2005 Giants Pre-Preview: Third Base 

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

The incumbents

Edgardo Alfonzo
Age: Turned 31 on Nov. 8
relevant stats
*2004 innings played at 3B: 1081 (122 games)
*career OPS: .798
*2004 OPS: .757 (11 HRs, 26 doubles, 46 BBs, in 519 ABs)
*2005 salary: $7.5 million

Pedro Feliz

Age: Turns 30 on Apr. 27
relevant stats
*lifetime 216 K/49 BB
*2004 innings played at 3B: 339 (51 games)
*career OPS: .736
*2004 OPS: .790 (22 HR, 84 RBI, .305 OBP, .485 SLG, 33 doubles, 23 BBs in 503 ABs)
*2005 salary: arbitration eligible, estimated $2 M

Free agent third basemen
Glaus, Beltre, Randa, Koskie, Batista.

In the minors
Cervenak, Dallimore, Niekro (primarily a 1B)


El Lefty:

One number stands out: 7.5. It is not only the number of seconds it takes Edgardo Alfonzo to take three steps left as the ball bounces through into left field, it is also the millions of dollars he is due in 2005. That's a lot of seconds. That's a lot of millions.

When the Giants signed Fonzie, we (meaning me and anyone who cared enough to listen to me) agreed that it would be great if he could approach those halcyon Shea days in 1999-2000, days of playing every day, days of hitting lots of home runs and putting up numbers like this line from 2000 -- .324 AVG / .425 OBP / .542 SLG -- days of actually looking young and spry in the field, days before....

The Back Injury.

Alfonzo is no longer a power threat unless you hang an off-speed pitch, and he moves stiffly in the field. The big danger signing him was that his back wasn't fully healed, but according to this classic blow-by-blow account of the December 2002 negotiations, the Red Sox and Padres were also willing to take the plunge. But did the Giants agree not to make Alfonzo submit to a physical? If the report is true, that may be Brian Sabean's worst legacy as Giants' GM. Worse than Neifi's contract. Worse than the weird "we-don't-need-no-stinkin'-draft-picks" philosophy. Worse than...Got any other candidates?

Now the Giants find themselves with $15 million more to pay Fonzie in 2005-06, which makes him hard to trade. But believe you me, Sabean will try. No doubt whenever a GM calls to inquire about Matt Cain (or Merkin Valdez or David Aardsma), Sabean and Coletti are instructed to say, "Would you like a hot heaping helping of Fonzie with that? No? How about a side of Rueter Slaw? Chef's special! No? Well, sorry, we seem to be all out of Cain today."

At least the Giants didn't sign Jason Giambi.

If they trade Alfonzo, Feliz will play everyday at third base. But that leaves us wondering who will play first base against lefties? Hopefully not J.T. Snow. His resurgence last year took place after his bum knee was scoped, but no doubt a strict left-right platoon helped, too. In the trade-Alfonzo scenario, the Giants need to make sure they have a proven masher of lefties to back up Snow and not take up much room on the payroll.

Elbo adds:

If the A’s could unload Terrence Long last winter, anything’s possible, but I expect to see more of the Fonz at 3B throughout the coming season and into 2006. If the Giants are out of the race, I could see a contending team adding him as a bench player and veteran pinch hitter for the stretch drive, but that’s about it.

I’ve defended Alfonzo more than I’ve jeered him, but it’s time for me to admit that his contract is near-catastrophic. But the alternative -- more Pedro -- is just as unsatisfying.


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