After a strong first half supported by a .300 batting average, Shea Hillenbrand was dealt to the San Francisco Giants following a little fracas you may have heard about over the summer. He struggled mightily there, posting a .248/.275/.415 line in 247 plate appearances, finishing at .277/.313/.451 overall, helping to highlight the problems inherent in impatient hitters who rely on their batting average to fuel their production value. The .451 slugging is not exactly stellar coming from a 1B/DH, and it's only .002 higher than his overall slugging from 2005. The .313 on-base percentage ineptness should be fairly self-explanatory.
The Angels signed him this week to a one-year, $6.5 million contract with a $6.5 million option plus $500,000 buyout for 2008. This 2008 option might vest itself based on his 2007 performance, although specifics aren't available as of yet. He fits the Angels mentality of aggressive at-bats and low pitch counts, and will most likely replace some of the at-bats the recently injured Juan Rivera had in 2006, as well as serving as insurance for Casey Kotchman, in case his bat disappears again.
Before the Hillenbrand signing, Robb Quinlan was listed as the backup first basemen, and he profiles as the same sort of player as Hillenbrand; high batting averages, low on-base percentages, and a penchant for beating up left-handed pitching (.321/.358/.509 from 2004-2005). Quinlan's better seasons were fueled by high batting averages on balls in play, but that's what is going to happen with the players with his skill set. My confusion stems from signing a more established version of the same thing for far more money than Quinlan ($365,000 in 2006) is making. Both players are question marks, due to their reliance on batting average, but it just strikes me as odd to add another 1B/DH type into the mix when you already have the exact same player for less on your roster.
I'm not going to release the PECOTA projections for the two players, since it isn't quite that time of year yet, but just know that there is not a whole lot of difference between Hillenbrand and Quinlan's expected production for 2007. The Angels have not done much this offseason -- really, they don't need to with the young pitching and young hitters coming up through the system -- but the few moves they have made have been somewhat questionable wastes of money.