Seven hundred and thirty-two years ago, when last season started, the Giants had a stockpile of utility infielders. Do you remember Aaron Hill? Sure you do, but how about Jimmy Rollins, Jae-gyun Hwang, and Gordon Beckham? What about Orlando Calixte and Juniel Querecuto? Ramiro Peña? You forgot at least one of those players was signed or re-signed by the Giants last offseason, admit it.
This comes up now because the Giants are at it again. They’re acquiring all of the utility infielders.
The most impressive pedigree belongs to Alen Hanson, a 25-year-old infielder-outfielder who was a top-100 prospect as recently as 2015, according to Major League Baseball. He’s a career .281/.340/.435 hitter, and his 205 career stolen bases is a testament to his well above-average speed. Here’s what Baseball America had to say about him after last season, when they ranked him #19 in the Pirates’ system:
Hanson has been unable to convert his considerable tools into consistent production, though his athleticism still makes him intriguing as a potentially valuable bench piece. The switch-hitter is wiry strong and can hit the occasional home run, and he also has outstanding speed that makes him a threat on the bases. However, he does not always make solid contact. Hanson is not a strong defender and his attitude was questionable earlier in his career. However, he has embraced learning multiple positions.
Tools! Hansen spent a plurality of his time in right field last year, but he also played center, second, and third in the majors with the Pirates and White Sox. He also hit .221/.262/.346, which is slightly horrible, but a switch-hitter with this much speed, versatility, and pop will always get extended looks from teams looking to fill out their bench. He’s almost exactly a year older than Chris Shaw, for perspective.
He won’t be alone in The Fight to Unseat Kelby Tomlinson, though, as Josh Rutledge also signed a minor-league deal with the Giants. The 28-year-old former Rockie and Red Sock has over 1,200 major league plate appearances and a career 80 OPS+ (.258/.310/.384). Rutledge has a career .314/.371/.483 line in the minors, which is impressive, even when considering some of that time was spent in Colorado Springs. He played mostly second and third last year for the Red Sox, though he has extensive shortstop experience in the minors, too.
Chase d’Arnaud also signed a minor-league deal with the Giants according to Jacob Resnick of Mets Minors, which allows us to invoke the Rule of Three and consider this to be a flurry of offseason utility-infielder activity. d’Arnaud has 499 career major league at-bats with the Red Sox, Padres, Pirates, Braves, and Phillies, and a career .263/.333/.386 minor league line, though his .297/.363/.424 line in 194 Triple-A plate appearances last year was a bit more promising.
Based on the numbers alone, it would appear that d’Arnaud would be the least interesting of the three signings, but there’s a twist:
We have a Code Zito, everyone. We have a Code Zito. And I am very into all Code Zitos. They make life so much more interesting.
If you think these are the last utility outfielders the Giants will sign on minor-league deals, never forget the saga of Aaron Hill, who probably made Jimmy Rollins say, “Hey, what the hell?” There will probably be at least one more.
But if the Giants are really going to have the Expendables 2 of even-year seasons, they’ll need something like this to hit. Why would you expect Alen Hanson to turn his copious tools into production at the major league level for the first time?
Because it’s fun? Because it’s December. Because suffering through that horrible season gives you the right to pretend like “even years” are still a thing.
Because it’s fun, mostly. Keep sacking away those raffle tickets, Giants. The offseason is here for you. And also, trade for Domingo Santana, thanks.