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Monday, August 19, 2013
Cubs' veteran leadership is gone

By Jesse Rogers

CHICAGO -- Save a buck, see a prospect.

That pretty much sums up the gist of the Chicago Cubs' trade of David DeJesus to the Washington Nationals on Monday. The Cubs get some salary ($2.5 million) relief and open up another outfield spot. Junior Lake is getting the playing time vacated by the trade of Alfonso Soriano and now Brian Bogusevic and Ryan Sweeney will get the bulk of the work over the final six weeks where DeJesus used to play. Both are coming off injuries.

But the Cubs lost their last seasoned veteran -- at least one who plays nearly every day and others look up to. Soriano and DeJesus were well-respected leaders. Now the Cubs have none.

“It’s always a big deal not to have that,” general manager Jed Hoyer admitted Monday afternoon. “I do like the aspect of seeing Bogusevic and Sweeney play.”

So for the final 39 games the Cubs have no real captain to steer the ship, not that the ship is going to win any races right now. But more than one Cub talked of losing DeJesus’ leadership. It’s no small deal.

“He was really close to a lot of guys,” second baseman Darwin Barney said. “He was a big part of guys’ routines. He was a player that you kind of lean on. He’s been through this. He’s the ultimate professional.”

Starlin Castro added: “He was good to me. I feel a little shocked that he’s gone.”

It was DeJesus who consoled Castro after he was pulled mid-game on Saturday after a mental gaffe in the field, and it was DeJesus who took Anthony Rizzo under his wing when he came to the majors. That’s a player who had dealings with two Cubs cornerstones.

“Rizzo was my little guy,” DeJesus joked in the Nationals dugout before Monday’s game. “He just has to keep working hard. After your first year you go through that adjustment period. That’s what he’s going through right now. Next year he has to work on a few things. Attack with what they’re attacking him.

“With Starlin he has to go out there, relax, and be himself. He has so much talent, he’s going to be a key figure for the Cubs for a while."

And so the trade might come with a cost, albeit a small one considering both Rizzo and Castro were having rough years -- and that was with DeJesus around. Still, there is no denying DeJesus brought something more than just a .250 batting average to the field every day.

“You lose what he does on the field as well as what he does in the clubhouse,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “He’s kind of a father figure-type guy.”

The trade coincides with an uptick in the rhetoric coming from both Sveum and Hoyer in regards to their young players, specifically Castro. It’s time the Cubs become their team and they become the leaders. Relying on 30-something players to lead the way can only last so long. Besides, they have no choice right now. The veteran mainstays are gone.

“I don’t know if we quite have that guy right now,” Sveum said.

Rizzo, Castro, Welington Castillo, Jeff Samardzija and even Edwin Jackson need to take the lead. All are young enough, while some are more experienced than others, but unlike Soriano and DeJesus they should be around for a while.

It’s their team now.