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Cubs Ink David DeJesus Leaving Money for Pujols or Fielder

The Chicago Cubs signed soon to be 32 year-old outfielder David DeJesus to a two-year $8.5 million contract. The deal includes an option for a third year worth $6.5 million and a $1.5 million buyout. Cubs’ general manager Jed Hoyer noted DeJesus is the starter in right field. Hoyer stated, “We don’t see him as a platoon player.” He went on to say that DeJesus may be spelled against tough lefties but otherwise expect him to be in the lineup on a daily basis. The signing itself is not particularly big news, but the fact that they went bargain hunting could suggest they are indeed in on Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder.

David DeJesus Stats

2003 23 KCR 12 7 0 2 0 1 0 0 0 .286 .444 .571 1.016
2004 24 KCR 96 363 58 104 15 3 7 39 8 .287 .360 .402 .763
2005 25 KCR 122 461 69 135 31 6 9 56 5 .293 .359 .445 .804
2006 26 KCR 119 491 83 145 36 7 8 56 6 .295 .364 .446 .810
2007 27 KCR 157 605 101 157 29 9 7 58 10 .260 .351 .372 .722
2008 28 KCR 135 518 70 159 25 7 12 73 11 .307 .366 .452 .818
2009 29 KCR 144 558 74 157 28 9 13 71 4 .281 .347 .434 .781
2010 30 KCR 91 352 46 112 23 3 5 37 3 .318 .384 .443 .827
2011 31 OAK 131 442 60 106 20 5 10 46 4 .240 .323 .376 .698
9 Seasons 1007 3797 561 1077 207 50 71 436 51 .284 .356 .421 .776
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 12/1/2011.

DeJesus is a steady player but doesn’t bring anything special to table. He is a contact gap hitter with moderate power. He possesses good base running skills but is not a good base stealer (52.6% career success rate). He has a good glove and decent range. While he is coming off his worst season in the big leagues, it is uncertain if he was still affected by a thumb injury sustained the previous season or if playing his home games in Oakland’s Coliseum was a factor. It seems that Hoyer and the Cubs are looking past 2011 altogether and hoping a return to form is in store. Was there anything we can see in his numbers from 2011 which suggest this could be the case?

One number that jumps out the most is DeJesus’ BABIP which was .274. His career average BABIP prior to 2011 was .322. Expect a bump back into at least the .300 range for 2012.  This will lead to a better average and more opportunities to score runs. His OBP was obviously down in 2011, but not due to taking less walks than in previous years. DeJesus has never walked all that often (64 walks in 2007 is his career high). He typically makes very good contact (88% career contact rate) and up until last season balls he hit found a hole.

Overall, there is very little risk here for the Cubs. DeJesus will provide a significant return on investment if he can muster his seasonal averages prior to 2011. The Cubs may actually end up making some money off this deal. But the signing feels empty, like there is something more to it. Should we really look at this signing as a signal that the Cubs are looking to decrease payroll? I would think not entirely.

 With the signing of DeJesus, the Cubs are now committed to $72.85 million in payroll for 2012. Starting pitcher Matt Garza is eligible for arbitration and will likely receive a nice raise from the $5.95 million he earned in 2012. There are whispers that the Cubs will listen to offers for Garza and there is mutual interest from clubs around the league. Other than Garza, the Cubs are not heavily invested in the remainder of their roster. Does the DeJesus signing signal something more on the horizon for the Cubs?

The Cubs spent $134 million in 2009, $144 million in 2010 and $134 million in 2011. With a gaping hole at first base the Cubs have made it known that they have an interest in Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder. Each player is said to be looking for deals worth $25 million per season for anywhere from eight to ten years. Don’t put it past Hoyer and Cubs president of baseball operations, Theo Epstein, to have made this play with the notion of having plenty of money available to lure either player to Wrigley Field.

Presumably, the Cubs can stay in the $125 – $130 million payroll range for the 2012 season even after the potential signing of Pujols or Fielder. It could be even less. The Cubs have a young group of players who are not arbitration eligible including shortstop Starlin Castro and catcher Geovany Soto. The Cubs are also in need of a third baseman with the departure of Aramis Ramirez. They can choose to stay within the current roster and use Jeff Baker or Blake DeWitt. Or there are a number of stop gap players they could choose from to fill that role. The Cubs may also look into another starting pitcher for the middle of their rotation.

The future gets brighter over the next couple of seasons as well. The Cubs also have the benefit of Carlos Zambrano’s contract coming off the books for 2013 ($19 million salary for 2012). This will give them the flexibility to add a top free-agent again next season. The following year, Alfonso Soriano‘s contract comes to an end (another $19 million off the books for 2014). The 2012 season may not bring a playoff berth even if they are able to add either Pujols or Fielder. But, tack on a couple more free agents over the following two seasons combined with Hoyer’s and Epstein’s skills in the trade market and player development and the Cubs could be primed for a post-season run in 2013 and/or 2014.

For further statistical analysis of the DeJesus signing, check out Joe Soriano’s piece also on Call to the Pen. For everything Chicago Cubs go to Cubbies Crib. You can follow Call to the Pen on Twitter at @FSCalltothePen. Christopher Carelli can be followed on Twitter at @BaseballStance.

Tags: Albert Pujols Aramis Ramirez BABIP Carlos Zambrano Chicago Cubs David DeJesus Geovany Soto Jed Hoyer Jeff Baker Matt Garza OBP Prince Fielder Starlin Castro Theo Epstein Wrigley Field

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