Giants G.M., President Obama share a dubious record as negotiators
You'd figure San Francisco Giants GM Brian Sabean is too distracted plotting possible waiver-wire deals to assess his players' performance relative to their 2011 contracts.
No sweat, that's what we're here for.
According to ESPN.com, the Giants' 2011 payroll of $117.7 million ranks eighth out of 30 teams in Major League Baseball, fourth in the National League.
That's a load of cash—especially for an organization that historically watches its pennies.
The Giants' 2011 roster includes some terrific high-value performers, who I'll present in the next installment. Trust me, there are some eye-openers.
There also are some eye-opening (or teeth-grinding) examples of players performing below their presumed value. In some instances, way below.
Today, a ranking of the five lowest-value 2011 Giants.
Sanchez in 2011 has been unavailable or generally ineffective
2011 salary: $4.8 million (one-year contract).
Jonathan Sanchez was awarded a generous raise (from $2.1 million in 2010) after reaching career bests for wins (13), ERA (3.07) and strikeouts (205 in 193.1 innings).
I was at AT&T Park when Sanchez no-hit the Padres in 2009, and was as exuberant as anyone about his prospects. Based on 2010, he appeared poised to become a durable mainstay in the Giants' young, deep, formidable pitching rotation.
The Giants responded (financially) in kind.
Sadly, Sanchez has reverted to his erratic ways, struggling with command issues before being shut down in late June with biceps tendinitis.
In two starts since returning from the disabled list, Sanchez has been terrible: nine innings, 11 hits, 10 runs, six walks, 1.93 WHIP, 9.64 ERA.
His 2011 numbers (4-7, 4.29 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, third in NL in walks) resemble the guy who's tempted and tortured Giants brass and fans for most of his six years in San Francisco.
It's not yet a lost season for the left-hander, but without a fairly immediate course correction, that's where Sanchez is headed.
Put it this way: When Barry Zito is mentioned as a viable rotation alternative to you, that's close to rock bottom.
For those results at that price, Sanchez not only isn't a bargain—he's a poor value.
Sabean gambled - unwisely - that Tejada could repeat his 2010 productivity
2011 salary: $6.5 million (one-year contract).
Brian Sabean signed Miguel Tejada to replace the Juan Uribe/Edgar Renteria shortstop rotation that was sufficient to help win the 2010 World Series.
The 37-year-old Tejada was coming off of a decent year, split between Baltimore and San Diego. San Francisco would have gladly settled for something close to his 2010 numbers: 15 HR, 71 RBI, .269 BA, .987 fielding percentage in 58 games at SS.
He hasn't come close. Before stumbling (literally) onto the disabled list last month, Tejada had delivered 26 RBI in 322 plate appearances. And, after committing eight errors in 37 games at shortstop, it was clear he no longer could handle the defensive demands of the position.
For a defiantly proud major-leaguer who drove in 100 or more runs six times between 2000 and 2006—including 150 RBI in 2004 for Baltimore—it has been a swift descent.
As a result, the Giants have been forced to use four players (current incumbent Orlando Cabrera plus Tejada, Brandon Crawford and Mike Fontenot) at a critical position.
For Sabean, Tejada has been the baseball equivalent of a stock purchased just before a downgrade and decline in value.
DeRosa could have been in witness protection, for all the good he's done the Giants
2011 salary: $6.0 million (in second year of two-year, $12-million contract).
If you follow my work here, you know I'm consistently critical of Brian Sabean's vexing reliance on aging veteran players.
Sabean acquired tons of professional equity with last year's World Series title. Still, there's no credible way to justify paying Mark DeRosa $12 million over the last two years to pretty much disappear.
From 2006 to 2009, De Rosa averaged 17 HR and 78 RBI. Solid numbers, which prompted Sabean to believe he could duplicate them in San Francisco. (Sound familiar? See the prior slide.)
DeRosa turned 35 prior to the 2010 season. That's an age at which baseball players begin breaking down.
Sabean knew this. And yet, with a farm system still being rebuilt, he gambled that De Rosa (and, a year later, Tejada) had something left.
Over two seasons, DeRosa has appeared in 46 games and produced 24 hits, one HR and 13 RBI.
To be fair, he's described by those who should know as a positive clubhouse presence and great teammate. Fair enough.
This isn't about character—it's strictly business.
And as a business calculation by Sabean, this one fizzled.
Rowand: another big investment with little return
2011 salary: $13.6 million (in fourth year of five-year, $60-million contract).
Aaron Rowand ranks as a lower-valued player than Miguel Tejada, even though there's little difference between them in productivity (although Rowand has been healthier and appeared in more games).
The distinction, so to speak, is based on one factor: Rowand is being paid more than two times what the Giants pay Tejada—and more than his salary and DeRosa's combined.
Rowand is paid more than all but two teammates: Barry Zito and Tim Lincecum. (Carlos Beltran is paid slightly more than Zito, but the Giants are responsible for a very small portion of Beltran's 2011 salary).
Thirteen-point-six-million. That's a lot of dough. And justifiable, perhaps, if you're producing as Rowand did for Philadelphia in 2007, the year before he signed with San Francisco.
Yes, indeed. Giants fans would have treated Rowand as a conquering hero had he duplicated that season: 161 games, 187 hits, 45 doubles, .309 BA, 27 HR, 89 RBI.
But Rowand's production has declined steadily in every category.
Worse still, the Giants are contractually obligated to pay Rowand another $12 million next season, when he'll be 34.
Is Zito the lowest-value player in baseball? Perhaps.
2011 salary: $18.5 million (in fourth year of seven-year, $126-million contract).
Readers, never forget: Brian Sabean did not bring Barry Zito to San Francisco. Responsibility for that decision rests with former managing partner Peter Magowan.
Zito is like that bad dream you have over and over and over. You know, the one where you suddenly realize you haven't studied for a final exam and are about to humiliate yourself by flunking.
The Giants flunked the Zito acquisition and will pay for it for several more years.
It's bad enough that the former Cy Young winner with 102 wins as an Oakland Athletic has gone 43-61 as a Giant.
Never more than 11 wins in a single season.
Never an ERA lower than 4.03.
Two complete games in 140 starts.
Here's the rest of the story: The Giants owe Zito another $39 million over the next two seasons—$19 million in 2012, $20 million in 2013.
And then, if they decline a club option for 2014—just imagine the suspense over that decision—Zito receives a $7-million buyout.
I hope you didn't eat a greasy meal before reading this.
At any rate, we have a (rather obvious) winner.
Lowest value 2011 Giant: Barry William Zito.