Evaluating the Talent: Jason Giambi

Jason Giambi has come to be a well-beloved member of the Rockies. That’s not a sentence I would have thought I’d ever say a few years ago. He seemed like the furthest thing from the type of guy who typically fits in well with our club. He was an admitted user of steroids and kind of a jerk. When he signed with the Rockies near the end of the 2009 season, I was not pleased.

However, I don’t know that I’ve ever been more pleasantly surprised by someone as I have been by Giambi. He turned out to be an incredibly hard worker with a lot of integrity. Yes, the steroids happened, but he handled it a bit better than, say, Rafael Palmeiro. And we know he’s not taking them now, so his three home run game against the Phillies last season was all Giambino. He really seems to have had a positive impact on the clubhouse as well. The younger guys look up to him and admire his work ethic and professionalism. So while I wouldn’t have expected myself to say such positive things about him back when he first came on board, I’m happy he’s with the Rockies now. And when the team picked up his option for 2012, that made me happy too.

Giambi’s role next season will be exactly what it was last year: a left-handed bat off the bench and occasional back-up first baseman when Todd Helton needs a day. Much as I like him, I’m not sure the bench is a great spot for him anymore. He contributed many vital pinch hits down the stretch in 2009, but he did not do that in 2011. His splits as a starter and pinch-hitter are pretty gross: .290/.388/.700 when starting, .161/.250/.290 when substituting. Keep in mind that that dominating game in Philly was as a starter, as was the only game in which he hit a walk-off home run (August 15th against the Marlins). That means that meaningful playing time for Giambi likely depends on Helton not being healthy. On the other hand, at Helton’s age we can expect that he’ll need time to rest, and we could do a lot worse than Giambi backing him up. So while I hope he’s not the man Jim Tracy calls into the on-deck circle when the game is late and close, I’m totally fine with him playing 1st a couple times a week when Helton needs him to.

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