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Giants sign SS Paul DeJong, will join team Wednesday

The Blue Jays cut him after trading for him.

Chicago Cubs v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images

The San Francisco Giants have signed free agent shortstop Paul DeJong and he will be joining the team tomorrow in Philadelphia.

About a week before the trade deadline, I thought he might be someone the Giants were looking at as an acquisition but we all know the Giants chose the path of least resistance and instead DeJong (de-YOUNG) went to the Blue Jays. Here was my assessment:

Paul DeJong - STL

Season line: .232/.298/.421 (1.5 fWAR; 101 wRC+)

That line might not get you very excited, but his 13 home runs would be tied with Michael Conforto and Wilmer Flores for the Giants’ team lead. He’d also be one of just eight active Giants hitting at or above the league average (by wRC+).

His season walk rate of 7.3% is off his career mark of 8.2% and the 28.7% strikeout rate a little bit higher than his career 27.7%, and neither of these marks would necessarily land him on the radar of Farhan Zaidi’s performance model, but as these rates do put him somewhere in the Blake Sabol to J.D. Davis/Mitch Haniger zone, I can kinda see it. Yes, the strikeouts really are an issue, but the power is very real. Since 2017 (when he entered the league), DeJong’s cumulative .195 Isolated power is 7th in MLB, just behind Carlos Correa (.197) and ahead of Marcus Semien (.194), and that’s in fewer games than both.

Then there’s the defensive component, which might actually be where he has the most value, even to a team starved for power. His +7.2 Defensive Runs Above Average is 7th in MLB and 4th in the National League. Better results than big ticket signings Correa, Xander Bogaerts, and Trea Turner. As good as Francisco Lindor’s results. By Outs Above Average, his +6 is 10th among all shortstops, and 6th in the NL. He would be a substantial upgrade over what the team has now.

What I didn’t know is what it would take to get him. The Blue Jays got DeJong from the Cardinals in exchange for 24-year old RHP Matt Svanson. As Baseball America describes him:

Svanson is a relief prospect capable of slotting into the upper-minors depth chart for the Cardinals.

The Giants just didn’t want to give up any prospects for a guy who was barely league average with the bat. Fair enough. And now they look even smarter, as he will cost them nothing but the prorated major league minimum, something they were already going to pay to random 40-man guy they’ll need to DFA in order to make space for DeJong.

DeJong’s three weeks with the Blue Jays were a human tragedy. Three hits in 44 at bats with 18 strikeouts and 0 walks. BUT! As I mentioned in my self-quote above, his primary value is his defense, and that’s not damning with faint praise. He’s been GOOD as a shortstop:

+9 Defensive Runs Above Average (FanGraphs)
+8 Outs Above Average; 94th percentile (Statcast)
+0 Fielding Runs Saved (Fielding Bible/Sports Info Solutions)

If you see a +0 and chuckle, consider this: that’s an incredible improvement over what the Giants have featured this season. By the Fielding Bible’s measure, the Giants have the worst defense at shortstop in the National League, with Brandon Crawford sporting a -13 runs and Casey Schmitt a -2.

Like I said in the earlier piece about the acquisitions of two 1B/OF guys, this is a “free” move that the Giants could make and they took it. DeJong represents the best of what’s left and it’s clear the team feels it needs to improve in any way that it can here in the season’s final five weeks. The gambit might not work, but at least they tried...