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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Moves on the Horrizon

Sometime before the end of the weekend, the Giants are expected to announce the signing of their first two free agents of the winter. They have been extremely quiet up until now, but expect the 2007 Giants roster to start shaping up over the next 2 weeks, wheter it be good or bad. The Giants will likely announce the signings of Dave Roberts and Rich Aurilia on Friday. The signing of Roberts will move Randy Winn to right field, and down in the batting order. The Giants still are uncertain where Aurilia will play, but it will likely be either 3rd or 1st base. I'm looking at these signings in two ways. First of all, the Giants are adding a pair of 35 year-olds to a team that they vowed was going to get younger and healthier. But looking at the market and seeing what average to above average free-agents are raking in this winter, these aren't bad monetary moves. Roberts is expected to get between 15-16 million dollars over 3 years. Compare that with Juan Pierre's 5 year, 44 million dollar deal, and I think it's a no brainer on who I'd rather have. Sure Pierre is 5 years younger, but that is where the advantage ends. While neither of them are particularly good outfielders, Roberts is more versatile and has a better arm. Both are one and the same at the plate and on the bases, while Roberts has a better on base percentage, and Pierre gets more hits. Don't get me wrong, Pierre is still a little better Roberts, and has more upside, but I'd much rather Roberts at 5 million a year than Pierre at 9 million, if I had to take one. The only thing I don't like about the Roberts signing is the fact that Brian Sabean gave Randy Winn a big contract extension to be the centerfielder and leadoff hitter so the Giants are now stuck with two light hitting outfielders. As far as Rich Aurilia goes, I'll compare him with another Dodger who cashed in pretty nicely. Nomar Garciapara got a 2 year, 19 milliond dollar deal from the Dodgers earlier in the month, while the Giants are set to give Aurilia 6 million over 2 years. I do take into account that Aurilia played in a hitters park last season, but their numbers are identical, plus Aurilia has been a lot healthier over his career than Nomar Garciapara. Again, if I had to take one player out of the two, I'd take Garciapara, Rich Aurilia for 1/3 of the price is an absolute bargain.

The Winter meetings are set to begin on December 4th, and Brian Sabean will be in attendance trying desperately to land a power hitter via trade. With all the big bats off the free agent market, the Giants have had talks with the Red Sox about Manny Ramirez. I will stop that rumor there becuase I really don't see the Giants matching up with the Red Sox in any kind of deal, especially after hearing that the San Diego Padres are offering a package including Scott Linebrink and Adrian Gonzalez. A more realistic option for the Giants is Pat Burrell, or possibly Richie Sexson. The Giants have been linked to Burrell all winter since he supposedly added them to his short list of possible trade destinations. Sexson has been rumored to be available, and the Ginats need a big hitting first basemen. Sexson, like Burrell brings huge power, big contract, and a lot of strikouts. However, Sexson has a better track record and is a better defender so if I had a choice, I'd lean towards him. Sabean still wants to keep his options open before really facing the Barry Bonds question. If the rumors are indeed true that the Giants were finalists for Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Lee, it's pretty apparant they are trying very hard to move on without Bonds. Since their efforts failed, if they don't land a big bat at the meetings, I would fully expect Barry Bonds to be re-signed the following week.
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Monday, November 20, 2006

It's Looking Like Barry Bonds Will Stay in the Bay

We are about a week into the free agent signing period, and it's looking more and more likely every day that Barry Bonds will be back in the Bay Area for the 2007 season. The only question may be, is will it be as an Oakland Athletic or as a Giant. The A's have been the most public team to express their interest in Barry Bonds, as he fits their moneyball philosophy to a T. The A's however, declined to match the Blue Jays offer for Frank Thomas which was paying him about 18 million dollars over two years, and it is highly unlikely Bonds will play for anything less than 12 million dollars this season. It would seem like his most likely destination is San Francisco, but the Sabean and Scott Boras don't seem to be talking to often, and it appears as if the Giants aren't making it a priority to sign Bonds. Regardless, all signs still point to Bonds returning to San Francisco. It is starting to seem like a more logical move for the Giants as well. There aren't that many quality free agents out there, and the ones who are quality are commanding outragous dollars. Bonds for 1 year and 12 million dollars doesn't look so bad in this market. The two teams I am pegging as the darkhourses for Bonds' are the Angels (even though Arte Moreno said he would not pursue him earlier) and the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox have been especially quiet this offseason and two of their top targets this offseason are already off the market (Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano) they may enter the Bonds' sweepstakes. The Sox do already have David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez as a DH and left fielder, but they are trying to deal Ramirez. If Barry Bonds truely wants to win a world series ring, he'll have a helluva lot better shot at doing it in Boston or Oakland.

As far as other free agents go, the Giants have been extremely quiet. They haven't made any additions this offseason. The have been so quiet that either they are on the verge of doing something soon, or they really are not making progress with anybody. It was encouraging to see that the Giants did actually pursue Alfonso Soriano, and it appeared that they where amond a "handfull" of finalists for the outfielder/second basemen. The have also been mentioned as possible suitors for Carlos Lee, and now that Soriano is off the list, they may now inquire about Lee. The problem is, the other 8-10 teams who missed out on Soriano are also going to be all over Lee, and he may end up getting the same deal Soriano did (8 yr. $136 million) and I doubt the Giants will offer more then a 4 or 5 year deal. Lee is a premier right handed bat, a shoe in for 30-40 home runs and 115 RBI's and he is right in his prime (30 years old). The only question with him is his weight and limitations. He has managed to be serviceable as a left fielder, but each year it seems like he gets bigger and his range declines a bit. He seems like an ideal DH, but has indicated that he wants to play the National League. First base may be an option for him if he lands in the NL long term.
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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

2007 Mock Lineup #1

As I said in my last post, I will be composing various mock lineups throughout the winter every couple of weeks or so. With it being so early in the off-season, it's very likely none of the additions I add to my list will be part of the team in '07, but you have to start somewhere.

