The news broke yesterday evening that the Royals had traded outfielder David DeJesus to the A's for pitchers Vin Mazzaro and minor league pitcher Justin Marks. Its an awesome, Billy Beane type of trade. He's known for stuff like this, acquiring a guy as a rental and not really giving up a whole lot of anything. Mazzaro is roundly projected as a #4 or #5 starter, and Marks looks to have a future as a lefty specialist. So...why in the hell did the Royals feel the need to make this deal? It was a salary dump, pure and simple. DeJesus was scheduled to make $6 million in 2011, a bargain for a guy who has decent power, excellent plate discipline, and plays great defense. He would have been a perfect addition to the Braves lineup. So, why didn't Frank Wren make the move?
The first thing that pops into my mind is injury. DeJesus tore a ligament in his thumb last July making a catch at Yankee Stadium, and maybe the Braves weren't sold on rolling the dice on a player with a hand injury in 2011. The salary couldn't have been an issue, because of the money the team has coming off the books this offseason, plus the cost that will likely be incurred when the team finally gets an every day left fielder. Maybe the Braves brass was really set on acquiring someone with power, as opposed to someone who gets on base at a great clip. DeJesus' career high in homers is 13, but his walk rate always hovers around 8%, while striking out at around 14% of the time.
My overall guess is that the team looked at DeJesus and saw a guy who doesn't fit the mold of what everyone wants in left field. The fans and the media would kill to see a big bopper in left field for the Braves as opposed to someone who gets on base and plays solid defense. You don't need someone like a Pat Burrell in left field to win a championship (despite the Giants doing just that this month). The Yankees left fielder was Brett Gardner, who has no power at all, but plays excellent defense and gets on base at a great clip. The Rays had the best record in the American League, and their starting left fielder, Carl Crawford, stole 47 bases and won a gold glove. You don't need to have a big home run hitter in left field. The problem with the Braves is that they don't have one at first base or in right field either, so the need tends to get magnified a little more. Since the first baseman, Freddie Freeman, and the right fielder, Jason Heyward, aren't going anywhere any time soon, the need for a big slugger falls onto the vacant left field position. If the Braves added a player like Crawford, I'm sure people would still complain about it because he's not a home run hitter, despite being an absolutely fantastic player who would fill other needs for the team.
So what the hell are you getting at Joe, you ask? Didn't you just write an article last week talking about the left field slot, and all you named were big hitters? Well, yes...because that's all the free agent market has to bear. There are other names on the trade market that could be more appealing. DeJesus was a guy who wasn't going to excite the fanbase, but would absolutely positively had been a welcome addition for the team in left field. If the Braves were somehow able to piece together a blockbuster deal for Cardinals center fielder Colby Rasmus, and put him in center while shifting Nate McLouth to left, do you think people would complain, despite Rasmus not being a capital S Slugger? Of course not. There are tons of ways to improve the team and get production out of left field without necessarily adding a huge power bat. Frank Wren just needs to comb the free agent market and talk shop with his fellow GMs in order to find the one he thinks will best fit this team.