Just cause I’m bored at work.
Aubrey Huff, 1B/OF, Giants
Acquired: signed as a free agent on Jan. 11, 2010
Contract: 1-year, $3million contract
2010 stats: 157 games, .290 (165-of-569) batting average, 100 runs, 35 doubles, 2 triples, 26 homers, 86 RBI, ..385 OBP, .891 slugging. WAR: 5.7
Thoughts: Two seasons ago, I was in the visitors clubhouse at Safeco waiting to talk to Adam Jones of the Orioles. Huff, who was with the O’s at the time, walked by in spandex shorts, a half shirt with his belly hanging out and flip flops and eating a donut. He looked at the writers standing there, and said: “Don’t act like you aren’t impressed!” The entire clubhouse broke out in laughter. What does this have to to with anything? Well at the time, the Orioles were terrible and Huff still tried to keep the clubhouse an entertaining place, and I found it humorous. I don’t know how much I rate clubhouse chemistry as a factor in a team’s success – I think it gets far too much credit and far too much blame. It’s an aspect. But talent is a bigger aspect.
But the Giants believed Huff’s contribution in the clubhouse was important. Does wearing a red thong help you win games? No. But if you believe it does, it can’t hurt.
Said Bruce Bochy:
“You know, he’s been pretty much in our three-hole [hitter] the whole season, so he’s been the stabilizer in the lineup. But also in the clubhouse, he’s very competitive, but very loose — keeps the guys loose, great sense of humor.
Obviously Huff made plenty of contributions at the plate. He hit third in the order for almost 100 games. And while the Giants will never be confused with an offensive juggernaut, he was a heavy contributor to the offensive production they did get.
Huff also played three positions this season: first base (100 games), left field (41) and right field (33 games). He will never be considered a great defensive player at any of the three. But he was adequate to average.
Would the Giants be playing in the playoffs if they hadn’t signed Huff? No. Not even close.
Casey Kotchman, 1B, Mariners
Acquired: in a trade with the Boston Red Sox for Bill Hall and a player to be named later on Jan. 7, 2010.
Contract: Kotchman was arbitration eligible before the Mariners acquired him. The Mariners avoided arbitration signing him to a 1-year, $3.175 million contract.
2010 stats: 125 games, .217 (90-of-414) batting average, 37 runs, 20 doubles, 1 triples, 9 homers, 51 RBI, .280 OBP, .336 slugging. WAR: -1.1
Thoughts: When the Mariners acquired Kotchman from the Red Sox, it raised a few eyebrows. Yes, Kotchman was known as a great defensive first baseman that could put together a decent at-bat and was willing to take a walk. But come on, it was difficult to envision him as an every day player. A platoon at first base seemed more logical. But when they announced the signing GM Jack Zduriencik said that Kotchman would have a chance to be the every day first baseman.
However, Zduriencik then signed Ryan Garko and a platoon seemed even more likely. But as we know, Kotchman didn’t necessarily with the full-time job as much as Garko played his way out of consideration. The Mariners started the season with Kotchman as their every day first baseman and even batted him third to start the season. This was an indicator of how bad Seattle’s roster was at the time. Here was a guy with a career 40 home runs in just over six seasons, replacing a guy that hit 31 homers the year before.
What transpired wasn’t totally surprising, Kotchman was basically awful. He hit three homers in his first 13 games, and then went 49 games without hitting a homer. Over those 49 games, he hit .168 with .242 OBP and .215 slugging percentage.
He lost his job to Mike Carp, then to Justin Smoak, then to Russell Branyan, and still played in 125 games. And given his chance, he offered evidence to what many baseball scouts and executives had come to believe: Casey Kotchman is not an every day player.
Besides his lack of onfield production, Kotchman did nothing for the clubhouse. When the team started falling apart, Kotchman and Chone Figgins stayed in their little corner, talking amongst themselves and providing nothing else. They were not part of the team, they were their own little clique that occasionally let Jack Wilson in with them, when he wasn’t in the training room getting treatment for one of his many injuries. Kotchman bristled about his playing time being cut and losing his starting job on different occasions. To his credit, he never stopped working before games and preparing. But there was a clear and understandable dissatisfaction with his situation.
When Figgins had his blow-up with Wakamatsu, Kotchman admonished reporters to leave his buddy alone. He’d finally said something. Not that anybody cared at that point.
Kotchman got his chance to be an every day player, he failed. As an arbitration eligible player, I can’t see how the Mariners would ever bring him back. He brings nothing to the table offensively or the clubhouse. And defensively, he’s just not saving that many runs.
Look, it’s easy to see things in hindsight. But I felt Huff was somebody the Mariners should have looked at in the offseason. Sure, he was looking for a multi-year deal, but as the time passed, it was clear he was going to have to settle for a one-year deal. Sure, he had struggled after being hit traded to the Tigers. But still, he’d averaged 20 home runs per season in 10 seasons.
Obviously, he was viewed as defensive liability. When he was with the Orioles, he was primarily a DH. Of course, the Mariners had already signed a DH in Ken Griffey Jr. But Huff had played first base and wasn’t a complete butcher at the position. Yes, the Mariners were on the run prevention kick. But the amount of runs saved by Kotchman at first base would not be as important as the possible runs created by Huff, particularly for an offensively challenged team.
Would you rather give $3 million dollars and 600 plate appearance to a guy who has shown he could hit for power and drive in runs over his career, or a guy you hope can finally put a career year together, when all signs pointed that he wouldn’t?
You can understand what Zduriencik was thinking when he got Kotchman. He was hoping for a Russell Branyan rebirth for Kotchman. But don’t underestimate how much he was hamstrung by having Griffey already signed. Had that not happened, Huff would have fit as a 1B/DH type easily onto the roster.
Aubrey Huff wouldn’t have pushed the Mariners to playoffs, but he would have made the everyday lineup better and would have helped an offensively anemic team and made them slightly more competitive.