Scuffling Indians Trade Mark DeRosa To Cardinals For Two Youngsters

The Deal
With Troy Glaus sidelined until late July with a shoulder injury and with Khalil Greene fighting an anxiety disorder, the Cardinals, who sit atop the National League Central, decided to address their vacancy at the hot corner. St. Louis manager Tony La Russa has shuffled his lineup this season, using several third basemen, but now the Cardinals have acquired a player to fill that void: Mark DeRosa. In return, the Indians receive 24-year-old righthanded reliever Chris Perez and a player to be named.

UPDATE: The Cardinals shipped Triple-A closer Jess Todd, a righthander, to the Indians on July 26. As a result, St. Louis now has traded five of its better prospects to acquire DeRosa and Matt Holliday, a list that includes ’08 first-rounder Brett Wallace and Perez and Clayton Mortensen, consecutive supplemental first-round picks in ’06 and ’07. Todd and Shane Peterson were second-round selections in ’07 and ’08.

Though the 34-year-old DeRosa does not offer prototypical offensive production for a corner player, his versatility has served him well in his 12-year big league career. He’s played every position except catcher and center field. DeRosa batted .270/.342/.457 with 13 home runs and 50 RBIs in 278 at-bats with Cleveland, who acquired him in a trade on New Year’s Eve. He can opt for free agency after the season, and could carry Type A free agent compensation demands.

The Young Players
The Cardinals’ supplemental first-round pick (42nd overall) in 2006, Perez has a live arm and features a mid-90s
fastball and a sharp slider. Both pitches register as double plusses. While the Miami product has the raw stuff for success, he has struggled
mightily with control in the big leagues. Perez walked 15 batters in 23 2/3 innings with the Cardinals this
season, and for his career he’s walked 5.1 per nine innings, a very high figure for a short reliever.

Perez’s fastball has been clocked at 98 mph and his slider has been compared with the put-away offerings of Brad Lidge and Joe Nathan. He’s a strikeout pitcher with the potential to close in the big leagues, but his lack of control looms as a roadblock. Perez has struggled to retire lefthanded batters in his two big league seasons. They had shown a more discerning eye and more power than had righthanded batters, hitting .236/.367/.449 through 109 plate appearances.

A Cardinals’ second-round pick out of Arkansas in ’07, Todd reached Double-A as a starter about a year after signing, but he moved to the bullpen this season to expedite his development. It worked to the extent that he made his big league debut on June 5, during which he gave up two runs on three hits (including a home run) and two walks in 1 2/3 innings. As a Memphis Redbird, the 23-year-old fared much better, saving 24 games in 26 tries while posting a 2.20 ERA and a strong 59-to-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 49 innings.

Scouts projected Todd as a reliever out of college because of his stature (a listed 5-foot-11, 210 pounds), his funky delivery and because his stuff simply played up in short outings. His four-seam fastball can reach 94 mph, but more typically he two-seams the pitch at 88-91. A tight slider and a cutter he backdoors to lefthanded batters serve as his primary offspeed offerings.

Quick Take
The Cardinals moved quickly to fill their biggest hole on the infield, but now have to address a corresponding opening in their bullpen. DeRosa spent 2007 and 2008 with the Cubs, so his familiarity with NL Central pitching will only help the Cardinals. He’ll also provide support for perennial MVP candidate Albert Pujols.

If the Cardinals decide after the season that they do not want to
re-sign DeRosa, they could still receive compensation for losing him to free agency.
Playing in the NL and hitting in the same lineup as Pujols can only enhance DeRosa’s chance to qualify as a Type A free agent. In that case, St. Louis could potentially receive
two top picks.

On the other hand, it’s hard to argue that the Indians got the short end of this deal. In Perez, they got exactly what they wanted—a relief pitcher with strikeout stuff and the potential to close. After the trade, DeRosa said that things just didn’t work out in Cleveland. The same was true for Perez in St. Louis.

Though they didn’t participate in this particular trade, the Cubs might be the biggest losers of all. DeRosa was picked as the team’s MVP in 2008, only to be shipped to Cleveland in the offseason to clear payroll room for Milton Bradley, who has hit just .242/.372/.384 for the Cubs and already has had a publicized run-in with manager Lou Piniella.

The Cubs have significantly underachieved thus far, but they remain just two games back in the NL Central standings. The Cardinals and Cubs meet for a four-game series right before the All-Star break. The long-time rivals meet three times in the second-half of the season, as well, giving the North Siders ample time to develop seller’s remorse for parting with DeRosa.

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