According to Bob Nightengale, the Giants are interested in White Sox outfielder Avisaíl García, a 26-year-old right-handed right fielder with a little power. He was worth nearly five wins above replacement last year, which means that with two replacement-level outfielders next to him, the Giants would gain nearly 11 wins. No, seriously. So I’m interested in any outfield improvements, even if they’re bad ideas for the long term.
García is almost a good idea. But I’m going to have to furrow my brow and make a little face on this one. There are just too many red flags.
Start with the positives again. García is right-handed. He’s young. He’s arbitration-eligible, which would help the Giants get add more players this offseason. He’s under contract through the 2019 season, so it’s not just a rental.
Now move to the negatives. Last year was his very first good season, and he was a replacement-level player for the five years before that. This would almost certainly be a case of the White Sox selling high. His 18 home runs were a career high, but that’s not an impressive total for a hitter who played at Guaranteed Rate Field in one of the homer-happiest seasons in history. He is not a slugger.
The worst part, though, is that a ton of his value came from his .330 batting average last year. It was fun to watch, I’ll bet, but it came with the help of a .392 batting average on balls in play. There are some hitters who can sustain that. Tony Gwynn and Ichiro come to mind. So if García is one of those hitters, he’ll probably be just as productive next year*.
* he is not one of those hitters
If that average drops to even .300, he moves from an All-Star to a decent player. If it goes down to his career average of .277, it makes him a liability. His power, patience, speed, and defense range from average to poor, which makes him average-dependent.
I do not trust average-dependent players. You shouldn’t, either.
Would I welcome García onto the roster for the right price? Heck, yes. If the White Sox are looking to sell high, but also cognizant that every team in baseball will have concerns similar to mine, there’s a chance they could look for a reasonable return. We’re talking no prospects in the top five of a system, even a thin one like the Giants’. I could work with a deal like that.
My fear is that the White Sox are looking at García like he’s a comparable player to Marcell Ozuna. He is not. He’s not even close. They don’t have to trade him now, and if he hits .330 in the first half of next season, they’ll get all sorts of offers. They can afford to wait. Which would mean the Giants would really need to impress them with a trade offer.
If he had more power? Sure. If he had more patience? Sure. If he were a whiz-bang defender? Sure. As is, he sure reminds me a lot of Melky Cabrera. That’s a great thing if he’s hitting for an absurd batting average and making All-Star teams. It’s fine if he’s hitting for a solid batting average and staying healthy. It’s a bad thing if it takes several of your better prospects to acquire him for two years.
For some half-decent prospects? Look, it’s hard to describe accurately just how bad the outfield was last year. Any help would be appreciated, and I would hope the Giants would have some reason to feel comfortable about García’s ability to maintain his high average if they made that kind of move. These are all concerns I had about Cabrera, but a) he was even better than his breakout season and b) the Giants won the World Series that year. That’s really all there is to the Melky story. Mmm-hmm.
I wouldn’t be opposed to García, in other words. But at the price I’m guessing the White Sox have set? I’m scared. Really, really scared. I’ll repost something I wrote about the Domingo Santana rumor.
What the Giants need to do, then, isn’t trade for Domingo Santana. It’s to find and secure the next Domingo Santana. They can’t pay market price for a young, cheap, and established hitter. They need to pay at a discount for a young, cheap, and unproven hitter. They need to trust their own ability to evaluate a player from another organization and plug him in, despite the uncertainty.
This applies here, too. Find the next Avasaíl García. Don’t pay a premium because another team found the actual one.