Wednesday, March 01, 2006


Randy Winn-Tastic

Yesterday the Giants gave Stankeye Player of the Year Randy Winn a three-year contract extension worth $23.25 million. Winn recieves a $3 million signing bonus, so he's essentially getting $5 million in 2007, $9 mil in 2008, and $9.25 mil in 2009, to go along with the $5 million he's getting paid this season.

Is it just me, or is that a lot of money to be giving a guy who, before a crazy-good second half of '05 when his bat was hotter than Jennifer Connelly (wait, not possible), was basically a better version of Michael Tucker? I'm a fan of Winn and all, but maybe we're getting a bit too lovestruck over his uberhot September. His career totals are .288/.346/.425, good for a center fielder, but $23 million good? Excuse me for being a skeptic. If Winn were like 27, I'd be a little more excited, but he'll turn 32 this season and long-term contracts on middle-of-the-pack players in their 30's rarely turn out well. If Winn's bat and range start to deplete this contract could turn into quite the albatross. Remember how hideous Marvin Benard's contract looked at the end? Winn is obviously better than Benard, but the same danger lurks.

On the bright side, the list of players most comparible at the same age as Winn according to Baseball Reference includes several guys who continued to play well going into their mid-30's, like Steve Finley, Jose Cruz, and Dom Dimaggio. It's entirely possible that Winn could age well and still be effective in a Grissomish way in 2009, in which case the contract will be pretty much justified. And it's not like the Giants have any rock solid, blue chip replacements climbing the farm ladder in any hurry. In the end, this extension doesn't look too egregious. The dollar amount is eye-opening but not payroll-busting, and center fielders who can swing it and who can field adequately are hard to come by. This contract can certainly be justified by the, excuse me, Winn now philosophy, but I have kind of a sick feeling that in 2008 we'll be regretting this.

But hey, if in the next year the Giants are hoisting the championship trophy on the back of a .320/.400/.500 season by Randy Winn, who gives a shit, right?

BTW, I'm wondering, just why did Winn get so damn hot after coming to the Giants? With the Devil Rays and Mariners he was basically a .770 OPS blah guy, and there was nothing to indicate the terror he'd become as a Giant. Did he like NL pitching more? Was it the Bay Area air? He absolutely tore it up at Mays Field, hitting .368/.410/.711 in a place where gaudy hitting statistics go to die. Did he suddenly have some sort of epiphany and become a different hitter? Did the ghost of Mickey Mantle invade his body? Did aliens kidnap him one night and, deciding on a change of pace after years of anal probing, decide to bestow upon him magical powers?

More likely it was a confluence of his normal abilities, luck, and random chance. Looking closer, Winn's hot streak last year can be isolated to one month, September, when he hit an amazing .447/.479/.877. People like Stephen Jay Gould have argued that luck, not some innate ability or adjustment, is the main cause of hot streaks. It's highly likely that Winn's amazing month was a weird blip on his resume, like Davey Johnson's 1973 or Brady Anderson's 1996. Those expecting another Joe Dimaggio impression will probably be disappointed.

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