Supposedly, the easiest position at which to find a hitter is first base. Alas, we are Giants fans. It's a little disingenuous to say there's a post-Will curse on the organization -- J.T. Snow did provide a couple of fantastic years to bookend the meh -- but there hasn't been a lot of offense from first base since Will Clark left. The Sabean-led Giants are the kind of organization that can look at Shea Hillenbrand and Ryan Garko, and say, man, now those guys are clearly better than what we have on the roster.
And while Garko was a small sample size disaster after coming over, he still represents the best first baseman on the roster. As a right-handed guy with limited defensive skills, it'd be nice to have a lefty-swinging slick fielding complement to Garko. Like, oh, Travis Ishikawa. So there it is: the Giants are totally set at first base. Yet it feels like it should be a priority to find a new, shiny first baseman. This feeling is explained by the When You Have Aaron Rowand, Edgar Renteria, Nate Schierholtz, and Eugenio Velez Penciled in for a Lot of At-Bats Theorem, which posits:
When you have Aaron Rowand, Edgar Renteria, Nate Schierholtz, and Eugenio Velez penciled in for a lot of at-bats, you really, really, really want to find some more offense wherever you can.
Third? We're cool. Catcher? Should be fine if we keep our expectations fairly low. Second? Better than last year, at least. The rest of the the positions are filled by the goofs who give the theorem its name...except first base. By default, first base is the Giants' best chance to upgrade a sorry offense, even though it's one of the positions with the best incumbent hitter. Well, the best chance is to find any non-Velez to play left, but then that kind of glib talk just ignores Velez's 100 at-bats of mid summer greatness last year, which are 100 at-bats that mean more than the other 3000 in his professional career. Come on, now. Let's focus.
Nick Johnson provides on-base gettin'. Carlos Delgado or Troy Glaus might provide home run hittin' if they're healthy. Russell Branyan might be one of the offseason's best bargains, or he could be Damon Minor with a bigger house. There are options -- all risky, often appealing. They'd require that the Giants non-tender Ryan Garko, most likely. Here's a Scott Barnes, Indians. We're now even for '54.
It just seems like a shame, though, that the Giants have the best first base option since J.T. Snow smoked some of Wade Boggs's nail clippings during the 2004 All-Star break, and that's where we have to hope for an offensive upgrade. Not to say that Garko is anything special -- he's likely to be overpaid for what he produces, which isn't a whole lot for a first baseman. The overall offense would probably be better served by finding an improvement at short or in the outfield, but unless the Giants want to dish out a Zito-sized deal to Matt Holliday, it makes more sense to focus on the myriad of reasonable improvements at first base.
If the Giants start 2010 with Garko as the starting first baseman, that's just fine. But only if there are newly acquired productive hitters around him.