Lineup:
1. CF Gary Mathews Jr.-( The Giants love Mathews and may overpay to get him in their outfield)
2. SS Omar Vizquel
3. 2B Ray Durham
4. LF Barry Bonds ( I can't picture him anywhere else now that Detroit and the Angels are out)
5. 3B Aubrey Huff ( 30 years old with 5 straight 20+ hr seasons, not much talk about Huff early)
6. 1B Wes Helms/Pat Burrell ( Burrell only if the Giants unload Benitez and even out the $)
7. RF Randy Winn
8. C Elizier Alfonzo (Sabean is not looking for starting catchers in the free agent market)

Rotation:
1. RHP Matt Cain
2. RHP Woody Williams (Bochy gets his "big game" pitcher to move north with him for a year)
3. RHP Matt Morris
4. LHP Noah Lowry
5. LHP Jonathon Sanchez

Bullpen:
CP Joe Borowski
LHP Mike Stanton
RHP David Weathers
RHP Kevin Corriea
RHP Brian Wilson
LHP Ray King
RHP Tim Worrell

Bench:
C Henry Blanco
IF Kevin Frandsen
IF Geoff Blum
OF Todd Linden
OF/1B Mark Sweeney

This team would probably cost about 10 million dollars more than the Giants want to spend, but they may be able to backload some contracts to make things work. The overall lineup would be younger, healthier and a little faster. The rotation would take a hit in losing Schmidt for Williams, but the bullpen would be improved drastically.
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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Catcher May Be One of Giants' Many Glaring Needs This Winter

Mike Matheny still hasn't recovered from the multiple concussions he suffered early this season from multiple foul balls off his face mask. There where reports a few weeks ago that he is still having problems with dizziness at certain times and hasn't even begun to think about starting his off-season workouts. Unfortunately, it is looking more and more likely that Mike Matheny (who once took a fastball to the face, and returned to the line-up the next day) will have to end his playing career. I hope I'm wrong, but Matheny isn't young and catcher isn't a position to play around with if your having cognitive problems. Plus, I've never heard of anyone having problems with a concussion almost half a year after it happened. This will leave yet another hole to be filled on a Giants team that has only 2 starting position players from last year under contract. The Giants showed confidence in Elizier Alfonzo, and he did more than anyone expected filling in for Matheny last season coming up with a few big hits in the clutch. However, Alfonzo declined badly in the last 2 months of the season batting only .239 with 3 home runs, 15 RBI and a measly .285 OBP after August 1st. Plus his defense was below average, and it showed late in games. Alfonzo would be a terrific back-up catcher as he has shown the capability to hold the position down for a short period of time with some offensive force, but I'm not sure I'd hand this guy the job and expect him to be productive over the course of 140 games. There are some options out there, albeit very limited options, but one guy the Giants should contact is Bengie Molina. Molina is still relatively young for Giants standards (32) and he has put together 4 very solid seasons in a row. Molina also brings a steady glove and some leadership among the pitching staff to the table. I think a 3 year, 18 million dollar deal would be reasonable but seeing how thin the catching market is this winter, Molina could easily command 7+ million dollars a year.

Barry Bonds and the Giants have begun their contract discussions, and apparently, the Texas Rangers are starting to get in on the free-agent slugger. Right before the season ended, Peter Magowan said that if Bonds did return in 2007, he wouldn't be the central part of the team. Essentially meaning the Giants aren't going to waste 20% of their payroll on a 42 year-old outfielder any longer, and Bonds responded by saying he would accept no hometown discount and that he is seeking a 14 million dollar deal for '07. The two sides hadn't spoken in almost a month until negotiations started up earlier this week. The Giants again are telling the media that if Bonds is going to be back, it will be under the Giants terms. Magowan doesn't want Bonds leaving games early, making himself unavailable in games and deciding when he plays and where he hits. Basically, Magowan is saying to Bonds will have to behave better if he is to return. While Bonds hasn't said anything publically in response to that, it was reported earlier Wednesday that the Texas Rangers have emerged as serious contenders for Barry Bonds. Again, at the beginning of the year, I would have thought there was no chance that Bonds would play anywhere other that San Francisco in 2007, but since the season ended, my doubts have been growing by the day. There also continues to be reports about the Giants sincere interest in Luis Gonzalez and what I thought was a random rumor, may actually be starting to gain some legs. I said in my last post and I'll say it again. Gonzalez wouldn't be a terrible option as a one-year plug in left field. He will cost 1/2 as much as Bonds, and probably be almost as productive. And again, next years free agent outfield class contains the likes of Andruw Jones, Vernon Wells, Jermaine Dye, Ichiro Suzuki, Bobby Abreu and Adam Dunn, so if the Giants should wait until next season before they sign an outfielder long term. I hope they don't get feel the need to overpay for Gary Mathews Jr. when they could use that money and position opening next year for a legit, all-star run producer.

Over the course of the Winter, I will compose various "Mock Lineups" in which I will take a my best guess at how the Giants 2007 lineup and pitching staff will look. Much like an NFL mock draft, it will interchanging throughout the winter leading up to spring training, so it should be interesting examining all the possibilities as the "hot stove league" moves along. 2007 Mock Lineup #1 will be posted Monday, November 13, the first day of free agency.
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