Many bloggers and columnists would look at the San Francisco Giants offseason with little thought, writing it off as a safe and uneventful one for a team that is usually good for a splashy move or two.
But I, the designated Giants optimist, was quietly pleased with the front office. Everyone came out clamoring for a trade or a big signing, but my support at the end of the 2009 season was one of small additions and development of existing talent, which seems to be the direction that San Francisco is taking.
Let’s look again at the offseason goals.
This has been an offseason goal since Barry Bonds left. Until Pablo Sandoval arrived, and now it’s to find a bat to protect him.
With the departure of Bengie Molina, and Jason Bay and Matt Holliday both showing no interest in playing the part, the Giants brass looked for cheaper, but not any less impactful options.
The addition of Mark DeRosa will provide two things San Francisco needed: a veteran, high average, high contact bat, and a right-handed power hitter. His career numbers have proven him as productive, and if the Giants deemed him recovered from wrist surgery, I don’t think he will disappoint.
No, he won’t hit 40 home runs and be to Sandoval like Jeff Kent was to Bonds, but DeRosa is a quality player who wants to produce, and will.
The Giants also added some pop if Juan Uribe can produce like he did the last couple months of last season, and if Aubrey Huff can regain his 2008 form when he hit .304 and blasted 32 HRs and over 100 RBIs.
Then they’ll be in business of adding to last year’s anemic offense.
Add a fifth starter
This is where the Giants have been a little sketchy.
Brad Penny signed for an outrageous amount of money in St. Louis.
Rich Harden signed an equally expensive deal with the Rangers.
Randy Wolf and Jason Marquis signed for a combined five years and $45 million.
Randy Johnson has officially retired.
There are options on the market still, but it looks like San Francisco will be dipping into their once deep well of pitching to bring up Madison Bumgarner. There are also options like Kevin Pucetas and Joe Martinez, but MadBum looks like the most viable candidate.
I would have liked the Giants to make a run at Justin Duchscherer, who re-signed in Oakland, or to work out a low-risk deal with another one of the injured pitchers like Ben Sheets, or be a second chance team for a starter like Daniel Cabrera.
But Bumgarner, like Lincecum, Sandoval, and Posey before him, has proven himself at the minor league level, so I’m not sure there’s not much left for him to do except to move up to the majors.
Get more for less
Like I said, the productivity (numbers-wise) of Molina will be missed, but the potential power numbers that the projected 2010 lineup can produce will more than make up for it, for less money.
Buster Posey is getting closer and closer to becoming the Opening Day catcher for San Francisco. This is good: He’s more disciplined, has great potential, and his propensity for putting up above-.300 averages in the minors is very encouraging.
Molina was proving too expensive, too free-swinging, and not fast enough. His desire for at least two more years in a Giants uniform just didn’t fit into their plans, and when other options like Ivan Rodriguez signed elsewhere, the price tag for the San Francisco backstop went way down.
The 20 homers and 100 RBIs won’t come from the rookie, but it will come from DeRosa, replacing Fred Lewis and Eugenio Velez in left (nine combined HR in 2009). DeRosa’s salary isn’t outrageous, and it is definitely a lot less than the Mets paid for Jason Bay, and the Cardinals ended up paying for retaining Matt Holliday.
It will come from Nate Schierholtz, who will be vying for Randy Winn’s RF position (two HR in 2009). Remember, Winn earned $8 million last year in arguably the worst and most disappointing season in an otherwise remarkably consistent career.
When it comes down to Aubrey Huff at first, I’m still not sold. I think that, as pointed out on MLB Trade Rumors, Ishikawa was better defensively AND offensively last year.
Granted, Huff does have a couple recent seasons where he was an offensive force for the Orioles, and that can’t be overlooked.
The best part of the Huff deal that makes it better in my eyes than signing someone like Carlos Delgado or trading for Prince Fielder is the fact that he’s cheap, it’s only one year, the Giants didn’t give up anyone, and there is a viable option behind him.
Although the Bruce Bochy says that Travis Ishikawa is not an option to start at first base, his numbers at AT&T Park last year cannot be ignored. At home he batted .349 with an OPS of .935, second only to Pablo Sandoval in his home confines in 2009.
Comparably, on the road he batted a considerably underwhelming .162. Huff offers more consistency, but hopefully San Francisco brass sees that Ishikawa can be a reliable replacement if something should happen.
They also didn’t make any big-money signings like last year when they signed Edgar Renteria to way over the market value price. Uribe and Huff were relatively cheap, and definitely not screaming for Renteria-like criticism.
Overall, this offseason has not as much been about making a splash as it has been smoothing the ride. The Giants are still trying to rebuild, and with an almost entirely pitching based 88-win 2009, I think that the subtle tweaks they made will lead to an improvement in 2010.
The free-agent market was very polarized, in terms of price and quality, and they refrained from overpaying for minimal talent.
This gives them the option to finally develop some talent that has been blocked by veterans, and the trial by fire will work out to a season of contention next year.