With Juan Uribe on the verge of getting a new contract from the San Francisco Giants, the pressure is on for one current Giants player:
With Mark Derosa getting signed to a two-year, $12 million dollar deal, and the possibility of an Adam LaRoche acquisition still looming, Uribe most likely will be a platoon player heading into Spring Training.
That being said, despite his backup-status, he will bring a lot of heat and competition to Renteria, who most likely will be slated as the Giants' starting shortstop come Spring Training.
For starters, Renteria is coming off an atrocious year, while Uribe is coming off a pretty good one. Renteria struggled through injury and ended up batting .250, with a .307 OBP and only five home runs, his lowest home run total in his career since 1998 (he hit only three for Florida that year). Uribe hit 16 home runs, drove in 55 RBI, and sported a .329 OBP (which is his highest number in that category in his career).
Thus, it makes sense statistically why Giants fans are pining for Uribe to start at shortstop over the overpaid (he'll make nine million dollars next year) and underachieving Renteria. Couple that with a major difference in personality (Uribe is a fun-loving guy, while Renteria is known for his seriousness, though Renteria did score some points for being the first guy off the bench and getting in Russell Martin's face during a scuffle in August against the Dodgers), and it almost seems logical that the end could be very near for Renteria in San Francisco.
That being said, I don't think Giants fans should be so hasty in terms of giving up on Renteria completely. For starters, the bottom line is this: he was hurt last year. It was obvious he played through injury, and was not 100 percent considering his elbow and arms problems. Thus, Renteria needs to be judged when he is completely healthy, and chances are, he will be in 2010 after having a full off-season to recover.
Secondly, Renteria, despite his decline as a player over the last few years, is the kind of guy that responds well to bad seasons. After a poor season in Boston, Renteria came back to the National League and lit it up with the Braves in 2006, where he hit .293 and scored a 100 runs.
Granted, most people thought that would happen LAST year when he was coming off a mediocre season in Detroit, but I think the adjustment from the American to National League, coupled with his injury, made things tough for Renteria. Thus, with a full year of being reacquainted with National League behind him, and healthy (hopefully), Renteria is more likely to breakout this year than he was last year.
And to put things more in Renteria's favor, Renteria did have an advantage over Uribe in one category: his BB/K ratio. Renteria had a 0.57 BB/K ratio in comparison to Uribe, who had a 0.30 ratio. While this may be a minute stat, it may be a telling sign that a healthy Renteria may be what this Giants team needs. Renteria's patient, less-free-swinging approach may be more valued on a team that ranked last in walks and OBP in the National League in 2009. Will the Giants get more pop from Uribe? Most likely. However, if the Giants want to score more runs and be playoff contenders, the Giants may want to go with a guy who has never had a BB/K ratio under 0.42 in his career rather than a guy has never had a BB/K ratio over 0.44.
One of the big gripes many Giants fans (and baseball fans in general) have had with Renteria (in addition to his inability to pull anything other than 85 MPH fastballs) is his mediocre defensive skills. Surprisingly though, in terms of playing shortstop, Uribe is not a dramatic improvement. Uribe's career UZR/150 is 3.5. Renteria has a career UZR/150 of 1.0.
Is Uribe better? Obviously, but Giants fans shouldn't be thinking that Uribe is a tremendous upgrade. He's better than the iron-footed Renteria, but he won't be confusing Giants fans with Omar Vizquel anytime soon.
Granted, the Bay Area faithful should be happy Uribe is back, mainly because he can play three infield positions and has a solid, if inconsistent bat. That being said, I think Giants fans need to give Renteria a chance to start the season. While Renteria was an obvious flop last season, if healthy, he is more than capable of turning it around in San Francisco this second time around.
That being said, unfortunately for Renteria, the time span should, and most likely will be short. The Giants need to win now, and they need to build on their 88 win season a year ago. If Renteria does not put up major improvement within the first month of play, it would not be surprising if general manager Brian Sabean sends Renteria packing, especially with Renteria in the last year of his contract.
It's put up or shut up time Edgar. The job's yours for now, and I do believe there are some Giants fans willing to give you a second chance, but just remember: there's a pretty decent option behind you, and the option looks more enticing to Giants fans by the day.
Another .250/.307/.635 season in terms of batting average, OBP and OPS isn't going to cut it this time around.