Cubs’ David DeJesus: One guy who’s welcome anywhere
BY GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org March 26, 2013 9:42PM
Updated: April 28, 2013 6:43AM
MESA, Ariz. — It wasn’t even a rumor as much as admitted speculation. But Cubs center fielder David DeJesus saw the published report a few days ago suggesting the Kansas City Royals might target him for a trade this season.
The Royals as buyers? The Cubs as sellers? DeJesus going back to his original team? The rumors already starting in March?
‘‘When I see stuff like that, I try not to worry about it,’’ said the veteran, who knows there’s a good chance he’s going to hear a lot more rumors as the season unfolds toward the July 31 trading deadline. ‘‘My wife reads it. That’s when it’s like, ‘No. I don’t want to leave Chicago.’ But I understand that’s just part of the business with baseball,’’ he said.
‘‘I want to be here. I want to be here for the long term. And I want to see us win a championship. That’s my ultimate goal here.’’
DeJesus, who gets a reminder of the latest rumor when the Cubs play the Royals on Wednesday, is in the second guaranteed year of a contract that pays him $4.25 million this year with a $6.5 million option for 2014.
He is left-handed, productive, versatile and a strong clubhouse presence wherever he’s been, fitting one of the classic molds of the ideal midseason trade target for a contender with a need.
He also fits the classic short-term-asset mold the Cubs’ second-year front office sees when lining up their guys to trade for ‘‘long-term assets’’ in July.
But could DeJesus break the mold? Could there be a fit for him longer-term with this rebuilding franchise, even as outfielders such as top prospects Jorge Soler and Albert Almora begin to break in?
‘‘Those are definitely the character-type people we want on our ballclub,’’ manager Dale Sveum said of DeJesus. ‘‘He’s one of them guys that you always want around in an organization.’’
DeJesus, 33, is the Cubs’ leadoff hitter and starting center fielder after moving from right to accommodate offseason acquisitions Nate Schierholtz and Scott Hairston.
He knows why he was brought in: to mentor young players while the team rebuilds, with no commitment beyond the short term.
‘‘I know [team president] Theo [Epstein] has a plan,’’ he said.
But he also believes he can fit the longer-term plan.
‘‘I think there’s always a place for a veteran player. I don’t even feel I’m that old,’’ he said. ‘‘But I think I bring a lot to the table. I can offer a lot. I want to be a Cub for the rest of my career. I feel that the competitiveness that I have can [feed] the team.’’
His contributions off the field have been as conspicuous this spring as anything he’s done on the field during his hot-hitting spring — as conspicuous as the red ‘‘breakfast’’ T-shirts he and young first baseman Anthony Rizzo wear with their uniform numbers on the back when they head out for rotations of early-morning workouts, often heavy on core work.
A routine that started when Rizzo came up from the minors and started asking questions last June has morphed into the ‘‘breakfast club’’ that included young outfielder Matt Szczur before he was cut from big-league camp. It occasionally includes second baseman Darwin Barney.
It’s a version of the same thing DeJesus does during the regular season to get his mind and body awake for all of the day baseball at Wrigley Field. Rizzo started following because he was looking for a way to cope with the same challenge.
‘‘The day games come really quickly,’’ DeJesus said, ‘‘and if you want to be ready at that first at-bat, especially the guys in the top of the order, it gives you that little edge. We have to be ready right away.’’
‘‘He doesn’t know how much he’s meant to me,’’ said Rizzo, also a postgame workout partner during the season, ‘‘being in the clubhouse and being in the big leagues with him helping me out as far as day-to-day living. We’ll go in, whether we get four hits or zero hits, and we’ll go work out right after the game, and that day’s over after the workout.’’
Said Sveum: ‘‘Those are the kind of people you want around. And sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t.’’