Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong has been dealing with some back tightness of late and suffered a setback yesterday. He told Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he was planning to serve as the club’s designated hitter today but now doubts he’ll get into a game before camp breaks. He said he can’t flex or rotate his spine without pain. Since Opening Day is now just over a week away, he seems destined for a trip to the injured list to begin the year.
It’s an unfortunate start to the season for DeJong, one that figures to be important for him. He’s headed into the final guaranteed season of the six-year, $26MM extension he signed prior to the 2018 campaign. At that time, he was coming off an excellent rookie season in 2017 in which he hit 25 home runs and slashed .285/.325/.532 for a wRC+ of 123.
Unfortunately, his offense has been trending down in each season since then. His wRC+ dropped to 103 and then 101 in the first two years of that deal, then 87 and 85 in the next two, before dropping to a dismal 55 last year. He struck out in 33.3% of his plate appearances in 2022 and finished with a batting line of .157/.245/.286. Tommy Edman took over the shortstop job and DeJong was even optioned to the minors for over two months in the middle of last summer. Edman hit .265/.324/.400 last year for a wRC+ of 108 and earned strong grades across the board for his shortstop defense.
Despite the struggles at the plate, DeJong is well suited for a backup infield role given his own defense. Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating have always been fond of his glovework and that has continued to be the case. Outs Above Average had mixed feelings about DeJong’s early career work but gave him a +4 in 2021 and a +5 last year.
DeJong is set to make $9MM this season, which is certainly a high price to pay for a backup infielder. But the money is already committed and his work in the field is good, so there’s little harm in keeping him around as a bench piece. He has now surpassed five years of service time, meaning he can no longer be optioned to the minors without his consent. President of baseball operations John Mozeliak indicated in December that the club planned to keep DeJong, saying that they’re “not ready to cut bait” on him. The Marlins reportedly had some trade talks with the Cards about DeJong this winter but it didn’t seem much progress was made.
The extension that DeJong originally signed has a pair of club options. There’s a $12.5MM option for 2024 with a $2MM buyout and a $15MM option for 2025 with a $1MM buyout. There was a time when those options would have seemed like bargains but they now seem highly unlikely to be picked up. DeJong would have to produce an incredible offensive turnaround for it to even be a consideration this year, which will be hard to pull off while serving in a part-time role. Injuries to other players could potentially open up more playing time for him down the road, but DeJong is the one hurt at the moment.
While it doesn’t seem like DeJong is going to be out for an extended stretch of time, the Cards will still have a bit less depth in the middle infield until he recovers. Edman should be the everyday shortstop, with Brendan Donovan likely at second base on most days. Donovan can also play elsewhere, including shortstop, which could open up some more playing time for Nolan Gorman. If they want another middle infielder on the team, they could select a non-roster invitee like Taylor Motter, who is having a nice spring. José Fermín is on the 40-man but was recently shut down for a few weeks with a quad strain. But if the Cards feel the trio of Edman, Donovan and Gorman is enough cover until DeJong gets back, perhaps that opens a bench spot for an outfielder like Alec Burleson.
I’m just here to stop the “wow” guy
well I’ve been beat and now this is just embarrassing
Bart Harley Jarvis
manfraud—pretty simple—-hit the mute button and you will never see it again. Wow has been stopped.
until someone else does it
So true—but it only stays on the screen for about three seconds.
That’s horrible advice mike
If only the Mute button worked on this iPhone app.
Agreed. I mute people and continue to see their posts.
Might as well fold your franchise if Paul DeJong is penciled in as your designated “hitter”.
stan lee the manly
He’s not though, he’s their backup SS on the depth chart. Gorman/Yepez/OF that isn’t starting after Walker makes the roster are all well ahead of him for the DH spot.
Ol’ Uncle Charlie
Stan, he’s the best glove on the team at SS, but if Tommy needs a day, Donovan is very likely to get a start at SS.
DeJong’s glove plays, but his bat is a black hole, unless things turn around.
Curly Was The Smart Stooge
Yes, still a good fielder & a very intelligent. guy. Sadly, termites have infested his bat & left him at the plate with only batting gloves.
If he can’t find his bat maybe there is a future in the STL FO.
Ol’ Uncle Charlie
He would only DH in a blowout situation or something similar to that. The Cards have a lot of other options if DeJong doesn’t turn things around.
He’s not part of any real plans for the team, but he’s gettin $9m in this last year of the deal, so he hasn’t been moved…yet.
He was slated for DH for one ST day. I paused for a second contemplating if that had been the plan for a real game rather than ST and quickly dismissed the thought.
But where are they going to find a guy that hits .197?
Amazing that they have more deserving players than roster spots and yet DeJong is expected to be on the MLB club.
DeJong fields the shortstop position as good as any.
Who cares. He’s not Brendan Ryan.
I guess the IL is better than being DFA’d
Hopefully they can keep him on the IL. He’s a great DFA candidate given the log jam that has developed in the middle infield. There are much more deserving batters available for DH.
A team change might help DeJong.
The article just says he was expecting to DH TODAY. I think everyone is reading in to it too much. He was going to try to get some additional AB’s at DH because his back was preventing him from playing the field. Now it has gotten bad enough he can’t swing either so he’s going on the IL. There are no plans for him to be the DH once the season begins.
I wish him luck and a speedy recovery. I was pulling for him. Now I think it’s best they find him another team once he’s healthy. A change of scenery is in order.
The solution is easy and obvious. Winn should be the every day starting short stop. Edmond still plays almost every day, but in different positions, giving days off to Arenado, Winn, Donovan, and the outfielders. That probably pushes Burleson and Yepez to AAA, but so what? If Winn struggles, adjust the roster, other injuries will open up playing time for others as well.
Winn is likely a year out and should be. No need to rush
Plus Edman would become the second baseman and Donovan would roam around
Winn is still too young to purchase a cold Budweiser or Busch. A year in Memphis will be of great benefit for this 20 year old.
Not true. He turned 21 yesterday
There is no solution required. Even with DeJong on the IL, there is no need for Winn. Tommy plays short, as planned, Gorman plays 2B, and Donovan moves around. That’s the way it was headed anyway. Gorman has hit well this spring, he deserves another shot to play everyday. Donovan will get into the lineup everyday one way or another. No need to change anything. Kramer Robertson will probably get DeJong’s roster spot if Pauly can’t go. Robertson has also played well this spring and provides the same kind of positional versatility.
Although I like Robertson I think Motter gets the roster spot
Motter rocks. That guy looks like he knows his way around a Budweiser.
The way Motter has performed in Spring Training games, I would not be surprised if he is on the 26 man roster for Opening Day at Busch.
For those of you who feel the Astros were the only ones cheating in 2017, here you go. Not only the Cards, but the Dodgers and Bellinger, the Red Sox and Mookie…lots of hitters knew what was coming.
Waiting for your evidence on this from the Cardinals and Red Sox as you throw dozens of professionals under the bus…
As I read the comment, I hear music from the Twilight Zone playing in the background.
Addition by subtraction
DeJong is a holdover from the Dan McLaughlin era of the team. McLaughlin is finally and mercifully gone. DeJong is soon to follow.