Mark DeRosa‘s recent retirement from baseball, though not exactly a surprise, is well deserved.
Joining the Toronto Blue Jays for his age-38 season in what many considered to be something of a glorified bench coach role, not only did the veteran find himself playing in 88 games and collecting 236 PA, but he did it at a replacement-level rate, an accomplishment that might not seem so impressive until you consider that his 0.1 fWAR in 2013 topped those of Emilio Bonifacio, Josh Thole, J.P. Arencibia, Melky Cabrera and Maicer Izturis.
In fact, he actually turned out to be pretty useful in conjunction with Adam Lind, providing the platoon advantage vs. LHP with a .267/.368/.443 line that included five homers over 155 PA.
So it’s no wonder why the team picked up his $750,000 option for 2014; and while DeRosa hanging up his gloves will mean that the team now has to find another platoon-mate for Lind, could it ultimately end up helping Toronto move forward? Even if it only serves as an impetus for the team to make a move, you’d have to think so.
See, while DeRosa is probably right in feeling redeemed about his performance in 2013 given the circumstances, the fact is that not only can the Blue Jays do better on the bench — they need to do better.
Replacement level production might sound pretty good considering all of Toronto players who couldn’t reach that mark this past season, but this is supposed to be a contender, and contenders shouldn’t really have a roster spot taken up by a guy whose role is that limited (sorry, Matt Stairs circa 2008).
With DeRosa gone, the Blue Jays will now be forced into looking at other options to build a more productive bench, whether that’s getting Moises Sierra reps at first base (which has the potential to be very entertaining … in both good and bad ways) or acquiring a player from either free agency or trade to fill in the middle infield gap — a player who can actually play on the field as a defensive replacement and make the occasional start while being productive.
It might not be putting DeRosa’s tenure with the team in a very sentimental light, but that’s not his fault, really.
The team should never have gotten into the position where they needed to ask him to play in 88 games; he had twice the PA in 2013 as he did from 2011-2012, and that chalks up to misuse of a bench asset out of desperation. More importantly, the Blue Jays should not find themselves in the situation again, injuries or not.
The lack of a legitimate bench was basically an issue all season long for the Blue Jays, one that perhaps got less attention because guys who shouldn’t have started like Munenori Kawasaki and DeRosa did for long stretches at a time.
Needless to say, the Blue Jays are not going to get very far in their quest for redemption in 2014 if this isn’t resolved, and if DeRosa’s retirement at least puts the onus on the team to start rebuilding the bench towards something that can actually add up to wins during the 2014 season, he’ll have contributed positively to the team even as he’s saying goodbye for good.