals would be to buyout his option for next season and negotiate a deal with DeJesus’s agency, ACES, the same agency that represents Gio Gonzalez and Rizzo negotiated a contract extension with in 2012.
Cubs General Manager Jed Hoyer told CSNChicago.com on Monday that the team was open to bringing back DeJesus in the future. But, the rebuilding Cubs were also concerned about cutting payroll.
“We really like David a lot,” Hoyer said. “I’ve told his agent [that] and I know Theo [Epstein] 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.”
Another possibility: Perhaps another contender needs an outfielder and DeJesus has cleared waivers, then the Nationals could trade him for a prospect. And, in the end, the Nationals could be adding a prospect without having lost one in the first place.