Mark DeRosa: Not better than Fernando Tatis

Matt Cerrone passes along an item from Jon Heyman saying that Mark DeRosa could be an option for the Mets at first base. Buster Olney at ESPN said yesterday that DeRosa is seeking a three-year, $18 million deal.

Pass.

I never really know what to believe in the hot-stove season, and I have no idea what kind of deal DeRosa will actually get. But it strikes me that whatever value DeRosa maintains is inherent in his versatility, and if the Mets see him as a right-handed complement to Daniel Murphy at first base, there are better options for less money.

DeRosa played mostly third base for the Cardinals and Indians in 2009, but the Mets are covered there. Sure it’s nice to have a guy who can spell David Wright every so often, but David Wright really doesn’t need much spelling.

In 2007 and 2008, DeRosa played mostly second base, meaning he could be a fallback plan should Luis Castillo get moved or get traded. But both UZR and Bill James’ +/- suggest that DeRosa was a pretty bad fielder there in 2008. He’s probably not a legitimate starting option at the position moving forward.

So DeRosa’s much-lauded versatility shouldn’t mean much to the Mets.

He can hit a bit, especially against left-handed pitching, and since his BABIP in 2009 was about 30 points below his career average, it’s reasonable to expect he was a bit unlucky to have a down year at the plate. Of course, his line-drive rate dipped, too, so it’s impossible to write off his .250/.319/.433 year as a complete fluke.

And here’s the thing: If the Mets are interested in a righty-hitting 35-year-old first baseman who can fill in at second, third and the outfield corners, they could likely get one for much smaller commitment by bringing back Fernando Tatis.

Yeah, him. That guy the Mets didn’t offer arbitration to, for fear he might actually accept it and take a raise on his $1.7 million salary from 2009.

So what does DeRosa offer over Tatis? Well, he plays more, for one. But when he does, it’s hard to identify how he’s better. Tatis actually posted slightly better offensive numbers than DeRosa over the past two years — a 113 OPS+ to DeRosa’s 108 — and was statistically better as a defensive infielder, albeit in much smaller samples.

DeRosa’s a local product, so he’s got that. And though I haven’t seen him play a full season of games, I can only assume he’s loaded up on grit and hustle and rampant clutchitude.

And of course, I can’t mention Tatis without bringing up all the double plays he hit into in 2009. That was bad, for sure.

But likely to continue? I doubt it. Remember that Tatis maintained a reputation as one of the most clutch Mets in 2008 — especially by Joe Benigno’s standards — and that eight of the 13 double plays he hit into came in June. At the time, he was often hitting behind David Wright or Ryan Church, players who got on base respectively at .432 and .361 clips that month, providing Tatis plenty of opportunities to be doubly penalized just for putting the ball in play.

Mets fans — myself included — gave Jerry Manuel a lot of grief for platooning Tatis with the younger, homegrown Daniel Murphy, who had more to prove at the big-league level than the 34-year-old journeyman. But that’s not really Tatis’ fault.

I understand the desire among fans to move on from players like Tatis, role players on a club that missed the playoffs in 2008 and stunk in 2009, just for the sake of change.

But whatever that’s worth, I am almost certain, is not as much as the difference between what Tatis will command and what DeRosa is demanding.

4 thoughts on “Mark DeRosa: Not better than Fernando Tatis

  1. Ted, you’re way off base here.

    I scouted DeRosa at Bergen Catholic HS back in ’91 and ’92, when 1B was his primary position and can tell you with certainty that he’s better with the fingerless glove than Fernando Tatis will ever be — he had a UZR of 15.6 his senior year!

    Addtionally, DeRosa absolutely mashed NNJIL pitching, to the tune of a 1.850 OPS.

    Yes, it was high school competition and it was 18 years ago, but the stats don’t lie!

    Not only that but you conveniently failed to mention that he’s an Ivy League grad and he’s got GRIT !!!

  2. No to Derosa, No to Molina, No to Tatis, No to Bay. Yes to Josh Johnson through trade, yes to Brandon Phillips and Arroyo and Harrang for Oliver Perez and Castillo and a bag of chips with Hummus. Yes to Holliday, Yes to Doumit or any one else behind the plate that can catch, make the pitchers better and play defense and isn’t intimidated by Citi Field.

    I wouldn’t mind Bay, I always liked his style when he was in Pittsburgh, but guess what he’s not in Pittsburgh anymore and I’ve always liked Holliday, but like every one else on the planet can’t stand the fact that he’s got Boris as an agent, that guy alone has caused enough problems for Mets and Mets fans.

  3. I wouldn’t say fluke or decline last season–you forgot the third option: injury. He had a bad back, a torn tendon sheath, a sore hammy, and a lacerated finger. I’m very interested in him for a price, he could be a .360 wOBA hitter in a pseudo-platoon with plus or average defense at 1B.

    And yes, his versatility is very overrated, but it’s something.

    • I don’t know that he’s much more likely to post a .360 wOBA in a platoon than Tatis or Ryan Garko, and he’ll apparently require a much longer commitment. I’d say the injuries make him less appealing, not more, for a three-year deal.

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