Bargain DeJesus signing a good start for Epstein in Chicago

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This isn’t the first time Theo Epstein tried to land David DeJesus.

As Boston’s general manager, Epstein attempted to pick up DeJesus from the Royals both before the 2010 trade deadline and again after the season. Epstein missed out both times, though, and DeJesus was instead dealt to Oakland, where he turned in his most disappointing season to date as the A’s primary right fielder.

Of course, Epstein didn’t let that series of events get him down. In fact, he took advantage, signing DeJesus to a two-year, $10 million contract in his new role as Cubs president. It’s a relative pittance compared to what DeJesus would have received had he instead been a free agent last winter.

And DeJesus doesn’t really seem like much worse of a bet now than he was then. He’s a year older, but at 32, he still qualifies as something of a spring chicken in the Cubs outfield. He should be the best of that bunch, too. DeJesus has a 107 OPS+ over the last three season, compared to 103 for Marlon Byrd and 101 for Alfonso Soriano.

The DeJesus signing does put a temporary roadblock in front of the Cubs’ top prospect, Brett Jackson, but it was already clear that the team doesn’t think he’s quite ready just yet. If Jackson starts demolishing Triple-A pitching, then Byrd could well be moved in June or July. Alternatively, the Cubs can just go ahead and bench or even release Soriano if he doesn’t perform better this year.

DeJesus isn’t the difference maker that Cubs fans are hoping for, but he should have been valued as an $8 million-per-year player and Epstein just bagged him for $5 million. Considering that Cubs are probably more than a Pujols away from winning the NL Central anyway, it’s exactly the kind of move Epstein was smart to start his tenure with.

MLB to crack down on sign stealing

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We’ve had a couple of notable incidents of sign stealing in Major League Baseball over the past couple of years. Most famously, the Red Sox were found to be using Apple Watches of all things to relay signs spied via video feed. Sports Illustrated reported yesterday that there have been other less-publicized and unpublicized incidents as well, mostly with in-house TV cameras — as opposed to network TV cameras — stationed in the outfield and trained on catchers, for the specific purpose of stealing signs.

As such, SI reports, Major League Baseball is cracking down beginning this year. Within the next couple weeks an already-drafted and circulated rule will take effect which will (a) ban in-house outfield cameras from foul pole to foul pole; (b) will limit live broadcasts available to teams to the team’s replay official only, and the replay official will be watched by a league official to keep them from relaying signs to the team; and (c) other TV monitors that are available to the clubs will be on an eight-second delay to prevent real-time sign stealing. There will likewise be limits on TV monitors showing the game feed in certain places like tunnels and clubhouses.

Penalties for violation of the rules will include the forfeiting of draft picks and/or international spending money. General managers will have to sign a document in which they swear they know of know sign-stealing schemes.

As was the case when the Apple Watch incident came up, there will not be any new rules regarding old fashioned sign stealing by runners on second base or what have you, as that is viewed as part of the game. Only the technology-aided sign stealing that has become more prominent in recent years — but which has, of course, existed in other forms for a very, very long time — is subject to the crackdown.

While gamesmanship of one form or another has always been part of baseball, the current wave of sign-stealing is seen as a pace-of-play issue just as much as a fairness issue. Because of the actual sign-stealing — and because of paranoia that any opponent could be stealing signs — clubs have gone to far more elaborate and constantly changing sign protocols. This requires mound meetings and pitchers coming off the rubber in order to re-start the increasingly complex series of signs from dugout to catcher and from catcher to pitcher.

Now, presumably, with these new rules coming online, teams will figure out a new way to cheat. It’s baseball, after all. It’s in their DNA.