Mark DeRosa: Yet Another (San Francisco) Giant Blunder

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Mark DeRosa: Yet Another (San Francisco) Giant Blunder
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Many of you may be scratching your heads wondering why I’ve decided to write an article about what seems like a relatively small free-agent signing. I can already sense the readers wondering why I didn’t write an article about the recent Jason Bay or John Lackey signings. 

Well to answer this question let me just state that my father is, and has always been, a Giants fan. My dad grew up in Brooklyn, New York and while it would have made sense for him to latch onto the Dodgers, he chose another path, a path less traveled.

His favorite player without question was none other than the legendary "Say Hey Kid," Willie Mays. What can I say—my dad has good taste in ballplayers, but poor taste in franchises, and so began the start of his lifelong love affair with the ill-fated Giants.

Since my dad has always rooted for Giants, in a sense, I too have become a Giants fan. Whenever the Giants make a move or fail to make a move, my father and I get out our microscopes and assess the deal or lack thereof. 

The second reason I wrote about DeRosa and not the big boy free agents is, more importantly, because the Mark DeRosa signing is yet another excellent example of the importance of properly understanding positional scarcity, something that apparently the Giant management has yet to fully comprehend.

Yes, Mark DeRosa plays quite a few different positions, but he lacks the stick to pull his weight enough to warrant a fifth spot in the lineup on a contender. He could make my squad as a second basemen, but he should never be one of your key offensive pieces, or play a corner infield/outfield spot.  

First, let me make it clear that the Mark DeRosa signing (2 yrs, $12 million) is nowhere near as bad as the Barry Zito, Aaron Rowand, Edgar Renteria, or countless other recent disasters, but I still dislike the move strongly and certainly wouldn’t have gone this route.

Mark DeRosa is at best a serviceable, soon-to-be 35 year-old coming off of wrist surgery, and these facts alone are a big enough red flag for me to not make the signing.  Secondly, Mark DeRosa smacked a career high 23 home runs last year, which is decent, but he also posted a pedestrian .250 AVG, .319 OBP, .752 OPS, and swung and missed on third strikes 121 times.

I’m sorry but I have no interest in a 35-year-old, free-swinging, .250 hitter with a limited eye and absolutely no speed. The Giants have enough of these guys as is and whether you play him at third, first, or the outfield, a .752 OPS is not going to cut it if you’re serious about capitalizing on your young pitching talent, taking the easily obtainable NL West, and making a push for a World Series.

It’s great that he is so versatile in the field, but his stick leaves a lot to be desired and he certainly is not the type of ballplayer I am looking for when plugging holes at the traditional power positions.

Not to mention that while Mark DeRosa is versatile he is certainly not proven at the hot corner. DeRosa has never started more than 100 games at third in his life, setting a career high with 99 starts in 2009 at the age of 34 while splitting time between St. Louis and Cleveland. That’s 31 games less than Wes Helms’ career high set in 2003 with Milwaukee. I think we can all agree that Wes is more or less the epitome of a total stiff.

What makes this move even more puzzling to me is that the Giants reportedly plan to move the "Kung Fu Panda," Pablo Sandoval, over to first base.

Pablo may actually be better suited physically to play first base as opposed to the more grueling third base or catcher positions, but moving him to first will cause Pablo and the Giants to lose a significant offensive edge on the rest of the league—that quite simply they can’t afford to make if they want to make the playoffs.

Pablo demonstrated good power last year blasting a career high 25 homers and posted a very respectable .947 OPS, which placed him 11th highest in MLB in terms of OPS and first overall at the third base position.

Pablo had such a nice year that he even placed higher at third than first ballot hall-of-famer Alex Rodriguez (.933 OPS).

However, while Pablo’s OPS was quite good last year, the drop off to the rest of the league in terms of production at first really isn’t that drastic.

For instance, look at these numbers from last year—a career drifter like Russell Branyan posted an .867 OPS (45th highest), a career backup like Adam Laroche had an .843 OPS (53rd highest), and even an aging stiff like Paul Konerko managed an .842 OPS (55th highest).

These three guys, for example, are without a doubt average-at-best first basemen, but they posted similar OPS numbers to that of a young stud, Los Angeles Dodger outfielder Matt Kemp, who had an .842 OPS (54th best).

Granted, Kemp plays great defense in centerfield and is a 30-30 threat, but in terms of raw production in the lineup, the difference between the three aforementioned first basemen and Kemp is not that severe. In general, the drop off from the better first basemen in the league to the lesser is much less dramatic than the drop off from the better third basemen to the lesser.

