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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Free Agents File, Rumors Starting to Swirl

The free-agency filing period began Monday, and some of the big name players wasted no time breaking away from their former teams. Aramis Ramirez, Alphonso Soriano and Carlos Lee head this winters list of top available hitters. The pitching market is very thin, with Barry Zito, former Japanese team ace Daisuke Matzuzika and Jason Schmidt among the top available starting pitchers. One of the many interesting things to watch for this winter is how Brian Sabean adresses the bullpen and especially the closer situation. The only two closers on this years market who may fit with the Giants are Joe Borowski and Eddie Guardado. Borowski is coming of a solid season as the Marlis closer after a few injurey plauged seasons with the Cubs and Devil Rays. Guardado has great credentials, but he had a huge fall-off in production last season and he is getting up there in age as well. The Giants have made it pretty clear that they are going to try to unload Benitez this winter, and there already has been one team mentioned as a possible home for Benitez. Philadelphia Phillies manager has gone on record saying he would welcome a healthy Benitez, and the Phillies have Pat Burrell as bait who they are apparantly as eager to ditch him as the Giants are Benitez. Burrell said this week he would welcome a trade to the Giants and would even pick up a first base glove if need be. The contracts don't even out, but the Phillies would likely eat some of Burrell's contract to even things out a bit. Burrell doesn't quite fit with what the Giants are trying to mold their team into, but he would bring 30+ home run power, has a respectable on-base percentage and only just turned 30. The Giants aren't going to get an all-star or a top 2 or 3 prospect for Benitez, so they are going to have to take what they can get, or go through another season with an 8 million dollar diaster in the bullpen anchoring down the bullpen and payroll.

As far as rumors regarding free agents go, the Giants have already been linked to a few. Apparantly Brian Sabean has already had discussions with the agents for Luis Gonzalez, Gary Mathews Jr., Nomar Garciapara, Dave Roberts and Geoff Blum. Mathews Jr. appears to be at the top of their list as the all-star had a breakout year last season offensively and defensively. I wouldn't be opposed to Mathews just because his great defense, and that is an area which the Giants need to improve on, but I can't help thinking we'd be signing another Randy Winn for even more money. If you compare Winn and Mathews Jr., they are earily similar with the only difference being that Mathews is a gold glove outfielder. Sabean needs to be careful and not overpay for a one year wonder. The two names that I was surprised to see were Garciapara and
Gonzalaz. Both these guys are way past their primes and are very injury prone. I could see Gonzo filling the gap in left field for a year if Barry Bonds decides to go to the American League as next years free agent class is loaded with outfielders. Gonzalez is still productive with the bat, and would cost 1/3 of what Bonds' is going to command, but the prospect of a Gonzalez-Mathews-Winn outfield doesn't really excite me at all. I'd much rather take the money they are going to put into two average players, and go get one star such as a Soriano or Ramirez. To me, Ramirez and Soriano should head the Giants free-agent list, and they should make it there goal to come out with one of those players this winter. It just makes so much more sense to me to invest in Aramis Ramirez for 4 years rather then Garciapara and Gonzalez at about the same price.
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Friday, October 27, 2006

Bruce Bochy Becomes Giants' Manager

About a week after starting talks with Bruce Bochy, he was named manager Friday afternoon at AT&T Park. It started becoming more and more apparant the Giants where going to go with Bochy during the week as they where in serious talks and Sabean hadn't spoken with another candidate in days. I think Bochy is a solid, safe pick. The Giants where obviously looking for a guy with big league managing experience which is why Bud Black and Ron Wotus weren't offered the job. Bochy has a well respected name throughout all of baseball and it will definetely give potential free agents a lot more of a secure feeling to sign with San Francisco than if the team was ran by Ron Wotus. I'm not too excited about this move, but Bochy is a better manager than both Dusty Baker and Felipe Alou so I'd expect to see this help the team. Bochy knew the team better than any other candidate besides Ron Wotus and has very good credentials. The move makes a lot of sense. It also gives me the feeling that this team will still be that veteran heavy, Barry Bonds' based team. If the team would have went with Bud Black, I think it would have been an obvious sign that this team is going to really get younger this season. But now I'm pretty certain Bonds and Ray Durham will both be back and that would eliminate any outside chance of making a serious push for Alfonso Soriano.

