Tuesday, November 14, 2006

the mark derosa era begins

only days after resigning aramis ramirez and kerry wood -- dramatically and much to the confusion of this writer -- jim hendry has begun the task of actually improving the 2006 version of the club in preparation for 2007.

or, at least, sort of. hendry baffling offered what must have been twice the going rate for mark derosa, signing the 32-year-old journeyman to a reported three-year/$13mm deal. if that isn't enough to catch in your throat, dear reader, consider that -- as the arbitration deadline has not yet passed -- the cubs will be sacrificing the third pick of the second round for the right to sign derosa, a type b free agent, away from texas. (update: this is incorrect -- the rangers will be granted a compensatory sandwich pick between the first and second rounds in return for the loss of a type b arbitration-offered free agent.)

derosa is said to have been on hendry's radar for some time now. he has played all the infield positions and both corner outfield spots in his time in the majors, and flexibility is something hendry cherishes along with athleticism.

what hendry also apparently cherishes is the ability to sign replacement-level players to multiyear contracts. this page was baffled last season when neifi perez was granted a stunning outsized two-year contract, and it is nearly as baffled now. derosa isn't the offensive sinkhole that neifi! was, but he quite probably would have real trouble outplaying even ryan theriot in a fair fight -- something that doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of materializing due to the need to justify derosa's contract. derosa is a career 273/331/404 hitter who offers a good glove; theriot's glovework is probably not as sharp, but this page would wager his on-base percentage will be higher than derosa's come next september.

the cubs clearly see derosa as the solution at second base.

"I love our infield," Hendry said Tuesday night, referring to first baseman Derrek Lee, shortstop Cesar Izturis, Ramirez and DeRosa.

which is bolstered by other comments as well.

“We certainly look at him in the second-base situation as a quality guy there,” Hendry said. “We’re hoping he can do that job there. We don’t have any plans to put him out in the outfield like he was in Texas, but he does give Lou (manager Piniella) a lot of options.”

but derosa offers shades of jacque jones, in that he a platoon player who has been signed to play everyday. derosa's career split against righthanded pitching in 1166 at-bats is just 260/316/366 -- a .683 ops that barely outpaces ronny cedeno's .654. much is being made of adjustments to derosa's swing this year:

Given a chance to play 136 games for Texas in 2006, he hit .296 with 13 homers and 74 RBIs. The improvement came from a strong work ethic and a willingness to revamp his swing under hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo. Hendry is gambling that he has turned a corner.

"He got himself to this point, but we feel the best is still to come," Hendry said. "This will give him a chance to continue his improvement. … We've liked him for a long time, [but] I have to give the Texas Rangers a lot of credit. Rudy is one of the best hitting coaches ever."

but it should be noted that derosa hit righthanded pitching to the tune of 278/342/404 in his career year of 2006 -- and that too is the kind of powerless production that a lot of marginal major leaguers can provide, probably including ryan theriot.

what significant credit might have been afforded hendry following the ramirez deal -- a five-year/$73mm contract that is enough below expected rates to leave this writer reserving judgment for future revelations of no-trade clauses and opt-out years -- has seemingly been dashed in this singular idiocy. this is a contract to rival neifi's, ryan dempster's or jones' among the great boondoggles of his run at the head of the shop. indeed, consider that the combined 2007 cost for aramis ($14.6mm) and derosa ($4.3mm) comes to some $19mm. if that had been allocated at $17mm to ramirez and $2mm to derosa, many would be outraged at the sum total of the negotiations -- and so should they be here, for the cubs have apparently signed a replacement-level second baseman to start in 2007 for far too much money.

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