Cubs trade OF David DeJesus to the Nats; recall Bogusevic

The Chicago Cubs today traded outfielder David DeJesus to the Washington Nationals for a player to be named later. As a corresponding roster move, the team will activate outfielder Brian Bogusevic from the 15-day disabled list.

DeJesus batted .250 (71-for-284) with 19 doubles, six home runs and 27 RBI in 84 games with the Cubs this season. He had a .330 on-base percentage and a .401 slugging percentage. The 33-year-old joined the Cubs prior to the 2012 campaign and batted .263 (133-for-506) with 28 doubles, nine home runs and 50 RBI in 148 games, posting a .350 on-base percentage and a .403 slugging percentage.

Overall, DeJesus is a career .279 hitter with 86 home runs and 513 RBI in 1,239 major league games with Kansas City (2003-2010), Oakland (2011) and the Cubs (2012-13).

Bogusevic is batting .261 (12-for-46) with three doubles and three RBI in 13 games with the Cubs this season. The 29-year-old was placed on the 15-day disabled list on July 19 (retroactive to July 15) with a left hamstring strain. He completed a rehab assignment during which he hit .367 (11-for-30) with four doubles, one triple and five RBI in eight games with Rookie-level Mesa (seven games) and Triple-A Iowa (one game).

The popular DeJesus was also credited with being a mentor to younger players on the team, especially first baseman Anthony Rizzo. In honor of DeJesus’ contributions to the Cubs, below we are reprinting a feature we ran on him in the June 2012 edition of Vine Line.

DEJESUS-D-051713-SG-07

(Photo by Stephen Green)

David DeJesus charged hard around the bases.

Rounding second, he nimbly hopped over a grounder that skittered into the outfield, and then broke into a toothy grin. Covered in sweat, he returned to the dugout to retrieve his glove—for fielding practice. The 2012 late-April night game against the St. Louis Cardinals was still two and a half hours away.

This batting practice display offers a glimpse of the intangibles—the intensity, the passion, the childlike joy—that likely convinced Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer to make DeJesus their first and most prominent roster addition when they came aboard in 2011. It was by no means a splashy signing. But as an elite defensive outfielder with a solid bat, DeJesus was a bodily manifestation of “playing the game the right way,” a phrase often used to describe the “Cubs Way.”

“He’s a perfect example of where this organization is headed,” said former Cub Reed Johnson, who spoke gushingly about DeJesus’ play in right field and his tireless work ethic.

For DeJesus, signing with the Cubs was nothing less than an alignment of the stars. The 33-year-old right fielder was looking for a bounce-back season after suffering a frustrating down year in 2011 with the Oakland A’s, and Epstein’s faith reaffirmed what he always believed about himself as a player. It also provided DeJesus the luxury of being able to drive home after games to his new residence in the Chicago suburb of Wheaton, where he lives with his wife, Kim, and their 3-year-old son, Kingston.

“It’s an honor,” DeJesus said of Epstein’s pursuit of him. “With the track record he has of bringing in quality baseball players … it’s definitely something I’m proud of. I’m happy he thinks of me like that.”

What seemed like a storybook marriage of team and player got off to a rocky start in Chicago, as DeJesus struggled at the plate in the early going. But as the weather warmed up, DeJesus’ bat started showing signs of life. He finished the season with a batting average of .263 and his on-base percentage was a respectable .350. He even drew a rare walk-off walk in an 11th inning victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on May 6. The toothy grin was on full display there too.

Despite maybe having lower offensive stats than planned, skipper Dale Sveum expressed no worries, pointing to his right fielder’s merits, which don’t always show up in the box score, and calling DeJesus “a real smart player” and a “very nice asset to have.”

“He’s probably one of the top five outfielders in baseball,” Sveum said. “He’s still putting up quality at-bats.”

After that late April batting practice, DeJesus sat in the empty Cubs dugout and denied feeling any added pressure from being the first and perhaps most symbolic signing of the nascent Epstein regime in Chicago.

“There’s enough pressure in baseball,” DeJesus said. “To put that on, in addition to coming to the field and trying to hit 95 [mph fastballs] every day, that’s just going to weigh on you. All I can do is go out there and play the game the way I know how to play it, with passion and with the team logo on my heart.”

Family Ties
Growing up in Manalapan, N.J., the young DeJesus waited each day for the sound of the garage door opening at 5 p.m. It meant his father was home from work. It also meant baseball.

