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11.14.2004

Omar? Oh My. 

MONDAY A.M. UPDATE: the terms of Vizquel's contract, from today's Chron:

"Vizquel is the first free agent to change teams this offseason and will get $2.5 million in 2005, $4 million in 2006, $4 million in 2007 and deferred payments of $1 million in 2008 and $750,000 in 2009. When the Indians declined his $5 million option for 2005, making him a free agent, there was outrage in Cleveland, where he was a fan favorite."

Thoughts: Regardless of what you think of the length of the contract, $2.5 M in 2005 for a premiere defensive shortstop is outstanding. As Elbo likes to remind us, defense is the new OPS.

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Hot off the wires, ladies and germs: the Giants have signed Omar Vizquel to a 3-year, $12.25 million deal. Vizquel is only the second MLB player to sign as a free agent since the signing period began, meaning the Giants must have known from the get-go that Vizquel was their man and made an offer he couldn't refuse. No doubt the 37-year-old heard "three years" and grabbed for the nearest writing implement.

That's a long commitment for an old guy who plays a young man's position. Jeff Fletcher of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported in this morning's edition that the White Sox had offered Vizquel $10 million for two years, so it seems the Giants were willing to tack on the extra year to get their guy.

As for the money, the figure was given anonymously to the Associated Press. No word yet on how the cash will be broken down over the life of the contract.
The vitals on Vizquel:

Age: Turns 38 on April 24.
2004 stats: .291 BA / .353 OBP / .388 SLG
2004 stats vs LHP (190 ABs): .258 / .306 / .358
2004 stats vs RHP (377 ABs): .308 / .377 / .403

With a good knack for getting on base and enough speed to avoid a lot of double plays, Vizquel seems to slot nicely into the number-two lineup position behind Durham. He was especially effective last year versus righties, although don't expect much extra-base power from either side of the plate.

Don't expect a strict platoon split, either. For the last three years, Deivi Cruz has hit only marginally better against lefties than righties (that is to say, not well in either case), and actually hit worse against lefties in 2004.

On defense, Vizquel is a huge upgrade over Cruz, which Giants pitchers will no doubt love to hear. Anecdotal reports say he's lost a step over the years -- he's no Cabrera or Renteria, but still damn good.

I still remember the day the Giants signed Edgardo Alfonzo under similar circumstances: A proven veteran coming off a bounce-back year from an injury year, but with lingering doubts (in Alfonzo's case, about his health; in Vizquel's case, his age). I remember thinking, Wow, that's a lot of money and years for a guy with a bad back.

Thus the big question: is three years too much for Vizquel, a soon-to-be 38-year-old shortstop who will play out the last year of his contract at the age of 40? Vizquel was healthy in 2004 and turned in a solid if not spectacular offensive season. But he had the injury bug in 2003 and only played 64 games.

Why so willing to tack on the third year to keep him from the White Sox? Perhaps Sabean heard the first round of offers for Nomah, Renteria and Cabrera and realized his bank would be busted by pursuing one of them. Perhaps the contract is backloaded to 2007, i.e., post-Bonds, when the Giants have very little money committed.

What I think of this deal is based on how those dollars are structured and, like so much of last winter's maneuvers, on who else the Giants nab.

So welcome, Omar. May your glove be golden once again and your bat slap many balls gapward in your new spacious environs.

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