2005 Giants Pre-Preview: Shortstop 

(Fourth in a series. Other positions: Second base. First base. Catcher.)

The incumbents

Deivi Cruz
Age: Turned 32 on Nov. 6
relevant stats
*2004 innings played: 800 (104 games)
*Career OPS: .682
*2004 OPS: .753 (7 HRs, 30 doubles, 17 BBs)
*2005 salary: $800,000, plus potential incentives

Free agent shortstops
Cabrera, Renteria, Garciaparra, Vizquel, Larkin, Reese, Valentin, Guzman, Chris Gomez, R. Martinez, Clayton, Vizcaino, Counsell, Aurilia, A. Gonzalez (the ex-Cub).

In the minors
Cody "Don't pay the" Ransom, "It just encourages more hostage-taking."


El Lefty:

Not long ago, Deivi Cruz was only mentionable in the same breath with Neifi Perez, usually when answering the question, "Which everyday players have the worst OPS in the majors?" N-F and D-V were often in the bottom five. But in 2004 he rose from the scrap heap to post what was nearly his best offensive year ever.

Be aware, though, that he only played about two-thirds of a season. You can read that in two ways: 1) with a larger sample size he would have sunk to his usual Deiviness of sub-.300 OBP and sub-.400 SLG; or 2) over a full season he would have posted career highs in home runs and walks.

His defense? Well, he makes the plays he gets to. But you know it's bad when Felipe Alou, who prefers not to air complaints through the media, admits to the press that Deivi's range is limited.

Now he's signed for next year, at a price that, if it bought a season's worth of his 2004 offensive numbers, would be a bargain indeed.

But no one's really counting on that. Giants' fans are expecting that one of the first few names from the free agent list above will soon be stitched onto a gray uniform with black and orange trim. Early sentiment seems to be leaning toward Cabrera, perhaps because of the aura of the Red Sox World Series victory and Cabrera's ties to Felipe via the Expos. He'll never be an offensive powerhouse, but he's capable of 15 HRs, a decent OBP, and lots of doubles. Add that to what's generally considered a fine glove, and you've got a shortstop likely to demand $7-8 million a year. (He made $6 million in 2004.) But with a lot of shortstops on the market this year, it's possible that Cabrera may not get what he asks for.

With all the free agent speculation at shortstop, no one's said much about trade possibilities. Looking at the list of everyone who played SS in 2004, I'll throw a couple names into the mix:

Jimmy Rollins: the Phils seem perpetually disappointed with J-Roll, especially as a leadoff hitter, but he seems to have put it back together this year with a Ray Durham-ish line of .289/.348/.455, including 14 HRs, 43 doubles, 12 triples and 30 of 39 stolen bases.

Michael Young: The Rangers certainly weren't disappointed with Young, who had a great year taking over for A-Rod at short. He's not as young as Rollins -- 28 compared to 25 -- so the question is whether 2004 was his high-water mark, and whether he's a cornerstone to build around. Because of his age, the Rangers' asking price may not be sky-high.

Either of these guys, or perhaps Russ Adams, only 24 and anointed the Blue Jays' starter next year, could probably be pried away for a blue-chip pitcher. The Rangers in particular can afford to part with Young, given all the other offense on that team. An offer of a potential top-of-rotation starter may be just what the Rangers need. Look for the Giants to trade Matt Cain or Merkin Valdez, if not for a shortstop then in some other unexpected deal, a la the Pierzynski trade last winter.

El Lefty recommends:

If the Giants go the free agent route, don't overpay. Garciaparra is an injury-riddled decline waiting to happen; Renteria is incredibly solid but not a $8-10 M a year guy, and Cabrera is a great supporting actor, not a starring role.

Instead, go get Jimmy Rollins. He's young, he's fast, he's from Oaktown, he's got some flash to his game, and he'd be the Giants shortstop and leadoff hitter for years to come. Trade Jerome Williams. The Phillies are likely to lose Eric Milton and Kevin Millwood, which leaves Randy Wolf, Vicente Padilla and Brett Myers as their rotation anchors. If they don't want Jerome, ask if they want Matt Cain or Merkin Valdez. (Hey, how about Brett Tomko!) Whatever the case, come up with a combo that they want.

Elbo adds:

Well whaddaya know – a quick peek at Deivi Cruz’s and Orlando Cabrera’s player cards at Baseball-Reference.com reveals that each is the most similar player to the other. How about that! (Second most similar to Cruz? Neifi Perez, of course.)

Deivi Cruz isn’t really anyone’s favorite Giant, but he got the job done this year. He did produce 30 doubles –- most of them down the left field line, as I recall -– but only 7 homers, after muscling 14 longballs for Baltimore in 2003. Those doubles kept his SLG out of the toilet, and contributed to his sort-of-respectable .322 OBP. But I doubt he was anyone’s favorite Oriole after posting an abysmal .269 OBP in ought-three, and the chances of him regressing to that territory are probably greater than or equal to his chances of repeating his modest successes in 2004.

I’d love to have Jimmy Rollins on the team, but it’s hard to imagine the Phillies dealing a 26-year-old shortstop for whom they have no replacement. I think the Rangers absolutely love Michael Young, and I really doubt they’ll move him.

As for O-Cab, will he really make $8 million this year? The Red Sox Mystique (!) notwithstanding, I think almost everyone thought he was overpaid at $6 million this year, despite being due a raise following his very solid 2003 campaign. Still, you’d have to commit to a multi-year deal to get him, and I’m afraid the risks are just a little too high for me to be comfortable with that.

Shortstop may be one position where the Giants elect to save, save, save their money, and stick with Cruz for less than $1 million. I can’t say I’d blame them if they did.


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