Joaquin Arias and the art of the two-year deal

Stephen Dunn

Joaquin Arias, Giants player with a multi-year contract. It sounds funny when you put it like that. It sounds even funnier if you pronounce it "Walking Hairy Ass," which I still recommend strongly. Andrew Baggarly had the scoop:

The Giants avoided arbitration with Joaquin Arias on Thursday, agreeing to terms with the versatile backup infielder on a two-year contract that will guarantee him $2.6 million.

You were not expecting Joaquin Arias, Giant with a multi-year contract. As such, you might be a little turned off by the guaranteed money. Two-point-six million? For a generic utility infielder? Bah, I say. Bah.

Except, hold on, what would you say to this headline?

Giants, Ehire Adrianza agree to two-year, $1 million deal

Because that was the in-house alternative. Something like that.

Giants, Brandon Hicks agree to two-year, $1 million deal

Or like that.

Giants, Tony Abreu agree to two-year, $1.8 million deal

Okay, we get it. The Giants were going to pay at least a million for their backup utility infielder, whether he came from the farm (Ehire), free bin (Hicks), or other (Abreu). Pretend the alternative is one of the minimum-making fellers, and lets start with the questions:

Is it worth it to pay an extra $800,000 each year for the backup shortstop of choice?

I don't see why not. If you're convinced Arias is a top-flight backup who will be just as good next year, there's no reason not to give him the extra guaranteed year. If the Giants spent an extra $800,000 in 2008, there wouldn't have been a Brian Bocock to giggle about. The Giants had a 40-something shortstop, but they didn't want to spend money for a legitimate shortstop. It cost them.

But is Arias that backup shortstop of choice?

Ah, that's the real question. Is he so much better than the guys the Giants could have signed for the major-league minimum, like Hicks?

Yeah, probably. Baseball-Reference.com's WAR pegs him at about a win for each of the last two seasons, and Arias is worth just a touch less at FanGraphs. It's a heckuva lot harder to find that production from a utility infielder than it is to get below-replacement production on accident from some random drifter. Nick Noonan got 100 fewer at-bats than Arias, for example, and he slid into negative territory last season.

It's really, really easy to find someone worse than Arias.

It's a little tricky to find someone better than Arias, though certainly not impossible.

Pay the extra $800,000 to avoid the really, really easy option. Hope the Giants pay the extra $800,000, because you have no idea what their alternative would be. It's not like Arias is a utility god, but there are alternatives, alright ...

Emmanuel Burriss was on the team about 15 months ago, you know. That team won the World Series, of course.

Which is all to say, welcome back, Joaquin. Thanks for not tripping over your feet on the Jason Castro chopper, thanks for making Scott Rolen snort the baseball on your chopper, and here's a little something extra for the relative stability.

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