On paper it looks like the Indians have found their next second baseman.
To finish off an eventful 2008, General Manager Mark Shapiro acquired Chicago Cubs second baseman Mark DeRosa for three minor league pitchers, led by Jeff Stevens.
The only problem is DeRosa is expected to play third base for the Tribe. He did play six positions for Lou Pinella last season, but was primarily a second baseman. According to Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer, a source said that the team preferred to keep shortstop Jhonny Peralta in that position rather than move him to third base. Peralta is playing third base in Winter Ball.
It is not a big surprise that the Indians would choose to keep Peralta at shortstop; they have long kept him in that position despite calls for Asdrubal Cabrera, the better defensive player, to take over that position. It seems recently acquired AAA second baseman Luis Valbuena will start the year in Columbus instead of competing for a job in spring training as previously expected.
DeRosa is a slightly cheaper version of Casey Blake, who resigned with the Los Angeles Dodgers after a midseason trade. While Blake signed for three years and $17.5 million and a club option, DeRosa will make $5.5 million this season and will then become a free agent.
Last season DeRosa hit .285 and scored 100 runs. In addition he hit 21 home runs and drove in 87 runs. DeRosa is expected to hit second in the Tribe lineup. He does not have much speed, but has a good on base percentage. Last season he ranked third in second baseman in OBP behind Chase Utley and Brian Roberts.
The Indians did not give up much for DeRosa, and the move has been likened to a salary dump by the Cubs. In addition to Stevens, Chicago received Chris Archer and John Gaub, both played for Lake County in 2008.
It is currently unknown whether the Indians will try and extend DeRosa’s contract, but it seems unlikely they would gamble that heavily on another NL second baseman after the failure of Josh Barfield. Either Barfield or third baseman Andy Marte will probably be released or traded if possible. The other may not have long with the club either if Valbuena and third base prospect Wes Hodges develop as expected.
Shapiro seems confident that he has found the right-handed bat that he wanted in the off season and will now focus on possibly finding a fourth or fifth starter.