DeJesus drawing interest

According to John Paul Morosi of Fox Sports, the San Francisco Giants recently expressed interest in Kansas City Royals outfielder David DeJesus. While CSNBayArea.com’s Mychael Urban later reported that trade talks aren’t exactly hot and heavy between the two clubs, DeJesus’ name is often surfacing as July 31st approaches. MLBTradeRumors lists Boston, Atlanta and San Diego as other possible landing spots for K.C.’s fourth-round pick in the 2000 draft. “The Royals appear to be asking a lot for DeJesus,” MLBTR’s Ben Nicholson-Smith notes, “and why not?”

Why not, indeed. DeJesus has the sort of skill set that often receives lazy “fourth outfielder” or “tweener” designations. But those stereotypes aren’t at all fair — he’s a quality starter, even if he doesn’t fit the sluggardly corner outfield archetype.

While he doesn’t cause opposing pitchers to tremble when he steps up to the plate, DeJesus, 30, holds a career .289/.361/.429 line and a .344 wOBA. His park-and-league-adjusted wOBA is eight percent above the major league average (108 wRC+). From 2007-2009, he posted a .337 wOBA and a 104 wRC+. In 2010, he’s batting a robust .323/.395/.485, with a .384 wOBA and a 138 wRC+. It’s unlikely that he keeps this pace up — his batting average on balls in play is .360 this season, while his expected BABIP is .319 and his career BABIP is .321 — but he’s an above-average MLB hitter. Oliver projects DeJesus to post a .342 wOBA for the rest of 2010, while ZiPS forecasts a .358 wOBA.

If DeJesus were an average or worse corner outfielder, then the “tweener” label would be appropriate. But he’s a standout defender — during his career, DeJesus has a +15.2 UZR/150 in the corners, while playing an average center field (-1.2 UZR/150). Sean Smith‘s Total Zone is also a fan — pro-rated to 150 defensive games, DeJesus’ TZ numbers have him being about +17 in the corners and +7.4 in center. Oliver had DeJesus adding well over a win with his glove each season from 2007-2009, and has him at +9.1 runs saved already this season.

That combination of decent bat and rangy defense allowed DeJesus to average about three Wins Above Replacement from 2005-2009. He’ll almost assuredly surpass that number this season, as he’s already at 2.2 WAR.

So, what would a team pulling the trigger on a DeJesus deal get? Oliver has him compiling another 1.6 WAR in 2010. Let’s say that when a team puts together an acceptable offer, a little time has passed and DeJesus has a 1.2 WAR projection. On the free agent market, that sort of production would be worth something in the range of $5 to $6 million (assuming a $/WAR figure between four and five). Of course, that total could be higher for a team squarely in playoff contention. DeJesus is being paid $4.7 million this season. If he’s acquired around the half-way mark in terms of games played, he’d be owed $2.3-$2.4 million. Even if you give no additional boost in value for DeJesus aiding a club with credible playoff prospects, looking at a financial gain for playing well into October, DeJesus has several million dollars worth of surplus value this season.

But a team acquiring DeJesus isn’t getting a rent-a-player. He has a reasonable $6 million club option for the 2011 season. Oliver has DeJesus putting up a 2.5 WAR season next year, a performance that could cost $10 to $12 million in free agency. I’m not going to venture a guess in terms of potential draft pick compensation after 2011 — Elias’ system is inscrutable, and the current CBA expires in December of ’11.

Bare minimum, a team picking up DeJesus figures to get somewhere in the range of 3.5 to four wins between now and the end of 2011, at a cost of roughly $8.4 million. If DeJesus matches his Oliver projection (a combined 3.7 WAR during the rest of 2010 and the 2011 season), his performance would be worth $14.8 million in free agency at a $4 million/WAR figure and $16.7 million at $4.5M/WAR.

Looking at Victor Wang’s prospect values, K.C. could reasonably aim for a pitching prospect ranked in the 76-100 range (by Baseball America) in return. Prospect rankings are fluid. But just to give a very rough idea of what sort of farm talent that is, Chad James, Jordan Lyles, Drew Storen, Phillippe Aumont (though he wouldn’t come close to this range now), Andrew Cashner, Jay Jackson, Jake Arrieta and the Royals’ own Noel Arguelles ranked in that range prior to 2010. Perhaps you feel that wins are more valuable to a playoff contending team, or that DeJesus’ 2011 projection is too modest. If that’s the case, Kansas City could snag a top 76-100 hitter. Austin Jackson, Fernando Martinez, Tony Sanchez, K.C.’s Mike Moustakas (he’d rank higher now), Travis d’Arnaud, Jaff Decker, Adam Moore, Hank Conger, Mike Trout (ditto), Austin Romine, Lars Anderson, Wilmer Flores (he’d be higher too), Mat Gamel, James Darnell, Miguel Sano, Thomas Neal and Peter Bourjos placed there during the spring.

The Royals aren’t just going to surrender David DeJesus — he’s an above-average starter signed through 2011 at a reasonable rate. If he switches unis, expect Kansas City to add another well-regarded prospect to the system.

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