Rays, DeJesus agree to two-year contract
Versatile veteran an option in outfield, as designated hitter or off the bench
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays wanted to keep David DeJesus and the veteran outfielder wanted to remain with the club, so the two sides managed to find a middle ground to keep him with the team through the 2015 season.
"I think playing meaningful baseball was a high priority, and being back with [the Rays] and getting back with those guys, who I feel comfortable with, that is definitely something [I wanted to do]," DeJesus said. "I just wanted a fair deal. We worked toward it and we got it."
On Wednesday, the Rays and DeJesus agreed to a two-year, $10.5 million contract that includes a club option for 2016. The contract replaces the $6.5 million 2014 club option Tampa Bay had picked up on Sunday.
"Both sides approached this with the intent to get something done," said Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. "David wanted to be here, and we wanted him to be here. He does a lot of things that we value.
"He fit in extremely well for the time that he was here, and I think more than anything, us getting a chance to be around him -- and also probably as important as anything was getting a chance to watch how he takes care of himself -- gave us confidence and conviction that he would be able to remain a good player for at least the next two years."
The Rays began to negotiate with DeJesus shortly after the World Series.
"I knew the whole time what we were doing," DeJesus said. "My agents, ACES, did a great job of keeping me informed, and they were in touch with Andrew a lot and we knew what we were doing."
DeJesus, who turns 34 in December, was acquired from the Nationals on Aug. 23 after beginning the season with the Cubs. He played in 35 games (26 starts) for Tampa Bay, and he finished the season hitting a combined .251/.327/.402 with eight home runs and 52 runs scored.
DeJesus called the Rays' clubhouse "welcoming" when he joined the team, and he reiterated the importance he placed on playing for a contender and not a team that starts to plunge shortly after Opening Day and one where "you know your season is going to be a losing season."
"I feel excited to be back. Just to be around Joe Maddon and Andrew, they made it comfortable [to play for the Rays] and be myself out in the field," DeJesus said. "I think the contract worked out for both sides."
DeJesus also batted .341 (15-for-44) at Tropicana Field after joining Tampa Bay. After 11 Major League seasons, DeJesus holds a .279 career average with a .353 on-base percentage.
The Rays had always coveted DeJesus before finally acquiring him for a player to be named (left-hander Matthew Spann). Having him on their roster did nothing to diminish how the team felt about him.
Keeping DeJesus gives Tampa Bay flexibility in several areas. Not only does he provide a viable outfield option on any given night, he also can be plugged in for late-inning defense, pinch-running and pinch-hitting. In addition, DeJesus could get use as the left-handed component of a platoon at designated hitter.
"We really haven't talked about [how I will be used in 2014], but after being with Joe, I understand the way he plays the game," DeJesus said. "I understand my role. Whenever I'm put out there, [I] give my best and play the game with the passion that I have, and I don't expect Joe to play it any other way. That's all I really worry about."
Luke Scott has been penciled in as the team's DH the past two seasons, but he struggled to remain healthy and that translated to offensive numbers well below expectations. Scott is not expected to be back next season after receiving $6 million in 2012 and $2.75 million in '13 (which doesn't include the $1 million buyout the Rays paid prior to re-signing him).
Parting ways with Scott no doubt helped the Rays find money to allocate toward keeping DeJesus and could possibly help them keep Delmon Young, who came to the team late in the season and could be the right-handed part of a DH platoon.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.