The Giants team of 2008 exceeded many of the preseason expectations. Now is the time to build on that good year, and this offseason should be the hinging point on if General Manager Brian Sabean will be retained past this year.
It is also a time for new majority owner William Neukom to flex his muscle and show why Peter Magowan hand-picked him to take the reins of this club. Also, as stated by Giants writer Andrew, it’s time for these two to take this team to the top of the National League West, and hopefully to the World Series.
The top story this off-season so far has been the supposed dangling of Matt Cain to pitching hungry teams in return for a young hitter. Sabean has now stated that this is not going to happen.
Teams continue asking about it, but he will not trade Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, or Brian Wilson this year. This is a relief to hear, because this means that the young pitchers who have continued to show a lot of success will remain the core of a young Giants team.
Infield is still a big concern for this team, and Sabean plans on reinforcing it through free agency. They signed Josh Phelps, who can play first and catch in a pinch, to a minor-league deal, But the focus is on bigger fish.
While there have not been any concrete rumors, the Giants are reportedly interested in shortstop Rafael Furcal and second basemen Orlando Hudson. These infield pros would be added to an infield that will most certainly include Pablo Sandoval and Emmanuel Burriss, who both earned their spots last season.
If Furcal is acquired, Buriss will move to second. If Hudson, Burriss will stay at short. Furcal would make a good leadoff hitter, and would drop Fred Lewis and Randy Winn to more comfortable spots in the lineup. Hudson would provide a good power hitter who could bat third, once again bumping Bengie Molina and Aaron Rowand to places where they would hit better.
Sabean also wants to focus on building the bullpen through free agency. San Francisco cut ties with Kevin Correia, Brad Hennessey, and Tyler Walker. The only secure job seems to be Brian Wilson at closer. Alex Hinshaw and Sergio Romo have also proved their worth in this bullpen, and the addition of a few veteran arms would reinforce a weak and inconsistent part of last year’s team. Look for names like Juan Cruz and Scott Eyre to pop up, as the status of Jack Taschner is still unknown.
With regard to other free agents Rich Aurilia and Omar Vizquel, it is still certain that Vizquel will not return. I would like to see them retain Aurilia, who is a fan favorite in his 14 seasons in a Giants uniform. Not only is he popular, but he is still very productive. His 2007 season was a fluke, attributed by his nagging neck injury. But last year he still hit .283 and drove in 52 runs.
In his 82 games at first base last year, he had a .990 fielding percentage. This proves that he is not a defensive or offensive liability. Consensus is that, unless the Giants find another utility man comparable to Rich, or another team tries to scoop him up, they’ll approach him later in the off-season with a contract offer. I think it would be a wise idea.
The Giants have a lot to do this off-season, but with a little work, it could mainly come from the inside. As we’ve all said before, the days of “ageless” free agent band-aids are over, and the people that Sabean brings in now will contribute for at least a couple years.
Don’t expect a new centerpiece of the team, because we already have that in the pitching staff. The young players coming up are filling the holes that need to be filled, and look for this team to be one of those “up and coming” teams of the next couple years.