Monday, January 4, 2010

Analysis of DeRosa Signing

The Giants made their first significant signing of the offseason last week by singing Mark DeRosa to a 2 year deal worth $12 mil. There seems to be relatively mixed reviews among the San Francisco fans. Those who like the signing probably would argue he must be valuable considering the number of teams that were initially rumored to consider him (something like 10 teams). The thoughts of those who were disgusted by the acquisition are probably driven by the fact that his name isn’t Matt Holliday or Jason Bay, and thus he isn’t the “Big Bat” they were hoping for despite the Giants’ public and continued reminders they were not players for those players. Unfortunately, neither of these quick assumptions and determinations really gets to the bottom of what the Giants got, what they paid for it and most importantly what they can actually expect from Mark DeRosa in 2010.

First off, I can no longer stand to hear another person or writer utter the words “Big Bat.” Maybe it is a way to remember another BB (Barry Bonds) who disappeared after the 2007 season quicker than anyone (especially he and his agent) could ever have imagined. I would like to get something straight. The Giants were not in need of a BB, they were in need of offense. The acquisition of one BB would not have cured the ineptitude of their 2009 lineup. It would, however, have precluded them from making any other improvements to their lineup and resulted in them losing their 2010 1st round draft pick.

In terms of Matt Holliday he was never really an option. If you’ve read my previous analysis of Holliday and the contract he is asking for and likely to be paid, he is and always was out of the Giants’ price range. This is a good thing (not that they cannot afford the top free agent talents but that they didn’t consider Holliday). Bay also seemed determined to avoid the Bay and instead opted for Queens. Many people fail to realize this fact but baseball is a zero sum game. The events play out in all or nothing scenarios until one team wins. People specifically fail to realize that an out on defense is as good as a non-out on offense. In other words, if a player is going to cost a team a number of outs in the field by playing poor defense, it is necessary to discount his offensive statistics to determine his true value. Jason Bay no doubt would have helped the Giants score more runs in 2010. That being said, he also would have no doubt helped each team the Giants play to score more runs in 2010, and 2011 and 2012 and so forth at increasing rates while he ages. Bay has never been a good outfielder even in his younger days and thus you can only expect poorer and poorer defense at advanced ages. Bay, in my personal opinion, is going to look like a player that belongs in the American League as a DH if not by next year or the year after, certainly by the last 2-3 years of his contract. It’s also fair to assume that his offensive production will diminish as he is already outside of his prime years, and thus his utility should slowly diminish over the next few seasons as his stick becomes less and less capable of making up for his ever regressing glove. This also while his yearly salary will likely stay flat (at best) or increase. Speaking of utility, that brings me back to Mark DeRosa.

I’d first like to preface my analysis of DeRosa and this signing by saying the Giants absolutely need more. If they choose to make DeRosa their only significant move, they have accomplished very little to nothing. They will again fail to score enough runs for weeks and weeks at a time, look completely and utterly lost at the plate, contend for a while and then finally settle in 2nd or 3rd place and out of the playoffs.

At 2 years and $6 mil per the Giants have not invested a terrible amount of time and money, which is a good thing when signing a 34 year old player coming off of a wrist injury. Also, the Giants doctors checked out that wrist (which he injured on a Randy Johnson changeup just days after being acquired by the Cardinals from Cleveland) and believe that he will be ready to go by Spring Training. So long as the Giants doctors did a better job assessing DeRosa’s wrist then they did on Freddy Sanchez’s knee I believe that he will be fully healthy by Opening Day as teams evaluations of players’ health are much more often right then they are wrong. What’s also nice about DeRosa other than the reasonableness of the contract is his ability to play multiple positions. DeRosa has played every infield position in his career as well as LF and RF and thus can virtually be plugged into any place the Giants need. This is not only going to be valuable for Bochy as he attempts to create some semblance of an everyday lineup but also during the offseason for the Giants’ GM Brian Sabean. DeRosa gives the Giants the luxury of signing a player or acquiring one via trade at multiple positions. If they acquired an OF he can play 3B. If they acquire a 3B he can play OF (his stronger defensive position it seems). DeRosa is not a defensive wizard or an offensive powerhouse, however, his ability to move around the diamond does have significant value. And while the number of players available begins to dwindle it was important that the Giants upgrade immediate to retain leverage and multiple options.

Obviously and most importantly, it’s vital to determine what impact his bat can have on the lineup. While it’s great he can play all over the Giants foremost need was to upgrade offensively and DeRosa can hit a little bit. His on-base, slugging and on-base plus slugging percentages (OBP/SLG/OPS) over the last few seasons have been… 2006: .357/.456/.812, 2007: .371/.420/.792, 2008: .376/.481/.857. In 2009 he had a slash line of .342/.457/.799 before being traded to the Cardinals and getting injured shortly thereafter. After his injury he wasn’t a very good hitter. That seems understandable assuming (and I am) that it is difficult to hit with a torn wrist tendon sheath. He still managed to hit 23 HR in 2009 which followed the 21 he hit in 2008 with the Cubs. If DeRosa does indeed manage to stay healthy after the surgery to repair his wrist he should be able to provide two things the Giants desperately need, on base percentage and some power. Furthermore, he would be providing it at a cost of ½ that of Aaron Rowand and only a two year commitment. DeRosa is a much more thoughtful hitter that doesn’t mind taking a walk (anti-Bengie) but also has the ability to hit the ball out of the park. Furthermore, he is right handed which makes him much more suited to AT&T.
It does seem that the Giants are continuing to build a nice group of players to increase team chemistry which always seemed to be lacking during the BB era. Mark DeRosa, like many of the Giants of the last couple of seasons, is known as a great clubhouse guy and a leader. While I don’t put a ton of stock such things, I do think they are valuable and having played baseball from 5 years old until I was 20 before I tore my labrum, chemistry does count. And even if it doesn’t, a good clubhouse guy certainly isn’t going to hurt. I really do think this is a quality (while not a slam dunk) signing and one which doesn’t cost them a draft pick. The Giants should in no way be near done, though. If San Francisco attempts to settle there and do nothing more, the fans have every right to boycott the games until management realizes that fans will always come out to see the beautiful AT&T and watch Panda hit and Lincecum pitch, but they will only come in droves when they get a winner.

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