Saturday, May 22, 2010

Five Available Players the Giants Should Pass On

It's official. After today's 1-0 loss to the Oakland A's, the Giants should be in panic mode when it comes to upgrading the offense. Aaron Rowand isn't cutting it at leadoff (though this isn't exactly "surprising" news) and for whatever reason, Pablo Sandoval has suddenly transformed from budding-Vlad Guerrero to budding-Randall Simon. Add that with Bengie Molina starting to cool off and things don't look good for the Giants and their playoff aspirations.

That being said, despite the Giants desperate (and I mean, "Elizabeth Berkley needing an actress role" desperate) need for offense, they should pass on the following five players who are available and could come at low-cost, but are too much of a risk to acquire.

Number Five: Kaz Matsui, Infielder

Why Matsui is enticing

After hitting .141 and posting a wOBA of .167 to start off the year, the Houston Astros released Matsui on May 19th, deciding to go with Jeff Keppinger at second base for the remainder of the season.

While Matsui seems to be a better fit with the Colorado Rockies (who are in need of a second baseman due to Clint Barmes' slow start), Matsui could be of some use to the Giants. Edgar Renteria has struggled with injuries all year, and Freddy Sanchez's health is also in question after just coming off the disabled list. Matt Downs is a nice option and has performed well, but after falling back to earth recently, one has to wonder if he can contribute to the Giants over the course of a full season. Additionally, Juan Uribe, who also got off to a hot start, has cooled in the month of May (.242 average and .343 wOBA in May; compared to his .313 average and .358 wOBA in April).

Matsui may not be a regular starter, but he could be much needed insurance for a Giants infield that has been plagued by injuries and inconsistency so far this season.

Why Matsui is frightening

Matsui the past couple of years has really declined as a player, and it's hard to see why ESPN Magazine tagged him as the "Next" athlete in their 2004 "Next" issue.

Since 2008, Matsui's slugging numbers have dipped from .427 (in 2008) to .357 (2009) to .155 (this season). The same goes with his OBP (.354 to .302 to .197) and wOBA (.349 to .297 to .167) numbers. Granted, Matsui is not exactly young (34 years old), but it's surprising to see him take such a dive this past few years.

Add that with very questionable defense (he has had negative UZR numbers two out of the past three seasons), and Matsui proves to be a very risky option. Sure, he could be an upgrade over Renteria or Sanchez, but he could also be tremendously worse, which is very hard to stomach for Giants fans.

Why the Giants should pass

Matsui is too much of a risk and has been to much of an underachiever to take a flier on. His career wOBA is .314, and he pretty much has been living off his 2007 season in Colorado when he had a .341 wOBA and stole 32 bases. The Giants are not going to get that 2007 Matsui, or even the slightly decent 2008 version. If acquired, the Giants would get a declining infielder who won't be an upgrade over Sanchez, Renteria, Uribe, or even Downs.

Number Four: Jermaine Dye, Outfielder

Why Dye is enticing

Though he hasn't played since last year, Dye is still available and still apparently in game shape (or at least that's what he says). While last year he declined in a lot of offensive categories (his wOBA dropped from .376 in 2008 to .344 last year), he still hit 27 home runs. Considering the Giants are in dire need of a power threat (sorry...Molina in the cleanup spot for a third straight year isn't cutting it), Dye does fill in a need, and the Giants don't have to give up any prospects in return.

Why Dye is frightening

Do I really need to go through the list? Okay...I will.
  1. He's 36 years old.
  2. His UZR/150 has been in the minus-20 range three of the past four seasons (and when it wasn't, it was minus-18.9 in 2008).
  3. He has suffered massive drop in offensive categories such as batting average (from .292 in 2008 to .250 in 2009), slugging (.541 to .453) and OPS (.885 to .793).
  4. He was actually detrimental to his team last year (according to WAR values, he cost the White Sox $1.7 million dollars).
  5. $1.5 million dollars isn't enough for Dye. (He's entering Latrell Sprewell territory at this point.)
Why the Giants should pass

Did you not read anything above? If you still want to sign him after reading that, then...well...I don't know what to tell you.

Number Three: Eric Byrnes, Outfielder

Why Byrnes is enticing

Well...he hustles. And he can hit bombs. Don't believe me? Check this out:

Dang. That was parked.

Why Byrnes is frightening

Well, he has had sub-.300 wOBA numbers the past three seasons, he tanked in his short stint with the Mariners this season and defensively and he isn't the Byrnes fans are accustomed to (he had a minus-8.1 UZR/150 this year with the Mariners and a minus-7.0 UZR/150 with the D'Backs in 2008).

