San Francisco Giants Should Re-Acquire Fontenot and Demote Belt for Playoff Run
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Even though the July 31 trading deadline has come and gone, teams can still make additions to their rosters throughout the remainder of the season. However, new acquisitions must be on the roster before the end of August in order to qualify for postseason play.
Additionally, players must now clear waivers in order to be dealt, which puts Arizona in the catbird seat because they trail the Dodgers and Giants in the standings, giving them the ability to block any deals the top dogs in the NL West might want to make.
One way the Giants can bolster the squad would be to re-acquire Mike Fontenot, who the Giants mistakenly released in spring training. Fontenot was designated for assignment (via MLB Trade Rumors) by the Phillies on Wednesday, and if he clears waivers, they would be wise to bring him back into the fold.
When the Giants acquired Fontenot after the deadline in 2010 from the Chicago Cubs, it wasn't seen as a big move at the time. However, the move paid huge dividends when he hit a clutch triple to help them win Game 3 of the NLDS over the Atlanta Braves.
Fontenot, 32, is hitting .289/.343/.340 in 105 plate appearances for the Phillies this season. For his career, he's hit a respectable .265/.332/.401 while playing solid defense at second base. He can also play shortstop and third base, though his limited arm strength makes him no better than average on the left side of the infield.
Fontenot could improve the Giants as a left-handed pinch-hitter in the late innings. The Giants' current bench includes right-handed hitters Brett Pill, Joaquin Arias and Justin Christian, with the left-handed Gregor Blanco and switch-hitting Hector Sanchez (when he returns from the DL) rounding out the late-inning pinch-hitting options.
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Pill, Arias, Sanchez and Christian do not have a lot of experience as pinch-hitters, while Fontenot is a veteran who has spent his entire career in a part-time role. Fontenot has hit just .224/.297/.340 as a pinch-hitter for his career, but his above-average walk rate and ability to hit right-handed pitching would serve as an upgrade over Arias and Christian in the late innings.
The other issue is what the Giants are going to do with Brandon Belt at first base for the remainder of this season. Belt is just 9-for-52 with 22 strikeouts and .463 OPS since the All-Star game, making a change at first base a necessity.
Aubrey Huff is likely to go back on the disabled list for the third time this season on Wednesday, making him a long shot to contribute anything to the Giants as a starter—or even as a bench player—down the stretch.
When Hector Sanchez returns to action, the Giants could use him more often behind the plate, with Buster Posey moving to first base. Unfortunately, Sanchez is not as good as Posey defensively, and Posey is also an inexperienced defender at first base.
The defensive drop-off might be acceptable if Sanchez could provide the Giants with a significant lift on offense, but his .281/.286/.383 batting line in limited action and 1-for-15 rehab stint in the minors don't portend for big things through the remainder of the season. Sanchez is an excellent backup catcher, but his game still needs seasoning before he can be considered an everyday option.
Brett Pill might be worth a longer look, but his .286/.340/.497 batting line at Triple-A Fresno this season is less impressive when you consider that the average Pacific Coast League hitter batted .286/.359/.448 last season and that Pill is too old to be considered a prospect.
The best route would be to acquire Fontenot for bench help, demote Belt to Fresno, leave Scutaro at third and play Pablo Sandoval at first base. In the late innings, Arias could spell Scutaro defensively, and Fontenot, Pill, Sanchez and Blanco would serve as the primary pinch-hitters.
Given how close the Giants are to the Dodgers and Diamondbacks on paper and in the standings, any roster tinkering could be the difference between making the playoffs and watching them from home.
As much as I still like Belt and believe in his potential, the time for patience is over, and the time for winning is now.
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