Although general manager Brian Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy just received contract extensions, it is safe to say that both already had their wish lists set out for the 2009 offseason.
While Bengie Molina is the highest profile free-agent-to-be, there are a few other key parts of the 2009 team that we might not be seeing in 2010. Randy Winn has been a huge part of this team since he came over in 2005, Brad Penny and Juan Uribe had resurgences upon their return to the NL West, Ryan Garko was a Sabean error at the trade deadline, and Brandon Medders and Justin Miller were both non-roster invitees to Spring Training.
With the season now over, the Giants Round Table has sat down and discussed the fates of those players.
I will make the names that shouldn't come back easy to figure out—Justin Miller, Bob Howry, and Randy Winn. It's nothing against them, it's just that the Giants are moving in a different direction, and with the first two, there are better internal options that are ready to assume a bigger role.
Brandon Medders should be a Giant next year. He was great out of the pen this year in numerous roles. Wherever Bruce Bochy put him in during the course of a game, he got the job done. There's nothing more you could've asked for a guy who was picked off of the scrapheap.
Now on to the bigger issues.
Over the course of the past two seasons, the Giants' inability to draw walks has become one of the biggest problems of the offensive struggles. They were last in the National League in on-base percentage this season and second-to-last in 2008. The hacking approach at the plate has to be changed.
Bengie Molina is Exhibit A of what kind of hitters the Giants don't need anymore. Yes he has gotten big hits over the course of his three years in a Giants uniform and yes he has done well handling a very good pitching staff, but the guy has a career on-base percentage of .308, he hacks at slop like it's going out of style, and then he's a 35-year-old catcher wanting a multi-year deal.
Buster Posey is the complete opposite of Molina in terms of plate discipline. Posey drew 62 walks between San Jose and Fresno this year. In his past four years, Molina has drawn 66 walks. That is no joke.
I don't believe Sabean and Bochy when they say that after all of 17 at-bats in the majors, Posey might not be ready with the bat at the major league level. It just doesn't make sense to me. You can't get any kind of read on a kid who has been nothing but awesome over the course of his professional career and then sits on the bench for basically three weeks without any action and gets thrown into the fire.
Is part of the reason why I don't want the Giants to spend money on Molina when they have bigger needs and a certain Buster Posey waiting in the wings? Absolutely it is. If they do re-sign Molina and the payroll threshold doesn't change much at all, the Giants aren't going to have much money at all to work with to improve the offense.
As for the others, I see Penny and Uribe in somewhat of the same category because the market will dictate whether or not they return to San Francisco. You have to think that they aren't going to available for next to nothing like the Giants had the luxury of paying them this year. Teams will be very interested in both of them and it's going to take some cash this time around to bring them back to San Francisco.
Because the offense is so putrid, though, Uribe should be a bigger priority than Penny in terms of who they want to spend their money on. Seeing both will get a pretty good chunk of change, if I had to chose, and I'm sure I'm not alone, I would go hitting rather than pitching.
I'll keep my thoughts short and sweet. Well, at least short.
Bengie Molina did have a 20-plus HR year this year, but his time in San Francisco is over. With Posey rearing to go, all the Giants need is a one-year deal with a veteran catcher who can take over in case Buster gets busted. I'm thinking along the lines of Brian Schneider, or ideally Pudge Rodriguez. The Giants can't afford to add Molina for another two years while the best position prospect in baseball is hitting .340 in the minors.
Randy Winn has had a great run with the Giants, and will always be a fan favorite, but Mr. Consistency was anything but his old self in 2009. He was miserable from the right side of the plate, which incidentally is his power side, so his other numbers suffered. Nobody plays right field at AT&T like he does, but if the Giants add a bat, it will most likely be in the outfield. And Nate Schierholtz doesn't play the wall that bad either.
Ryan Garko is not doing so much for me. I like the guy, and I bet he's a great friend to have, but he did not produce for the Giants. Travis Ishikawa is easily the best defensive first-baseman in the National League, and didn't put up shabby numbers (actually pretty much parallel to Garko on the Indians). And if San Francisco decides to have Uribe start at third base, Pablo Sandoval might move to first.
Juan Uribe should be priority No. 1 for San Francisco. Yes, he's a free swinger, but like Pablo Sandoval, when he does connect, he rakes . He'll cost a bit more than last year, but his presence was invaluable, and he could start at second, short, or third for this Giants team.
Brandon Medders will be back. 'Nuff said. Justin Miller might be back. He was solid all year until he got hurt, and for a while, had an ERA under 2.00 while coming in for long relief.
The most intriguing case is Brad Penny. For what they paid for him, the Giants got a huge return (except for one start against the Dodgers). All signs point to him not returning, but I think the Giants should think about it. Randy Johnson probably won't be back, and I think Penny is a better option than a Ryan Sadowski/Joe Martinez combo.
I wouldn't expect too many changes, but there will be some new faces in San Francisco for 2010.
Randy Winn - No thanks. Great Giant while he lasted, but he’s too old, too slow, and too expensive.
Brandon Medders - Absolutely bring the dude back. He was a revelation as a middle reliever/set-up guy and he can’t possibly come with a huge price tag considering he was a non-roster invitee at the beginning of the year.
Justin Miller - Uh ... no. Cool tats though.
Ryan Garko - This is one of those aforementioned questionable trades by Sabean. I’ll get into it down below, but suffice it to say he doesn’t seem to figure in the 2010 picture.
Even with Angel Villalona going "Goodfellas" on us, first base appears to be covered.
Travis Ishikawa showed some real promise when he saw extended stretches of playing time and, assuming both Freddy Sanchez and Juan Uribe are in the mix, Pablo Sandoval or Uribe might need to take a considerable number of reps at the bag.
Oh, and then there’s the little matter of the Garko being MISERABLE with the bat as a Gent. It pains me to say it about my fellow Stanford Cardinal and the big fella certainly had some tough luck, but you can only put so much shine on a lemon.
Brad Penny - This is the only tough call of the group if you ask me.
He was stellar in his brief run with Los Gigantes, but there’s a chance that was purely the motivation from a plethora of naysayers. After his drastic u-turn in the National League, those have dwindled to almost nothing, so who knows if the drive will still be there?
His contract should be significant if only because of his tenure in the Bigs so Penny would be a decent-sized gamble.
Nevertheless, it’d be nice to have some insurance in case Madison Bumgarner and the rest of the young arms on the farm need a little extra seasoning. If the plan is to sit on the current offense and wait for the internal bats to mature, then I say go for it if the price/years are right.