Today, the Rays acquired David DeJesus from the Nationals a few days after Washington got him from the Cubs. The cost of both acquisitions was either a minor prospect or cash, as DeJesus is being moved essentially as a cost savings maneuver. He wasn’t in big demand at the trade deadline, and isn’t seen as a major acquisition.
A few weeks ago, the Rangers acquired Alex Rios from the White Sox, after this transaction was rumored for weeks heading up to the trade deadline. The Rangers received a lot of praise for getting a deal done in the wake of Nelson Cruz’s suspension, with several people noting that the Rangers got both “the best hitter” (Rios) and “the best pitcher” (Matt Garza) available this summer.
Perception is a funny thing. Here’s David DeJesus and Alex Rios, season to date.
And, if you think a few hundred at-bats isn’t a fair comparison, here are their totals over the last three seasons.
Both are outfielders. Both came up as center fielders but have spent a lot of time in the corners over the last few years, though DeJesus has primarily played CF for the Cubs this year, and is probably the better defender of the pair. Both are basically league average hitters. Rios is a much better baserunner. Most of this stuff cancels out, and they’re pretty similarly valuable players. Rios is a year younger, if you’re looking for a tie-breaker.
I’ve got a better one, though. Alex Rios is guaranteed $13 million in salary next year, and will be due a $1 million buyout on his 2015 option at the end of the season. David DeJesus is under team control due to a $6.5 million team option that the Rays hold for next season, with a $1 million buyout if they prefer to let him walk.
Basically, DeJesus earns exactly half of what Rios makes, and the Rays didn’t have to give up their version of Leury Garcia — a 22-year-old who looks likely to be a utility player, but still something of an asset — to get him. And everyone yawned.
The baseball media has come a long way, but the perception of players is still heavily driven by batting average, home runs, and RBIs, with a side of stolen bases thrown in for good measure. Rios wins all of these measures, with DeJesus making up the difference in walks, doubles, and defense. Those things still just aren’t valued all that highly, so no one cares that the Rays picked up an underpaid league average player for nothing today, while the Rangers got kudos for picking up an overpaid league average player a few weeks ago.
Walks and doubles count. David DeJesus is a nifty little player. He’s probably going to be worth $6.5 million next year, or something close to it. Moves like this are why the Rays are good, even if it’s not a very exciting transaction. Exciting doesn’t equate to valuable. Alex Rios is more exciting than David DeJesus, but there’s not a lot of evidence that he’s actually a better baseball player.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.