Bochy said the right things in the press conference, and he implied that the plan is for the team to get younger and needs to get the bullpen figured out. When asked about Armondo Benitez, Bochy had absolutly nothing to say besides that they need to figure out the closer situation and Benitez "has a good arm." This is great news because it sounds like Bochy is not likeing the idea of Benitez closing next year. Benitez is most likely untradeable which makes it pretty much a sure thing he'll be back again next season, but the Giants need to find a legit back-up plan or two. The good thing about Bochy is he will actually give people rolls in the bullpen and stick with them. He will not be a guy who uses his bullpen as freely and randomly as Felipe Alou, and he's a guy who will stick with a good pitcher rather than making switch just for the matchup, something Alou did constantly. Granted, Alou had a bad hand to work with, he wasn't a very good at managing the pitching staff, especially the bullpen. I think he did a good job in letting starters go as long as they could, but he made too many moves with the bullpen. Bochy will likely find a guy to pitch the 8th and find a guy to pitch the 9th, and he won't make numerous moves throughout those innings. The Giants will have more structure with Bochy and they are definetely going to demand some respect from free agents. I think the first move of the '06-'07 off-season was a good one.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Bud Black Now First In Line

Well the thought of Lou Piniella managing the Giants lasted all but about 2 days as he quickly removed his name from the Giants runnings a day before taking over the Cubs opening managing position. The Giants are now shifting their attention elsewhere as Brian Sabean has asked permission of the Anaheim Angels to talk with their pitching coach Bud Black. Black may now become the front-runner for the position as the Giants have already scheduled an interview with Black. Current bench coach Ron Wotus has already been in for an interview, but it seems unlikely the Giants will go that route. Wotus was also considered a candidate to replace Dusty Baker back in 2002 when Baker departed. He has all the credentials to take over the job, and has been with the organazation for 20+ seasons. The thing that seems like it's keeping Wotus back is the fact that he isn't quite as a name as the Giants last to managers. Some say Wotus would help bring along the Giants young talent as the team is set to approach a rebuilding stage, only problem is, the Giants don't have a plether of young talent coming from their farm system, so I wouldn't hire Ron Wotus for that reason alone. The Giants are going to go after some free-agents this winter and they are going to want to have a manager at the helm who players know and respect. No disrespect to Ron Wotus, but I wouldn't be surprised if half of players out there don't even know who Ron Wotus is.

Bruce Bochy has also entered the mix as well. Bochy still has a year left on his contract with the Padres, but has expressed a desire to manage elsewhere do to differences with the front office. Bochy has a reputation for catering to the older ballplayers, so this does clash with the Giants philosophy, but if Bochy does depart, San Francisco seems like the most likely destanation. Although the A's have an opening that may interest Bochy somewhat, his experiecne in the National Leauge and the NL West may keep him from wanting to switch leagues. The one guy who doesn't appear to be as high of candidate as I thought he would be is Bob Brenly. As far as I've heard, the Giants have expressed interst in Brenly, but they haven't gone any farther in the process than that. The Giants also want to speak to Mets' coaches Manny Acta and Jerry Manuel as soon as the Mets season ends. They have already been granted permission to speak with Manny Acta. As we stand, the top three candidates sound like they are Bud Black, Ron Wotus, Bruce Bochy and in that order.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Giants Talk With Lou Piniella

