By Tommy Rancel //
San Francisco Giants’ general manager Brian Sabean has a type: aging middle infielders. From Omar Vizquel and Ray Durham to Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria, Sabean always seems to find a past-his-prime infielder that puts a little twinkle in his eye. His latest move follows that blueprint: the signing 36-year-old Miguel Tejada to a one-year deal worth $6.5 million.
Tejada is familiar with the Bay Area, having spent the first seven years of his career with the Oakland Athletics. Unfortunately, the production he put up as a member of the A’s is just a memory.
In recent seasons, he has transformed from a slugging run-producer to a contact-driven, league-average hitter with a little pop left in the bat. From 1998 to 2006, Tejada averaged 26 home runs and 105 RBI a year. Since then, he’s averaged just 15 home runs and 76 RBI per year.
On the other hand, 15 home runs, 75 RBI, and 80 runs scored would be a pretty solid season, given the weak current group of MLB shortstops. The only two players to top those marks in 2010 were Hanley Ramirez and Troy Tulowitzki – the two best offensive shortstops in the game.
Also working in Tejada’s favor is durability. He’s averaged 151 games played over the past four years, while averaging more 40 extra-base hits a season. The question for the Giants is, can he handle 140 games at shortstop? But as a fantasy owner, he’s also earned his SS eligibility for 2011.
After the top tier of Ramirez, Tulowitzki, and the second level of Stephen Drew, Starlin Castro, and Jose Reyes, the remaining NL options have as many – if not more – offensive question marks than Tejada in 2011.
If you are unable to land one of the top guys early on draft day, sit back and wait. Odds are the latest Sabean Special will be available later as a potential starter. The risk of Tejada completely deteriorating is real, but the minimal cost in terms of a draft pick with the likelihood of league average production should be worth it in NL-only leagues; his counting stat potential even makes him a decent choice at the end of a mixed-league draft.