There was an interesting conversation that took place between Pat Tabler and Buck Martinez (no, really!) in the top of the seventh inning of Sunday’s Jays loss at Fenway Park. It happened when Mark DeRosa was at the plate, and if you’ve read the title of this post, you probably have a pretty good idea of what it was about.

To wit:

Buck Martinez: Think DeRosa comes back?

Pat Tabler: Yes.

Buck: You didn’t hesitate. [Laughs]

Pat: [Laughs] I’ve talked to him. They have an option, and he said he thinks that they will exercise it. He’s played a long time, and he’s getting to that spot in his career when he wants to go out a winner, and wants to finish on a strong note. He thinks he’ll be playing next year.

The option on DeRosa’s contract is for $750K (with a $25K buyout), so the money is clearly not the issue as to whether he sticks around. Nor, in a vacuum, is his performance. DeRosa has been better than advertised, which… actually that’s not terribly impressive, seeing as he basically came advertised as some kind of spirit animal/glorified babysitter.

But he’s been decent! He’s versatile– spending time at first, second, third, and even playing an inning in the outfield (which he may again do this week!)– he takes walks, he posted the fourth-highest ISO of his career– his highest since 2009, as he finally regained some power that left him when he injured his wrist for the first time that year (though a move to the Rogers Centre probably didn’t hurt either). Overall, he posted a .353 wOBA and 121 wRC+ in 126 plate appearances against left-handed pitching.

It’s an impressive sample, albeit a small one, but the case against bringing DeRosa back begins right about there– and it’s mostly an issue of roster construction, because unless you want him to be Adam Lind’s platoon caddy against lefties, the number of available spots for him start getting slim.

Obviously the Jays only have 25 places on the roster to play with, and they fill up pretty fast: there are the starting eight position players, the DH makes nine, and five starting pitchers brings the total to fourteen. They’ll also need a backup catcher, a utility infielder who can play shortstop, and a fourth outfielder who can play centre field. That’s seventeen so far, plus they’ll need at least six pitchers for the bullpen. However, seeing as the Jays have frequently– too frequently– carried an eight-man bullpen over the past couple of seasons, it seems more likely they’ll go with seven. Because, y’know, a six man bullpen would, of course, be fucking madness.

That brings the total number on our theoretical roster to twenty-four. So one spot left for DeRosa?

Not necessarily. If he’s the lefty-mashing caddy that Lind so desperately needs, sure. But is he? Because otherwise, in order to keep him, the Jays would need to have their DH platoon mate cover one of the other bench jobs listed– and it’s not likely going to be the shortstop-playing infielder (likely Maicer Izturis, if they can’t find a taker, or otherwise Munenori Kawasaki or Ryan Goins), nor whoever they bring in (or demote *COUGH*) to be the second-string catcher.

In 2013 the Jays had a place for DeRosa and a potential Lind caddy in Rajai Davis, but it’s not likely that scenario will repeat itself, with Davis being a free agent, and looking for more than a platoon gig, and more dollars than a team with options like Pillar, Gose, and Sierra will probably be considering.

If Rajai wants to return, though, I’d have a tough time saying no– a threat on the base paths and a .379 wOBA against lefties sounds quite perfect for a fourth outfielder and platoon DH on a team with a guy like Lind to take the DH at-bats against right-handers. And then DeRosa’s there too, in case someone like Colby Rasmus– or, dare I suggest, Anthony Gose– needs a spell against a tough left-hander. As much as a whole lot went wrong with the 2013 Jays, this setup kinda worked. Or, at least, it did in theory, when everybody was healthy– and once ol’ Gibbers realized that Lind should never see another fucking left-handed pitcher in his life.

Otherwise, what are we looking at here? Pillar is a right-handed bat who can play centre in a pinch, so maybe he’s the guy you look to, despite a somewhat dreadful start to his big league career, after a rapid ascent through the minors. Thing is, that sure would cut down on his number of badly-needed reps at this level, and may end up being too detrimental for him. Same story, to a lesser degree I think, with Sierra, who has certainly has looked like he could be an asset during his September cameo here, but his numbers from Buffalo this year– .261/.309/.422– suggest otherwise, and asking him to play centre would be grounds for instant termination.

So… I don’t know… is DeRosa really so unpalatable as half of a DH if Davis– or someone like him– isn’t around? Maybe not… maybe not…

Consider that even in his three season in the power-sapped injury wilderness– 2010, 2011, and 2012– he managed to put up a .323 wOBA against lefties, taking walks at a 14.4% rate, over a sample of 121 plate appearances. No, it’s not great– more like league average-ish– but that sure is more than Adam Lind will give you in that split. Plus, DeRosa is versatile. Plus, y’know, something something spirit animal/babysitter. Plus, if you expand the sample a bit, and really believe that DeRosa’s new-found wrist health makes a genuine difference, there’s reason to be optimistic, even as he enters his age-39 season. Besides, he’s a young 39! He’s averaged fewer than 100 games over the 12 season since he last spent any significant time in the minors, and just a shade over 50 games over the last four.

Then think about this: even with the time when he was injured– where his ISO dipped to just .087– DeRosa’s vs. LHP split, when you add in this year’s plate appearances, jumps up to a wOBA of .339. And if you really think he might still have in him some of what he was back in 2009, when the injuries to his wrist began to take their toll, add in that data and you’ll see a hitter with a .357 wOBA over his last 409 plate appearances against lefties.

