Haven’t we all seen enough by now?
All James Loney really had going for him the past couple of years was decent RBI totals. He truly was a clutch player, in that he hit like a perfectly solid first baseman with RISP and then napped through his at-bats with no one on.
This year, though, Loney has hit like a bad shortstop no matter the situation. He’s batting .251/.294/.325 with five homers. Despite batting fifth and sixth all season, he’s driven in a piddly 35 runs in 378 at-bats.
So, the Dodgers should just give up on him now. There’s no way he can rebound enough over the final 47 games of the season to justify another raise in arbitration this winter. Despite his modest production — this will be his fourth straight season with an OPS under .800 and fewer than 15 homers — he’s making $4.875 million. Players in arbitration don’t take paycuts, so the Dodgers would have to spend at least that much to bring him back next year, making him a virtual shoo-in to get non-tendered. Why not start the process early and spend these next 47 games instead looking at whether Jerry Sands can step in at first base next year?
Sands, who also plays left field, struggled to a .200/.294/.328 line in 25 at-bats for the Dodgers earlier this season, but that just gave him the same OPS that Loney has posted in three times as much action. Back in Triple-A, Sands has hit 21 homers in 268 at-bats. He’s taken full advantage of the high-offense environment at Albuquerque — he has a 1.096 OPS at home and a .640 OPS on the road — so there is reason to be skeptical. But that’s why the smart play would be to give him a long look now before deciding whether to sign a first baseman over the winter.
It’s not as though there’s anything left to lose.
The Giants are finalizing a minor league deal for free agent outfielder Cameron Maybin, according to Andrew Baggarly and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. The team has not confirmed the signing, but it’s in keeping with their stated goal of adding more veteran presence and outfield options to their roster in advance of the 2019 season.
Maybin, 31, appeared in back-to-back gigs with the Marlins and Mariners in 2018. He slashed an underwhelming .249/.326/.336 with four home runs, 10 stolen bases (in 15 chances), a .662 OPS, and 0.5 fWAR through 384 plate appearances for the two clubs, a clear improvement over his totals in 2017 but still shy of the career numbers he posted with the Padres all the way back in 2011. It’s not only his offense that has tanked, but his speed and defense in center field, all of which he’ll try to improve as he jockeys for a roster spot in camp this month.
The Giants’ outfield has been largely depleted of any kind of consistent talent lately, especially taking into account the recent departures of Hunter Pence, Gregor Blanco, and Gorkys Hernández. Even with the acquisition of, say, All-Star right fielder Bryce Harper, there’s nothing standing in the way of Maybin and fellow veteran signee Gerardo Parra grabbing hold of full- or part-time roles this year, though they’ll need to outperform candidates like Chris Shaw, Steven Duggar, Drew Ferguson, Mac Williamson, Austin Slater, Craig Gentry, Mike Gerber, and others first.
In a previous report on Friday, Baggarly revealed that a “handshake understanding” had been established with several veteran players already this offseason, all but guaranteeing them regular starting opportunities over the course of the season. How those agreements will be affected by spring training performances remains to be seen, but at least for now, the Giants appear prepared to give their newest players a long leash as they try to get back on top in the NL West.