According to Ken Rosenthal, the Giants are one of three teams to have interest in Jerry Hairston. The utility man started the 2011 season with the Nationals before being traded to Milwaukee, where he took over third base duties for Casey McGehee. Hairston’s most valuable asset is his versatility, as UZR sees him as an above-average defender in the middle infield or the outfield. Although he was essentially a league average hitter in 2011, he is the owner of a career .258/.326/.371 slash line, which is why most teams have used him in a super utility role.
In a best-case scenario, Hairston represents a decent upgrade at shortstop in 2012. Bill James sees him putting up a .254/.323/.369 line next year, which is certainly better than the .232/.297/.340 line he sees for Brandon Crawford. Unfortunately for the Giants, Hairston has demonstrated reverse splits over his career, so it’s hard to envision him in a platoon role. If the front office is truly intent on pursuing him, it is because they see him as a viable starter. Hairston isn’t an ideal candidate, but sadly, he’s one of the better options remaining. In the past two years, he’s put up 3 WAR in 239 games, so it’s reasonable to project him for a respectable 2 WAR over a full season.
As Rosenthal notes, the demand for middle infielders has been remarkably high this offseason. Even marginal players such as John McDonald and Willie Bloomquist have signed two-year contracts, making it extremely hard to justify not giving Hairston a similar deal. The “financially constrained” Giants will have to evaluate if it is worth paying a veteran millions of dollars to be a slight improvement over a player making close to league minimum. In terms of players who have already signed, Hairston probably fits somewhere between the aforementioned Bloomquist, who signed for 2 years, $3.8MM, and Jamey Carroll, who signed for 2 years, $6.75MM.
If it wasn’t already clear, I’m in favor of the Giants signing Hairston for something around 2 years, $5MM. Aside from Reyes, Rollins, and Furcal, there just aren’t that many quality shortstop options out there. I love Crawford’s glove, but the Giants have no Plan B if his bat wilts, and the last time that happened, Brian Sabean traded for Orlando Cabrera. Even though the last two-year deal to a utility guy (Mark DeRosa) didn’t work out so well, the good thing about Hairston is that his presence won’t prevent the Giants from going after a legitimate shortstop.