Travis Ishikawa is a postseason hero and World's Champion every other every other year, but he's been missing from the active roster because of a back issue. His rehab time is coming to an end, and the Giants are going to have a decision to make. Henry Schulman reports that Ishikawa knows there are no guarantees he'll be back on the roster.
The Giants have about four ways to handle this.
The first alternative is to send Matt Duffy down. He's been the best third baseman on the roster all year, a valuable pinch-hitter, and generally desirable utility player, but he's the only one with options. Sending him down wouldn't expose him to waivers and let other teams get grabby.
The second alternative is to waive Justin Maxwell, who is doing a Twitter chat for the Giants account at this very second, so the team is at least somewhat comfortable with his presence. This would leave the Giants with four outfielders, you say? Nonsense. Don't forget that part where they're activating Travis Ishikawa!
Since Maxwell's high-water mark of April 25, though, he's been in a .210/.242/.258 slump, with three walks and 16 strikeouts in 67 plate appearances. No, he's not the answer in left or right, but he's still a valuable outfielder who can field and offer power off the bench. Blanco as the fourth outfielder and Maxwell as the fifth is a nearly perfect arrangement compared to what a lot of teams are dealing with around the league.
The third alternative is to designate Joaquin Arias, who is still owed about a million dollars, but who can't really play baseball that well relative to his peers. When the Giants need a extra infielder, Duffy is there. When they need a right-handed bat, Maxwell offers more speed and power. There isn't anything -- literally anything -- that Arias can do on a baseball field that isn't done better by someone else sitting on the bench.
The fourth alternative is to designate Ishikawa. It's not like he's the missing piece to the Giants' bench puzzle, but he has at least a little value as a pinch-hitter. I would argue for Adam Duvall over him, sentimentality be damned. I would argue for Ehire Adrianza, even. Heck, Jarrett Parker might even have more utility for a bench, given his power/speed combo. Still, even ignoring the sentimental value, he has a rightful claim to a bench spot.
It looks like the argument might come down to Ishikawa vs. Arias. I've made a little chart to help:
I don't see how this is even a debate. But, then, I don't see the value of Arias on a 25-man roster with Matt Duffy, nor have I seen the point of Arias on a roster for a while. His 2012 was a magnificent surprise, and he got to stop our hearts with the last out of the perfect game. He hit the nubber that helped keep the Giants alive in the NLDS. There are good Joaquin Arias memories.
There are great Joaquin Arias memories! He's also been one of the worst players to get hundreds of at-bats over the last three seasons. Most of the players above him have an excuse. Brendan Ryan is one of the very best defensive shortstops in the game. Juan Pierre was fast. J.P. Arencibia plays catcher and hits dingers. Arias is none of these.
The difference between Arias and Ishikawa (or Arias and Maxwell, or Arias and Duffy) probably isn't going to put the Giants in the postseason, nor is it likely to keep them out, so don't get a posse together or start a Change.org petition. It's not worth it. But if you're looking for an honest baseball decision for when Ishikawa is ready, this one doesn't require a lot of thought.
Like the guy. Would be offended if he wrote something saying Vox Media should let me go, so i don't do this idly. But we're talking about baseball, here, and there's only one thing that makes sense.