David DeJesus a Great Fit for the Cubs

About a month ago, I ranked David DeJesus as the fourth best available free agent centerfielder. DeJesus only started six games in center for the A’s last season, but my inclusion of him in the centerfield ranks was more due to the lack of free agent depth at that position than anything else. Here’s what I wrote in my free agent primer

2011 was a tough season for DeJesus. He put up career lows in AVG and OBP, but some of his struggles can be explained by a thumb injury for which he needed surgery on in 2010. Despite a down season at the plate, DeJesus continued to perform very well defensively, posting an ultimate zone rating (UZR) of 7.5, mostly playing right field. Despite the down season, there should be a number of teams interested in DeJesus. His .274 BABIP was the lowest of his career and, according to Fangraphs, there was very little change in his batted ball profile. There’s a good chance he bounces back in 2012.

Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal broke the news via Twitter and mentioned that DeJesus will become the Cubs’ everyday right fielder. Sports Illustrated’s John Heyman then followed up via Twitter that the deal was for two years and $10M (with a club option for 2014), a very reasonable price for what looks to be a great fit on the north side of Chicago.

Even with his struggles at the pate while in Oakland, DeJesus still boasts a career .284 AVG and .356 OBP. He also moves from the quite spacious and pitcher friendly environment in Oakland to the hitter friendly confines of Wrigley Field. While DeJesus won’t likely hit for a lot of power, he brings a very low strikeout rate (13.4 percent for his career) and a much needed proven left-handed bat into a mostly right-handed lineup.

Above what projects to be a bounce-back at the plate, DeJesus should also be a defensive asset in right, where he posted an impressive 10.1 ultimate zone rating (UZR) and 13 defensive runs saved (DRS) last season. His UZR was the best in baseball for a rightfielder (minimum 900 innings played) and his 13 DRS were second only to Jason Heyward and Torii Hunter (both with 15). The only weapon he lacks in right is an above average arm.

With DeJesus in right, the Cubs have created some depth in their outfield. They still have Marlon Byrd in center and top prospect Brett Jackson just about ready to break onto the big league scene. If they feel that Jackson is ready, Byrd, who is in the last year of his contract at an affordable $6.5M, can become trade bait. That could work especially well given the lack of depth in the centerfield free agent market. There have also been teams apparently “kicking the tires” on Alfonso Soriano. If, by some miraculous gift from the baseball gods, the Cubs are able to move Soriano, then Byrd can move to left and Jackson can take over in center. That would add another left-handed bat to the lineup and improved defense in centerfield, regardless if Jackson struggles at the plate in his rookie season.

With players like Jamey Carroll, Mark Ellis and Clint Barmes getting multi-year deals, two years for DeJesus is market value. The deal puts DeJesus in Chicago through his age 32 and 33 seasons, which keeps the risk of a major regression to a minimum.

There’s a lot to like about this deal for the Cubs who have just added an asset to their lineup, to their outfield and to their outfield depth.