While I’m not a big fan of the Hawkins signing, I’m definitely of the mindset that we could have done worse. For example, by signing Vizcaino for three years. That’s simply unnecessary; some team is going to do it and regret it. Not because Vizcaino is bad, per se, but because he’s bound to have at least one very poor year out of those three, and the other two are toss-ups. It’s just not worth the commitment. At least with Hawkins, we know we can wave goodbye to him after 2008.
My main problem with him, though, is the inconsistency. As I’ve mentioned, he doesn’t strikeout anyone anymore, so his success is based how many guys he walks and how many hits he allows. He’s kept his walk rate at a reasonable level, so we can be comforted at that level. But since he allows a ton of contact, we can reasonably expect a fluctuation in his hits allowed. For a quick example, he allowed a .264 average on balls in play last year (though that might be low, since I calculated it myself…anyone know it for sure?), but allowed a .325 average on balls in play with Baltimore. So we’re getting a guy who, if lucky, can be solid. But we don’t know.
This looks like the last free agent move the Yanks will make, unless they deal one of the guys projected onto the 25-man roster. Yes, I’m talking about Hideki Matsui. Those talks will either heat up or die this week. Brian Sabean is also considering a Tim Lincecum for Alex Rios swap, which could also affect the situation.
Now, I don’t expect Cashman could pry away Lincecum or Cain at this point. Any deal would have to involve both Matsui and Ian Kennedy, plus a bit more, I’m sure. There’s a modicum of sense in a Matsui-Kennedy-Duncan for Lincecum or Cain swap. It would give the Giants two bats, plus an arm to replace the departing one. They get somewhat weaker in the pitching department — though Kennedy would probably fare rather well at AT&T Park — and add two bats to an anemic lineup.
The problem, of course, is that Matsui is 34 years old and is coming off knee surgery. Duncan is 28 and has little major league experience. So while their bats will certainly upgrade the Giants lineup, it’s tough to judge to what extent.
However, I think it makes a bit more sense than a Lincecum for Rios swap. It’s straight up, so your pitching is measurably worse. And while your lineup gets better, we once again get to the question of how much better. Rios is a good player who brings speed to the table, but you have to wonder if he’ll outperform Matsui over the next two years — those two years being the last two on Hideki’s contract and the years prior to Rios’s free agency. While you could turn around and sign Rios to a long-term deal afterwards, you could realistically do that after the 2009 season; I doubt the Blue Jays are going to have the budget to re-sign him.
If I’m Brian Sabean, I’m not sure what I do. Well, I’m sure that I don’t do Rios for Lincecum, but if the Yanks are coming at me with two bats and an arm, I’d find it hard to turn down. Then again, that could be my Yankees bias talking and my desire to see Lincecum in pinstripes.
On the other hand, if the Yankees are willing to accept a lesser package, they could take lefty strikeout artist Jonathan Sanchez, who can both start and come out of the bullpen. Brian Sabean could still do Rios for Lincecum and add the two bats to his order that he desires. But his pitching would be in the shitter.
Either way, you have to expect nothing to happen here. But it’s fun to think about.