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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Winn extended through '09

Randy Winn became the first of this current Giants group to get a contract running into the 2009 season on Monday. Winn was an absolute stud for the Giants after the July trade that brought him from the Seattle Mariners for Jesse Foppert and Yorvet Torrealba. At the time, a lot of people wondered if Sabean had made another panic move in a season that was all but lost. Jesse Fopper had been one of the Giants top prospects for years, but injuries and emergences from Noah Lowrey and Brad Hennessey made him expendable. Winn quieted the critics by hitting over .350 with the Giants with 14 home runs and a handfull of stolen bases in about 2 months time. Felipe has already stated that Winn will be leading off to begin the season, putting Ray Durham in the 3rd spot. I like the idea of Durham hitting 6th rather than 3rd, but since Niekro and Feliz are on the corners, they will be occupying the bottom of the order. Hopefully Feliz or Niekro magically figure out how to hit righties this season they could get more power in the middle of the line-up. Bonds is Bonds, but the projected 3&5 hitters for the Giants totalled 31 home runs and a whopping 125 RBI's between the two. That production needs to increase big time, or else Bonds may only get 200-250 ab's this season due to walking 50% of the time.

Spring games kick off thursday and I should be back to discuss the Thursday match-up as my next post. Looks like Noah Lowrey is getting the ball and will be followed by Brad Hennessey, Tim Worrell and Jack Taschner. Alou also said Benitez may see an inning Thursday. The WBC is also right around the corner and those games should get interesting. It looks like the Dominican and the US are the most stocked teams. Due to all the withdraw's from the U.S. team, I am going to pick the Dominican to pull this thing out. The U.S. has a stocked Bullpen, but an injured Jake Peavey, rusty Roger Clemens, Dontrelle Willis, and C.C. Sabathia are holding down the starting jobs. I think the U.S. could have formed a stronger rotation. I like Willis and Clemens deserves it, but if Peavey is hurt, he should be replaced, and C.C. Sabathia? Has he even been an all-star yet. Where's Randy Johnson, Roy Oswalt and Mark Buerhle? The line-up could have been a lot better as well, although it was helped out tremendously by landing Alex Rodriguiz.

This is one of the funniest things I've seen. Very nice to see Barry loose, maybe a little too lose. Barry Bonds, Jeff Fassero and Ray Durham where the judges to the Giants rookie American Idol competition, apparantly Bonds is representing Paula Abdul. Anyways, looks like Barry hasn't lost too much weight, contrary to what steroid accusers where hoping for. And too all the people that say Barry is hated by his teammates, looks to me like the Giants clubhouse is very, very loose and comfortable this spring.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Full Squad Workouts underway, Barry retiring?

The Giants had their first full squad workout of the spring on Monday. The only big absentee was Barry Bonds, who won't be repoting until Wenesday or Thursday do to personal reasons. Barry also hinted a few days back in an interview with Bob Nightengale that 2006 would be his laast year playing baseball, regardless what happens. Barry talked about his knees and all the pain he's been in over the last few years. He also talks about his current custody battle over his oldest son, Nickoli. Barry sounded very sincere in his interview with Nightengale, assuring all that this would be his last go round. Less than 24 hours later howver, Barry cleared the air saying he would return in '07 if his knee would allow him too. Who knows whats going through Barry Bonds mind right now, but obviouslt there are numerous things and some may be more important than the game of baseball. I would personally like to see Barry go after he wins a ring in San Francisco and ends the Giants 50+ year drought for a championship. I really have a hard time seeing Barry leaving after the season unless his knees are really gone, and his game takes a noticable dive. The only other scenerio I see Barry retiring under is if the Giants win the World Series in '06. I'd say niether have a particularly good chance of happening. I just can't see Barry wondering off into the sunset after a 35+ home run year and a 1200 OPS. Right now If I had to guess, I'd say Barry comes back fairly healthy in '06, puts up another big season, and then signs a 1 year deal with an option to return to the Giants. The Giants have a ton of money coming off the books after this season, so Barry may want to hang around one more year to see what Sabean can assemble. As of now, the Giants will have over 60 million dollars coming off their payroll after this season (including Bonds). The '06 free agent class has the makings to be solid, and definetly packs more talent than the thin '05 class was. Derek Lee, Gary Sheffield, Carlos Lee, Jim Edmonds, Alphonso Soriano, Melvin Mora, Tori Hunter and Aubrey Huff are just a few of the possible free agent position players.

