Posts Tagged ‘Mark DeRosa’

Lackey, DeRosa . . . Or Both?

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

CFG writer and droog DWilly (here he is, in case you’ve forgotten), is pessimistic about the possibility the Nats will sign Belinski free agent pitcher John Lackey: “The Red Sox will be in the mix and they’ll bid him up, but only to make sure the Yankees don’t get him,” he opined during a break in the action this last week. “And for good reason: can you imagine the Phillies facing C.C., Pettitte and Lackey in the World Series? Forget Burnett – in that mix he’d be number four. For the Red Sox, the Yankees getting Lackey would be their worst nightmare.” Add the Angels to that list: Anaheim owner Arte Moreno says that he can afford either Lackey or third sacker Chone Figgins, but not both — making his choice a no-brainer. With the crosstown Dodgers taking a pass on Lackey that leaves the Red Sox, Yankees, and Nats bidding for his services. Oh, and the Mets, who are desperate for pitching. Bart Hubbach of the New York Post says that Lackey tops the Chokes’ wish list, ranking well ahead of both Jason Marquis (who “badly wants to be a Met”) and Joel Piniero — the 31-year-old Cardinal slinger.

The Lackey-to-the Nats rumor surfaced last week, when Nats beat writer Bill Ladson reported that the Nats “are looking for an ace who can tutor pitchers such as John Lannan, Ross Detwiler and Stephen Strasburg. Washington has been looking for this type of pitcher since after the Trade Deadine.” True enough, but Lackey won’t be cheap — and at least some baseball executives are questioning his health: Lackey got off to a slow start last year due to a sore elbow and he’s spent a part of each of the last two years on the DL. And the price tag? The figures are all over the place, but current betting is that Lackey would ask for (and get) an A.J. Burnett contract — somewhere in the range of five years and $82 million. At the top end, the contract would max out at five years and $100 million, at the low end a Lackey contract would be for three years and $30 million. Lackey’s a tough, nose-in-the-dirt pitcher who could feast on N.L. hitters, but that’s a lot of change for a potential sore elbow and a tutor. And it’s a lot of change if, after spending (say) $80 million, you have nothing left to shore up your infield or add to your bullpen.

Signing a top flight innings-eating pitcher had to be a priority of Nats GM Mike Rizzo — but it will do little good for the Nats to spend oodles on Lackey and have little left over. So a rejiggering the priority list makes a lot of sense: back in ’08, the Nats spent a good part of their season scrambling to put together a roster that had Ryan Zimmerman struggling to overcome a left shoulder tear. Zim ended up losing 56 games, a nightmare for a team that has few marque players. While this unthinkable knock-on-wood scenario seems unlikely for 2010 (knock on wood, and hard), the Nats’ unsettled up-the-middle problems — including the distinct possibility that wunderkind Ian Desmond might not be the solution to the Nats’ shortstop woes that they think he is — would stretch the Nats to the breaking point were something to happen to Zim (or Adam Dunn, or Josh Willingham, or Cristian Guzman).

Which means that John Lackey isn’t the only priority for the Nats, and maybe not even the top priority. The Nats need pitching and desperately, but if they want a tutor and innings eater they can find one among a free agent class that includes Jon Garland, Joel Piniero, Jason Marquis or even (gasp) Carl Pavano. Garland (just as an example) won’t be cheap ($25 million over three years), but he won’t be as expensive as Lackey — and the Nats can use the savings they might have spent on JL for Mark DeRosa. The more you think about DeRosa the more you have to like him, especially as a fit for the wobbly Nats’ infield. Forget for just a moment that he’s a helluva player. Remember, instead, that his glove work eclipses that of Desmond or Guzman or Gonzalez. He can play short and second and he can spell Willingham in left and if worse comes to worse (knock on wood) he can play third. And he can hit. Then too, taking a pass on Lackey means there’s more money to not only plug the holes in the infield, but in the bullpen.

