Free agency is officially underway, although it figures to be a while until the Phillies get around to doing anything with players from outside the organization.
Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Madson are going to be the first two orders of business, which means that any additions are going to take place after some time ticks off the clock. That's not a bad thing for the Phils, because the kinds of guys that they'll be looking for are likely to be players who are looking for a good situation to either play out the string or bounce back from down seasons to make bigger money in 2013.
David DeJesus is just such a player. The longtime Royal was traded to Oakland before last season and, like just about every other hitter to wear an A's uniform in recent years, saw his numbers go directly into the tank. He posted career lows in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, hurting his value just before an offseason that could have been lucrative for him if he had sustained his previous level of production.
Such a player seems like a bad bet to pay off as a free agent, but so was Lance Berkman at this time last year. The Cardinals were mocked far and wide for signing Berkman off a mediocre year with the Astros and Yankees, yet found themselves with a corner outfielder who raked his way to a massive comeback season and a World Series ring.
We're not going to argue that DeJesus has a Berkman-type year coming in 2012. His skill set isn't Berkman's, but it is a skill set that could help the Phillies next season. He had a thumb injury this season which likely contributed to his soft offensive numbers (.240/.323/.698), so you'd be banking on a return to form from past years.
That form includes a .356 career on-base percentage, which could help address the plate approach issues Ruben Amaro, Jr. talked about after the season, and he's an excellent defensive player. The Phillies haven't valued defense all that much in the outfield corners, but a player like DeJesus could contribute with his glove and, by being a good baserunner, he could support a great pitching staff very nicely.
DeJesus, who hails from Central Jersey and went to Rutgers, would be a perfectly good fill-in while Ryan Howard recuperates if John Mayberry, Jr. is playing first, he could split time with Mayberry or he could be a fourth outfielder/late inning replacement with a lot to offer outside of the power (his career high in homers is just 13) we usually expect from left fielders. Because he needs to rebound from an off year, he makes even more sense if the Phils bring Madson and Rollins back and don't have a ton of money to spend on other spots.
It would be a different kind of play than we are used to seeing from the Phillies, but DeJesus might give them what they need from an outfielder at a good value in 2012.