San Francisco Giants 2010-11 Offseason: What Are Their Best and Worst Scenarios?
Your 2010 World Champion San Francisco Giants are officially back on the clock.
It's a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world and with free agents signing all over the place, the impatient among the Black and Orange faithful want to know how the franchise is reloading. Adam Dunn, Jayson Werth, Victor Martinez, Derek Jeter, Lance Berkman and Rod Barajas are just a few of the bigger names who are off the big board.
Aubrey Huff and Miguel Tejada are also spoken for, but by the hometown voice so they'll be dealt with in due course. Inquiring minds want to know what's next.
Truth be told, there shouldn't be much more offseason action by the Bay.
The San Francisco budget is already swollen for 2011. It's unclear how much general manager Brian Sabean is posturing and how much of the $120 million talk is reality, but the message is the same in either case—don't expect a high-priced acquisition.
But before you groan about the needlessly niggardly front office, consider what is happening across Major League Baseball's free agency landscape.
The Washington Nationals just signed Werth...the 31-year-old Jayson Werth...for seven years and $126 million dollars!?!?!
That's one of the most insane contracts I've ever seen, right up there with Barry Zito's of the exact same length. Not a good omen and it begs the question (at maximum decibel), why the hell do teams so willingly pay Scott Boras' price?
Can you name a single one of his deals that's been even a good idea for the club in retrospect? Forget about a great one.
Back to the point
V-Mart (32 before New Year's Day) went for five years, $50 million to the Detroit Tigers. Dunn got $56 million for four years from the Chicago White Sox. Jeter's albatross in New York is a special case; we all knew it was coming, but what about Hiroki Kiruda getting $12 million for one year in Los Angeles Dodger blue?
Shoot, even Aubrey's price tag of $22 million over two years is a little staggering, though easily embraced considering he was underpaid in 2010. That and the shiny new Commissioner's Trophy which now resides in The City.
Additionally, look at the names that have signed and are still available. They're not necessarily game-changers aside from Carl Crawford who is being wooed by just about everyone, including the bottomless pockets in pinstripes.
In other words, I'd prepare for a calm winter from the Giants and that's a good thing.
Having said that, there are still some tweaks to be made as dreams of repeating are indulged, so let's take a look at the realistic best- and worst-case scenarios for each facet of the team.
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Best Case—SF takes a flier on Andruw Jones, Brad Hawpe or any of the fallen stars who now finds himself in the bargain bin, teams him with Travis Ishikawa (for the heavy lifting) and Pat Burrell leads them
Worst Case—SF overpays for superfluous "help"
Yes, this is a transparent excuse to do two things:
1. Include that picture, which pretty much sums up Bro All-Star Pat Burrell and I mean that affectionately.
2. Mention that Pat the Bat re-signed with San Francisco for $1 million, period. No incentives, no extra triggers, no additional nada.
True, a million dollars is still a lot of money, especially as compensation for playing baseball. Also true, Burrell's burner (for female-related necessity as opposed to the narcotic-related variety) probably wasn't ringing off the hook considering his postseason.
That's still a gesture worth trumpeting to anyone who will listen—Pat's a 10-year veteran and hit 20 bombs in abbreviated 2010 action. He could've justifiably demanded more; instead, he came back to the hometown team at a severe discount.
As for the best-case/worst-case scenarios, there's really only one way to mess up your bench and that's to overpay. You never know who will come through when he's not getting regular at-bats so it's futile to try to buy peace of mind for the role.
So don't try.
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Best Case—SF adds a couple arms from the second tier of free agents (Hideki Okajima, Taylor Buchholz, Grant Balfour and/or Dan Wheeler) while bringing back Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Jonathan Sanchez, Barry Zito, Brian Wilson, Javier Lopez, Jeremy Affeldt, Ramon Ramirez, Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo
Worst Case—SF brings back all the same players, but instead of acquiring the second-tier arms, management blows a substantial chunk of change on one of the declining closers who've flooded the market
Obviously, the starting pitching is all set—it'd be nice to move Baked Zito's monstrosity of a ball-and-chain. It'd also be nice if the banking CEOs who made nine figures in the last few years acknowledged they probably didn't deserve the payday.
Ain't gonna happen.
However, there's always room in the budget to tinker with the bullpen and that's the one 2010-11 free agency market where you might find a bargain or two. It's a buyer's bazaar out there with prominent firemen like Rafael Soriano, Kerry Wood, Koji Uehara, Brian Fuentes, Jon Rauch, Bobby Jenks, Jesse Crain, Octavio Dotel, Scott Downs, Kevin Gregg and Takashi Saito still available.
While the big dollars are sure to be drawn to those neon names, some late-inning options with sterling resumes might just get overlooked. Okajima, Buchholz, Balfour and Wheeler have all been absurdly good in the very recent past despite unforgiving assignments, yet they don't have quite the bona fides to compare with the bigger ponies.
