Did You Want Aubrey Huff?

Of the many criticisms directed at Ned Colletti over the years, there’s one I’ve never particularly agreed with, and that’s that he has a fascination with ex-Giants, having served as the club’s AGM for years. Most of the imports from San Francisco have basically been irrelevant, like Justin Miller, and Jeff Kent has an argument to be the best 2nd baseman in LA Dodger history. (Okay, Russ Ortiz was a complete disaster all around.) (Edit: as Alireza helpfully points out in the comments, Kent was a Paul DePodesta signing.)

So when the Giants won the World Series a few weeks ago on the backs of a strong pitching staff and miraculous, never-to-be-repeated performances by a bunch of generally mediocre veteran bats, the concern was that Colletti would look at his old mates and try to emulate that model. Hey, it’s not like he doesn’t have the art of signing mediocre veterans down to a science already, right?

Now personally, I never really bought into that. I could care less where the player came from and what team he’d been on before, as long as he can help the Dodgers going forward. Hell, other than Barry Bonds, Kent was the face of those early-decade Giants clubs, and he still became a valued Dodger just because of his performance on the field. (If not so much because of his performance off it.)

When Colletti signed Ted Lilly and Hiroki Kuroda to seveneight-figure contracts over the last few weeks, the voices rose once again. “He’s just going to spend on pitching! But what about the offense that was so bad last year? Just because it worked once for the Giants doesn’t mean it’ll work for us!” You’d be surprised how often I heard that, but I always found it ridiculous. There’s no argument that Lilly and Kuroda improve the club (for 2011, at least), and the starting rotation had only two returning starters in Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley. Why wouldn’t you want to improve the rotation? Sure, you could go get Carl Crawford and blow all your money in one place, but then what? Is your 3/4/5 John Ely, Charlie Haeger, and Dana Eveland? No, thanks.

But then the Giants signed Aubrey Huff to a 2/$22m deal, which most observers found to be excessive. Huff was awful at the plate in 2009, and has never been a good defender, so entering his age-33 season in 2010 he managed only a 1/$3m commitment from the Giants. The deal paid off wonderfully, but Huff tailed off at the season ended, putting up just a .786 OPS with 6 homers after August 1, with an OPS under .700 in the playoffs.

Still, he was a big part of why the Giants made it to October, so for them to overpay him was a little understandable. But there was an interesting facet to the deal, and that’s that another team had actually offered it and Giants GM Brian Sabean had to go to ownership for permission to match, which he received.

Do you really have to guess what team that ended up being?

After re-signing free-agent first baseman Aubrey Huff to a two-year, $22 million contract, Giants GM Brian Sabean told reporters, “One other club accelerated their interest and we played tag with that and were able to get in a position where we matched what the other club did.”

Who was that other club?

The Dodgers, according to major-league sources.

It could not be confirmed whether the Dodgers actually matched the Giants’ offer, but the team had definite interest in Huff, sources said.

Huff, who turns 34 on Dec. 20, could have fit the Dodgers at first base if the team traded James Loney or in left field as an upgrade over Jay Gibbons.

Of course it was. Because, why wouldn’t you want to get an overrated, declining older bat for big dollars? The fit here doesn’t even make sense; as a lefty bat, he can’t be platooned with either Loney or Gibbons. If you planned on putting him at 1B, then that makes Loney’s already-low trade value just about zero. If you want to put him in left field, well, there’s a reason that baseball-reference lists his position as “First Baseman, Designated Hitter and Third Baseman”. It’s one thing to suffer with bad defense when you’re getting Manny-level production, but Huff has been up-and-down in recent years and is hardly a lock to be valuable.

If there’s good news here, it’s that the Dodgers apparently still have money to spend. Yet in this case, I suppose we ought to thank the Giants, no? It’s a weird feeling.