After the jump, I'll jot down what I like and don't like:
What I like:
- Sorry, I trust Aubrey Huff more than Travis Ishikawa, even accounting for the gap in defensive acumen. Ishikawa is a 26-year-old defensive stud who couldn't put up a league-average line with the BABIP of his life. His K/BB ratio was wonky, and his only calling card was that he resurrected his career in 2008 by hitting like the peak-year version of Aubrey Huff, only Ishikawa did it in AAA.
Do you have more faith in Huff bouncing back from a career-worst year, or do you have more faith in Ishikawa becoming a hitter who can sniff league average? If money isn't an issue, I take Huff every time. Now, money is an issue -- about $2.5M worth -- so I understand the argument for Ishikawa. I just see Ishikawa as a guy whose saving grace is that he'll make a nifty Giants-related punchline in about 15 years. Mike Ivie! Mark Leonard! Damon Minor! Todd Benzinger! Travis Ishikawa!
- Eugenio Velez will not be a starter, and that's the best news of the offseason. It's sad that I have to grade moves on this curve. "Hey, your son is eating paste." "Well, at least he's not trying to put the cat down the garbage disposal! Because he's done that. Twice. And once with a hamster. So that's why I'm not stopping him from eating paste. Heck, I poured a bottle of ranch dressing in the paste jar because I figured he'd go right for it."
- I'm counting two below-average OPS+ seasons out of Huff's last eight. Is that track record good for a first baseman? No, not necessarily. Is that good for a Giant, regardless of position? Yes. Yes, it is. I'm not looking for a bounce back to the 2008 Huff; I'm just looking for someone who resembles a major league hitter when you squint. The Giants are woefully short of those.
- I'll never scream bloody murder when a player is signed to a one-year deal. Can't do it. Huff isn't blocking anyone, and he isn't the difference between the current roster and one with a premium free agent on it. I'm not privy to the Giants' financial discussions, so I can't say with certainty that Huff's $3M isn't going to make a difference. It might be a reason why they don't sign a premium Dominican prospect, or why they won't buy out an amateur prospect's college commitment. But I'll counter that by noting that Huff is probably $5M cheaper, at the very least, than Adam LaRoche. I'll take Huff, my chances, the 2010 free agent market, and the money over LaRoche.
What I don't like:
- Ryan Garko is a similar risk at a similar price, but his right-handed bat was more likely to play well in San Francisco. Again, this is another reminder of the silly, silly player evaluation going on in the front office. The difference between "sure, we'll trade our #3 pitching prospect for him" and "cut him loose" is a month's worth of at-bats. That's just amazing. I wasn't a huge Garko believer -- I kind of find the optimism of recent projection systems to be amusing, if not ridiculous -- but he was cheap, cheap, cheap. And with a built-in left-handed complement and defensive replacement already on the roster, Garko made a ton of sense. Huff makes, oh, a little sense, but only when you accept that Garko wasn't ever part of the plan.
- Huff's collapse last year, at an age when players like to cover themselves with the fragments of what used to be their career, might not be a blip on the radar. It doesn't have to be an outlier. Sometimes, players just disintegrate. And when they do, it looks a lot like Huff's 2009.
- With Huff, DeRosa, Sandoval, Uribe, and Sanchez, Bruce Bochy has a lot of guys who can play different positions. This means that Bochy is free to play games with "the hot hand" and craft lineups that are based in a player's six-at-bat history against a particular pitcher. It's going to be awful.
The Giants' offense isn't saved. The finality of this move probably stings the most. DeRosa's ability to play the infield and the outfield allowed the Giants one more substantial move, and they blew that flexibility on a commitment to Aubrey Huff? That kind of stinks. There were better players out there. But there is a little solace to be found.
The Giants' offense might not be so wretched. If Manny Burriss hits for the first time above A-ball, Travis Ishikawa hits better than his career suggests he will, and Bengie Molina can crack a .300 on-base percentage, maybe the lineup will be close to average.
The Giants' offense might not be so wretched. If Freddy Sanchez has another high-average year, Aubrey Huff hits closer to his career norms, and DeRosa can approach something similar to his past few years, maybe the lineup will be close to average. I, for one, am also going to assume that Buster Posey will .310/.390/.480 this year.
The leap of faith isn't quite the perilous drop this year that it was last year. I'm not happy about taking the leap in the first place, and there are certainly permutations of this offseason that would have led to something much better than a leap of faith, but I don't have the soul-masticating feeling of absolute dread that I did by March of last year. It's more of a soul-poking-with-a-stick feeling of absolute dread.
It's a C-minus move for a C-minus front office, which is much preferable to the F-minuses I've been conditioned to expect over the last five years, and starting Ishikawa again would have been a D-plus decision, if that. So welcome aboard, Aubrey. Do us proud. Make the cynics eat some Huff-flavored crow. Oh, and hit like you did in 2008. Thanks.