SF Giants: 5 Things GM Brian Sabean Should Have Done Differently This Offseason
San Francisco Giants general manager Brian Sabean appeared to be a baseball ring leader in 2010, after arranging his band of misfits to a World Series title. But 2011 was not as melodic for the longest-tenured GM in baseball.
For at least one season, Giants fans seemed to forget the A.J. Pierzynski for Francisco Liriano deal or the Aaron Rowand debacle. Not to mention his failure to land a big bat, as he tried with "due diligence" to land some pop in San Francisco.
At least in 2010, Sabean's choice to see what players had left instead of what players had actually paid dividends that magical year. Sabean and the Giants decided to bring back many of the 2010 players this past year, but it had produced a torturous 2011—and not the sweet torture of 2010.
If the Giants want 2012 to replicate 2010, Sabean must go back to the drawing board to bolster their struggling offense, which ranks last in the National League in runs scored with 483. Now that Sabean appears to be done making any more moves to improve the club, it appears not much will be done to enhance the club offensively in the next three months.
Here are 10 things Sabean should have done differently this offseason if the Giants wanted to make a serious run in 2012.
1. Get an Adequate Major League Shortstop
The Giants hoped to catch lightening in a bottle in replacing Juan Uribe by signing the over-the-hill veteran and former superstar Miguel Tejada.
The Giants expected Tejada, 36 at the time, to be their starting shortstop, but it did not pan out the way the Giants hoped. In 2011, Tejada played in just 91 games due to poor performance and injury, hitting just .239 with an on-base percentage of .270.
Tejada was the least of their problems offensively at shortstop.
San Francisco tried to compensate Tejada's disappointing season by trying other options. Rookie Brandon Crawford, along with the signing of Orlando Cabrera, were attempts to patch up the position. But the lone bright spot would be Crawford's defense—but still not a lot of offense.
Giants shortstops ended 2011 by hitting .210, with seven home runs and 57 RBIs, the least offensively productive team in the National League. If the Giants want to retake the NL West Crown, and eventually win the World Series, they will need to address this position both offensively and defensively.
On the defensive, Giants shortstops were sub-par compared to last year's championship team. In 2010, Giants shortstops committed just 11 errors—first in the National League—while the 2011 team committed 25 errors.
The Giants will need to get an adequate shortstop to complement Freddy Sanchez up the middle. Free agents Jose Reyes, 2010 NL batting champion, and Jimmy Rollins were certainly viable options, but at what price?
According to MLB.com, it was a price that was obviously too high for the Giants, who have said they have maximized their $130 million payroll and are done making significant moves this offseason.
2. Sign a Potent Backup Catcher
A fitting name for the 2011 Chris Stewart and Eli Whiteside is Mr. Automatic.
No, they are not called Mr. Automatic because they are on-base machines or skilled marksmen at throwing out would-be base stealers. They earned their title from a much-more negative quality—they make automatic outs.
The Giants cannot afford to have another catcher besides Buster Posey hit as poor as the 2011 fill-in catchers did in the absence of Posey. The two primary backups, Stewart and Whiteside, combined to hit .201, with seven home runs, 27 RBI and a .274 on-base percentage.
As Posey recovers from his season-ending injury in late May, there is no guarantee he will be able to play a full season's worth of games. For a team that was last in runs scored in 2011, an automatic out at the catcher's position could prove costly.
Since a backup catcher could take on a bit more prominent role in 2012, the Giants will need to find someone who is not a total loss at the plate. Among some of the free agent backup backstops who could have helped the Giants were Dioner Navarro, Ronny Paulino or Matt Treanor.
The Giants also have catching prospect Hector Sanchez, but it is apparent that he needs a bit more seasoning before catching in the major leagues.
If Sabean wants to avoid offensive embarrassment again in 2012, he might want to look at improving their statistically weakest link on the roster.
3. Get That Big Bat
Since the end of the Barry Bonds era, Giants fans have kept asking the same question year after year—when is that big bat coming?
Four years later, no big bat has replaced Bonds' presence in the Giants' mostly sub-par lineups. But they were able to stay competitive through their pitching in three of those years, including a World Series championship.
If the Giants wanted to put themselves over the top and establish themselves as a dynasty, a big bat like Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols could have been the way to do it. Although signing any of these two free agent sluggers was highly unlikely, at least a middle of the order hitter, such as a Carlos Beltran, is a necessity.
The Giants may have gotten away with it with 2010's World Series victory, but San Francisco can make it much easier on themselves, and their pitchers, by putting up more runs on the board. If they cannot establish some fear in their lineup, the Giants will have to catch lightening in a bottle again to win in 2012.
The Giants' window with their extraordinary pitching staff is running thinner and thinner. Without at least an average offense, many more seasons of fabulous pitching could be all for not.
4. Avoid the Leadoff Limbo: Get a Leadoff Hitter
The Giants seem to be content with newly acquired Angel Pagan or Melky Cabrera as their leadoff hitter, which probably means more of the same leadoff limbo in 2012.
Last year, San Francisco's No. 1 hitters combined to hit .232 with an on-base percentage of just .292. If the Giants wish to compete without acquiring that big bat, this statistic simply must improve to respectability.
Nor Cabrera or Pagan are big prototypical leadoff on-base hitters, but they both have good speed. Cabrera had an OBP of .339 with 20 stolen bases, and Pagan had an OBP of .322 with 32 stolen bases.
While both are an improvement over Andres Torres' (now a New York Met) .312 OBP, the Giants could have benefited more from someone like Jose Reyes, who had a .384 OBP just a season ago.
Although the Giants slightly improved in the leadoff spot, fans will have to wait and see if the leadoff shuffle will continue, or hopefully, one candidate will solidify their territory in the No. 1-hole like Torres did two seasons ago.
5. Lock Up Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum
The Giants won the World Series in 2010 largely—if not solely—because of their world-class pitching staff, and they would be well served to lock up both their franchise pitchers sooner rather than later.
San Francisco has not had anything but a mediocre offense for almost a decade, and that probably will not change for the foreseeable future. If the Giants expect to win it all again with middle-of-the-road offenses, they need to lead the league in pitching and defense—and that may not even be enough.
Another year of not signing either to long term contracts, combined with another dozen 2-1 losses for each, will probably further their desire to test the free-agent market after their contracts are up. They will likely demand even more money to stay put in San Francisco, and the Giants certainly would fold if the price for either was too high.
Losing two franchise pitchers plus a mediocre offense would brew up a formula for a 100-loss season after both pitchers' contracts expire in a couple of years. The Giants would have to rebuild from scratch or open their wallets—things the Giants do not appear to be very good at.
This article was featured on The Talking Giants Baseball Blog.
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