Chin Music: Giants Married to Nen

Robb Nen (Getty Images/Jed Jacobsohn)

For better or worse, injury all but guarantees closer will be with team in 2004.

When Robb Nen signed a four-year contract extension in September of 2000, the main worry of many Giants fans was that he'd opt out of the contract and become a free agent after either the 2002 or 2003 seasons as his contract allowed him to do. $8.6 million in 2003 and $9 million in 2004 for one of the best closers in the game seemed to be a bit under market value, and John Smoltz's $10 million plus per year deal signed just a year later seemed to justify that belief. However, in April 2003, it now looks like the Giants will get the raw end of the deal in a totally different way.

The economic climate in baseball coupled with Nen's mounting shoulder problems makes his market value likely less than half than the $9 million player option he has for 2004. Add in the fact that Nen has always been content in San Francisco and there's no way he'll be declining his option. This means the Giants will have over 10% of their 2004 payroll tied up in a player who may not pitch at all in 2003.

When he's on and healthy, Robb Nen is worth every bit of $9 million. But with the doubts about his health and the likes of Rich Aurilia, Jose Cruz Jr., Benito Santiago, J.T. Snow, Felix Rodriguez, and Tim Worrell all eligible for free agency after this season, you can't help but wonder if that money could best be spent elsewhere.

Speaking of Injury-Prone Overpaid Pitchers…

The Kevin Brown you see now is not the same Kevin Brown that was a perennial Cy Young award candidate. There was a lot of hype in the spring about how Kevin Brown was back and mowing people down. It's funny how lineups full of backups and AAA players can inflate your stats. The fact is Brown's lost a lot of zip on his sinker and he is no longer a dominant pitcher. Now don't get me wrong, if he stays healthy he's still going to win between 12-15 games. But there's also a good chance that Omar Daal would win 12-15 games as well if he were still there. My conclusion: The return of Kevin Brown alone will not be enough to put the Dodgers over the hump.

Reggie and Kenny Who?

A lot was made over the Pirates debuts of Kenny Lofton and Reggie Sanders. Lofton homered on opening day, and Sanders had 4 HR's and 11 RBI in the first 4 games. So how are they doing now? Lofton's batting .210 with an on-base percentage of .269, not exactly what you want out of your leadoff hitter. Sanders didn't hit another home run or get an RBI again until Friday night, 12 games later. In the 11 games between, Sanders played in 8 of them and struck out 13 times.

Down on the Farm

Can anybody stop Jason Ellison? He's hitting .359 and has at least one hit in 14 of 15 games, reaching base in all 15. Ellison has also been successful in 6 of his 7 stolen base attempts. You'd like to see a few more walks out of him (only 3 in 68 plate appearances), but he's starting to look like a perfect fit as the CF and #2 hitter in the Giants order in 2004. Durham and Ellison at the top of the lineup could create an awful lot of havoc.

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