The Rays have exercised the club's $6.5MM option on outfielder David DeJesus, tweets Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. (With a $1.5MM buyout, this was effectively a $5MM decision.) Meanwhile, the sides are also discussing a multi-year extension, Topkin further tweets.
This news rates as at least a mild surprise, largely due to Tampa's historically lean payroll, which has landed just over $60MM at opening day the last two years. Looking ahead, the Rays owe $23.6MM to five players in 2014, and could spend right around $30MM on arbitration-eligible players. MLBTR's Mark Polishuk was among those who expected the option to be too pricey for GM Andrew Friedman to exercise it. Of course, if ace David Price finds a new home, his projected $13.1MM salary would open a lot of room.
DeJesus, who turns 34 in December, has been a solid-if-unspectacular contributor for some time now. He was exactly league average at the plate in terms of OPS last year, and he's never posted an OPS+ of under 91 or over 118 in a full season of action. (He played in just 91 games in 2010, when he managed a 127 OPS+ for the Royals.) Of course, the lefty has historically struggled against southpaws, with a .252/.321/.342 slash line that is dwarfed by his .289/.365/.447 line against righties. Even worse, that split has significantly worsened over the course of his career. Formerly just slightly below average against lefties, DeJesus has put up three straight wRC+ marks of 32 or lower when facing same-armed hurlers. DeJesus has divided his time about evenly between center field and the corner outfield, and is generally viewed as acceptable at the former and good at the latter.
The $6.5MM that DeJesus will earn next year becomes the largest annual payroll he's pulled down. He joined Tampa through the August non-revocable waiver trade market, after spending much of the season with the Cubs and then getting three at-bats with the Nationals on his way south.