Tom Verducci, who I'm usually pretty meh about, had a great article about potential non-tender players and their impact on teams, okay maybe not great, but definitely raised some interesting points. In addition, there was also a great post on Beyond the Boxscore about the rarity of 1.0 WAR position players, which even though the data was a bit skewed due to the use of batter's fWAR for everyone including pitchers, still showed just how rare players who produce 1.0 WARs and up are becoming.
All of this got me to thinking, who are the guys who are non-tender candidates, free agents or could be had for a bag of balls that could potentially help the Giants?
The Giants are pretty much set at CF (Torres), RF/LF (Ross), 2B (Franchez) and of course C (Posey), but depending on what happens with Aubrey Huff and Juan Uribe, along with the development of Brandon Belt and the Pablo situation the Giants needs in order of importance are:
The Giants could also use to add some pop from the left side, or just more left handed batters in general.
At the beginning of the off-season, I was hoping that the Giants wouldn't overpay for Juan Uribe, but after taking a closer look at what's out there, the Giants best bet is to overpay for Uribe. The available crop of SS's range from meh to 'Oh dear God, no'. Consider, that after Jeter and Uribe the best available free agent SS's are Miguel Tejada and Orlando Cabrera. JJ Hardy is looking less and less like a non-tender candidate and for those of you hoping for a Stephen Drew trade, Kevin Towers recently said that Drew is the most unlikely player for the D-Backs to deal.
Right Field/Left Field
This is the area that is most interesting and could potentially have the greatest return on investment. I for one, am not too thrilled with the prospect of Mark DeRosa (forgot about him didn't you) everyday Left Fielder. DeRosa best serves in the super-utility role, getting 4-5 starts a week all over the diamond, not as an everyday LF with a lifetime wOBA of .332 who's one clumsy waitress away from the DL.
Jack Cust - As noted in Verducci's article, Cust has produced at a staggering rate over the last several years for someone so unnoticed. Since 2007, he leads all American League hitters in walks, which is even more impressive considering Oakland jerked him around so much last year, is 5th in OBP and 9th in OPS+. He doesn't play great defense, but he's left handed and up until last year had provided pop. Given Oakland's very crowded OF situation, my guess is that he could be had for a bag of balls. If the Giants re-sign Huff, Cust could be used to bridge the gap to Belt and depending on how he does, platoon with Ross after that.
Brad Hawpe - Hawpe has a career wOBA of .368 and has hit just as many (60) homeruns away from Coors field as he did at home. He's not a great defensive player, but could probably be signed to a minor league deal and will turn 32 in June. If the Giants can sign him to a minor league deal, they should jump all over it, anything more greatly increases the risk.
Melky Cabrera - If the Giants were to release Pablo Sandoval and you were the GM of another big league club, would you take a flyer on him? You bet your ass you would. Cabrera is pretty average defensively, but he's only 26. I repeat, he's only 26. To me, if he can be signed to a minor league deal or could be had for less than $1M, you jump all over this deal. If not, you pass.
Xavier Nady - While he's never played in more than 148 games, before getting hurt in 2009, he had posted two consecutive seasons of OPS north of .800. Plus, he's a local guy who might catch the same magic that Pat Burrell did in returning home. Last season he was still recovering from TJ surgery, which may have dragged his numbers south. He has good pop from the right side and even if he doesn't turn into a starter could make a good 4th OFer/1B/Bat off the bench.
Rick Ankiel - He swings very hard, and has a great arm in the outfield. At 31 it would seem that he's on the downside of his career, but after originally breaking in as a pitcher he's only had 3 full seasons at the big league level as a hitter. But he's left handed and can play all three OF positions, given his upside he's a great candidate as a 4th OF if he can be had cheap.
Recommendation: Spend the money and sign Carl Crawford. Apart from that I'd love to see the Giants deal for Cust and sign either Hawpe or Ankiel to a minor league deal. Cust will benefit from Andres Torres running everything down hit in his general direction, and his OBP is awesome even when he doesn't hit. Toss in the fact that he's left handed and cheap and it's a great deal.
Melvin Mora - Yes, he's still playing and playing well. I especially like Mora if the Giants can't re-sign Uribe because he can play all over the field. Mora posted a wOBA of .344 last year in Colorado, which is exactly equivalent to his lifetime average. Plus, if Sandoval is able to bounce back, Mora is a guy who can play other positions and provide a good bat off the bench. However, he is somewhat similar to DeRosa, with less glove and more bat.
Bill Hall - Just because Milwaukee paid way too much for Hall, doesn't mean he's a bad player. He's only 31, and seemed to enjoy somewhat of resurgence in Boston this past year. All that being said, Hall is still too big a risk and should serve as a backup plan.
Ty Wiggington - A lot of people are high on Wiggington, who is a good player, can play multiple positions and has some pop (.179 career ISO), but I think enough people like Wiggington that he will be overpriced.
Recommendation: If Wiggington isn't overpriced, clearly the way to go. If not, I actually like Mora, but truly hope that Sandoval has gotten the message and bounces back next year.
Adam LaRoche - Wish you would've signed that contract now don't you? At least he won't hit in to too many double plays, given that he struck out 172 times last year. He's not a bad player though, but also not someone who would replace Huff's production if he departs.
Derek Lee - It's tough to gauge the market out there for Lee, given that he's 35 years old, is coming off a down season, but was once a premier player. If the Giants can sign him to a short term deal 1-2 years, but preferably 1. I think he's due to bounce back. Even in a down year though, he still produced 2.0 fWAR.
Recommendation: If the Giants don't re-sign Huff, they should spend the money on Lee, he's the only available free agent whom they can afford who has the chance to replace Huff's production. However, if they do re-sign Huff and have the money, Lee might still be a good investment, with Huff shifting to LF.
So if you're still reading, those are my thoughts on bargain buys. Anyone else have other ideas for bargain FA's?