As the Giants work their way through the offseason, the team has a couple of positions that it will need to fill before baseball returns again next year. One of the bigger question marks for the 2011 team is shortstop. Both Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria enter this offseason as free agents. The Renteria and Uribe duo accounted for 97% of plate appearances from the SS position.
Team shortstop production:
Name PA BA OBP SLG OPS sOPS+ Juan Uribe 393 0.245 0.303 0.451 0.754 116 Edgar Renteria 263 0.280 0.337 0.381 0.718 108 Mike Fontenot 14 0.333 0.429 0.333 0.762 124 Ryan Rohlinger 6 0.167 0.167 0.167 0.333 -3 Team 676 0.260 0.318 0.419 0.736 112
In an injury filled year for Edgar Renteria, Juan Uribe picked up most of the playing time at SS. Luckily for the Giants, Uribe did an excellent job filling in during Renteria’s absence — posting a .754 OPS, that’s 16% better than the league average SS on offense.
Because the Giants don’t have any prospects that can readily step into the SS position, the team will most likely have to explore the free agent market or trades to fill the position. Speaking of SS prospects, I’m a bit of a Brandon Crawford fan but even I will concede that Crawford needs more time in the minors. He still strikes out a bunch (26-30% in the minors) but his plate approach showed some improvement this year in AA before he broke his hand in June. Crawford’s defense has constantly rated as ‘major league ready’ but his hitting approach is going to be the determining factor of when he gets called up. As of now, Brian Sabean has indicated that Crawford could be in line for a midseason promotion.
If the Giants chose to go the free agent route to fill their SS needs, I’m afraid they aren’t going to find much, if anything, that tickles their fancy. Below is a graph of some free agents and possible free agents (non-tender candidates, player options) rated by fielding and batting runs. All numbers are from 2010.
Name Bat Field Juan Uribe 0.2 0.27 J.J. Hardy -2 6.27 Orlando Cabrera -13.9 0.19 Derek Jeter -2.5 -5.99 Alex Gonzalez -0.5 4.47 Edgar Renteria -1.6 -0.05 Jason Bartlett -6.2 -7.28 Ryan Theriot -19.7 -4.11 Miguel Tejada -6.7 -0.53
I’ll note here that the ‘batting runs’ are provided via the FanGraphs player values. The ‘fielding runs’ are a composite of UZR and the Fan Scouting Report, both provided as well from FanGraphs. Since UZR really shouldn’t be used in a single season sample, I wanted to weight it a little with the FSR — ie: fans watching the players in question — to round things out. I used a simple formula of fielding = (UZR*.7) + (FSR*.3)
Names on the graph with the blue dot indicate a player that isn’t a true free agent — rather someone that is either a potential non-tender candidate or someone with a player option. Ryan Theriot is a non-tender possibility, but it’s probable that the Dodgers bring him back. Bartlett will cost the Rays more than $4M to keep, but it’s likely he has some trade value if the Rays want to go that way. Alex Gonzalez’s $2.5M option for 2011 should be picked up. Orlando Cabrera’s $4M option has already been declined, so he’s a free agent. J.J. Hardy is the wild card of this bunch. He’ll cost the Twins around $6M if they want to retain him for next year. If the Twins non-tender him, the Giants should make a strong push to land his services. He’s the best defender of the bunch and his offense isn’t as bad as some make it out to be.
Looking at the graph it’s easy to see why Juan Uribe shouldn’t settle for a single year deal this offeason. Even in a down market, Uribe is near the top of the stack for free agent SS’s. He’s surrounded by players like Miguel Tejada, Edgar Renteria, Cesar Izturis (not graphed), and the ultra-expensive Derek Jeter. The question for the Giants is, if they are interested in Uribe, how far down the road would you go to get him? Uribe is one of the few available SS’s that’s within spitting distance of being a league average hitter. And his defense has rated well enough that most teams should consider him an option for the position. For the Giants, balancing need with risk will be tough. Uribe has a place on the team in 2011, but it will come at an elevated price. It’s very unlikely that he will settle for a single year deal. In both years with the Giants Uribe has been worth approximately 3 wins per season, or about $12M in terms of market value per season. If we call Uribe a 2.5 win player for 2011 and a 2 win player for 2012, a fair market deal would be something like 2 years, $18M. That’s basically the deal that Renteria got when he signed with the Giants.
It’s a tough decision to make and I’m glad I’m not in the Giants’ shoes right now. I think you hope and pray that Uribe will take a 2 year deal, if not you might have to explore trade possibilities.