CHICAGO — David DeJesus was out on a quest for juice with his wife, Kim, Monday morning when he missed a call from Cubs general manager Theo Epstein. When he called back, he learned he’d been traded to the Washington Nationals.
Lucky for him, at least logistically, he didn’t have to go far to meet his new team. DeJesus joined the Nationals just before they opened a four-game set against the Cubs. And in the eighth inning, DeJesus came to the plate as a pinch hitter for his first at-bat with his new team.
Cubs fans stood and cheered for him.
“I think I was hoping that they were going to do that,” DeJesus said of the ovation. “But when I got there, I didn’t know what to do. Do I tip my cap or do something crazy? So I just tipped my cap and tried to keep it as professional as possible. I want to tell them that they’re great fans. They understand good baseball and I’m happy to have been a part of the Cubs tradition.”
Now DeJesus is part of the Nationals, but perhaps he might not be for long. FOXsports.com’s Ken Rosenthal reported late Monday night that the Nationals placed DeJesus back on waivers almost immediately after acquiring him, making their claim of him — which led to a trade for a player to be named and the subsequent release of Roger Bernadina — seem strange.
DeJesus is set to make about $1 million the rest of this season, and the Nationals will also be on the hook for at least a $1.5 million buyout if they decline to pick up the $6.5 million option on his contract for the 2014 season. If he remains viewed as a fourth outfielder or a bench piece, it would figure they would not pick up that option.
There are a few explanations, though none would make that much sense.
The Nationals may have put in a claim on DeJesus in an effort to block the outfielder from being taken by a contender — perhaps even the Atlanta Braves — and expected the Cubs to pull him back. When they did not, the Nationals essentially accepted him considering the return is so minimal and it doesn’t appear the Cubs are kicking any money into the deal.
ESPN’s Buster Olney suggested that the waiver claim may have been as simple as a mistake, but the Nationals got stuck in a situation where they essentially had to take the player.
That wouldn’t necessarily jibe with what general manager Mike Rizzo said on Monday, lauding DeJesus as a player he has admired and sought for some time. Rizzo said the Nationals and Cubs did discuss the deal before the July 31 non-waiver deadline, but couldn’t come to terms.
It would, however, seem to jibe with the fact that manager Davey Johnson seemed surprised by the deal and had no real explanation for where he planned to play DeJesus, stressing that his focus is more on getting playing time for younger players and noting that the Nationals’ starting outfield — which already contains two left-handed batters — is full of everyday players.
“I’m sure that he wants to play,” Johnson said. “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.”
Perhaps this intriguing saga will become clear soon. The waiver period on DeJesus will run out on Wednesday. Until then, stay tuned.