Monday, January 11, 2010


Off In a Huff

As I sit here and mull over the fact that, in their search for a left-handed power hitter, the best the Giants could muster was Aubrey mother-effing Huff, I start to ask myself: when was the last time the Giants signed a free agent that actually got me excited? Like, a free agent signing that made me legitimately happy and optimistic about the coming season? We all know about the recent lurid track record, and the 2006-07 winter of mayhem, but when was time the team made a really substantial, and good, free agent pickup? Well, this is where things get depressing.

As crazy as it is to say it, I think you have to go back pre-Sabean to find a free agent signing worth giving a hoot about. Yeah, all the way back to Barry Bonds. Most of Sabean's success came from trades and pilfering underrated players for the junk in his farm system, but his free agent track record has been mediocre-to-terrible, even in his 1997-2002 "genius" years. Perusing the list of signings during his tenure (not counting re-signings and extensions, a lot of which were terrible also), only Ray Durham looks like an out-and-out success, though I guess you can maybe count Omar Vizquel or Bengie Molina. Otherwise, there are a whole lot of Barry Zitos and Aaron Rowands in there.

Obviously, this latest move is hardly a blockbuster. Huff, is an iron glove who has had exactly one above-average year since 2004, and his big 2008 screams inexplicable, late-career fluke (think J.T. Snow's 2004). Huff has old player skills (no speed, poor glove, limited athleticism), which means a sudden decline into uselessness is a distinct possibility, if it hasn't started already. In fact, that probably explains why he stopped being an All-Star-caliber hitter after he turned 28. So, the Giants sign a mediocre, 30-something slugger whose best days were five years ago? Yeah, that sounds about right.

What doesn't make any sense about this at all is that the team felt the need to non-tender Ryan Garko to make this move. Garko is younger, better, probably cheaper, and retaining him would have saved the Giants the humiliation of knowing they traded Scott Barnes away for two craptastic months of small sample sized slumping. Instead they bring in a lesser player who is more likely to fade completely. Yep, makes perfect sense to me. It also means they've lost faith in Travis Ishikawa, who is probably relegated to the dustbin that is Fresno.

The signing is a one-year deal, and one-year deals never kill teams, so for all the eye-rolling this isn't something to start scraping knives over (and it's sure as hell better than bringing in Adam Laroche). It's just...uninspiring, and not well thought out. Then again, that's sort of the norm for the Giants these days when it comes to playing the free agent market.

In the interests of fairness, I believe TI's out of options, so the farthest they can relegate him without giving up on him entirely is the bench (which currently sounds like the point losing his glove for the late innings where Huff will be no help).

I try to look forward to the days when Zito and Rowand's contracts are up, but then realize the chances of a) Sabes possibly still being around and b) his sudden payroll flexibility to sign a now brittle and retired Vernon Wells to a 10-year, $167 million contract shortly before Wells disappears in a nasty puff of logic.

Still, hope springs eternal, I guess.
Guess you were wrong about Huff, huh?
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