ESPN reported Tuesday that the Giants have had preliminary discussions with Lou Piniella about their managerial opening. Pinella was supposedly the front runner to take the New York Yankee job if it became available, but Joe Torre reported Tuesday that he'll be back with the Yankees next year. Now that the Yankees are out of the mix, it appears that the Giants, Cubs and Rangers are the 3 most likely destinations for Pinella. Pinella was interviewed Monday about all the possibilities, and he surprisingly had the most to say about the Giants. Pinella mentioned how much he likes the city of San Francisco and also said that he and GM Brian Sabean are very close friends. If the Giants did hire Pinella, it would give Brian Sabean a manager who he would actually be on speaking terms with. It wasn't a secret that Felipe Alou and Brian Sabean, while they did respect each other and got along okay, weren't friends. That being said, I also think that if the Giants did hire Piniella, they would probably continue on the path they have been over the last 4 years. Each year over that span, the Giants have added various veteran free agents to try and keep them in the mix each year and they haven't been successful. I'm afraid that bringing in a high profile, big name manager like that would tempt Brian Sabean to continue to add age and experience to the roster rather then sticking by his plan to get younger and more athletic just like he did when they hired Felipe Alou. I still think Bob Brenley will be the Giants' next manager.

Barry Bonds and the Giants front office have had some choice words indirectly towards each other over the past couple weeks. It all started when Barry was asked if he would come back to the Giants under an incentive laden contract and Bonds' shot that down with a quickness. In response to that, Peter Magowan announced that even if Barry does come back, he won't be the centerpiece of the team. What that essentially means is that he isn't going to spend 20 percent of the Giants payroll on a 42 year-old aging outfielder, no matter what he's done for the team over the past decade. Who knows if Magowan and the Giants will stick to this plan, but by hearing that, it makes me think that Barry Bonds returning to the Giants next year may not be as sure of thing as everybody thought.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Giants' Cut Ties With Felipe Alou

It took less than 24 hours from the final out of the season for the Giants to officially announce that Felipe Alou will not be returning for a 5th season as the teams skipper. This was probably the easiest decision the Giants will be faced with over the next 6-8 weeks. Alou made it pretty clear that this was his last season as a manager before the season even started, and even if it wasn't, the Giants where going to go another direction after the season anyway. Alou had a nice first two seasons as the Giants manager, leading the team to the best record in the NL in 2003, but ever since Steve Finley's home run (as a Dodger) sent the Giants home for the year in final series of 2004, the Giants have spiraled downhill. Even though Alou didn't have the best tools to work with as far as the bullpen goes, I think he overmanaged his bullpen and besides lacking good leadership skills, this is where Alou was the weakest. Again, it would have been tough for anyone to succeed having the arms that the Giants have thrown out there the last few seasons, I just think Felipe Alou was too quick to hook people, and he favored lefty-righty matchups too much.

Now that Felipe Alou's reign has ended, it has opened a door for a whole slew of managerial candidates and there have been a lot of interesting names thrown out there. The Cubs recently cut ties with former Giant skipper Dusty Baker, and Brian Sabean didn't rule out Baker as a possible candidate to replace Alou. Another intriguing name that has been mentioned is veteran skipper Lou Pinella. Pinella has been out of baseball for a few years after a few misarble years with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The teams' current bench coach Ron Wotus will get an interview as well. However, a couple of former Giants' may be the two front runners for the job. Former Giant catcher and coach Bob Brenly will most likely get a call as will Former Giant starter and current Angel pitching coach Bud Black. Brenly has already won a world series managing the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001, and Black has been groomed by one of the AL's best manager's, Mike Scoscia, for the past 5 seasons. I wouldn't mind welcoming either back to the organization and if I had to pose a guess right now, I would say Bob Brenly will be the next manager of the San Francisco Giants. Brenly had good success in Arizona for a few years although some question about him because he won when he was working with the two best starting pitchers in the game at the time. There is no Curt Shilling or Randy Johnson on the Giants roster, but I think Brenly would do well. I really like how he handled his bullpen in the postseason in 2001. He had a rookie closer who was giving up games left and right, but he still made the right moves at the right times to push the D-Backs past a very good and determined Yankee team. The Giants are going to need someone who knows how to handle pitching staffs because they haven't had one here for the last few years and Brenly is a guy who I'd have confidence in doing so.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________