The San Francisco Giants made two important trades this week, just prior to a critical three game home series this weekend with the first place San Diego Padres. By obtaining infielder Mike Fontenot from the Cubs and outfielder Jose Guillen from Kansas City, the Giants address three critical needs in preparation for their drive to the 2010 playoffs: a power bat in the outfield, a shortstop/infielder with range who can also hit, and a much needed power upgrade at first base.
Mike Fontenot brings range and athleticism to a Giants infield currently dominated by older and less agile players. In his six years with the Cubs, Fontenot played 247 games at second base, 63 games at third, and 8 games at shortstop. He will likely spend time at shortstop with Edgar Renteria injured again, but we may also see Fontenot eventually grab a lot of game time at second base if Freddie Sanchez continues slumping.
Fontenot, 30, was picked 19th in the first round of the 2001 amateur draft by Baltimore, who traded him to the Cubs in 2005 for Sammy Sosa.
Mike Fontenot was batting .282 with 20 RBIs and a .330 OBP with the Cubs. The Giants gave up Single A centerfielder Evan Crawford of the Augusta (GA) Greenjackets, who was hitting .255 with 64 runs, and a 24-9 stolen base record. Since the Giants’ first two picks in the 2010 first year player draft were highly touted outfielders with speed (Gary Brown and Jarrett Parker), Crawford was expendable.
On Friday, the team announced that veteran slugger Jose Guillen had been picked up from Kansas City for a player to be named later. SF Chronicle beat writer Henry Schulman reported the Giants will play $250,000 of Guillen’s $12 million 2010 salary; Guillen, 34, was in the last year of a three year $36 million deal with KC and was the team’s every day DH. This season, he’s batting .255 with 62 RBIs, 16 home runs and a .743 OPS (to compare, Pablo Sandoval has a .726 OPS).
Jose Guillen has a much-discussed reputation as a disruptive force in the clubhouse, possibly explaining why he has played for an amazing ten MLB teams in 13 years. His best year was 2004, for the LA Angels, when he drove in 104 RBIs and hit 27 home runs. Guillen will join the Giants Saturday August 14th.
There is no question that San Francisco got Guillen to be an every day starter, and he will be the team’s permanent right fielder. More importantly, the Giants not only added potential offensive power in the outfield, Guillen’s acquisition allows Aubrey Huff to move to first base every day, which provides a significant offensive upgrade at first. For the first time in many years, the San Francisco Giants have a power hitting first baseman.
If the team keeps Travis Ishikawa, he will revert to being a pinch hitter (a role at which he has had some success this year), and a late inning defensive replacement (although Huff has done a great defensive job at first and his bat and glove will not be automatically pulled out of any game).
The Giants front office has finally put the team in a position to win games offensively. A line-up featuring Andres Torres, Buster Posey, Aubrey Huff, Jose Guillen, Pat Burrell, and Pablo Sandoval has the potential to do serious damage to National League pitching the last 46 games of the season.
The Giants team that compiled a 1-7 record against the Padres earlier this year is gone. When the San Diego Padres bring their National League-leading 67-46 record to AT&T Park this weekend, the revamped Giants have a chance to go face-to-face with the big dog on the block, and make a definitive statement about whether or not they belong in the National League playoffs.