This season didn’t go like most seasons. The Cardinals were terrible. I stopped writing here very much, with nothing after the blog anniversary. However, some things must go on and that includes the Exit Interview series! Now in its 12th year, it’s our look back at each player that made an appearance in a game for the St. Louis Cardinals. We’re approaching it a little different this season, a little more literary and a little less statistical, but hopefully you enjoy it just the same. As always, I am grateful that cardinalsgifs has agreed to use his talent for the header image!
Player: Paul DeJong
Stats (Cardinals): 81 G, 306 PA, 38 R, 11 2B, 13 HR, 32 RBI, 4 SB, 4 CS, .233/.297/.412, 0.7 bWAR
Statcast (all): 6.7% barrel, 34.8% sweet spot, 107.6 max exit velocity, .266 wOBA, .278 xwOBA, 30.3% K, 5.3% BB
These grades are all about expectations. If Nolan Arenado had this sort of season, for instance, he’s getting probably an F, maybe a D depending on how well he played in the field. However, going into the season, this is pretty much what we expected from Paul DeJong, wasn’t it? So it’s hard to grade him down too far for doing what we figured he was going to do.
DeJong didn’t have the greatest of spring trainings before he came down with an injury but the Cardinals had held on to him all offseason, even with the wisest move might have been letting him go, and so he returned in mid-April (in a transaction that designated Taylor Motter for assignment–as we’ll see, it didn’t take). As we have come to expect from DeJong, he came off the IL with a bang, going three for four with a homer in his first game. After a couple of weeks, he was slashing .364/.417/.636. Encouraging signs, but we’d seen them before. There wasn’t a lot of optimism that something had finally clicked.
Which almost immediately started to pan out. He hit .143 in the 18 games after his strong start. He hit four homers in June, just one in July. Brendan Donovan‘s breakout, Tommy Edman‘s steadiness, and Nolan Gorman‘s power didn’t leave a whole lot of room for a scuffling middle infielder in the last year of his contract. Finally, on August 1, he was traded to Toronto since Bo Bichette had gotten hurt the night before and the trading deadline was hours away. Bichette wasn’t seriously hurt, DeJong didn’t hit (3-44 for the Jays), and he was released. The San Francisco Giants picked him up, needing some insurance for Brandon Crawford, and DeJong had three hits and a homer in the first game in the orange and black. He then went 0 for his next 25 and never really recovered. With about two weeks left in the season, the Giants became the third team this season to send him packing.
DeJong’s career is an interesting, if consistently declining, arc. He started off with a bang and ended with a whimper. The glove was still steady but he didn’t hit enough to get a look as anything more than a backup player. When the Cardinals signed him to that extension, they had no idea that this would be how it ended.
What’s in store for 2024: We know that DeJong is a smart cookie. His bent toward the sciences is well documented and we know how much he used his baseball success to highlight some of the science involved. I imagine he’ll try to find some place to catch on. He spent last winter trying to rework his swing–much like Matt Carpenter, he waited until there were no other options–and that didn’t really work, so it’s hard to think that another winter in the lab will do much for his prospects. He might get a minor league invite but I’d love to see him be a throwback to the days of Dr. Bobby Brown and use the biochemistry degree instead.