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Monday, January 11, 2010

Giants Add Aubrey Huff

In a low-risk, potentially high-reward attempt to add offense to their lineup, the Giants came to an agreement with free agent 1B/DH Aubrey Huff on Sunday. The deal will pay Huff in the neighborhood of $3 million to be their primary first basemen in 2010, after they failed to add their first choice, Adam LaRoche.

Now, Huff doesn't excite me like he would have had they added him 5-6 years back, but It's tough to argue with a potential 30-home run, 100 RBI guy coming in for just $3 million and 1 season. I sort of overlooked Huff this off-season, and didn't write about him at all, even though I probably should have seen something like this coming. I just really thought it would be LaRoche signing with the Giants, and when they had announced they were close to signing a left-handed bat a couple days ago, I figured it would be Adam LaRoche. I would have rather seen the Giants ink LaRoche too, but since his demands were exceeding his worth to the Giants, I see the logic in going with plan B. Huff will give the Giants almost everything LaRoche would have, without quite the defense and batting average. Huff struggled last year to the tune of .241 (avg), 15 (hr), 85 (RBI), .694 (OPS), despite putting up a career type year in '08 when he hit .304, 32, 108, .912. That line he put up in '08 was one of the best in the AL, and although I don't expect him to do that in San Francisco, it's pretty clear that he still has some solid baseball left in him.

The main concerns with Huff are his defense at first base and his dramatic drop-off in production last year. His sub-.700 OPS he put up last year raises some big red-flags, but each time I think about the potential negatives of his game, I remember that he's only being paid $3 million for 1 year and if it doesn't work out for some reason they can put him on the bench. Or if worst comes to worse, they can DFA him and only be out a couple million, but I really don't see it getting to that. I think Huff is going to have a nice rebound year, as he probably wants to prove he's worthy of another multi-year deal before he's done. He just turned 33 years old, so it's not like he's an old ballplayer quite yet, and that's what's giving me reason to believe he's got a couple good years left in him. Again, I would much rather have had Adam LaRoche at first for the Giants in '10, but since they would have had to overpay to get him, it's really tough to complain about the Aubrey Huff deal. And yes, to those of you in question, Huff is better than Ryan Garko.

Huff will arrive at camp atop the Giants' first base depth chart, but he also has the flexibility to play a few different places. Some are concerned about Huff needing to learn a new league, but he's not a complete stranger to the NL. He played with Houston for half of the '06 season and put up some nice numbers (13 hr, 38 RBI, .819 OPS in 224 ab's). I'd like to see him slotted into the fifth spot behind Pablo Sandoval, as he's the one Giant in the lineup who's got a 100-RBI season under his belt. That would place DeRosa in the three spot ahead of Sandoval creating a DeRosa-Sandoval-Huff middle of the order. Not exactly what I was hoping for when the offseason began, but probably the best trio they've had in these spots since 2004, as all 3 are capable of 20 hr, 80 RBI and a .800+ OPS. Huff's $3 million salary could enable the Giants to add another outfielder (Xavier Nady?) if there are still a bunch available heading into February, so they may not be done quite yet. They also could put that money towards a #5 starter like Erik Bedard.

Another positive about this Huff signing is that it will leave Pablo Sandoval at third base for the most part, optimizing his quick instincts, good hands and cannon arm. DeRosa will now shift to left field, which also means Eugenio Velez can move back to the utility role and doesn't need to be a starter. And unless Sabean goes out and adds another outfielder, which he certainly may do before the end of the offseason, it looks like Nate Schierholtz will be penciled in to start in right. Huff also has the ability to play the corner outfield spots, although AT&T Park doesn't have your typical right field set-up, which could help get Juan Uribe into the lineup. With Aubrey Huff, the Giants now have a guy who can find the water behind the right-field wall at AT&T Park on a semi-regular basis, something we haven't seen done much since Barry Bonds was around. I'm expecting something along the lines of a .270, 22 hr, 90 RBI, .800 OPS line from Huff in this lineup in 2010, and I'd say that would be well worth $3 million.
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22 Comments:

  • At 3:30 PM, Blogger King of Cali said…

    I like the signing. Not a big superstar bat, but he brings a lot of pop. Low-risk high reward with Huff.

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  • At 9:26 PM, Anonymous hitnrun said…

    Best thing to say about this signing is that at least they didn't overpay to get Huff. I would settle for your projected numbers (.270,22,90,.800) if this is what he puts up. I am hoping that he wants to prove he has a good year or two left in him, and that is the reason he signed for only one year at a surprisingly low amount. Are they even talking to Nady or anyone else?

     
  • At 11:35 PM, Blogger Trevor Cole said…

    Those projected numbers would be right in line with his career average, but AT&T is not kindest yard for left-handed power bats. However, if Ray Durham hit a career high 26 bombs in this park, then I think Huff can do it too.

    Money aside, I'd take the younger, more powerful, more athlectic and better defensive player in Adam LaRoche, but as I said in the post, Huff isn't that far off from LaRoche. And LaRoche is looking for 3 years with an annual $9-10 million salary, so Huff brings nearly the same production at a small fraction of the price. I bet both of them will be near each other in HR, RBI and OPS by season's end if both stay healthy and get 500 at-bats.

    HitNRun, I don't think they've had serious discussions with Boras about Nady, but I'm sure Sabean has at least inquired about him at some point in the off-season. My thinking is that if Nady stays free into February, maybe the Giants can swing a 1 year, $5 million deal for him, like the Angels did with Bobby Abreu last year.

     
  • At 10:40 PM, Anonymous J-Bill said…

    Yeah, it's good to see the Giants pay a veteran what he's actually worth, rather than double or triple their value. Last off-season, Sabean would have probably given Huff a 3 year, 35 million dollar deal or something. Don't love the player, but hard to disagree with the signing judged by their needs and what was available.

     
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  • At 7:54 PM, Anonymous Tmill42 said…

    I wouldn't recommend sending Huff out to RF. Like you said, AT&T Park has an eclectic setup. It's very spacious and Huff (in addition to not having played the position since 2006) is one of the slowest players in the majors. Like you said, the Giants re-signed Uribe to play that super-utility role.


    However, I don't think the Giants have improved their offense enough to compete with the Rockies for the division title, which is probably Colorado's to lose at this point.

     
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