December 11, 2009

Twins looking at Mark DeRosa, again

The Twins have been interested in acquiring Mark DeRosa quite a few times in recent years. He possess a lot of qualities that the Twins look for in players. He also plays a position that the Twins are trying to fill. So it really comes to no surprise that the Twins met with DeRosa's agent at this week's Winter Meetings in Indianapolis.

With holes at both second and third base, the Twins are expected to find a replacement for at least one of them by Spring Training. Other than DeRosa, the Twins have been linked to Adrian Beltre, Joe Crede, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Placido Polanco, Juan Uribe and Pedro Feliz. Both Polanco and Feliz have signed with other clubs, but there is enough depth in the free agent pool of infielders to make the Twins feel comfortable enough to let the market unfold around them.

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

For DeRosa, I understand why the Twins are interested in him. He's a good clubhouse presence, plays hard and has played multiple positions throughout his career. Last year, the Twins were drawn to Casey Blake not only because of the position he plays, but also because he's a veteran leader. The Twins field one of the youngest teams in Major League Baseball and some of the players seem to show improvements from having a veteran player to look up to.

On top of finding a second or third baseman, the Twins also need to find a player that is capable of hitting in the two hole. If the season started today, JJ Hardy would likely be that guy, but the Twins would be better off finding someone with a higher on-base percentage to put between Denard Span and Joe Mauer. DeRosa, in comparison to the other players being linked to the team or that the Twins already have, is a good choice to hit second. But be advised, that's not saying a lot as the players previously mentioned all have terrible on-base skills. DeRosa's bat is capable of being great at times and does have a fair amount of power, but he's coming off a terrible half-season in St. Louis where he hit .228/.291/.405 in 68 games. That line is far lower than what he's done over the course of his career, or even in recent years, but he's going to be 35-years-old next season, so it's worth noting.

DeRosa has always been known as being "durable" and has played every position - except for pitcher, catcher and center field - on the field. But it's one thing to say someone is durable and actually being durable. To me, being durable is having the ability to play several positions well. DeRosa does not have that ability. At second and third base, the positions he's spent the majority of his time playing, he hurts his team by playing poor defense. His career URZ/150 at second base is -7.5 runs and his UZR/150 at third base is -6.5 runs. He's much better in the outfield, posting a URZ/150 of +21.6 runs through 1,600 innings. Admittedly, it's hard to really make a great assessment of his defensive abilities since he's never spent an entire season at one position, but at least it's somewhat accurate. DeRosa's been labeled "durable" throughout his career, but I find that misleading. Does he play several positions? Yes. Does he play them well? No. But I guess each person has their own interpretation of what they being "durable" is.

The Twins do have two positions they need to fill, but Nick Punto does figure to have a chance at grabbing one of the positions. If the Twins were to sign DeRosa, he'd most certainly be signed as the third baseman, which would leave second base to Punto. Danny Valencia is thought to be the third baseman of the future, but the Twins seem uncertain on whether he's close to being ready for the Majors. Valencia seems to have the skills to be at least a league average third baseman on both sides of the ball, but like with any prospect, it's a risk to put any stock into him before he's reached the Majors. That's why the Twins are looking at adding a third baseman right now.

Regardless of whether or not he'd be blocking Valencia from reaching the Majors, the problem I'm having most with adding DeRosa is his cost. DeRosa is reportedly looking for a three-year $27 million deal. $9 million per season annually is far too much for a player like DeRosa and if the Twins come close to matching it, I'd be very disappointed. At that price, I'd much rather run the risk of having Valencia being our opening day third baseman or see Crede back.