I had thought that Christian may have had the inside track to be the team’s 25th man due to the fact that he bats righty, and most of the team’s OFs are either switch hitters or left handed hitters, but this move makes it seem less likely. If he clears waivers he will likely receive an invitation to Spring Training.
According to Jon Heyman, the Giants have signed infielder Ryan Theriot to a one-year contract worth $1.25M, with up to $750K in incentives. With Theriot in the picture, Brett Pill will presumably be starting the year in Triple-A Fresno. Josh mentioned Theriot as a potential platoon shortstop option back in November.
At first glance, Theriot’s a very uninspired signing. He’s coming off a .271/.321/.342 (84 wRC+) season, and he’s never been much of a hitter. His 2011 numbers, in fact, aren’t all that far off from his career numbers (.282/.344/.353, 86 wRC+). His defense is probably passable, but his defensive shortcomings are quite evident as well. As an everyday player, Theriot is mediocre at best; there’s a reason he’s amassed all of 0.6 wins above replacement over the past two seasons.
Theriot has his uses, however. The Giants’ shortstop depth chart currently reads Brandon Crawford and Mike Fontenot, in order. Both Crawford and Fontenot are left-handed hitters, and Emmanuel Burriss (career .636 OPS v. LHPs), isn’t exactly going to be reliable against southpaws. Theriot, as mediocre as he is with the bat, can hold his own against lefties, with a career line of .301/.373/.401, 107 wRC+. Of particular intrigue are his plate discipline splits — 9.9% BB rate, 6.8% K rate. He’ll put the ball in play with exceptional frequency, and he’ll get on base.
Theriot shouldn’t be penned into the lineup on a daily basis, but if utilized correctly (or even semi-correctly), he’ll do enough with the bat and the glove to bring some value to the team. He’s slightly worse than Jeff Keppinger at the plate, half as expensive as Keppinger would have been, and a much better defender. Anyway, solid deal.
According to Jerry Crasnick, the Giants signed RP Clay Hensley to a major-league contract (pending a physical). He gets a base salary of $750K, with up to $300K in incentives. This likely pushes Dan Runzler out of the Giants’ bullpen.
Hensley’s coming off a terrible season, having allowed 41 runs in 67.2 innings of work. His ERA (5.19) was poor, as were his peripherals (15.5% K rate, 10.1% BB rate). In spite of this, he was basically replacement level last year, at -0.2 rWAR and -0.1 fWAR.
Anyway, most of those innings came as a starter, and he was certainly better out of the bullpen (3.88 FIP/4.24 xFIP). Additionally, he’s just one year removed from a fantastic season: in 2010, Hensley posted a 2.16 ERA/2.87 FIP/3.34 xFIP across 75 innings of work, good for 1.5 wins above replacement. It looks like somewhat of an outlier, as his strikeout rate shot way up that year (and, of course, subsequently regressed), but I’d assume that’s — in large part — due to the fact that he didn’t make any starts that year. He’s had a solid career as a reliever (sub-3 ERA, in fact), though he’s durable enough to start on occasion.
In the end, this is a cheap solid move that adds depth to both the rotation and bullpen. The Giants’ rotation depth behind Eric Surkamp isn’t very appealing, and if his first taste of the majors was any indicator, Surkamp isn’t ready just yet. This helps.