New Giants managing general partner Bill Neukom has a treacherous decision to make very soon regarding whether or not to pick up general manager Brian Sabean’s option for the 2010 season.
Sabean has had his fair share of success in San Francisco, as he has crafted four Giants playoff teams during his 13 seasons as the team’s G.M., and most recently has assembled a tremendous pitching staff and a deep farm system.
However, he has also been responsible for a farm system that was barer than a Spearmint Rhino stripper just a few years back in addition to making a plethora of horrible personnel decisions since 2003.
Neukom could certainly justify retaining Sabean, but I believe that doing so would not give him the best chance to finally bring San Francisco its first World Series title, and that only a trip to the World Series this year (which isn’t going to happen) should safe his job.
The Giants have an opportunity to compete for multiple World Series rings until either Tim Lincecum or Matt Cain turns into Mark Prior or leaves via free agency (Lincecum will be arbitration eligible after this year but he won’t go anywhere, and Cain will be a Giant until 2011 so long as his option is picked up next year).
Maximizing that opportunity is going to come down to the team adding or developing at least one relatively high-average power hitter who can supplement Pablo Sandoval.
That hitter may eventually arise out of the Giants’ farm system with third baseman Conor Gillaspie or 19-year-old phenom third-baseman Angel Villalona (catcher Buster Posey doesn’t count since he’ll take Bengie Molina’s spot whenever he’s ready to start).
But at the same time you can never count on a player who dominates at the minor league level to do the same in the big leagues, with former Angels third baseman Dallas McPherson being a perfect example of that.
Thus, it is important that the team’s general manager not be afraid to sign a big bat in the offseason or make the difficult decision of sending potential future all-star caliber players to a team for a player that can get you over the hump right now (I am not going to put Sabean’s recent moves for Ryan Garko and Freddy Sanchez into that category, as they are good players but not elite-Miguel Cabrera or Mark Teixeira-type players).
Its safe to say that Sabean is not a guy who will do that, as his conservatism not only prevented Vladimir Guerrero from serving as a formidable hitter to go along with Bonds in 2004 (the addition of Guerrero probably would have been enough for the team to make the playoffs from ’04-to-’06), but also possible trades for solid hitters like Brian Roberts or Scott Rolen that could have been done with a little bit of out-of-the-box thinking.
And Sabean could have put his team into a much better position to compete for the NL West by signing outfielder Bobby Abreu this past offseason, but he neglected to do so.
He is much more interested in hoping that a guy like A.J. Pierzynski or Aaron Rowand turns into the next Jeff Kent than in spending some extra money for a significant presence at the plate.
In my mind it is clear that Sabean has become too scared of making a blockbuster trade or free agent signing for fear of making a mistake, and that is exactly the type of G.M. that the Giants don’t need as they try to win a World Series.
There are many viable G.M. candidates out there to replace Sabean, as Red Sox assistant G.M. Ben Cherington has learned under an innovator in Theo Epstein, and so has highly touted A’s assistant G.M. David Forst with Billy Beane.
And if Neukom wants to hire someone to replace Sabean from inside the organization, a safe bet would be assistant John Barr, who immediately reinvigorated the team’s farm system in his first year on the job in 2008.
Sabean has a lot to be proud of from his time in San Francisco, but it is time for the Giants front office to embrace a new attitude that involves doing whatever it takes to win a World Series while their window is wide open and their farm system features highly regarded prospects like Posey.
I am convinced that Sabean is not willing to embrace that attitude.
The only thing that should save his job right now is a World Series title this October.