In recent years, Eric Hinske has become nothing more than a bench player. Is being a reserve a disappointing career arc for a man with the 2002 Rookie of the Year award? Perhaps, but Hinske is notable for reasons outside of his potential’s steep demise.
One of those reasons is Hinske’s catholicity towards money. Evan Longoria credits Hinske for advising him to make his first million as quickly as possible. Clearly Hinske understands the time value of money. As such, it should be no surprise that Hinske signed relatively early in the offseason. What is a surprise, though, is the length and amount of dollars that Hinske received.
Say what you will about Frank Wren’s résumé during his time as Braves’ General Manager. One of his strengths is transparent in his ability to re-sign valuable bench players below market value; an attribute that both Omar Infante and David Ross can attest to its existence. It appears he pulled the trick once more from his hat with this Hinske deal, which calls for $1.35 million in 2011 and has the Braves holding a club option worth $1.5 million in 2012 (the alternative is a $100 thousand buyout).
Since 2006 (his first season with fewer than 400 plate appearances; a total he has topped once since) Hinske’s wOBA have been .357, .316, .347, .344, and .341. Such consistency makes Hinske a dependable above average hitter with the capability to play each of the corner positions (although his third base play is enough to Molière faint). Add in that Hinske bats lefty and his stock rises from total benchwarmer to someone with a platoon split who could step into the starting lineup without embarrassing himself against most starting pitchers.
That combination of skills has resulted in at least a half a win in each of those bench-riding seasons except one, which means Hinske would be worth something like 2-to-2.5 million on the open market if everyone believes a half-win is his true talent level. He will not be paid nearly that well. Instead, Hinske will make the wages of a player with an expected value of a third of a win; with the job security to boot. Maybe Hinske is a fan of going year-to-year, but in a market where Geoff Blum received two, wasn’t someone willing to give Hinske the same consideration?