The topic of the outfield is an entirely different discussion in itself, so for now, we’ll look at the shortstop options starting with the in-house route of Brandon Crawford.
Clearly, Crawford wont ever be known for his bat and running him out as the starting 2012 SS is risky, but, a total possibility given the current market and strapped finances. For all of Crawford’s offensive inefficiencies, the glove is most certainly Major League caliber. There are plenty of worse overall starting shortstops in the league and sad as it sounds, the Giants could do much worse than Crawford. Much like an inept offensive catcher, if they can anchor their defensive spot, sometimes the offensive shortcomings are worth it.
Outside of Brandon Crawford, there are a handful of potential other shortstops – some more elite than the others, like a Jose Reyes, but the Giants simply don’t have the funds to commit, so Reyes isn’t even a realistic option. Players that are however would be: Jimmy Rollins, Rafael Furcal, Marco Scutaro or Alex Gonzalez. Of course, like any player, they all have issues that could present problems for the Giants.
In Rollins’ case, you simply run into overpaying a guy who feels deserving of a lengthy contract at a questionable age. You worry about his declining speed and defense, all the while essentially eating two or three years of a bad contract on the back end of his deal. Given the fact he’s the best available SS on the market past Jose Reyes, he wont be coming at a discounted price, so it essentially comes down to risk/reward with Rollins – and it’s an expensive risk.
With Furcal, you run into multiple issues: age, injury and money. With his play late in the season (and during the current Cardinals playoff run), Furcal has done little to lower his price for 2012. Combine that with the considerable injury risk he presents and his age, you’re going to be playing Brandon Crawford for extended periods at some point anyway.
Moving on, we look at Marco Scutaro who technically isn’t a free agent yet, as the Boston Red Sox currently hold an team option – but given Jed Lowrie and Jose Iglesias are waiting for full time gigs, the Sahx could deem the solid hitting infielder expendable. Unfortunately for the Giants, you run into a reverse Brandon Crawford situation with Scutaro, a shortstop that can hit but is average in the field with much less range than you’d get from the Giants current slick fielding SS.
One of my personal favorites (if I HAD to have one) for the Giants SS hole is current Los Angeles
Retracted, Jamey Carroll. Range, he doesn’t have, but the balls Carroll gets to – he usually makes plays on. Hitting for average? Not a problem. Hitting for anything else? Not going to happen. In a desperate situation, Carroll could be put in the lead-off spot and should come relatively cheap.
For the final option, we look at current Atlanta Braves shortstop Alex Gonzalez. Gonzalez is regarded as one of, if not the best defensive SS’s on the market, shouldn’t command a long term deal, is a financially feasible option and hits for decent power. Of course, he has a horrific .291 career OBP% and a very sub-par .247 career average. You really have to wonder if Brandon Crawford couldn’t put up a season line of .235/12/55 – a somewhat similar slash you’d expect out of Gonzalez.
So – with all of that said, we’ve learned what here? If you said that the shortstop options all have their respective issues and we’ll all be pleasantly unhappy with whatever the Giants do, you win!