Nearly every day, Heryk DeJesus would take his three sons to the park after work to hit and shag baseballs. A native of Puerto Rico, the patriarch insisted his sons learn the game he loved so dearly. In cold weather (which is not uncommon in New Jersey), they retreated to the basement, where Heryk set up a makeshift backstop with a mattress and blankets hanging from the ceiling. The DeJesus boys hit balls flipped to them or off of a tee.

“That constant persistence of perfecting the swing and getting good pitches and stuff like that, I think that got me where I am today,” he said.

DeJesus broke into the big leagues with the Kansas City Royals in 2003 and has since enjoyed a solid career offensively, with the exception of 2011’s injury-hampered campaign. He’s a smart situational hitter who grinds out at-bats, gets on base, runs the bases hard and scores runs.

In his first year with the Chicago Cubs, DeJesus said he felt right at home—even though he’s not exactly a big-city guy.

“We decided we weren’t downtown people so we moved out to the suburbs,” he said. “I don’t like the hustle and bustle of the city. I like the open space. I like the Target being one floor instead of three.”

In a move of surprising prescience, the couple actually bought their 15-room brick mansion more than a month before DeJesus signed with the Cubs. They figured no matter where he signed, they would at least be close to Kim’s parents, who also live in Wheaton. For Kim, joining the Cubs—the team she grew up rooting for—was pure serendipity.

“We didn’t know he was going to be with the Cubs, obviously,” said Kim DeJesus, 31, a graduate of Wheaton Warrenville South High School. “I think I cried pretty much the whole day after finding out.”

As anyone with children can attest, it’s a luxury to live near grandparents. Scott and Shelley Iliff, Kim’s parents, help with Kingston, which allows Kim to travel with David on road trips from time to time. It also frees the couple up for the occasional date night at a vegan restaurant. (Kim, a part-time model, is a vegan; David is not.)

Being able to live in your hometown and drive to your husband’s home games is something of a dream come true for a baseball wife, Kim said.

“You can never complain in this lifestyle because it comes with so many blessings,” she said. “But living here, close to my parents, it makes it so much easier.”

Nothing is certain in the unpredictable business of baseball. DeJesus’ contract expires after 2013, with an option for the 2014 season. Add the ever-present possibility of a trade, and time in one location is never guaranteed. But the couple hopes to put down roots in Wheaton, and at Wrigley, for the foreseeable future.

“We plan to be here as long as possible. This is going to be our home base,” DeJesus said. “It makes it better when you’re playing for your hometown team, and you can go 45 minutes to home at the end of the season or at the end of the day. And I love being a Cub.”

Legacy in the Making
Lanky pitcher Jeff Samardzija stood on a chair in the clubhouse and slowly waved a radio antenna around like a divining rod, searching for a signal, before that late-April game against the Cardinals. Soon, Blue Oyster Cult and Robert Plant were blasting throughout the locker room, as players filtered in and out for batting practice. The 2012 Cubs were a team with notably good clubhouse chemistry, even after the mid-season trade departures. And several players spoke in glowing terms about DeJesus’ daily contributions.

Johnson, for example, immediately took a liking to DeJesus’ professional demeanor. So much so, he asked DeJesus to take the empty locker next to his own.

“In a city like this, if you have a guy who’s too uptight, the city can pick you apart,” Johnson said before his trade to Atlanta. “He’s got that good personality, good sense of humor, but when the bell rings, he’s ready to go.”

DeJesus also acted as a mentor for a lot of the young guys as well. With all the moves, minor leaguers were getting shuffled into the major league clubhouse at a feverish pace.

Though it was phenom Anthony Rizzo’s bat that did much of the talking in 2012, he has credited DeJesus for taking him under his wing, working out with him and showing him the ropes after the then-22-year-old’s callup. He also spoke to 12 minor leaguers during January’s Rookie Development Program, a 12-day Cubs seminar to better acclimate minor leaguers to major league baseball.

Dave McKay, the Cubs’ first base and fielding coach, praised DeJesus’ impeccable defense and how deftly he made the transition to the notoriously difficult right-field position at Wrigley.

“There hasn’t been a glitch yet,” he said. “He’s playing right field like he’s played it his whole life.”

In some ways, DeJesus is most defined by what he is not. He readily admits he’s not a power hitter, and he’s not going to swipe 60 bags. But he’s also not selfish or arrogant. He’s not a slacker or a prima donna. He’s not someone you have to worry about on the field or off. When asked how he envisions his baseball legacy, he doesn’t hesitate for a moment: He wants to be remembered as a great teammate and player who gave it his all every day.

“He plays the game like he’s blessed he’s a part of it,” McKay said.

In other words, he plays the game the right way. 

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