So far, outside of the Bonds story, there hasn't been too much noise around the Giants camp so far. Everyone is there who should be and nobody has yet to report any physical problems. A few of the interesting battles this spring will be for the 5th starters job, and the final roster bench spot. In the running for the 5th starters job are imcumbent Brad Hennessey, newcomer Jamie Wright, and the live but unpolished Kevin Corriea. Hennessey has a slight inside track because Felipe Alou likes the way he finished the year off last season. However, Jamie Wright has been getting a lot of talk from the skippeer, including how he thinks Wright will be a fine fit at At&t Park. This indicates that the non-roster invitee has an inside track on having a roster spot. Alou also may feel more confident with another veteran at the end of the rotation after youngsters Noah Lowrey and Matt Cain. Moises Alou apparantly looks to be in a lot better shape than what he was in when he reported last season. Alou went on record saying that "if Barry is plays 100+ games, we'll win the division." Alou, who is getting ready to join the Dominican team at the first of March to participate in the World Baseball Classic, is also considering retirement after the season. Other Giants scheduled to play in the 3 week tourny are Randy Winn, Omar Vizquel and Pedro Feliz. Feliz was contiplating staying with the Giants because he'd be behind Aramis Ramirez and Adrian Beltre at 3rd base for the Dominican squad.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Friday, February 17, 2006

Pitchers and Catchers Report

The Giants' pitchers and catchers reported to spring training wednesday and had their first workouts thursday morning in Scottsdale, Arizona. The main headlines were the weight loss of Armondo Benitez, the polite complaining of Jason Schmidt, and the Barry Bonds reality show. Apparrantly Benitez, who reported two weeks early to Scottsdale to workout with trainer Stan Conte, has lost 20 pounds off his hefty frame from last season. This is very good news, as weight and conditioning issues caused him to tear his groin and miss most of 2005. Benitez says he is "two weeks away from top game shape" and I think we will see a solid spring out of Benitez. I think with the improved conditioning, we will see an increase in velocity. I doubt he will ever be that 97-99 mph guy again, but 94-95 consistantly with the split and the slider going would work just fine.

Jason Schmidt has reported in a little different way. Schmidt was asked if he was glad the Giants excersised his option at 10,000,000 rather than bought him out at 3,000,000. He said he likes San Francisco and all, but Schmidt basically said no, in a polite way. Schmidt actually talks about the mediocre pitchers getting nice deals this winter, the thin market, and how he thought he would be a hot commoditiy despite his subpar year last season. Schmidt basically wanted to burn the Giants for 3 million and then go get a nice multi-year deal one more time incase he has another average season. Talk about greed and loyalty (or lack there of) in sports, maybe I am reading too far into it, but it sounds like Schmidt could care less if he was with the Giants or not, as long as he could get a free 3 million dollars on top of whatever deal he signed this winter. I will still root for Schmidt and I still hope he rebounds and wins 20 games, gets his fastball back and becomes a Cy Young candidtate again, as long as he is in orange and black. However, when you look at those comments, you can't help but think that Schmidt is doubting himself a little bit.
Among other arrivers at the first day of camp was Pedro Gomez and the crew that is getting ready to follow Barry Bonds around for the season and air a weekly series on his pursuit of Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron. This should be interesting. I wonder that if the show goes well, people change some oponions on Bonds, this has to be one of the reasons why he is letting them do this. Barry wasn't there yet, but they did hound manager Felipe Alou with questions, one of which being about Bonds hitting 2nd in the lineup. Jeff Fassero and Alfredo Simon were a few no-shows for the first workout. Simon should be there within the next few days, due to visa problems. Fassero had some personal issues, but he should also be there within a day or two.
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Sunday, February 12, 2006

Giants add Greene.

The Giants signed Todd Greene to a minor league deal wednesday in effort to shore up the back-up catching spot. I really like this move. Greene couldn't throw out most peoples' grandmothers if they where trying to steal a base, but he can hit and is very solid in every other aspect of catching. Greene has hit about 10 home runs a year pretty consistantly over the past few seasons in limited at bats, so he will definetly give the Giants a much needed right-handed bat off the bench. You might look at those 10 home runs in 126 at bats and say "he hit them all at Coors," but I actually checked out some reels of his home runs last season, and the dude hit some long fly balls. One into the second deck at Petco Park. This is better than having Justin Knoedler or Yamid Haad backing up Matheny. Elizier Alfonzo looks like he may be solid, but the Giants want to see him in Fresno for a year before they count on him.

So the Giants have filled their back-up catcher vacancy. There are still some players out there who are waiting for an invitation, and if they are healthy, they could end up being steals for the Giants. One is Richard Hidalgo. Now, he hasn't done much since 2003 in Houston, but I think working with Felipe, and Moises once again, he may turn it back around. He is another guy like Finley who was injured last season and his numbers suffered a lot because of it. Hidalgo and Finley would be a nice 4th and 5th outfield combo who could play very solid defense. Another guy is someone I've mentioned here before and really a player I'd like Sabean to take a long look at, Erubial Durazo. I am really surprised he hasn't landed with some AL team yet and I think it's only a matter of days before he gets signed. I'm sure Durazo would be willing to stay in the Bay Area. He has never been a great first basemen, but he is servicable and would be worth it to get his bat in the line-up vs. righties. If healthy, this guy could realistically be a solid number 3 hitter in front of Bonds, much like Snow was in '04, but with more power. I am probably over hyping him a little bit, but I just think there would be so much to gain there with so little to lose.

