Friday, November 13, 2009

Missed the Mark

In analyzing possible targets for the Twins this offseason, I'm starting to realize that I've been perhaps overly positive. J.J. Hardy? Great acquisition! Carl Pavano? Bring him back! Adrian Beltre? Great fit! And don't forget about my sleeper free agent second baseman, Jamey Carroll!

Lest I start to look like anything other than a nay-saying curmudgeon, let's spend today's post talking about a player that I think the Twins should most definitely avoid. Ironically, it's a guy that I advocated very strongly for them to bring in just last offseason.

That's because last offseason presented the perfect opportunity to make a play for Mark DeRosa. A right-handed batter, he was coming off three consecutive strong seasons, had only one relatively cheap year left on his contract, was capable of playing multiple positions where the Twins were thin, and was being made available by the Cubs for -- as it would turn out -- a pretty darn low price.

The Indians ended up swooping in and acquiring DeRosa in return for three marginal pitching prospects. He hit quite well for the Indians over the first half of the season before being sent to St. Louis to finish up his campaign with the playoff-bound Cardinals. Now, DeRosa becomes a free agent and the Twins will once again have the chance to move on him.

Things are different, though. He'll turn 35 in February and he's starting to show marked signs of decline. DeRosa skidded after being traded to the Cards last year and finished the season with a 757 OPS -- his lowest figure since 2004. Perhaps more alarming is that DeRosa's defense seemed to drop off the charts; he'd posted excellent UZR numbers at third base in 2007 and 2008 but this year finished at -8.7 there, and he's never rated well at second base.

Another fact to keep in mind when contemplating DeRosa is that he needed wrist surgery at the end of the season. The injury was likely a significant factor in his late-season decline, but there's no guarantee that he'll bounce back even after surgery, considering his age.

DeRosa's right-handed stick and ability to play second, third and left field make him a desirable fit for the Twins at a quick glance, but a deeper look tells us that this is the wrong time to be signing him to a multi-year deal -- which he'll certainly be seeking this winter. Getting DeRosa a year ago would have been a wise move that would have made the Twins a better team in '09. But the Twins missed their window, and at this point the best idea is to simply pass.

11 comments:

Francis said...

With the new park, next year could be anything. Not sure what to think.

Kenny G said...

I think Lopez would be a better fit and around same cost. He'd be a great #2 hitter.

Nick N. said...

I like Lopez but his price and defense are concerns.

CA said...

That -8.7 figure is DeRosa's UZR per 150 games this year at 3B. His UZR there is -5.6 in 105 games. Are you looking at UZR/150 instead of UZR? The reason I ask is that care needs to be taken when looking at UZR/150 for seasons in which a player has accumulated few defensive innings. DeRosa's "excellent UZR numbers at third base in 2007 and 2008" only apply if you believe his UZR/150 in 37 and 22 games at third base in those years, which are inflated because that's a very small sample size to extrapolate from when dealing with UZR.

Essentially, I doubt that DeRosa was really that good at third in 2007-08, and his defensive dropoff there, while possibly extant, is probably not as precipitous as you'd think based on UZR/150.

DeRosa spent most of his time at 2B in 2007-08, and at 3B in 2009. His UZRs for those years at those positions in similar numbers of games (93-105) are -0.5, -7.4, and -5.6, respectively. Furthermore, his career UZR/150 at 2B is -7.5, and at 3B it's -6.5, both over many defensive innings. So I would conclude that as a generic non-SS infielder he's between 5 and 10 runs below average, but he hasn't hit a massive dropoff quite yet. Although at 35, he'll might be closer to -10 runs or worse, even if he's healthy.

All that said, I agree with the conclusion that the Twins should not sign him to a multi-year deal. I don't think he's all that different from Brendan Harris at this point.

Nick N. said...

Apologies for not specifying that I was using UZR/150. DeRosa played a total of 400 innings at third during the 07-08 seasons, which isn't a terribly small sample. On closer inspection, though, I'd be willing to grant that his UZR numbers during those years may have been positively influenced by the present of Ryan Theriot -- a fine defensive shortstop -- alongside him. Your point is well taken; DeRosa probably was never all that good of a defender to begin with. Either way, I certainly don't expect his defensive skills to do anything but decline over the next few years.

John said...

I'm more optimistic than you about Derosa. In the Handbook we speculated that he would get a 2-year, $12 million contract, which seems a bit rich, but I wouldn't cry over the extra couple of million bucks.

Part of that is becasue I think last year is a bit deceiving. He suffered that wrist injury on his second game in St. Louis, and he was hitting .270/.342/.457 for a 799 OPS before that. (And that was after starting the season in a terrible slump.)

