Saturday, December 02, 2006

Giants Avoid Kevin Franzen; Shun Youth Yet Again

For years former manager Dusty Baker was blamed for the Giants stubborn refusal to develop rookies, the result of which was San Francisco's fielding of one of the oldest teams in the history of the major leagues last year. But now with this latest shunning of hot second base prospect Kevin Franzen in favor of Ray Durham -- and with Baker long gone -- the source of San Francisco's anti-youth prejudice must be placed at the feet of GM Brian Sabean.

Despite a need for a wholesale makeover of the Giants lineup, Sabean -- at the completion of 10 years at the Giants helm -- has opted to plop down nearly $8 million a year for the 35-year-old Durham, a player marked with numerous injuries, impeded play and missed time over the years.

Even with Durham's uncharacteristic 26-homer, 96-RBI career year last season, this money would have been much better spent on a free-agent outfielder, third baseman or pitcher, considering that the Giants already had a ready-made second baseman under contract in the person of the freshly scrubbed Franzen, 24.

Franzen had compiled a .322 combined minor league batting average, then topped it by hitting .388 with a .480 OBP and .588 slugging in the Arizona Fall League. Franzen is heartbroken over the prospect of being relegated to the minor leagues once more, and he has a right. Even when it was unclear whether Durham would re-sign, Sabean engaged in talks with Boston journeyman Mark Loretta rather than bring up Franzen.

Though Franzen has experience playing third base for San Jose State, a position in which he could excel defensively and contribute offensively for the Giants, it is unlikely Sabean will give him a shot to play there. For one thing he hits for average, not power, and for another, he's under the age of 30.