CHICAGO — The Washington Nationals bolstered their bench on Monday afternoon, acquiring David DeJesus from the Cubs just before they were set to begin a four-game series with them.
Monday afternoon, GM Mike Rizzo and manager Davey Johnson discussed the team’s latest move, which included releasing Roger Bernadina. Bernadina was the longest-tenured member of the organization, signed by the Montreal Expos as an international free agent in 2001, and was one of few remaining players with ties to the organization’s Expos era.
DeJesus is at the end of a two-year $10 million deal, and the Cubs told their local reporters that they were saving $2.5 million by trading him — which would seem to account for the $1 million left on his contract for this year, and a $1.5 million buyout on his contract for 2014. There is also a $6.5 million option the Nationals could pick up.
Here’s what Rizzo and Johnson had to say about the move:
Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo:
On why they made the move: “David has always been a professional hitter. He’s a terrific professional player. Really knows how to play the game. I thought that he gives us a few things that I thought that we needed going forward. He improves our left-handed side of the bench immediately. 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, that type of thing. 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.”
On if they discussed this deal before the July 31 trade deadline: “Yeah, he was one of the guys that we identified when we talked about improving our bench with a guy that we control beyond this year. He was one of the guys that we were discussing and thinking about. It just didn’t happen up to the trade deadline. But after the trade deadline we put a waiver claim in for him. Got the claim and worked out a deal.
“He’s a controllable player for us. 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 we’ll use the buyout clause in the contract.”
On why he thought Bernadina had such a disappointing season: “I’m not sure what it was. Mechanically, he never got himself righted. He is a guy with an abundance of tools and skills and really hit within himself last year and utilized his speed and line drives and that type of thing. He just could never get on track this year and it was something that we were waiting for throughout the season and it just didn’t happen.”
On if this is enough to bolster the bench: “I think that we’ve addressed both sides of the bench, left-handed and right-handed with versatile players that could play several positions that gives us some pop and some thump from both sides of the plate. I like the bench as it’s constituted now. But we’re always open to improve the ball club in any way we can.
“I think we’ve shown that post-deadline trades they happen and we’ve done them a couple times and we’re certainly open-minded enough to improve the ball club any way we can even at this late date.”
On why the team decided to release Bernadina, instead of trying to get him through waivers to the minor leagues: “There’s a lot of procedural things that go into it, and we think that this is the best avenue to go at this time… I believe (another team will sign him). Like I said, he’s a skill, toolsy player and I think the risk is low enough that I think that he will get a shot to play somewhere.”
On where he views the Nationals at this point in the season: “I like the fact that we’ve got 40 games left and right now my focus is on the Cubs tonight. We’re going to take this thing one game at a time, but I certainly haven’t given up on this season and I think that with the talent level that we have on this ballclub that we still have a run left in us.”
“I think (the struggles of the club this year) are frustrating. I think it’s frustrating to the players that are involved, it’s frustrating to the coaching staff and to me. It’s hard to put your finger on, but I do see an extremely talented bunch of guys that are grinding it out every day and the amount of effort and caring that they’ve put into this team is honorable for them.”
Nationals manager Davey Johnson:
On the trade: “I was probably as surprised as everybody else. He’s a heck of a player…First I heard his name was that we picked him up on a waiver claim. I was kind of surprised at the timing, to be honest. He’s a good player.
“I knew that we were going to be making some changes, with (Taylor Jordan) being shut down and we were going to use that spot to keep my bench intact. Now we’ll probably have to re-think that. It’s a little more complex.”
On how he’ll use DeJesus: “The way we’re set up, with two left-handed hitting outfielders, we really need to be a little more balanced on the right-hand side. But going forward, he’s a quality player. If anybody gets hurt, he can step right in and play at a high level. You can never get enough quality players. Rizzo has done a great job of picking up quality players.”
“He doesn’t have anything he needs to prove to me. I’m sure that he wants to play. But (Bryce Harper) needs to play, most definitely. (Jayson Werth) is having an outstanding season. (Denard Span) is doing a great job defensively, his bat is picking up. I’m more concerned, with where we’re at in the standings, getting the young guys more at-bats than some of the veteran-type players.”
On why he thinks Bernadina struggled this season: “He’s still kind of a young player, and anytime you don’t have an opportunity to come out of spring training and get at-bats early and get something going, it’s a lot more difficult for a younger player to sit around and lose your timing and be able to perform.
“That’s why I’ve always liked veteran players on the bench. They can sit around for two weeks and come in. I just know it’s very difficult for youngsters that are used to taking pitches. When you come off the bench, you can’t afford to being taking any. You have to come off the bench swinging.”