For the third time in as many off-seasons, Eric Hinske will be able to select his next team on the free agent market. The 2002 Rookie of the Year is far removed from any shred of stardom and continues to etch out the career arc of a role player.
Hinske’s BABIP fluctuated heavily between 2006 and 2007 which led to a pair of odd seasons. In 2006 his BABIP reached a career high .335, and he enjoyed a .357 wOBA in the process while joining the Boston Red Sox. The next summer his BABIP dipped to .254 and his wOBA dropped like a rock to .316. His 2008 and 2009 seasons look somewhat similar:
2008: 432 PA, 20 HR, 11% BB, 23.1% K, .218 ISO 2009: 224 PA, 8 HR, 12.4% BB, 27.4% K, .189 ISO
A little less power and contact, but the walks are a welcome addition to most lineups. He’s an uncommon left-handed bat with an appetite for an all-righty diet. In what might be the biggest surprise, UZR rates Hinske as an average to slightly above defender in the field despite his bulky and, at times, lethargic frame and embarrassingly short-ranged dives. To his credit, Hinske usually catches what he gets to, and while his arm isn’t winning any gunfights with Vladimir Guerrero or Ichiro, the total package seems to get the job done.
Last off-season Hinske was essentially frozen out of a job until the Pirates called. It’s easy to see the same thing happening this off-season, although Hinske figures to stick in the American League. Not because of defensive limitations or league favoritism, but because each of his last three teams have won the pennant and two of those teams won the World Series. He’s the ultimate winner and general managers should plan accordingly.