The signing of Mark DeRosa was met with mixed feelings when it was first announced in late December. DeRosa’s defensive versatility has long been his greatest asset but he’s been plagued by an inability to remain healthy. If a player can’t stay on the field, how could he possibly provide any positive value?
Over a 14-year career, DeRosa holds a batting line of .272/.341/.416 over 3,757 plate appearances. Breaking his numbers down into a 162 game average (never a perfect science, but a decent place to start when looking for a player’s average season) he adds 14 HR, 66 RBI, 26 doubles, 46 walks, and 94 strikeouts. He’s also seen time at every position on the diamond aside from center field, on the mound, and behind the plate.
While technically only signed to a minor league contract, DeRosa is in camp with the Nationals and the general expectation seems to be that he’ll break camp with the team in April. He’d provide depth at the infield and outfield corners, while offering a veteran right-handed bat off the bench.
But now, as The Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore writes, DeRosa’s role with the Nationals could end up being bigger than originally anticipated thanks largely to the retirement of Mike Cameron. It would seem that Manager Davey Johnson had already been planning on using DeRosa at first base on a semi-regular basis against left-handed starters, partly to give Adam LaRoche ample rest. But now, as Kilgore speculates, DeRosa could be an option to start in right field against left-handers, with Jayson Werth sliding over to center. Such an option would allow Johnson to rest whomever wins the starting center field job (presumably either Rick Ankiel or Roger Bernadina, both left-handed) against left-handed starters.
While it may not be an ideal situation, having DeRosa available to play the outfield some degree of consistency could make it easier for the organization keep Bryce Harper down in the minor leagues to start the season, rather than rushing him to Washington. If nothing else, he presents another option.
Of course, if DeRosa can’t stay healthy once the season gets underway, all of this discussion may be for nothing.