Giants Sign (Former) Five-Tool Talent

The Giants lost a Joaquin to the Nationals yesterday. Waldis Joaquin was designated for assignment about a month ago, so Washington just swooped in and signed him to a minor-league deal. Joaquin put up a 1.17 K/BB in 50 innings in Fresno. So the Giants did what any clever organization would do. They went out and got a better Joaquin: Joaquin Arias. Well…maybe he’s better.

Arias was once a five-tool talent. He was once a top-100 prospect. This one time, he was traded along with Alfonso Soriano for one of the greatest players of all time. That was all about seven and a half years ago, though.

More recently, he was traded straight-up for Jeff Francoeur. And that really says all you need to know about how he’s progressed in these past seven and a half years. Jeff Francoeur.

But Arias, interestingly enough, is still only 27 years old.

Here’s what I know about the Arias of Christmas Present, from an Amazin’ Avenue post that was written one year ago:

  • He’s probably not a major-league shortstop
  • He’s still got some speed
  • He doesn’t have much power
  • He can’t walk

Miguel Tejada hit .239/.270/.326 this year. Joaquin Arias hit .232/.272/.353. The only problem — aside, of course, from the fact that this is awful production — is that Arias put up those numbers in Triple-A.

The shine from his semi-elite prospect status has long worn off, but Arias remains one of the more intriguing signings the Giants have made in the past two offseasons. Unfortunately, that says more about the utter boredom that is an early 2010s Giants offseason than it does about Arias. At least he’s more interesting than, say, Jeff Suppan.

Two months ’til pitchers and catchers report…

Giants Re-sign Guillermo Mota

The Giants are bringing back Guillermo Mota. Which is cool, because it gives me a chance to step away for a second from the constant rosterbation.

Guillermo Mota is 38 years old. During his career, he’s played for seven different teams. In 2009, he was a Dodger. From 2002 to 2004, he spent time in a Dodgers uniform. There was a time when Mota was a truly dominant reliever; it didn’t last long, and it was nearly ten years ago, but it happened nonetheless. And it happened when he was a Dodger: in 2003, he posted a 205 ERA+ in 105.0 innings of relief. If you go by Baseball-Reference, Mota has been worth 4.4 wins above replacement in his 13 major-league seasons. All of it — and then some — came from his tenure as a Dodger from ’03 to ’04. Mota has bounced around from team to team in these last thirteen years, but before he signed with the Giants in 2010, he was as much a Dodger as anything else, carrying with him that intangible Dodgers aura.

After signing with the Giants in 2010, Mota appeared in 56 games. He wasn’t spectacular; he wasn’t even average: 4.33 ERA/3.86 FIP/4.57 xFIP, 91 ERA+. On October 28, 2010, at age 36, Mota made his first World Series appearance, tossing one scoreless inning. A few days later, he won his first ring.

This year, the Giants’ bullpen allowed 26 home runs. Mota accounted for ten of them. Home runs aside, Mota was solid: he struck out nearly a batter an inning (8.63/9), setting a career high in K/9. His xFIP, 3.63, was the lowest he’d posted since that dominant 2003 season, and it was one of the better marks on the team (lower than Brian Wilson, Javier Lopez, and Santiago Casilla). Twice this season — the Barry Zito foot injury, and the Madison Bumgarner disaster start — Mota went 4+ innings. He had never done that once before 2011. On August 3rd, Mota struck out six over two innings of relief, tying a career-high. It was the most strikeouts he’d tallied in a single game since — you guessed it — 2003.

Years from now, when you’re looking back at the first Giants team to win a championship in a decade, Guillermo Mota won’t be the first name to come to mind. Nor will he be the second. Or the third. There’s a chance that you won’t even remember him. But if you do, you’ll probably remember him with some modicum of fondness. Which is more than can be said for Jose Guillen. And if you go out and buy a Mota jersey, I won’t judge you.

ZiPS projects Mota for a 96 ERA+ over 60 innings, with a K/BB hovering around 2.00. He’ll be unspectacular. But he’ll be a cheap, usable arm out of the ‘pen.

Mike Fontenot agrees to one-year deal with the Giants

According to Ben Nicholson-Smith of MLB Trade Rumors, Mike Fontenot and the Giants have agreed to a one-year deal for 2012. This almost certainly guarantees that Jeff Keppinger will be non-tendered, as Brian Sabean had said that it would be one or the other. The Giants definitely made the right decision here: Fontenot is a solid defender at second, and he can play a passable third base/shortstop. His bat, though not particularly special, is pretty useful as well: he’s hit .263/.332/.406 (91 wRC+) over his career, and is coming off a decent season at the plate (.227/.304/.377, 87 wRC+). It might not seem like much, but he was worth one win above replacement in 85 games this year. Not bad for a bench guy. Additionally, as a left-handed hitter, he seems to complement Freddy Sanchez pretty well. Keppinger just wasn’t a good fit.

UPDATE: Confirmation — Fontenot has agreed to a one-year deal; Jeff Keppinger and Eli Whiteside have been non-tendered. The deal is for $1.05MM — very reasonable, and slightly less than I had anticipated.

