Now, that the Giants have secured Aubrey Huff to a new two-year contract, the next hole to fill on the roster is a starting shortstop.
Giants general manager Brian Sabean said talks with the agent of Juan Uribe are “active,” but also added the two sides were not “talking the same language yet, as far as ballpark figures.”
Translation? The Uribe camp wants more years and/or dollars than the Giants are willing to offer. At least, for now.
So now Uribe is looking to see what other teams will offer.
To date, the Cardinals have appeared to be the more aggressive suitors for Uribe. The Astros and Dodgers are also rumored to have interest, and we’d expect the Padres to get involved.
The Dodgers’ interest is curious. They have SS Rafael Furcal under contract for $12 million for 2011. 3B Casey Blake is on the hook for more than $5 million. But they could have a place for Uribe at 2B if they opt to non-tender Ryan Theriot.
So if the Giants don’t re-sign Uribe, what are the other options at SS?
A TRADE: The Giants have been linked to players who might be available via trade — the Royals’ Yuniesky Betancourt, the Rays’ Jason Bartlett and the Red Sox’s Marco Scutaro. If the Giants are going to replace Uribe with a player with lesser offensive skills (and all three would fit that bill), then at least you would hope the Giants would get a player with better defensive skills. According to FanGraphs UZR ratings (ultimate zone ratings) for defense, all three players rate below Uribe for defense. In fact, Betancourt ranked 62nd and Bartlett was 64th in UZR for the 64 shortstops with more than 100 innings at the position in 2010. These aren’t players worth trading for. The Giants also have been linked with trade talk involving Arizona’s Stephen Drew and the Mets’ Jose Reyes. First, these teams aren’t trading these players. And if by some unforseen change of heart, if these teams did shop these players, the price for them would be out of the Giants’ price range for talent. In other words, forget about Drew or Reyes.
IN-FRANCHISE OPTIONS: The Giants have Emmanuel Burriss, Ryan Rohlinger and Brandon Crawford as shortstops in the organization. Burriss was the opening day 2B for the Giants in 2009. But first he struggled to hit, then had his season ended by a midseason foot injury. He re-injured the foot last spring and did not return to playing until late in the 2010 season. So he enters the 2011 season on, forgive the pun, on uneven footing. Rohlinger has been up for a cup of coffee in each of the past three seasons and never hit better than .200. He did .311 for Triple-A Fresno in 2010. Crawford is said to have a major-league glove, but his bat is lagging. He hit .236 between Class A and AA in 2010. None inspire confidence.
FREE AGENTS: The class of shorstops is lean this offseason. Among the free agents with a better UZR ranking than Uribe are Cesar Izturis (10th), Jerry Hairston Jr. (15th) and Orlando Cabrera (18th). Uribe ranks (23rd). The Giants are also said to have interest in Miguel Tejada, who opened the season playing 3B for Baltimore and finished it playing SS for San Diego. At 36 with dimishing defensive skills, Tejada should only be a late alternative. And while we’re at it, can we forget about Derek Jeter? There’s a lot of posturing going on between the Yanks and Jeter’s agent, but that’s all it is. The Yankees know no other team will offer Jeter what they will offer. And there’s no way Jeter signs with a another team for $3-$5 million less per season than what the Yanks are offering just to spite the Yankees.
NON-TENDERS: Teams have until Thursday (Dec. 2) to tender contracts for players under team control for 2011. There may be some players who could become available if they are non-tendered. Topping the list of possibility is the J.J. Hardy, whose UZR is 5th in the majors. However, word has it that the Twins will tender Hardy a contract, even though they made a bid on Japanese shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who the Twins are looking at to play 2B.