For example, first baseman Albert Pujols led the league with a stunning 1.101 OPS, but there were also 20 guys after him at first throughout the league who managed to top an .800+ OPS.

In contrast, Pablo Sandoval led the league with a .943 OPS at third base, but there were only 10 guys after him at that position throughout the league who managed an .800+ OPS.

What I’m trying to say is that while Pablo would be a perfectly fine first baseman next year, both with his stick and glove, considering position scarcity, I would rather keep him at third and find a cheap first-base replacement.

Based on his OPS from last year, Pablo Sandoval would have been the highest ranked third baseman, or the eighth highest at first.

If you put Pablo at first, the Giants have a .947 OPS at that position, which is nice and is still among the better marks in the league, but instead of having that .947 OPS, they replaced him with Mark DeRosa who had a .752 OPS last year. 

Wouldn’t it make more sense to keep a .947 OPS at third and pick up a proven thumper like Glaus, Laroche, Branyan, Konerko, Blalock, Tejeda, Cust, or Tracy at first, who come with a guarantee to crack the .800+ mark?

The Giants will need every run in 2010 that they can muster because the squad was among one of the worst offensive units in the game last year.

The Giants had a team batting average of .257 (25th), scored 657 runs (25th), hit 122 home runs (29th), had a team OBP of .309 (30th), drove in 612 RBI (29th), and slugged .389 (28th). By signing DeRosa to play third, and moving Pablo over to first, the Giants enter the 2010 season in the exact same predicament that blocked their playoff chances in 2009.

Now if I were the Giants, I would have played my cards quite differently, rolled the dice, and signed a guy like Troy Glaus to play first.

Glaus posted 27 home runs and 99 RBI in 2008, and has 30-40 home run potential when healthy.  Granted a clean bill of health is a big if for Troy, but for the roughly $2 million base salary he signed for in Atlanta, he is definitely worth the risk.

If for whatever reason I didn’t want to go down that risky path, or management wanted to play it safer, my next move would be to go after Adam Laroche, Paul Konerko, Jack Cust, Russell Branyan, Hank Blalock, Miguel Tejeda, or Chad Tracy (in that order).

Signing a guy like Blalock, Tejeda, or Tracy would also allow the team some flexibility at first and third, since all three guys could fill in at third if needed, and could allow Pablo to take a break and play first from time to time.

Once first base has been secured, if I had any money left over to play with, I’d either sign a reclamation starter on the cheap like Ben Sheets or Erik Bedard to a short term deal or bolster the pen depth with a guy like Jose Valverde, Mike Gonzalez, Brandon Lyon, Kelvim Escobar, Justin Duchscherer, J.J. Putz, or Jose Contreras (in that order), all of whom could or have already been obtained relatively cheaply given the current state of the market.

A guy like Valverde for instance, can’t even find a job at this juncture in the road and due to his Type A free-agent status could be signed very cheaply if you are willing to give up the picks. Not that I necessarily would, but if the deal was right, I’d pull the trigger in a heartbeat.

I know the Giants already have a full outfield of overpaid stiffs and light-hitting youngsters, but I would have additionally made a strong push earlier in the offseason to go after Juan Pierre when he was available.

Juan would have been a great pickup for the club and could have served as the team's sparkplug and leadoff man. Considering the fact that the Dodgers picked up $10.5 million of the tab left on his 5-year, $44 million dollar contract and didn’t ask for much talent in return, since the team is essentially going belly up due to the impending McCourt divorce. Juan would have been a steal for the Giants.

Pierre has career 162-game averages of .301 AVG, .348 OBP, 188 hits, 91 runs, 52 SB and only 38 K's (Pierre has 4 seasons of 200 + hits under his belt). I know it seems asinine to some, but honestly Juan Pierre and highly-coveted free-agent Chone Figgins are very similar players.

Granted, Figgins has more versatility and led MLB in pitches taken (over 3,000 last year), but if he ends up in the outfield with the Mariners, and not at second or third, he has about the same value as Pierre. Both guys are premiere baserunners, superb leadoff hitters, great teammates, hard workers, and fan favorites.

Everyone knows the Yankees have the 27 rings, but few know that the Giants have won the most games of any team in the history of baseball. If only the Giants and Brian Sabean could stop making silly trades like acquiring A.J. Pierzynski for Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano, and Boof Bonser and stop wasting money like they have yet again this year, maybe, just maybe the Giants can win a World Series for the first time since 1954.

By: Morgan Spokny

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