What to do when Freddy Sanchez returns...

Just a reminder: the Big Time Chunk O’ Cavalry Offense-Helping Acquisition from last July – Franklin Sanchez, or something – was re-signed in the offseason, ostensibly to continue helping the offense, but he hasn’t played yet this season. At least, I don’t think so. Is he still on the roster? Let me check…wait, yes, and he might be back in two weeks. Well, I’ll be.

Usually when a organizationally touted acquisition is injured to start the year, everyone’s abuzz about when he’s supposed to return. You can bet that there aren’t too many Mariners fans thinking, "Oh, yeah, Cliff Lee! Forgot about that guy." Not to say that Freddy Sanchez is comparable to Cliff Lee as far as offseason acquisitions go – for one, I don’t think that Lee has ever won a batting championship – but it’s funny how quickly Sanchez has become an afterthought. 

Juan Uribe is hitting better than Sanchez was expected to, so that’s one of the reasons Sanchez hasn’t been missed a whole lot. If the Giants were running out an overwhelmed Manny Burriss again, we’d all be biting our nails as we waited for Sanchez. Sad, but true. Another reason we might not have tickets to Sanchexcitement ’10 yet is that a lot of Sanchez’s value comes from his defense, but the Giants’ problem right now isn’t a pronounced lack of second base defense. They need guys who can get on base or hit for power. Sanchez doesn’t really do either very well. He hits a little, keeping his average up in the good years, and plays superlative defense. That’s swell and all, but that’s not going to improve what ails this team.

Sanchez will be back at some point. And there are about six million reasons why he’s going to play. Juan Uribe shouldn’t be benched; he’s been one of the team’s better hitters over the past nine months. Edgar Renteria won’t be benched; he’s a steady defender, even if he has the range of a piranha plant, and his offense is back! Remember that Renteria was 11 for 16 to start the season, which will always mean more than the 8-for-50 slide he’s been on for the last two weeks. That’s because one came at the start of the season and was easier to notice, if you have to ask. Duh.

So how are the Giants going to handle this? I’ll guess that Pablo Sandoval will get more days at first base, Renteria will get more days off, as will Uribe, and Sanchez will be rested often to make sure he doesn’t shatter like a T-1000 sprayed with liquid nitrogen. It will be a five-way job-sharing arrangement. And if it comes down to Renteria vs. Sanchez in the lineup – with Uribe playing short in the first scenario – that’s not really a matchup worth getting in a bar fight over. The slight downgrade from Renteria’s glove to Uribe’s mostly washes out the slight uptick in offense that you can expect from Sanchez over Renteria.

But if I had to chose the odd man out, it would be Renteria. Maybe it’s because I haven’t seen Sanchez fail enough in a Giants’ uniform, but I’d trust Sanchez to hit at an acceptable level far before I’d put the same faith in Renteria. The difference between a .260/.310/.390 Renteria and a .290/.330/.420 Sanchez? Not a heck of a lot, and that’s assuming that Sanchez can even still hit for average, but I’m still not convinced that Renteria is even that good. And that’s the main point: while I don’t think Renteria is as bad as the .160/.189/.180 hitter he’s been over the last two weeks, I’m a little scared that he’s not too far off. He looks like he’s swinging underwater again, which was supposed to be a problem that was fixed with the offseason surgery.

There isn’t a good answer. Freddy Sanchez isn’t the offensive savior, even if he pushes Renteria to the bench. But Sanchez might not be the offensive black hole that others might be, which was the unfortunate reason he was acquired in the first place. I’d give Renteria two more weeks to prove he belongs in the starting lineup. And I’d remind him of that before every game. "Hey, Edgar, if you don’t start hitting, you’re going to lose your job", that kind of thing. I mean, it’s worked so well for the young hitters in the organization, why wouldn’t it work for a veteran?

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