Blue Jays utility man Mark DeRosa is renowned for his clubhouse presence. He's played 500+ career innings at third base, second base, shorstop, right field, and left field, and has a pair of 20 home run seasons on his resume. The longtime CSE client spoke with MLBTR this week about his relationship with agents Lonnie Cooper and Keith Grunewald.
On his first agency:
I actually was with the Hendricks brothers before I switched to CSE. The reason for the switch, I don't know the whole ins and outs of it, but at some point in 2003 I think it was, SFX, I don't know if they bought out the Hendricks brothers or bought their company to become part of SFX, and for those two or three years I was still dealing with this new guy I had dealt with at the Hendricks brothers up until that point, and then the Hendricks brothers decided to leave and go back and be on their own again. But the guys that I had dealt with coming up through the minors were going to stay at SFX. So it kind of got to a situation of, who do I choose? Do I stay with SFX and the guys I dealt with on a daily basis, or do I go back with Alan and Randy, which at the time when I signed with them, they were the reason I signed because of what they had done in the game and how they had represented people up until that point.
So I had a window to sit down with my wife and decide, well, if we can't choose between either of them, this is an opportunity to at least interview with some other people. I had talked to John Smoltz, who I trust and I really looked up to as a teammate, and he said, "Before you do anything, you need to sit down with Lonnie Cooper at CSE." So I met with Lonnie and Keith and all the people up there and it was kind of a no-brainer for me, walking out of the office. I turned to my wife and she felt comfortable too, and I ended up signing with them.
On his decision to go with CSE:
I was at a crossroads in my career, I was getting ready to go into a season where I was going to arbitration eligible for the first time. After I talked with Lonnie and Keith, them being right there in Atlanta where I was playing at the time, and I felt comfortable with them. They weren't a huge agency at the time. Lonnie represented a lot of NBA basketball coaches and he had John [Smoltz] and a few other big leaguers at the time. I really felt like I could get the personal attention I needed and also it was nice for me to have my agent in my backyard where I lived.
On Lonnie and Keith:
I'm a straight shooter, I'm an honest guy, I'm not a needy client. I'm sure they'll tell you I'm the easiest client they probably ever had. I just want an honest opinion, I wanted to know everything about what was being said to me during free agency, good, bad, and different, from every team, but at the same time totally trusting them to push me in the right direction. Going back to 2006, the Rangers actually came to me in about August and wanted to sign me to an extension, and I hadn't made so-called "big league money" up until that point, and was really humbled by the offer, and honored, and excited. I called Lonnie and Keith and they steered me in the right direction. They were like, "No, you've gone this far, might as well play out the last two months and see what's on the free agent market." I ended up signing a three-year deal with the Cubs, so everything worked out.
For me it was just about feeling good about who I was represented by. I felt like they were a direct reflection of me, they have to be straight shooters, have to be honest, and have to surround themselves with good people. I figured if Smoltzie was with them then I needed to sit down with them.
On the free agency process:
I wanted to know everything. I wanted to know day-to-day stuff, which teams were calling, what they thought I could and couldn't do, what the monetary figures were. I had an idea for who I was as a player and as a person. That stuff never bothered me, I like to be honest. I learned a lot of that from Bobby Cox. A lot of managers say they have an open door policy, but Bobby lived it. I could go in and talk to him about anything, and I didn't necessarily like everything he told me throughout my tenure with the Atlanta Braves, but I never walked got in my car that night wondering where I stood in the organization. I wanted to be represented by people like that: tell me what they're saying, what they feel my strengths and weaknesses are, because that's going to play a big part in my decision.
On his decision to sign with the Rangers:
[My agents] played a huge role in that decision with me signing with Texas. Blowing out my knee at the end of '04 and getting non-tendered [by the Braves], here I am in the offseason rehabbing a torn ACL and everything that goes with that, and to have no job. I was definitely nervous at the time. I still felt I was going to come back and be a productive player, but what camp was I going to get into, how was I going to approach that. Lonnie and Keith steered me in the direction of, "Where can you get with the best hitting coach? Where can you find ABs but at the same time work on your craft and be a part of a team that has a chance to win?" Me and Keith ended up flying down to Texas and meeting with Rudy [Jaramillo] and Buck Showalter, and I just felt like it was a good fit. They had Mikey Young, and Soriano, and Blalock, and Teixeira. They had their infield pretty well set, so I knew I wasn't going to get much playing time, but it offered me such an opportunity to just every day work with Rudy Jaramillo and completely overhaul my swing.
On his reasons for jumping on the Cubs' offer quickly:
The fact that it was a guaranteed position. I was a utility player in Texas, I had moved around, played right, second, third, short, the whole deal. An opportunity to play in Wrigley Field for the Chicago Cubs I did not take lightly. What an opportunity, what a historic place to play. That all factored in. But I was going to play second base, barring injury. I ended up moving around due to other guys being banged up, but I always had a home at second. I felt that was huge for me. And, to be honest with you, it was my first time hitting free agency, and I only had up until that point one full season of playing every day. Didn't know how the market was going to play out, and wanted to kind of set it.
On his last couple of contracts with the Nationals and Blue Jays:
I have two young kids, I'm 38 years old. I feel it's got to be worth my while to grind it out, to put the effort in that needs to be put in for 162 games. Not only that, I'm fully cognizant of why teams bring me in. Not only to be a sounding board for their younger players, but to be a clubhouse guy. I still feel like I'm a viable option playing and can be productive playing. I feel like the last couple deals, the one with Washington, the one with Toronto, Lonnie and Keith…they know me, they know what I'm about. They gave me a chance to sign with a team that has a chance to win. I'm all about helping the young guys, passing down knowledge, because I was never a can't-miss guy. I picked the brains of all the great players I've played with and I've tried to incorporate their thought processes and what they do into my game, to keep me around as long as I can. I love talking the game with the younger players, but at the same time, I wasn't just just going to hang around to help young players. I want an opportunity to win a World Series.
On whether a small agency offers an advantage over the big ones:
To each his own, to be honest with you. It works for me. I like being able to call Lonnie and get him on the phone whenever I need him. I like to be able to pick his brain, because not only is he a great agent, he's also a great businessman. Not all of our talks revolve around baseball. He cares about how my family is doing, he's completely involved in what I'm going to do after the game. That stuff matters to me. Is he willing to pick up the phone and sit with me for an hour whenever I need to talk to him. And then there's Keith, who has become more than my agent, he's become my buddy. We play golf in the offseason, just someone I can confide in, knows probably my darkest secrets. He's become a great friend over the years.
Check out our other interviews in the Why I Chose My Agency series with Ted Lilly, Ryan Ludwick, Cody Ross, Aramis Ramirez, Adam Wainwright, Jeremy Affeldt, David Wright, Jay Bruce, Matt Holliday, Jamey Carroll and Jake Odorizzi.