Creaky Vets Who Actually Make Sense

Brian Sabean likes veteran players.

pause to allow you to pick up your papers, which you dropped to bring your hand to your face after gasping in shock

No, it's true. Here, check out this quote that I stumbled on the other day.

It’s believed that infielder Mark De Rosa is one of those players. 1B Nick Johnson and CF Scott Podsednik are also believed to have received offers, although I haven’t been able to confirm that.

The club also spoke with the agents for Rod Barajas, although he’s one of many catching options the Giants are considering.

The Giants signed De Rosa. And to be fair, Nick Johnson was sort of a cause célèbre around here. If you still want him, he's back on the market, just like Ivan Ochoa! But the kinds of players that build the Sabean stereotypes aren't necessarily De Rosa (who was good the previous season) or Johnson (who reached base in most of his 74 at-bats every season), but rather Podsednik and Barajas. Why in the world were the Giants interested? Because Sabean. That's why.

The problem with this is that every veteran gets tarred with the same sticky Sabean brush. Don't ask why it's sticky, veteran. It's, uh, tar. Just hit the showers. Every veteran that comes up in free agency is linked to Sabean, partly because jokes are always funnier when they're run into the ground, and partly because it's so danged true. The Giants actually offered a contract to Willie Bloomquist, and it wasn't just to be their new payroll manager. Amazing.

But when Jamey Carroll came up as someone with a mystery suitor, Twitter exploded with Sabean-related guffaws. Carroll is approximately 53 years old, but he gets on base and can play a position of need for the Giants. There are good veterans. Maybe Carroll doesn't turn the knob on your gumball machine, but there are some over-30 players who might make sense for the Giants on a short deal. Think of them as not-Jeff Keppingers:

Wilson Betemit
He's mostly a third baseman now, and the Giants sort of have one of those. But as a super utility-type, he has experience at every position but catcher and center field. He's a switch-hitter, and he's actually been really good over the last two seasons:

Year Age PA BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
2010 28 315 .297 .378 .511 .889 141
2011 29 359 .285 .343 .452 .795 117
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/15/2011.


He's like Mike Fontenot with more bat, less glove. Seeing as Fontenot isn't exactly Omar Vizquel, that's not exactly encouraging. Betemit is probably too stocky now to be a legitimate backup shortstop, even in an emergency. But he can hit. And when Freddy Sanchez breaks down again, I'd love to have Betemit's bat behind him. It's not like his range can be worse than Jeff Keppinger, who just got to a ball that Will Venable hit in August.

Jerry Hairston, Jr.
I know, I know. You let one Hairston in, and the next thing you know you're eating human flesh. It's a slippery slope. He's probably stretched way too thin as a starting shortstop, but Hairston is better than Orlando Cabrera. You'll notice that's a recurring theme with the subset of humanity known as "most baseball players", and it's a pretty sad benchmark. But as a multi-position guy who's getting a one-year deal, he's comparable to Mike Fontenot in offensive production, but he can also play the outfield. That's pretty valuable, especially with a need for a defensive replacement in center field after five innings.

Ramon Santiago
He was the starter on a 119-loss Tigers team. He's now on a perennial contending Tigers team, and he's apparently satisfied with his role. I don't see how a guy like that decides to leave suddenly -- seems like a Tiger 4 life to me. But he's actually a shortstop, and if the Giants are seriously considering starting Brandon Crawford -- and I hope that they aren't -- they'll need a backup who can hit right-handed, at least. Clint Barmes will probably want to start somewhere, so he's likely out. Santiago would be okay. Not great. Not good. Better than Orlando Cabrera?

Carlos Beltran
Beltran is actually not a utility infielder, but rather a switch-hitting outfielder who will turn 35 next year. The name is familiar to you because he was actually on the Giants last year, where he hit .323/.369/.551 in 167 at-bats. It is my belief that Beltran is a good hitter, and after studying the Giants' needs, I have come to the conclusion that they need more good hitters. He might be a veteran, but he should be someone the Giants consider!!!!!

Sabean is like a carpool buddy who is constantly playing country during every commute. And we're talking about the bad country -- the kind that's basically Slaughter and Damn Yankees with less shrieking and hair spray. You want to file an injunction against him, or sue him, or something to stop the ear gonorrhea, but every once in a while you have to stop and remember that Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson exist. Hank Williams and Buck Owens.

It's not all bad. There are some creaky guys out there whose name will probably make you twitch, but they could be better fits for the team than are Mike Fontenot and (especially) Jeff Keppinger.

(All things being equal, I just keep Fontenot. Heck, I'd even start him at short if they can't get anyone else. But if they're serious about letting both Fontenot and Keppinger go, it's probably not the time to panic over every veteran that comes up in a Sabean-related rumor. Just most of them.)

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