The Giants have just announced a move surprising in its timing. They have released outfielder Dave Roberts now to give him time to find a job elsewhere. The team will be on the hook for his $6.5 million salary in 2009. If another team signs him, it will pay him the major-league minimum of $400,000 and the Giants will pay the rest.
This is believed to be the largest contract the Giants ever had to eat upon releasing a player. He was in the final year of a three-year, $18 million deal.
The Giants also optioned pitchers Keiichi Yabu and Kelvin Pichardo to Triple-A Fresno.
UPDATE: We just talked to GM Brian Sabean, who said he tried to shop Roberts all winter and spring. The Giants placed him on unconditional release waivers because they want to give younger players such as Eugenio Velez and John Bowker long looks at the fifth outfield spot, and that Velez's chances of making the team as a two-way utility man are enhanced by this move.
It did not help Roberts that he continued to experience knee soreness this spring.
"I was honest with him," Sabean said of Roberts. "I told him we're on a path to get younger and healthier. Right now that's not on his resume. I think the longer we went not doing something would have been an injustice to trying to find out about our own kids and giving him a chance to go somewhere else."
I don't think paying Roberts $6 million was crazy. Once.
But he's exactly the sort of player you don't sign for three years and $18 million. That is Brian Sabean's recent performance in a nutshell 34-year-old player has a career season? Sold! Lock him up until he's 37 and hang the cost!
In 2007, Roberts' first season with the Giants, his games dropped from 129 to 114, his steals from 49 to 31, and his OPS+ from 101 to 80. In his second season, his games dropped from 114 to 52, his steals from 31 to 5, and his OPS+ from 80 to 65. And in his third season, everything will drop to zero. At least as far as the Giants are concerned.
I didn't like the contract when Roberts signed it. I don't know anyone who did. But I also don't know anyone who thought it would turn out this badly. There is a good lesson in there somewhere, though.