Giants general manager Brian Sabean has been known for some awful deals. This season was no exception as he proved to make a disastrous blunder in signing shortstop Edgar Renteria to a two-year, $18.5 million deal prior to the 2009 season.
What did the Giants get from Renteria? A .250 average, five home runs, a .307 OBP (the lowest of his career) and 124 games, most of them played while injured (so basically I would give him 80-90 games fully healthy).
Yet, while Renteria and his $8 million per year contract is another classic "Sabean Blunder," Sabean did make one deal that should be lauded and will be interesting to look into as we enter the baseball offseason.
The Juan Uribe signing.
When Sabean signed Uribe, many thought Uribe was going to be an afterthought on this team. With Kevin Frandsen and Emmanuel Burriss the favorites to play second base in Spring Training, and Pablo Sandoval and Renteria firmly implanted at third and shortstop, respectively, many experts wondered if Uribe would even have a place on this Giants roster, let alone starting lineup.
Well, Uribe surprised the experts, much to Giants fans' delight. After going through a woeful 2008 season with the White Sox where he hit only seven home runs, drove in 40 RBI and sported a .247 batting average and a .682 OPS, Uribe broke out in his first season in San Francisco.
While rotating between second and third base and shortstop throughout the season, Uribe hit .289, sported a .824 OPS and hit 16 home runs and drove in 50 RBI.
And all this production came at around $1 million, $7 million less than what the Giants had to pay Renteria this season.
However, with only a one-year deal signed last offseason, Uribe will be a free agent this year, and that begs Giants fans and management to ask the question:
Is he worth bringing back?
For starters, it is important to realize one thing: To bring back Uribe means somebody is going to go. The Giants can't afford to give Uribe a new deal and have him play a utility role again. If he comes back, he needs to be in the starting lineup consistently or the signing will be a waste of money.
Who that person is, however, is yet to be determined (though Giants fans probably should have a good sense who it might be).
For starters, it won't be Freddy Sanchez (unless he decides not to re-sign with San Francisco, which is a possibility). Sanchez is too much of a veteran presence for another veteran like Uribe to push out.
Secondly, it probably won't be Renteria either. While getting rid of Renteria is a nice thought, chances are it's more fantasy than reality. Renteria makes too much money and is coming off too poor a year to have any trade value. Thus, as crappy as it is for Giants fans to imagine, Renteria most likely will be back at shortstop on Opening Day.
Therefore, if Uribe is decided to be brought back by the Giants management, it probably will result in this scenario:
Uribe will become the starting third baseman, and Pablo Sandoval will be moved to first base, which is probably a better fit for him and his defensive skills.
Thus, Travis Ishikawa, the Giants current starting first baseman (along with Ryan Garko, but after Garko's bad year in San Francisco, I'm not going to give him anything just yet) will likely be bounced from the roster.
That can be good or bad depending on how much you like Ishikawa. As for me, I'm torn. Yes, I love his defensive ability, but I'm also disgusted by his propensity to strike out a lot (by swinging at a lot of pitches that aren't in his zone) as well as hit ground balls.
For some reason though, I can't shake this fantasy that Ishikawa has the potential to be a Carlos Pena-esque player. Ishikawa has the kind of power and plate approach that is very similar to Pena's. Like Pena, Ishikawa is never going to be a high batting average guy. He'll probably be in the .260 range at best.
Yet once he understands what pitches he can hit, and which ones he can't, he will have the kind of breakout that Pena had while in Tampa Bay. Now, it's not going to happen right away. After all, Pena struggled as well in his stints in Oakland and Detroit. That being said though, Ishikawa seems to have made quicker progress than Pena did at this point in their careers, which gives me a little hope Ishikawa might be worth keeping in the long run.
So that's the dilemma. Believe me, I love Uribe, and I wouldn't mind to see him in a Giants uniform for the next couple of seasons. He's the kind of free-swinging, loosey-goosey player that can play three infield positions and drive in runs (he's consistently been a 20 homer, 70-plus RBI guy until 2008).
However, his OBP numbers (career .296 OBP) might be an indicator that he may not be a fit for a team that struggles in that category mightily.
It's a tough call: Should the Giants go with the present, run-driving support of Uribe? Or the Carlos Pena potential of Ishikawa?
Either way, Sabean will have to make a choice, and it will be very interesting to see what he does this offseason.