Over the past several years, the Rays have become well-known for their versatility. Ben Zobrist in particular has become the poster child for versatile players who start consistently and are major forces in their teams’ lineups. But before Zobrist, another player could have been described perfectly in the same way: Mark DeRosa. DeRosa has always seemed like a player the Rays would be interested in but that never came together. Could the Rays actually make a DeRosa signing happen this offseason?
DeRosa is not the same player he used to be. He’s now 37 years old and has played in just 121 games over the last three seasons thanks to wrist problems (including one that required surgery) and also oblique and groin injuries. And his track record is not even as good as we give him credit for. He has only four years as a starting player on his resume, from 2006 to 2009, although he did play well, posting a .281/.356/.448 line (106 OPS+). But the bottom line on DeRosa now is that his value is at its lowest possible point thanks to all the injuries and that he hasn’t hit at all the past three years even when healthy (62 OPS+). He’s in a position to receive no guarantees for the 2013 season and will likely have to accept a minor league deal. He’s right in the Rays’ price range now. Could they seriously pursue him?
The risk with DeRosa is obviously injuries, but when you’re signing him to a contract that will likely net him under a million dollars even if he makes the team out of spring training, that’s less of an issue, even for the Rays. The best-case scenario is for DeRosa to be a regular player seeing time at six positions (the four infield spots and the outfield corners) who would give the Rays a nice hitter and an incredible amount of defensive flexibility between him and Zobrist to get their best offensive players in the lineup. A realistic possibility is a part-time player who would provide a good bat off the bench and can spell just about any of the Rays’ starting players. When the monetary commitment would be so little, why should the Rays not take a chance at getting a nice player who could bolster their if he stays healthy?
The Rays are in a good position to make a pitch for DeRosa based on their appreciation of his versatility but mostly because they can guarantee him a spot in the lineup if he stays healthy and hits solidly. The Rays have needs in the outfield, at first base, and at DH and DeRosa has the ability to play a huge role in helping solve their problem at those positions. Maybe the chance to DH on a part-time basis in addition to playing all over the field could be perfect for DeRosa to keep him healthy, and not too many teams will give DeRosa that option. Given their needs at several positions and severe need for quality hitters, the Rays could be the perfect fit for DeRosa to get playing time and reestablish his value.
Mark DeRosa has looked like a great hypothetical fit for the Rays for quite a while, but he’s a practical fit for them right now given his abilities and current price range. The Rays are a good candidate to go after DeRosa this offseason, and if he signs and stays healthy, their long-awaited union could be a resounding success.