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Giants Add Two Hitters for Stretch Run

August 13, 2010

Before I left for the Giants/Cubs matchup Wednesday evening, I saw a tweet from Mychael Urban saying that the Giants were reportedly in talks for an infielder.  He suggested Ty Wigginton as a possibility, due to the organization’s past interest in the Orioles’ player.  I paid little mind to it- this is the guy, after all, who said that the Giants could have acquired Prince Fielder for Jonathan Sanchez and Thomas Neal (Urban has since denied this and deleted the chat transcript if I recall), and so I figured that either A) he got his report from a “credible” source in the Giants organization (what can I say?  I’m a skeptic), or B) there was a trade in the works, but the deal wouldn’t take place for at least a day.

Around the third or fourth inning of the game, sheets of paper were passed through the aisles.  The sheet- which was bright orange- was full of standard baseball statistics and some splits.  The very top of the paper read “Mike Fontenot.”  Befuddled why anyone would hand out a paper of the Cubs’ backup infielder to a stadium packed with Giants fans, I handed the stack of paper to the gentlemen on my right and continued watching the game, not giving it a second thought.  About a minute later, it hit me- the Giants must have dealt for the infielder.  That would explain why the sheet was orange, and why it was being passed through the stadium…Sherlock Holmes, apparently, I am not.

Sure enough, a video announcement was shown on the scoreboard not long after, announcing that the Giants sent Minor League outfielder Evan Crawford for the left-handed hitting utility infielder.  Considering that the Giants needed some infield depth with Edgar Renteria’s trip to the 15-day DL, I definitely approve of the move.  Fontenot isn’t anything special- he’s a 5’8″, 170 pound infielder that’s 30 years old…meaning that he has most likely reached his peak, and has little to no room for growth.  He’s amassed 1,154 plate appearances in his career with a .330 wOBA, about 3% lower than your league average hitter.  He’s got some surprising pop given his size- you’d think someone with as small a frame as he would have the power of Chone Figgins or David Eckstein- but he’s flashed some power, with a X/H% (extra bases divided by total hits) of 36%, compared to a league average of 34%.  He’s not a particularly great baserunner, but he’s good at doing the little things, adding about one run above average by virtue of avoiding the double play and making productive outs.  He’s also remarkably good at driving in runners from third with less than two outs, for what it’s worth (59% of the time, compared to a league average of 51%).  That’s an exceptionally trivial piece of information, but I imagine it would be meaningful to the Giants fans that are tired of seeing the team fail in that situation 69% of the time.  So when all is said and done, Fontenot is essentially a league average player.  His current wOBA of .318 is miles ahead of starter Freddy Sanchez’s .293, and given his career UZR/150 of +9 compared to Sanchez’s +4, I’m beginning to wonder if the Giants should consider starting him in favor of Freddy.

Don’t get me wrong- I like Freddy as a person, but he’s just not performing well this year.  Fact of the matter is, he hasn’t been a good hitter since 2007.  I understand the desire to have a veteran with his track record prove himself, but…let’s face it, the guy hasn’t been good over his last 1,422 plate appearances.  Chances are he’s a shell of his former self, rather than somebody that’s just hit a patch of bad luck.  Of course, I doubt Bruce Bochy will let Fontenot start regularly.  Freddy’s the “established All-Star/former batting champion,” and Mike is…well, he’s a nobody, even if he’s better than Sanchez right now.  Hopefully Fontenot forces his hand, similar to what Andres Torres did at the beginning of the season.

All in all, I love the move- especially considering that Fontenot will be arbitration-eligible for the first time after the season and will be a free agent in 2014. We’ve got the guy for the next four years at a pretty cost-efficient price.

But, that’s not all!  The Giants also dealt for Kansas City Royals outfielder Jose Guillen in exchange for a player to be named later.  Guillen’s currently hitting .255/.314/.429 for a wOBA of .325, making him exactly a league average hitter in the AL.  His .269 wOBA after the All-Star Break, however, led the Royals to designate him for assignment- and very few teams showed any interest.  Guillen’s essentially a DH at this point in his career as he’s a statue in right field.  The Giants are hoping that not many balls in play will find their way to right field, and I would strongly recommend they start Andres Torres in center for any and all of Guillen’s starts to help accommodate for his utter lack of range.

If the Giants use Guillen primarily off the bench, I’m fine with the move.  I’m not particularly keen on the Giants playing him every day, which I fear with Bruce Bochy at the helm.  Perhaps they’re hoping they’ll catch lightning in a bottle as they have with Aubrey Huff, Torres, and Pat Burrell.  I guess they really are hoping that there’s still some more “Magic Inside.”*

*They need to fire whoever came up with that Godawful slogan immediately.

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