I recently returned from Sweden after a week's time. (Answer to your first question: cold.) I was without internet access for this week. No internet access means no baseball news. It was a distinct hope this headline would await my return:
Beltran 'Only Kidding', Signs With GiantsInstead:
New York Fans, Media Display Grace, Calm
Feliz Signs For Two Years, $6.1 MillionIt looks like a piece of news. If you poke it with a stick, it jiggles just like a piece of news would. It smells like news. But, brother, that is some boring news. And it was all the news the Giants could muster for the whole week.
'Why Overpay One Third Baseman, When You Can Overpay Two?', Sabean Asks
Pedro Feliz can hit for power. He can field a decent third base, and isn't going to embarrass himself at other positions. Those are his good points. The downside is his commitment to the dark forces of outmaking, for it is strong. There are only three decent comparisons in the National League, when considering the good and bad points.
Russell Branyan took the monorail from prospect to suspect to minor-league free agent fairly quick. His on-base percentage is not as tied to his batting average as much as Feliz, meaning if Branyan were to hit .280 he would start to be a really good player. However, because Branyan struggles to make contact, his on-base percentages are generally low. He signed a one-year deal for next year at $800,000.
Wes Helms is going to battle Branyan for the third-base job in Milwaukee. His best season was about as good as Feliz's, and he is a much closer comparison when considering his lack of walks. He signed a two-year deal for $4.5M last off season, after his only good season.
Vinny Castilla is Feliz with a bit of luck. Fortunate enough to play the beginning and end of his career in Coors Field, Castilla is right now sitting on top of a pile of money, lighting a cigar with a hundred dollar bill, and spanking whichever bikini-clad pool girl dares to come too close. That's just a guess. He could also be with his loving family in a very nice home, but that sure doesn't drive the point home. Either way, his contracts have outpaced his production, mostly because of his Coors-inflated numbers. He is getting an eerily similar contract to Feliz at two years, $6.2M. Considering Castilla is going to be 38, it is safe to consider Feliz's contract much more sensible.
The contract received by Feliz doesn't seem to be too outrageous in this vacuum. All things being equal, the Giants are probably a stronger team with Feliz than either Helms or Castilla. When judging the contract, though, Branyan has to be considered. Not long ago, he was available to any team. Are there other players, floating around right now, who could provide similar production to Feliz at a fraction of the cost?
Probably. There is no way Brian Sabean would find out, though. That's a shame in one sense, because taking chances like that would free up budget space. It is very understandable to crave cost certainty on a team built to win now, however, and hard to fault Sabean. There is no point in finding out if Mike Edwards is still able to field third base on a team stocked with the Bea Arthurs, Estelle Gettys, and Rue McClanahans of the baseball world. That's assuming he'll come close to Feliz's offensive production in his first chance at extended playing time, which is a very questionable gamble.
Feliz has his uses. If you were going on a blind date with him, you'd be told he has a great personality. Strictly in the baseball sense, of course. The Giants are overpaying because they want someone like Feliz, and don't want to wade through a handful of Phil Hiatts to find him. Plug your nose, and laugh at the next idiot who throws Feliz a first-pitch fastball. It doesn't make sense to worry too much if Feliz is making a million dollars or two more than he's worth.