The article makes the point that no way do the Giants have six outfielders better than Freddie Lewis. Fangraphs may be right, but it’s a little more complicated than that.
Freddie is 29 this year, which means that going forward you’d rather have John Bowker (26) and Nate Schierholtz (26). I’m still not sold on Schierholtz as an offensive player, even compared to Lewis, but Schierholtz is clearly a better defensive outfielder.
I’d definitely rather have Bowker’s bat going forward than Lewis’ based almost entirely on the age difference, although Bowker also put up huge minor league seasons in 2007 and 2009. All three players bat left-handed.
Andres Torres is older than Lewis, but they have almost exactly the same skill set, except that Torres is a better outfielder who can play centerfield. Also, Lewis was unhappy about his playing time last year, while Torres is just glad to be on a major league roster.
In other words, Torres is much happier to be in a utility role, which reduces clubhouse friction. Torres struck me as a consummate professional last year, and he seems to me very much like the kind of bench player you want on a team that is trying to make the post-season this year.
I’m not a big fan of Eugenio Velez and would rather have seen the Giants elect to keep Lewis. However, Velez can play second base, which gives him a leg up as a bench player. Now that most teams are using 12-man pitching staffs (and using all of their relievers regularly — the Diamondbacks and Dodgers played an 11 inning game on Wednesday night in which each team used eight pitchers), there is a huge premium on players who can play a lot of different positions. It’s one of the reasons Mark DeRosa was able to command such a big contract this off-season.
Again, Velez, like Lewis, is a left-handed hitter who runs well. The big difference in their offensive games is that Lewis is much better at getting on base.
Finally, Aaron Rowand and Mark DeRosa may not in reality be much better players than Lewis (except that Rowand clearly has more defensive value than Lewis), but they are star players being paid roughly $12 million and $6 million a year respectively. No way a team dumps that much salary to keep a player of roughly the same value. Also, as I mentioned above, DeRosa can play a lot of positions.
In my mind, anyway, I fully understand why the Giants decided to let Lewis go, even if I don’t entirely agree with it. I’m glad they at least got that box of crackerjack, because it easily could have been nothing at all.