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An argument for Andres Torres

There will be plenty of time this offseason to rosterbate ourselves rotten. Don't run out of steam! After the playoffs are over, we'll just sit down in a circle, and exchange ideas on shortstops. It'll be wholesome, worthwhile fun.

Until then, there's still time to reflect on the past season. What went right, what went wrong. The normal stuff.



Unless there's a way to combine those two! Reflection and rosterbation -- a little R 'n' R for what's ailing you!

During the post-mortem press conference last week, Brian Sabean had this to say about Andres Torres:

There’s no center field alternative from within that we’re comfortable with

That means the Giants are, again, in the market for a center fielder. This has been a common theme in the Sabean regime.

Marvin Benard - 1999-2001
Tsuyoshi Shinjo - 2002
Marquis Grissom - 2003-2005
Steve Finley - 2006
Dave Roberts - 2007
Aaron Rowand - 2008-2009
Andres Torres - 2010-2011

Sabean fiddles with his starting center fielders like that jerk in your fantasy league who makes 385 pick-ups every week. Here's a substantial contract, Marvin. Whoops. Can't play center field, can you? Alrightie, here's a trade for Shinjo. Whoops. That guy can't hit a lick. Grissom sure can! Whoops, turns out he can't field. Here's a huge contract Dave Roberts! Saaaaay, you're more of a left-fielder, you little scamp. Here's an unbelievably large contract to Aaron Rowa ... well, dang it.

Without question, the best of the bunch was Andres Torres. He was also the cheapest, even compared to the guys from the turn of the century. He was ridiculously cheap, arbitration-eligible, and extraordinarily effective. It was probably folly to expect him to be just as good in 2011, but he was still supposed to be valuable.

Good news! He was the second-most valuable player on the team according to fWAR! The bad news was that the list wasn't good news:

Pablo Sandoval - 5.5
Andres Torres - 2.1
Buster Posey - 1.6
Shards from Buster Posey's femur - 1.5
A dog-eared 1983 Fleer card commemorating Joel Youngblood - 1.2
Renel - 0.3

Torres finishing that high on the list was like a bad hitter being ranked highly within a collection of bad hitters. Which is sort of what happened. Most of Torres's value came from his defense -- when it came to wOBA, he was just as bad as Aubrey Huff, and just a little better than Aaron Rowand. So it's not a crime that Torres is being passed over in the offseason roster-building frenzy.

But it's sad. And a little short-sighted. He can still play a fantastic center field. He might be miscast as a patient leadoff hitter, but he's not that far removed from handling the job capably. The worst part, though, is that the free-agent market this year is devoid of center fielders.

Rick Ankiel
Coco Crisp
Nate McLouth
Corey Patterson
Cody Ross

There you go. There you have it. Coco Crisp is the only player of note in the whole market. Everyone who wants a center fielder, come gather around Coco Crisp!

2011 - Coco Crisp 136 531 69 140 27 5 8 54 41 65 49 9 .264 .314 .379

Well, the vrooom is there. The on-base percentage isn't. And Crisp is a valuable player, sure. But mostly for his defense. Which is a permutation the Giants already have for cheap with Torres.

In a perfect world, where the Giants are making and spending money hand over fist, the Giants could afford the luxury of a more-reliable Torres, which is what Crisp appears to be. Or, in a perfect world, where the Giants are spitting out prospects at all levels of the organization, a trade for B.J. Upton would make sense.

In the world of the rainy-day fund, though, it looks like the Giants are committed to throwing whatever limited resources they have at a position that can be filled cheaply and effectively. Shortstop is a problem. There's no guarantee that Freddy Sanchez will ever be able to turn a double play again. The Giants will have a corner outfield slot open, and a need for power.

Yet they're talking about making center field a priority. As in, "alright, CF is taken care of. Now on to another position, where ... golly. Out of money. Grr. Should have checked more carefully, but, say, is that Julio Lugo willing to play for $1 million?"

And I understand that there are some off-field concerns about Torres, that his ADHD medication might be losing its effectiveness. That's real-life stuff, and it could be a totally valid reason to avoid a $2M or $3M commitment. I'll have to plead ignorance. But if there's a risk to take in the offseason, ignoring shortstop isn't it. Hoping Huff will do the odd-even thing isn't it. Hoping Torres rebounds? That'd be the cheapest risk of all, and what's the downside? That he plays like he did this year, when he was actually one of the better Giants on the team?

Again, low standards. But if there's a risk to take, where the payoff would be to fill multiple holes on a limited dime, it'd probably start with hoping that Torres will be acceptable in center.

Also, come on, how can you not love the guy?


That was after he was buried on the bench, below piles of Brandon Belt, even. Maybe that colors my judgment a bit.