I believe this is called “Michael Morse insurance”. The Giants signed 28-year-old outfielder Tyler Colvin to a minor league deal on Saturday, and invited him to spring training. Colvin has spent most of his career with the Chicago Cubs and Colorado Rockies, playing all three outfield positions and once in a while providing solid home run power. He was most likely brought in to compete as a reserve outfielder and bench bat, and to act as safety net in case of an injury to one of the Giants’ starters.
Colvin spent most of 2013 with the Rockies’ AAA farm team, where he hit .275/.377/.480. He struggled with the big club, though, hitting just .160 with little else in 78 plate appearances. At this point in his career, Colvin is trying to avoid being hung with the Quadruple-A label, but he has certainly shown the ability to be a contributor in the recent past. In 2012, he hit .290/.327/.531 (though admittedly those numbers were a bit Coors Field-aided), and he has slugged .480 in his career against right-handed pitchers, giving him some utility as a platoon player. Many may remember Colvin from his solid rookie season with the Cubs in 2010 (he hit 20 home runs), a season that was cut short when he was (horrifically) impaled by a broken bat. So, maybe just keep the sharp objects away from him.
Colvin potentially provides value by being able to play all three outfield positions reasonably well (at least, he can impersonate a center fielder to some extent) and hit home runs against right-handers. He also strikes out way too much, can’t draw a walk to save his life, and he’s useless against lefties, so he’s strictly a platoon outfielder, and in the era of the twelve-man pitching staff, that’s kind of an endangered species.
Once again, the Giants most likely signed Colvin to act as cheap insurance for Mike Morse. Morse is penciled in as the team’s starting left fielder, but even the most optimistic individual would never have Morse projected to play 140 games this year. Morse has missed significant time to injury in three of the last four seasons, and he was an injury-laden wreck in 2013. If (when?) Morse gets hurt again, Colvin seems like a reasonable backup option. With the defense-oriented Gregor Blanco and Juan Perez seemingly having dibs on Opening Day outfield spots, Colvin is likely to start the season in the minors. If he hits well enough, we’ll likely see him in the Bay at some point, where he’ll be asked to reach the not-so-lofty goal of being better than Jeff Francoeur.