In a surprising turn of events, the Giants have opted to call up 2008 first-round pick Buster Posey to help out with Bengie Molina still struggling due to a strained right quad.
The Giants had indicated that Posey would finish the season in the minors and then get a break before taking part in the Arizona Fall League. The 22-year-old Florida State product hit .326/.428/.540 with 13 homers in 291 at-bats for Single-A San Jose and .321/.391/.511 with five homers in 131 at-bats for Triple-A Fresno this season. The Giants purposely kept him off their Double-A Connecticut affiliate, which plays in a terrible environment for hitters. His numbers have definitely been aided by playing in strong hitters ballparks in leagues that enhance offense, but his first full pro season has gone as well as anyone could have hoped.
Posey still doesn’t figure to have a particularly big role with the Giants this month. Molina’s injury has become a bigger issue than anticipated, but he’s expected back as the regular catcher before long. Posey will serve as protection there and as a pinch-hitter. His ability to make contact could make him very useful in that role, and he shouldn’t be dismissed as a postseason roster possibility just yet.
The late callup also serves as an audition for Posey. Molina is a free agent this winter, and while the Giants would likely be happy to bring him back for 2010, they shouldn’t match the multiyear commitments he could receive from other teams. If Posey shows enough in his limited time behind the plate, the Giants could be more open about turning the job over to him on Opening Day. That he’ll already have 33 days of service time may work in his favor. Teams these days find it pretty reasonable to keep a prospect in the minors for two months to guarantee they won’t have super-two eligibility. However, the Giants now would have to wait until July to turn to Posey. It might make more sense to simply bite the bullet and go with him the whole year.
Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.
Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.
As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.