As defending World Series champions, the San Francisco Giants had a relatively quiet offseason.
General Manager Brian Sabean felt little need to shake up an intriguing roster filled with castoffs, journeyman and young talents starting to reach their potential.
Sabean let World Series MVP Edgar Renteria leave for a one-year, $3 million deal with the defending NL Central champion Cincinnati Reds.
At this point in his career Renteria is little more than an average fielder and below average hitter who will have trouble staying on the field due to various ailments. The Reds plan to use him as a backup to both incumbent shortstop Paul Janish and All-Star second baseman Brandon Phillips.
Juan Uribe also skipped town, striking a three-year, $21 million deal with the rival Los Angeles Dodgers. The free swinger hit a career high 24 homers in 2010, but he was still barely a league average bat, generating a .749 OPS.
Uribe gains most of his value from his versatility however. In 2010, he started 103 games at shortstop, 26 games at third base and 24 games at second base and is an above average fielder at all three positions.
To replace this middle infield production the Giants will turn to Miguel Tejada, whom they signed to a one-year, $6.5 million agreement. The shortstop will return to the Bay area for the first time since leaving the Oakland Athletics following the 2003 season.
But at the age of 37, the Giants shouldn't expect too much from Tejada. Although he is a liability as a defender, the Giants will see if they can get his bat going one last time. For all intents and purposes, Tejada is this year's reclamation project (see: Burrell, Pat and Huff, Aubrey).
The Giants made no major moves this offseason, but going stagnant isn't usually a good thing when trying to repeat as a champion. The rest of the league, particularly the teams in your division, adapts to beat you.
The Rockies and Dodgers are already talented enough to overtake the Giants, and the Diamondbacks and Padres are rebuilding more quickly than even they had expected. The 2011 NL West race should be an exciting one.
What follows are 10 moves the San Francisco Giants can make to shake up their roster, overtake their division rivals and put themselves in the hunt for the NL pennant once again.
Data Courtesy Of
mlbcontracts.blogspot.com (Cot's Baseball Contracts)
I'm not breaking any new ground with this entry, but Belt's name needed to find its way onto this list.
Belt is the Giants top prospect and their only top hitting prospect who is close to making an impact at the major league level.
Unfortunately for him, his path to the big leagues is blocked by Aubrey Huff, Pablo Sandoval, Pat Burrell and Cody Ross. Should one of those four find themselves on the disabled list, Belt could be on the fast track to the majors.
For now, the 6'5", 22-year-old will likely start the season in AAA Fresno where he can get a daily dose of at-bats. The Giants are in no rush to get him to the majors, but Belt will probably force his way onto the roster by season's end.
Brandon Belt is without a doubt the Giants first baseman of the future. He had a triple slash line of .352/.455/.620 across three minor league levels last year, with 43 doubles, 10 triples, 23 homers and 22 stolen bases.
Belt's arrival would force incumbent first baseman Aubrey Huff back to a corner outfield spot.
Michael Young wants out of Texas.
If the Rangers are willing to trade their longest tenured player, they would likely have to cover a large portion of his remaining salary. Young is still owed $16 million per year over the next three seasons.
His contract also includes a no trade clause that limits his movement to eight teams. The Giants are not on the list but the Dodgers, Angels and Padres all are. The contract was signed two seasons ago, and surely Young would now be willing to make a switch to the defending champions.
Young would be the perfect (although a far more expensive) replacement for Juan Uribe. He has played third base extensively in the past two seasons, but he toiled at shortstop for five years before that. His natural position is second base.
Although Michael Young isn't a very good defender, his versatility would allow the Giants to keep his bat in the lineup.
He's more than capable of slotting into the No. 2 hole in the order and contributing a .290 batting average with 35-plus doubles and 20-plus homers.
If the Rangers would be willing to pay even half of his salary per season, it might be worth it for the Giants to take a chance on a new utility bat.
Despite his struggles, Nate McLouth is still penciled in as the Braves Opening Day center fielder in 2011.
But the job is still there for the taking for post-hype prospect Jordan Schafer.
Both outfielders have been hindered by injuries in the past few years. Schafer has been bothered by wrist injuries, and McLouth has been affected by a variety of things, among them hamstring injuries and a concussion.
McLouth is a 20-20 guy who fell off the table last season. After suffering a concussion, his power was sapped. He hit just .190 with an abysmal .620 OPS. Surprisingly, McLouth did post the best walk rate of his career.
