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.

Jeffrey Springs, Rays agree to $31 million, 4-year contract

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Left-hander Jeffrey Springs became the first of the 33 players who exchanged proposed arbitration salaries with their teams to reach a deal, agreeing Wednesday to a $31 million, four-year contract with the Tampa Bay Rays that could be worth $65.75 million over five seasons.

The 30-year old was among seven Rays who swapped arbitration figures with the team on Jan. 13. He began last season in the bullpen, transitioned to the starting rotation in May and finished 9-5 with a 2.46 ERA in 33 appearances, including 25 starts. He is 14-6 with a 2.70 ERA in 76 outings – 51 of them in relief – since he was acquired from Boston in February 2021.

Springs gets $4 million this year, $5.25 million in 2024 and $10.5 million in each of the following two seasons. Tampa Bay has a $15 million option for 2027 with a $750,000 buyout.

The 2025 and 2026 salaries can escalate by up to $3.75 million each based on innings in 2023-24 combined: $1.5 million for 300, $1 million for 325, $750,000 for 350 and $500,000 for 375. The `25 and ’26 salaries also can escalate based on finish in Cy Young Award voting in `23 and ’24: $2 million for winning, $1.5 million for finishing second through fifth in the voting and $250,000 for finishing sixth through 10th.

Tampa Bay’s option price could escalate based on Cy Young voting in 2025 and 2026: by $2.5 million for winning, $2 million for finishing second through fifth and $500,000 for sixth through 10th.

Springs would get $45.25 million if the option is exercised, $52.75 million with the option and meeting all innings targets and the maximum if he meetings the innings targets and wins two Cy Youngs.

Springs’ ERA last season was the second lowest in franchise history for a pitcher working a minimum of 100 innings. Former Rays ace Blake Snell compiled 1.89 ERA on the way to winning the 2018 AL Cy Young.

In addition to finishing sixth in the AL in ERA, Springs allowed three runs or fewer in 22 of 25 starts and two runs or fewer 17 times. He joined Tampa Bay’s rotation on May 9, gradually increasing his workload over his next six appearances. Springs was 6-3 with a 2.40 ERA in 14 starts after the All-Star break.

Arbitration hearings start next week and the Rays remain with the most players scheduled to appear before three-person panels.

Springs had asked for a raise from $947,500 to $3.55 million and had been offered $2.7 million. Tampa remains scheduled for hearings with right-handers Jason Adam, Pete Fairbanks and Ryan Thompson, left-hander Colin Poche, third baseman Yandy Diaz and outfielder Harold Ramirez.

Tampa Bay also agreed minor league contacts with catcher Gavin Collins and right-hander Jaime Schultz, who will report to major league spring training.

Infielder Austin Shenton and pitchers Anthony Molina and Joe LaSorsa also were invited to big league spring training.