In an otherwise slow couple of weeks, there is one nugget that I thought would pass along. On the KNBR Hot Stove show last week, Bobby Evans said something to the effect that the Giants didn’t really think that Mike Fontenot was the ideal backup for SS. This is probably because Fontenot – otherwise a fine player- is kind of a menace when throwing from 3rd, and throwing from SS isn’t that much easier (if at all).
If the Giants decide to add an actual functioning shortstop to prepare for a case of Miguel Tejada being old and not good anymore, it could spell trouble for any one of Nate Schierholtz, Travis Ishikawa or Aaron Rowand. Depending on how many relievers the Giants carry, one of those guys could be taking up one 25-man roster spot too many.
I think that there’s a decent case to be made that the most painful guy to cut should be the first one considered. Aaron Rowand is owed a lot of money, and he’s probably still a better all-around player than either Ishikawa or Schierholtz. However, unless you think that a bench player is likely to get a lot of playing time, you usually want some sort of complementary skill set to go a long with your starters. Rowand is a right-handed bat on a bench that will already either feature Mark DeRosa or Pat Burrell. Nate Schierholtz is probably better suited to being a defensive replacement than Rowand is. Travis Ishikawa’s spot as defensive replacement at the least important defensive position is of dubious utility, but being a left-handed bat capable of at least being a nuisance to right handed pitching is probably going to prove useful.
The problem Rowand has (other than MLB rules that allow pitchers to throw breaking pitches) is Cody Ross. Ross can play a reasonable center if need be, has similar splits and provides similar hacky power. Ross is pretty much the same player that Rowand was at 29, if Rowand had spent all of his time in pitchers’ parks instead of the exact opposite . (In fairness, I must add that Rowand was a much better defender at the same age). There really isn’t much justification for having both of these guys on the same team.
In certain respects Rowand probably gets a bad rap. He’s probably capable of bouncing back somewhat from his terrible 2010, and he does remain a competent centerfielder, who can still hit for power. He’s still a useful player. He is not, however, a useful player to a team that already has Cody Ross. That means that it’s hard to see what exactly Rowand does for the Giants by taking up that roster spot.
There is a lot of time between now and when this decision actually needs to be made. Injuries could make the roster crunch irrelevant, or Brandon Belt’s bat could make the roster even more crowded. Still, I think Rowand’s status bears keeping an eye on.