Today, the Giants signed Jeff Suppan to a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training. My first thought was this: oh, the Giants must need a new batting practice pitcher! I guess not.
He’ll be paid $1 million if he ever finds his way onto the Giants. And if he doesn’t make the roster coming out of camp in March, he can opt out. Presumably, this means the 40-man roster. The Giants, assuming some semblance of a replacement starter is observed in him, would simply drop him off in Triple-A Fresno until they need him (and hopefully they never will).
Imagine for a second you were collecting baseball writers. You already have Joe Posnanski, Bill James, Rob Neyer, Joe Sheehan and Jayson Stark. But you want a little just-in-case insurance, you know, just in case. Maybe, along the way, one of them gets writers block, or maybe one breaks both hands and can’t type. You already have Murray Chass lined up in the stable, and a couple others like him. Then, in an effort to beef up your complete and utter lack of depth, you hire on the Bleacher Report. This is essentially what the Giants have done.
Over the past three seasons, Fangraphs’ cumulative WAR of Suppan is -0.9, roughly a win below replacement. Over that same period, Baseball-reference has him at -3.0. And over that time, his adjusted-ERA (ERA+) has been 81, 19% worse than the league average. He’s allowed 1.6 base runners per inning, and struck out just 0.1 more batters than he’s walked per inning – this is not a typo. And finally, he’s not getting any younger as he’ll be 36 in 2011.
People will want to tell you he pitched better in St. Louis late in the season, but they’ll be wrong. His fielding independent pitching (FIP) actually went up from 4.85 to 4.91 and he struck out almost an entire batter per nine innings fewer while walking very nearly as many, all while magically stranding nearly 80% of base runners.
But anyway, you might be reading this and assuming I hate the signing. But I really don’t. This signing more than anything represents the severe lack of viable sixth-starter options the Giants possess, key word viable. The search continues.
Update: One of my readers has pointed out that a player with six years of MLB service cannot be optioned to AAA without first passing through waivers, and declining free agency.
Which, to me, means that Suppan will have to make that very decision when the time comes. Suppan isn't seeing the MLB unless he indeed is willing to go to Fresno, first passing through waivers. If the Giants remain healthy, there's no room and no use in the bullpen for him, as their seven man 'pen should be able to handle the load.
And, since this is the most likely event, Suppan is worthless unless he takes that assignment. I'm liking this signing less already, but I'm mostly apathetic because he's likely to opt for free agency, never to be heard from again. So long, Suppan.