Not Much "Left" in the Tank
As we've all heard by now at least sixteen times, the market for pitchers this off-season is pretty thin. Somewhat inevitably then -- faster than you can say "mediocre reliever" -- it is the reasoning behind the Giant's latest blunder: the resigning of Jason Christiansen.
Christiansen, 35, will earn an inflated $1.1m in 2005; a step down nevertheless from the $2.75m he scammed in the past three seasons, during which he logged just 67 innings. That's $132,000 per inning. In the past six campaigns, the ungainly southpaw has posted ERAs of 4.97, 5.40, 3.22, 5.40, 5.19 and 4.50. That may be a mark of consistency for the befuddled, but for Christiansen, like so many players in their mid-30s, it is the mark of men in decline. His command is tenuous at best; In 2004, he walked more batters than he struck out (26/22). His WHIP was 1.67, 474th among NL pitchers. Aside from the fact he's a so-called "lefty specialist", the best thing anyone seems to have to say about Christiansen is that he's another year removed from Tommy John Surgery.
Yet Sabean seems to like him. Given the splashes the Giants have made elsewhere, contuinity seems to have trumped ability in the relief corps. So long as the starting rotation goes deeerp into games in 2005 than in 2004, Scott Eyre should be able to handle any extra load, should Christiansen falter.
Ultimately, Christiansen may not evoke memories of slamming doors (in all likelihood, he's not likely to evoke memories of any kind), but he's not terrible money for a lefty specialist. If he doesn't cut the mustard, the situation will likely be attended to in mid-season when fresh meat is thrown onto the market. For Sabean knows how valuable a bullpen injection can be. He needs little reminding of how the 2004 season ended. Ironically, both Christiansen and the Giant's third leftie, Wayne Franklin , were among the cuplrits, as San Francisco failed to evade the Dodger's threat in the 9th inning. LA scored 7 times in that final, ignominious frame. Franklin too will return in 2005, at a justifiably basement price.
Surely, both the Giant's GM and the fans cannot stomach another season that includes 28 blown saves. Unfortunately, say the critics, with relievers like these, who needs a bullpen? It will be interesting to see how many innings Armando Benitez gets under his belt before he reliquishes pitching duties on the grounds not of exhaustion, but irritation with his quirky compadres.