Here’s what all of this might come down to: signing John Lackey (and no one else) doesn’t make the Nats at .500 ballclub, but signing Garland (or Piniero, or Marquis) with DeRosa behind them and Mike Gonzalez in the bullpen does.

Mark DeRosa’s Revenge

Friday, August 28th, 2009

At the outset of the ’09 season, baseball’s prognosticators picked the Cardinals for second place in the NL Central — or even third — behind the Cubbies, who had rejiggered their line-up to be more “balanced.” The Cubs had traded super utilityman Mark DeRosa to the Naps and signed on left handed hitting Milton “Game Board” Bradley, mixing a righthanded heavy line-up that had been swept in the playoffs at the hands of the hated Trolleys. The Cubs — a veritable set of mashers — were on the way up, the Cards (a bunch of sore arms and also-rans) were on the way down. Now, months later, the results of all those moves are in: and the Cardinals are running away with the division crown. While afficiandos focus on the Cubs’ failures, there’s more reason to argue that Cards G.M. John Mozeliak made all the right moves and all of them just at the right time. So what happened?

The Cardinals began their sprint to the top of the NL Central at the end of June: the timing coincided with their trade for Cleveland’s DeRosa. The Cards shipped reliever Chris Perez to Cleveland to land DeRosa to shore up a wobbly infield and undermanned outfield. Just one day later, DeRosa went on the DL, but the deed was done and the Cards were overjoyed with their acquisition. So was DeRosa: his last place ass had landed in a tub of first place butter: “From a selfish standpoint, I get to battle for a division title again and I’m in a good position with a great team.” Then, at the end of July, Mozeliak traded a passel of prospects to the White Elephants for Matt Holliday. It’s not simply that Holliday was a good hitter, he knew NL pitching and could provide protection behind Pujols, who was starting to see more walks than Cards manager Tony La Russa liked. Holliday cashed in a Mozeliak’s trust, setting the league on fire.

Mark DeRosa

But Holliday was just one piece of a make-over that Mozeliak had in mind. Two days before sealing the Holliday deal, the Cards G.M. traded away Chris Duncan to Boston for under appreciated shortstop Julio Lugo, who had worn out his welcome with the Red Sox. With acquisition Khalil Greene (whom Mozeliak had hoped would plug the Cards hole at the position) not working out, the Redbirds were desperate to find a solution. Lugo hasn’t exactly been ripping up the NL, but La Russa has done his usual sleight-of-hand in getting the most from him: he starts at second against left handed pitchers (for left swinging Skip Schumaker) and at short when breakout youngster Brendan Ryan needs a breather. So far so good: such mixing and matching would not have been possible in Boston, where psychologically hobbled Theo Epstein would never have subbed for Dustin Pedroia.  

There’s more. The acquisition of John Smoltz, it is now reported, is the result of a recommendation to La Russa and Mozeliak by the newly acquired DeRosa, who told them that the future hall of famer would fit in nicely in St. Louis. The Cardinals bit: outbidding the Marlins, Dodgers and Rangers for his services. For the Cubs (and the rest of the N.L. Central), DeRosa can be counted as the latest in a series of team curses. He has become a kind of Jason of the N.L. Central — an unforgiving and murderous nightmare, taking retribution on the Baby Bears for not having enough confidence in him to keep him around.

There’s no question. Signing Smoltz was a gamble for the Cardinals, but so far (at least) it seems to have worked out: in Smoltz’s first outing against the Friars, the righty threw five innings of three hit ball. He looked sharp and confident. He looked at home on the mound. He looked like he was back. The outing raised eyebrows around major league baseball: maybe the old guy still has something left. Yeah, maybe. But Smoltz doesn’t have to be the lights-out John Smoltz of old. He just has to pitch well enough to give the Cardinals another arm in their already superb arsenal of arms: Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Joel Pineiro. Smoltz could set the Cards up for a good run in the offseason. He could bring them into the post-season as the team to beat. And wouldn’t it be nice to see St. Louis facing off against that other great team in the league: The Los Angeles Dodgers The Colorado Rockies.