Center of Attention 

Old friend Jose Cruz, Jr. just got traded to the Az-Backs to take over center field. Jeromy Burnitz is taking $5 million to patrol the Friendly Confines. Those moves remove one team, Arizona, that's been begging for help in center; they also remove the only remaining free agent who was considered starting CF material (by some, at least).

So what are the Giants' prospects of upgrading defensively in CF without sacrificing any offense? They have two main options, it seems:

1) Trade Marquis Grissom and young pitching for an everyday centerfielder who won't break the bank and will be with the team for a few years as the defensive anchor.

I've lobbied strongly for this, and Vernon Wells remains at the top of my wish list: 25 years old, with great power potential and good defense. Last year he was hobbled with injury and still clocked in as the second-best MLB CF for zone rating, and the 8th best in range factor (ahead of Mark Kotsay, Torii Hunter and Grip). However, he rates right about average according to BP's fielding stats. No matter how you rate him, he's a big upgrade over Grip. He would also require giving up a lot, but that's what prospects are for. Matt Cain has never thrown a pitch above AA; Vernon Wells hit .317/.359/.550 with 33 home runs as a 24-year-old, and he's likely to do it again.

As others have advocated, Mike Cameron would certainly fill the Giants' defensive needs. But I seriously doubt they'll take on his contract -- nearly $15 million for '05/'06 -- even if they can shed Grip's $2m contract in the deal. And Cameron doesn't have Wells' offensive upside.

Dark-horse candidates: Wily Mo Pena. Milton Bradley.

2) Keep Marquis to start against lefties, and bring in a good defender who could platoon against righties.

Not my first choice, but far more likely if I were to bet on the Giants' proclivities. So who's out there (besides Tom Goodwin) that fits this bill?

Jeff daVanon, Anaheim
Very respectable numbers as a backup the past three years, and even better from the left side: .279/.360/.436.

He won't embarrass himself from the right side, either, in case managers pull a bullpen switch on him. His defense? In 2004, his range factor was better than Cameron, Beltran, A. Jones...in about one-fifth the innings played. His zone rating wasn't as good. BP rated him slightly below average for 2004, but slightly above average for his career. Either way, a big improvement over a full-time Grip.

Randy Winn, Seattle

Scanning Winn's stats and the $3.75 m he's due next year and in '06, I suddenly think he's a lot better than he's often credited for. First, he's remarkably consistent. The past three years (Tampa Bay, Seattle, Seattle), he's slightly better as a righty, but not by much (.813 OPS vs .778 OPS). Home OPS .773; road OPS .803. The difference is mostly in his slugging %. Safeco was the pitcher-friendliest stadium last year. Winn may even qualify as a replacement for Grip. Less power, but more on-base potential, and much better defense.

David DeJesus, KC

Groomed as Beltran's heir apparent, DeJesus didn't overwhelm anyone in '04 when he took over. Could he be pried from the Royals for good young pitching? Would it be worth the risk to the Giants, who need someone who will produce this year? I'd say not.

The third option, of course, is to stay as-is, with Michael Tucker as the fourth outfielder and one of the aging farmhands Torcato, Ellison and Linden as the fifth. None of the three inspires much confidence.


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