Transaction Analysis: Moises Alou

After nearly a week of speculation and tentative agreements, Moises Alou officially signed with the Giants after passing a physical on December 27th. What does this acquisition mean to the Giants?

WHO THE GIANTS GOT:

Moises Alou, 38, Outfielder

Year TM G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
1990 Mon 14 15 4 3 0 1 0 0 0 3 0 0 .200 .200 .333
1990 Pit 2 5 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .200 .200 .200
1990 --- 16 20 4 4 0 1 0 0 0 3 0 0 .200 .200. 300
1992 Mon 115 341 53 96 28 2 9 56 25 46 16 2 .282 .328 .455
1993 Mon 136 482 70 138 29 6 18 85 38 53 17 6 .286 .340 .483
1994 Mon 107 422 81 143 31 5 22 78 42 63 7 6 .339 .397 .592
1995 Mon 93 344 48 94 22 0 14 58 29 56 4 3 .273 .342 .459
1996 Mon 143 540 87 152 28 2 21 96 49 83 9 4 .281 .339 .457
1997 Fla 150 538 88 157 29 5 23 115 70 85 9 5 .292 .373 .493
1998 Hou 159 584 104 182 34 5 38 124 84 87 11 3 .312 .399 .582
2000 Hou 126 454 82 161 28 2 30 114 52 45 3 3 .355 .416 .623
2001 Hou 136 513 79 170 31 1 27 108 57 57 5 1 .331 .396 .554
2002 ChC 132 484 50 133 23 1 15 61 47 61 8 0 .275 .337 .419
2003 ChC 151 565 83 158 35 1 22 91 63 67 3 1 .280 .357 .462
2004 ChC 155 601 106 176 36 3 39 106 68 80 3 0 .293 .361 .557
TOTAL 1619 5888 935 1764 354 34 278 1092 624 786 95 34 .300 .367 .513

Moises’ name, at least his last name, should not be anything new for the Giants and their fans. Yes, his father Felipe manages the team currently. Yes, his father and two uncles Jesus and Matty made up the only all-brothers outfield in history while playing for the Giants. The family ties are definitely strong, and are a big part of why Moises signed with San Francisco.

Moises has played with 5 teams over 13 seasons in the major leagues over the last fifteen years. He did not make the majors in 1991, after breaking in during 1990, and missed 1999 with an injury. He began his career with the Pirates, playing as a teammate of a young Barry Bonds for just 2 games before being dealt to the Montreal Expos, where he would begin playing for his dad. He left in 1997 to join the eventual world champion Florida Marlins, and then played in Houston from 1998 until 2001, and joined the Cubs in 2002.

Despite hitting under .300 each season while in Chicago, Moises remains a .300 hitter throughout his career. Though he has the reputation as a slugger, Moises has never broken the 40 home run mark in a season, coming closest with 39 in 2004. He has hit 30+ HR in 3 seasons (2000 and 1998 being the others), and 25+ in 5 seasons. Despite this, he has a career slugging percentage of .513, in large part thanks to an ability to also hit doubles and triples. Moises has never had less than 20 doubles in a season since his rookie year, and has had less than 30 only twice since 1997. He also has 34 career triples, including 3 last year in Chicago.

Moises has a short, compact swing that allows him to keep up with most fastballs, and is able to hit balls almost anywhere in the zone. His swing allows him to hit to all fields, and he protects the plate well with 2 strikes. Moises has never had more than 100 strikeouts in a season, and has always maintained an excellent walk-to-strikeout ratio. He also has had over 100 RBI 5 of the last 7 years, and is used to batting behind a top-flight slugger in Sosa at Chicago. Alou is usually at his best batting with runners on, hitting .319 with runners on in 2004, and .303 with RISP. He has usually maintained similar splits with runners on throughout his career.

However, Moises is getting older, and his speed has dropped to about average. He was never a major base stealer, breaking 10 in a season only 3 times, and stealing only 3 each of the last two seasons. His range in the outfield is limited, something he had been able to hide in Wrigley Field, and he has an average throwing arm from the outfield.