Oh, and this is Major League baseball, not club softball.

Why the Giants should pass

Would you rather have John Bowker and Nate Schierholtz in left and right field? Or an injured Mark Derosa and Byrnes? Yeah....I think Giants fans know the answer to that one.

Number two: Carlos Lee, outfielder

Why Lee is enticing

Though he says he won't waive his no-trade clause, the clock seems to be ticking for Lee's tenure in Houston. While Lee does have a massive contract ($18.5 million per year), he does have a history of hitting for power and run production, something you can't really say out of any other players in the Giants lineup. Last year, Lee hit 26 home runs and drove in 102 RBI. Furthermore, Lee has a history of tremendous plate discipline. From 2006-2009, Lee's wOBA ranged from .355 to .396 and his BB/K ratio didn't dip below 0.76.

Those are the kinds of qualities the Giants could use in a cleanup hitter.

Why Lee is frightening

Not only has Lee gone through an awful season so far (.199 average, .250 wOBA), but he hasn't exactly won any awards for "Teammate of the Year" recently. On May 14th, Lee got in a spat with Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter, and Lee wasn't exactly gracious about it either. While Lee isn't a Barry Bonds, one has to wonder if getting a guy like Lee would be the best thing for a team that is so well-known for their clubhouse chemistry.

I mean, ask Seattle Mariners fans what it's like when you bring in a guy with "questionable character issues."

Why the Giants should pass

Lee is a big bopper, but overall, he's too expensive and is too much of a clubhouse risk for the Giants to acquire. Then again, Lee has to waive his no-trade clause in order for anything to be a possibility, but even if he does, Lee certainly isn't worth dealing for considering where he's at in his career (hint: on the decline).

Number one: Pat Burrell, outfielder

Why Burrell is enticing

Burrell is the hottest name right now on the market. Already, we have seen two Giants beat writers (Hank "I love Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy" Schulman of the Chronicle and Mychel Urban of CSN Bay Area) kibosh the rumors of the Giants having interest in Burrell, and one (Andrew Baggarly) say that the Giants could pursue him.

You can't blame the Giants having some interest. After all, Burrell won't cost the Giants anything, he is a Bay Area kid (he went to Bellarmine Prep in San Jose), he's got some nice chest hair, and he has a proven track record.

From 2005 to 2008, the lowest wOBA he posted was .374, and the lowest BB/K ratio he had in that time span was 0.62. Add that with an average of 31 home runs a year in those four seasons, and you can see why the Rays were willing to shell out some cash for him when he became a free agent after the 2008 season.

Why Burrell is frightening

The Burrell in Tampa Bay experiment really went horribly wrong for general manager Andrew Friedman and the Rays. Last year, Burrell's home run total dipped to 14 (his HR/FB ratio in 2009 was 9.8 percent; the lowest it was before that was in 2003 when it was 12.3 percent) and his wOBA plummeted to .304.

Burrell last year, for a lack of a better word, stunk. And, if you need more evidence of his mediocrity, check out his minus-9.6 wRAA (runs above average based on wOBA) and minus-0.5 WAR (which accumulated to negative-$2.3 dollars in value; Burrell was signed to a two-year, $16 million contract before 2009).

This year hasn't been much better. His HR/FB has actually gone down (to 7.4 percent) and his wOBA is even worse at .284. Furthermore, Burrell's strong plate discipline has been absent this year as well. He sports a BB/K ratio of 0.36 (the lowest of his career so far) and he has swung at 25.8 percent of pitches outside the strike zone (another career high).

Burrell just isn't the same player baseball fans saw from 2005-2008, and you can't blame Friedman and the Rays cutting ties with him so early in the season.

Why the Giants should pass

I would like to believe that Burrell is more comfortable in the National League than the American League East, and if he makes the transition, would kill like Brad Penny when Penny was traded from Boston to San Francisco late last year. He would make a great comeback story, and his Bay Area roots would resonate with the Giants faithful and media.

Yet, I just don't trust Burrell. His decline offensively the past two years has been eye-popping (especially the BB/K ratio and ISO drop), and he isn't good enough defensively (minus-44.6 career UZR in the outfield) to handle the dimensions of AT&T Park (not to mention make up for this offensive decline).

Burrell sounds good on paper, but Giants fans and management should be warned. He isn't worth the playing time he would take away from Andres Torres, John Bowker or Nate Schierholtz (Aaron Rowand would go unaffected because Bochy has a man-crush on Rowand, which explains why he still bats him leadoff though Rowand has an OBP under .300 and is 0-for-2 in stolen bases).

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