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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Offseason Review

The offseason is finally coming to an end, and in about 3 weeks we should start having some actual baseball to talk about rather than discuss whether Barry Bonds will or won't be back. With that in mind, and all the roster moves wrapped up and done with, I figured now would be a good time to give my offseason review.


WHO'S HERE: FROM
LHP Barry Zito (A's)

CF Dave Roberts (Padres)
C Bengie Molina (Blue Jays)
RHP Russ Ortiz (Orioles)
1B/OF Ryan Klesko (Padres)
1B/IF Rich Aurilia (Reds)

WHO'S GONE: TO
RHP Jason Schmidt (Dodgers)
C Mike Matheny (retirement)
OF Moises Alou (Mets)
1B Shea Hillenbrand (Angels)
CF Steve Finley (FA)
RHP Jamie Wright (FA)
C Todd Greene (Padres)
LHP Mike Stanton (Reds)


Comparing the players coming in and the players leaving, I'd say the Giants did pretty well. Zito for Schmidt is an upgrade in my opinion due to Schmidt's recent decline and Zito's durability. The signing of Zito also puts together a starting staff that has great potential now and into the future. Matt Cain, Noah Lowry and Barry Zito are all 28 years of age or younger and are all under contract for a while. They could provide San Francisco with a "Big 3" simalar to what the A's had with Zito, Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder. The Giants also have Tim Lincecum and Jonathen Sanchez waiting in the wings. As far as positional players go,
Sabean did go out and get the best catcher on the market once they realized Matheny would not be returning. Not saying Molina is a savior, but remember the last time the Giants had a good offensive catcher (2002: Benito Santiago). Dave Roberts and Moises Alou are different types of players, but both are pretty equally productive. I think the Klesko signing will end up being a steal, and he'll be a huge upgrade over Steve Finley as the top bench guy. The swap from Aurillia to Hillenbrand is practically a wash, though If I where the Sabean, I would have rather given Hillenbrand a 1 year deal and signed Aurillia to play 3rd. Instead, we will be witnessing our 2nd year of Pedro Feliz starting full time. I think Sabean did ok this winter except for the fact he gave Feliz another contract and he did not replace Mike Stanton. I think the loss of Stanton is going to be a bigger deal than people think. He was the only guy in the bullpen last year who Felipe Alou had any confidence in whatsoever, and this bullpen is very much the same as last years. Yes, full years from Brad Hennessey and Kevin Correia will be nice, and it looks like Jonathen Sanchez will help out there with Russ Ortiz joining the rotation, but a lot will lie on Armondo Benitez's health. If he's healthy and on the team, he should be better than he ever has for the Giants because he's entering the final year of his contract. A good year will get him another multi-year deal, a bad, injury plauged year will get him a 1 year deal, and he knows this. So love him or hate him, it looks like Benitez will hold the key to the bullpens' success in '07.

My overall grade for the Giants offseaon has to be a B. As I said, I am still cringing at the Pedro Feliz signing, and I am still scratching my head wondering why Sabean ignored the bullpen for the 2nd offseason in a row. However, he didn't handicap the organization with any outrageous deals for Carlos Lee or Juan Pierre. Plus the fact that he went out after Zito hard, and actually got him showed me a lot, this is the reason I am giving him the B. I am also not as down on the resigning of Bonds as other people seem to be. He isn't the most popular guy in the world, but without him, this lineup has no identity and absolutely no power. Plus, he's only on a one year deal, and the Giants could very easily take the $16 million he's due in '07 and give it to a younger superstar, such as Adam Dunn, in '08.
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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Bonds/Giants Still Up in the Air

It's now been over a month since Barry Bonds and the Giants agreed in principle to a 1 year deal to bring the slugger back to San Francisco. However, the bad publicity the Giants recieved for their decision to bring back Bonds coupled with the recent reports of his failed amphetamine test, have apparantly given them second thoughts. Now there are reports that the Giants are trying to back out of the deal if possible. As far as the drug test is concerned, the news about a first positive test for amphetamines is supposed to be held in confidentiality, and not even the players employeer has a right to know. So according to those rules, the leaked "failed test" Bonds took shouldn't have even been let out and the Giants should have never even known about it. If this is the reason why the Giants are now quesitoning this deal, then Barry Bonds has a legitimate gripe. If the Giants where questioning the deal before the test results where leaked, then why did they agree to bring the guy back in the first place? I guess the signing of Barry Zito has made Bonds expendable to the Giants. As bad as Bonds has looked in this mess, the Giants aren't looking too good themselves either. Again, they are looking unsure of themselves. It seems like they are trying to score points with the media and fans by expressing interest in backing out of the deal, but what it looks like to me, is an organazation second guessing themselves. All that being said, I still fully expect Bonds to come to terms with the Giants, sooner or later. The Giants are also a better team with Bonds on it, like him or hate him. Without Bonds, watching a middle of an order that consists of Rich Aurilia, Ray Durham and Ryan Klesko all summer long, could get pretty boring and very unproductive.
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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Giants' Bring Back Ortiz

