On The Hot Seat: Giambi, Hafner, Sexson, Timlin

I love lists, and here’s one from Peter Abraham at The Journal News that details who he thinks is in the hot seat.  In other words, who might be traded or released if current trends continue.  There are a number of managers and GMs on the list, but we like to focus on players here.  I’m going to go through the list and take stabs-in-the-dark whether a player is likely to be dealt or if they’re just fluff for Mr. Abraham’s article – and then we can discuss in the comments.

Jason Giambi – An announcer this year said that Giambi’s defensive range extended from his right knee to his left knee.  As a fielder, he’s decent with no range; however, as a hitter Giambi has never been considered a slow starter, as Abraham notes he is a career .281 hitter in April.  Still, like Carlos Delgado, Giambi has shown some recent spurts of life in his bat, and he does have 7 HR (one shy of the league leading 8) and 20 RBI.  PECOTA projects .230-24-73 with a .362 OBP.  If he can bring his average up, he’ll be roughly on target for that projection.  If he can’t, Abraham thinks the Yankees "might as well give someone else a chance."  So far, Joe Girardi’s been supportive and patient calling the slump a product of bad luck.  Prediction: Staying put.

Travis Hafner – Abraham sees .256 with 27 HR in almost 700 ABs and wonders if the Indians would rather trade him to a team who believes he can turn it around than risk eating the remaining $56MM on Hafner’s contract.  At 31, Hafner is an oddity.  Last year the slumping behemoth of a man saw his power drop by almost 20 HR.  He’s currently continuing that trend with his OPS at a mere 640 and w/o a homerun since April 17 (!).  During an ESPN game, they were discussing how his timing – particularly with his front foot-plant – is off making it hard for him to get ahead of pitches.  So his problem seems both perceptual and mechanical – but why can’t Pronk seem to correct this?  I’d be worried because his contract is slowly going from bothersome to disastrous.  PECOTA is not a believer, projecting .275-28-98 – hardly a rebound.  He’s making $6.3MM this year and is on the books for another $70MM until 2013 (with a $2.75MM buyout in his last year).  Is there a batting coach out there on a big-market team that can fix this?  Wouldn’t count on it.  Prediction: Staying put.

Richie Sexson
– In the Year of the Slumping First Basemen, Richie Sexson is not at all unlike Giambi or Delgado.  Abraham pulls no punches with Richie, calling him "one of the worst hitters in baseball during the last two seasons and shows no signs of coming around."  He’s making $14MM this year, owed approx. $11.2MM more, and then he’s surely done in Seattle.  I agree with Abraham that $11.2MM will "buy him another month or two" but the Mariners have options and I’d expect them to explore them by trading Sexson and eating some of the contract – maybe sooner rather than later as cutting your losses is (almost) acceptable practice this season.  Sexson has never been the hitter Delgado, Giambi, or Hafner have been and has been intolerably bad for just too long.  Prediction: Shipping off.

Mike Timlin
– Making $3MM this year, Abraham notes Timlin has allowed 9 runs in 7 1/3 IP and with a small contract would be an easy piece to move.  But I ask why?  Relief pitching is a commodity, and Timlin – known to the Red Sox as the captain of the bullpen – brings to the team a fair deal of intangible value, particularly as they integrate Craig Hansen and Justin Masterson into their relief corps.  7.1 IP is hardly a sample worth examining as he’s basically still in spring-training-form.  Last year he had a 3.42 ERA in 50 IP and while he’s not the 2.24 ERA Timlin that saved 13 games when Keith Foulke went down, he’s serviceable.  If he fails to progress and becomes a liability then maybe the Red Sox will move him from mop up duty to another team.  Still, I doubt it.  Prediction: Staying put.

Let’s hear your thoughts.  Who did Abraham forget?  Who disagrees?

By Nat Boyle

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