Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Your 2011 Giants: Huff Re-signs for 2 years, $22M, plus option

Well, it looks like Huff's children are covered now.  :^)

I got this one totally wrong.  Or at least, it was more than I thought the Giants had to pay and more than I would have paid given that we had Brandon Belt in the wings.  But according to reports (Baggarly), the Giants matched an offer made by another team (that perhaps knew that the Giants had to match and thus made an offer that they figured the Giants would match).

What Huff got (Baggarly, Schulman, Haft) is a reported 2 years for $22M with a club option for a third year.  He gets $10M per year plus $2M buyout, or the team would pick up another $10M contract for third year.

I have seen Brian Murphy of KNBR's morning team tweet that it basically replaces Renteria's contract.  I proffered that if you include last year's $3M for him (a great bargain to be sure), it translates to a $23M contract for 3 years with a fourth year team option with $2M buyout, which is approximately what the Giants were going to pay Adam LaRoche (they offered 3 years at $21M) but that he turned down, thinking that they were going to negotiate further.  Sidenote:  I wonder if LaRoche would have accepted had he known that it was a take it or leave it deal?  Given that he signed soon with Arizona for much less money, it suggested that he had no other real interest on the part of other teams but thought he (or at least his agent thought) could play the Giants for more money, but got burned in the end.

Sabean also noted in the press conference that the Giants might not be able to keep all their arbitration eligible players now because the Giants spent so much money on Huff.  He noted the need to shuffle around money to be able to afford Huff (which is what he did in 2003 when he signed Michael Tucker to a contract early in order to lose a draft pick and not have to pay $1.5M in bonus).  He also noted that Uribe is seeing a lot of interest because he is being viewed as a viable option at 3B as well as SS.  Perhaps relatedly, he mentioned that he had spoken with the agent for a free agent SS.  Sabean also affirmed that Cody Ross will be kept and will be starting in 2011.

Giants Thoughts

To be clear, I am not comfortable with deals with mid-30's players for many years or a lot of money, particularly ones coming off a bad season, but I can see why the Giants might do that with the players they have signed and can see how they might rationalize that.  So don't kill the messenger.

That's why I thought the Giants deal for Huff was great last off-season, it was low cost, low risk, high reward and boy did he pay off big time. 

This new contract was a fair contract, in line with what players of his performance level is getting, given the economic climate and all that.  I really thought that he wouldn't get an offer this high given his age, his 2009 season, and his eccentric behavior and personality.  And there is some risk given these factors.

However, if he can perform closer to his 2008 and 2010 seasons and not close to his 2009 season, this contract is fair for both sides.  And I think that there is good odds that he can do this again, despite his age, and why 2010 was not as fluky as it might appear.

First, 2010 was the first season that Huff acknowledged Father Time and got into a fitness program to get into shape for the coming season.  He apparently took it very seriously and got himself into great shape, according to a former coach who was interviewed about Huff in the pre-season.  Hopefully this pays future dividends by convincing Rowand to step up from the lame mountain bike fitness program he got into last off-season and do something more serious.

Second, as I noted in a post about Huff last off-season, it was 2009 that was the fluky season, not 2008.  His batting ratios (K%, K/BB, BB%) were all within the boundaries of his career norms but it was his BABIP that was horribly bad.  In fact, his season with Baltimore, while bad for his career, wasn't horribly out of line for an off year, it was when he went to Detroit, where the park penalizes LH hitters a bit while Baltimore's Camden helps LH hitters.  In addition, by then, he was very unhappy with the team, said some nasty burn the bridge comments about the town/fans on the radio, which probably scared some teams off of him, causing him to fall to the Giants, and that probably contributed to his down season.  He should be still pretty happy in 2011 vs. 2009.

Third, his batting line for 2010 are not that out of line with his career either.  He has had OPS in this range 4 times before, albeit 3 times was in his mid-20's when he was in much better shape.  Still, he had a similarly good season in 2008, so two of his three last seasons have been very good (.912 and .891 OPS) and one was very bad (.694 OPS).  He has had ISO's this large 4 times before as well.  BABIP of .303 in 2010 vs. .293 for his career.

