That loud collective groan you heard over the weekend was the sound of Cub fans reacting to one of their favorite players getting traded to their hated division rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals. When Mark DeRosa was moved to the Cleveland Indians for a trio of C grade pitchers, it was a salary clearing move to enable the Cubs to sign Milton Bradley, who has predictably been unable to stay in the lineup, and over the weekend was called a piece of excrement (to keep it PG) by his manager for his “shenanigans”. Before trading DeRosa, the Cubs signed Aaron Miles, lord of the .228 wOBA. Good times in Cub Town.
The Cardinals gave up one pitcher that is worth more than the three the Indians traded to obtain DeRosa’s services by trading Chris Perez, who has been regarded by most prospect watchers as a top 100 talent. He was all but anointed to be the St. Louis closer headed into the season, but wasn’t quite able to nail down the job. Depending on how you view Perez is how you evaluate this trade, and of course there is the other shoe still yet to drop. Perez is a fastball/slider reliever who can brings the heat at an average of 94 MPH. To give you an idea of Perez’s “stuff”, here’s his movement chart from 5/18/09.
With two above average offerings, the problem with Perez has never been his repertoire, but rather his command. In 113.1 innings pitched throughout the minors, Perez struck out 12 batters per nine innings, but walked 6 per nine. In the 65.1 big league innings, he’s struck out 10 batters per nine but walked 5.2 per nine and has a FIP of 4.38. It’s that lack of command that has prevented him from ascending into the high leverage innings, and he lost his manager’s trust this year, with an average leverage index of a .84, compared with an LI of 1.34 the previous season.
If the Indians can coax Perez into throwing more strikes, they’ll have a good, cheap high-leverage reliever under team control for the next five years, making this deal a real win. If that doesn’t happen, he’s basically another Kyle Farnsworth, which still has some value, but isn’t exactly a rare commodity.
Mark DeRosa is a La Russa guy if there ever was one, in that he’s a veteran who can play a bunch of different positions, and the good news for Cardinal fans is he can actually hit a little bit. With Rick Ankiel, Ryan Ludwick and Chris Duncan slumping at the same time and Troy Glaus still on the shelf, the Cardinals in sore need of some run production. DeRosa is not a world-beater, but is projected to hit for a .348 wOBA the rest of the season, and he will probably be playing third base more often than not. The Cardinals are getting a .296 wOBA from the position, so they’ll gladly take it.
DeRosa’s not a plus defender at 3B by any stretch (-8 UZR per 150 games career), but neither was Joe Thurston. The last three seasons DeRosa’s been near a 3 win player or better, and should give the Cardinals about ~1-1.5 WAR the rest of the way. In a division in which the cellar-dwelling Pirates are just five games out, that could mean a world of difference for the Cardinals.
The Cardinals may have paid a stiffer price than they’d like by giving up their “future closer” for a half a season’s rental, but chances are Perez’s command never quite comes around, and they still would have been driven to the market once Ryan Franklin‘s magic closer beard gets shaved off, or when he becomes a free agent in 2010, whichever comes first. I have to also think this trade was made not to just get DeRosa, but to keep him away from Milwaukee and Chicago, who also were expressing an interest.