ObsessiveGiantsCompulsive wrote a great article a week ago about the “Big 6” issues/questions facing the returning champs this spring. I would recommend that post if you are looking for a run down of what to watch for during the next month.
I think the Giants have all the right kinds of questions this spring: can so and so bounce back? how will the pitchers hold up this year? who will lock down left field? who will be last man in the bullpen? Interesting questions and important in their own right (especially in regards to the pitchers), but nothing earth shattering or riveting.
Look at some of the other playoff teams from last year and you will some major story lines: The Yankees and Jeter. The Yankees and The Rotation. The Rays and Rebuilding (and Manny). The Rangers and the Michael Young Fiasco. The Phillies and Cliff Lee. The Braves and the First Year After Bobby Cox.
The Giants? Well, Brian Wilson did some weird stuff, and there are too many guys for the outfield, and Tim Lincecum had a mustache for a day or two, and Pablo Sandoval lost of bunch of weight, and Mat Latos wrote some dumb stuff on a baseball, and Bochy made a speech, and how boring is this? Hey, wait, there are too many guys in the outfield?
I wrote a few weeks ago about Barry Zito and how now might be the best time to trade him (hello Yankees), but, ironically, this might be the year the Giants need Zito more than ever. Aaron Rowand is the other atrocious contract the Giants carry at this point, and while the length of Zito’s will always be the trump card, I think there is a compelling case to be made that Rowand has the worst contract in SF Giants’ history.
Which is why, in the big picture, Aaron Rowand is the biggest/most interesting story of the spring…mostly because he’s been such a non-story. Since when does a guy earning 10% of the payroll (the best paid position player on the team) become so invisible?
A quick examination of the outfield candidates reveals that he is the most unnecessary player on the roster. You want a leadoff hitter: Andres Torres. You want an excellent defensive center fielder: Andres Torres. You want some right-handed power: Pat Burrell (or Cody Ross). You want versatility and a nice late-inning replacement for defense: hello, Nate Schierholtz. You want a guy who can play multiple positions: hey there Cody Ross, Andres Torres, Nate Schierholtz, Mark DeRosa, and even Aubrey Huff! Right handed Pinch Hitter: again, Pat the Bat. There is no category I can think of where I would place Rowand at the top of the list.
Nothing I’m saying here is new, but I think the Rowand situation highlights how low-key things are around the Giants right now. Really, this should be a bigger story. I actually think Rowand could help a major league team out in an everyday role, but it’s just not the Giants. Has there ever been a more expensive 5th or 6th outfielder in ML history?
The Giants are paying Zito way too much money to be a 5th starter, but that’s still a legitimate role and he helps the team in a significant way. But the Giants are going to be paying Rowand a ludicrous sum to sit on the bench.
Bochy made a mildly controversial statement about there being no guaruntee that Torres starts the season as the CF, but come on, who’s kidding who here?
This spring everyone will say all the right things and it will be nice and politically correct and Rowand seems to be handling it well, But come May when he has 16 At-Bats and he’s buried on the end of the bench behind Burrell, Ross, DeRosa, Huff, et al. how nice will he be then?
I don’t have any good solutions (I could propose a few fantastical trade ideas), but I do think this will become a serious issue at some point. Last season it was easy to swallow in the name of “doing what’s best for the team,” but in the first half of 2011, before the pennant picture clears up, something will go down and it will probably be ugly. Even if Rowand is cool about it, how do you justify 20 million dollars rotting away in the corner of the dugout.
No idea how this ends up: could be a trade, could be the Giants’ swallowing a huge chunk of change, but my gut tells me it won’t end well.