Thursday, November 15, 2007


Searching For the Last Expo

One of the Giants' most dire needs right now is power. Some power, any power. The team was miserable in most of the slugging categories last season and now they've lost their best hitter in Barry Bonds, paddling them further up shit creek. As it stands now, the Giants' projected 2008 starting outfield combined to hit 17 home runs in 2007, and their most reliable power source is Bengie Molina. Yuck. We haven't seen impotence like this since James Spader in Sex, Lies, and Videotape (cue the baffled expressions from every reader in response to that totally esoteric reference).

One position the Giants have been lacking in since seemingly forever is first base. They haven't had adequate production from the position since 2004, and that was only due to a fluke season from J.T. Snow. So they actually haven't had adequate production from first base since 1997...which was, um, another fluke season from Snow.

In a free agent market rife with mediocrity bound to be overpaid, one guy catches my eye: Brad Wilkerson, formerly of the Rangers. Wilkerson used to be a star-caliber talent with the Expos, but injuries and whathaveyou have brought his career to a standstill. It didn't help that his manager couldn't figure out what to do with him last year, either. I mean, it must be rough to be basically one of the best hitters on your team and yet still constantly lose at-bats to guys like Nelson Cruz and Victor Diaz, as Wilkerson did in Texas last year.

Wilkerson is intriguing because he's got a lot of pop (20 homers in 339 at-bats in 2007), he can take walks, and he can play both first base and the outfield, and he probably wouldn't embarrass himself in center if the need arose. The low batting average and the plethora of whiffs might turn people off, but the Giants need to look at guys like this if they want to take steps to improve. He'll be 31, so it's not likely that Wilkerson will go back to his 2004 self, but there's definitely the potential for solid production at a reduced cost.

I'm not sure what the market will be for Wilkerson's services this winter. He's injury-prone and coming off three down years, and all those strikeouts tend to make GMs cringe. Still, I like to look at what he can do, and what he can do is hit home runs and get on base. If everything breaks right, he could be a poor man's Adam Dunn, only with a plus glove at three (maybe four) positions and at a quarter of the cost.

Marc Normandin wrote a profile on Brad Wilkerson at Baseball Prospectus and tried to figure out just when and how he lost his way. Normandin speculated that Wilkerson might look to sign a cheaper one-year deal so he can put up some numbers and then re-enter the market in order to get something more lucrative in 2009. I would love to see the Giants go after him if they can get him for one year, with perhaps an option for a second, at less than $5 million. The team needs power, desperately, and Wilkerson is low-risk, high reward.

Unfortunately, if I had to bet, I'd say Wilkerson ends up with the Indians and helps them win the AL Central again, while the Giants end up with a nightmare Rich Aurilia/Dan Ortmeier/Dancing Bears first base scenario for us to throw hot dog wrappers at all season.


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