One year removed from their first-ever World Series, the San Francisco Giants need help. The team’s pitching is its backbone, but that is just about the only sure thing. Elsewhere around the diamond there is a slew of question marks.
The most popular answer is to find solutions is the free-agent market. However, the highest-profile players (i.e. Jose Reyes, Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols) will command too large of a contract for the Giants to seriously get involved.
So that begs the question, what do the Giants do before the start of their 2012 campaign? They do have some money to spend and assets that can be traded. Here are five realistic moves the G-men should consider as they head into next year:
Before 2012, the front office needs to find a bona fide, jack-of-all-trades, utility infielder. In their magical run through the 2010 World Series, the Giants had Juan Uribe. Uribe could play multiple positions on the infield and provided insurance in the event of injury or poor play.
In 2011, the team did not have that luxury and the result was ugly. The injuries piled up all around AT&T Park and the Giants scrambled to get quick fixes. This offseason they should set themselves up to avoid a repeat of that situation
Willie Bloomquist was an option, and the Giants were rumored to have offered him a contract, before he signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Jerry Hairston Jr. and Nick Punto are two available choices. They are attractive not only because they play multiple positions, but they would come relatively cheap as neither of them has ever had a contract worth more than $2 million.
Outside of signing one of the big free agents, the Giants offense is not going to be a juggernaut. Thus, they need options to ensure that their rotation is as solid as possible.
Before people say pitching is not what the Giants should focus on, consider this: At the moment, Ryan Vogelsong and Barry Zito are the No. 4 and 5 starters. Vogelsong had a career year in 2010 and Zito hasn’t pitched like he belongs in the major leagues since Oakland.
It is conceivable that both will impress and no addition is necessary, but, from where I sit, I don’t see that happening. The more likely scenario is that one of the two performs well enough to warrant a spot, probably Vogelsong, but not both. Understanding this, the Giants should look for trade options and/or pursue free agents like Roy Oswalt and Jeff Francis—low cost, potentially high reward.
Although this would be unpopular with some in their fanbase, it makes sense for the Giants to trade their thong-wearing first baseman. He is simply making too much money and taking up a valuable roster spot.
Specifically, there are two NL Central clubs that the Giants should engage: the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs. If neither team signs one of Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols they will have a need to fill at first base. Plus, both teams have back-of-the-rotation starters and utility players that the Giants could be interested in.
Another interesting option would be the Seattle Mariners. According to reports, the Mariners are shopping Chone Figgins and are willing to include cash in a trade to offset salary differences. This would be a classic swap of bad contracts that could benefit both teams: The Giants get a utility guy with speed and the Mariners receive a veteran left-handed bat.
This is the logical move that necessitates and follows the trade of Aubrey Huff. In 2011, the Giants did Belt a disservice by bouncing him between San Francisco and Fresno so frequently. They also hurt themselves by essentially going an entire year without learning anything about one of their top prospects.
Belt needs to learn how to succeed at the big league level. This involves playing through a batting slump, figuring out what is wrong and coming out on the other end better for it. Last year, Bruce Bochy’s solution to a hitless night from Belt was to put him on the bench and send him to Fresno. That facilitates no learning.
Whether it is left field or first base, the Giants simply need to give him a spot and let him play. It would allow Belt the opportunity to realize his potential as a major leaguer, and give the organization a chance to truly assess how he fits in with the team’s future.
After Buster Posey’s injury last year, the scene behind the plate for the Giants was ugly. Eli Whiteside and Chris Stewart were not acceptable alternatives. Their defense was less than reliable and each struggled to have a batting average above .200. Hector Sanchez was brought up at end of the year and he showed some offensive promise, but his highest level of experience is Single-A.
With a pitching staff as talented as the Giants’, there needs to be a reliable option when Posey needs a day off or plays at first base.
With that in mind, there are three names the Giants should look at: Ramon Hernandez, Ivan Rodriguez and Jose Molina. All three of these catchers are veterans that know how to handle a pitching staff and can swing the bat on occasion.