With Sabathia Out of the Mix, San Francisco Giants Offseason Continues

Evan AczonSenior Analyst IDecember 10, 2008

It's official: CC Sabathia has signed with the New York Yankees. The deal is purportedly for seven years and worth $161 million, with an opt-out clause after the first three years. Yankees GM actually flew to San Francisco yesterday to close the deal at Sabathia's home, further rubbing it in the Bay Area's face that this local boy is leaving for the Big Apple.

But, the Giants had the right idea. From Yahoo!'s Gordon Edes, "The Giants’ message to Sabathia: Listen to the Yankees, listen to whomever you want, and if you’re still interested, we’re here."

Now, life by the Bay goes on, and the Giants have already made significant roster upgrades without trading away any of their young talent. After last season, the most pressing needs for the Giants were listed as a middle of the order bat, preferably a corner infielder, and upgrading the bullpen. 

The bullpen has already been taken care of. The Giants began their offseason by cutting ties with setup man Tyler Walker, reliever Brad Hennessey, and starter/reliever Kevin Correia. They signed proven lefty Jeremy Affeldt to a two-year deal and veteran righty Bob Howry to a one-year contract. These two will help bridge the gap from the starters to closer Brian Wilson.

The returning relievers are all relatively young and proved themselves last year. The setup role will probably be split between second year pitcher Sergio Romo and Affeldt, with Howry and other sophomore lefty Alex Hinshaw.

Other familiar faces should return, including 40-year-old right-hander Keiichi Yabu, who showed great consistency all year, and southpaw Jack Taschner, who proved more than a lefty specialist, working both righties and lefties very well.

That should fill out the traditional eleven man pitching staff, but look for action from others who surfaced last year, including Merkin Valdez, Billy Sadler, and Osiris Matos. Other mid-year call-ups could include Kelvin Pichardo, Kevin Pucetas, and maybe even Madison Bumgarner or Tim Alderson, though both of those are very unlikely.

The second box to be checked was a veteran infielder who could provide some pop. Last year, Giants shortstops hit a league-low .228 with one homerun. After signing the two relievers, Brian Sabean closed a two year, $18 million deal with veteran Edgar Renteria. After the departure of 2B Ray Durham and SS Omar Vizquel, the oldest infielder the Giants had on their roster was Eugenio Velez, who turned 26 earlier this year. 

Some people knocked the signing, saying that Renteria does not provide the pop needed. They also said that the signing went against the Giants pledge to commit to the youth movement.

However, as I explained a couple days ago, the deal is beneficial to the team: it's only for two years, giving the youth in the system a little more time to develop, while also providing a veteran influence and stability to the clubhouse. Renteria also has strong career stats in the National League, where he played for the Marlins and Braves before going to Boston and Detroit. 

Another addition to the infielder looked plausible before and at the Winter Meetings, with reports linking Jonathan Sanchez to many names, including Jorge Cantu of the Marlins, Mike Lowell of the Red Sox, Hank Blalock of the Rangers, and Edwin Encarnacion of the Reds. However, all of these deals have reportedly fallen through, and it might be for good reason.

Cantu was a defensive liability, posting the worst fielding percentage out of all starting third basemen. Lowell is 34 and aging fast, and Blalock hit the DL a few too many times in the last couple years. Encarnacion looked like a good fit, but nothing ever came of those talks. 

A couple days ago, Brian Sabean declared that the Giants were looking to move forward  with youth at the corner infield spots, and said that a trade for a starting position player was a "longshot." Yesterday, Bruce Bochy echoed that, and outlined a potential lineup for Opening Day next year.

This lineup, based on the current roster, is dependent on the outcome of the second-base position battle, seen to be between Emmanuel Burriss, Kevin Frandsen, and Eugenio Velez.

Burriss, who was penciled in at the starting shortstop spot before the Giants decided to shop for a veteran shortstop, looks to be the front-runner because of last year's experience at short and second.  Frandsen was the favorite before last season's ruptured Achilles took him out of the running, and is supposed to be headed towards a utility role between second and third.

Velez played sporadically last year, but at the end of the year he proved that, given consistent playing time, he is very able to produce offense. 

Going back to the lineup, though, Bochy has decided to move right fielder Randy Winn back to the leadoff spot, followed by new shortstop Renteria. Wunderkind Pablo Sandoval is penciled in at third base and the third spot in the order, with catcher Bengie Molina returning to the cleanup spot.

He decided to move left fielder Fred Lewis to an RBI role in the fifth spot, followed by center fielder Aaron Rowand, who should have a lot less pressure on him lower in the order. Travis Ishikawa has been penciled in at first base, batting seventh, and the winner of the second base battle will bat eighth. 

Ishikawa will be battling with John Bowker for the first base spot, and Sandoval can also play first if needed. Third base will be new for Sandoval, but the Giants saw a lot of potential for him at the position. Bochy also said that they would probably keep catcher Steve Holm on the roster so that Sandoval will not be the only other catcher on the bench. 

Don't look for the Giants to sign anyone else this off-season. As much as I hate to say it, things don't look probable for the re-signing of Rich Aurilia. With the addition of Renteria, the utility role that Aurilia would occupy will be filled by Velez and Frandsen. From what the front office is saying, the Giants are not actively shopping for anything else, save a fifth starter if Noah Lowry isn't recovered by next year. 

The loss of Sabathia was big, but he was not the core of the Giants reformation. The youthful bunch that they have are getting a chance to thrive, and if they improve on last year, then the Giants could be surprise contenders in the easily-won National League West. The additions of this off-season are not the traditional band-aids, but complements to the youth upcoming in the next couple years.

They also upgraded places where last year's surprisingly competitive team lacked. Look for the Giants to consistently win the games this year that they lost last year, and that should result in more wins at the end of the season.