Giants Flawed Use Of Payroll Could Prove Costly
Okay, so the San Francisco Giants didn't sign Matt Holliday or Jason Bay, during free agency.
I hope nobody is surprised.
The Giants once again displayed an unwillingness to spend money on the market's big fish. Last year, they showed little interest in Mark Teixeira due to his high demands and although they coveted Manny Ramirez, they would only take him at the right price.
Unlike the teams of the Magowan era, the Giants feel they are no longer in a position to make a splash.
But instead of overpaying old veterans, the Giants ought to continue investing in their farm system. A recent crop of talent has become a significant part of the 2010 Giants.
Tim Lincecum, Pablo Sandoval, and Matt Cain fall under this category. A Giants team without these three is like a chicken with no head. Giants fans especially understand the importance of this trio, among the best in the league.
Most importantly, these budding stars are signs that the farm system has drastically improved. Only a few years back, many considered the Giants farm to be a barren wasteland.
Today, it is filled with promising talent.
Although Buster Posey probably won't catch regularly until 2011, he continues to generate talk as one of baseball's future stars. Posey is ranked fourth on MLB.com's Top 50 Prospects of 2010.
Some have already drawn comparisons to Joe Mauer with less power. Anything that comes close to Joe Mauer would greatly help the Giants in the future.
Madison Bumgarner, a 6'4" southpaw, also possesses tremendous upside. He is ranked 11th on MLB.com's list and has ascended through the minors very quickly. His combined totals explain why.
In two minor league seasons: 27-5 record, 273 IP, 1.65 ERA, 256 K, 55 BB
Bumgarner is slated to join the Giants as their fifth starter, which goes to speak volumes about this pitching staff. If all goes well, Bumgarner will join Lincecum and Cain as the greatest 1-2-3 punch since the Braves' "Big Three" of the 1990s.
Giants fans ought to take notice of Thomas Neal, a spring training invitee this year. Neal has battled through surgery to post outstanding numbers last year at Class A San Jose highlighted by his .431 OBP, .507 SLG, and 90 RBI.
Neal's spring training invite is most likely to get a closer look at the slugging right-hander rather than compete for a spot on the 25-man roster.
But if the Giants see his production continue, he can be expected to add pop to a lacking lineup in 2011.
These three are only a sampling of promising prospects. Other notables include Zach Wheeler, Dan Runzler, Nick Noonan, Brandon Crawford, Ehire Adrianza, and Roger Keischnick.
Granted it's very improbable that all of them will become everyday players in the big leagues, but it does give reason to hope for a bright future.
But by spending more money in free agency, the Giants are reducing their chances of keeping the team's young core intact, which is sure to be an expensive task.
Although Tim Lincecum is under club control for at least another four years, his arbitration case will be a stern reminder that elite talent comes at an elite price. If Sandoval keeps pace with his 2009 stats, he could very well have an expensive price tag when his arbitration case arrives.
Now don't get me wrong. Free agency is by no means a bad thing. A few signings here and there could answer a lot of questions and boost a team's chances for the coming year(s). The only problem with the Giants is...Mark DeRosa and Aubrey Huff are not the answers.
Sure they will help, but they're not the seemingly long-lost messiah Giants fans have been looking for.
When the Giants invested in free agency, Matt Holliday would have been the better route. But for some unsurprising reason, the Giants have once again passed up an opportunity to significantly transform the offense.
DeRosa and Huff's signings can certainly be justified, but they shouldn't require justification. A Holliday signing requires no justification.
Holliday, in my view, was the only investment the Giants should have made this offseason with the exception of Bengie Molina.
If the Giants want to invest in free agency, fine. But they need to make sure they get their bang for their buck and choose the "right guy."
Luckily for the Giants, it won't be more than five years before some serious money is freed up.
Edgar Renteria's contract expires at the end of this year, freeing up $10 million if they don't pick up his 2011 option.
Aaron Rowand's swing and miss tactics should come to an end in 2012, freeing $12 million (yes, the Giants are paying him $12 million annually).
And Barry Zito's hideous contract will end in 2014. Although that would normally free $18 million, the buyout option is worth $7 million, bringing the total money freed to $11 million; still a significant amount.
This succession of expiring contracts is the money the Giants could use to keep their nucleus of talent intact. The future could hold an elite team of young talent that would help the "Giants Way" come to fruition.
Unless the Giants change their free-spending ways, we could see them lose their core and revert back to 90-loss form.
Let's hope Bill Neukom, Brian Sabean, and Bruce Bochy see the same danger.
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