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Ray Durham

Being a fan comes with responsibilities. When a player is struggling on your favorite team, you have an obligation to either

a. Make fun of the player unmercifully
b. Blame the player for various diseases, murders, or highway construction delays

That's just how it is. Sorry, Marvin. Nothing personal, J.R.. Too soon, Edgardo. But Ray Durham never fell into either category, probably because he was productive when healthy. From 2003-2005, he was an important part of a balanced offense, but the healthy part was the catch. Though he had never suffered injury problems in his career, he broke down more in a Giants uniform than I did watching Boyz `N' The Hood. He got into USC, damnit! He got in!

He was an above-average second baseman for the first three years of the contract. Then he went daffy on the league, pumping out 26 home runs to go with his guaranteed .360 on-base percentage. And for all of the talk of Durham being a fabrige egg of a player, he's played 142 and 137 games in the past two seasons.

Available free agent replacements

Ronnie Belliard
Craig Biggio
Mark DeRosa
Adam Kennedy
Mark Loretta
Julio Lugo
Alfonso Soriano

Available free agent replacements that would actually improve the team

Of that bunch? DeRosa or Loretta would probably outhit Kevin Frandsen. Lugo and Soriano are obvious improvements on Frandsen, but Soriano would be a financial and defensive disaster.

In-house replacements

The aforementioned Frandsen. I'm not as high on Frandsen as some, but his career minor league numbers are .321/.383/.453. Maybe that doesn't translate perfectly right now, but it's good to remember that he's been on a super-crazy fast track. If he were progressing through the minors at a normal rate, he might have hit something like .340/.390/.500 in AA -- Eastern League be damned -- and we'd all be a bit more excited about him. And if a frog had wings....

That written, he isn't such a blue-chipper that he has nothing to gain from another season in Fresno. If Durham comes back, you could plunk Frandsen in AAA and follow the progression like this:

Durham: Performs well
Frandsen: Performs well
Solution: Trade Durham after the season if contending or during the season if out of the race, get a prospect or two, and put Frandsen in the starting lineup.

Durham: Performs poorly
Frandsen: Performs well
Solution: Reduce Durham's role, put Frandsen in the major league starting lineup more often

Durham: Performs well
Frandsen: Performs poorly
Solution: Nothing, that's why the bets were hedged

Durham: Peforms poorly
Frandsen: Performs poorly
Solution: Nothing, that's just how the Giants roll

Makes sense to me, but only if Durham wants less than three years.

Would bring Durham back at...

The maximum contract for a two-year deal that wouldn't affect the roster construction in any other way

Guess at actual salary, destination

Two years, $16M w/incentives. Mutual option with a buyout of $1M. Mets.

First choice to replace him

Frandsen, by far, with a role player like Loretta signed as insurance. Loretta doesn't think he's a role player? He'll figure it out in January.

Trade options

Marcus Giles would be the exact wrong fit: Expensive in terms of how much the Braves would require in trade, and soon to be getting a fat contract. He's just about the only option, though. Old-'n'-busted Jose Vidro, if he came dirt cheap -- Alfredo Simon and a handful of Jolly Ranchers cheap -- wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.

Conclusion

I want the guy back. Don't think it's going to happen, but I want him back.