Posted By Jeff Fletcher on May 26, 2009 9:09 pm
Today at FanHouse I have a story on Russell Branyan. In case you didn’t notice, Branyan is having a great year for the Mariners. The big first baseman is hitting .305 with 10 homers, and a .988 OPS.
How does this apply to the Giants? Because Branyan is the exact type of guy the Giants never get. He was sitting on the free agent market, ready to go to Japan, when the Mariners came in and signed him for a mere $1.4 million.
The point is that you don’t always need to sign a big name to get big production. You just have to out-evaluate the other GMs. Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik (who had seen Branyan when both were Brewers employees) obviously saw something in Branyan that no one else did.
One of the ways that GMs score big is when they pick someone up off the scrap heap and hit the jackpot, like the A’s did with Frank Thomas in 2006, or the White Sox did with Carlos Quentin last year. When was the last time the Giants got more than their money’s worth out of someone they acquired, either via trade or free agency?
You probably have to go back to Benito Santiago, signed for a bucket of balls in the spring of 2001.
Invariably, the Giants have done the opposite. They grab someone who is maybe a year or two past the peak of his career, and overpay to ride him downhill (see Morris, Matt; or Alfonzo, Edgardo). They’ve tried some reclamation projects, like Edgar Renteria and Randy Johnson this year, but they have still managed to pay full price, so there wasn’t much financial upside. At best, they’d get what they paid for.
The way to build a team is to concentrate on the guys at either end of the payroll spectrum. You need big money superstars or cheap guys, either those still under salary control or veterans signed to discount deals. The guys in the middle, all those 32- to 36-year-olds making $5 to $9 million, will get you into trouble more often than not.
The Giants would be better off signing nine Benito Santiagos for $1 mil apiece than one Edgar Renteria for $9 million.