Just two years ago, Andres Blanco was one of the best parts of a dismal Phillies season. The switch-hitting utility infielder hit .292/.360/.502 in 261 plate appearances, with 22 doubles and seven homers. That line has everything. Power! Average! Patience! And it came with enough versatility for him to play every infield position.
If Blanco could do that every year, the Giants wouldn’t have been able to sign him to a minor-league deal, which they did on Tuesday, according to Jon Heyman. If he makes the club (Blanco, not Heyman), he’ll receive $1.1 million and up to $400,000 in incentives.
The problem would be, then, that Blanco most certainly does not do that every year. He dropped from a 137 OPS+ in 2015 to a 92 OPS+ in 209 plate appearances in 2016, and then he cratered with a .192/.257/.292 line in 144 plate appearances last year. It wasn’t pretty, and not only is Blanco going to be 34 this year, but last year’s dismal season included a bump in his strikeout rate and a drop in his walk rate, both red flags.
Still, the Giants are looking for middle-infield insurance, and Blanco’s previous success gives them at least a shot. He’ll likely fight Kelby Tomlinson and some other non-roster invitees for a spot on the Opening Day roster, and while I would guess that Tomlinson is the favorite because his speed allows him to be useful even when he’s sporting a .332 OBP, it doesn’t hurt to have a veteran on a non-guaranteed contract, just in case.
Never forget the Lesson of Brian Bocock:
Don’t put yourself in a situation where you start believing that a shortstop who posted a .621 OPS in San Jose is a legitimate answer to ANY question about the major league roster.
For example, if Tomlinson gets hurt in spring, or if he hits .001, who would be next in line? It looks like one of Josh Rutledge or Chase d’Arnaud or Orlando Calixte or Blanco, which isn’t an inspiring assortment, but it sure isn’t “Uh ... get me the kid with the funny name who hits like he’s covered in bees.” The Giants would have to go a long way before they bring up, like, Brandon Van Horn. There’s even the possibility that Ryan Howard or C.J. Hinojosa plays his way onto the roster, however unlikely.
My guess is the Giants just want an option on that player who wowed the Phillies just a couple dozen months ago. If he looks reborn, he’d be a swell option. If he looks like a 34-year-old utility player who will never return to those halcyon days, there’s no risk. I’ll still give Kelby Tomlinson the benefit of the doubt as the caddy for Brandon Crawford.
There are options, though. There should always be options. And I promise that one of these years, I’ll stop talking about Brian Bocock, Opening Day shortstop.
It’s just that it was really weird, and signings like Andres Blanco are not.