We heard for years before the Rays acquired David DeJesus that they were enamored with him as a player. Then in August, the perfect series of events happened for him to don their uniform and he played very well for the last month of the season, managing a .260/.328/.413 line (108 OPS+) as he emerged as their starting left fielder against right-handed pitching and even played some centerfield when Desmond Jennings was out. In a sense, it was a dream come true–but would it be fleeting? DeJesus had a $6.5 million option following the season, and it was going to be a tough call for the Rays deciding whether to pick it up. The Rays liked DeJesus, but that is a pretty hefty price tag for a platoon player, especially by Rays standards. At the end of the day, though, everything DeJesus brought their team outweighed the negatives and they could not imagine letting him go. According to Marc Topkin, the Rays exercised DeJesus’ team option, and pending a trade, he will be in a Rays uniform once again next season. Moreover, the Rays are in talks with DeJesus about an extension that would keep him in Tampa Bay even longer.
The decision to pick up DeJesus’ option becomes a little easier when you realize that his buyout was worth $1.5 million–the Rays were going to be on the hook for that no matter what. It was a question of $5 million, not $6.5, and especially if the Rays were thinking about declining the option and trying to re-sign him for less, the chances of them getting him for less than $5 million were very small. DeJesus is not making peanuts by Rays standards, but they do have to like what he brings their team at what would be considered a low value for another team. DeJesus is an obvious example of an undervalued player because he doesn’t have a flashy game. He doesn’t hit for power, he doesn’t hit for so high of an average, and he doesn’t even steal bases. However, he basically does everything else. He plays strong defense in the outfield corners and is good enough in centerfield as well. He makes a lot of contact, including a fair amount of doubles to the gaps, and he also has strong plate discipline, making him a pesky hitter and a good one in the long run. He may not steal bases, but he is a very good baserunner otherwise, consistently taking the extra base. And that goes without saying that DeJesus is regarded as an excellent clubhouse presence.
With DeJesus in the fold, the Rays at least have something to work with in an offseason in which the Rays have a lot of decisions ahead of them. DeJesus isn’t a reclamation project like the Rays so often go for–he is far from a perfect player, but they can trust him to start the bulk of their games in left field and do a good job. In DeJesus, the Rays believe they have the perfect combination of reliability and that under-the-radar quality that DeJesus just can’t seem to shake, and that made him a great candidate to be brought back and potentially extended. For a Rays team that so often has to let players they like depart, it was great to see the circumstances arose for DeJesus to not just arrive in Tampa Bay but possibly stay for a while.