The San Francisco Giants needed to improve their offense this offseason. But not at the expense of their defense.
Mark DeRosa in the outfield? Aubrey Huff at first base? Edgar Renteria at shortstop? Eek.
Combine that with a solid glove but minimal range from Pablo Sandoval at third base and average speed in center field with Aaron Rowand and the Giants are projected to be in the bottom third in the National League defensively.
Now considering the Giants have the most talented and deep pitching staff in the entire Major League, having a below average starting eight in the field isn't a formula for success.
Furthermore, the Giants have almost zero team speed in their starting lineup, failing to take advantage of their spacious ballpark.
Now what could the doctor order for the Giants?
How about potential season ending injuries/poor play for Huff and Renteria?
Everyone and their mother seems to be hoping for a Renteria to find a fountain of youth and have a bounce back season at the plate in 2010.
But even if he were to hit, say, .270/.330/.420, there is still his lack of range, arm and speed that will nearly negate any boost in his offensive production.
And it's not like designated hitter Aubrey Huff is as smooth as Travis Ishikawa on the other side of the diamond.
Even if Huff hits 15-20 homers, will he provide more overall value than Ishikawa's 10-15 homers and slick glove work at first base?
But how can the Giants replace Huff and Renteria if neither player performs to expectations or lands on the DL?
How about the names Emmanuel Burriss and Buster Posey playing the infield?
I mean let's get a few things straight here—neither Renteria or Huff are going to be Giants long term, and Bengie Molina could suffice as a solid backstop until he retires.
Buster Posey could fill in at third-base in the meantime, Burriss take over at shortstop and hit leadoff and Sandoval could move to his more natural first-base position where most people envision him long term.
Posey, who has been a shortstop for the majority of his career, could make the transition to third base and learn on the spot.
Even without much experience at third, Posey can't be any worse than Huff would be at first-base, and the potential offense from Sandoval and Posey at the corners would be just as productive if not more so then having Sandoval and Huff man the corners.
In their prime, both Posey and Sandoval will most likely be hitting 3-4 in the Giants lineup. But one could foresee Posey having a rookie year similar to that of Rays star Evan Longoria, who posted an OPS of .874 two years ago. It is certainly possible.
And the pure athleticism of Posey and Burriss on the left side of the infield would greatly increase the Giants defense, and in time could create an all around infield that proves to be as productive with the glove as they are at the dish.
Posey, Burriss, Sanchez and Sandoval would be an infield in 2011 and 2012 that would be in the top third of the league defensively and also man the top four spots in the batting order.
Combined with prospects like Thomas Neal and Roger Kieschnick possibly adding pop to the lineup in 2012, and San Francisco would finally have a lineup that could dance toe-to-toe with the likes of the Dodgers and Rockies.
When Bengie Molina decides to call it quits, either Posey or Sandoval could take over at catcher or another prospect or free-agent could be brought into shore up the position.
For the Molina haters, it was never his lack of speed or on-base percentage that made fans pull their hairs out, it was simply that his lack of speed and OBP were way to high in the order.
Despite getting older, Molina still provides plenty of pop and solid defense. And because of that, no Giants fan should complain about Bengie hanging around two to three more years and hitting anywhere from sixth-eighth in the lineup. That is if Posey is in the lineup at the same time.
A lineup of this fashion will best match offense with defense, which is how the Giants should have formed their team this offseason.
Posey was drafted for his bat, no doubt about it. And suggesting he play the infield isn't like suggesting Benito Santiago or Pudge Rodriguez to play third base. Posey is a young prospect with a background as an infielder.
This move would simply maximize San Francisco's offense with a defense that can actually catch the ball.
Furthermore, Emmanuel Burriss at shortstop would be a better long term fit than Juan Uribe if Renteria performs under expectations this season or suffers an injury.
Burriss has excellent range and a cannon of an arm, if he can hit a respectable .250/.350/.340 at the leadoff spot, he would bring much more value to the table than an aging Renteria or inconsistent Uribe.
And a stat line for Burriss of that caliber is a highly probable when you consider his line of .283/.357/.329 performed from his 2008 rookie campaign. Remember, for the first month of the 2008-09 offseason Burriss was the starting shortstop.
His speed and defense would fill two voids the Giants currently have in their lineup: poor defense at shortstop and zero speed at the leadoff position.
As big of a Juan Uribe supporter as I am, the chances he mimics his 2009 performance in a long term starting role are quite low.
In his past three seasons before joining the Giants, Uribe posted OPS marks below .700, not nearly the production that should make San Francisco fans confident he can repeat his 2009 season.
If necessary this season, a Giants lineup seen below could be the best way to go to match offense with an improved defense.
1. Emmanuel Burriss SS
2. Freddy Sanchez 2B
3. Nate Schierholtz RF
4. Pablo Sandoval 1B
5. Mark DeRosa LF
6. Aaron Rowand CF
7. Bengie Molina C
8. Buster Posey 3B
This potential lineup would maximize defensive ability without giving anything up on the offensive end.
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