Giants Release Aaron Rowand, Miguel Tejada

The San Francisco Giants have released veterans Aaron Rowand and Miguel Tejada.

You may be wondering why this news is appearing on a Mets blog. There are a few reasons.

First of all, the Giants are sort of a parent to the Mets — they are the “other” franchise that left behind thousands of National League baseball fans (and the Mets’ original home park, the Polo Grounds) in 1957 — many of whom eventually transferred their allegiance to the Amazins. Their orange “NY” logo is now stitched on the Mets’ Dodger-blue caps. The Giants were honored in the New Ebbets Field with a soot-colored outfield wall and the same color of green seats that once appeared in the Polo Grounds. But the Mets’ parentage is not the main reason the releases of Rowand and Tejada matter here.

Do you remember Aaron Rowand? He was the guy on the Phillies who face-planted the outfield wall while catching an Xavier Nady fly ball against the Mets back in 2006.

He’s also the guy who the Giants signed to a 5-year, $60M contract after sparking the Phillies to the NLDS in 2007 (i.e., the Year of the Collapse). At the time, handing Rowand so many millions and so many years seemed like a bad idea — and it looks even worse now. Because after that career year, Rowand turned 30 and quickly sunk back down to his usual standards — hitting in the .260s with 10-15 HR and a .730-.750 OPS. Over the last two years, his performance has dropped more drastically — his line last year was .230 AVG, .281 OBP, .659 OPS, and his numbers this year are worse (.233/.274/.621). He’s been absolutely awful, and as a result spent significant time on the bench.

Right here I’m going to point something out: the Giants committed more years and dollars to Rowand and pitcher Barry Zito than anyone else on the team — a combined $186M from 2007-2013. The top-two highest-paid men on the Giants also happened to be their worst pitcher and the worst hitter. To help you more fully understand the situation, the Giants’ payroll last year was roughly $96M, with Zito ($18.5M) and Rowand ($12M) hogging nearly one-third of it. Yet, the Giants were World Series Champions last year (Zito was actually left off the postseason roster).

This year, Rowand and Zito were once again eating up $30M+, with Tejada getting another $6.5M, for a total of $37M for all three — or 31% of the club’s $118M payroll. In return for that investment, Zito made 9 starts (3-4, 5.69 ERA), Tejada hit .239 with a .596 OPS, and you saw Rowand’s line above.

Despite this poor return on investment, the Giants spent much of the season atop the NL West. Their postseason hopes are dimming quickly now, though, as they are 7.5 games behind the Diamondbacks (and 8.5 behind the Braves in the wild card). Many see the release of Rowand and Tejada as a last-ditch, desperate attempt to spark the club to an impossible run to reach the playoffs — and maybe it is, but let’s move away from that for a moment.

By cutting Rowand and Tejada, the Giants have essentially wasted $18.5M this year, and eaten another $12M owed to Rowand next year. Despite his big contract, Rowand was relegated to irregular duty; the only reason he played as much as he did was because of injuries and ineptitude in the San Francisco outfield.

Compare and contrast what the Giants just did to what the Mets have done with similarly bad contracts over the last few years — but also in looking toward the future, since we can’t do anything about the past. Much has been made about the long-term, high-salary deals that have been a stranglehold on the Mets’ ability to compete — but is that really the case? Do huge contracts really hold teams back? More specifically, will the commitments to Jason Bay and Johan Santana hurt the Mets going forward?

I’m happy to see Bay starting to hit, and hope he continues when 2012 arrives. But what if he doesn’t? Will the Mets consider moving him to the bench, as the Giants did with Rowand? Would they eventually release him, and eat the remainder of his salary, if Bay becomes a detriment to the club? Or will eating that money be too much for Mets ownership to bear — as it seemed to be with Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo? Further, if Santana does not return to full strength next year, will people point to the $50M left on his deal as an obstacle?

Also, going off on a tangent for a moment — in addition to the bad money thrown at Rowand, Tejada, and Zito this year (and another $6M for Mark DeRosa), the Giants also were without Buster Posey since late May, were without starting second baseman Freddy Sanchez for all but 60 games, and also saw these key contributors (among others) hit the DL during the season: Brian Wilson, Jonathan Sanchez, Pablo Sandoval, Pat Burrell, Sergio Romo, Brandon Belt, and Andres Torres (some guy named Beltran went on the DL, too, but from what I understand he was a late-season rental). The reason I digress here is because I’ve grown tired of hearing that the Mets have been “devastated” by injuries this year — it’s become an annual mantra, and while it’s true that the Mets have had a large number of players disabled, it’s hardly unusual in comparison to other MLB clubs. Injuries are no excuse in this day and age of fragile ballplayers — they happen in volume to all teams.

Anyway back to the main point of this long-winded post … what do you think about the Giants’ decision to release Rowand and Tejada? Do you think the Mets would make similar moves, if need be, in the future? Post your opinion in the comments.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. MikeT September 9, 2011 at 12:43 pm
    Last I checked the Giants were not going to make the playoffs this year because of a dismal (and actually historically bad – for a defending World Series Champion) offense. They won last year by having their unbelievably good, home-grown, pitching staff dominate while getting just enough hitting. The difference this year is that the Giants had guys like Tejada, a bad choice, and not guys like Renteria and Uribe who were nothing but productive when they needed to be. I really think the Giants are more of a tale of luck, getting production from places unexpected, and great starting pitching than anything else.

    So how does this relate to the Mets? The idea that they can win by spending money is false. They need to develop the pitching necessary for winning, and spend money on keeping good players, like Jose Reyes, around. Can the Mets win with Jose Reyes and David Wright as the only stars on offense? Absolutely, provided that the pitching staff is really really good. And the only way to get there is to wait on some youngsters. Something no Mets fan will ever accept.

