Kevin Towers is a good GM.
He always seems to demonstrate a knack for finding good talent and acquiring it on the cheap. Take for example: Cla Meredith, Josh Bard, Adrian Gonzalez, Chris Young, Scott Linebrink, Heath Bell, and Mike Cameron just to name a few. We might be able to add Justin Huber to that list of good, cheaply acquired players. The Padres just picked up Huber from the Royals for either cash considerations or a PTBNL. Huber, who was out of options, wasn’t likely to make the Royals team. The Royals instead preferred to give playing time at 1B to Ross Gload and Ryan Shealy. Yes, that Ross Gload, the 32-year-old 4th OF, backup 1B, Ross Gload.
Huber is a 1B/LF with an adequate glove to play 1B and most likely a average-to-below average LF. He made a name for himself after his 2005 for the Royals when he hit a combined (.326/.417/.560) in both AA and AAA. The Royals opted to keep him in AAA between 2006 and 2007, giving him only 20 combined AB’s at the major league level over those 2 years. Huber didn’t set the world on fire over those 2 years in AAA but he posted OPS’s of .838 and .858. Semi-respectable but again, not world-setting-on-fire performances.
Here’s the thing: Justin Huber would have been a great fit on the Giants at 1B. He’s got a much stronger minor league career when compared to Ortmeier. Is slightly younger than Ortmeier and has the tools that you would want out of your prospective first baseman — the ability to actually hit. What’s even more amazing than the Giants not biting on Huber, is that the recent comments made by Sabean about Ort, potentially indicating that he wouldn’t be the 1B starter for the Giants when the season started. There is a good chance that if Ortmeier doesn’t make the team as a starting 1B, he won’t make the team at all, as the OF is packed and I don’t think they would keep him as a purely backup first baseman with some of the catchers taking playing time at first this Spring.
Before I get accused by “Sabean supporters” for being guilty of looking at grass on the other side of the division, realize a few things.
- Ortmeier isn’t guaranteed a starting job at first. His spring struggles — even though those stats don’t mean anything — have stirred some statements from Sabean saying that Ort has to earn his job. He hasn’t earned it so far. Besides Ort, the Giants only have Rich Aurilia to currently play first base on the major league roster. Huber would be a fantastic option that isn’t Old Man Aurilia. It’s about good or potentially good options.
- The cost for Huber is so low — cash or a PTNBL — that taking a look at him is all upside. The Giants surely wouldn’t trade anything of value for him and for a team with glaring deficiencies at 1B, he’s a nice cheap option.
- Dan Otmeier is not a first baseman. He’d struggle to crack the team as a reserve outfielder and if given a full season of playing time, he would surely be the worst hitting first baseman in the entire majors. I’ve been amazed time and time again that the Giants seriously have considered turning a 5th OF into a 1B. It just boggles my mind. Just because you can play Ort at first, doesn’t mean you should play him there.
- I’m also not saying that Huber is the next Cust/Pena/AAAA-slugger-sensation, but he represents a very intriguing buy low option for a team like the Giants, that can afford to give players like Huber 400 ABs to see what they can do.
Now, I can’t say for sure that Sabean never made a play for Huber but I can only go on what happened. The Padres picked him up for next to nothing. The Royals were either going to send him through waivers — an indictment of how much the Padres were interested in his bat if they wanted to trade for him before that happened — and hope that he cleared them — unlikely — or trade him for next to nothing. What happened was that the Giants exercised their same line of thinking that’s led them to this point. Not taking risks on players with moderate upside, not trying something different, not going with youth. For a team that’s trying to get younger, a large amount of the starting positional players are way past 30. Aurilia, Omar, Molina, Roberts, Winn, and Durham are all well into their 30′s and I don’t believe that they are starting to build up value so that they’ll be “traded at the trading deadline” either, I’ve heard that song and dance time and time before.
I guess in the end, Huber made too much sense. If he crashed and burned, cut or waive him, you would only be out a small sum of money — in baseball terms — or a junk PTNBL. Little things like this have only enforced my belief that Brian Sabean doesn’t have much of a “post-Bonds” plan and that as the Giants sink towards the bottom of the MLB, they won’t be able to surface until some changes are made.
I also guess that when Dan Ortmeier is your first baseman, anything and almost everything could be an upgrade.