Giants sign Renteria to two-year deal
Club stays active, reels in shortstop with $18.5 million pact
SAN FRANCISCO -- Business in Major League Baseball's free-agent market has proceeded slowly, with the notable exception of the Giants.They hiked their total free-agent signings to three, more than any other club this offseason, by securing shortstop Edgar Renteria on Thursday with a two-year, $18.5 million contract with an option for a third year. San Francisco already has bolstered its bullpen by signing left-hander Jeremy Affeldt and right-hander Bobby Howry. The Giants had pursued Renteria and Rafael Furcal, another free-agent shortstop, after Emmanuel Burriss, the heir-apparent at that position, struggled in the Arizona Fall League.
"As things unfolded in the Fall League, it was obvious that we needed more experience at this position," Giants general manager Brian Sabean said.Renteria proved to be more economical than Furcal, who reportedly is seeking a four-year contract worth more than $10 million annually. The Giants and Renteria's agents, Jeff Lane and Barry Meister, began exchanging proposals about two weeks ago, as initially reported on MLB.com. Renteria said that he received interest from three or four other teams before concluding, "I wanted to go where people want me."
The 13-year veteran called it "an honor" to replace Omar Vizquel at shortstop for the Giants, who chose not to retain the 11-time Gold Glove winner.Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy sounded thrilled to acquire Renteria, a .290 lifetime hitter who's a five-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner. Renteria also has batted .299 with runners in scoring position in his career, and he collected the World Series-winning hit for Florida in Game 7 of the 1997 Fall Classic off Cleveland's Charles Nagy. "I don't think Edgar needs any introduction," Sabean said. "This is a very, very great signing for us," said Bochy, who echoed Sabean's pronouncement that Renteria likely will bat second in the order. Although the Giants signed Howry and Renteria on consecutive days, they might not make their next move for a while. San Francisco is known to have expressed sincere interest in left-hander CC Sabathia, one of this year's prize free agents, and has spoken with Scott Boras, who represents first baseman Mark Teixeira and left fielder Manny Ramirez, the other two premier free agents.
But Sabean insisted that the Giants aren't actively involved in conversations involving any of the marquis players still on the market. He didn't rule out entering that fray, but emphasized, "It'd have to be the right price, the right place and the right time. The years would have to be right and the dollars would have to be right. ... We're not out there swimming with the sharks. There are too many teams with seemingly more to offer financially."Sabean added that the Giants "don't have anything on the table" in trade talks, despite rumors to the contrary that feature left-hander Jonathan Sanchez being shopped. Sabean indicated that since left-hander Noah Lowry's recovery from forearm surgery still is not a given, the Giants are likely to keep Sanchez. Even if no further transactions occur immediately, Renteria's arrival will prompt change throughout the Giants infield. Burriss, Kevin Frandsen and Eugenio Velez will compete at second base. Frandsen's also in the mix at third base, although the Giants still want to obtain an offensively proven corner infielder, with Pablo Sandoval manning the other corner. If this happens, Frandsen could be thrust into a utility role. That, in turn, might quash the Giants' thoughts of re-signing utilityman Rich Aurilia, who has spent 10 of his 13 big league years with the club. Sabean acknowledged that bringing back Aurilia was "probably" a long shot. Renteria's 62-point drop in batting average, from .332 with Atlanta in 2007 to .270 for Detroit last season, prompted doubts.
"I thought he slowed down a little bit," an American League scout said. Among longtime Giants fans, this might awaken memories of second baseman Rennie Stennett, who signed a then-lavish five-year, $3 million deal before the 1980 season and proceeded to hit .242 in two seasons before being released.But indications are that Renteria, 33, is no Stennett. Renteria, who also amassed 10 homers and 55 RBIs for Detroit, hit .299 in last season's final two months. The Giants believe he'll offer some improvement over 2008, when the club's shortstops ranked last in the NL in batting average (.228) and OPS (.576) and tied for last in home runs (one) and runs (51). Moreover, Renteria's agents have said that he has shed more than 10 pounds this offseason to get himself fit.
"I'm working to be quicker and I think that will help me play better defense and steal more bases," Renteria said.Once considered among the Majors' most multitalented shortstops, Renteria has exceeded .300 four times and enjoyed his best year in 2003, when he batted .330 with 13 home runs, 100 RBIs and 34 stolen bases for St. Louis. Renteria embraced the suggestion that he could benefit from returning to the NL, where he hit .293 with Florida (1996-98), St. Louis (1999-2004) and Atlanta (2006-07). By contrast, he hit .274 with Boston (2005) and Detroit. "In the American League, you have to wait for the home run," Renteria said. "To me, that's kind of boring." Since the Tigers declined to offer Renteria salary arbitration, the Giants will not lose a draft pick for signing him.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.