Free agent infielder Tony Graffanino, who was offered arbitration by the Red Sox earlier this month, has officially accepted it, making him a signed player for 2006.
Graffanino's decision likely surprised the Sox because he'd been seeking a multi-year deal, but found no takers in the free agent market. The Sox offered him arbitration with the expectation that they'd receive a compensatory draft pick when another team signed him. If the Sox had known that Graffanino was willing to accept arbitration, which means a one-year deal at a reasonable cost, it's unclear if they still would have made the deal for second baseman Mark Loretta.
The 33-year-old Graffanino made $1.1 million last season in the final year of a two-year, $2.2 million deal, and will likely see his salary double next season - to roughly $2 million - through the arbitration process.
Graffanino hit safely in 41 of 51 games, totaling 60 hits - many of them clutch - for the Red Sox. That resulted in a .319 average with the Sox and .309 overall, including his time in Kansas City. He also scored 39 runs for the Sox, showing strong base running instincts.
In the absence of a shortstop, since Error Renteria was traded to Atlanta, Graffanino would seem to be an ideal in house solution. The Sox don't have to commit to a long-term deal, and the cost would be quite affordable. Furthermore, Graffanino was immediately embraced by his teammates upon arrival in July and was popular with the fans as well. Good team chemistry and consistency are important, especially in a year in which there has been quite a bit of turnover.
In 83 career games at short, Graffanino owns a .962 fielding percentage, and that would likely improve with regular playing time.
In short, Graffanino seems to have earned a shot at short, and his numbers, his determination, and workman-like attitude seem to back that up.
Give Tony G. a shot.
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