    • Joe Janish September 9, 2011 at 3:16 pm
      Just one problem with the theory that the Mets can build around Wright and Reyes if they wait for young pitching: by the time those youngsters make it to MLB, Wright and Reyes will be at least 2-3 years older — probably out of their prime, and perhaps no longer offensive pieces to build around.

      And that’s making a huge assumption that at least two of their young guns become anywhere near what people think they will. Personally I’m not ready to believe that Familia, Harvey, Wheeler, and/or Mejia will become MLB studs. They might all MAKE it to MLB one day, but whether any of them will prove to be frontline starters is still far too early to tell.

      That said, the Mets’ future pitching stars may not even include those four, and may include young men yet to join the organization. The Mets (as with any team) need to stockpile arms over the course of 4-5 years — or get incredibly lucky — before seeing the fruits of their efforts blossom at the big league level.

      • Jimmy Prinzler September 9, 2011 at 4:21 pm
        That’s probably why we have Flores and Lutz to take over Reyes and Wright in future if they decide to go somewhere but don’t forget Reyes and Wright are still 28 yrs old. They’ll be 30-31 when Mets young core starts to develop in MLB level.
      • Mike September 10, 2011 at 8:59 am
        Of course it is not likely all of them will make it, but you continue to stockpile, spend in the draft, and eventually you end up with your Lincecum and Cain combo. If you keep investments wise, and don’t sign pitchers to long term deals who are in their prime, and you don’t continue to waste money on veteran stop gaps, then maybe you can sign or trade for a Doc Halladay as the Phillies did. Which, by the way, doesn’t guarantee anything since the Phillies still haven’t won with either Lee or Halladay.

        As for Wright and Reyes, sure they might be too old then, but they are not the only two hitters in the lineup. And by 2013 it is likely that one of a number of home grown players will be their equals or better by then. Simply paying for Wright and Reyes, as your only big name big money players, is the way to go here because whoever else the Mets have will be cheap and a total bargain. So even if Reyes doesn’t perform to his contract in years 4 and 5, the money you have allocated to him will be surpassed by the value of the underpaid production of someone else on the team. And really my feeling is that stars like Wright and Reyes are still worth a few extra million because they still draw a crowd and thus still make the team money.

        • Joe Janish September 10, 2011 at 10:46 am
          Yes, this is exactly the small-market strategy that Bud Selig condones. The Mets, however, are in the largest market, and therefore have the opportunity to leverage the resources provided of their location to rebuild while also remaining competitive — much like the Yankees and Red Sox have been doing for the last decade. However, the Mets have owners whose financial situation is more suited to a small market. This makes for a fantastic experiment by Selig: to show that a big market club can win using small market strategy — and thus, organically drive down player salaries as a result. We’ll see if the mad scientist gets his wish, but it’ll take 3-5 years.
  2. Brian Joura September 9, 2011 at 12:48 pm
    Bay’s a sunk cost. There’s no sense making it worse by actually playing him every day, too. He can still hit LHP (.940 OPS). The Mets should look to get/promote a lefty-hitting OF better than Willie Harris in the offseason.

    Bay’s got a .601 OPS vs. RHP this year. This will be the third year in a row his OPS versus righties has declined. In 2008 he posted a .907 OPS versus RHP. Unfortunately, he’s not that hitter anymore.

    The Giants made the proper moves in getting rid of those guys. I don’t think the Mets are there yet with Bay, but they need to platoon him. Hopefully Kirk Nieuwenhuis is healthy in 2012 – looks like he would be a nice platoon-mate. He had a .320/.418/.568 mark versus RHP this year in Triple-A.

  3. Jerseymet September 9, 2011 at 1:23 pm
    I have to wonder if baseball’s free agent signings will be a buyer’s market this year. With the Mets and Dodgers not participating, will other teams become thrifty?
  4. argonbunnies September 9, 2011 at 2:27 pm
    The info about Rowand got me thinking about Reyes. Yikes. The Giants made the error of paying for past performance on Zito and Rowand. Will we do the same with Reyes and Wright?

    Some players improve through their early 30s. Others peak at 24. Wright has shown substantial signs of being the latter. Reyes too, until his insane May-June 2011.

    As for cuts, if we were 7 games out and had a better LF then Bay, Bay would be on the bench. And if we also had a better bench bat in AAA, would he be cut? Hmm. I kinda doubt it.

  5. Joe September 9, 2011 at 4:08 pm
    The Giants would probably love to have the Mets offense at the moment. As to Bay, well, depends if they actually have someone better. That was a bad pick-up — spending too much to make sure they did SOMETHING that off season & it bit them in the butt. Better off saving the money & if they were in contention at the trading deadline, spending money then. The chances of his average going down, especially at Citi, was far from unlikely. Some serviceable low priced replacement was available.
  6. Izzy September 9, 2011 at 4:50 pm
    What the giants proved is that if you don’t want to spend big regularly like the Yankees/Phillies/Red Sox, then yes you can win, but you will never do what the GM claims is his goal….”PERENNIAL” winners are onlt the teams that spend big time. The others can win, the others do win, but once in a while. Remember this was the Giants first championship since they were in New York and their post season appearanes have been nfrequent, justlike all the second tier spenders.
    The guys that like the kids, the kids are fine and great but they take time to become stars unless they are the few true superstars and when the become ready for the championships they make big money and they are usually gone to the Yankees or Boston.
    • Joe Janish September 9, 2011 at 5:05 pm
      And then there are the Twins and Braves, who spend just enough and develop just enough youngsters to compete for the postseason nearly every year, but rarely make it into the World Series. It’s an efficient system of keeping payroll down yet usually providing “meaningful games in September” — ergo, selling tickets.