Angry at being left out of Matt’s post on The Contest last week, Brian Sabean’s San Francisco Giants have agreed to a one-year contract worth three million dollars with Aubrey Huff. Much like the Scott Podsednik contract, it looks fine in a vacuum. Huff is projected for somewhere in the 0.5 to 1.0 WAR range, meaning that Huff’s market value is probably the 2-4 million dollar range. If Aubrey Huff were indeed taking the roster spot of a replacement level player, the deal would make sense.
Of course, this is not the case. Before this move, the best scenario for San Francisco was probably to play Pablo Sandoval at 1B, Mark DeRosa at 3B, and Fred Lewis in LF. Instead, Aubrey Huff probably becomes the starting 1B. We probably would have seen Juan Uribe at 3B and Mark DeRosa in LF, but the differences between these two scenarios are insignificant. This causes a domino effect: Pablo Sandoval moves from 1B back to 3B, and Juan Uribe will be pushed to an infield utility role. This also means that Mark DeRosa will certainly be the starting left fielder, pushing Fred Lewis to the bench.
Effectively, this means that Aubrey Huff is replacing either Juan Uribe or Fred Lewis. Regardless of how you look at it, the Giants are not improving in this scenario. Uribe’s bat is weak, but he has a good glove for third base, and he figures to be at least a 1.0 WAR player last year. Lewis projects similarly – again, a weak bat for the position but solid defense, probably worth a little more than one win. Both of these players project similarly or better than Huff.
Much like with his pursuit of Adam LaRoche, it appears that Brian Sabean is scrambling to add offense due to the fact that his team only scored 657 runs (4.06 RPG) last year. Despite the poor performance with the bats, the Giants still won 88 games and had 83 3rd order wins – they were a playoff contender. Dave Cameron already showed over at USSM how the idea of diminishing returns on defense is bunk. Travis Ishikawa, a good defender with a weak bat is a better first baseman than Huff, all things considered. The runs saved by Ishikawa outweigh any runs produced by Huff, despite the lack of balance between run production and run prevention for the Giants.
Not only that, but 1B was not the weakest position for the Giants. San Francisco’s rotation now only runs four deep. It’s a solid four, with Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, and Barry Zito worth a combined 133 runs above replacement according to CHONE. Then the next highest projected SP for the Giants is Kevin Pucetas at 7 RAR. This 5th starter role is the easiest position for the Giants to pick up an extra marginal win or two, as there are players like Joel Piniero, Jon Garland, and Vicente Padilla who could all offer somewhere from a one to two win upgrade over Pucetas et. al.
No matter how you spin this, this was the wrong move at the wrong time for San Francisco. With a very versatile group of position players, they could have easily filled 1B with either Pablo Sandoval or an internal option that was superior to Huff. It pushes superior players to the bench or possibly even off the 25 man roster completely, and it also commits money that cannot be used to upgrade their worst position, the fifth starter. The Huff acquisition is a complete misuse of resources for a Giants team looking to get over the playoff hump.
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