Scrapheap Saviors: Brian Sabean's Moves Keep Giants in Title Contention
If you talk to any Giants fan this year, they'll probably talk to you about Aaron Rowand's dismal slump, the equally underwhelming season by Bengie Molina, and the slight concern about franchise players Tim Lincecum and Pablo Sandoval and their sub-par seasons.
You'll hear stories about the lack of opportunity for young guys like Nate Schierholtz and John Bowker and the clamoring for youngsters like Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner.
And, as always, you'll hear plenty of criticism for San Francisco general manager Brian Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy.
Admittedly, there are things that I will never understand, like why Rowand and Molina are still playing so much even though they're slumping so hard, or why Nate Schierholtz doesn't play against left-handed batters even those he's smoking them for a .375 average.
But there is one thing that Giants faithful can't argue with, and that's the fact that Sabean has made some more bargain moves this year that have really paid off.
Andres Torres (DET, CWS, TEX, MIN, CHC)
Does anyone remember the Fighting Hydrants of the late 1990s-early 2000s for the Giants? Marvin Benard, Armando Rios, and F.P. Santangelo? They were all guys under 5'10 who really sparked San Francisco with their hustling play.
Now imagine all three of those players rolled into one. And then add more hustle. That's what Andres Torres is.
Torres exploded into the Giants outfield last year, playing a little less than half of the season, hitting .270 and legging out eight triples.
This year he's been even better, tearing it up with a .297 average and some stellar defensive play. Since moving into the leadoff spot, his OBP has been close to .500 (.459), something that the Giants haven't had at the top of the lineup in a long time.
With Mark DeRosa out for a while and Aaron Rowand either recovering from facial fractures or from a severely bruised batting average, Torres has come off as a breath of fresh air and one of the best of Sabean's scrapheap saviors.
With his contract coming in at only $426,000 the Giants have found themselves a leadoff hitter, a great defender, and a great addition.
Aubrey Huff (TB, HOU, BAL, DET)
Huff was only supposed to work out for the Giants if he returned to his form from two years ago, when he hit .304 and had 32 home runs for Baltimore. He might not be hitting the ball out of the park at such a clip, but he's still providing both patience and power at the middle of the lineup.
As of right now, Huff is projected to hit .300 with an OBP of .396, with 22 runs and 77 RBIs. That's not too shabby for $3 million, especially with Mark DeRosa earning double that while trying to figure out what's wrong with his wrist.
Huff has provided some much needed veteran leadership, some (unexpected) clutch hitting, and, most importantly, patience. He has walked a team-high 31 times, and is leading the team in total bases (104).
Juan Uribe (COL, CWS)
Uribe's been around for a little longer than Torres and Huff, but his impact has been felt throughout the clubhouse and the stat page.
If you haven't noticed, Uribe is on pace for 105 RBIs. A little less than 107, but still more than any Giant has had in a while.
But after last year's breakout season, the Giants still had nowhere to put him. They re-signed Freddy Sanchez to play second, and still owed Edgar Renteria $10 million to play shortstop. Pablo Sandoval was at third and couldn't move to first after they signed Huff.
That meant that Uribe was going to be paid big money to be a superutility guy, which is what he did. Uribe signed a $3.25 million deal and since then has become the Giants biggest offensive weapon.
Oh, and in terms of playing time, he's done all right as well. When Freddy Sanchez went down in December, Uribe was in as the starting second baseman. Then Edgar Renteria went down twice, so Uribe has basically been starting all season.
When Renteria comes back, it will be interesting to see what happens to Uribe. But if the Panda continues to struggle, don't be surprised if he gets a few days off while Uribe keeps working towards the first 100 RBI season by a Giant since Barry Bonds knocked in 101 in 2004.
Pat Burrell (PHI, TB)
You might be thinking that Burrell hasn't been here long enough to merit a Scrapheap Savior tag, but I think that his return to the NL will benefit him and therefore benefit the Giants as well.
After signing a big deal with the Rays last year, things didn't quite work out. Burrell hit .218 and was released on May 19 by Tampa Bay. He signed with the Giants a few days later on May 29.
Since then, he has made an impact on this San Francisco team. He's only played in seven games, but he's hitting .381 with a HR and four RBI. He provides a right-handed presence both in the lineup and off the bench that is complementary to the left-handed heavy presence.
Burrell has always been on the Giants radar, but his price kept going up and up with his success, so for Sabean to find him for a little less than $300,000 and the rest of his $9 million salary being picked up by the Rays is a blessing.
Guillermo Mota (LAD, NYM, MON, FLA, CLE, MIL)
First, let's take away Mota's last two outings against Cincinnati and Oakland. His stat line is as follows.
21.1 IP, 11 strikeouts, only one walk, and a WHIP of 0.90.
That's pretty impressive, especially considering that Mota took over the setup role from the tandem of Jeremy Affeldt and Sergio Romo, shut the door on a few games, and has 6 holds.
All for a cool $750,000. That sounds like a good deal to me.
Freddy Sanchez (BOS, PIT, Disabled List)
So I think we all know that Freddy Sanchez wasn't exactly picked off the scrapheap. He's a former All-Star, and the Giants gave up a top pitching prospect to get him.
But I would like to add him to this list solely because he HAS been a great addition to this offense in a move constantly defended by Sabean and the rest of the front office.
Everyone was telling the fans, just wait and see, and have we ever. Sanchez is hitting .333, with an OBP of .471, and is just coming off an 11 game hitting streak.
He's patient, with 12 walks in 99 at-bats. He seems to make contact almost every at bat, and he just keeps getting on base.
He's also a very, very slick fielder, hailed by many (including me) as the best fielding second-baseman since Robby Thompson (apologies go out to Jose Castillo).
And once he got on the field for San Francisco, no one really seemed to care how much he costs.
Mistakes: Yes, Downfall: No
It is always easy to point out someone's faults over their assets. In sports, that's true more than anywhere.
Just ask England goalie Robert Green.
Again, Sabean has his share of faults. But this list of players was picked, by him, to win games. And that they have.
The Giants are still only 2.5 games out of first place, have won 12 of their last 18, and are seven games over .500.