Jose Abreu, Rusney Castillo Should be San Francisco Giants if not for Bad Contracts


Aug 4, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu (79) hits a 2-run RBI single against the Texas Rangers in the third inning at U.S Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco Giants have been involved in talks that would have lead Cuban defectors, Jose Abreu and Rusney Castillo to San Francisco. Yet in both cases, they were outbid by slim margins.

Let’s assume that the Giants were offering what they felt was within their payroll structure, and see how either of these contracts would fit in. While we don’t know for certain how good Castillo will be in the majors, it’s safe to say that he will be a solid player based on the recent sample of Cuban players: Abreu, Yoenis Cespedes, and everyone’s favorite bat-flipper Yasiel Puig.

More from San Francisco Giants

Jose Abreu signed a 6 year/$68M deal with the White Sox, while Rusney Castillo signed a 6 year/$72.5M contract with the Red Sox. That works out to $11.33M a year for Abreu and just over $12M a season for Castillo. Compared to the roster the Giants currently have, that would place them towards the top of the Giants’ payroll along with Matt Cain ($25.5/year through 2018), Buster Posey ($18.55M/year through 2022), Hunter Pence ($18M/year through 2018) and Tim Lincecum ($17.5M/year through 2015).

While the amounts paid for Abreu and Castillo are large, and come with a decent amount of risk, the Giants can certainly afford to take these risks. Or they should be able to, but bad contracts have limited them. Say for instance that the Giants didn’t sign Tim Lincecum. Fans would cry, but the team would also have a better shot at winning. Jose Abreu and Michael Morse‘s contracts combine to roughly Timmy’s deal. Even if Yusmeiro Petit took Timmy’s place for the entire season, Timmy’s 4.64 isn’t a very tough benchmark to hit. The NL average is 3.67 this season.

Add in Jose Abreu’s offensive numbers, and this team could counter a slide in pitching. Currently, Abreu is hitting .308 with 33 HR and 94 RBI in just 115 games. He’d easily be the Giants biggest bat in a run-starved lineup. Posey is the closest to that RBI total with 65.

Now you’re probably thinking: “Well, if Abreu plays first base, what about Brandon Belt?” Fair enough. With Abreu, there is a good chance that the Giants would not have signed Michael Morse in the offseason, and instead have had Belt out in left field. Belt makes $2.9M while Morse makes $6M. Money saved. Yes, Belt has been hurt this season, but with the money saved, Brian Sabean could have attracted a worthwhile 4th outfielder.

Back to Lincecum. His is not the only bad contract in recent years, it’s just one of the most expensive. Add in the like of Barry Zito‘s (7 year/$126M), the decline of Matt Cain and his enormous salary, and the “thank you” contract that Marco Scutaro received after 2012 (3 year/$20M) and that is a lot of essentially dead money that San Francisco has, or has had on the books. You can argue about Cain’s deal, but he has a 4.18 ERA this season and a 2-7 record. I’m aware he doesn’t receive much run support, and never has. Ryan Vogelsong hasn’t either, and he has contributed 7 wins.

The point being there are cheaper options out there for the amount of production that is being given in return.

With Tim Lincecum set to join the bullpen after another season of struggles (none against the Padres though!) this contract is the one that could end up hurting the Giants the most. $17.5 million for a bullpen arm is ridiculous. The Giants could have a reliable bullpen arm by the name of Dan Otero for $503 K, but instead he was waived by the Giants following the 2012 season, and is currently on the Oakland Athletics. This season Otero has pitched 72 innings (2nd in AL) and compiled a 2.25 ERA and has forced 9 double plays (5th in AL).

Otero’s contributions will almost certainly outweigh Lincecum’s in a relief role. Even in the 2012 playoffs where Lincecum shined coming out of the bullpen, he put up a 2.55 ERA.

The Giants are making money, there is no question about that, reaping the rewards of two World Series titles. Rewarding players for gaining that victory, as I have said before, is admirable, but doesn’t ensure future success. Brian Sabean and the Giants’ Front Office need to start spending their money more wisely, and evaluating players more closely.

If the Giants had not re-signed Lincecum, there would have been enough money saved on one season of Timmy to land a big-time slugger that could carry an offense through a June swoon, and had enough left over to add some depth to absorb injuries.

In a perfect world, the Giants would have Zack Wheeler to replace Lincecum, Dan Otero in the bullpen and Jose Abreu manning first base. That team is ready to contend for another Championship, not hope for a Wild Card berth.