What The Hell: Cubs Trade DeJesus to Nationals

Apparently, the Cubs were not done dealing. They've just sent David DeJesus to the Washington Nationals for a player to be named later. I'm trying to wrap my head around this trade, and I really can't. 

First, let's break down what this means for the Nationals. The Nats already have a stacked outfield, with Denard Span, Jayson Werth, and Bryce Harper. Denard Span plays center and is the worst of the 3 by far, and also has a .427 (yes, .427 OPS) against lefties. DeJesus, however, has developed a nasty split as well, and can't hit lefties either. Werth also doesn't hit lefties, so he'd only "platoon" with Bryce Harper, and Harper isn't going to sit so David DeJesus can play. DeJesus becomes the 4th outfielder who is bad in the games the Nationals outfield would want him to play in. I'm only speculating, but this makes a lot more sense if the Nationals are expecting one of their outfielders to miss significant time in the near future; I'm not aware of any PED suspicion for anyone in the Nationals' OF at the time, so that doesn't make a whole lot of sense either. 

The word on the street is that the Nationals may not even expect to pick up DeJesus' option for next year (and they are on the hook for $1MM of salary this year and the $1.5MM buyout afterwards – the Cubs didn't send any money), so they've really spent 2.5 million on a 4th OF if this is true. That might make sense for a team that's right in the hunt this year or certainly in the playoffs, but is that the Nationals? Washington is 9.5 out of the wild card. Baseball Prospectus has the Nationals at 1.2% to make the playoffs this year and an expected record of 80-82. Maybe DeJesus adds another win over the rest of the year (a charitable number at that). Is being 10 out of the WC any better than being 11? In fact, the Nationals are only 3.5 games back of the bottom 10 (and a protected 1st-rounder). They should be striving towards THAT goal, not this one. This move makes no sense for the Nationals at all if they don't pick up DeJesus' option, which means that I have to operate under the assumptions that a) he's a straight replacement over Denard Span, who is moved to the 4th OF spot and b) the Nationals are picking his option up (or at least intend to at this point). 

Unfortunately, I think this move makes even less sense for the Cubs. DeJesus either cleared waivers or at least cleared several teams in the NL, many of which actually had a glaring need for an outfielder (*cough* San Francisco *cough*). The Cubs received a PTBNL, and it's not likely to be a good prospect considering when the Cubes traded him. Essentially, the Cubs only receive $2.5 million in salary relief.

DeJesus leaves a huge gap for the Cubs, both at the top of the lineup and at centerfield. Lake probably can't play there full-time, if his bat even is enough to play in the majors (an open question). Even if Lake sticks at center, the Cubs have no one in LF for next year (right now, the starter there is replacement-level player #4506, Brian Bogusevic). Sure, maybe the Cubs hold on to Ryan Sweeney next year, and maybe he becomes a serviceable role 4+/role 5 type of outfielder, but a) I doubt that Sweeney is anything better than a really nice 4th OF and b) he's not beholden to the Cubs at all, as he's a FA at the end of the year. DeJesus was a capable CF on a middling team, and wouldn't kill you. Bogusevic is a quad-A guy that is much, much worse. 

What I'm truly afraid of is that this is a sign that the Cubs don't think they are competitive in 2014. If they wanted to go for it, they'd definitely keep DeJesus. If they signed Ellsbury or Choo or Granderson or Beltran, they could keep him as a 4th OF, or not pick up his option, or trade him afterwards (and this all presupposes that Lake is going to be better than DeJesus, which I'm still very uncertain of). It's true that the outfield is the one place in 2013 that you can reasonably expect to fill, but that doesn't guarantee that the Cubs won't be left without a dance partner. We had the possibility of a Choo/DeJesus/Schierholtz OF yesterday, and now we have a chance at a Bogusevic/Sappelt/Schierholtz or a Lake/Sweeney/Schierholtz one. 

To summarize, the Cubs traded a cheap, fairly productive outfielder that fit in the 2014 plans to a team that has an outfield that can't hit lefties for what is likely going to be no return at all. I don't really get it. 

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