But if he continues to struggle this year, the Braves will do whatever they can to get rid of him.
Andres Torres has made improvements but he'll never produce anything like the .276/.357/.497 triple slash line McLouth put up in 2008. Nate registered 46 doubles with 26 homers and 23 steals.
It takes talent to produce a season like that. The Giants have worked wonders recently fixing once talented reclamation bats.
McLouth could be next in line.
giants world series
Alex Gordon was a tremendous college baseball player.
During his final year at Nebraska, Gordon hit .372 with 22 doubles and 19 homers in only 253 at bats. He had an otherworldly 1.233 OPS and a tremendous batting eye, walking 63 times and striking out just 38.
As the second overall pick by the Royals, Gordon skipped right to AA ball and batted .325 with 29 homers and 101 RBI's. He also stole 22 bases.
Major League struggles have led critics to label Gordon with the much maligned "Quadruple A Player" tag.
Gordon is already 27 years old, and it is time for him to get a change of scenery.
Clearly things haven't worked out in Kansas City where he has been moved from third base to first base to the outfield, hitting for just a .733 OPS in 408 games and 1,442 at bats.
Gordon has good power and a good eye, ad evidenced by his .578 career slugging percentage in the minor leagues with a 1.016 OPS.
But something hasn't clicked in Kansas City, so it's time to move on.
Combined with the fact that he'd merely be a backup player on a World Series winner, coming to the laid back atmosphere of San Francisco could take the pressure off Gordon and allow him to finally hit at the major league level.
Gordon is just entering his prime.
I'd be willing to bet that, like Nelson Cruz and other post hype prospects, Alex Gordon eventually figures out how to put it together in the big leagues.
The Diamondbacks are still in rebuilding mode. This offseason they dealt third baseman Mark Reynolds (above, left) to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for two young relievers.
Stephen Drew (above, middle) has finally hit his stride as a player. His defense has improved at shortstop and he rebounded at the plate nicely in 2010 with 60 extra base hits after a down year in 2009.
With options, however, the Diamondbacks control Drew through 2013 and it is unlikely he would be moved.
The same cannot be said for second baseman Kelly Johnson (above, right). Johnson is on a one-year deal for $5.85 million and if he has another year like 2010 he'll be looking for a big contract at the conclusion of this season.
Johnson slugged 36 doubles and 26 homers en route to an .865 OPS. By all accounts, he has made vast improvements defensively and is no longer a liability in the infield.
Johnson should be available come July. Freddy Sanchez is a decent hitter, but most of his value comes from his defense. He does not make nearly the impact with his bat Kelly Johnson potentially could.
Second base or shortstop might be the easiest spot for the Giants to upgrade. Kelly Johnson is probably the best player available for his price at either of those positions.
Whether or not the Diamondbacks trade him within the division is a different story.
While the Giants already have Jeremy Affedlt and Javier Lopez on the roster, history says one of them will likely struggle and need to be replaced by the trading deadline.
Such is the nature of relief pitchers. They have good years, and then, inexplicably, they have bad years.
Of the two, Affedlt is the safer bet to remain. The Giants own a 2012 club option on him for $5 million and he has had a longer track record of success.
Javier Lopez was impressive with the Giants last year, recording a 22 strikeouts to three walks in 24.2 combined innings between the regular and post seasons.
The performance came out of nowhere since, other than his first two years with the Rockies in 2003-2004, Lopez had consistently posted K:BB ratios around 1:1.
Should either of these pitchers falter, one potential target could by the Padres Joe Thatcher.
Thatcher has been one of the most underrated pitchers in the league the past two years. In 2010, the sidearming lefty used his deceptive fastball and menacing slider to strikeout 45 batters, and walk just seven in 35 innings.
In 23 combined innings against left-handed hitters in 2009, Thatcher recorded 33 strikeouts to just six walks.
With lefties Randy Flores and youngster Aaron Poreda in tow, the Padres bullpen can afford to deal a southpaw. Thatcher will have a lot of demand but could be worth it for the right price.
This slide is only for the most extreme of optimists.
Sizemore had micro-fracture surgery on his knee last June. This is the same surgery that has become common in the NBA. Some players, like Amar'e Stoudemire and John Stockton, have recovered fully.
Others, like Jermaine O'Neal and Tracy McGrady, were never the same again.
Sizemore claims he hopes to be back by opening day. General Manager Chris Antonetti doesn't think he'll be ready in time.
