Apr 25, 2013; Washington, DC, USA;Washington Nationals outfielder Denard Span (2) steals second base as the ball gets by Cincinnati Reds shortstop Zack Cozart (2) at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Breaking Down the Nats Acquisition of David DeJesus

Oh, you can get on base and draw walks, well we don’t need you then, walks cheat the game, get in there and hit.

The Nationals have acquired David DeJesus from the Cubs for the always popular PTBNL. Assuming that Player To Be Named Later’s real name doesn’t rhyme with Mayjay Cole, Frian Goodwin, or Rucas Giolito the Nationals have essentially acquired DeJesus as a salary dump. Oh yeah, and on the way there they got pounded by the Cubs 11-1, who are now 54-70 and have the second worst record in the National League.

While that glimmer of hope inside me just doesn’t want to die and every night I think is going to be the beginning of a historic Nats run to make it to the playoffs and eventually the World Series, it’s probably just some bad Thai I ate the other day causing me to have serious delusions, except there’s no such thing as bad Thai food, only delectably spicy goodness. So, while my heart may not want to admit it, my mind tells me the Nats are now playing for next year. I guess we could all just pretend that we hopped in the Hot Tub Time Machine and headed way back to 2011 and instead say, “Next year is when the Nationals talent will arrive and they’ll finally be good.”

Along those lines is David DeJesus. While I would have personally preferred if the Nationals had acquired DeJesus back in 2009 when he was a 3.5 WAR player, what they got in 2013 is still pretty good and certainly an upgrade. His .732 OPS is a lot better than Roger Bernadina’ s .517 OPS, which was more chum-like than shark-like. It’s also significantly better than Denard Span’s .670 OPS. And that folks, is where things get interesting.

As a replacement for Roger Bernadina, DeJesus is an obvious upgrade, but did the Nats really just pick up a replacement for Denard Span? DeJesus has strictly played CF this year, and while he isn’t as good as Span defensively, he’s posted a UZR/150 of 8.6 this year and has a lifetime UZR/150 of -0.5 in CF according to fangraphs.com.

Both DeJesus and Span have had very good seasons in the past so the difficulty comes in trying to predict their futures. Span had a couple of very good seasons with the Twins in 2008 and 2009, but hasn’t come close to producing .380+ OBP’s since. In fact, since the 2011 season in which Span suffered a concussion he’s posted OBP’s of .328 in 2011 and .342 in 2012, but if you toss in his rather pedestrian OBP of .331 in 2010 it’s beginning to look like his first two years were an aberration instead of his last two. Span’s OBP is very important because he hits for almost zero power and doesn’t steal a ton of bases.

DeJesus, on the other hand, has had a difficult time staying healthy, or rather not running into walls. Besides the obvious risk that this could somehow rub-off on Bryce Harper, the other potential issue is DeJesus not being in the lineup for long stretches of time. That being said, it’s not like Denard Span is going somewhere so the Nats have a backup. DeJesus has a career OBP of .354, but unlike Span there’s some consistency in his numbers instead of just having an average buoyed by a couple of great years.

All that’s just crazy-talk though because we all know the Nats don’t worry about silly stats like On Base Percentage, not when they’ve got scouts! Who cares about the silly numbers some nerds made up, probably in their mother’s basement while watching episodes of Doctor Who (love that show), even if those silly numbers would have told you that this is what you should have expected from Denard Span. Mike Rizzo watches games from the field not from a luxury suite. Denard Span is a prototypical lead-off hitter who’s fast and can bunt…okay, well at least he’s fast.

After signing DeJesus, the Nats almost immediately placed him on waivers according to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. Perhaps they acquired DeJesus to block him from another “contender”. It’s fun to dream though, but if you’re a big fan of weak ground balls to the right side, you’re in luck, it looks like Denard Span’s job is safe and sound and he’ll be back next year hitting in the leadoff spot, but hey next year all of the Nats talent will arrive and it’ll finally be there year!

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Tags: David Dejesus Denard Span Mike Rizzo Roger Bernadina Washington Nationals

  • Shawn Casey

    My question fo Rizzy is how any “project” players does he plan to have on this roster?

    • JWLumley

      I wouldn’t say that the big issue is necessarily “project” players, it’s poor talent evaluation. DeJesus has been a better player than Span and they got him for essentially a bag of balls, while giving up a top prospect for Span. But you’re right, that nearly none of Rizzo’s “projects” have worked out since Michael Morse and I can’t think of any pitching “projects” that have gone well which could speak to organizational issue with developing talent.

      • Shawn Casey

        Here are my project players that Rizzy has brought in: Haren, Span, Duke, Henri Rodriguez, LaRoche (new contract), and to some extent Soriano. I will give you Ramos and Werth because you can’t forsee injuries. But look at the history of the ones listed above. Even before the season he was “hoping” to get the Haren of 2011, he was hoping to have the Span of 08/09, he was hoping there was a spark in Duke or Rodriguez. He based 3 players futures (Morse, Span, Moore) on the “hope” that a long career of streaky hitting would suddenly disappear (LaRoche). With this “hope” he let the core of our bull-pen walk and a huge stick and team leader go (Morse). That is why Rizzy must go!

        • JWLumley

          I could see Haren as a “project” along with Duke and HRod, but LOLaRoche and Span were supposed to be good from day 1. They weren’t supposed to be projects, which is why I think it’s more of an issue of talent evaluation because they were supposed to be proven commodities. That being said, I wish they’d had kept Morse too, however, I probably would have kept Morse and LaRoche. There was no need to move Harper out of CF yet. Wait for Goodwin or Taylor instead.
          As for Rizzo going, the Lerners apparently wanted a scouting first type of GM. If they were more like the Rays, Cubs or Red Sox, they never would have hired Rizzo to begin with so I think he probably deserves more time.

          • Shawn Casey

            I disagree with your view of LaRoche. He had a career year in 2012 and Rizzy “hoped” a 34 yr old with a history of extreme streakyness would repeat a career year. This little move stymied the career of Tyler Moore and/or kept the ever Knoblock-like Zimmerman at 3rd, and removed the huge bat of Michael Morse out of our line-up. I love LaRoche and his glove but you can’t bank on him as your big stick in the lineup…which Rizzy did!

  • Guest

    I wouldn’t say that the big issue is necessarily “project” players, it’s poor talent evaluation. DeJesus has been a better player than Span and they got him for essentially a bag of balls, while giving up a top prospect for Span. But you’re right, that nearly none of Rizzo’s “projects” have worked out since Michael Morse.

    • JWLumley

      Stupid “Guest” way to steal my thunder. Obviously a reply FAIL if ever there was one.