San Francisco Giants general manager Brian Sabean has spent most of the offseason keeping the title team from last season together. On Thursday, he made a move to surround that championship core with a blast from the past.
Sabean signed a key contributor on the 2010 World Series Championship team, Andres Torres, to a one-year deal worth $2 million, according to Andrew Baggarly of CSN Bay Area. Torres, a 35-year-old switch-hitter, will likely form the right-handed portion of the left field platoon with Gregor Blanco.
In reacquiring Torres, the Giants are betting on speed, defense and team chemistry to help them compete in 2013.
A platoon of light-hitting fourth outfielder types in left field doesn't exactly strike fear into the hearts of the rest of the National League. After hitting .268/.343/.479 with 16 home runs to help the Giants win the World Series in 2010, Torres has hit just .226/.320/.334 with seven home runs over the past two seasons.
The Giants dealt him to the Mets along with Ramon Ramirez for Angel Pagan last offseason following his disappointing 2011 campaign, and the Mets non-tendered him after he didn't bounce back last season.
Blanco made the Giants roster out of spring training last season and eventually wrestled the starting job away from Nate Schierholtz before losing it when the Giants acquired Hunter Pence at the trading deadline.
When Melky Cabrera was suspended for failing a drug test, Blanco took over in left field for the stretch run. He started 89 games in the outfield for the Giants last season, and that number will likely increase in 2013 even though he only hit .244/.333/.344.
The Giants are platooning two guys in left field who slugged .344 and .337 respectively last season. For comparison, Cabrera, the team's starting left fielder last year, had a .346 batting average! What exactly do the Giants see in this powerless platoon?
Torres didn't have a very good overall season last year, but he did hit .286/.382/.381 against left-handed pitching. When the Giants originally signed Torres in 2009, they used him predominantly as a platoon player against lefties, and he hit .338/.397/.718 for them in that role.
Both guys struggle to get the bat on the ball, so it's unlikely that this platoon will yield a high batting average, because both players strikeout a lot. However, they both have excellent patience, so their combined on-base percentage should be well above average.
Once they get on base, their speed adds additional value. Torres stole 13 bases and Blanco stole 26 last season. Both guys can go first-to-third and first-to-home with ease because of their superior speed.
The Giants aren't going to get power or a .300 batting average from left field on the offensive side of the ball, but they are going to get walks, stolen bases and extra runs from the speed of Blanco and Torres.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Giants are a decent bet to lead the league in runs saved in left field next year. Torres and Blanco both would be above-average defenders in center field, which is a much more difficult position to play than left field.
This acquisition also represents the Giants' fondness for team chemistry. Chemistry in the clubhouse is an intangible, so we can't measure it. Did the Giants win because they seemed to like each other last season, or did they like each other because they were winning? We can all speculate on that, but we can't measure it in a quantifiable way like we can with batting average.
A National League executive told Jayson Stark of ESPN after the Giants re-signed free agents Jeremy Affeldt, Marco Scutaro and Angel Pagan to keep the core of their championship team together, "They like knowing who they have. It's important to them. They probably overpaid for both [Scutaro and Pagan] of those guys. But familiarity is important to them. So it's all relative."
In re-signing another familiar face in Torres, the Giants are once again displaying the value that they place on team chemistry. Torres is by all accounts a wonderful person who comes across as the most gracious professional athlete on the planet.
After the Giants won the World Series last season, Sabean said, "These guys are better people than they are baseball players." In reacquiring Torres, they've added a familiar face that the organization judges to be a solid person as well.
We can't quantify what Torres will mean to the clubhouse, but there are tangible benefits to this signing that we can measure.
Torres brings speed, defense, patience and the ability to hit left-handed pitching to the table. That he's also a charismatic player whom fans, coaches and teammates adore is just icing on the cake.