Being a “man without a position” once was viewed as a big baseball handicap. In today’s game, it has become a major asset.
Still, it is fascinating to follow the fuss being made over Ben Zobrist, making as much noise among free-agent position players as anyone, with the possible exceptions of Chris Davis and Jason Heyward.
Zobrist has starting experience at seven different positions, with 52 percent of his 1,190 career games coming at second base.
The fascination is in that we’ve seen this before: Mark DeRosa, with experience all over the infield and in the corners of the outfield, caused an identical sensation following the 2009 season, in which he combined to hit 23 homers and drive in 78 runs for the Indians and the Cardinals.
The Giants bit, signing him to a two-year, $12 million deal. In those two seasons, DeRosa appeared in a total of 73 games and batted .230 (42-for-179). A damaged cartilage in his left wrist limited his availability both seasons.
Zobrist is also the same age — 34 — as was DeRosa when he got that deal. It didn’t work out for DeRosa — his career quickly fizzled after that San Francisco experience — but the Giants weren’t complaining, winning the 2010 World Series despite minimal return from him.
It’s interesting to now see history repeat with Zobrist. His work ethic and preparedness convinces teams that he’s a safe signing. He has so many suitors offering three-year deals that an eventual four-year contract seems a realistic score.