2011 MLB Free Agents: Top Ten Players The Giants Should Be Shopping
No matter how deep San Francisco rides into the playoffs this year, the Giants should have a close eye on the 2011 Free Agent Class.
The Giants can pitch, there is no doubt about that. As good as their bullpen has been down the stretch in 2010, there will be room for improvement in the off season.
It is in the batter's box where the Giants most obvious flaw is apparent. When the Giants were down by more than a few runs, they were at their most vulnerable.
Although the 2011 Free Agent class is heavily laden with first basemen and starting pitching, the Giants have excellent opportunities to bolster an already great pitching staff and validate their offensive threat.
In this discussion we will paint some bulls-eyes on ten free agents who should be in orange and black in April 2011.
#10. Shortstop: Derek Jeter
Before you start throwing cabbage and tomatoes, let me just say I realize that the Yankees great will probably never play in any other uniform than his beloved pin-stripes.
Even if he did move on, leaving history behind him, his price tag would be immense.
One can always hope. Especially with the class of shortstops in free agency in the coming off season.
Derek Jeter is a name baseball will not soon forget. He is a household name, and probably the first player that comes to mind when playing word association and saying "Yankees".
He is a career .314 hitter, who has done just about every clutch play you can think of, and then some.
He has a closet full of Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers, various MVP's, Rookie of the Year and is the toast of the town in the Big Apple.
He is also a free agent in 2011, and should the Yankees let him get away....
This dude has plenty of great baseball left, trust me.
#9. Starting Pitcher: Bronson Arroyo
Another pitcher the Giants should kick the tires on is right hander Bronson Arroyo. It is very likely Arroyo never hits the market.
With the Reds looking to extend their 2010 success by resigning Dusty Baker, I believe it is very likely they keep either Bronson Arroyo or Aaron Harang, or both.
Arroyo pitched very well in 2010, posting a 3.88 ERA and winning 17 games for Cincinnati. The Reds have a $11 million club option on Arroyo, or a $2 million buyout.
Either way the Reds go, I don't think a pitcher like Arroyo stays on the market for very long.
Local news in San Francisco doesn't paint a nice picture when trying to describe the future of Zito in the Giants clubhouse. Until that gets worked out, the Giants are bleeding dollar signs and getting a decent product half of the time, or less.
Cutting bait or just being stuck with Zito, the Giants need to fill in their rotation in either case. A pitcher like Arroyo would also round out an already good rotation.
#8. Shortstop: Alex Gonzalez
An area of need the Giants should address in 2011: Shortstop.
Edgar Renteria's contract is just about at an end, only a club option remains for 2011. I have doubts Renteria will be back next year.
Most Giant enthusiasts will agree Renteria is well past his prime, and although he is a capable shortstop, he is too often injured and largely ineffective offensively.
Utility man Juan Uribe is exciting, if inconsistent. Uribe drove in 24 HR's in 2010, all of them probably clutch shots, but had a batting average of .248. With nine errors from Uribe, the Giants could stand to tighten up a little bit.
One shortstop possibly hitting the Free Agent Market in 2011 is Alex Gonzalez of the Atlanta Braves. The 33 year old Venezuelan native is a Free Agent should the Braves opt not to exercise their $2.5 million club option in 2011.
Gonzalez gives you much the same as Juan Uribe does. He is capable of hitting 20+ dingers, batting in the neighborhood of .250 and can give you decent run production.
Other than Jeter, who will likely never leave the Yankees, there are not many eye-popping free agent candidates in 2011. Gonzalez, in my opinion is probably the better of all free agents entering the market.
When you consider older players like Tejada, Vizquel, Renteria, Counsell and Blum, Alex Gonzalez stands out as a veteran who is not so long in the tooth, and has a little pop in his bat.
#7. Leftfielder: Jonny Gomes
Should things not work out with fan favorite Pat the Bat Burrell, or the journeyman Mark DeRosa - Bay Area bred Jonny Gomes is a promising left fielder who is possibly on the move in 2011.