The Giants signed Russ Ortiz to a one-year $380,000 contract on Tuesday. The move gives the Giants insurance for their starting rotation, and if all goes as planned, should help the bullpen out as well. Ortiz signed with San Francisco over other suitors because the Giants told him he has a good shot at cracking the starting rotation. If that happens and Ortiz can rebound from 2 horrible seasons, then the Giants have themselves a bargain. Even if he continues to struggle, the Giants are only on the hook for the league minimum in salary. As I said in my last post, there will be questions as to whether or not Ortiz can be effective enough to hold down the 5th spot, but I have no doubt he will be better off in San Francisco than he was in the hitting friendly confines of Arizona and Baltimore. Supposedly he found his release point again with Leo Mazzone in Baltimore late last year, and after checking out his stats, he did actually drop his era 2 points over his final 10 outings. Then there where the reports out of Puerto Rico, where the Giants had plenty of scouts and coaches, that his velocity and movement was up. So, for what it's worth, Ortiz has actually been throwing the ball better lately. Remember, he's only 32, so it's not like he's hit the wall as far as age goes. I expect Ortiz to crack the rotation, and I expect him to be somewhat successful in doing so. If his velocity is indeed back in the 90's and he can keep his control in check enough to be effective, then he will be alright. There is a chance the Giants just signed a 200 inning starter for the league minimum.

As I said, this move should also deepen the bullpen. Now Jonathen Sanchez doesn't have the pressure on him to fill one of the rotation spots. Sanchez was extremely effective out of the bullpen last season. He didn't give up a run through his first 14 games in relief last year, and had an 1.37 era overall in 22 games out of the bullpen before being moved to the rotation. The Giants where actually playing their best baseball in July last year with Sanchez playing the role as their best reliever. Sanchez had two very good starts after being moved to the rotation. He dominated the Reds in Cincinati, then pitched very well in a loss vs. the Diamondbacks in his final appearance of the season. When spring training winds up, I wouldn't be surprised to see Sanchez actually beat Ortiz out for the 5th spot anyway, but I like the situation he is now in. If he does start the year off in the bullpen as expected, he may prove to valuable to move anywhere else. He is now my darkhorse pick to win the closers' job if Armondo Benitez is not on the team come April. With the news of the Ortiz signing along with the announcement of Tim Worrell's retirement, the pitching staff looks to be complete (not counting a Benitez trade). Sanchez, Benitez, Steve Kline, Brian Wilson, Kevin Corriea, Brad Hennessey, Vinny Chulk look to fill out the bullpen with Barry Zito, Matt Morris, Matt Cain, Noah Lowry and Russ Ortiz starting.
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Saturday, January 06, 2007

Giants' Roster Appears Set

Pitchers and catchers report to spring training in a little over a month, and the Giants 2007 roster appears to be pretty set, at least until spring training starts. The "Armondo Benitez to the Florida Marlins" rumor started up again earlier this week, and it appears that if Benitez can prove he can throw effectively off of a mound in the spring, then the Marlins will take him off the Giants' hands. Yusimero Petit is said to be the player who the Giants would get in return. Petit is a 22 year old right hander who had 12 wins and struck out 200 batters in the 2004 season, split between a few different levels. Anytime someone strikes out 200 batters in a minor league season, you know they have good stuff. Petit got roughed up last year in limited time at the big league level, but if the Giants could get him for Benitez I'd be all for it. Petit, Lincecum, Sadler, Micsch among others could give the Grizzlies a nice staff for the Giants' to choose from when someone on the big league roster goes down. Plus anytime you get rid of an unproductive player who doesn't want to be here, it's addition by subtraction. Other than the possible Benitez deal, it doesn't look like there is going to be much else done on the personel front by the Giants before the season starts. There aren't any relievers left who can really make a difference, so it looks a bullpen that was terrible last year, loses there best late reliver in Mike Stanton, and does absolutlely nothing else to fill that loss.

After the signing of Barry Zito, the rotation now appears set as well, and in much better shape than the bullpen. After seeing him sport the Giants uniform and cap, it finally sunk in with me that this guy was actually a Giant. As I said in the last post, I think this rotation has the ability to be one of the leagues best for years to come. I don't want to jinx anything, but it reminds me of the young Atlanta Braves staff back in the early 90's when they signed Greg Maddux. The Giants 5th rotation spot is still up in the air. Sabean is still keeping open the option of bringing back Russ Ortiz to compete with Jonathon Sanchez for the 5th rotation spot, but I wouldn't count on it. Signing Oritz would be a good move in my oponion. I like Sanchez and I think he could be a good starter at this level, but I would like to see him start the year off in the bullpen rather then being forced into the rotation by default. If he earns it in the spring then give it to him, but don't just hand it to him. I also don't think Ortiz is %100 done and he'd probably thrive in San Francisco. He'll walk guys and give up some majestic fly balls because he pitches up in the zone, but pitching in the spacious AT&T Park and not the bandboxes like Camden Yards and Chase Field will keep his flyballs in the yard. Give Ortiz the minimum and make Sanchez earn the spot.
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