Pitchers and Catchers report in 3 days exactly and I am stoked. There will finally be some things to talk about unlike the last 2 quiet months. I am really looking forward to see how Benitez looks. The Giants need that guys fastball at 95 not 90-91. I'm also looking forward to see how Schmidt and Morris look. Schmidt had his worst season as a Giant last year with a loss in velocity and control. Morris is now in his second season off surgery and he should be primed for a big year. As far as the young arms go, I'd like to see Merkin Valdez start making some noise. The prize piece of the Russ Ortiz trade has been stuck in Double A most of his tenure with the Giants. I have not lost hope for Valdez who is still only 24, but I'd like to see him in the bigs at some point this year and contributing. The one bright spot about Valdez's year last season was he only allowed 7 hr's in 108 innings pitched, which is great for the minor leagues. Keep and eye on Alfredo Simon. The 24 year-old rightie had a roller coaster year last season in Norwich but ended well and should be the closer in Fresno, depending on where Jeremy Accardo ends up.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Offseason Review

Here is a look at what transpired this offseason and where the Giants stand because of it:

Who's Gone: '05 Numbers
J.T. Snow 1B (.275, 4, 40)
Brett Tomko RHP (8-15, 4.48)
Edgardo Alfonzo 3B (.277, 2, 43)
LaTroy Hawkins RHP (2-8, 3.43)
Scott Eyre LHP (2-2 2.63)

Who's Here: '05 Numbers
Mark Sweeney 1B-OF (.294, 8, 40)
Matt Morris RHP (14-10, 4.11)
Steve Finley OF (.222, 12, 54)
Tim Worrell RHP (1-2, 4.07)
Steve Kline LHP (2-4, 4.28)
Jose Vizcaino IF (.247, 1, 23)
Jamey Wright RHP (8-16, 5.46)

It was somewhat of a quiet winter on the Giants front. The two biggest moves of the winter where the addition of Morris and the Alfonzo-Finley trade. Replacing Tomko with Morris is a huge upgrade for the Giants. They basically are subbing in a sure 14-17 game winner and a proven clutch performer for a head case with a 95 mph, arrow straight fastball. Not to mention, Morris is younger than Tomko by almost 2 years. Matt fell off in the second half last year after posting 10 wins in the first half, but I think now in his second year removed from elbow surgery, he will be ready to contribute 215+ quality innings. The Finley for Alfonzo deal was a move to put 2 bad contracts in new places where they could be of more help to their respective squads. However, if Finley gets healthy, and gets 400 or so at bats, he could put up big numbers. He is just 2 years removed from his career season in which he hit 36 jacks, and yes he's 41, but he still has the body and strength of a 30 year old. Alfonzo is 32, but plays like he is 42. Worrell should be better for the Giants than Hawkins was in '05. Tim had his best seasons in San Francisco at AT&T Park (aka SBC or Pac Bell Park) and I think he will once again be a solid set-up guy in the pen. Kline for Eyre is a drop-off based on last season's numbers, but Kline was the best left handed set-up man in the game in '04 and a return to the NL and re-teaming with Mike Matheny should get him back to his St. Louis form. Vizcaino will make his second stint in San Francisco this season and should be the teams main utility infielder, and also be the main pinch hitter vs. southpaws. Jamey Wright was invited to spring training last week and should be Brad Hennessy's main competetion for the 5th starters job.

Overall, the Giants had a very quiet offseason highlighted by the Morris signing and Brian Sabean's wedding. I think Giants fans will be pleasently surprised by Finley. He has a lot of pride in his game and knows he's coming off his worst year in his career. He wants to prove doubters that he can not only still play, but be a starter and contribute big. I am the most dissapointed with Sabeans willingness to hand Lance Niekro the first base job and expect Mark Sweeney to be his back-up. There is no telling when Niekro will go on the DL, but he almost certainly will. This guy has never put together a full, injury free season. Yes he hit 12 home runs last season in limited at bats, but his average vs. righties and his on base percentage did not lead me to believe this guy is ready to be a full time 500+ at bat player. There weren't many options out there first base wise, but one guy who was had very cheaply was Lyle Overbay. He is exactly what the Giants could have used at first. Sabean probably could have had him for a few mid level prospects. I think Giants fans may be calling for J.T. come May when Niekro's hurt or struggling, and Mark Sweeney is seeing healthy playing time. I hope I'm wrong, but I see no reason to make me believe otherwise at this point. Another name who was tossed around in the Giants front office was Bill Mueller. Mueller would have given the Giants a lot of options on who to use at first, but they where unable to get it done. There is still time for more roster moves between now and opening day, but I wouldn't look for anything drastic. Sabean is looking for a back-up catcher and Todd Greene just became available again, the Giants may have some interest there. Overall, because of the lack of attention given to first base, and the inability to land a solid back-up catcher, I give the Giants overall offseason grade a B-.
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