Renteria to SF

There are a few things that come every winter – Chrismas, cold weather, and Brian Sabean signing a free agent over the age of 30. It never fails, as the Giants GM continues to believe the best way to rebuild is to bring in players who are heading towards the end of their careers. So, it’s tempting to look at the report that the Giants have signed Edgar Reenteria to take over at shortstop and think that this is just more of the same, but let’s take a closer look at his abilities anyway.

Renteria was a huge disappointment in Detroit last year, hitting .270/.317/.382 and posting a .308 wOBA just a year after a huge season in Atlanta. The big culprit was the loss of 62 points off his batting average – as a guy who doesn’t walk a lot and has gap power, he can’t afford to hemorrhage that many hits. At 33, such a significant drop off is the kind of thing that ends careers. However, there are reasons to think that Renteria’s got something left in the tank.

For starters, he’s one of the most consistent line drive hitters in baseball. For the last five years, his LD% has never been lower than 22.2% or higher than 23.3%. Predicting Renteria’s line drive rate is perhaps the easiest thing to do in baseball. In fact, his batted ball profile was – across the board – almost exactly equal to his career averages. Check this out:

GB%: 2008 – 45.8%, Career – 46.2%
FB%: 2008 – 32.0%, Career – 31.0%
LD%: 2008 – 22.2%, Career – 22.8%
IFFB%: 2008 – 8.5%, Career – 8.0%
HR/FB%: 2008 – 7.1%, Career – 7.4%

That’s some pretty remarkable consistency. If you can find why we should believe that Renteria fell off a cliff in ’08 in that batted ball profile, you’re a better man than me. Even the projection systems that don’t care at all about batted ball data, and just use the results of the last three years (such as the Marcel projections published here on FanGraphs) don’t believe that Renteria is finished.

His Marcel for 2009 has him projected as a .285/.345/.417 hitter, good for a .336 wOBA. That makes him, essentially, a league average hitter while playing shortstop. That’s not easy to find and quite valuable.

However, there’s the issue of how well he plays shortstop. His offense wasn’t the only thing slipping in 2008, after all. The +/- system from the Fielding Bible has Renteria dropping to -9 plays last year from -1 the year before, with his range going from average to a real problem. At 33, we wouldn’t expect Renteria to still be the same defender he was 10 years ago, so this shouldn’t be a huge surprise.

However, even if we project him as a -10 run defender at shortstop in 2009, his league average offense still makes him a +2 win player compared to a replacement level shortstop. Given a rumored price of $9 million per year for two years, the Giants are essentially paying $4.5 million per win on a short term deal, which is about what free agents were going for last winter.

For San Francisco, this isn’t a bad deal – they get a guy who should rebound and re-establish some value without any long term risk, and they fill a hole with an average player while waiting for the kids to develop.

This is also yet another sign that perhaps the 2009 market isn’t going to be a very good one for sellers, as we’ve seen no evidence of any price inflation in the transactions completed so far. The buyer’s market continues.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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15 years ago

Brian Sabean signing a free agent over the age of 30. It never fails
very few players reach free agency before age 30