The nucleus of the Giants' biggest 2010 weapon is intact since the Freak, Cainer, MadBum, Dirty Sanchez, Zeets, Wilson, Lopez, Affeldt, Ramirez, Casilla and Romo are all returning either by contract or arbitration (as is Dan Runzler).
But as the old saying goes, you can never have too much pitching.
And that means adding a couple more proven relievers at the right price couldn't hurt.
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Best Case—Buster Posey stays healthy
Worst Case—Gerald Demp the Third suffers a freak injury
I'm tempting the Baseball Gods as it is.
Let's just bask in the glory that is the 2010 National League Rookie of the Year one more time, and move on.
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Best Case—SF rides with the re-signed Aubrey Huff and underrated Travis Ishikawa
Worst Case—SF puts a match to some of the remaining funds by signing one of the aging bats still looking for work
The first base position scares me because a look around the Show reveals a ton of offensive production from first sackers. Consequently, there's this myth around baseball that the position must contribute the majority of his value via the lumber.
Yet look at what's just happened in the last 24 hours.
Paul Konerko, who will be 35 before 2011's first pitch, inked for three years and $37.5 million. The Chicago Cubs handed Carlos Pena—32 and picking up the pieces after "hitting" .196 in 2011—a whopping $10 million for one year.
Objectivity demands I qualify both deals with the good as well as the "what the WHAT?"
Paulie is a fan/clubhouse favorite on the South Side and is at the bargaining table fresh from one of the best seasons of his career. Meanwhile, Pena is a defensive wizard and still got on base at a .325 clip.
Regardless, the gist here is both men have gargantuan red flags protruding from their caps and will swallow eight digits worth of their respective franchises' budgets. Konerko and Pena could have good years, but still not validate the contracts.
Against that backdrop, I'm thinking the combination of Huff—.290/.385/.506 with 26 HR and 86 RBI in '10—plus Ishikawa will do just fine until San Francisco finds out what it has in youngster Brandon Belt.
A guy like Lyle Overbay (almost $8 million in '10) or Jorge Cantu ($6 million in '10) would be intriguing, but only at a steep discount that none of the three mentioned is likely to entertain.
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Best Case—SF nabs Orlando Hudson in the event Freddy Sanchez isn't ready for Opening Day and keeps Mike Fontenot/Mark DeRosa in their reserve/utility roles
Worst Case—SF treads water, Sanchez' shoulder "procedure" turns into something more and the Giants are stuck with Fontenot or DeRosa as the starting second baseman
I said these would be realistic scenarios so let's acknowledge that mentioning Hudson is stretching the accuracy of that statement.
O-Dawg is 32 and has a history of injury problems, but the market at the keystone is Christian-Bale-in-The-Machinist thin and the man can still play both sides of the game. He figures to get at least the $5 million he made in 2010 and a guaranteed starting job, neither of which would/should be forthcoming from SF.
And let's acknowledge that the worst-case scenario is also unlikely.
Nor is it too bad.
Fontenot had his moments for the Gents down the stretch (though some were bad) and DeRosa was a highly useful plug 'n' play back when he was healthy. It'd be dumb and unfair to judge him on his '10 numbers considering that a wrist injury is arguably the most debilitating ailment to a pro ballplayer's swing.
More importantly, Freddy isn't expected to miss much time (if any) in Spring Training so los Gigantes should have one of their more important cogs in place from the get-go.
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Best Case—Pablo Sandoval continues to shed weight and SF signs either Josh Fields or Andy LaRoche as an emergency plan
Worst Case—Sandoval abandons his allegedly successful-to-date attempt to slim down and SF panics, then signs Adrian Beltre
With most of San Francisco's young talent already occupying a major-league role or earmarked for one, it's improbable that Brian Sabean could acquire anyone of use via trade. That means the only real help the Giants could find at third base in the 2010-11 offseason would arrive through free agency.
And that means I played the Bale card too early because the hot corner market really is Beltre, then crickets chirping.
Frankly, you can lump Adrian in with the rest of the spare parts still available as far as I'm concerned. He was incredible with the Boston Red Sox and has always flashed spiffy leather, but we've seen what the former Los Angeles Dodger and Seattle Mariner would look like playing his home games at AT&T Park.
It's not worth the $9 million he received in '10 and he'll be looking for a raise.
All of this means we've arrived at the most critical unknown heading into the 2011 defense of the World Series Championship—the Kung Fu Panda.
The Giants will have Mark DeRosa, Miguel Tejada, Ryan Rohlinger and Connor Gillespie all capable of handling the position in a pinch, but Sandoval is far and away the primary option at third. Early reports have him dropping lbs., but those were the early reports from the 2009-10 offseason as well.
By the time Opening Day rolled around, the pounds were back and they brought friends.
Nevertheless, the exuberance Little Money showed in celebrating the Fall Classic triumph (notice he's the lone bench-warmer in that photo above) is reason for optimism. He's a young kid who's tasted personal success as well as team success, and I'd bet he now wants to experience them together.
