Both Aubrey Huff and Pat Burrell had 2009s worth forgetting.
Burrell signed a big deal with Tampa Bay after winning a World Series with Philadelphia (against the Rays, coincidentally), but never lived up to the signing, batting only .218 with 16 home runs and 77 RBI over 146 games.
Yet here in 2010, in the heat of a suddenly interesting race for the National League West title, these two 30-somethings, supposed shells of their former dominant selves, have come together in San Francisco to emerge from the ashes and produce.
If the Giants make the playoffs this year, and that is still a big if, there's no doubting that Aubrey Huff was a huge part of it throughout the season. I think Giants fans realized his presence about halfway through his inside-the-park homer way back on April 14th, and there might still be some fight left in this castoff.
Since then, he's hit at or around .300 all year long, and is the Giants current leader in hits (145), runs (87), home runs (24), RBI (81), total bases (257), and on-base percentage (.386). That's almost every offensive category, and this is not the same feeble offense that Bengie Molina lead in the last couple years.
Burrell had a lot to prove, and while a lot of fans were clamoring for a more established hitter (more Prince Fielder rumors, Jayson Werth, Corey Hart), Burrell came on the cheap, and after coming home to San Francisco and reuniting with former teammates Aaron Rowand (Philadelphia) and Huff (University of Miami), he made an immediate impact.
His 15 home runs and 40 RBI since being called up in the first week of June have been a boon to the team. Burrell had a four-game stretch in August, where he homered three times and had 10 RBI, all of which figured in the final score.
He homered in his first at-bat back in Philadelphia. He homered in the four-home run comeback against the Dodgers. His slugging percentage is a team-high .531, and he's back to being Pat the Bat.
In the dugout (visible) and in the clubhouse (less visible), Burrell and Huff seem to be each other's fountain of youth. They scream at their teammates, they punch each other in the chest, and are pretty much back in college having a great time.
Yet neither of them is signed for 2011, which brings me to the point of my article.
The Giants and their fans have had nothing but appreciation for the Water Buffalo since they formed their alliance of awesomeness. And if they can produce in 2011 like they have in 2010, I doubt you'd find anyone who would be running for the hills in protest.
But that's just it. Both these guys are in their 30s, and probably past their primes on the baseball field. Both could probably get a multi-year deal on the open market, and both probably will. Yet there's something about them being together that is beneficial.
So here's what the Giants do:
Keep them together.
They love playing together, and that can't be denied. They're as much of a gruesome twosome that you can find on this team.
So sit them both down in the front office, and lay it down on the table.
They've got to be a package deal.
They might both be able to make more money for another team, but San Francisco is most likely the last place they'll ever be able to play on the same team. Not many other teams in the league have the luxury (if you can call it that), or the audacity (or luck, or whatever you want to call it) to sign two aging hitters to fill separate holes in their lineup.
It's also not a given that they can recreate the magic that they did here in San Francisco, and I think that they'll both take one-year, incentive laden deals (around $5 million each, I'd say) to be given the chance to catch lightning in a bottle twice.
If they do, the Giants will have two veteran presences in their clubhouse again, much different from the days when everyone stayed clear of Barry Bonds and kind of led in their corners. They'll also be leading the offense, something that other veterans (Rich Aurilia, Randy Winn, Ray Durham) failed to do in their last years in San Francisco.
To have players on your team that can get it done both on and off the field is a boon to younger players like Buster Posey and Tim Lincecum, who can continue to perform but defer to the older players for guidance and leadership.
If, for some reason, Burrell and Huff do not perform, the Giants will not have locked them in for multiple years (a la Renteria and Rowand), and will have the financial flexibility to make the moves without losing a long-term investment.
This is all speculative, but getting Huff, Burrell, and Brian Sabean in a room and discussing altogether could end up benefiting both sides. Huff already knows what it's like to lose (a lot). Burrell knows what it takes to win, but also knows the expectations that come from a winner.
We still have a long way to go in 2010, but I would love to see these two both back in Giants uniforms in 2011.