photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein
Ugh, I had this whole great post set about third basemen, and then we go and trade for Edgar Renteria. FIGURES.
Now, I have some experience with dear Edgar, since I of course watched him closely during his time in Boston, known privately to Edgar as The Sobbing Time. He batted .276/.335/.385. Let the record state that this was also the only AL season Renteria has experienced to date. He had been in the NL his entire career prior to ’05, and when he went back to the NL in ’06 he promptly batted .293/.361/.436 out of sheer gratitude. Over his career he’s batted .291/.349/.407.
Now, lots of factors could have been at work here. He was unfamiliar with AL pitchers and AL parks. He had just come off a .287/.387/.401 year, which seems pretty good in comparison with the numbers he put up in ’05, but until ’05 that was his worst year in a long time… so it’s not as though he dropped out of the stratosphere when he got to Boston. He just dropped out of the troposphere. It could’ve just been a fairly random low point his career, which happens.
He also wasn’t just dealing with the AL– he was dealing with BOSTON. If you take the terror that a career NL player has coming into the AL, and you cube that terror, and then you add in the terror of being attacked by a zombie grizzly bear while you’re on fire and surrounded by gasoline-soaked rabid koalas, then and only then do you begin to approximate how Boston appeared to a weak-hitting Edgar Renteria. In all fairness, this wasn’t just Renteria reacting poorly… that’s about how Boston behaved towards him when it became clear that he wasn’t exactly going to be hitting for extra bases that season. Especially the zombie grizzly bear bit. I’m pretty sure I actually SAW some guys in Fenway holding anti-Edgar signs who looked A LOT like zombie grizzly bears.
My point is that I worry about Renteria’s ability to hit in the AL, but I hope he simply had an inability to handle Boston. Detroit’s a big baseball city, but a player is much less likely to suffer a mental breakdown here than out east. If he hits like he did last year I won’t complain (much), but with only one season in the AL under his belt… a PROBLEMATIC season… I don’t think you can say with 100% confidence that he’s going to hit at his NL levels in the AL until you actually see him do it.
The money doesn’t bother me. Mr. Ilitch can just sell some extra pizza or whatever if he has to. We haven’t been paying like a small-market team for years now (and doesn’t it feel extravagently good?). So:
– He’s 31 years old, presumably aging in the usual direction. The entire infield will be filled with broken-kneed old men very shortly, minus Brandon Inge.
– Much as I hate to give Tony The Russa any credit for anything, ever, he may have been at least sort of right when he called Renteria a “sensitive and shy guy”. Again, it’s not like Detroit=Boston, but it might still be more intense here than in the NL cities where he’s been languishing.
– We traded Jair Jurrjens and Gorkys Hernandez for him. Matt’s already covered this, and you should check that out ’cause he’s, y’know, the expert and all, but I’m not super happy with this. Both are young, both still have potential, and I just WISH there was some way to know that Renteria’s 2005 was a Boston-induced fluke. I really, really do. If the problem turns out to be AL pitching I will hate the fact that we gave those two guys away for a year of really bad ‘renting’ jokes.
– With Carlos Guillen already in place, Renteria’s arrival will mean that we may have the weakest-chinned infield in baseball. All we’d need to do is collect Jorge Posada, and we could have the weakest-chinned team of all time.
– Theoretically speaking, he CAN hit, and we have numberlicious proof of it, not just ~*~vague impressions~*~ from our collective memory. He can hit in the NL. Now he just has to translate it over. If he can NL-hit here in the AL, our lineup will be scary, scary, scary and good.
– If he remains uninjured, he should be a defensive upgrade over Guillen, if only because of the fact that his knees (unlike those of Carlos) are not made of gristle and hopefulness. Again, we’re hoping his high error total in 2005 was because he really can’t stomach zombie grizzly bears.
– He’s unlikely to disrupt the clubhouse in pretty much any way.
– He’s not Jack Wilson.
On the whole, then, I think I’m mostly pessimistic about this trade, but that’s my default setting. When I think about who else we could have brought in (the aforementioned Wilson… David Grit Eckstein… even, urgh, ARod…), I feel OK about this move.
So long as he hits like he does in the NL.