On Dec. 2 the San Francisco Giants agreed to a three-year, $18 million contract with free-agent centerfielder Dave Roberts. Roberts spent the past two seasons with the San Diego Padres, playing for manager Bruce Bochy, who in the offseason accepted the job in San Francisco to replace former manager Felipe Alou.
Last season in San Diego, Roberts (.293, 80 runs, 44 RBI and 49 stolen bases in 499 at-bats) enjoyed career-high numbers in eight statistical categories. They include at-bats, runs, hits, triples, RBI, stolen bases, average and on-base percentage (excluding the 2001 season, when he played in only 15 games). For Roberts, even though the team is different, the changes should be minimal. He will be playing in the same division, the same position, under the same manager and even in the same state. The Giants needed someone to replace outfielders Moises Alou (.301, 22 home runs, 74 RBI and 52 runs in 345 at-bats), who joined the New York Mets, and Steve Finley (.246, six home runs, 40 RBI and 66 runs in 426 at-bats), who remains a free agent.
The 34-year-old Roberts is a career .270 hitter with a .344 on-base percentage. However, Roberts is playing his best baseball as of late, and last year's .293 average and .360 on-base percentage could be closer to what should be expected of him this season with the Giants. In addition, Roberts was caught stealing just six times in 2006. He will likely team with last year's leadoff man, shortstop Omar Vizquel (.295, 88 runs, 58 RBI and 24 stolen bases in 579 at-bats) to give the team a speedy combo at the top of the lineup. Vizquel put up solid numbers last season leading off, but at the age of 39, he might give them to reason to believe that another base-stealing threat was necessary for the Giants. Over the past five seasons Roberts has 195 steals, as well as an 81 percent success rate, both of which are the second-best in the majors among base stealers with 175 bucked bags.
Although Roberts may not make up for the power production the Giants have lost in the outfield, he should go a long way in helping the team succeed. Staying with the same manager could help Roberts continue to improve upon his numbers, as well as hitting in front of Vizquel, a player who hits for average.
For Roberts, the change in scenery is slight, as he is familiar with the ballpark he will now call home, as well as all the divisional opponents. The National League West should figure to be a division filled with teams playing small ball and relying on pitching. This type of game works out well for the speedster Roberts, and after playing at PETCO Park in San Diego, a pitchers' park, it should further help his impact on the bases. Since he hasn't changed divisions, Roberts should be very familiar with the catchers.
The Giants re-signed outfielder Barry Bonds (.270, 26 home runs and 77 RBI in 367 at-bats), who seems to be a shadow of his former self thanks to injuries and age. He is capable of driving in 100 runs if he gets the at-bats, though. Third baseman Pedro Feliz (.244, 22 home runs and 98 RBI in 603 at-bats) also agreed to rejoin the Giants by recently signing a one-year deal. The offseason signing of catcher Bengie Molina (.284, 19 home runs and 57 RBI in 433 at-bats with the Toronto Blue Jays) figures to give the team more power from behind the plate as well. The Giants scored 746 runs last year, compared to the Padres' 735, so Roberts looks to be joining a slightly more productive offense.
For Roberts, stolen bases should once again be his most important statistic for fantasy owners, and he will likely remain at the top of the NL (fourth last season) in stolen bases. Because Roberts will have the same manager, and is rarely thrown out, there is no reason to believe he cannot approach 50 stolen bases again this year. His run production will likely improve if the Giants' bats can provide similar or better production in 2007.
About Mitch Fortner
Mitch Fortner has been a KFFL contributor since 2006.
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