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The Perhaps-Not-So-Difficult Andres Torres Decision

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In Spanish, pumpkin is calabaza. I think of calabazas every time I see Andres Torres these days, because I'm worried that the clock has struck midnight, the slipper has fallen off, and the fairy tale is over. 

The Giants have to decide by mid-December whether to offer Torres a contract for 2012. If they do, they either agree on a deal (which could be multi-year) or take it to arbitration in February. He made $2.2 million in 2011, and despite the crummy year would get at least a slight raise in arbitration. For argument's sake, let's call it $3 million, whether by mutual agreement or by arbitration, so that in essence is the difficult Torres decision: By mid-December, decide if they should pay him $3 million in 2012.

It's hard to tell what the Giants think. Torres is not in tonight's starting lineup, and he hasn't been in one since September 5. This could mean a few things:

- "We know what Andres can do, and we've already decided to keep him next year. We need to find out more about Justin Christian and whether Cody Ross can play center field on a regular basis." (More on Cody Ross later.)

- "We know what Andres can do, and we've already decided we won't offer him arbitration this winter."

- "We'd love to see if Andres can regain some confidence and finish the year strongly, but with the nagging injuries and the ADD recurrences hinted at in the press, it's better to ease up on the guy right now."

Reading the tea leaves of Carlos Beltran's latest interviews about his potential future with the Giants, there's a clue about Torres. If you missed it, Beltran told Baggs Thursday that he would want to see the Giants find more offense -- preferably a dynamic leadoff guy -- before he re-committed. He told Hank something similar Friday, touting Jose Reyes, then said this:

"The only way you can manufacture runs is to have a guy at the top of the lineup who gets on base, steals bases and makes the job easier for the guys behind... We've been using Cody Ross, and there are a lot of guys trying to fill that hole. At the same time, you need to find a guy who's a natural hitter, who can take pitches, find a way to get on base, those type of things."

Andres Torres was that guy last year, but "it's been a tough year for him," Beltran said. "The guy tries hard every single day, works hard. At the end of the day, hopefully next year he can be the guy he was last year. He's a great guy."

You get the feeling Beltran doesn't hold out much hope for Torres to regain his 2010 form. He's not the last word, of course, but he's reinforcing the perceptions we've all registered this year.

If Torres has indeed reverted back to pumpkinhood -- a backup outfielder used almost exclusively for late-game D and pinch-running -- he can still earn his keep. The glove is worth a lot. And he's still an excellent base runner, though not quite a sure-thing base stealer. If he gets his hitting act together, even just from one side of the plate, his value rises past his modest salary. So perhaps it's not such a difficult decision. Three million bones for a backup outfielder seems pricey, but the more I see Darren Ford get picked off or caught stealing, and the more I see Justin Christian doing very little in a tiny sample size (sorry, Justin), the more I think the Torres money would be well spent in case he battles back and has a year, performance-wise, somewhere between '11 and '10.

Now, about Cody Ross. Grant has a good summary of the pros and cons of bringing him back and leans toward the pro; I just don't see the economics working out. Perhaps this September run of games with "Ross CF" penciled into the leadoff spot is his tryout; one solid month of hitting peas and tracking down long flies, and there will a two year, $14 million contract waiting at the end of the rainbow.

Nope. I just can't see it. My bet is the Giants don't want to risk arbitration. If they don't offer, they can't negotiate with him until May 2012, effectively ending the chance of re-signing him. And if Ross walks, the Torres decision gets easier. The wild card in all this is health, physical and mental. We don't know if the Giants are confident Torres can get his ADD under control (we don't even know if that's actually been a problem). And we don't know if Giants' training staff have issued dire warnings about Torres' tender leg muscles. Assuming the health questions are manageable, the answer is yes: Andres Torres in 2012.
 

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