This just in, San Francisco Giants General Manager Brian Sabean is gun-shy. Over a year ago, the Giants GM signed shortstop Edgar Renteria to a two-year 18 million dollar deal before the free-agent market fully developed.
Numerous other quality free-agents were left unsigned deep into January and even February. Players like Bobby Abreu and Orlando Hudson had excellent seasons despite signing after the new year.
Unfortunately for Sabean and the Giants, Renteria performed at a rate where he didn't even deserve half of his contract.
Renteria inked his money back on Dec. 4, 2008. It is now almost Christmas 2009 and not a single free-agent acquisition has been made by the Orange & Black.
Sabean will tell the faithful Giants followers that he has learned from his mistakes and is waiting for the market to develop instead of making the same rash decisions.
However, Sabean has now waited too long. The "evil empire" aka the New York Yankees have signed veteran free-agent first baseman Nick Johnson, who was the main player the Giants were targeting.
Constant injuries made Johnson's market rather inexpensive and signing him to a contract could have been risky. But unlike true "injury prone" players, Johnson's injuries have mostly come from freak plays, not constant injuries to a particular area.
When healthy, Johnson always had a high on-base percentage which has made him a highly sought after target by San Francisco fans since the Giants finished dead last in that category last season.
Now with his services no longer available, there is one clear backup option which is simply better than all the rest and that is none other than long-time Atlanta Brave and Pittsburgh Pirate Adam LaRoche.
If Johnson was plan A, LaRoche should clearly be plan B. While the Giants had trouble getting on-base last year, they also had difficulty hitting the long ball as they finished second to last in the entire MLB in home runs.
Of all the free-agent bats the Giants have been linked to at corner infield, Laroche has the highest slugging percentage of all of them. With a mark of .491, Laroche out sluggs Dan Uggla (.482), Mark DeRosa (.424), Adrian Beltre (.453) and the aforementioned Johnson (.447).
Of the group, only Johnson has a higher OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) than LaRoche with a mark of .849 to Laroche's .834.
Considering the Giants could use the extra home run pop behind cleanup hitter Pablo Sandoval just as much as they could use a high OBP player hitting in front of him, LaRoche is the best option.
While DeRosa is a quality utility player, his offensive numbers just aren't good enough for the needs the Giants have at either first or the hot corner. Signing him would force Sandoval over to first-base and as Giants fans saw last year, Sandoval picked it clean at the third last season.
Adrian Beltre is an intriguing option at third base, he once hit 48 home runs with the Dodgers with an OPS of an astounding 1.017. For those of you not in the know, that basically says that Beltre averaged getting on-base via a single/walk/hit by pitch etc. every time he came to bat that season.
Beltre is also a fabulous defender at third base and moving Sandoval to first wouldn't hurt the team defensively in that scenario.
But while Beltre has been capable of putting up those offensive numbers in the past, his career OPS leaves much to be desired at just .779.
Now, signing someone to add power and on-base percentage isn't San Francisco's only option. The rumors of trading for Florida Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla just won't die.
However, despite Uggla's impressive ability to average around 30 home runs as season in his short career, his defensive capabilities are awful and his power doesn't even make up for it.
Uggla doesn't out slug Laroche, and also has a much worse fielding percentage at second base than Laroche does at first.
While not necessarily known for his defense, LaRoche is typically considered amongst the top-half of MLB first-basemen when it comes to defense. His career fielding percentage of .995 is tremendously higher than Uggla's .981.
I mean seriously, are the Giants kidding themselves? Do they really want a double play combination of a Renteria and Uggla?
Just thinking about that makes any San Francisco fan cringe. Knowing that the Giants live and die on their pitching, having an abysmal double-play combo like that would be the dumbest idea imaginable.
All things considered, LaRoche is far and away the best option for the Giants to upgrade their offense.
Even if LaRoche and his agent are asking for a bit more money than he may be worth, the Giants need to make absolute certain they sign him to a deal. A 24-27 million dollar deal over three years sounds like a good comprise considering initial reports stated LaRoche wanted 31 million over three years.
Knowing how the Giants are extremely conservative on how they spend their money, they are probably going to wait until Laroche's demands fall to either 18-20 million over three years or if Laroche drops the third year.
But if San Francisco waits for that to happen, they may miss out on signing him just like they missed out on signing Johnson.
Simply said, the Giants need some pop without giving up defense and LaRoche is the perfect fit. Now is the time for Sabean to give his fans a Christmas present.
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