In a somewhat surprising move, the San Francisco Giants signed Eli Whiteside to a Major League contract today:
Whiteside, 32, appeared to be headed elsewhere after San Francisco officially declined to tender him a 2012 contract Monday, which cast him into free agency. But Giants vice president of baseball operations Bobby Evans explained that before the contract-tendering deadline expired, the club extended an offer to Whiteside, who ultimately accepted it.
Assuming Buster Posey recovers fully from his extensive left leg injuries, Whiteside will attempt to regain his role as San Francisco’s No. 2 catcher. “It’s a battle between him and [Chris] Stewart for the backup role,” Evans said.
Whiteside was pushed into action more often than expected in 2011 after the season-ending injury to Posey, and while he wasn’t much worse than Stewart (who surpassed Whiteside on the depth chart by season’s end) on offense…
Whiteside: 236 PA, .197/.264/.310, 4 HR, 55 wRC+
Stewart: 183 PA, .204/.283/.309, 3 HR, 60 wRC+
On defense it was no contest…
Whiteside: 583.2 innings, 5 errors, 7 passed balls, 18 wild pitches, 18 CS, 53 SB (25.4% CS)
Stewart: 460.1 innings, 7 errors, 2 passed balls, 14 wild pitches, 22 CS, 34 SB (39.3% CS)
Catcher’s ERA is a very misleading statistic, but Stewart (2.75) beat Whiteside (3.28) there as well. By every measure other than throwing errors, Stewart was the better defender last season. So why would the Giants bring back a second offensively-challenged backup catcher, especially one who’s a league-average defensive catcher at best?
1. The Giants don’t want to pay for a veteran free agent to back up Posey, even though Posey won’t be catching every day.
2. They don’t think Hector Sanchez is ready to beat out Chris Stewart and would rather Sanchez catch regularly in Triple-A.
3. Whiteside came cheap.
4. Whiteside was dealing with an elbow injury that bothered him all season, so perhaps the Giants think that was the root of a lot of his problems, especially after he was forced to catch a lot more innings than planned after Posey went down.
5. Brian Sabean couldn’t get this song out of his head:
And there’s always…
In all, another underwhelming move in what has been a pretty lackluster off-season for the Giants. Oh well, at least they made the right decision when they chose Mike Fontenot over Jeff Keppinger.