The 2011-12 offseason boasts some pretty big names that are likely to be on the free agent market, and the Giants need to acquire some impact players on offense that can help this pitching staff carry the team back into the postseason. While many fans are kicking and screaming for some of the big names on the market, we all know that Larry Baer has taken over for Bill Neukom, and it is still unknown how this will affect GM Brian Sabean's ability to go out and spend money on players.
Here are seven names that I believe the Giants have a realistic chance of being able to sign.
By now, most people know that Rollins is a Bay Area guy, playing his prep ball at Encinal in Oakland, so we know he would love to return to the area and play in front of friends and family. While Rollins is only getting older (33 next month), he is still putting up very solid numbers for a shortstop. For those who are looking for 2007 MVP-caliber numbers out of Rollins, you should stop here. At this point, you should not expect anything much more than what he produced in 2011 for the Philadelphia Philles:
.268 BA 16HR 63RBI .736OPS 30/38 SB/SBA
While his .338 OBP is not ideal for a leadoff hitter, it is certainly better than what Andres Torres provided the Giants in 2011, and at the very least, Rollins could slot in perfectly at the 2 or 6 spot in our 2012 lineup. The bad news is, Rollins has already come out and said that he is looking for a minimum four-year contract with a fifth year option. If this is what it really takes to sign him, I do not want any part of him. Sounds way too much like another awful contract given to a Philadelphia Philly (the recently departed Aaron Rowand).
Shortstop is obviously a huge hole the Giants must fill to compete at a high level in 2012. Miguel Tejada was awful in all aspects of the game in 2011, Brandon Crawford proved he can get to nearly any ball and make a great throw, but is not ready for the big leagues at the plate, and Orlando Cabrera was a combination of all kinds of bad.
Alex Gonzalez gets overlooked a lot, but in reality he is a very good major league shortstop. He has always been lauded for his abilities defensively, and actually put up good offensive numbers in 2010 (.250 BA 23 HR 88 RBI) and okay ones in 2011 with Atlanta (.241 15 HR 56 RBI).
While he would by no means be making any All Star appearances, he would be vastly cheaper than Rollins (or Jose Reyes) and would perform a lot better in the 7 or 8 hole than what was there in 2011. Although he is 34, Gonzalez could most likely be signed to a one- or two-year deal and oh, did I mention, he only made $2.5 million in 2011 and $2.75 million in 2010, an absolute bargain for an everyday shortstop.
Let me start off by saying this: Nick Swisher is not officially a free agent, yet. The Yankees have a team option on Swisher for 2012, although it is widely believed that the Bronx Bombers will not be picking that up and instead trying to use those funds to find some more rotation depth.
I have always been a Nick Swisher fan, for a lot of reasons, but mainly:
1. He has not hit fewer than 21 homers in a season.
2. He has not played fewer than 150 games in a season since his rookie year.
3. He is not a clean-shaven New York City-style player. He is gritty and plays the game hard, and would definitely give the Giants another upbeat player to combine with Panda and The Freak.
Swisher would also slot in perfectly in the 5 hole behind Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey, while giving the Giants another switch hitter in the middle of the lineup, which was my favorite aspect of the Carlos Beltran acquisition in 2011. Swisher made just under $10 million in 2011 with the Yankees, and while he had another consistently good season, I do not see him getting a significant raise from another team, especially since he just finished playing for a franchise notorious for overpaying their players.
Josh Willingham has been fairly consistent throughout his career and has thus far been somewhat of a journeyman, playing for three clubs in his six Major League seasons. Last season was arguably his best at age 32, hitting .246 with 29 HR and 98 RBI. He also earned a very reasonable $6 million in 2011, making him very signable for the Giants, and an ideal 5th-place hitter.
One issue I do have with Josh Willingham is that he can play LF and only LF. This creates a problem for the Giants, as they would love to be playing Brandon Belt nearly every day, and while he could play RF, the "Baby Giraffe" would be much better suited at 1B or LF. Unless Huff is somehow dealt or Bochy finally stops playing beleaguered veterans on a daily basis, the acquisition of Willingham would disrupt this rotation.
There were mixed feelings when the Giants acquired Carlos Beltran this season. Some loved it because Beltran is a professional hitter and gave us a solid force to fill the void left by Posey's injury and Huff's lack of productivity. Others believed giving up Zach Wheeler, our top pitching prospect, was a bit much for a player who could possibly only play for our team for a two-month period. In the end, Beltran performed well for the Giants, finishing up his stint hitting .323 with 7 HR and 18 RBI in just 167 AB.
Many people associate Beltran with the Giants' collapse for Beltran's lack of hitting immediately following his joining of the team and his subsequent wrist injury that saw him venture to the disabled list. In reality, this was not a fair judgment, as the Giants had numerous other issues.
Beltran has lost much of his value that made him one of the most coveted free agents in recent memory. He no longer steals bases or plays center field (a position of great need for the Giants). However, as he showed during his stint with the Giants, he can still be a .300+ hitter, still hit for a decent amount of power (even in cavernous AT&T Park), and still solidify the middle of the Giants' lineup.
This all sounds reasonable, but at what cost? Beltran's agent is unfortunately Scott Boras, who will most likely extort whatever team he ends up on. In reality, I see no way of Beltran signing with the Giants.
Just hear me out on this one.
Santiago Casilla had a great 2011, but has been mostly inconsistent throughout his career, Sergio Romo has proved he is solid, but Brian Wilson's elbow has been troublesome, and it would be nice to have some insurance in the bullpen. Lidge has struggled with injuries in recent times, but proved that he can still be dominant at the tail end of 2011.
The Phillies have a $12.5 million option on Lidge for 2012. I would bet the house they do not pick that up, leaving at least the opportunity for other teams to show interest in Lidge's services. Due to his injury concerns, he would likely come at a fairly low price and, if healthy, would provide the Giants with an absolute lights-out seven-eight-nine combination, with Lidge, Romo and Wilson. Provided we have a solid lefty (like Javier Lopez), this would resemble the Braves' 2011 lights-out back end of the bullpen and provide us with insurance for Wilson.
Rick Ankiel: Had a rough 2011, but has always shown flashes of being a solid major league hitter. He has always been a fantastic athlete in CF, and has a howitzer for an arm. Would also come fairly cheaply. Only made $1.5 million in 2011.
Nate McLouth: Had two great seasons in '08 and '09, including an All Star Game appearance in '08, but has since been given every opportunity to live up to the hype and has failed to deliver. He really struggled with injuries the last two seasons, including injuries. He has a $10.6 million option in 2012 with the Braves...they will not be picking that up.
Wilson Betemit: He could be what Mark DeRosa was supposed to be for the Giants the last two seasons. He can play LF, RF and all four infield positions, can hit for a decent average (.285, .297 in 2010/11) and only made $1.3 million in 2011.
Clint Barmes: Much like Betemit, Barmes can play virtually anywhere and provides some decent pop. He is also a Giants killer, so it would be beneficial to have him on our side. Made a slightly surprising $3.9 million in 2011.