The performance as a Cardinal can be chalked up to that injury I think. Wrists are a bitch for ballplayers. If anything, he should get props for playing through it. You're right about the risk of reinjury - I don't know how common a wrist injury reoccurance is - but a two-year deal is reasonable.

lookatthosetwins said...

Jamey Carroll?

I would project Carroll to be right around 1.5 WAR, right in Nick Punto territory. Bad hitter, but enough defense to be passable. Still below average. Better than Harris or Tolbert though. Signing Carroll seems like signing Washburn - not a BAD player, but seems redundant compared to the players we have. Adding depth is certainly a good thing, but I'd rather they signed 1 above average player (Lopez would be an example) than 2 passable players. That being said, if they sign a legitimate 3b or 2b and sign Carroll to play the other position, I won't complain. Same thing goes for Washburn - sign him if and ONLY if it doesn't hamper our ability to pick up a legitimate upgrade.

lookatthosetwins said...

So I've changed my mind on Carroll. I'd like him as long as he's not the only player we sign. Not an upgrade over punto, but if he takes all of Casilla and Tolbert's at bats, then a significant upgrade. Anyway, because I'm sure everyone cares so much, I'll lay out my dream (fairly realistic dream) for the rest of the off season.

Sign Ben Sheets for 4 mil to 8 w/incentives.

Sign Troy Glaus for a similar contract.

Sign Jamey Carroll for 2 mil.

(contracts are certainly not my area of expertise (not that I really have one) so if these seem unrealistic, let me know.) All of this is assuming that Glaus at least appears to be healthy enough to play third. He was rated as a plus third basemen in 2008, and has been pretty durable before last year, so I think this is a good risk to take, assuming of course he gets the ok from the medical staff. He could play about 100 games at third, and spell Kubel against lefties from time to time at DH. Harris would play third when he DH's, and punto could give him some full days off also.

Sheets is another risk, but if he gives us 10 starts he'd be worth 4 mil easily. If he gives 20 or more, an absolute steal. We have decent enough guys to step in (Liriano, Perkins, Swarzak) if (when) he gets hurt.

Carroll would be the main second basemen, with Punto getting close to a full season of PA split among 2b, 3b, and ss.

The Twins could non tender Harris to pay for Carroll's contract if needed.

At the moment, I have us as about an 89 win team, best in the ALC. With these changes I'd have us at 94 wins, In Boston Red Sox territory. We still wouldn't have that perfect fit in the 2 hole, but Carroll projects to have an above average OBP and would do fine there.

Span
Carroll
Mauer
Morneau
Cuddyer
Kubel
Glaus
Hardy
Delmon

No more a scrappy "group of ballplayers", that's a lineup that would match up well with anyone (including New York). The rotation of Sheets/Liriano, Baker, Slowey, Blackburn, Duensing would be solidly above average.

And all for 10-15 mil. I'd personally rather spend 10 mil this way, than to give it all to Beltre.

Nick N. said...

I don't know how you can say Jamey Carroll is not an upgrade over Punto. His career OPS is more than 50 points higher and he rates quite a bit better defensively at second base.

lookatthosetwins said...

Bill James projects .261/.343/.323 for Carroll. CHONE has him at 0.244/0.327/.318. Punto is projected at.244/.330/.308 and 0.242/0.331/0.319. Taking an average of the OPSs would be .655 for Carroll, and .644 for Punto. These numbers seem a bit harsh on carroll, but he will be 36 next year, and a significant portion of his career numbers were in colorado. I think that Carroll is an upgrade offensively, but not a huge one. 30 points of OPS seems generous.

As for defense, I really don't like just looking at one position for a player and ignoring the rest. Punto only has a season and a half worth of games at each position, and that's not a great sample for using UZR. More than likely, he's not 20 runs better than average at short and third and 4 runs above average at second. I project him to about 10 runs above average at second. Carroll on the other hand, has very good marks at second and poor marks at other positions. I'm not saying there's no way someone can be better at short than second or vise versa, I'm just saying that the larger sample of data we have, the more accurate UZR is, so we should put at least some weight into the numbers at other positions. Plus, as I said before, Carrol will be 36 next year. I think a reasonable projection for him would be about +5.

30 points of OPS and 5 runs on defense just about even out, making them even. You can certainly argue with my numbers, and I would agree that Carroll is an upgrade, but not as big of upgrade as you'd like for a few million dollars.

The reason I changed my mind, was because he really wouldn't be taking punto's playing time as much as Tolbert, Casilla, and Harris's. And because of that, he would be a good sign. He's definitely a significant upgrade over those guys, and would allow punto to be one of the best utility guys in the league. I don't think we should totally ignore the discepency between punto's SS/3b compared to his 2b, so letting him play all 3 positions instead of just second would be a good thing.

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