In a move that might be called "Brandon Crawford insurance" the Giants announced today they will sign free agent shortstop Ryan Theriot to a one year deal for a reported $1.25m, with $.750 in incentives (see the story at MLBTrade Rumors.com). Theriot played in 132 games last year for the St. Louis Cardinals, putting up 120 hits, a .271BA and a .321OBP. He played 91 games at shortstop and 35 games at second base.
The 32 year old Theriot lost his starting job in St. Louis in mid-season 2011 when the Cardinals traded for Los Angeles Dodgers' shortstop Rafael Furcal, who helped lead the Cards to a World Series Championship. Theriot had some at bats during the 2011 Series at second base. In December, St. Louis re-signed Furcal through 2013, cutting ties with Theriot.
The speculation continues about how frustrated Giant starters might be over the team's chronic lack of run support... but there is little doubt they have been exasperated by having a series of over-the-hill players with little range covering the middle of the infield behind them.
Ryan Theriot has virtually no power and his increasing lack of range should keep him on the bench strictly as a back-up and emergency starter for the Giants. And picking up a non-starting marginal player simply because he hits lefties fairly well seems like poor use of a roster spot-- I would rather see a designated speedster along the lines of a Darren Ford available from the bench.
The San Francisco front office is obviously hedging on handing over the starting shortstop job to defensive phenom Brandon Crawford, who hit .204 in 66 games last season. No doubt the team is hoping Theriot will push Crawford at the plate in Spring Training.
What has been crystal clear the past several seasons is that the Giants' starting pitching cannot struggle to win games with both a lack of run-scoring offense at the plate and a lack of run stopping defense in the infield. Whether Brandon Crawford hits .220 or .260 is truly irrelevant: his glove and range are desperately needed to back-up Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong and the 2012 drive to make the NL playoffs.
While the speculation continues about just how frustrated Giant starters might be over the team's chronic lack of run support, there is little doubt they have been exasperated by having a series of over-the-hill players with little range, like Miguel Tejada, Bill Hall, Orlando Cabrera, and Edgar Renteria, covering the middle of the infield behind them. (Although I still argue that Renteria's Game 5 home run against Texas to win the 2010 World Series more than made up for his ridiculous $19m contract and two years of butchering plays at short.)
If all goes well, Brandon Crawford will be the 2012 Opening Day shortstop and the Giants will have in Ryan Theriot a valuable mid-season trading chip should any team be in need of a veteran shortstop.