For the first time since Freddy Sanchez's re-signing, Giants General Manager Brian Sabean finally made a major move this off-season (of course, unless you consider Tony Pena Jr. signing big news, which I necessarily don't). He signed Utility player Mark Derosa to a two year, $12 million dollar deal.
First off, this probably is a solid move, regardless of what some Giants fans may think. Is it sexy? Of course not, but it is a low risk acquisition, which is what the Giants need after years of high-risk, somewhat irresponsible free spending (see: Rowand, Aaron; Roberts, Dave; Zito, Barry). And besides, even if Sabean was willing to go back to his "gunslinger" (e.g. thoughtless and incomprehensible) ways, this isn't the year to do it. The only real players who would make sense in terms of being worth big money contracts would be Matt Holliday and Jason Bay, but Holliday is represented by Scott Boras (e.g. nothing is going to happen because Sabean and Boras get along as well as North and South Korea these days) and Bay has stated publicly that he doesn't want to play in San Francisco (he is on the verge of signing with the Mets anyways).
So, with so few options left now, Sabean made a conservative signing in terms of Derosa. Sure, Derosa is coming off an injury plagued season, had dramatic dips in terms of batting average, OBP and OPS, and will be 35 by next season. However, Derosa does add more power (he had 23 home runs last year), can play multiple positions (such as third base or left field) and did come relatively on the cheap if you look at his WAR converted to Dollars scale on Fangraphs.
Granted though, Derosa isn't a sure fire signing. As bad as this sounds, Derosa does somewhat reek of Aaron Rowand. He's coming off a big power year in a relatively homer-friendly park (e.g. Cleveland, which was the launching pad for Ryan Garko) and at his age, he's likely to decline, especially considering the wrist injury he's coming off of after getting traded to St. Louis. If Derosa isn't healthy (and I'd say the chances are 50-50 he isn't) then there is a high possibility that Derosa may suffer in San Francisco's spacious AT&T park like Edgar Renteria in 2009, or simply not see the field enough to justify his acquisition like Freddy Sanchez's second half last season.
If Derosa DOES stay healthy (and that's a big IF), and he is able to somewhat replicate what he did in Chicago in 2007 and 2008, I can see Derosa having an impact on this Giants team.
However, not as a third baseman.
If anything, manager Bruce Bochy needs to play Derosa in left field for this deal to have any credibility. First off, I don't think Pablo Sandoval going to first is the answer. Is Sandoval perhaps playing a little out of position? Maybe, but his problems have more to do with his arm rather than his glove. After a full year at third, I think Sandoval has learned what it takes to be a major league third baseman. This isn't the Miguel Cabrera situation where Cabrera couldn't make a move laterally. Sandoval is actually very nimble for his size, and to put him at first, in my mind, would be a waste of his surprisingly athletic ability.
Furthermore, moving Sandoval to first would be pretty much it for Travis Ishikawa, who I'm not ready to give up on. Is Ishikawa there yet? No, absolutely not, but he showed significant progress after a slow start in 2009. The guy does need to be able to hit on the road better, but I think a platoon of Ishikawa and Jesus Guzman would be sufficient enough for a Giants team looking to make the playoffs next year.
Where Derosa really needs to go for the Giants is in left field, simply because the left field position currently is so unproven. Eugenio Velez was a product of a hot month. While he did show better plate patience and had a better approach at the plate in the second half last season, Velez's history of poor starts in his career should be a caution for all those championing him to be in the starting lineup on Opening Day. As for Torres, he has good speed and had an excellent year (his best season so far in the majors), but again, it is hard to determine whether or not he will be able to replicate the season he had last season. There is just so little history on the guy to fall back on, and it would just be too much of a risk for the Giants to make Torres an everyday starter. As a platoon guy he's great, but the Giants need more proof from him that he can play left field everyday for the Giants.
In additon, left field might actually be a better position for Derosa, especially defensively. First off, his UZR/150 numbers in terms of playing outfield last year are actually better in comparison to him playing third base (31.2 in 2009 when playing outfield, -8.7 when playing third base). Thus, defensively, he is not that much of an upgrade over Pablo Sandoval (Sandoval had a -6.7 UZR/150 last year). Sure, defensively, according to UZR/150, Derosa may be worse than Velez (who has a UZR/150 of 46.1 when playing left field last year), but what Derosa will offer offensively should efficiently supplant Velez despite the difference defensively. Derosa has a better history compared to Velez in terms of OBP and OPS, and those are two categories the Giants need to drastically improve after their offensive debacle in 2009.
So, Derosa should be solid player for San Francisco in 2009. I am confident enough (and optimistic enough) to make that statement. Will he reach that 23-homer mark again like he did last year? Probably not, simply because Cleveland Indians players have not transitioned well to AT&T Park recently (cough...Garko...cough). However, to think his OBP and OPS numbers will dip under .320 and .750 again may be far fetched. Sure, age will come up and creep up on Derosa (simply because it does at 35), but I think Derosa is capable of having a solid season where his numbers in those categories could fall in the .340-.360, and .780-.800 range in terms of OBP and OPS.
That being said, for this signing to really have an effect, Derosa must play left field. Even if the Giants make a big splash signing in the Adrian Beltre (which would move Sandoval to third, but probably won't happen) or Adam LaRoche (which would supplant Ishikawa, and could happen) mold, Derosa is better suited to being the starting left fielder on Opening Day for the Giants.
Because in all honesty, an Opening Day lineup with Eugenio Velez may not be the best idea. He is relatively unproven, and probably better suited as a utility player. Having him start everyday to begin the 2010 season most likely will expose his inability to be a starting player, and will hurt the Giants playoff chances early on.
Is that a little pessimistic? Perhaps, but just look at Emmanuel Burris last year and you'll understand my concern.
SF Giants Minor Lines, 7/29
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