Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Giants Sign Miguel Tejada

Although it isn't official until his physical, we can safely say that former MVP Miguel Tejada will be the Giants starting shortstop for 2011. Tejada's deal is for 1 year, $6 million. In essence, he'll be replacing Juan Uribe, and when you look at the 2 players and the contracts they each got, the Giants situation appears quite favorable. Before Uribe joined the Giants in 2009, he had just had 4 seasons with an average OPS+ of 77. He may not be that bad ever again, but giving him a 3 year contract is pretty foolish. Meanwhile, Tejada will only be with the Giants for 1 year, and isn't costing a lot. Looking at it purely from that perspective, the move isn't bad at all. Also, there are a lot of positive things to say about Miguel Tejada.

He was one of the better shortstops in baseball most of this decade, thanks to his ability to make hard contact and hit for power from the weakest (or 2nd weakest) offensive position on the diamond. His career defensive numbers aren't pretty, but they aren't atrocious either. He is considered a great clubhouse leader and continually competitive, motivated player, who even at 36 is in better shape than many major leaguers. All those qualities are impressive and admirable. So, having established that Tejada for 1 year is "okay" (because it's more favorable than keeping the current SS, Uribe), and going over what his reputation is as a player and teammate, you might wonder why I dislike this signing as much as I do.

It isn't nearly as popular to criticize Brian Sabean these days as it was a mere, oh, 5 months ago. A World Series trophy, somewhat rightly, buys a lot of credibility. But I think the Tejada signing represents just another uncreative move by Sabean to fill a position with an aging veteran. And just because we all hated the Aubrey Huff signing last year, and he succeeded beyond anyone's expectations, doesn't mean the Giants should AIM to spend the offseason picking up the players no one else really wants. You can only get lucky like that so many times. And there's really no reason to refrain from fair criticism of Sabean simply because the team just won the World Series. This offseason is now about winning it in 2011. 2010, as magical a year as it was, has nothing to do with that.

So why do I think the Tejada signing is uncreative and disappointing? Simply because it appears that better shortstop options are in fact out there to be had. JJ Hardy (#JJHardyorGTFO) could be available, either in a trade or simply as a free agent if the Twins non-tender him (this might be less likely than I hope; the Twins seem to have ideas of other options at SS, but all analysis points to Hardy being their best option). Marco Scutaro and Jason Bartlett are both trade options, and the Red Sox and Rays want middle relief in return, something the Giants have. If you were to go just by last year's performance, Tejada is very close to all 3 of these guys, or better. I think you could reasonably expect that all of them might end up giving the same production in 2011 (1.5-2.5 WAR). But the other 3 possible SS all have something that I believe Tejada lacks: the potential to have a big year. Hardy had 4.3 and 4.9 WAR seasons in 2007 and 2008 (and positive UZR numbers in every season of his career; how the hell could the Twins not want to keep this guy? I think maybe they will keep him). Bartlett had a huge offensive season in 2009, then a total dropoff in 2010. The same for Scutaro, on a smaller scale. Now, of course, Tejada has had a much more productive career than any of these guys. But Miguel Tejada is going to be 37 next season. His skills have been diminishing every season. His power is mostly gone. His defense is not good. And he'll be playing one of the most demanding defensive positions, everyday. He doesn't strike out a lot; he never has. Going hand in hand with that, he doesn't walk much either (never has). Although Tejada doesn't make as much contact as he used to, he will still hit his share of singles and doubles, and most of his offense comes from that. But his age and free swinging tendencies also means lots of double plays. Tejada has led the league in double plays 5 times. Yeah. I've come to the conclusion that Tejada isn't actually a disaster. But it remains to be seen if the Giants could have done a lot better.

Speaking of double plays, I want to end the post with a word on Pablo Sandoval. When we first heard about the Tejada signing, there was talk that perhaps he was being signed to play 3rd base, or to at least pressure Pablo into performing well, because Tejada would be waiting to take over. This I hate. It's truly amazing how our expectations shape our perceptions and observations. We can all agree that Sandoval had a bad 2010 season. But it was still better and more productive than Tejada's in nearly every way (I tweeted the numbers that support this, you can find them by simply comparing their 2010 slashlines, wOBA, and WAR on fangraphs). I fully expect Sandoval to rebound in 2011, but even if he barely did so, he would be better than Tejada. Perhaps we'll need to write a full post on Sandoval this offseason. I am truly mystified how so many fans have given up on a young player so quickly, especially when you consider what he did so recently in 2009 at the age of 22.

1 comment:

  1. This is the best Reza post.

    It's unfortunate that Sabes didn't even consider JJ Hardy who won't get the "veteran treatment" like Bochy is about to give Tejada. I know he is both durable and all, but what good is that when you are just average at best. A .310 OBP and a SLG that barely reaches 400 is about to bat 5th or 6th just because Bochy said so.

    Just for reference to those who would say that Hardy wouldn't be that much better -- his 98 wRC+ isn't too bad to have for a shortstop with a plus-plus glove. Seriously.

    I'm just gonna have fun seeing a SS with worse range than Uribe try and get to balls next year.

    It really was JJ Hardy or GTFO as far as the SS market was concerned. I just don't see anything to really like out of Miguel Tejada.