When the Washington Nationals surprisingly designated David DeJesus for assignment just days after acquiring him from the Chicago Cubs, you had to know the Rays would have some interest in trading for him. The Rays had tried to acquire DeJesus from Chicago three weeks earlier at the July 31st trade deadline and they had always liked him for his undervalued skill-set. He was a player without much in the way of power or speed, but he made contact, got on base, and played strong defense in the outfield, and the Rays would have liked to get him on their roster at some point. But right then in the middle of August? That seemed like an afterthought. DeJesus was another outfielder who couldn’t hit left-handed pitching, joining the club of Matt Joyce and Kelly Johnson, and adding in the lefty bats of James Loney and Luke Scott meant that DeJesus seemingly didn’t have a place on the team. Desmond Jennings had been hurt for a while and DeJesus’ ability to play centerfield could have made him a rshort-term replacement, but Jennings came back before DeJesus was put on the market eliminating that need as well. The Rays liked DeJesus, but where was his place on the team? That’s the question every hearing about the Rays’ interest in DeJesus for asking. But for the Rays, it was totally irrelevant. They had an opportunity to acquire a player they had always appeciated at a fraction of what he was worth, and they would worry about everyone’s playing time later. They have been reaping the rewards ever since.
In 35 games and 117 plate appearances for the Rays, DeJesus has hit to a .260/.328/.413 line (108 OPS+) with 10 doubles, 2 homers, and 11 RBI. He has started 18 games in left field, 5 in center, and 3 in right. DeJesus has not been flashy, but he has been a solid contributor in a time of turmoil for the Rays. The Rays knew they had Joyce, Johnson, and Scott, but all three were slumping. DeJesus has been able to experience better results. DeJesus has certainly had his moments–most notably his walk-off single in the 18-inning game against the Orioles and his pinch-hit RBI double against the Rangers in the tiebreaker game–and his solid production both offensively defensively were crucial to the Rays keeping it together to make the postseason. The Rays’ acquisition of DeJesus led to more puzzlement than anything else at the time, but it has quietly paid dividends and the Rays could not have needed it more.
David DeJesus was so close to getting his chance. Through June 14th, he was playing well for a Cubs team going nowhere, hitting a .260/.318/.445 line with 15 doubles 6 homers, and 21 RBI in 217 plate appearances, and DeJesus had to like his chances of getting dealt to a contender at the trade deadline and finally having a chance at his first postseason berth in his 11-year career. But that June 14th night ended up being quite fateful for the veteran outfielder. DeJesus delivered a huge hit off Shaun Marcum in the second inning, clearing the bases with a three-run triple to give Chicago a 5-0 lead. But just one inning later, DeJesus injured himself running into the Citi Field wall, and the injury kept him out until July 24th. Instead of being a sought-after commodity at the deadline, DeJesus’ trade value was reduced significantly and it seemed more than likely that he would be staying put. But a few weeks later, the Cubs decided to place DeJesus on trade waivers, and it did not take long for a trade to come together. On August 19th, DeJesus was acquired by the Washington Nationas for a player to be named or cash. Right from the start, though, there were reasons for concern for DeJesus. The Nationals were not truly a contending team, owning just a 60-63 record when DeJesus joined their roster. More pressing, though, was that Washington immediately placed him right back on trade waivers, begging the question of why they acquired him to begin with. DeJesus had gotten traded, but it was a nightmare situation with a non-contending team that didn’t really want him. But since DeJesus was acquired by the Tampa Bay Rays from the Nationals on August 23rd, everything has turned around.
It came nearly a month later than he would have expected, but DeJesus finally got his chance to join a team in the postseason hunt. After the bad luck that had ensued for him in Chicago and followed him for his brief stay in Washington, DeJesus was appreciative of his newfound situation and poised to do everything in his power to help his new team win. Overall, DeJesus .260/.328/.413 line (108 OPS+) with 10 doubles, 2 homers, and 11 RBI in 117 plate appearances, seeing time at all three outfield positions. And in the moment of truth with his first career playoff berth on the line in the tie breaker game versus the Rangers, DeJesus jumped at the opportunity that was before him. DeJesus pinch-hit for Sean Rodriguez against Alexi Ogando and destroyed a misplayed fastball for an RBI double to gave the Rays a 4-1 lead in the game. DeJesus had been waiting his whole life for a chance, and when he got it, he wasn’t just along for the ride. He was a critical piece of the Rays’ success over the last six weeks of the season, and the insurance run he provided in the tiebreaker game made all the difference. David DeJesus could have stayed healthy and been traded earlier. He played well but he could have played a little better. However, despite all the hardships he went through this season, DeJesus would not trade what he has been through this year for anything. His first career postseason appearance is set to begin, and it was his own play that was key in making that happen.
Credit the Rays for acquiring DeJesus when so few others would have and DeJesus for seizing the opportunity the Rays have given him. If both of those things had not transpired, the Rays would not have gotten this far. The DeJesus acquisition could not have worked out better for every party involved. It has been a flawless convergence of a team needing a spark and a player desperate for a chance, and both of DeJesus and the Rays have to appreciate how perfectly everything worked out.