The Coors Effect

January 24, 2010 8:07 PM

Rockies bring back Giambi

The Rockies signed Jason Giambi to a one-year deal reportedly worth $1.75 million.  Considering Giambi's key at bats down the stretch in 2009 (he hit .292/.452/.583 for the Rockies, albeit in just 31 plate appearances), it seemed pretty likely that he would be back once he decided not to retire.  But this may not be a smart move.

For one thing, Giambi is now 39, and there were signs in 2009 that he was done: he hit just .193 in Oakland.  Giambi still knows how to draw a walk and can hit for some power, but he might hit barely above the Mendoza line.  And his defensive value at this point is virtually zilch.  The Rockies will probably use Giambi almost strictly as a pinch-hitter, and occasionally allow him to spell Todd Helton at first, but that latter idea presents another problem.  The Rockies had originally planned to move Brad Hawpe to first whenever Helton needs a day off in 2010, allowing Seth Smith to get more playing time and, more importantly, getting Hawpe out of the outfield.  This move signals that the Rockies either plan on leaving Hawpe in the outfield (it's not a great idea to carry Giambi on the roster strictly as a pinch hitter, so we can assume that the Rockies intend on using Giambi at first base on occasion) or they plan on trading Hawpe.  And, if the choice is between Hawpe and Giambi, I'd much rather have Hawpe on the team.  After all, Hawpe, despite a second-half slump, is coming off a .285/.384/.519 season, and he's a full eight and a half years younger than Giambi.

So assuming Hawpe stays where he is, the ultimate effect of this move is to take playing time away from Seth Smith.  On the other hand, I'm not really sure how much time Helton will need off: it was widely assumed that Helton would only be playing about half the time in 2009, but instead he appeared in 151 games and racked up 645 plate appearances.  Unless his back is acting up again, I don't see why Helton really needs that many days off.

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