The Giants began their offseason today, making moves involving a total of 10 Giants. Pitchers Noah Lowry and Merkin Valdez were both activated from the 60-day disabled list and added to the 40-man roster. Lowry just had surgery to remove a bone spur, but is expected to be back by Spring Training. Valdez was hampered by a strained elbow in mid-May but posted strong numbers in the early season.
The organization also started the restructuring of their bullpen, seen to be one of the weakest parts of their better-than-expected 2008 season. On Friday, the team outrighted right-handers Brad Hennessey, Tyler Walker, and Kevin Correia to Triple-A Fresno, along with C Eliezer Alfonzo, LHP Geno Espineli, SS Ivan Ochoa, and IF Scott McClain. Infielder Travis Denker was also claimed off of waivers by San Diego.
These moves seemed pretty much expected after all three pitchers struggled during the season. Tyler Walker started the season strong, but ran into a patch where he gave up a lot of runs in only a few games, blowing the lead a few times.
This patch extended to the haunt him until the end of the season, earning him boos and animosity from a lot of Giants faithful. It basically spells the end for Walker, who has spent a total of five years with the team over two stints.
It is also the probable end for two homegrown pitching products in Hennessey and Correia. Both have never played a game for any other organization, but both showed great inconsistency through their years.
Hennessey seemed a lock for with a set-up role or even the closers role this year but had an ERA over 10 in the first month of the season. After Lowry went down, Correia assumed the fifth spot in the rotation but was only able to muster three wins during an injury-shortened year.
He was only part of a trend for the Giants, who had terrible stats out of the fifth starter spot between Correia, Pat Misch, and Matt Palmer.
These two, Correia and Hennessey, were never able to sustain the level of play that the Giants had in mind for them. It is never easy to watch good players leave, but they’ve spent enough time here that they shouldn’t be having the problems that they did this year.
It also came to pass that many upstart Giants rookies were more than willing and able to take their place. Sergio Romo became the main set-up man late in the year, and the Giants have a load of talent waiting in the wings for the fifth-starter spot, as well as Noah Lowry coming back from injury.
All three of these pitchers commanded a substantial salary for their perceived lack of output. Combined, they earned over $3.4 million last year. The emergence of the young talent in the bullpen also helped push them out.
Alex Hinshaw had a quietly consistent year, and Romo made a strong case for next year’s set-up role. There are still holdovers, Jack Taschner, who is set to be a free agent, as well as other young pitchers such as Osiris Matos, who had a lot better performances than Hennessey and Walker.
The other moves, involving the infielders, were mainly because of lack of production. Eliezer Alfonzo hit .091 in Spring Training and .091 again once he made it to the Giants again. Coupled with his 50-game suspension for violating the league’s substance policy, and the future of the catcher position looks solid, with Pablo Sandoval already in the show and Buster Posey tearing up opposing pitching wherever he’s playing.
McClain and Ochoa never proved that they figured into the 2009 plans, and the middle infield looks solid with Emmanuel Burriss, a resurgent Eugenio Velez, and a fully-recovered Kevin Frandsen. The loss of Denker was also remedied by the same people, and if Rich Aurilia sticks around, he provides backup all around the infield.
The Giants' 40-man roster is now at 33 players, and there are many more moves expected. In other news, Frandsen is going to be playing for the Scottsdale Scorpions of the AFL for the rest of the fall, and should be back at game-speed for Spring Training.