Friday Rockpile: Giambi Roster Dominoes, Does He Have More Value Than We Think?

Troy Renck of the Denver Post has obtained the contract details for the brand new 2011 model of Jason Giambi.

To summarize: he'll earn $850k this season playing in the majors, may opt out of his contract on March 31 or June 1 if not on the MLB roster and if he has a deal lined up with another team, will be given a mutual $1 million option for 2012 if still on the roster at the end of the season ($150k buyout), and perhaps most significant of all to me, must receive $250k if he is released this Spring.

This throws a wrench in my earlier preference for what to do with Giambi.

When the news of the Giambi signing was first reported, I felt the best course of action would be to release Giambi if he wasn't make the team out of the gate, in order to give younger and, in my opinion, more valuable minor league depth such as Mike Jacobs or Eric Duncan the chance to play for the Sky Sox every day. It's not so much anything special about those two players when compared with Giambi, rather that they're quite a bit younger and less fragile, despite the infamous Giambi frame, and would likely make smarter insurance policies were Helton's back to flare up. $250k for being released in the Spring may not quite be a full major league salary, but as we've discussed many times before, this could be the difference between a late-season signing after the deadline when games are of great importance. Make no mistake, this is a major disincentive towards releasing him outright.

You see, having Giambi around the organization is still most valuable as a Helton insurance policy. On the surface, that is. As someone who leaned into the Giambi skeptic camp before writing this article, I probably wouldn't mind seeing a spot cleared for Giambi on April 1 if Helton were starting the season on the DL or something. But let's think about this from another perspective, the perspective that not only makes more sense this year, probably actually made more sense last year too: late inning pinch hitting. Any other spot on an active roister is redundant, right?

Maybe not.

Giambi doubters, let's break down our ever so troublesome left handed presence on the team, the one that made us so desperate for a right handed presence at first base last year.

- Todd Helton? Starting at 1B, or so we think for now.
- Ian Stewart? At least starting against righties, and should probably still be starting against lefties too if the matchup police don't intervene.
- Carlos Gonzalez? Obviously in the outfield every day.
- Seth Smith? *crickets chirp* Huh.
- The end.

Looking at our outfield depth options, which right now could probably billed "CarGo, Dex... and the rest" or something, a product of the sudden concern over Seth Smith's ability to play as a starter. Last year, when Hawpe's ribs nagged him to an eventual release for roster space, Smith was unexpectedly asked to take over full time in the third outfield spot, and it didn't work out so well. Check out those August and September splits. .129 BABIP? Good grief.

Smith is the first "roster domino" related to the significance of Giambi making the team. Continuing with this theme after the jump.

Off-Topic

Let's recap, because I'm rambling in my usual unstructured way. Giambi's contract contains a significant buyout for being cut from the organization during the Spring, meaning he's now mostly likely to make the team as the 25th man or actually stick in the minors unless he happens to be offered a spot by another team (though the descriptions I have found thus far do not specify if it has to be an MLB contract to take the out or not).

Right now, all skepticism aside, Seth Smith is probably breaking camp as the third starting outfielder due to a lack of competition (we don't even have any OF NRIs officially announced, with only prospect Charles Blackmon and recent re-signing Jeff Salazar as known likely candidates as of 9:34 PM on 1/20, now watch them sign someone as soon as this goes up). As demonstrated above, what was once a left handed stronghold in the first two-thirds of 2009 with both Mr. Late Night Smith and Giambi at the bottom of the order for LH bench power has now become zero, and this is far more likely to be Giambi's contribution as the hypothetical 25th man this year.

Right now, the roster's bench is most easily projectable as Ryan Spilborghs, Ty Wigginton, a catcher (Jose Morales most likely), an emergency Troy Tulowitzki backup (Jonathan Herrera most likely), and X, which I'd long considered to be a faceoff between recent 40 man addition Cole Garner if a true 5th OF was needed, and toolsy Eric Young Jr. who offered a small degree of inherent contribution potential with his pinch running and lineup altering diversity if he were to start behind Jose Lopez, if needed. Giambi has now entered that conversation, and the more I look at it, rightfully so. Some are concerned that going without a true fifth OF in favor of an inexperienced Jonathan Herrera and ineffective Ty Wigginton is a real concern, but I doubt we'll be seeing CarGo and Fowler out of the lineup enough to make that happen, with only one spot ever shifting between Smith and Spilborghs when needed.

This is the second year that the Rockies surprised by re-signing Giambi, and there are probably still a lot of readers who have doubt (or fear) that he will actually be making this roster. But up until the signing itself, I really hadn't noticed the lack of left handed power in the back of the bench. Rox Girl has recently spoken of scenarios in which Smith loses his job as a starter in favor of Blackmon or another, more likely midseason than out of the gate, pushing him into that PH role where he has shown more consistent success. A situation like this, barring the aforementioned unhealthy Helton case, makes Giambi far more close to the expendable player some want him to be right now. But Blackmon isn't more likely to make the team than Giambi is to start.

Now I'd love to continue the roster dominoes train into how Giambi staying with or leaving the Sky Sox would affect players down there beyond the Jacobs types, but that's mostly a waste of time this early without knowing exactly who they want down there out of a relatively large pool of roster contenders. All I'll say here is that the AAA roster is but 24 players, even more crowded than an MLB roster. While there's more flexibility, including easy DL stints, the reserves list and the ability for any player to be made temporarily inactive for any reason at any time, it's still even more crowded than it is at the MLB level, especially when you consider AAA would obviously not be carrying four first basemen in Giambi, Jacobs, Duncan and Mike Paulk).

Conclusion: There are now more reasons for me to support picking Giambi to join the team, and the situation is more complicated than a roster workout at Spring Training to showcase him to other teams.

There's still a chance that another team does make him an offer sometime around March 31 or June 1. Further, the Rockies did protect themselves to some degree making it a minor league deal, but the $250,000 buyout and the limited opportunities to let Giambi out ends up handcuffing both sides, and making a 2011 Jason Giambi in a Rockies uniform a lot more likely than I thought it was 24 hours ago.

What do you think should happen with Giambi? Poll below.

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