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There's a specter that haunts left field in San Francisco. It is the same that lurks at shortstop in Camden Yards and occupies right field in San Diego (also every hometown buffet in the greater San Diego area).
Replacing a legend is no easy task. Some would argue it is impossible. I attended Barry Bonds' somber last game. Watching Fred Lewis trot out to replace Bonds in the eighth inning of a lop-sided Padres win was like preparing for a long winter. And indeed, it has been.
Granted, the Giants won a title with the big-salty-stop-gap-Pat Burrell (that sentence is awful in so many ways). There continues to be an emptiness to left field, as the memories of Bonds persist like an old high school flame
So until we are smelling someone new's perfume in left field, here's what can be done.
What NOT To Do
Not pursue Carlos Beltran.
If Herm Edwards were a baseball analyst, he would say something really smart here, like, "To win the GAME you have to score more RUNS!" Yes, the Giants do need to score more runs in 2012, obviously. The popular argument has been that with a healthy lineup (Posey and Sanchez mainly), the Giants will score more.
It would be incredibly short sighted of the Giants to think that the addition of just these two players is going to create a world-beater offense. The Giants cannot rest a season's worth of offensive hope on a catcher returning from serious injury and a second baseman whose bones are made of mechanical pencil lead.
The Giants cannot expect to just get by on their marvelous pitching staff. In the years prior, there has always been a call for a big bat. This year it's a Tel-A-Thon.
What TO Do
Sign Carlos Beltran.
Note: I was a huge fan of trying to sign Grady Sizemore, who I think will put of good numbers this year and be infinitely cheaper. I would have advocated signing him over Beltran. Time will tell
Approach Beltran with a deal in the three-year, $40 million range.The Giants should be willing to go as high as $15 million a year if necessary. With the payroll now upped to $130 million, there's room to sign Beltran plus extend Matt Cain to a back-loaded deal.
The Giants are attempting to do what the 90's era Braves did—build up and ride a strong pitching rotation. They even have Buster Posey playing the role of Chipper Jones.
What WILL happen
Beltran in right field on Opening Day.
The serious contenders for Beltran at this point appear to be the Giants, Red Sox and Phillies. But two recent moves may have pushed both the Phillies and Red Sox toward the back of the pack.
The Phillies signed Jonathan Papelbon to a four-year, $50 million deal guaranteed. The vesting option is for a fifth year at $13 million. (55 games finished in '15).
However, when you stack Papelbon, Ryan Howard and a likely deal for Jimmy Rollins together, the likelihood of adding another big time contract seems slim.
The Red Sox on the other hand have the money, they always have the money. Their problem is perception. After the historic collapse last season, the mood in Boston is sour. If there is one thing veteran payers love, it's instability and caustic personalities spicing the joint up. So good luck with Bobby Valentine.
That leaves the Giant with a prime opportunity to acquire a not quite long in the tooth, still productive middle of the order hitter.
At 34 years old Beltran is not intended to be a Bonds replacement. Rather a gesture by management that unlike the 90's era Atlanta Braves, one championship is not enough.
What ACTUALLY happened
Well...I whiffed so hard on this one even Aubrey Huff snickered.
The Giants never really went after Beltran, and he ended up signing a rather affordable two-year, $26 million deal with the Cardinals.
In essence, the Giants filled this spot with Melky Cabrera. Though it is likely that Brandon Belt will get a number of starts in left. The hodgepodge 2012 outfield train rolls on.