Barry Zito

San Francisco Giants sign Edgar Renteria

You can say this about the Bill Neukom-era San Francisco Giants — they move fast, and they aren’t afraid to open their checkbook.

While it seems as if the rest of Major League Baseball has been collectively hitting the snooze button since the free agent signing period started, the Giants have been spending money like a college freshman after getting their first credit card.

First Brian Sabean was given permission to throw pay top dollar market value for lefty reliever Jeremy Affeldt, then they signed Bobby Howry to a 1-year, $2.75 million contract in hopes that he returns to the form after getting knocked around in 2008 with the Cubs.

Now it’s official — the Giants have signed Edgar Renteria to a 2-year, $18.5 million deal. Sorry Emmanuel Burriss, you just became a utility infielder. All apologies to Eugenio Velez, you are now a full-time pinch runner. Condolences to the Giants’ youth movement, as Sabean seems intent on creating another team where the average age is 33.

Renteria is 33, and played so poorly last season for the free-spending Detroit Tigers that the Tigers didn’t offer him salary arbitration. Not a good sign. His on-base percentage dropped from .390 in 2007 (with Atlanta) to .317 in 2008. Uh oh. He averaged 26 steals per season in his first nine years in the Majors, but in the past four seasons averaged less than 11. Hmmm.

Still, the Renteria deal isn’t a total catastrophe, in part because it lasts only two years. Four or five years for Rafael Furcal and his aching back would have been an absolute disaster, and Renteria’s relatively weak 2008 was hampered by a poor May through July (when he slugged .293), while in August and September he actually hit pretty well (slugging .493). Plus, Renteria’s always been a better player in the National League than he showed in his years with the Red Sox and Tigers. It’s a little worrisome that it seemed like the Giants were bidding against nobody for Renteria’s services, but nobody but Renteria’s agent would know if that were actually true.

The Giants look to remain the busiest team this winter, as they are favorites to sign CC Sabathia and Pat Burrell, both Bay Area natives. Signing both players would be expensive, but would make it quite easy for Sabean to trade some sort of combination of Matt Cain/Jonathan Sanchez and Nate Schierholtz/Fred Lewis to the Florida Marlins for Dan Uggla. If those deals take place, here’s a sneak peek at the 2009 San Francisco Giants (assuming the Giants force Sanchez on the Marlins because he’s left-handed).

1. Randy Winn
2. Edgar Renteria
3. Dan Uggla
4. Pat Burrell
5. Pablo Sandoval
6. Aaron Rowand
7. Bengie Molina
8. Travis Ishikawa/Rich Aurilia (don’t laugh, it could happen)

SP: Tim Lincecum
SP: CC Sabathia
SP: Matt Cain
SP: Barry Zito
SP: Noah Lowry

CL: Brian Wilson
RP: Jeremy Affeldt
RP: Sergio Romo
RP: Bobby Howry
RP: Jack Taschner
RP: Alex Hinshaw
RP: Billy Sadler
RP: Keiichi Yabu

In the NL West that team would have to qualify as a contender … right?

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