Does Jason Giambi have one more season in him?
The 42-year old is intending to find out, and so are the Cleveland Indians. The two sides agreed to a one-year minor league deal that includes a non-roster Spring Training invite today, that could represent the final chance for the former slugger to take the field in the big leagues.
The “minor league” part of the deal is just a formality, of course. Should Giambi fail to make the Opening Day roster, he won’t be going to the minors – not at the stage where he would simply retire from the game as opposed to overstaying his welcome.
In fact, if the veteran had it his way, he might have retired as a player already, and begun a new stage of his career as a manager. That was the hope that he had when he interviewed for the Colorado Rockies‘ vacant managerial job in October last year, and was legitimately in the mix throughout the process that eventually saw the team hire Walt Weiss instead.
So, Giambi chose to return to the American League. There was no more place for him in the NL, not if he wants to make an impact as anything other than a pinch-hitting coming off the bench. The DH is just about the only place that the lefty bat will find a fit these days, and fortunately for him, the Indians are set to go into the season without a full-time player in that spot.
That’s not to say that they would just hand it to aging veteran, but the opportunity is there.
Despite seeing his once-formidable skills at the plate greatly diminished as he nears the ends of his career, Giambi still possesses excellent on-base skills (17.7 BB%, .372 OBP in 2012), and is just one year removed from slugging 13 homers in just 152 PA. Although he has traditionally performed better at the plate when he’s been playing at first base, Giambi’s .266/.326/.430 triple slash as a DH in 20 games over the last three seasons is a glimmer of hope that there could be some life in that bat yet.
Even though the walks will be there, he’ll need that power to come back in Spring Training to impress the Indians enough to give him a shot in 2013. Retirement looms for the former Rockies managerial hopeful, but a low-risk deal with the Indians might just keep Giambi from having to make that decision for a couple of months, and give the Indians a steady presence at DH instead of the rotation that the team would otherwise have to go with.