Even through the worst of it– like when he re-injured the wrist in May, 2011, and told the San Jose Mercury News, “I’m not willing to concede to the fact that I can’t come back, but look, I’m also cognizant to the fact that I’ve done significant damage to this thing repeatedly over the past two years”– he’s managed to be a reasonably productive hitter against left-handed pitching. Add in the positional versatility, and therefore the injury cover he can provide, the low cost, and the fact that he wants to be back, appears to be well-liked, and, most importantly, is healthy, and… yeah. Sure!

No, really.

Maybe I’m delirious from the grind, or all the losing or something– I was pushing reasonably hard for Todd Redmond on the podcast earlier, too– but I really do think DeRosa could be the platoon mate for Lind that the Jays need. If you’re going to carry a guy to only hit lefties, it’s at least nice that isn’t utterly positionless on the diamond. And if this year proves to be a blip and he declines, what’s $750,000 to a big league baseball team? And really, if you’re talking worst case scenarios, how bad is having to cut your right-handed platoon DH, either? In a vacuum where I have no idea what other potentialities may come up, sure, I’d take the chance.

Comments (24)

  1. DaRosa is a keeper for as long as he want to be a Jay. I read in an interview that he desperately wants to start his new career as a full-time father, after years of being away – but I guess one more year at almost a million dollars won’t upset the wife too much.
    He sounds like a good guy, and a total professional.
    I vote yes, Simon. Welcome to Hollywood.

  2. I’m all for keeping Uncle Mark. Christmas IS just around the corner and I’d really like that new Xbox One!

  3. Derosa gets a +1. Very useful player who has come up clutch several times this year. He is also Kawasaki’s media relations guy so we have to keep him.

    Stoeten should do a post on why the Jays bullpen always had 8 members if not more this year.

    I think the starting pitching was so weak this year that we needed a bigger bullpen , but hopefully next year we can return to normal.

    We need a bigger bench. Derosa,JPA,Gose,Goins/Kawasaki, & ???

  4. At this point after this season I’d stick with the guy you know. Given all that’s gone on this year, predictability is a very attractive asset in a Jay.

  5. DeRosa =.262/.367/.437 vs LHP
    Lind=.307/383/.543 vs RHP

    While there might theoretically be better ways to use those two roster spots, it makes a lot of sense to roll with it and work on fixing other problems.

    • I’ll take those lines.

      And JPA is likely a non-tender. Isn’t he?

      Trying to find a starting C will be hard enough. Insisting on finding one that can catch a knuckler just so you can keep JPA as your backup is just stupid.

      • I think J.P.’s struggles with the knuckleball have made it seem like it’s a lot harder than it is. Not that it’s EASY, mind you, I’m sure, but I’m pretty sure it’s not like Thole or Blanco grew up catching knuckleballs and have specialized in it. I would suspect that there’s probably something to do with the individual that makes him a good receiver for the pitch, but I’d also bet a lot comes down to just, y’know, being a good defensive catcher with good reflexes.

        That said, I don’t even know if Arencibia is necessarily incapable of doing it, I think they just chose to take it away from him because there are other areas where he needed to focus. A more complete catcher might not have those concerns.

        So… I’m not 100% on it, but I wouldn’t think it would be that big a deal to have whoever ends up as the starter being Dickey’s catcher next year. I certainly don’t think it’s out of the question– in fact, all spring the Jays kept insisting they’d use JP with him, but then they seemed to change their minds after the disaster on Opening Day.

  6. What’s the situation with Thole? I thought he came over specifically to catch Dickey.

    • I’d almost keep Thole and DFA JP, but if they were leaning that way at all he’d play more than once a week.

      • DFA is an utterly stupid idea. Just option him to AAA and keep him on the 40 man roster – JPA still has value as a cost controlled catcher with options.

        • Yeah, just depends on how much he actually stands to earn in first-year arb. I suppose they could tender him, then if they win they send him to AAA as depth and if he wins they cut him in ST and only pay the 10% (assuming that’s still how it works).

  7. It’s not an instant yes I think, but in the end, a yes. Being able to play passably at 2nd and 3rd is what pushes it over. Considering the Jays are cash-strapped, and Adam Lind should not be hitting tough lefties when contending, DeRosa may be able to help greatly again next year.

    He’s been productive against lefties his whole career, even when he was kind of hurt.

    Plus he can teach a lot to the youngins’. I know that has only so much value (very little of it tangible), but I think we can agree that it can help on the development side, and it’s not as if that’s the only thing he could do. It’s like having an extra coach who the players are more likely to listen to. When we’re talking bench players, and one who’s productive, his experience is a plus, no?

  8. If/when DeRosa retires, Sportsnet should hire him on to work in the booth. Get rid of Buck and Tabby, hire a real play-by-play guy, and pair him with DeRosa.

  9. Let Derosa stay. Hes cheap and hits lefties well. Good to have a bench bat like him.

  10. He stays…

  11. The next time you mention or refer to a spirit animal in a post, I expect the image to be of one.

    I must know what one of these looks like. Must.

  12. Stay

  13. Uncle DeRosa’s veteran presents must stay.

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