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Who just blinked: DeRosa or the Cardinals?

Is Mark DeRosa’s reported two year, $12 million deal with the San Francisco Giants out of line with the market? If not, why didn’t the St. Louis Cardinals jump in?

    Many St. Louis Cardinals watchers are distressed to learn that free agent infielder Mark DeRosa will be signing with the San Francisco Giants for two years, $12 million.

    Their concerns are in a couple of major areas:

    • Is the Cardinals’ Plan “B” for 2010 slipping away? The versatile 34-year-old was considered by many to be part of St. Louis’ back up plan in case they are unable to sign Matt Holliday.
      • DeRosa dropped his price to a reasonable range. The average amount of his Giants contract, $6 million per year, is in contrast to the three years, $27 million deal that DeRosa was reportedly seeking earlier in the off-season. Yet the new deal is a slight raise from his career-high $5.5 million earned in 2009.

      Conclusions Cardinals fans can draw from their club’s apparent lack of action with DeRosa are one or some combination of these three:

      • St. Louis either believes they are close with Holliday or have gone “all in” at least emotionally to try to outwait agent Scott Boras to get him.
        • They had no serious intention of bringing DeRosa back despite offering him arbitration and a contract for an undisclosed amount and duration early in the off-season.
          • DeRosa was interested in playing elsewhere.

          Mark DeRosa (AP photo)As much as anyone, I would love to know the clear answer to the above, but we don’t.

          So the area I want to investigate is whether or not it appears that DeRosa gave the Giants a sweetheart deal financially. To do that, I looked at both third basemen and second basemen that signed new contracts so far this winter.

          Listed below are the players’ ages next season, their years and dollar amounts of their new deals and the average annual value (AAV). I added their OPS+ scores for the last two seasons as well as their most recent Elias scores and classification, which also cover the last two seasons.

          2010 2009 2008 2009
          Third basemen Age Years Total AAV OPS+ OPS+ Elias Type
          Mark DeRosa 35 2 $12M $6M 99 117 70.330 B
          Placido Polanco 34 3 $18M $6M 88 101 74.286 A
          Chone Figgins 32 4 $36M $9M 108 82 73.684 A
          Pedro Feliz 35 1 $4.5M $4.5M 81 81 60.440 NC
          Garrett Atkins 30 1 $4.5M $4.5M 66 96 57.143 NC
          Second basemen
          Freddy Sanchez* 32 2 $12M $6M 96 78 70.046 B
          Marco Scutaro 34 2 $12.5M $6.3M 111 88 83.069 A
          * extension

          As the data shows, a younger Chone Figgins received the largest contract in AAV terms, despite having a lower Elias ranking than Placido Polanco. The latter received a three-year deal with the same AAV as DeRosa.

          Marco Scutaro received only a slightly higher contract from Boston than DeRosa but like Figgins, also cost a first-round draft pick in compensation. Though not a free agent, Freddy Sanchez signed a two-year extension that is identical in value to his new Giants teammate DeRosa. It is also interesting that Sanchez’ Elias score is almost the same as DeRosa’s.

          Two lesser third basemen, Garrett Atkins and Pedro Feliz, each settled for $4.5 million for 2010.

          Further, I went back a year to last winter and pulled the same kind of data, though I could locate fewer comparable free agents in 2008-2009.

          2009 2008 2007 2008
          Third basemen Age Years Total AAV OPS+ OPS+ Elias Type
          Casey Blake 35 3 $17.5M $5.8M 113 103 72.571 B
          Ty Wigginton 31 2 $6M $3M 128 106 55.429 NC
          Second basemen
          Orlando Hudson 31 1 $3.4M $3.4M 107 105 80.357 A
          Felipe Lopez 29 1 $3.5M $3.5M 93 75 50.824 NC

          Casey Blake received three years from the Dodgers with an AAV near $6 million. His age and OPS+ numbers were comparable to DeRosa’s and his Elias ranking last year was slightly higher. Like DeRosa, Scutaro, Figgins and Polanco, Blake can play multiple positions defensively.

          Other comps from last year settled for lower dollar amounts.

          My conclusion from this quick review of the data is that DeRosa seems to be paid about right. He might have been able to argue for $7 million per season, but not much more, in my opinion.

          At this point, one can only speculate why the Cardinals didn’t make that kind of offer or if so, why it wasn’t accepted and DeRosa is now a Giant instead.

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          Brian Walton

          Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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