In an unsurprising move, the Tampa Bay Rays have reportedly claimed David DeJesus on waivers, a secretive process, according to multiple reports. The Nationals and the Rays have until 1 p.m. on Friday to resolve the matter. The move adds another wrinkle to DeJesus’s unusual status.
The Nationals acquired DeJesus on Monday in a trade that was essentially a straight waiver claim, and then promptly placed him on revocable waivers, a standard move. Other teams were interested in DeJesus before the Nationals claimed the veteran outfielder on waivers, so it’s only logical contenders would still have interest in adding the left-handed hitter.
The Nationals now have three options remaining: 1) Pull DeJesus back and keep him and his the remaining $2.5 million owed on his contract; 2) Allow the Rays to just take on DeJesus and his entire contract; 3) The two sides can work out a trade. ESPNChicago.com first reported that the Rays claimed DeJesus on Thursday morning.
The Nationals acquired DeJesus, a career .279/.354/.417 hitter and versatile outfielder, to improve the left-handed side of the struggling bench, one of the team’s biggest weaknesses this season. DeJesus, however, was playing nearly every day for the rebuilding Cubs, who didn’t want to pay DeJesus the $1 million remaining for this season and then pay the $1.5 million to buy out his 2014 $6.5 million option. With the Nationals, DeJesus would be limited to a bench role.
“He’s here,” Nationals Manager Davey Johnson said. “His situation is no different than anyone on the ball club. After you pass the trading deadline, clubs are always putting guys on waivers to see who has interest. It’s another way of evaluating the talent you got.”
Johnson, who was at first surprised by the Nationals’ acquisition of DeJesus, said he talked with the outfielder on Wednesday about his role.
“I’ve got a pretty set outfield, pretty set lineup,” he said. “And with a couple left-handed bats in the lineup, when I rest people I’m gonna use some right-handed bats not left-handed bats. I love having you and I’ll get you in ball games, but until something shakes out it’s going to be a more limited role. He understood that and where we’re coming from.”
DeJesus implicitly understood his role when he was acquired.
“I kinda took it as stud left fielder, stud center fielder and stud right fielder,” he said. “That’s just me being around the game and understanding that this is their future. Those are their guys and they want to get back in it. I understand the role. It’s a humbling experience. I’m going to keep working.”
The Cubs were riding themselves of DeJesus’ salary, even though the team publicly said they were interested in bringing him back in 2014. DeJesus said he understands the business of baseball, but his uncertain status hasn’t been easy for his wife Kim and their three-year old son. He has never been in this position before.
“It’s my family that I’m more worried about,” DeJesus said. “I’m going to come to the field and I know what I’m going to do. But my family doesn’t really know what’s happening. That’s the hardest part. When you a have a family, what’s going to be. But at least coming here, I knew Gio [Gonzalez] and Kurt [Suzuki] and meeting the rest of the guys, they welcomed me with open arms. The Nationals organization has been 100 percent up front with me and been great so far.”
DeJesus worked for the Nationals in various ways. He improved their bench instantly. If the Nationals keep him for the remaining five weeks and like his performance, they could buy out his 2014 option and try to negotiate a new deal with DeJesus and his agents. But if by placing him on waivers and the claiming team makes an enticing offer, the Nationals could be gaining a prospect for next to nothing.
It is standard practice for teams to place players on waivers, and the Nationals have placed everyone on waivers after the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. That, however, doesn’t mean the player will be traded.
When the DeJesus trade was announced, the Nationals publicly said they were sending the Cubs a player to be named later. But, according to a person familiar with the deal, the Nationals are not sending a player and instead paying a small fraction of the waiver fee. So, if the Nationals trade DeJesus to the Rays, they could be adding a prospect without having lost one in the first place.