Why Sign Rowand: After the 2007 season, the Giants were in a state of flux. The team was coming off a terrible 2007 season where the team finished in last place and was one of the worst offensive teams in baseball. In addition, the Giants decided to cut ties with superstar Barry Bonds and were saddled with expensive veteran contracts.
On the other hand, Aaron Rowand was coming off a career year with the Phillies were he set new career highs in several offensive categories (thanks to the bandbox in Philadelphia!) and solidified his place as one of the premier defensive players in baseball. Also the Giants were motivated to add Rowand because of the grittiness, toughness, and attitude that he would bring to the locker room and help the Giants transition into the post Barry Bonds era.
As GM Brian Sabean noted at the time:
"Aaron (Rowand) is an all-around player who is coming into his prime and helps us check off two boxes -- an extremely talented defensive center fielder and a middle of the order presence," said Sabean. "His ability in center field definitely plays to our ballpark and will help provide more stability to our pitching staff. His no nonsense approach on the field and in the clubhouse will be welcomed. Aaron is unquestionably a winning player"What Went Wrong: During his tenure with the Giants, Rowand has not been a bad player. But the problem is that the Giants are not paying Aaron Rowand $12 million annually to simply be an average player offensively and defensively. Rowand's performance at the plate over the past two years suggests that his 2007 season was merely a fluke and that the Giants paid big money to a mediocre offensive player. In addition, Rowand's much ballyhooed defensive ability has slipped over the past two seasons and he has put up the two lowest UZR's of his career in center field.
Future Implications: When Rowand arrived with the Giants two years ago, the Giants primary weakness was their offense. Two years later, the Giants offense still stinks and the team needs to address their offensive needs in the offseason. It will be interesting to see if the Giants make a big splash this offseason when they are committing $32 million between Barry Zito and Aaron Rowand in 2010. The Giants payroll is only expected to be around $80-$90 million, which doesn't leave GM Brian Sabean with much leeway to make a big splash if he wants to extend Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain in the near future.
Lesson Learned: Aaron Rowand is a nice player, but under no circumstances should the Giants have doled out $60 million over 5 years for his services. The odds of him putting up offensive numbers like he did in 2007 were slim to none in the Giants ballpark and overpaying for grittiness and toughness is not the smartest move in the long run. When it comes down to it, Rowand is simply an average hitter, who cannot get on base enough or hit for enough power to justify the huge contract. In short, a career year should not equal a huge payday. We know this, but does Brian Sabean?
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