The Market for Mark DeRosa

Before the winter meetings, a couple of super-utility infielders were quickly scooped off the free agent market. Placido Polanco signed with Philadelphia for 3 years, $18 million salary. Chone Figgins signed with Seattle at 4/$36M. Mark DeRosa’s agents must be feeling pretty relaxed going forward, with the market ostensibly being set. They’ve let their demands be known that their client is looking for a deal between the Figgins/Polanco range at 3 years, $9M per. Is that fair?

Aside from the ability to play multiple positions, the similarities with DeRosa/Figgins/Polanco end. Polanco’s claim to fame is his slap-hitting and plus defense. Figgins is also plus defender, who draws walks and causes opponents trouble on the basepaths. Unlike his diminutive counterparts, DeRosa can hit the ball out of the yard without the aid of some strong wind.

DeRosa has been a late bloomer; he credits former Rangers’ hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo for his transformation into a decent hitter. Since becoming a full-time player in Texas, DeRosa has been good for a .346 wOBA. He is the quintessential “jack of all trades and the master of none” at different infield positions. Over his career, his UZR/150 is -8 at second base, -7 at third. In his time playing corner outfield, DeRosa has shined, posting an UZR/150 of +16. With the defensive spectrum, you’d normally expect a minus 7 third baseman to be a +3 in LF/RF. I suspect if he did play the outfield regularly, he’d land in the 1-5 range.

A couple of projection systems forecast DeRosa to hit the bricks in 2010. Bill James calls for a .328 wOBA. CHONE has him down for a .324. There are probably a couple of reasons for that – one is that DeRosa is going to be 35 this year. The other is DeRosa is coming of his least productive season since 2005. The blame falls on a torn tendon sheath, an injury he suffered shortly after being traded to St. Louis. Before the trade, DeRosa’s wOBA was his usual .346; afterwards, .306, dragging his overall average to .328. A torn tendon sheath is the same type of injury that caused the Brewers to DL Rickie Weeks for much of the season. Having underwent surgery, it might not be crazy to expect a .340ish wOBA again for next year, assuming he heals up properly.

So is DeRosa worth $9M per? Let’s stack this trio up against each other by WAR and see what shakes out.

 	Age	2007	2008	2009	2010 Proj.
DeRosa	35	2.6	3.8	1.7	1.9
Polanco	34	5.3	3.1	3.1	2.3
Figgins	32	3.1	2.4	6.1	3.0

(Projections courtesy of Rally)

It turns out DeRosa is the lesser of the group, and he’s the oldest. I know next to nothing about wrist injuries other than they don’t sound like very much fun, but let’s take the rosy view that DeRosa will be healthy in ’10 and bump him to 2.3 WAR. If we presume $4.4M per win in 2010, 4.7 in 2011 and 5 in 2012 and the normal regression, then the price for DeRosa would be $25, not $27. Now in reality, who wants a 37 year old Mark DeRosa on their team in 2012, even if you do presume good health?

My guess is DeRosa signs for somewhere in the neighborhood of 2/$15m, but the Giants are rumored to have a strong interest. Knowing Sabean’s fondness for players past their prime, DeRosa might get his wish.

How do you think Mark DeRosa will play in 2010? Enter your projection for him here!

Erik Manning is the founder of Future Redbirds and covers the Cardinals for Heater Magazine. You can get more of his analysis and rantings in bite-sized bits by following him on twitter.

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I think his first half last season could be a decent borometer. About what James is projecting, but with less power…

1st Half ’09 – 261/334/443
James Proj – 260/335/418