His Ratio Batting was in line with his career as well.  HR% of 3.9% vs. 3.8% for his career.  XBH% was right near his career average (9.9% vs. 9.5%).  Good K% of 13.6% as usual (13.2% career).  He did have his best year ever in BB% with 12.4% (10.0% prior high) so that was up there and probably drop.  LD% of 20% vs. 19% career.  HR/FB of 11.5% vs. career 10.2%, and he has been over 10.5% five times before.

So I'm OK with the deal, I think for marketing purposes, they had to sign him, as well as baseball reasons, as there were really no better alternatives for replacing his 2010's numbers other than getting him, because the alternatives would have costed just as much or more, and he has intangibles that the team saw in 2010 and values.  I can live with the big contract, more than with other signings, as he is actually coming off a good year and getting a fair contract (though slightly overpriced rather than discounted as I had hoped).

What Happens Next

Now, I wonder how this move dominoes.  First off, re-signing Uribe is probably unlikely right now.  He would need to sign a similar contract to before in order for the Giants to sign him and he's not going to do that or get that type of offers.  He should be getting numbers similar to Sanchez and DeRosa's 2 years for $12M.  I think the Giants will offer him arbitration and pick up a draft pick that way should he sign away, and if not, they get him for one year at probably a fair salary for just 2011.  But I don't see how he would accept arbitration, there should be better long-term offers on the table.

Second, this allows the Giants to give Belt more time to spend in the minors and hone his skills, something they were unable to do with Pablo in 2008-9 (not that he needed that, but perhaps he could have gotten on a better fitness plan in the meanwhile).  He could then do the Posey plan and come up mid-season, which would then push Huff to LF.

Thirdly, speaking of the outfield, the Giants are not really that set out there.  Torres appears to be a lock but he'll be 33 next season.  He's only one year younger than Huff!  So age could start to creep in, though I recall reading that players with his body type and skills tend to last longer and older.  Ross is slated to be the starter, but he's in similar straits as Huff was, he had fine seasons previously, but had a down year in 2010, much like Huff did in 2009.  Ross will be 30 in 2011.  Perhaps the Marlins losing got to him, but maybe it was time for his body to fail him.  So there is some question marks on him too.

The other potential starters are iffy too.  DeRosa was the starting LF at the start of 2010 but at this point, I think the Giants are hoping he can be the emergency starter at a number of positions, much like Uribe was in 2008 and 2009.  He can play 2B and 3B, as well as LF and RF, at high defensive value, probably could do it at 1B, and started out as a SS as a pro, so he could take a game or three there to rest the starter.  Schierholtz has had chances, and probably will be given a chance again in 2011, but I just don't see it happening, as much as I've been rooting for him to.  And Rowand I've written off as a bench player unless as I noted above, he takes his fitness seriously and earn CF back to start 2011 (with Ross in LF and Torres in RF).

Should there be too many performance failures in the OF in 2011, I can see the Giants moving Huff to LF and bringing up Belt at the first moment he appears ready to come up.  I think if 2010 was 2008, Belt would have been brought up much like Sandoval and Ishikawa was in 2008, and would have had a strong shot at winning the starting spot the next season, like them too.  I think he still has a shot, but he's going to have to prove that he belongs, rather than look pretty good, to win the 1B starting job.

Fourth, since Uribe is probably gone now for monetary reasons, the Giants are probably kicking the tires with free agent shortstops who are very good defensively but bad offensively in order to get a cheap starter for 2011.  Players like Adam Everett or Cesar Izturis (his brother is in the Giants minors).  They might also look into players they have been rumored to like, such as JJ Hardy (rumors is that he'll be non-tendered) and Jack Wilson (best bud with Franchez, but would have to be traded by Mariners).  Baggarly also mentioned that players such as Jose Reyes of Mets and Rollins of Phillies might be traded away, though I cannot imagine getting either without giving up a good prospect like Belt or Wheeler. 

Lastly, I think that this means that Burrell will eventually sign with the Giants.  Sabean noted that he would talk with Burrell after he settles some other business first.  That means that he hasn't been ruled out despite Huff signing and the current log-jam of OFs.  I think them being such good buddies, I don't see how Burrell would make it hard for the Giants to sign him as he would like to play with Huff once more. 