Angel Pagan Trade Reaction

Well, hello there Angel Pagan, 30 years old, and not exactly coming off a good season. In 532 plate appearances, he hit .262/.322/.372 (99 wRC+), which is pretty respectable, but he seemed to have a bad year in the outfield: -14.3 UZR, -1 DRS, -19 TZ. Take it at face value, with all the usual small sample size defensive metric caveats, but the general consensus seems to be that he wasn’t good. That said, based on how great he rated in 2010 (+15 UZR, +7 DRS, +21 TZ), I’d expect that he’s capable of doing better than his 2011 metrics show. It’s not as simple as just averaging his two most recent seasons and assuming he’s a neutral defender, but I think he’s at least generally considered to be better defensively than Melky Cabrera.

It’s easy to look at the sub-.700 OPS from this season and be unsatisfied, but that’s the state of offense in major-league baseball at this point. That was average production in 2011. Assuming he does a decent-enough job with the glove, I could easily see him being an above-average player (Bill James, for the record, projects a .325 wOBA for Mr. Pagan).

What do the Giants lose? Well, for one, they lose a solid bullpen arm. Ramirez has never been anything flashy, but in his time with the Giants he put up good numbers: 95.2 IP, 178 ERA+, 2.07 ERA/3.14 FIP/3.90 xFIP. On one hand, I don’t think I’ll ever forget this. I mean, that pitch was right down the freakin’ middle. But Ramirez is a quality arm, even though the Giants’ bullpen can surely take the hit (hey there, Heath Hembree).

Andres Torres has left more of a mark in San Francisco. I’m sure I’ll expand on this later, but I’m going to miss Torres. A lot. From a statistical standpoint, he had quite a large impact on the Giants: take his seven wins away from the 2010 Giants, and there’s no championship. There’s no denying the steep dropoff in his performance, as his wOBA dipped below .300 in 2011. But he was valuable nonetheless, certainly enough so that he was worth tendering a contract. I’ve explained this repeatedly, but his value as an elite defensive outfielder with plus speed made him, at worst, a fourth outfielder going into next season. He’s getting a little old (in baseball terms, at least), and given his not-so-lengthy track record, I could understand the sentiment that he doesn’t warrant a starting job. And for the record, scouts hate his swing. But he’s raked to the tune of .269/.343/.492 since 2009, and I think he’s ultimately still a league-average player. And hey, for what it’s worth, Bill James still thinks Torres has something left in that bat.

In any event, was becoming increasingly clear that he had no place in the Giants’ 2012 plans. If the option was non-tender him or trade him, I’d obviously prefer the latter.

As a whole, I like the move. So long as it doesn’t push Brandon Belt out of a starting role (seriously, Bruce Bochy, please don’t do that). Angel Pagan is a better centerfielder than Melky Cabrera, and this move clearly improves the Giants’ lineup.

Farewell, Torres. Always underappreciated.

Giants re-sign Jose Flores, Craig Whitaker

The minor-league free agent deals continue, as the Giants have re-signed Jose Flores and Craig Whitaker (via the incredible resource that is Baseball America’s Minor League Free Agent Database).

Jose Flores, a 24-year-old switch-hitting third baseman, spent the year in both San Jose and Richmond, where he posted an underwhelming .217/.295/.301 line in 415 plate appearances.

Craig Whitaker, 27, was the Giants’ first-round pick back in 2003. He’s pitched in 193 career games in the minors to date, mostly out of relief. He’s averaged just over a strikeout per inning in his career, but the walk rate (6.2 BB/9) isn’t pretty. It doesn’t appear that he pitched at all in 2011.

Giants decline to offer arbitration to Cody Ross, Pat Burrell

Via John Shea:

No surprise, but #SFGiants are not offering arbitration to Pat Burrell and Cody Ross. Contractually, they can’t offer it to Carlos Beltran.

Burrell and Ross were both Type B free agents, and would have brought back compensatory draft picks had they declined arbitration then signed elsewhere. So…no comp picks. Burrell’s expected to retire, but Ross could still re-sign. Even with the Melky Cabrera acquisition, I could see the Giants bringing back Ross on a cheap-ish one-year deal. He does have interest in returning, but I’m sure he could find more playing time by signing with another team.

Giants’ 40-Man Roster Moves, Darren Ford and Waldis Joaquin Designated for Assignment

Well, the Giants have finally made their forty-man roster moves:

More to come…

Giants Sign Gregor Blanco

According to Matt Eddy of Baseball America, the Giants have signed minor-league free agent Gregor Blanco:

Octagon Baseball reports that its client CF Gregor Blanco signed with Giants. LH-hitting, 27-year-old CF coming off lost year in Triple-A.

Blanco hit .201 in 255 plate appearances…with a .350 OBP. He doesn’t have much power, but he’s consistently had strong on-base numbers. Over his minor-league career, he’s posted a 13% walk rate.

So far, he’s the second MiLB FA to sign with the Giants this season, joining the likes of Wilmin Rodriguez.