Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Belt Dilemma

Yesterday's post on the Bay Areas Sport's Guy's blog got me thinking.  

If Brandon Belt breaks camp with the big club.  Who is the most likely to be the odd man out?

As BASG points out:  It's really down to four guys.  Pat Burrell, Aaron Rowand, Nate Schierholtz, and Travis Ishikawa.

Now let's face it, my man crush on Nate aside, none of these guys is gonna be the Giants' MVP this season.  Most likely, barring injury to a starter, they would all be coming off the bench if Belt is on the team.  There is no way the Giants are going to bring him up to sit on the bench.  So first off, the Giants have to be sure he will outperform any of these guys.

Also as BASG pointed out, two of these guys would most likely be gone.

Aaron Rowand is easily the fan's favorite to be let go.  But can the Giants management admit it's mistake with him in such an expensive fashion?  The Giants already showed they are willing to put the needs of the team in front of the dollars on the contract when they sat Barry Zito during last year's World Series run.  So I don't think pride is an issue with them.  The real question is does Rowand contribute anything to this team?  (Being a gamer doesn't count because all of these guys can be considered gamers.)    I have heard talk of the Giants trying to boost his trade value this spring by having him play left field but his .207 BA this spring have caused that experiment to be a total failure.

Pat Burrell doesn't really belong on this list.  The only reason he is on here is because his $1 million salary makes more fiscal sense to eat than Rowand's millions and millions ($13.6 million according to Cot's baseball contracts).  However, it is likely that the Giants don't make the world series last season, or probably even the playoffs for that matter without some timely homers down the stretch from Pat "the Bat".  Besides, who would the Giants fall back on if Belt struggles in the show?  Aaron Rowand?

Travis Ishikawa is the most likely guy to not make the club out of this bunch whether Belt gets called up or not.  The Giants have a lot of options to play first and his .219 spring may be signalling that Ishi could benefit from a change of scenery.  I would hope the Giants could trade him rather than release him since his glove is so good and he does have some power potential (really only some like 15 or so HRs if he were to start).  But his inability to put it together up until this point and his horrid spring make a DFA his most likely option.

Last, but not least.  Nate Schierholtz.  In the past, I have made no bones about my thoughts on Nate's potential.  He is easily the best defender out of the bunch (probably second best on the team behind Torres) and he has shown flashes of competence at the plate.  This spring, he is third behind Posey and Huff with a .342 spring batting average and he had 3 hits in yesterday's win over the White Sox.  Impressive for a guy who is battling for his job.  He did have some clutch hits and plays down the stretch last season too.  plus, I think a right fielder is more valuable as a late inning defensive replacement than a first basemen.  Especially when you consider the drop in offensive production from Ross to Nate would not be as big as from Huff to Ishikawa.  

If I was a betting man, I would bet on Rowand and Ishi being gone if Belt makes the club.  But the Giants do have the option of letting Belt start the season in AAA to decide if they are going to keep Rowand around a little longer.  I don't think that will be a popular decision but if it buys time for a trade, then it may be a good option.  If it doesn't and they have to release Rowand, then it will be a mistake.  Ishi is pretty much a goner after spring training even if Belt starts the season in Fresno.

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