San Francisco Giants Debate: Is the Edgar Renteria Signing Really a Good Move?

Danny PenzaSenior Writer IDecember 7, 2008

So shortstop Edgar Renteria is now a member of the San Francisco Giants after signing a two-year, $18.5 million contract Thursday.

Ladies and gentlemen, what's the big deal?

Renteria, 33, is coming off possibly the worst year of his career last season, when he saw his average fall 62 points from .332 in 2007 with Atlanta to .270 with 10 home runs and 55 RBI in 138 games during his lone season in Detroit.

Nothing that makes you lose sleep. And if people think that Renteria is the missing piece to the Giants offense, I don't know what to tell you.

Those numbers don't seem like much, because they really aren't, especially when you consider he was in a lineup with Curtis Granderson, Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Guillen, and Magglio Ordoñez.

Compare that to Aaron Rowand, Randy Winn, Fred Lewis, Pablo Sandoval, Bengie Molina, and Emmanuel Burriss, and obviously the 2008 squad Renteria was on was better than 2009 version will he be a part of, regardless of where the Tigers finished in the standings.

The knock against him last year was that he was out of shape when he arrived at spring training. Add to that he is now well over 30 years old, and the range at shortstop is probably getting shorter with every passing month.

Apparently, if you believe the reports, Renteria is working out a lot more than he did last winter. However, just because you are working out doesn't mean you will be as quick on your feet in the field as you once were; just ask Mr. Barry Lamar Bonds.

People will say that Renteria hit .299 the last two months of the season last year, but what about the other four months? What is there to get excited about when a player doesn't really do anything productive until the team's season is basically over?

While he doesn't cost the team a draft pick, signing another player on the wrong side of 30 is something that points more toward the old style of giving big money to players past their prime in San Francisco than the new build from within approach.

Dave Roberts and Barry Zito ring a bell? Maybe Michael Tucker?

Buster Olney was quick to point out that, even with Detroit having no other option at shortstop in its system and manager Jim Leyland's strong ties with Renteria, the Tigers were quick to decline his 2009 option for around $11 million.

And then the Giants go and give Renteria a contract that basically resembles the option the Tigers declined, for not one, but two years.

"If Renteria plays well, Sabean will be in a position to say 'I told you so,'" Olney said in his Friday blog. "If he plays badly, below the level of his salary, there are going to be a lot of talent evaluators with other teams saying quietly—as they did after the Zito signing—'What in the world were you thinking?'"

However, Keith Law of ESPN, who feels completely different about the signing than his company-mate Olney, says that if Renteria doesn't live up to the expectations that Giants have for him, they can just trade him next winter or sometime during the 2010 season.

But why would somebody want a soon-to-be 35-year-old shortstop who was described by one scout in the San Francisco Chronicle Friday as somebody "who's lost a step" and "has definitely lost some range in both directions." Yet the scout also says that he's "a stopgap complementary player."

And maybe that is just what Sabean and the Giants want him to be. They obviously now have one of the most talented minor league systems in the game, which would have been hard to believe five years ago. However, most of the talent is at the Double- and Single-A levels, which means they are at least two years away.

Nick Noonan is probably the Giants' best middle infield prospect, but is seen more as a second baseman than a shortstop. And at just 19, he still has a lot to learn before he hits the majors. Brandon Crawford, the Giants' fourth-round pick this past June, was as talented as any shortstop in the draft, but will need to prove he can hit professional pitching before he is brought to the bigs.

While bringing in Renteria is a short-term improvement over Omar Vizquel with the bat, it's hard to believe that he is an improvement over Vizquel with the glove. And obviously for a position that is important as shortstop is, losing a step on the defensive side is definitely something that has to be taken into consideration.

And when you're obviously going to win most your games with pitching and defense, having a player with a diminishing glove isn't really music to a lot of Giants fans' ears.

Given his success in the National League in the past, he may be a great buy for the Giants, but given his struggles and lack of motivation for playing on a last place team, it may be another mistake to add to Sabean's record.