It’s not official until a contract is signed, but it looks like the Indians definitely want Jason Giambi to return to the club for the 2014 season. According to Jordan Bastian of MLB.com, Indians manager Terry Francona was recently quoted as saying “We would like to continue our relationship with G[iambi] probably as long as he would like to.”
Giambi will become a free agent over the winter. In January he will be 43 years old. If Giambi returns as a player, he will be the oldest player in the major leagues. Relief pitchers Mariano Rivera of the Yankees and Darren Oliver of the Blue Jays were the only two players older than Giambi in the 2013 season, and both men have announced their retirement from the game (you may have heard something about Rivera’s retirement; I think there was something about it in the newspapers).
Of course, being a free agent, Giambi could theoretically sign with any of the other 29 MLB clubs. But since he can no longer be used as anything other than a DH or a pinch-hitter, it’s unlikely that a National League team would have any interest in signing him. And thanks to the platonic bromance that he and Francona developed this past season, all indications are that Giambi would love to return to the Indians.
I certainly understand Giambi’s value to the team in 2013. He provided veteran leadership to a team that was in sore need of it, and despite his meager .183 batting average, he did bang out nine home runs in 186 at-bats, including the ninth-inning pinch-hit homer against the White Sox in the final week of the regular season.
There is a part of me which instinctively rebels at the notion of all but promising a roster spot to a man of that age, a man who can’t play in the field. Too many times I’ve seen the Indians give too many at-bats to too many over-the-hill sluggers, thereby denying at-bats and a spot on the roster to men less than half Giambi’s age.
I recently discussed this issue in an online chat with my fellow IPL writer Adam Hintz. Adam is in favor of having Giambi return in 2014. Adam contends that with a full offseason of conditioning, and with knowing that his roster spot is safe, Giambi will likely report to spring training in better shape than in 2013. Correctly guessing that a man of my age (to me, Giambi’s almost a kid) knows very little about sports-themed video games, Adam explained: “Players have a contact and power rating, but they also have an awareness or an eye or a clutch rating, which makes it easier to time your swing, get a big hit, etc. Giambi’s contact is gone, and his power is fading, but he’s like a 99 in those intangible ratings. And whie the guy who might get that [25th] roster spot from AAA would have a higher contact/power rating, there was just an undeniable QUALITY to most of Giambi’s high-pressure at-bats that you can’t pull off the street.” And if Giambi’s age finally catches up with him, and he can no longer contribute to the team the way he did in 2013, Adam believes that Giambi, a proud man, would retire in mid-season rather than embarrass himself and the club.
What do you think? Please feel free to comment.