And he's already made it easy.  Despite starting most of the 2010 season for the Giants, he already said late in the season that he's willing to come back to the Giants in 2011 as a bench player.  That means he is saying he is willing to sign for low money just to play for the team, the Giants just need to ask.  And right now, the Giants could use low-cost players who could pay off big, like Huff and Burrell did in 2010.  Given the uncertainty in the OF, having Burrell around as backup, much like in 2010, he could step in should there be an injury or lack of performance, and it would be low risk since he won't be signing for much, if he is really a bench player.

Overall, as a fan, I'm happy about the move.  I am not happy about the price but accept it as a price of keeping him around and improving our chances of repeating in 2011.  Hopefully he can repeat similar hitting in 2011 and 2012.  If he can, the Giants have a great chance of making it into the playoffs again, then see where our pitching leads us next time.

5 comments:

  1. Everybody is pointing to Huff's WAR of 5.7 and saying it was a fluke because his second highest was 4.0. I say it wasn't a fluke for two reasons:

    1. While he had a very good offensive season, it was not way out of line with his career averages. He's only had two bad seasons out of a career spanning more than an decade.

    2. A lot of his jump in WAR came on defense. This was a direct result of being in better shape. There is no reason he can't continue to be a slightly plus defender if he maintains his conditioning.

    Is anybody else slightly concerned that Pat Burrell and his party-hearty ways could become a bad influence on the team, specifically Aubrey Huff, over time? I mean, it was fun for 3 months, but as time goes on that kind of lifestyle can wear you down.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have no problem with the Huff contract because of Huff's positional flexibility. I do agree that it does make bringing Uribe back problematic from a financial standpoint.

    I totally disagree about Burrell, though. I really don't think that the Giants are going to bring him back, especially if DeRosa is able to take the field in 2011. He'd be occupying a roster spot that might otherwise be used a lot better on a bullpen pitcher or a middle infielder. Burrell's playoff performance should've sealed the deal on his return, IMO.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Boof, I don't see how Burrell would affect our bullpen, I assume the Giants are sticking with a 12-man bullpen and don't see them moving to 13, unless Sandoval becomes the backup catcher and they dump Whiteside. And, of course, Pablo being on the team is not written on stone either.

    I see your point on MI though. If get Burrell, there's obviously Torres, Ross, Rowand, Schierholtz, Burrell in OF, Posey, Huff, Franchez, SS, and Sandoval in infield, then Whiteside, Ishikawa, DeRosa on the bench. So DeRosa is the only backup MI.

    However, that is how the Giants operated in 2010, they only had the one MI bench guy.

    I think the odd-man out if the Giants decide that they need a better MI as per your thought, is Ishikawa. Given the possible downside risks for the current group of OFs, getting Burrell is an easy way to mitigate that risk, at least until Belt is ready to come up and Huff moves to LF.

    And you can play Burrell or DeRosa or Sandoval at 1B in a pinch.

    ReplyDelete
  4. OGC,

    I think you are making too much of the unexpected additional cost of re-signing Huff. In 2011 he is getting $10M instead of the $8M I think the Giants expected to pay. This additional $2M is just not that hard to find. The can get back all of this by non-tendoring two of Fontenot, Ramirez, or Ray.

    Further, I think the Giants will still re-sign Uribe even if he too costs an extra $2M in 2011 because they can still find this money too by just not signing any other free agents. I am betting they had this amount targeted for the 3rd open spot on the 40 Man Roster in the form of someone like Renteria.

    Finally, the only way I see the Giants bringing back Burrell is if the are able to trade Rowand and save enough of Aaron's salary in this trade to pay the cost of signing Pat.

    ReplyDelete
  5. You make my point for me re Burrell. If he's on the roster, you have to subtract a MI or take it away from the bullpen. As you've illustrated, taking it away from the MI is a razor wire strategy with the pieces that they have in place. The only other place to create a roster spot for Burell is fom taking away a bullpen spot.

    This is the reason why I don't see Burrell coming back. Despite the fact that he is really on the decline, Huff & DeRosa's presence on the roster give you that 5 OF spot if you need it. That almost dictates that you go out and find a real SS to take that last roster spot.

    If the Giants' could get rid of Rowand, even if they had to eat the balance of his contract to do so, then maybe Burrell comes back.

    ReplyDelete

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