Renteria to SF

There are a few things that come every winter – Chrismas, cold weather, and Brian Sabean signing a free agent over the age of 30. It never fails, as the Giants GM continues to believe the best way to rebuild is to bring in players who are heading towards the end of their careers. So, it’s tempting to look at the report that the Giants have signed Edgar Reenteria to take over at shortstop and think that this is just more of the same, but let’s take a closer look at his abilities anyway.

Renteria was a huge disappointment in Detroit last year, hitting .270/.317/.382 and posting a .308 wOBA just a year after a huge season in Atlanta. The big culprit was the loss of 62 points off his batting average – as a guy who doesn’t walk a lot and has gap power, he can’t afford to hemorrhage that many hits. At 33, such a significant drop off is the kind of thing that ends careers. However, there are reasons to think that Renteria’s got something left in the tank.

For starters, he’s one of the most consistent line drive hitters in baseball. For the last five years, his LD% has never been lower than 22.2% or higher than 23.3%. Predicting Renteria’s line drive rate is perhaps the easiest thing to do in baseball. In fact, his batted ball profile was – across the board – almost exactly equal to his career averages. Check this out:

GB%: 2008 – 45.8%, Career – 46.2%
FB%: 2008 – 32.0%, Career – 31.0%
LD%: 2008 – 22.2%, Career – 22.8%
IFFB%: 2008 – 8.5%, Career – 8.0%
HR/FB%: 2008 – 7.1%, Career – 7.4%

That’s some pretty remarkable consistency. If you can find why we should believe that Renteria fell off a cliff in ’08 in that batted ball profile, you’re a better man than me. Even the projection systems that don’t care at all about batted ball data, and just use the results of the last three years (such as the Marcel projections published here on FanGraphs) don’t believe that Renteria is finished.

His Marcel for 2009 has him projected as a .285/.345/.417 hitter, good for a .336 wOBA. That makes him, essentially, a league average hitter while playing shortstop. That’s not easy to find and quite valuable.

However, there’s the issue of how well he plays shortstop. His offense wasn’t the only thing slipping in 2008, after all. The +/- system from the Fielding Bible has Renteria dropping to -9 plays last year from -1 the year before, with his range going from average to a real problem. At 33, we wouldn’t expect Renteria to still be the same defender he was 10 years ago, so this shouldn’t be a huge surprise.

However, even if we project him as a -10 run defender at shortstop in 2009, his league average offense still makes him a +2 win player compared to a replacement level shortstop. Given a rumored price of $9 million per year for two years, the Giants are essentially paying $4.5 million per win on a short term deal, which is about what free agents were going for last winter.

For San Francisco, this isn’t a bad deal – they get a guy who should rebound and re-establish some value without any long term risk, and they fill a hole with an average player while waiting for the kids to develop.

This is also yet another sign that perhaps the 2009 market isn’t going to be a very good one for sellers, as we’ve seen no evidence of any price inflation in the transactions completed so far. The buyer’s market continues.

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Dave is a co-founder of and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

12 Responses to “Renteria to SF”

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  1. william says:

    Brian Sabean signing a free agent over the age of 30. It never fails
    very few players reach free agency before age 30

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  2. John Killary says:

    What does this move do to Emmanuel Burris prospects to play this season ?

    Doc K

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  3. Jack says:

    Good pont William. But I think you know what he means. Sabean has a hard on for guys past their primes. Renteria may provide value in this instance, but his prime is definitely in the rear view.

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  4. Doc K says:

    Again I’ll pose the question. What does this mean for Burris and his opportunity to play this season?
    Doc K

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  5. JC says:

    A little impatient, Doc?

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  6. Aaron B. says:

    If Renteria is really signed, then Burriss either: a) dukes it out with Frandsen for the 2B job in Spring Training or b) spends next season at AAA, learning how to hit better.

    There’s also a c) option: sits on the bench as the utility guy. Though Sabean/Bochy wouldn’t do that… or would they?

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  7. Doc K says:

    Yeah, I’m in the middle of drafting for my keeper league and just kept looking
    at 25 or 30 or 35 or 40 and so on so I grabbed Burris rather then wait a few rounds. I admit it, impatient yes, though I have reason to beleive the pick may be fortuitous down the road.

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  8. Sabean was under orders to win with Bonds and the only way to do that was to sign the best free agents they could with the money they had available. Some years they had more money, some years they had very little.

    For a better view of how Sabean would act on his own, see how he handled building the Giants for their 1997-2004 run of winning teams or even last off-season. Not very many free agents signed. He could have signed numerous crappy to mediocre free agents last off-season to fill spots in 1B, 3B, and even 2B, but didn’t.

    And if none of you noticed, the Giants rotation is about as good as they get and, guess what: it’s majority home-grown. Bullpen too.

    Another beautiful analysis Dave. I would have also added commentary about how his strikeout rate and BB/K ratio were both good whether in the lousy first half he had or the great second half he had. His problems batting were clearly related to his poor hitting in May, June, and July. He had a very good April and a great August and September. Perhaps injury, perhaps just a bad stretch of bad luck affecting his BABIP.

    In addition, he hit poorly in some better offensive parks, and in other instances, not just poor but almost like he was blind. He had low OPS at Chase (D-backs) and US Cellular (ChiSox), two better hitter’s parks. He hit massively horrible (under 510 OPS) at KC, LAA, Min, NYY, Oakland, Petco (SD), Safeco (Seattle), AT&T (SF), Tropicana (Rays), and Rangers (Texas). Below 300 OPS at 3 of those parks.

    But his hitting peripherals suggest that he lost none of his skills as a hitter in 2008 and thus should continue to do as well as he has during his career in 2009.

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  9. Oh, and, in addition, even while he was spending to win with Bonds, he did not trade away his best prospects, Lowry, Cain, Lincecum, Sanchez, Wilson, Lewis, in order to win with Bonds. The roster is pretty much filled with farm products and the vast majority of prospects he should have kept, he did, with the exception of perhaps Jeremy Accardo, but he will first need to recover from his physical problems and pitch well again to do that. Carlos Villanueva looks like another if he can continue to develop, and Clay Hensley was looking like one until last season (hence my caveat on Carlos).

    Obviously, Nathan was one that got away, but he wasn’t a prospect at the time of the trade, he had a great season and you have to give up something to get an All-Star catcher. Liriano is still a big question mark, and Boof is in the same shoes as Hensley. But for every Nathan, we got a Kent and Schmidt, so I like that ratio, only wimpy risk-adverse GMs never make a bad trade, you just have to make sure your good ones more than make up for your bad ones. Sabean has.

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  10. Jim says:

    Apparently this story has been reported as false.

    The Giants are interested in Renteria, but he is their fallback plan should they fail to sign Furcal.

    So, it could still happen, but hasn’t as of yet. :)

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  11. william says:

    Jack. I understood what Dave meant, and while I may be no fan of Sabean, he does get a bad rap sometimes, as was pointed out above by OGC

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  12. Mickey Factz says:

    Thank you very much for this!

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