After hitting .227/.304/.377 in 252 plate appearances (85 games) this season, Mike Fontenot enters his third year of arbitration eligibility. Though the numbers — particularly the low batting average — don’t exactly jump off the page, he was quietly a solid producer at the plate. His walk rate (9.9%) was a notch above league average, and though he’s not much of a power hitter, he hit the ball with astonishing authority (44% of his hits going for extra bases). Despite missing 40+ games due to a groin strain and otherwise receiving limited playing time, Fontenot was good for roughly one win above replacement (by both rWAR and fWAR).
Oddly enough, Fontenot — primarily a second baseman — spent the majority of his time at shortstop this season. He’s nothing special defensively — whether at second, short, or third, but he did demonstrate that he’s serviceable at both middle-infield positions (and even third base in a grind). Going by FRAA, he’s mostly been an average defender over his career, and it’s reasonable to expect him to more-or-less provide that quality of fielding in the near future (though he’s clearly not an ideal defensive shortstop).
Fontenot signed a one-year $1MM deal in his first year of arbitration-eligibility, and signed for a nearly identical amount last season (one year, $1.05MM). This offseason, he projects to earn a slight increase, though he’ll still — in all likelihood — go for under $2MM. Beyond Brandon Crawford (not yet arb-eligible) and Freddy Sanchez (under contract for 2012), the Giants have little infield depth. As a left-handed hitter, Fontenot complements Sanchez (career .707 OPS v. RHPs) well, and his versatility makes him a useful bench guy.
Though the Giants are probably thinking about non-tendering him, it’s in their best interest to retain him — especially considering the cheap price tag. He’s hit .263/.332/.406 (92 wRC+) over his career, and that kind of production (particularly from a left-handed middle infielder like Fontenot) is inherently valuable.