MLB Free Agents 2012: Hitters SF Giants Could Sign as Insurance for Buster Posey

Barry ShillerContributor IIINovember 2, 2011

MLB Free Agents 2012: Hitters SF Giants Could Sign as Insurance for Buster Posey

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    All signs point to a healthy Buster Posey returning to the San Francisco Giants lineup in 2012.

    However, Giants GM Brian Sabean may need an insurance policy in case his recovery stalls. If so, who might he target? 

    Perhaps a better question: who can he afford to target?

    Barring a trade or infusion of another $10 million or so to the budget, it's implausible that Sabean can sign anyone of consequence as insurance in case of another delay for Posey.

    And after doubling down earlier this week on bullpen specialists Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez, implausible may have become inconceivable. (A few of you might even believe it was irrational.) 

    Few, if any, top free agents project as targets for San Francisco. Most are either too pricey or don't fit the club's needs. That leaves second-tier free agents or trades. Slim pickings, generally.

    Here are five moves to protect Posey that Sabean could make. 

Ryan Doumit

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    Ryan Doumit parlayed a terrific 2008 season—15 HR, 69 RBI, .318 BA in 116 games—into a three-year, $11 million deal running through 2011.

    It was a bad deal for the Pirates; Doumit averaged fewer than 40 RBI per season and missed considerable time in 2009 and 2011. The Bucs declined club options for 2012 and '13, pushing Doumit into free agency.

    Several factors make Doumit a plausibe addition for Sabean:

    • 1) His stock is down and he'd come relatively cheap.
    • 2) He provides insurance at C and 1B; as a right-handed hitter, he could take some starts at 1B; you know how much Bruce Bochy loves to mix and match.
    • 3) He'll come relatively cheap.
    • 4) He's proven he can hit (.303, 30 RBI in 77 games last season before missing two months with a serious leg injury).

    Oh, did I mention that Doumit would come relatively cheap?

Russell Martin

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    Insurance for Posey needn't be a catcher, but there are a few intriguing angles here:

    • 1) The Yankees are likely to offer Martin arbitration and his award figures to be in the $5-$6 million range. 
    • 2) Public statements aside, Brian Cashman has lots of depth behind the plate and a budding star in Jesus Montero. For the right offer, he might deal Martin.
    • 3) Brian Sabean has much bullpen depth and two alternative closer candidates to Brian Wilson: Sergio Romo and Heath Hembree. (The latter is probably a year, perhaps two, away.)
    • 4) Mariano Rivera is 41; Cashman knows he won't pitch forever.
    • 5) There's reasonable salary equity between Martin and Wilson (set to earn $8.5 million in 2012).
    • 6) Martin can hit (18 HR, 65 RBI in 125 games), has dabbled at 1B and 3B, and knows the NL West.

    Wilson's larger-than-life status in San Francisco might make a trade seem outrageous to some Giant loyalists.

    Perhaps it is outrageous—but it isn't beyond the realm of possibility.  

Yorvit Torrealba

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    Mike Napoli's breakout season in Texas likely ensures an arbitration offer.

    That leaves Yorvit Torrealba—a solid performer and former Giant (tormentor) still under contract with the Rangers as essentially a surplus asset.

    Torrealba's offensive numbers (seven HR, 37 RBI, .273 BA in 113 games) don't match Posey's, but he'd be a huge upgrade over Chris Stewart, offering excellent insurance at a critical position.

    The presence of a solid alternative behind the plate also would give Bruce Bochy added flexibility. The Giants cannot be without Posey's bat, but Bochy could move Posey to a corner infield spot when his legs need a rest.

    One question: what could Sabean offer Texas for Torrealba? 

    Given the Rangers' occasional bullpen implosions during the postseason, Santiago Casilla or Ramon Ramirez (assuming the Giants tender arbitration offers to both, as expected) might look attractive. Toss in a second-tier prospect, if need be. 

Rod Barajas

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    Each time I've introduced (now former) Dodger Rod Barajas as a potential fit in San Francisco, the reaction has been yawns, mild gripes and one or two "are you kidding's?"

    I continue to imagine him as a decent insurance pickup by Sabean:

    • 1) At age 35, he can still hit for power: 16 HR, 47 RBI in 98 games and 336 plate appearances in 2011. Other than Pablo Sandoval, no other Giant hit more than 14 homers—though Barajas is not a complete player, and he isn't a particularly selective hitter (22 BB/71 SO). 
    • 2) While no longer a dependable every-day player, Barajas could double as a reserve C and power bat off the bench. San Francisco had no legitimate power bat on the bench a year ago. Then again, they scarcely had any power bats, period.
    • 3) He's relatively affordable; Barajas signed a one-year, $500,000 deal with the Mets in 2010 before garnering a ridiculous $3.25 million one-year deal with Los Angeles in 2011. (And you wonder why the Dodgers are in the situation they are in.)

    My guess: the GIants could snag Barajas for one year at around $2.5 million. In this market, that'd be a bargain.

Andruw Jones

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    Other than catchers, Sabean's likeliest targets would be outfielders—ideally, sufficiently versatile to play more than one OF position and be a decent off-the-bench threat.

    Here's the dilemma facing Sabean:

    Decent run-producers like Ryan Ludwick (13 HR, 75 RBI with the Padres and Pirates) or Josh Willingham (29 HR, 98 RBI with Oakland) will get deals in the $6 million/yr range. Sabean isn't shopping those racks.

    He's also likely to be priced out of the market for a reach like Grady Sizemore, who Cleveland paid $13.43 million over the last two years for a combined 10 HR, 45 RBI and 120 strikeouts in 104 games. Yeech. (The Red Sox are sounding noises about making a play for him.)  

    Sabean is likelier to gamble that a veteran whose career appears to have nose-dived will come to San Francisco at a bargain-basement price and out-perform his contract (like Pat Burrell circa 2011).

    How about Andruw Jones? The 34-year-old veteran outfielder is coming off a one-year, $2 million deal with the Yankees and averaged 16 HR over the last three seasons in part-time duty.

    After a lustrous career in Atlanta, Jones crashed-and-burned at age 30 after cashing in on a mega-deal with the Dodgers (who paid most of his salary his last two seasons with the White Sox and Yankees).

    Hmm. An aging vet, seemingly past his prime, with who-knows-what left in the tank.

    Could be the perfect Giant.