I'd also bet he keeps the weight off for good this time around, but bringing in a couple ex-blue-chip prospects who are still young-ish and dirt cheap wouldn't be a bad motivational ploy.
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Best Case—as strange as it sounds, SF battens down the hatches with Miguel Tejada
Worst Case—SF brings back Edgar Renteria on an emotional whim
Again, the Miggy signing requires a contextualized assessment before final judgment.
First, let's agree the market at short was only slightly deeper than those for second and third base. Derek Jeter was never actually available since the New York Yankees were always going to be bidding against themselves. Juan Uribe was incredible for San Francisco, but even his biggest fans by the Bay wouldn't support the three-year, $21 million deal the Bums gave him.
After those two, there was Tejada, Jhonny Peralta, Orlando Cabrera and other names even less exhilarating.
Peralta and Tejada got similar annual salaries because they put up similar numbers, and Jhonny got an extra year because he's eight years younger (28 vs. 36) without La Gua Gua's grand exploits on his resume. Cabrera's still on the market because he's not the offensive threat Tejada is, but boasts the same 36 in the age category.
So, unless you had a soft spot for Cesar Izturis, Renteria or Tsuyoshi Nishioka (latest Japanese import), Tejada—who can do many of the same things Uribe did including play third base, point to a cannon attached to his right shoulder and come up with clutch hits—really was the least of all evils.
As for Edgar, it would just be ugly to bring him back.
Either he'd ride the pine or Bruce Bochy would force him into the rotation and neither could possibly surpass the final image with which he left us.
It's best for both sides to just move on.
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Best Case—Cody Ross get a nice bump in arbitration, but doesn't break the bank and Aaron Rowand does whatever he needs to/is possible to become a more consistent threat
Worst Case—the free agent insanity creeps into the arbitration process and Ross gets a colossal raise, Rowand folds mentally and SF is forced to play musical chairs in both corner outfield spots
Left and right field are practically a tandem deal for the Gents.
Because of the vagaries of AT&T Park's right field, you'll often see flip-flopping between the corner spots depending on pitching matchups and who's hot. So we'll use right field to indulge flights of free agent fantasy and play left field straight up.
Ross is coming back, it's just a matter of price to be set by the arbitration process. Unless the powers-that-be grossly overvalue Cody's homerific contribution in the postseason, he figures to get a modest bump yet nothing extraordinary.
Additionally, Rowand will either be motivated like never before or his formidable spirit will break. For better or worse, he should be less of a question mark in 2011.
Also good news.
Throw in the streaking blur otherwise known as Darren Ford, the ever-present Nate Schierholtz, Mark DeRosa and you have a capable group of skills to handle at least one of the corner spots now and (hopefully) for the future.
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Best Case—Andres Torres, Andres Torres and more Andres Torres
Worst Case—anything else
Aside for two stints snuggled around his emergency appendectomy, Torres was a holy terror.
After breaking out of his journey-man shell during the regular season, Yungo scuffled out of the playoff gates against the Atlanta Braves in the National League Division Series. But he found his legs and helped spark the offensive havoc against the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League Championship Series and the Texas Rangers in the World Series.
Not to mention his sterling, double-duty defense.
Consequently, I'm not messing with Torres' mojo.
Just keep it coming Andres.
Best Case—SF grabs a post-hype sleeper off the free agent pile like Melky Cabrera or Lastings Milledge to toss into the mix-and-match corner outfield approach
Worst Case—SF forks over too much cash for a re-tread profile like Andruw Jones, Bill Hall, Magglio Ordonez or Rick Ankiel-type
Aficionados of the original He-Man series and toys will recognize that individual as Man-E-Faces. He gets the honors because that's exactly who we may see patrolling los Gigantes' right field: many different faces.
It (or left field depending on the day) is the wild card.
The Giants could count their money while sticking with the current batch of bargain veterans plus out-to-prove-themselves kids, they could add a couple more names fitting that description or they could gamble a bit by paying a considerable sum for a (once) considerable talent.
Here's to hoping the brass takes one of the first two approaches and avoids the last like Washington D.C. avoids substantive progress in an election year.
I'd be firmly in favor of bringing either Cabrera or Milledge aboard because those are two reasonably young guys (26 and 25, respectively) who are brimming with talent and might finally be shaking off the trauma of New York-sized expectations.
However, there's also enough of a sample size in both cases for most of the high-priced bloom to be off each rose. Cabrera won't command more than the $3.1 million he made in 2010 unless he's doing business with the Washington Nationals and Milledge (who cost $452,000 in '10) shouldn't see too much additional green directed at him, either.
In other words, they're just the kind of low-risk, high-reward players San Francisco excelled with on the way to the 2010 World Series.
If the Giants find Jones or Hall fits the low-high description, then the player would make sense.
But in this crazy market, that seems very unlikely given the pedigrees involved.
And that means the smartest move might be none at all.