The first thing you need to do is think of what Aaron Rowand would get today. He was going to be 30, and he was coming off a monster season. He hit .309/.374/.515 with 27 homers and superlative defense in center. It wasn't the first time he had a season like that, it was the second, and he had hit a combined .289/.348/.474 (109 OPS+) over the previous four seasons. In those four seasons, he accumulated more WAR than Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon, Torii Hunter, Derrek Lee, and Hideki Matsui.
He would have nabbed a six year, $120 million deal today. Easy. That might be underselling his worth on the open market.
The Giants got him for five years and $60 million, which was practically a steal, then. It still didn't work out. Rowand's best offensive season with the team was 2008, when he hit 13 home runs with a 94 OPS+. His Gold Glove defense slumped to roughly league average, and his overall value cratered. In four years with the Giants, he was worth 2.5 WAR -- not too far off from a single average Gregor Blanco season.
Rowand was the last big free agent signing the Giants made before Jeff Samardzija. It had been eight years since they had paid a free agent from outside the organization more than Tim Hudson's $23 million. It could be a coincidence that Rowand was the last big splash, or it could have been that the Giants went out of their comfort zone to make sure they got him. They realized afterward that their comfort zone has recliners and cocoa with marshmallows in it. They did not want to leave their comfort zone again.
Rowand also might have one of the reasons Bill Neukom was deposed. Neukom denied it, but one of the rumored sources of friction was there were some investors who didn't understand sunk costs and basic economics, and they were mad that Rowand was released with over $15 million left on his contract in 2011. "Why pay $15,500,000 to have a better team when we can pay $15,000,000 and be substantially worse?"
And yet Rowand was in the outfield when the Giants won their first World Series since moving to San Francisco. Skip to 3:04:35 to get to one of the more indelible championship memories, which is Aaron Rowand and Cody Ross tumbling to the ground like idiots.
Love that memory. Good Giant.
So happy Rowand Day. It somehow led to a World Series, and I don't get it either. It also might be jimmy-jacking with the minds of the people in charge of signing free agents, even if indirectly. But he's also a reminder that we should be careful what we wish for. Sometimes the best 29-year-old hitters in baseball can turn into liabilities the very next year.