Jason Giambi will be 43 years-old next season and he has not been a full-time player since he left the Yankees following the 2008 campaign. But, unlike so many younger guys (and unlike a lot of better hitters) Giambi will not have to search around for a roster spot next spring. Indeed, on Monday both Indians general manager Chris Antonetti and manager Terry Francona said they’d love to have him back:
“We would like to continue our relationship with ‘G’ probably as long as he would like to,” Francona said Monday . . . If Giambi for whatever reason does decide to hang it up, Antonetti stated he will have a spot to come back and be a part of the Indians in a coaching capacity.
“If Jason, once he gets to that point where he no longer wants to play we’d love to have him with this organization,” Antonetti said.
Antonetti added, though, that he knows Giambi wants to play and that that’s fine with him.
Even last spring, when he was new to the Indians, you could tell that Terry Francona and the coaching staff loved having Giambi around. Francona and Nick Swisher both told me when I visited Indians camp that Giambi was like having another coach around. A coach who could, on occasion, hit walkoff home runs in the midst of a pennant race. Not a bad combo.
Of course that doesn’t mean that Giambi is the wisest use of a roster spot purely in terms of production. Despite his occasional heroics he hit just .183/.282/.371 in 216 plate appearances. That wouldn’t fly with most players, but it would seem that what Giambi brings in terms of mentorship, veteran presence and those sorts of things continue to make him valuable in the eyes of Antonetti and Francona. Their team, their call.
But whatever his merits, I continue to marvel at Giambi’s late career. It’s so rare to see guys who were once MVP-caliber players transform into role players — very narrow role players — as thoroughly as Giambi has. If he plays next year it will be his seventh as a bench bat/DH type in what will by then be a 20-year major league career. Who else has done that?
He obviously doesn’t need the money. And nothing he is doing now is going to lead to much more than fleeting fame or glory as a ballplayer (those days have passed). He’s just doing it, it seems, because he loves (and maybe needs) baseball. And because everyone around him values him and wants him around too. And there’s something fantastic about that.