The Giants have a veritable log jam in the outfield, and difficult choices will have to be made in the off-season. Pat Burrell will likely be extended, but is he the answer? Sure he is bad bad man with a bat in his hand, but he is not exactly an outfielder with a ton of range.
Mark DeRosa's wrist injury sidelined him for almost all of 2010. A huge disappointment for Giants fans until Burrell was signed.
Will DeRosa bounce back? Is it a matter of time before another injury or slump starts to make his acquisition look like a bad move?
Has Eugenio Valez seen his last days as a Giant?
Tough questions in the San Francisco office will need to be asked. Meanwhile, Gomes just might hit the market. Should the Cincinnati Reds choose not to exercise the $1.75 club option on Gomes, he will be available and on the move.
Jonny Gomes is a career .241 batter, capable of hitting about 20 homers. He is a decent run producer and is a good defense player.
Despite being a part of a very good offensive Reds team, Gomes will not likely command the high stress, big dollar contracts that the likes of Jayson Werth and Xavier Nady would.
Gomes is your bargain shopping bonus.
#6. Starting Pitcher: Cliff Lee
There are a lot reasons why the Giants can't and probably shouldn't go after Cliff Lee in 2011.
Actually there are $18.5 million reasons why they are still handcuffed in 2011. $19 million in 2012, and it goes on.
The worst contract ever written, I mean, the contract Barry Zito signed in 2007 to join San Francisco, still hurts in many ways.
One, getting someone to take on the rest of the mammoth, budget breaking contract is almost impossible. Two, cutting ties altogether and eating the money owed doesn't exactly solve anything.
Although Zito has been serviceable at times, his body of work just doesn't merit a position in the starting rotation, much less a spot on a 25 man playoff roster.
With all the Zito-ness aside, it seems unlikely the Giants could find themselves in a position to land an ace like Cliff Lee.
Can you imagine adding Lee into a rotation that already has a Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez and a Bumgarner? (Ok that's the last time I ever say '..and a bumgarner')
There is not much to choose from in 2011 if you are looking for a stand out starting pitcher. Brad Penny came and left, not coming back either. Kevin Correia didn't work out while he was here.
But hey, Jamie Moyer, Pedro Martinez and Kevin Millwood are still out there...possibly on the senior circuit.
#5. Third Baseman: Aramis Ramirez
A third baseman like Adrian Beltre will probably command a big time contract, and a three or four team bidding war. Especially if Scott Boras has any say in it.
Should that deal fall through or sky out of range, the Cubs may be willing to part ways with their hot corner - Aramis Ramirez.
The Cubs all but had a fire sale last year prior to the trade deadline, off-loading many pieces of an under performing club. The right handed Dominican native has a $14.6 million player option in 2011.
Ramirez, if dangled a multi-year contract in the same ball park of Chicago's deal, just may jump - especially to a contender.
Ramirez batted .241, had 25 homers, and drove in 83 runs. He is a career .282 hitter who in five separate seasons hit over .300.
Aramis might not be as lovable and giddy like the Panda, but he is a consistent and constant threat in the lineup - something the Panda may never be again.
#4. Relief Pitcher: Matt Thornton
As valuable a commodity as left handed relief pitching is, the 2011 Free Agent Market is sparse with lefty relievers.
The names on that short list will go quick, and if the Giants want any part of the action they will have to be swift and decisive - something Brian Sabean has not been until 2010.
The Giants are dangerously short on left handed hurlers out of the pen. Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt are the only lefties currently on the roster.
Dan Runzler is an option, but not a proven one. Alex Hinshaw?
Why not a cat like Matt Thornton? Thornton is a very good left handed reliever coming up for Free Agency in 2011 with the Chicago White Sox. He has been a really good set-up man, and a real asset in tight situations.
