Sabean (L) ought to give Bochy the tools to win another title
San Francisco Giants G.M. Brian Sabean is nothing if not consistent.
Throughout his 15-year tenure with the Giants, Sabean has filled his rosters with veterans, via trade or free agency. The club's farm system—especially position players—has been largely a source of expendable, tradeable parts. A sort of baseball salvage yard.
As the Barry Bonds era faded to its ignominious end, Sabean was nurturing top-flight pitching prospects and, for the first time in ages, drafting or signing legitimate position prospects like Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval.
Those assets, supplemented by bargain-basement additions like Cody Ross and Pat Burrell, brought a world title to San Francisco in 2010.
Otherwise, Sabean's bargain-buying habits haven't worked out well.
Facing a daunting set of roster gaps entering 2012, conventional wisdom says Sabean will again go the cautious route. He's said nothing to indicate otherwise.
One wishes Sabean would emulate former managing partner Peter Magowan, who made huge waves by signing Barry Bonds in December 1992. That move energized fans, jolted the club to life and triggered a 31-win improvement in 1993.
Ten additional wins in 2012 (96) ought to be enough for the Giants to reclaim the NL West title. Here are four Sabean-like moves the G.M. should avoid as he plots his 2011 offseason plans.
Crisp might be a decent fill-in atop the lineup, but he's not a marquee addition
Brian Sabean's propensity for economizing on second-tier veteran free agents isn't a recent phenomenon.
Long before Miguel Tejada and Pat Burrell, there were Reggie Sanders, Marquis Grissom, Michael Tucker, Moises Alou, Randy Winn, Armando Benitez...and many more. (names culled from a list published courtesy of Wikipedia).
A few earned their salaries; most didn't. A few spent more time in the trainer's room than on the field.
This offseason Sabean needs to fill holes at the leadoff spot, shortstop and outfield while developing contingency plans for Freddy Sanchez and Buster Posey, both returning from serious injuries.
Regrettably, Giant fans have become conditioned to expect tame moves from Sabean. With Bay Area native Jimmy Rollins a free agent and capable of filling two holes (shortstop and lead off spot), you'd think there would be some speculation about him joining the Giants.
Instead, indications are that Sabean might sign Coco Crisp (above) to play center field and hit leadoff. Crisp may be passable, but he'll be 32 next year and is coming off a mediocre (.264 BA, .314 OBP) season in Oakland.
Shortstop is anyone's guess. Could be Brandon Crawford; could be someone from a wholly unremarkable free-agent pool.
It'd be nice to see Sabean channel his inner-Magowan and think a bit bigger. Having filled every seat at AT&T Park last season, hearing that the club can't afford a bigger-impact addition is a bit hard to believe.
Paying Zito is one thing; relying on him to win a rotation spot is another
Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports sparked a small tsunami by recently suggesting that the Giants should consider trading Tim Lincecum.
Morosi's basic argument—that the Giants may be unable to afford both Lincecum and Matt Cain in the long run anyway, and getting a game-changing hitter may require dumping salary elsewhere—isn't entirely flawed.
Dealing Lincecum would be bold—and perhaps as boneheaded as dealing Gaylord Perry to Cleveland for sad-sack Sam McDowell and Frank Duffy in 1972—but there are other moves Sabean could make to prune his pitching staff.
Like dumping Barry Zito. For once and all—get it over with. Send him on his way, get a mailing address to which to send the $46 million he's owed over the next three years, and throw a small party (in his honor, or after he's gone).
The idea that Zito could be allowed to compete for the fifth rotation spot in 2012 ought to chill every Giants fan's bones. Treat it as an addition-by-subtraction deal.
Try trading Jonathan Sanchez, perhaps in a package deal, for a corner outfielder or shortstop who's younger than 35 years old.
Or dangle Brian Wilson—the Yankees might be interested, knowing Mariano Rivera has to be nearing the end at age 41—as bait for an outfielder or fifth starter. Sergio Romo or Santiago Casilla can capably close, and Heath Hembree ought to be major league ready within two years.
Point is: clinging to the pitching staff while the offense rots, then losing Lincecum or Cain in two years, would be depressing. And negligent on Sabean's part.
Crawford's biggest downside seems to be his youth
I recently projected a plausible 2012 roster for the Giants that assumed young players like Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt would be handed key roles.
The Giants' financial realities (nicely captured by Tim Dierkes of mlbtraderumors.com) make clear how little room—perhaps $10 million—from their projected $124 million budget is available for new talent.
Among other things, younger players come cheap. Hence, the assumption about Crawford, Belt, et al.
Throughout his tenure in San Francisco, Brian Sabean has had a palpable aversion to youth. Then again, until recently, his farm system had produced very few candidates for anything more than utility roles.
That began to change in 2009 (Pablo Sandoval) and continued in 2010 (Buster Posey).
The travails of Crawford and Belt in 2011 have been amply documented here. Suffice it to say that barring a jarring turn of events, both will have legitimate shots to earn spots on the 25-man roster.
(Crawford continues to impress in Arizona fall ball, batting .317 through Sunday.)
I've made this point before; the Giants have never been in a better (or, arguably, unavoidable) position than they will in 2012 to give youth a chance.
The Giants might not have made it to the Series without Ross; they can't count on him to get them there again
A year after the fact, the details of the Giants' 2010 title run don't totally align with its mystique.
Take Cody Ross. Signed off the waiver wire in late August 2010, Ross contributed little—three HR in 33 games—during the Giants' stretch drive.
Then came the NLCS against the Phillies. Ross went off—.350 BA, three HR, six RBI—was named NLCS MVP, and a legend was born.
Never mind that he had a tepid World Series, batting .235 with one HR, and a mediocre 2011 (1.4 offensive WAR) for which he was paid $6.3 million.
Amazingly, there's still chatter (most recently captured by the San Francisco Chronicle's Henry Schulman) that the Giants and Ross may have mutual interest in his returning to the club in 2012.
If that is based on a genuine belief that Ross can make an impact, and would sign for one year at around $3 million, fine.
If it's based on those amazing moments at Citizens Bank Park nearly 14 months ago, forget it. Time to move on.