Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Giant Mistake by Sabean

Earlier this afternoon the San Francisco Giants announced that they had signed veteran shortstop Edgar Renteria to a two-year contract worth $18.5 million. This will prove to be a deal Giants GM Brian Sabean winds up regretting for years to come. Renteria is coming off a horrific season – not only was his .270/.317/.382 line the second worst of his 13-year career, but his range and arm have both diminished to the extent that he has become a defensive liability. It’s possible that Sabean has based his decision on the fact that Renteria enjoyed stellar seasons in 2006-07 with Atlanta after returning to the National League following a subpar 2005 with the Red Sox. We here at Infield Chatter, however, don’t expect history to repeat itself. Let’s not forget that Renteria played most of 2005 at 29; he’ll turn 34 in August. While we’re not accusing the five-time All Star of any foul play whatsoever, it’s become evident that thirty-somethings haven’t exactly aged gracefully since baseball enacted its strict anti-PED/amphetamine policy several years ago.

Even if Renteria does bounce back to the tune of his career .290/.347/.407 line, it’s doubtful that he alone will do much to reverse the Giants’ 72-90 record from 2008. The Giants’ primary Achilles Heel last season was not at shortstop (more on that in a minute). Instead, it was an utterly pathetic offense – an offense which hit just 94 home runs (25 percent less than the next closest team), was second-to-last in SLG and runs scored and third-to last in OBP. So, rather than wasting a fortune on a shortstop whose best days are likely far behind him, Sabean would have been much better served by taking advantage of the glut of corner outfielders on the market and signing a legitimate power threat like Pat Burrell or Adam Dunn or an on-base machine like Bobby Abreu for little more (both in dollars and in years) than what he squandered on Renteria. That would have been the most obvious way for the team’s longtime GM to steer the team back to respectability in 2009.

Ironically, if there was a bright spot in the Giants’ lineup in 2008, it was at shortstop, where promising youngster Emmanuel Burriss hit a healthy .283 in 95 games and posted a .357 OBP. The 23-year-old also showed excellent speed (13 steals) to go along with well above average range and a strong arm. Simply put, he was a far better player than Renteria. And at a pro rated salary of $390,000 he was much cheaper. The arrival of Renteria will relegate Burriss to the bench and stunt the kid’s development – not an insignificant development given that Burriss was supposed to spearhead a group of talented position prospects, including 2008 1st round pick Buster Posey, that is perhaps the best the team has assembled in decades. As a result, it turns out that the Bay might not be the only thing that’s foggy in San Francisco. So too might be the Giants’ chances in 2009. And even in 2010 and beyond.

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