Whenever Sizemore does come back, he won't be at full strength and he'll likely be rusty. Much like Tommy John surgery, micro-fracture surgery usually requires a two year window for an athlete to return to 100 percent.
Prior to the injury Sizemore was a three time all-star with yearly 30-30 potential. Now, he's just a giant question mark.
If Sizemore returns and struggles, it might be a good time to invest in his talent and buy low. He may never be the same player again, but it's worth taking a risk at a discount for a star of his caliber.
Surely the Indians are in wait and see mode for the time being.
Honestly, I doubt anything happens until at least next offseason.
stephen drew kelly johnson
The Giants have already won their World Series title. If they really want to stick it to Dodgers fans, they can win another one with Manny Ramirez on the team.
Manny is on an extremely cheap one year, $2 million deal with the Tampa Bay Rays. He is, perhaps, one of the best right handed hitting outfielders of all time.
Even at the age of 38, and soon to be 39, Manny being Manny is an offensive threat.
Back in the AL East and playing against his former team (the Red Sox) and his former rivals (the Yankees), Manny looks motivated to have one final hurrah in 2011.
Unfortunately for the Rays, they'll probably be looking up in the standings at their competition all season. They have the pitching but probably not the hitting or the depth to compete in baseball's toughest division.
Manny will get flipped to a contender by the time the trading deadline rolls around.
The Giants are already more than set in the corner outfield, but Manny isn't making much money and he wouldn't cost that much to acquire.
San Francisco should pursue him to join a corner outfield rotation and to DH if the Giants are able to get back to the World Series.
Albert Pujols is not walking through that door. Neither is Prince Fielder.
If the Giants are going to acquire an elite player this season, Jose Reyes is the only real possibility I see.
There may not be another player in baseball like the Mets' shortstop.
He is a true five tool player who can consistently hit around .285 with 60-plus extra base hits and 60-plus steals. From 2005-2008, Reyes's stolen base totals were 65, 64, 78 and 56. His extra base hit totals in those years were 48, 66, 60 and 63.
He has been plagued by leg injuries throughout his career and his toughness has come into question.
However, Jose Reyes merely plays the game hard. This would endear him to Giants fans, because everything Reyes does on the baseball field he does at 100 miles per hour.
This can lead to an occasional gaffe on a routine play, but most of the time he is just exciting to watch. And he is a game changing player.
Reyes also returned at the end of last season and looked fresh and healthy. He played in 133 games and recorded 50 extra base hits with 30 steals.
With the aging Miguel Tejada at shortstop, it is a real position of need for San Francisco.
The Mets are in serious financial trouble and Reyes's contract is up at the end of the year. He would come at a price, but it should be cheaper than it would for any other elite talent on the market.
Jose Reyes is worth clearing your only worthwhile minor league prospects (not named Brandon Belt) for.
With dominant pitching, a 1-2 punch of Reyes and Torres at the top of the lineup, and a core group of power hitters, the San Francisco Giants could again be a scary team come playoff time.
The Giants won the World Series last year primarily because of their pitching. Outside of the Philadelphia Phillies, the Giants have perhaps the best and deepest rotation in the major leagues.
Tim Linceucm, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez are experienced and each capable of winning 15 to 20 games. Madison Bumgarner is just 21 years old and is one of the top prospects in baseball.
Barry Zito is the most expensive No. 5 starter in the business. He isn't worth his contract, but he won't kill you on the mound anymore either.
The Giants also have a very good bullpen and featured five relievers with ERA's under three last season.
Beyond closer Brian Wilson and setup man Sergio Romo, however, the Giants lack any relief pitchers with exceptional rate stats.
I have full confidence in Bruce Bochy to mix and match the rest of his relievers. But it couldn't hurt to add another big arm to the end of the bullpen.
The Padres' Heath Bell has already been on the trading block for the the past year. The hulking right-hander has done an exceptional job replacing the legendary Trevor Hoffman.
In the past two years, Bell has racked up 89 saves over 139.2 innings, registering 165 strikeouts with only 52 walks.
He is on a one-year, $7.5 million deal with the Padres and will likely be traded before July 31st.
Much like the Yankees dynasty teams of the late 1990s, the Giants should make an effort to shorten every game to seven innings. If Sergio Romo continues to improve, some games would be over in six.
Adding Heath Bell would give the Giants the best overall pitching staff in baseball.
Pitching and defense wins in the playoffs. As the best reliever on the market, Bell should be on the Giants' shortlist.