News! From John Shea:
2B Kensuke Tanaka signing now official. Minor-league deal with #SFGiants, spring-training invitee. Will seek utility job.
If I had to put this in perspective, I'd say Tanaka is like the Hirokazu Ibata of the Pacific League. So now that we're all totally clear on what that means, let's look at some stats:
If you want the stats before that, the Baseball Cube has them, not that they're very inspiring. There are a couple of things to note, the first being that for the last two years, a new standard ball has supposedly sucked the offense out of Japanese baseball. The entire league is partying like it's 1968 in Dodger Stadium. The second thing to note is that Japanese ballparks are still a lot smaller than the parks in America, so Tanaka almost certainly doesn't have much power at all. Theriot power, as it were.
You know, I saw Theriot absolutely bomb a home run in Scottsdale this year. That nothing to do with this, but I feel like it should be a part of the 2012 lore. It had to go somewhere before the new season.
A video? Say, sure.
Basically what I'm getting at is that we all need to bring trumpets to the yard now. I'm prepared. Are you? This seems important.
The real news isn't that the Giants signed Tanaka, who might -- might -- have a chance to be the next Theriot, possibly with a better glove. The real news is that the Giants were in the market for a little middle-infield competition for the bench. I'm assuming that Joaquin Arias has solidified his role on the team after his good (by utility standards) showing last year. MLB Depth Charts had the rest of the Giants' bench looking like this:
C - Hector Sanchez
1B/"3B" - Conor Gillaspie
1B/OF - Brett Pill
INF - Joaquin Arias
OF - Andres Torres
I put the quotation marks around "3B" for Gillaspie, and maybe that's too harsh. The throw he made in July might have just reached first, but at least it was right on the money. Gillaspie is out of options, though, which is why MLB Depth Charts is assuming he has an inside track on a bench job. If that meant he would be a late-inning pinch-hitter, I'd be for it.
But it looks like if Tanaka is going to get a job, it would come at the expense of Gillaspie or Pill. If it's Pill who gets cut, the Giants don't have a pinch-hitter against left-handers, which is a role I think Pill can handle, especially considering that he can play a mostly competent outfield, a good first base, and even other infield positions in an (extreme) emergency.
If it's Gillaspie who is the odd man out, the Giants will likely lose him. That's probably on a Matt Downs level of "don't care", but it's not as if Gillaspie is without value. If I had to bet cash money, I'd wager that he would be a better hitter in 2013 than Tanaka. Considering the Giants already have Arias for the middle infield, I'm probably more concerned with hitting than positional flexibility for the last spot on the bench.
After writing all of that, though, I guess I'm ignoring the biggest point: I have no idea how good Tanaka is, other than Japanese stats that I have no idea how to translate. While I'm sure the Giants have a much better idea, they're probably a little unsure themselves, and they'll use the spring to evaluate him properly.
The Giants might want to replace Ryan Theriot after all. On January 10, this qualifies as news. On November 10, when Tanaka is collecting his Rookie of the Year award, we'll look back at this post and wonder how in the hell were were all so blasé about this.