San Francisco Giants' Newest Addition and What It All Means (Hint: Not a Repeat)
This article is pure opinion and sheer speculation. Just throwing that out there.
Jeff Keppinger is a quality baseball player. He was a solid utility infielder with the Houston Astros with a respectable batting average.
Given his limited sample size of 45 games, it is difficult to predict whether or not the 31-year-old will be able to maintain his .300 batting average. That being said, he is now playing for a team where a batting average above .230 should guarantee a starting position.
What this move signifies to me is that Freddy Sanchez will not be coming back this season and will undergo shoulder surgery.
Keppinger, while not the presence that the former batting champion Sanchez was in the lineup, is a more capable stopgap than Emmanuel Burriss. I would not be surprised to see Burriss demoted, traded or released in the coming weeks.
The Giants infield is already plenty crowded in large part due to injuries and returns from injuries.
Third base belongs to Pablo Sandoval. First base looks to be shared between Brandon Belt and Aubrey Huff, with potentially one of them starting in the outfield. The middle infield, however, is in shambles.
Brandon Crawford is the starting shortstop, despite being a virtual non-factor in the offense. I find it amusing that Mike Krukow, Duane Kuiper and Jon Miller seize upon every chance they get to praise the young shortstop’s “increased poise” at the plate.
While his poise may indeed be increasing, his output clearly is not.
If second base now belongs to Jeff Keppinger, what will be done with Miguel Tejada, Emmanuel Burriss and Mike Fontenot? And if Freddy Sanchez indeed does come back, what will be done with Keppinger?
My suggestion would be to demote, trade or DFA Burriss, demote Crawford and start Tejada at shortstop.
The Giants might as well get some value for their signing, and Tejada’s play had improved as of late prior to his injury. Furthermore, Crawford would benefit from another month in the minors until rosters expand.
Brian Sabean is clearly thinking about the future, so why jeopardize it by overplaying a green shortstop?
Should Brian Sabean have acquired a more "proven" player?
By making a trade for Jeff Keppinger, it seems increasingly unlikely that any major blockbuster trades involving a big-ticket free agent (Beltran/Reyes/Cuddyer/etc.) are waiting in the wings.
Zack Wheeler makes a very attractive bargaining chip. So does Brandon Belt. We already know that the Reds wanted Madison Bumgarner for catcher Ramon Hernandez; an insane proposition that Sabean properly declined.
It even seems that Sabean is willing to stick with Jonathan Sanchez for a bit longer.
The San Francisco Giants are a paradox.
On the one hand, they are young and extraordinarily talented. Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Brian Wilson, Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Brandon Belt are all under 30 years old and virtually all are under team control for a few years.
These are names that can bring the Giants future pennants and conceivably future World Championships.
On the other hand, they are old and piecemeal. Aubrey Huff, Cody Ross, Pat Burrell, Aaron Rowand, Miguel Tejada, Mike Fontenot, Mark De Rosa, Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong are all historically inconsistent ballplayers who are on the wrong side of 30 looking into the horizon at the impending twilight of their careers.
These are players that have likely contributed the bulk of what they can contribute.
What does all this mean? It means that the Giants are indeed designed to win in the future. It also means, however, that the team that won the World Series last year is not the team that the Giants field this year, which is to say that it is very unlikely that this team will repeat as World Champions.
Will the Giants face tougher post-season odds than last year?
There was nothing “magical” about the Yankees curb-stomping their way to a title in 1998. That was a team that was supposed to win, and it did precisely that. The 2010 Giants, however, were not supposed to win.
Atlanta’s pitching staff was as good as San Francisco’s last year. Every game in that playoff series was decided by one run, and if it were not for the terrible play of Brooks Conrad, Atlanta may very well have won that series.
Philadelphia had a strong pitching staff featuring Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels. Cody Ross played like a man possessed and the Giants’ pitching staff inexplicably over-performed their own spectacular regular season numbers to defeat Philadelphia in six games, despite being outscored in the series.
The drama of those two series made the World Series almost seem like an afterthought.
This year, Atlanta’s pitching staff is statistically better than San Francisco’s, and Philadelphia has added Cliff Lee to its pitching staff in an attempt to bolster an already superlative staff.
Philadelphia’s ownership has already made it clear that it will pull out all stops to win now, and it appears as though it will do exactly that. The point is, the Giants will likely not win the World Series this year.
In three years, however, the Phillies’ aces will be considerably older. Three years older, in fact. This means a lot when two of your aces (Lee and Halladay) are already over age 30.
Halladay will likely remain an excellent pitcher at age 37. But I predict that the Giants aces will be better.
If Giants fans can be content with a gritty grind leading to a playoff berth and a second consecutive National League West title, they should be thrilled with the outcome of this season.
If, however, the fans demand nothing less than a World Series repeat, they will likely be disappointed.
Brian Sabean COULD make blockbuster moves to improve the Giants’ immediate prospects, but he won’t.
He understands what this team has a lot of, and that is potential. That potential has not been realized yet, and I doubt it will be this year.
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