With apparent savior/curse-ender Theo Epstein leading the new regime on the North Side and a list of available players like Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Jose Reyes and C.J. Wilson seeking new homes, it was just a matter of time before the Cubs made a big splash in the free agent market. While we still wait for that giant cannonball into the deep end, the Cubbies did atleast dive into the pool Wednesday when they inked outfielder David DeJesus to a two year, $10M deal. After a brief stop in Oakland and that cavernous hole they call a ballpark, DeJesus gets to now call the friendly confines of Wrigley Field home and thankfully becomes fantasy relevant once again.
DeJesus seems to be exactly the type of player Epstein loves — a career .356 OBP hitter with a solid 8.3% career walk rate and an even better 13.4 K%. Over in the FanGraphs section, Steve Slowinski does a great job breaking down DeJesus’ bat, citing plate discipline as one of his best attributes. The 32 year old veteran is patient at the plate and doesn’t swing at a lot of bad pitches as evidenced by his mark of 24% for swings outside the zone which is well below the 30.6% league average. And that “slump” to which Slowinski refers over the last two seasons? Yes, most definitely a combination of injuries in 2010 and the career-low .274 BABIP which can very much be attributed to the home ballpark. He was definitely struggling on the whole, playing the majority of his games in AL West pitchers’ havens, but a .268 BABIP at home is pretty telling. Have you seen the dimensions over there? The amount of foul territory is almost abusive at times.
If DeJesus’ last two seasons can be put behind him, then we could see strong improvement this year and a possible return to the power that seemed to be developing back in 2008 and 2009. His ISO had been moving back into the .150 range and all the while, maintaining his more than desirable walk and strikeout rates. As a lefty bat in Wrigley, he should produce at those levels again and 15 HR might not be so far-fetched. We’re not talking mammoth power here, but steady production from what could be your 4th or 5th outfielder.
Now this signing has also sparked the conversation regarding the rest of the Cubs’ outfield. With top prospect Brett Jackson waiting in the wings, the addition of a veteran and solid clubhouse guy like DeJesus could mean the departure of either Alfonso Soriano or Marlon Byrd. Moving Soriano would be the best thing for the club, but Byrd would probably bring in a better haul on the trade market. However, the likelihood of the Cubs realistically competing this year is pretty low (unless of course Theo goes to town, signs one of the big boys for first base and improves the pitching) which means that they aren’t in any rush to bring up Jackson. Barring further offseason movement, he should start the season in Triple-A while the Cubs give themselves the first half of the year to decide if they are indeed buyers or sellers. Jackon is a solid long term keeper, but should he start the year in Triple-A, then his fantasy impact won’t be felt until July at the earliest.
Overall, it’s a solid signing for the Cubs and DeJesus should now be a player you keep on your fantasy radar. Again, he’s not going to light it up, but he should definitely be a solid contributor for you all season long.