Now that the awards have all been given out, let's take a look at some of the hot topics for the Yanks, starting with the wooing and potential signing of Brian Giles. I've always thought very highly of Brian and he has been on my radar ever since his prospect days with the Cleveland Indians. I heard a lot of people speaking and writing pretty highly about the guy's tools and makeup. He didn't light the world on fire a la Miguel Cabrera in either 1997 or 1998 when he was given 350 ABs to show what he was made of. Still, Brian definitely didn't tank either and ended up putting up an OPS of .827 in 1996 and .856 in 1997 (with an OBP of .396). By this point, I was praying that the Yankees could find some way to get him from Cleveland but it was not to be.

November 18, 1998: Brian was traded by the Cleveland Indians to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Ricardo Rincon. Hmmm... yeah, that didn't end up being a very good trade for the normally very astute Indians organization. In his first season as an unopposed starter, Brian put up a line of .315/.418/.614 with 39 HRs, 115 RBIs and OPS+ of 157 (an OPS that was 57% better than the league average). This would be the first of several great seasons (four and a half in total) that Brian would have for the Pirates. None of these accomplishments earned him any MVP consideration though as the highest he ever finished was 13th in 2002 (which incidentally turned out to be his last full season with the Pirates). Not too shabby considering that he played for a team who could afford few quality hitters to surround him with.

Still, during the entire time he was with the Pirates, the lowest OPS+ he ever put up was 148 in the last half season he played with them - that means that at his WORST, his OPS (on base plus slugging) was 48% better than the average player in the NL. Here are his OPS+ numbers from his years with the Pirates: 157, 158, 153, 173, 148.

August 26, 2003: Brian was traded by the Pittsburgh Pirates to the San Diego Padres for Corey Stewart, Jason Bay, and Oliver Perez (this trade has worked out quite well for the Pirates as Bay has quietly become one of the best OFers in the game - a younger Brian Giles really - and Oliver Perez can be an ace if/when he can gets his control issues fixed). Giles, as well as every other hitter for San Diego, has seen his homers and slugging percentage go way down (23 HRs/.475 SLG in 2004, 15/.483 in 2005) since the move to PetCo Park (an extreme pitcher's park) but his overall stat lines show minor deterioration. He finished 2005 with a .423 OBP, 3rd best in the league, which proves that he still has a great eye for balls and strikes and his home and road splits (.267/.378/.417 with 23 XBHs at home and .333/.463/.545 with 38 XBHs on the road) show that while his power has been supressed, it is still there. Also, even with the PetCo effect, here are the active players that have a higher career OPS+ than Brian Giles:
1. Barry Bonds, 184, 2. Albert Pujols, 169, 3. Frank Thomas, 161, 4. Manny Ramirez, 156, 5. Jeff Bagwell, 150, 6. Jason Giambi, 149, Jim Thome, 149, 8. Vladimir Guerrero, 148, 9. Lance Berkman, 147, Mike Piazza, 147, 10. Brian Giles, 146.

So what does all this mean? Well, you just can't dispute that Brian Giles has been great to this point in his career and that he remains a fearsome and very productive hitter. However, the question becomes - how long can he keep this up? Well, if the Yanks were to sign him, Giles would be 35 at the beginning of the season - the same age as one Gary Antonian Sheffield when he signed with the Yankees. Here are the major differences: Sheff had just come off an MVP-caliber season (.330/.419/.604 with 78 XBHs), he was an average to above average right fielder and there was some other talent in the OF free agent pool that year (Vlad Guerrero). Brian is coming off a couple of years where you're starting to see some offensive decline, is a below-average outfielder and there is no other free agent outfielder that is nearly as good (Hideki isn't a free agent until tonight) so he will command a premium. Giles also seems to prefer the midwest (St. Louis does has a spot open with the retirement of Larry Walker) so he might need additional incentive (read $$$) to don the pinstripes. Finally, Sheff has been great for the Yanks but you are starting to see some decline. With Giles, you've already seen some signs of that decline so how much of a risk (length of contract, $$$, etc.) are you willing to take that the decline won't snowball once he heads over to the AL?

So, here we have an interesting issue. You have a very good but risky player out on the free agent market. However, he runs directly against the general manager's stated goal of getting younger, cheaper and more athletic. What do you do? Do you pull the trigger and pray that he can keep it up for another couple of years? that he can handle playing left field in Yankee Stadium with all of it's intracies? (I'm assuming left because Giles hasn't played center on a regular basis since 1999 and he was below-average right fielder for the last two years) that he can handle the transition from NL pitchers to AL pitchers? Because on paper, a lineup with Giles in it would seem very, very scary (just think of Giles, Giambi, Sheff and A-Rod working the count - all 4 have pitch per plate appearance right around 4) and would be the best in baseball. Would you pull the trigger?

Personally, I would not. Too much risk for my taste. BUT, to this point, we haven't really talked about the possibility that Matsui doesn't re-sign with the Yankees and tonight's deadline is coming up awfully quick. If the Yankees were to lose Matsui to another team, signing Giles as a replacement becomes practically a necessity as he is the only choice out there right now who could fill that offensive hole. I guess we'll find out the course of action later today.