Love him or hate him, agree or disagree with his maneuvering, you cannot accuse San Francisco Giants General Manager Brian Sabean of being timid.
Given Sabes' recent run of iffy transactions—the Barry Zito-Scott Boras debacle, prematurely inking Edgar Renteria, the pending merit of the Freddy Sanchez swap, and so on—you might think the guy would lay low for a while, enjoy the shelter of his new two-year extension.
Instead of coasting on the young talent for a few more months, the first head on the Gents' chopping block should things go south stretched his nape a bit further.
Of course, I'm referring to the trade of Kevin Frandsen to the Boston Red Sox for the dreaded player to be named later or cash considerations. Incidentally, San Jose Mercury super-writer Andrew Baggarly further reports that Renteria gave Frandsen this parting dig: “You got traded for cash? That means you suck!”
That's a brave card for Edgar to play. Brave.
Obviously, the ill-fated San Francisco shortstop was kidding, and so am I, about the Frandsen deal. It makes perfect sense from a roster standpoint; though the second baseman sounds like a class-act, his efforts in the Orange and Black had gotten stale.
No, sending the San Jose product to Beantown is not a departure from the mellow moves of the offseason (non-arbitration-induced variety)—re-signing Sanchez for two years and $12 million, signing Mark DeRosa for the same two years and $12 million, re-signing Bengie Molina for a year at $4.5 million (plus incentives), re-signing Juan Uribe for a year at $3.25 million, and hooking Aubrey Huff for one year at $3 million.
The departure has come with the decision to fortify the Giants' bullpen and its immediate future.
Closer Brian Wilson, fresh off a pre-arbitration settlement that garnered him about $4.4 million in 2010 salary, now will be taking his mohawk and tats to AT&T Park through 2012. The bare bones of the agreement pays him $6.5 million in 2011, $8.5 million in 2012, and he'll get one more shot at the arbitration craps table before 2013 as the relationship stands.
Meanwhile, set-up ace Jeremy Affeldt was in the final stanza of his two-year contract that would've paid him another $4 million this season.
As a reward for the lefty's stellar work in 2009, the suits gave him new paper worth an additional $500,000 this year ($4.5 mil), $4.5 million in 2011, and either a $500,000 buyout or $5 million option for 2012.
In truth, these deals aren't that risky since both are superlative arms.
Wilson and Affeldt have been lights-out for several years now.
Wilson's peripheral statistics weren't all that incredible in 2008, but he cleaned them up considerably last campaign. More importantly for the last man standing in relief, he's always saved a pretty high percentage (around 85 percent) and that's what counts, even if it's ugly.
For his part, Affeldt has been dealing for three straight years.
Despite calling two of the more volatile parks in Major League Baseball home, Jeremy still pitched to an ERA around 3.50 and a WHIP around 1.30.
Furthermore, neither obligation is tremendously expensive nor particularly long. Both Sanchez and DeRosa are promised more compensation through the same year (2011) as Affeldt while Wilson only gets a bit more (in pro athlete terms) for an extra year.
Nevertheless, occupation makes all the difference.
Sabean's decision, or at least what will be attributed as Sabean's decision, to secure two relievers for the next couple years is a bigger gamble. By the very nature of the role, either Wilson or Affeldt could see the wheels come off at any moment.
To boot, new suffocating arms are being polished in the San Francisco farm system as we speak, and unheralded ones emerge every year.
Lastly, los Gigantes aren't yet one of those teams that must have a lockdown 'pen from the seventh to the ninth.
Teams who face that sort of imperative are generally the likes of the Red Sox, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals, and other franchises that begin each year expecting to make a hard charge at a World Series ring.
Ahem, I meant realistically expecting.
As much as I love the Orange and Black, as firmly as I believe the Giants could win the Fall Classic in 2010, even I won't tell you the odds are good. Assuming optimistic progress from the pitching staff and thumpers, San Francisco is arguably still two years away from being one of the favorites to win the championship.
Which would be the 2012 season.
From that angle, the assurance of luxury items like an exceptional set-up man and door-slammer in the interim might be an extravagance at any cost.
The other moves have either been one-and-doners or modest indulgences for flexible and/or highly reliable pieces. Sanchez is the definition of unspectacular productivity (when healthy) while DeRosa's Swiss-Army-Knife-like capabilities make him valuable even should his offense decline.
These were the only multi-year contracts handed out by San Francisco until Brian Wilson and Jeremy Affeldt got paid.
In comparison to the utilitarian infielder and skeleton key, the bullpen stalwarts are substantial gambles even if not enormous ones.
And that means Brian Sabean has upped the ante.
Which shouldn't be surprising.
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