First off, compared to contracts out there, Rowand is very reasonable, OK if he is average, a bargain if he is out performing. The "problem" is that he's been average more often than outperforming during his career.
However, that's the (real) problem when people who are unfamiliar with a player's background. One reason one year was bad was because he smashed his face on the fence catching a ball. He was batting over 900 OPS when that happened, below average after that. So forgiving him that season (or better crediting him for the great hitting before his injury), he only has the one unexplained poor season and two very good seasons (plus the good start to his injury year) plus 2008, which also started well.
When a young player has an inconsistent year like 2008, you have to wonder whether he's just that inconsistent, but when you have a vet with a history of doing well when not injured, you have to wonder about his 2008 performance (as noted above) being marred by injury: he had roughly 950 OPS first two months of the year, then high 600 OPS rest of the season (think Durham's 2007).
A veteran don't usually do that over such an extended period of time, doing that poorly, without an injury to account for it. He did injure himself severely early in April, but soon was hitting well again, and there is no reported injury that accounts for the severe dropoff after May.
However, something similar happened to Randy Winn a couple of seasons ago, he injured his leg (fouled a ball of his shin if I recall correctly) and while he did return to starting, he didn't hit well at all the rest of 2006 and refused to blame that injury though most fans thought so and reporters asked him repeatedly if that was the case.
Most Giants fans that off-season were complaining about Winn's contract like they are doing now with Rowand's contract. Then he had an OK, Randy Winn-type season in 2007, and fans were in love with him again and he was a fan favorite in 2008 again.
A hitter can go on hot streaks and cold streaks (Durham's 2007), but Rowand's problem has appeared to be injuries that linger on when he should take it easy and heal properly first. And he is only 30 years old, if he was hitting his peak, he wouldn't hit around 950 to start the season then 600-something the rest of the season, he would struggle offensively like Vizquel did last season and this season.
That's the problem with mechanical forecasting systems, it doesn't capture nuances like this for Winn and Rowand, or any player with an injury. Not that mechanical forecasts aren't great, but you have to know it's limitations.
Rowand has been a very good hitter for a significant amount of ABs. He's also been not so good as well, but much of it can be attributed to an injury he suffered earlier that season. He has been more a good hitter than a bad hitter when there isn't an injury involved.
Still, I wouldn't go on the record as saying that he's going to be very good in 2009 since there was no official explanation for his drop in 2008 (unlike, say, Morris's drop when it was revealed that he broke a rib but pitched anyway - and poorly - the rest of the season).
I wouldn't go the other way either, as another factor that nobody mentions is how AT&T depresses right-handed hitters stats, which, while not as bad as against lefties, can still be significant. In 2008, he hit .256/.328/.386/.714 at home and a more robust .287/.350/.434/.784 on the road.
So his poor/average season was actually more average to good overall when considering his road numbers. And I think that is a much better comparison point for any homepark where hitting is skewed either way, whether Giants, Dodgers, Padres for pitcher's parks, or Reds, Rockies, D-backs for hitter's parks. And consider this: the average NL CF hit .267/.334/.426/.759 whereas Rowand, even with the AT&T downturn, still hit .271/.339/.410/.749 overall, right about average, clearly above average based on his road numbers.
2009 will be his put up or shut-up season. I think that there are a lot of indications that he can be a regularly good hitter - and not even accounting for playing in CF, mid-high 800 OPS would be good for most offensive positions - but there has been enough bad times to wonder if he'll just be a yo-yo the rest of his career, much like how Pete Reiser shortened his career, both length and magnitude, with his multiple injuries. Still, despite his off-season in 2008, he was still an above average hitter in CF (based on his road numbers). Think of how good he could be uninjured.
Rowand said before the season that he's learned it's not good to put himself in position to injure himself but then he went ahead and did it within a week or two of joining the Giants. Adrenaline and sheer will, I believe, allowed him to play unfettered by the injury but it eventually caught up with him in June. Or so it seems. Hopefully he has finally learned his lesson and hopefully he will be all healed for 2009.
In any case, the Giants had made a big point of signing him (the Gamer ad program which I enjoyed and, frankly, it was ultimately appropriate as there was no better gamer around than Lincecum) so I don't think he's going anywhere. Plus, he's our only true CF, Winn and Roberts are poor CF. And I think the Giants still believe they got the excellent hitting CF they thought they signed.
Randy Winn is the player who makes the most sense for the Yankees to trade for. He's a reasonable salary, only one year to his contract, produces well, plays 150+ games, can play all OF positions acceptably defensively on a short time basis, RF excellently as a starter, which is cleared by Abreu's free agency.
Plus, the last thing the Giants need is another OF like Cabrera or Matsui, Japanese or not, he's old (the Giants are reportedly looking in Japan more actively now anyhow, I would think they would go young and go relievers) and the Giants are now looking young and clearing their roster of the older players.
That vet strategy was the "Win with Bonds" strategy that didn't work; they are now looking younger and long-term now. The last thing we need is another old about average (and declining the past 4 seasons) OF or young below-average OF, particularly when AT&T kills left hitters.
Because we have plenty of OF options without trading for another. If we trade Winn, Schierholtz gets the chance to show his stuff in RF and I think he will do well, he's done well in short stints with us and well in AAA the past two seasons. He just needs the opportunity. In addition, the Giants have Dave Roberts as utility OF (LF-CF), plus probably John Bowker (LF-RF), perhaps Dan Ortmeier (all 3 OF) and Velez could play LF in a pinch (plus Sandoval, I would think, if necessary). Not great, but no reason to trade a good OF, whether Rowand or Winn, for an OF who, unlike either, is clearly declining in Matsui (OPS+ declining for years now) or a young OF who hasn't hit that well yet, and can't even hit for power in Yankee Stadium.
So unless they are giving up Cano or Jesus Montrero (and I wouldn't do that straight up if I were the Yankees), I don't see what the Yankees have that the Giants would be interested in. I would be interested in Wilson Betemit but not straight up, the Giants would need a prospect thrown in to even up the deal. But he's useful to them so I don't see them giving him up. I just don't see a match between the teams otherwise. Or if they want to give up some young pitchers like Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes (again, not a deal the Yankees would want to do). I suppose I wouldn't mind any of their young strikeout relievers, like Edwar Ramirez, Ross Ohlendorf, David Robertson, Phil Coke, or Jonathan Albaladejo.
Lastly, the Giants have also expressed interest in Alex Rodriguez before, but I assume the Yankees are holding onto him. :^)