Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Sabean Strategy

Jon of Dodger Thoughts links to Bob Nightengale's latest piece. The sidebar for the column mentioned a rumored trade that would send Jason Kendall to the A's and then to the Dodgers, which I suppose was nice to see. But Nightengale's main claims about the Giants, particularly their interest in Steve Finley, are more intriguing.

When the Dodgers traded for Finley, I thought the move would be a strong one if Finley was platooned, with Jayson Werth playing in his stead against southpaws. As a lefty, he has substantial platoon splits but over the course of his career has always been an everyday player. Often, that's been pretty reasonable, because he's remained a decent hitter against LHP, especially in slugging, but he also contributes a lot of outs against southpaws. As it turns out, the Dodgers abundance in left-handed hitters with sizable platoon splits after the trading deadline made platooning Finley a non-option, and I suspect Finley's pride may have had something to do with it as well.

But the Giants are a different story. In my semi-defense of the Vizquel signing, I argued that the Giants were getting a commodity that would likely be undervalued because of platoon splits. What I wondered about but, for whatever reason, neglected to mention was that the signing would be a terrible one if the Giants didn't consult with Vizquel about his usage patterns before inking the contract-- did they ask him if he'd be willing to sit or move to 8th in the lineup on days when southpaws were on the mound? If Sabean didn't do that, then I agree with Mike Carminati that Sabean is "nuts."

The same should be done with Steve Finley. Finley's old and, despite the ridiculous Gold Glove voting, no longer even average defensively. But against RHP, Finley hit .282/.342/.507 last year and .290/.364/.502 over the last three years. Put that together with Marquis Grissom, whose RHP line was .266/.311/.404 in 2004 and .272/.303/.414 from 2002-2004 but whose LHP line was .315/.356/.577 in 2004 and .325/.369/.616 from 2002-2004, and you've got tremendous offensive production from centerfield, although no one's going to be too happy about the defense.

I can't say I agree with Sabean's overall strategy of consigning the future by signing an endless string of aged/aging free agents (especially his doing so when it costs the team a first-round draft pick), but if his signing of Vizquel and rumored pursuit of Finley are for the right reasons at least he's using reasonable tactics within that strategy. The 2007 Giants will almost certainly be terrible, but given the likelihood Bonds won't be around by then didn't we already know that?

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