THE DEAL:

Moises signed a one year deal with a player option for 2006. Moises has stated in the offseason that he will retire if the Giants win the World Series in 2005, and there’s also the consideration that Felipe’s deal with the Giants also expires at the end of 2005. He will make $4.75 million in 2005, and if he doesn’t exercise his option, he will receive $1 million in 2006 and $1.5 million in 2007. If Moises does exercise his option, he will have a salary of $5 million in 2006, make $700,000 in 2007 and $2 million in 2008. There are also incentive bonuses of $250,000 for each season in plays based upon how many plate appearances he makes.

Moises was also receiving offers from the Mets, Dodgers and Astros, but apparently took much less to play his final seasons under his father with the Giants.

THE EFFECTS:

Signing Moises Alou seems to be a new direction for the Giants. In an offseason where the mantra has been defense and bullpen pitching, and not considering any major free agent additions, Moises is a slugger whose signing comes at the expense of the defense. This may be that the recent loss of A.J. Pierzynski left a hole in the offense that needed to be addressed, perhaps moreso than the defense in the outfield. While Moises, Felipie and Sabean are all talking positively about Moises’ ability to handle the very unique right field at SBC Park, there remains a number of concerns with the fans.

One that has been making the rounds is Moises’ ability to hit outside of Wrigley Field, one of the best stadiums to hit at in the National League outside of Coors Field. Over 3 years with Chicago, Moises hit .304/.381/.559 at home while hitting only .264/.327/.417 on the road. Last year, the split was .339/.405/.714 at home and .247/.316/.400 on the road.

Those numbers are certainly disconcerting, but there are other things to consider. In 2003, Alou’s only other fully healthy year at Wrigley, the splits were much more even: .281/.366/.482 at Wrigley, .278/.349/.443 on the road. Which is the real Moises? That’s up to debate.

Then there’s the question as to whether or not SBC Park is a horrible place for right handed hitters as it seems to be for left handed hitters. Something that might surprise some people is that after 5 years of being considered a major pitchers’ park, ESPN’s Park Factor has placed SBC as a hitter’s park. SBC merited a PF of 1.069 (1.000 is a neutral park, more than 1.000 indicates more runs are scored there than at a neutral park). That was good enough for the 8th best park to score runs in in the majors. What were the only NL parks ahead of SBC? They were Coors Field (1st overall, of course, with a 1.412 PF), and Wrigley Field (5th, with a 1.123 PF). It would appear that SBC might not have the same negative effect people think.

And then there’s the issue of right handed hitters. On the Giants in 2004, there were no right handed hitters with more than 75 at bats that did not hit better at home than on the road. Not just in batting average, but surprisingly enough, all right handed hitters also slugged better at home. The key is that while not all of them hit more home runs at SBC, they all took advantage of the deep corners to hit for doubles and triples to get extra bases. That should help Moises Alou a lot.

Then there’s Alou’s lifetime stats at SBC Park: 56 AB, 18 H, 4 HR, .321/.406/.571.

So, even for the cynical fan, there’s not too much to worry about with Alou’s offense. His defense, however, is another matter. Those deep corners may also spell disaster when Alou is playing out there. Unless either Alou or Grissom surprise with newfound speed, the only way things might improve is if the Giants get a defensive star in center field, something which Giants management has hinted they are not going to do. Then again, they hinted they wouldn’t do anything like signing Alou, either.

The bottom line is that the Giants batting lineup just got a lot stronger. He won’t stop all, or much at all, of the walks to Bonds, but with him batting behind Bonds, the Giants now have an excellent chance for runs to get knocked in after Bonds is walked. The only questions that remain are: Who is going to bat third, between the leadoff duo of Durham and Vizquel, and in front of the sluggers Bonds and Moises?; and Will Moises’ offensive ability override his defense? That remains to be seen


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