Should the Indians Re-Sign Jason Giambi?

This article should not be necessary, but discussion from Terry Francona, Jason Giambi and the Indians front office have made it seem like an actual possibility that he could be re-signed. His original signing during the past off-season was questionable and his inclusion on the roster during the entire season was even more so. Bringing him back as a player for another season would be an incredibly huge mistake.

To start, it is unnecessary, but easy to prove that Giambi hurt the team far more than he helped during the past season. While more people will remember his walk-off hits than his first inning strike outs, the fact is, in the long run it doesn't matter when you get on base, just that you do. Giambi has been one of the greatest OBP players in baseball history and in fact, still has a .400 career OBP, but in his past seven seasons, things have turned completely around. This past season was a new low, with a .282 OBP, lower than his batting average over his first nine years in the league. As said, this is not a single blip, but an on going trend. From 1995 through 2006, Giambi walked 1,089 times and struck out 1,131 (0.96 BB/K). Since then, he has walked 268 times and struck out 429 (0.62 BB/K) with 2013 being the most extreme with just 23 walks to 56 K's (0.41).

In addition to no longer being good at the one thing he used to be good at, Giambi still has all the bad features he has had throughout his career like his inability to be of any use on defense. This year, he essentially wasted a roster spot all season, getting just 216 at bats while the more versatile and talented Matt Carson, Jeremy Hermida, Ezequiel Carrera, Cord Phelps and Juan Diaz toiled in AAA. All of these players are (at this stage of their career) far superior to Giambi and Carson especially proved that, earning a WAR of 0.5 in just 13 plate appearances (across 20 games) while Giambi earned a WAR of -0.6 in 216. Even if Giambi's at bats had been given to the starters (for instance, allowing Nick Swisher to DH more often, getting Yan Gomes into the game as catcher) and Carson had been used exclusively as a late inning defensive replacement and pinch runner, the Indians would have been far better off.

Talking about the infamous replacement level player (as referenced in WAR and similar stats), Giambi's this season was Gomes, who he stole at bats from mostly early in the season. In a similar amount of at bats, Gomes hit 31 extra base hits and batted .296. Giambi not only hurt the team by making it less versatile in late situations, but also hurt it by keeping Gomes out of the lineup. This could be seen as Giambi essentially stealing money from Gomes, who would be set to make a significant amount more early in his career had he received an extra 200 at bats in the past season.

Of course, the discussion is not supposed to be about how useless Giambi was during 2013, but how terrible he is going to be in 2014. One could expect, if nothing else, his bat (and foot) speed to slow down a little. This will mean home runs will turn into fly outs (or foul balls) and foul balls will turn into strike outs. Overall, he may hit a few more singles, but he should be expected to hit considerably less than the paltry 17 extra base hits he had in the past year. He also couldn't possibly be expected to play in the field at all or even get as many at bats as the past season, so he will be hurting the team even more from a roster stand point.

In his place it would be nice to see either an extra outfielder (the Indians had problems with Swisher being forced into right on multiple occasions) or an exciting young player like Jose Ramirez. Ramirez only made the team once rosters expanded, but he proved he deserved to be there, stealing bases and playing Major League quality defense. With Mike Aviles and Ryan Raburn set as the main bench options in 2014, there will be no room for Ramirez and Giambi on the roster and there is no question who will be the better player.

Finally, it is necessary to mention club house presence. This has been the main unquantifiable aspect that everyone in and around the Indians continues to bring up. He may have had some effect on the Indians young hitters (although Jason Kipnis was really the only player with a great year and his numbers were similar to 2012, while he certainly didn't help Asdrubal Cabrera and Nick Swisher who had years far below their career averages), but that seems to be the job of the hitting coach, a person who does not take up a space on the 25 man roster. If the Indians want to keep Giambi around, great, but don't let him hurt the team in the lineup or hurt the progression of young players by stealing their at bats. Giambi should absolutely feel ashamed for his performance this year and if he had any self respect he would have retired at the end of last season. Of course, we learned all about his self respect when he played for the Yankees and apologized for doing something, but wouldn't say what it was.

Jason Giambi4

It is time for the old man to walk away for the last time.

About Joseph Coblitz

Joseph is the primary writer and editor of BurningRiverBaseball.com and has been since it's inception in 2011. He is a graduate of the University of Akron and currently resides in Goodyear, Arizona.

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