12/29/09 6:07 PM EST
DeRosa signs with Giants for two years
New acquisition brings big bat, versatility to San Francisco
By Chris Haft / MLB.com
But because DeRosa can play every infield position as well as the outfield corners, his arrival doesn't limit the Giants' options in free agency. They still can consider first baseman Adam LaRoche or third baseman Adrian Beltre, both of whom have met resistance in their demands for a $10 million annual salary. Or the Giants could grab an outfielder. Marlon Byrd, Ryan Church and Xavier Nady have been linked to the Giants at various times this offseason.Giants general manager Brian Sabean, whose club ranked 13th in runs and last in OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) among National League teams last season, likened San Francisco's next move to a "chess game." Said Sabean in a conference call, "We're concentrating on the offense," suggesting that DeRosa won't be the last free agent the Giants sign. Sabean said that the Giants haven't concentrated much on trade discussions recently, dampening lingering speculation about a deal involving Florida second baseman Dan Uggla. Nevertheless, Sabean said, "We're engaged in a lot of different possibilities." One of them is re-signing utility infielder Juan Uribe, who stimulated the offense during last season's second half.
"We are making a concerted effort to get Uribe back," Sabean said. "We're gaining ground there."
With the similarly versatile DeRosa aboard, Uribe probably will occupy a "super-utility" role if he returns, providing rest for every infielder except first base.DeRosa will join the everyday lineup. Nothing's certain aside from that. Once the Giants finish their offseason personnel moves, manager Bruce Bochy will decide where DeRosa best fits in the field and in the batting order. DeRosa, who has played for Atlanta, Texas, the Chicago Cubs, Cleveland and St. Louis, has appeared in 23 games at first base, 304 at second, 139 at shortstop, 311 at third, 59 in left field and 160 in right field during his career. Offensively, DeRosa has started in every spot in the batting order, receiving most of his experience batting second (124 starts), fifth (114), sixth (226), seventh (151) and eighth (13).
"He seems to thrive on moving around," Bochy said, acknowledging that DeRosa possibly could fill the gaping vacancy in the fifth spot in the Giants' batting order.DeRosa and his representatives reportedly fielded inquiries from 12 teams when free agency began. He ultimately trimmed his list of finalists to about six teams, including both New York clubs -- he's a New Jersey native -- and the Cardinals, with whom he finished last season. But the Mets neared an agreement with Jason Bay and St. Louis has focused on retaining Matt Holliday, taxing DeRosa's patience. "I just was tired of being a lot of teams' Plan B," said DeRosa, who hit .250 with a career-high 23 home runs and 78 RBIs last season with Cleveland and St. Louis. "I understand I'm not hitting third or fourth in the lineup and knocking 40 balls out of the yard. But I wanted to go to a place where I felt comfortable and the team wanted me and needed me." That would be San Francisco, which DeRosa enjoyed as a visiting player.
"I always got a nice vibe playing there," he said. "I felt like it would be a cool place to play and an interesting place to bring my family."DeRosa's ardor was reciprocated by the Giants, who pursued him when he was a free agent in the 2006-07 offseason.
"He's a winning player," Sabean said of DeRosa, whose teams have reached the postseason in each of the last three years. "An organization wants as many players like Mark on the ballclub."Said one National League scout, "To me, his game has evolved a little bit. When he was with the Braves [1998-2004], he was a dead-red pull hitter. He chases pitches some, but he shoots the gaps and uses the park a little better." DeRosa, who turns 35 on Feb. 26, doesn't score highly on the defensive "zone ratings" which have grown in popularity. And though he owns a .275 lifetime batting average with 69 homers in the last four seasons, he struck out a career-high 121 times last season -- most likely due to a left wrist injury he sustained when he flailed at a Randy Johnson changeup in a June 30 game against the Giants at St. Louis.
"It definitely affected the way I played," said DeRosa, acknowledging that he felt pressure to perform after the Cardinals acquired him from Cleveland to assist their postseason drive. DeRosa passed a physical examination Monday and expects to be 100 percent recovered by the beginning of Spring Training.When talk turns to intangibles, DeRosa's an All-Star. His willingness to play through discomfort enhanced his widespread reputation as a classy, team-oriented performer. "Their clubhouse just improved 100 percent," said one Major League scout, referring to DeRosa's potential effect on the Giants. "He's an off-the-charts person. He's as good a teammate as anybody ever had." As DeRosa said, "I've always believed in chemistry and having 25 guys pulling in the same direction."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.