It was just yesterday that I looked at the Giants’ bench possibilities, and while it sure seemed like Conor Gillaspie had a spot waiting for him, it was tough to guarantee it.
We have our guarantee that he’ll start the season on the bench, at least. The Giants and Gillaspie settled on a one-year contract for $1.4 million, avoiding arbitration. Gillaspie was eligible for arbitration for the first time, which is $500,000 more than MLB Trade Rumors projected. The prodigal PH is coming back, and he’ll likely take the role of the first bat off the bench in the late innings.
That isn’t to suggest that Gillaspie is a long-term fixture. The Giants paid Travis Ishikawa $1.1 million for six games in 2015. Six games and “services rendered,” that is. This is slightly pricier, but not much more so. An injury here and a roster crunch there could change things.
Edit: Also, I was politely informed that when arb-eligible players agree to a one-year deal, it’s not fully guaranteed. If the Giants cut him before setting their regular-season roster, they’re responsible for 25 percent of the deal. This applies to Cory Gearrin and Ehire Adrianza, too.
Most likely, though, Gillaspie is going to be a professional pinch-hitter, getting spot starts against tough right-handers, with an outside shot at the hefty side of a platoon with Eduardo Nuñez. While I’ve been known to poke a little fun at Gillaspie’s defense in the past, it looked much improved last year. There’s nothing to do about the arm, but he was much more stable at third, especially as the season progressed.
If the Giants decided to give him more than the occasional start, it’s worth noting that Gillaspie’s career OPS is over 200 points worse against left-handers, so it would be mighty easy to expose him against a left-handed reliever in the late innings. Considering Nuñez’s modest platoon splits, it doesn’t seem like a time-sharing arrangement would hold a lot of interest for the Giants. Get him in the late innings to face right-handed relievers, and get him out. That’s the plan, I’d reckon.
But it’s pretty obvious that the Giants’ bench is mostly set. With the guaranteed contracts to Gillaspie and Ehire Adrianza, it looks like there are about a dozen options for three or four remaining spots. The role of professional pinch-hitter has been filled, and it’s being filled by the former prospect who returned after a backpacking expedition, just like the last time.
I look forward to welcoming Brett Pill, formerly with the Tigers and now with the Tigers, back to the bench next year. There will be shirts.