The case for David DeJesus

Ronald Martinez

The brothers Gabe would be proud.

The Rays picked up David DeJesus's $6.5 million option, and then promptly signed him to a multi-year deal. DeJesus, a 34-year old outfielder, has been a flashpoint for debate in these parts. The case against DDJ goes something like this: "Six and a half million is a lot to spend for a 400-500 OPS vs. lefties." Frankly, I think that statement is absurd. Let me makes some similar ones.

  • $2 million is a lot to spend for someone who can only play first base, the easiest defensive position (James Loney, last year).
  • $5 million is a lot to spend for someone with a career ISO barely above .100 (Yunel Escobar).
  • $13 million is a lot to spend for someone who hits like a pitcher (David Price).
You don't pay people based on what they can't do. You pay them based on how well they can do the job they'll be asked to do. In DeJesus's case, that job is to play left field, spell Desmond Jennings in center, and hit right-handed pitching. Sean Rodriguez can take care of the lefties.

So, what should you expect from an S-Rod/DDJ platoon? By combining regressed career platoon splits with Steamer projections, I get these predictions.

wOBA vs. RHP wOBA vs. LHP
David DeJesus 0.332 0.288
Sean Rodriguez 0.285 0.314

Now if that looks low to you for S-Rod, you're not alone. It's based off a .297 wOBA overall projection. Still, let's roll with it. Last year, around 70% of MLB plate appearances came against right-handed pitching, while 30% came against left-handed pitching. If Joe Maddon is able to deploy his platoon with 75% efficiency, that would result in an overall projection of a .320 wOBA. If Maddon does better, the projection gets better.

So now let's convert this to WAR. Over 600 PAs, that platoon would be about 3 runs above average. The positional adjustment would be about -7.5 runs (left field is not a premium position), but both DDJ and S-Rod are good fielders. Based on how dazzling Rodriguez has looked in limited time, and on DeJesus's body of work (including recent above-average UZR production in center field), I'm comfortable giving all of that back to them in the defensive adjustment. In fact, I'll be conservative and give only 7.5 defensive runs saved, even though I think they're better than that. Add in 20 more runs for the replacement level adjustment, and we have a 2.3 WAR left-fielder.

That would have been the be 34th best outfielder in all of baseball last year, equivalent to the total WAR put up by Giancarlo Stanton or or Yoenis Cespedes. Any team, even the Rays can pay $8 million for that.

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