Thornton ranks 8th in American League in Holds, or HLD, an unofficial stat but nonetheless, a telling one.
Thornton pitched just over 60 innings for Chicago, recording an ERA of 2.67 and 81 strike outs.
His contract, which has a $3 million club option with a $250k buyout is within the Giants reach.
#3. Relief Pitcher: Hisanori Takahashi
Hisanori Takahashi has already spent the majority of his career with the Giants. The Yomiuri Giants of Nippon Professional Baseball to be exact.
Why not play for the San Francisco Giants Mr. Takahashi?
The Tokyo born lefty came to Major League Baseball in 2010, signing with the New York Mets. He was relegated to bullpen duty mostly, but has started games before. He took over the closer role when Francisco Rodriguez went down.
He is a finesse pitcher who can go fastball, curveball, slider and oh yes, the coveted screwball.
Takahashi is probably one of the most sought after left handed relievers in the 2011 Free Agent Market. The Yankees, Dodgers and Phillies are clubs Takahashi has expressed interest in.
Someone needs to invite Takahashi out to San Francisco, where he will not only solidify one of the best bullpens in the game, but take the NL West by surprise.
Having been in the league only one season, his stuff is still a mystery to most hitters out west.
Perfect time to make this former Yomiuri Giant a San Francisco Giant.
#2. Right Fielder: Jayson Werth
Fear the Beard right Giants fans? Well how about this lumberjack special coming to play for the Giants in 2011?
Jayson Werth will be among the top Free Agents in 2011. It is very likely that the Phillies will not be able to afford his next contract and he will be on the move.
Even if the money is long, Werth is worthwhile. At 32 years of age, the 1997 first round pick still exhibits plenty exuberance and life in his legs and play.
He co-anchors one of the most potent lineups in all of baseball. Werth batted a very respectable .296 in 2010, the second highest average in his career which spans back to 2002.
Hitting over 24 home runs in his last 3 seasons, Werth is a very dangerous hitter. As an outfielder, he is nails. He can play all outfield positions, but is most proficient in right field.
Outstanding range, potent arm. Werth leaves little to be desired on defense and at the plate.
The Giants have a pile up of outfielders vying to get some time on the field. There will likely be some departures with the arrival of Andres Torres and Cody Ross as consistent and everyday players.
It is quite possible Jose Guillen is not returning in 2011. Nate Scheirholtz has proven to be a defensive replacement, and a good. He could also be moved in 2011. Aaron Rowand's inflated contract is still on the books in 2011, so I would not expect him to be among the departed.
Again, a player like Jayson Werth adds instant respectability to an offensive without much. You also don't sacrifice anything defensively, just a nice fat check, thank you Scott Boras.
#1. Third Baseman: Adrian Beltre
Coming into the 2010, the Giants believed they had third base all sewn up. Pablo Sandoval burst onto the National League scene in 2009, hitting .330 and driving 25 homers.
2011 saw a serious and disturbing decline in Sandoval's skills. He led the team with 13 errors at third base, and hit a pedestrian .268 average. More notably, he was a double-play machine for opposing defenses.
The Panda needs an off-season to regroup, and should by no means be guaranteed a starting spot on the big club in 2011. In fact, it has been regarded that Sandoval could have used some time in triple-A ball to get things right again.
If the Giants want a sure handed third basemen, who can absolutely crush - they should get the wallets out for Boston's Adrian Beltre.
Beltre is a brute at the plate. He hit for .321 in 2010, hitting 28 HR, 102 RBI and had a slugging percentage of .553. Sure Beltre will come for a lofty price tag, especially since he is a client of Scott Boras.
Considering the pitching the Giants possess, giving them a bat like Beltre in the lineup and they are a vastly improved team. This is one area where even long money is the right thing to do.
In 2010 the Giants pitching made them a legitimate contender. By adding some of the players like Beltre and others discussed here, they would be a real force for years to come.