The Giants’ off-season resembles M.C. Escher’s Relativity lithograph. There’s a ton of steps spread out all over the place, each distorted by perspective, and a history dating back to 1953. Freddy Sanchez, Mark DeRosa, Aubrey Huff, Juan Uribe, and Bengie Molina were all added on the positional player side, although three of those players were more of the re-signing variety.
The most notable trait amongst the signings is the flexibility. Huff and Molina withstanding, the rest can play multiple positions. That’s a nice thing to have. Especially if Edgar Renteria bombs again, or injuries start stacking up, or they move Buster Posey to first base while batting him eighth and blocking Nate Schierholtz by playing Huff in right and … uh, never mind that last one. It’s not just flexibility either, the Giants have seemingly upgraded their lineup with these moves.
Admittedly, the offense still looks a bit uninspiring. CHONE projects DeRosa (.335) and Huff (.334) to be slightly above league average and Sanchez slightly below (.318). If those three perform like that and were somehow warped to the 2009 Giants, then they would rank third, fourth, and seventh in wOBA amongst batters with at least 300 plate appearances. Assuming Uribe’s luck on balls in play didn’t make the trip back in time with him, those three would likely fare even better.
That analysis is incomplete because it ignores defense. Huff has played about 2,600 innings at first base throughout his career and has a -4 UZR/150 to show for it. He spent nearly 900 innings there last year (-2.3 UZR) which was more than the amount he played there since 2005. Sanchez is a solid defender. DeRosa, meanwhile, has looked pretty good in the corner outfield over the years.
DeRosa (or Uribe) could always slide in at second base if Sanchez is reinjured. That would leave Fred Lewis in left field. That’s better than how things were last season and that should be encouraging. Plus there’s the Posey card. The talk about him playing an infield position is a bit concerning if it means moving him away from the backstop before he ever gets the opportunity. It’s absolutely damning if such a move is made because Bruce Bochy doesn’t buy into Posey’s game-calling. Write your congressman if this happens.
Perhaps the most frustrating part about this team is the stars. Tim Lincecum and Pablo Sandoval are lovable, enjoyable players. They also play on the west coast with the Barry Bonds-less Giants. That means no added exposure through home run watches or national games. The eastern part of the country should know how good these guys are, but they won’t get to experience it unless they make the post-season. They’ll have a fighting chance at making the playoffs, but it’s easier to see this team finishing in fourth than second.
For now, though, the Giants have options, and that’s progress.
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