from my 9/30/06 AJC:
By DAVID O'BRIEN
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 09/30/06
Skeptics said he was too small to be a major leaguer, and he proved them wrong.
They said his defense would never be good enough for the majors, and he proved them wrong.
They said he wasn't a prototypical leadoff hitter, and he ... proved them right.
Marcus Giles' first season as a leadoff hitter for the Braves could be his last — his last season as a leadoff hitter, and his last season with the Braves.
The 28-year-old second baseman could see his salary rise from this year's $3.85 million to more than $5 million in his final year of arbitration, before he's eligible for free agency after the 2007 season.
The salary, along with his marketability and reluctance to embrace the leadoff role, are all factors that put him at the top of the list of Braves most likely to be traded this winter — just ahead of Andruw Jones, who is also eligible for free agency after the 2007 season.
"I feel like it could go either way," Giles said of being traded. "But obviously I've never been anything but 100 percent sure that I was coming back. So being 50-50 now is an awkward position to be in.
"It is a little bit of an uncomfortable feeling, something I hadn't anticipated feeling. But at the same time, it is part of the game, so there's no sense in getting upset about it."
Giles hit .265 with 45 extra-base hits, 10 stolen bases and 59 RBIs before Friday, including just .253 with a .337 on-base percentage in 459 at-bats as a leadoff man.
This after he hit .291 with 64 extra-base hits last season, .311 in 2004 and .316 with 72 extra-base hits (21 homers) and 69 RBIs in 2003.
The Braves might trim salary at one or two positions to pay increases on the pitching staff and elsewhere. If Giles is dealt, the Braves haven't decided if a replacement would come from within the organization or via trade or free agency.
The free-agent class is thin on second basemen, and a trade seems more likely if an outsider is to replace him. If the Braves look inward, rookie Martin Prado and Willy Aybar have shown enough to warrant consideration for the second base job, but Aybar might be slotted as the backup for oft-injured third baseman Chipper Jones.
Aybar has hit .292 with 26 doubles, five homers and a .388 on-base percentage in 325 at-bats in two seasons with the Dodgers and Braves, including .333 with a .425 OBP in 144 at-bats as a leadoff man.
Giles was asked if his chances of staying might be greater had he performed better in the leadoff role.
"I'm sure it would've helped," he said, "but I just think one of the biggest things this offense is lacking is a true, good leadoff hitter. Obviously I'm not the guy for that job. I've known that since January."
The Braves were left without a leadoff man after Rafael Furcal signed a three-year, $39 million free-agent contract with the Dodgers last winter, the Los Angeles proposal dwarfing offers he received from the Braves and Cubs. Furcal hit .301 with 15 homers, 37 stolen bases and a .371 on-base percentage before Friday.
He was quickly replaced in December when the Braves traded for shortstop Edgar Renteria, who had thrived most of his career in the No. 2 spot. Giles prefers the No. 2 spot and had excelled in it for three seasons.
The Braves decided Giles would be adequate to replace Furcal in the leadoff spot for one season, figuring a player with a .292 career average before this season, and a .366 on-base percentage and high extra-base hits totals, could offset a lack of stolen bases and a strikeouts-to-walks ratio that was atypical for a No. 1 hitter.
What the Braves didn't count on was Giles missing part of spring training for a family matter, and missing nearly 20 games with several nagging injuries, including the hand injury that had him out of Friday's lineup.
They never expected Giles would get off to such a poor start in April – .192 average, one homer, four RBIs – that it only added to his frustrations in the leadoff role. It also foretold a streaky season of highs and lows.
He has been something of a contradiction in his stance on the leadoff job, several times reiterating he wasn't happy in the job and didn't want to get comfortable in the role, while always adding that he wouldn't complain and would make the best of the situation because the Braves didn't have any better options.
Braves officials won't say if Giles will be back next season. But they are dealing with payroll restrictions, and most other high-salaried players are either too valuable and affordable (John Smoltz) to trade, or have big contracts (Mike Hampton, Chipper Jones to a lesser extent) that make them difficult or impossible to move if the Braves wanted to do so. In Chipper Jones' case, they've given no indication of wanting to trade him.
So Giles isn't a leadoff man. Fine.
For 2007, he'd fit the bill nicely at 2nd and allow Phillips to slide over to SS.
If the Reds contend in 2007, Giles is part of it. If not, shop him at the deadline. Or sit on him and then let him walk as a FA & take the comp picks.
As far as who the Reds could deal, I'll leave that up to the trade folks around here. I'll throw out that the Braves, like everyone else, will be looking for starting pitching this offseason. Perhaps the expanded dimensions of Turner Field would be more forgiving on someone like Eric Milton...
Edit: It's also worth noting that Giles & his wife also had a child early in the season. There were some complications with either the birth or the early days thereafter, which would perhaps partially explain why Giles put up some substandard numbers in 2006.