The Giants are signing shortstop Paul DeJong to a major league contract, reports Bob Nightengale of USA Today. The shortstop was recently designated for assignment by the Blue Jays and his transactions tracker at MLB.com indicates he was released yesterday.
DeJong’s career has been on a downward slope in recent years, with his offensive production declining in each season since his 2017 rookie year. He hit .285/.325/.532 in his first campaign for a wRC+ of 123, indicating he was 23% above league average. The Cards then gave him a six-year, $26MM extension but watched him struggle more and more as time went on. His wRC+ dropped to 103 in 2018, then 101, 87, and 85 in the years after. In 2022, he spent a couple of months on optional assignment and only hit .157/.245/.286 in the majors for a wRC+ of just 55.
He seemed to have turned things around somewhat this year, having hit .233/.297/.412 through 81 games with the Cards. He was striking out in 28.4% of his plate appearances but had popped 13 home runs in that time. His 95 wRC+ indicated he was still a tad below average at the plate overall, but for a shortstop who’s considered an above-average defender, that was a serviceable showing.
With the Cardinals out of contention this year and DeJong in the final guaranteed year of that extension, he was a sensible trade candidate. The Jays found themselves with a sudden need at short just before the deadline when Bo Bichette landed on the IL with a knee injury. They sent minor league pitcher Matt Svanson to the Cards in order to get DeJong as an emergency fill-in for Bichette.
Unfortunately, switching the red bird on his jersey for a blue one coincided with an incredible swoon in his performance. He recorded just three hits in 44 plate appearances for the Jays, all singles, while striking out 18 times and not drawing any walks. When Bichette was reinstated from the injured list, the Jays could have optioned a less-experienced player like Santiago Espinal or Davis Schneider but instead decided to just move on from DeJong.
At the time of the trade, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the Cardinals are covering half of DeJong’s remaining salary and the buyouts on two club options. DeJong’s salary is $9MM this year, which left about $3MM to be paid out at the time of the trade and $2MM now. After being released, any club could sign him and pay him just the prorated league minimum, with that amount subtracted from what the other clubs pay.
It seems like the Giants will take that chance on another DeJong bounceback, which is a fairly logical move for them. Their regular shortstop, Brandon Crawford, just landed on the injured list over the weekend due to a left forearm strain. Thairo Estrada is also day-to-day after being hit by a pitch on the hand on Sunday. That leaves veteran utility man Johan Camargo and rookie Casey Schmitt as their healthiest middle infield options at the moment. Camargo has hit .220/.273/.345 since the start of 2019 while Schmitt is hitting .197/.249/.279 through his first 226 plate appearances.
Though DeJong may be inconsistent at the plate, it’s a sensible chance for the Giants to take. If he’s able to get back into decent form, he could certainly be an upgrade over their current options. By getting added to the roster prior to 11:59pm ET on August 31, DeJong will be eligible for the postseason roster as well. The Giants are currently 65-60 and in possession of the final Wild Card spot in the National League.
The club currently has a full 40-man roster and will need to make a corresponding move to add DeJong whenever this move becomes official. They will also need a spot for pitching prospect Kyle Harrison, who is reportedly going to be added and start tonight’s game, meaning some further roster moves are coming for the Giants.