The Washington Nationals have acquired outfielder David DeJesus from the Cubs in exchange for a player to be named later, and in a corresponding move, have released outfielder Roger Bernadina.
The 33-year old DeJesus is a pretty solid player, yet this trade makes no sense to me from Washington's point of view. Bryce Harper has an outfield spot locked down for years in DC. Jayson Werth's contract is so awful that the Nationals couldn't move him if they wanted to (not that they would, since Werth has been playing some pretty good baseball lately). That leaves Denard Span as the odd man out, but Span is four years younger than DeJesus and signed through next season with an option for 2015. DeJesus has an option on his deal for next season at $6.5 million.
Essentially, this is a depth move for next year, but paying a bench player $6.5 million is ludicrous, especially for a team that already has $81 million committed to next year's payroll and as many as nine players eligible for arbitration. Washington could already have five outfielders set for next year, with summer acquisition Scott Hairston joining DeJesus and the three incumbents.
This season with the Cubs, DeJesus is hitting.250/.330/.401 with six homers as their primary center fielder. He's gotten playing time at all three outfield spots over his career, and would be a worthwhile starter on any team. But nothing about this makes sense for Washington. DeJesus and Span both have the same offensive deficiency (they can't hit lefties), and while Hairston smashes lefties, he can't really play center field.
I have no idea what's going on here. You can beat the drum about how this is a move to strengthen Washington's bench based on how terrible Bernadina was this year, but the fact is that if Washington picks up DeJesus' option for next season, they're now paying two outfielders $9 million to sit on the bench while paying their three starters nearly $30 million. Slightly under $40 million for five outfielders, three of which have massive platoon splits, doesn't seem like a wise usage of money at all. especially with the eight figures committed to each of Rafael Soriano, Adam LaRoche, and Ryan Zimmerman.
And if the Nationals don't pick up DeJesus' option, what was the point of even making this trade? They're three games under .500 and closer to the 53-70 Cubs in the standings than any playoff team. Washington needs to play .641 baseball over their last 39 games to reach just 85 wins, and they'd need to play .769 baseball to reach 90 wins. Neither of those scenarios seems very likely, even with just three games against a team above .500 in their next 26. Even if the PTBNL in this deal is a non-prospect, the nuts and bolts of the trade raise more questions than answers going forward.