Don't sleep on Giambi back in Oakland

January, 7, 2009
01/07/09
5:07
PM ET
First came the Matt Holliday move, a shocker for an Oakland Athletics franchise that clearly isn't in rebuilding mode anymore. It was a serious about-face from midseason, when they dealt Rich Harden and others, but rebuilding doesn't sound like much fun to me, especially when quite a few of your young players -- like Daric Barton and Carlos Gonzalez -- underperform. Winning is fun, and the A's couldn't win much with an offense that ranked last in the American League last season.

Jason GiambiMonica M. Davey/AFP/Getty ImagesJason Giambi hit 187 homers over seven seasons with Oakland from 1995 through 2001.
I like the Holliday move for Oakland, but the Jason Giambi deal that was finalized Wednesday is even better, and I think less surprising. It's for less money and less commitment, and let's face it, while Giambi isn't a kid anymore, he still has much of the skill set he had the last time he called Oakland home. He has retained a good deal of power and hasn't lost his patience to take pitches, and he'll really help this lineup. The A's might not score 800 runs, but I don't think they'll be embarrassed like they were in 2008.

From a fantasy perspective, I avoid the younger cornermen or slow outfielders who tend to get selected in the second round -- players like Mark Teixeira, Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee -- not because I don't think they're worth it, but because I feel like I can get that power later at those positions, and I want to remember speed and position scarcity early as well. Giambi is a perfect example of someone with power who gets forgotten. Most people probably don't realize he hit 32 home runs this past season, more than all but 25 other players. Berkman didn't hit that many, nor Lee, Vladimir Guerrero, Carlos Beltran or Holliday.

Giambi becomes a serious sleeper for 2009 because I doubt too many people think he can hit that many home runs again. Well, I do! Giambi, 38, was largely ignored in fantasy baseball in 2008 -- his average draft position was 219 -- but that shouldn't happen again. There are a bunch of reasons to dislike Giambi the player, I suppose -- he is old, can't run, will never win a Gold Glove, got caught up in the steroids era and well … that's it, right? How much of that matters in fantasy?

Concern yourself with one number, in standard leagues: the 32 home runs. Giambi still has power. His batting average isn't fun, but you're going to draft Ryan Howard in round two and Adam Dunn in the top 50, aren't you? Giambi after the top 100 is fine value, considering he had similar Player Rater value to Dunn, Carlos Pena, Mark Reynolds, Adrian Beltre, Jim Thome, Pat Burrell and Troy Glaus. Not everyone you draft has to be a five-category producer. Giambi can still hit for power, and with all those walks, his low batting average makes less of an impact on your fantasy team's bottom line. By the way, in OPS leagues, Giambi is easily a top-100 player.

Moving back to Oakland isn't going to help him, as he did have somewhat favorable splits at old Yankee Stadium -- is that how we'll have to refer to it now? -- but is that a big deal? Giambi hit as many home runs on the road as he did at home in 2008. He likely had more Yankees on base ahead of him compared to how many Athletics he will have on base, so I'd adjust his numbers down a bit, but even going from 32 home runs and 96 RBIs to 28 and 88, he appeals to me. The A's could opt to hit Giambi cleanup, between Holliday and Jack Cust, but I don't think it matters much. Giambi is what he is, and the A's, whose designated hitters batted a pitcher-like .229 a season ago, really need him.

Fantasy owners might not want to wait until the double-digit rounds to make Giambi their starting first baseman -- that is a bit risky -- but he seems like a smart, cheap corner option or utility player. Just don't forget about him.

Eric Karabell is a senior writer for ESPN.com who covers fantasy baseball, football and basketball. He has twice been honored as fantasy sports writer of the year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. His new book, "The Best Philadelphia Sports Arguments," was published by Source Books and is available in bookstores. Contact Eric by e-mailing him here.

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