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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Giants Sign Randy Johnson

I know it happened a few days ago, I was just waiting for another move to follow which is why I'm just now getting around to posting about it. I'm sure everyone who cares knows by now that Randy Johnson signed a 1 year, 8 million dollar deal with the Giants. I fully support this move as the pitching staff was a little overrated before this move (Outside of Cain and Lincecum, you didn't really know what you were going to get) but adding RJ into the mix for a year is a great move. He can still pitch obviously, as evident of his 2.41 era, and 8-5 record over the second half of last season. Put that together with the fact that he's now coming to pitch at a legitimate pitchers park for the first time in his career and we could see The Unit find a fountain of youth here as he closes in on 300 wins (at 295 currently). While he should be a fine pitcher here, he will also be a great sounding board for the young power pitchers, and a solid overall team leader. Now, I'm not saying RJ's add is the one that puts the Giants over the top, they still need to add hitting to be a true contender, but their overall pitching staff, from top to bottom, is looking pretty darn good after this winter's signings. Right now I'd guess that "The Big Ugly/Unit" would start the season as the #2 starter in between Lincecum and Cain, just to break up the two righties, with Sanchez and Zito rounding things out as the 4 and 5. That staff has the potential to be one of the best rotations in the NL. My wild hunch is that the Unit finishes the season at 15-7 with a 3.55 era and 185 k's in 195 innings pitched throwing half his games in the spacious AT&T Park, and with the Giants improved bullpen backing him up. There is also the slight possibility that Noah Lowry gets healthy for the start of the season which would provide the Giants with an abundance of major league caliber starting pitchers. Only then would I like to see Sabean deal one of them.

Ever since Johnson signed, Jonathon Sanchez's name has re-surfaced as possible trade bait in order to get another hitter in here. Like I said last time the thought of trading Sanchez (for Jorge Cantu) was brought up, if they can't get better than the likes of Cantu, it'd be more worth it for them to carry the strong starting staff and hopefully watch Sanchez's trade value skyrocket in 2009. I personally would prefer the deep, quality starting pitching, unless of course Sanchez would bring a guy like Dan Uggla or J.J. Hardy aboard. Quality, all-star caliber bats that are in their 20's. After all, I consider Sanchez a young, quality lefty with all-star capabilities as well. The kid was among the league leaders in strikeouts for most of the first 4 months of the season, and yes, he ran out of steam towards the end of the year, but it was his first season as a full-time starter after being bounced between bullpen and rotation over the last couple of seasons. With a full year of starting in the bigs under his belt, I'd say 26 year-old will be much more prepared in his second go round and I expect to see him throw like he did in the first half (8-5, 3.97 era, 115 k's and a .237 BAA in 111 innings pitched), if not better, for the whole season in 2009. So no, do not deal Sanchez just for the simple fact that you signed RJ, Sabean. He's got a high ceiling and showed a lot of his potential last season.

I would almost like to see the Giants just stand pat from here on out, maybe with another low key signing or two. They still need help offensively, but I don't see them getting the type of help they need this off-season. Adam Dunn and Pat Burrell, the two biggest bats remaining on the market, don't want to come here and play first as the Giants are already packed in the outfield. And I think that's a good thing in the long run. Dunn (if he runs out of options and could be had on the cheap for a 2 year deal) might be interesting in the short term, seeing that he's still early in his prime and could easily pop off for 50-60 home runs in any given season. Yes, he k's a ton and isn't the best defender, but he does have huge upside. I also still like the possibility of bringing in a guy like Ty Wigginton (apparently the Giants have contacted his agent) as insurance around the infield and to be kind of Mr. Everything the way Aurilia was in 2008 and Feliz was before he was handed the full time gig at third. Joe Crede is also still available and that will remain a possibility until he goes somewhere else. Wigginton though, has shown what he can do with limited at-bats, and although he's not a game necessarily a game changer (although he proved he could be at times last August), he's got more home runs over the last 3 seasons than any other player on the team. For a guy still in his prime and with the versatility of Wigginton, I'd see it as another win/win signing for the Giants. Wigginton's not going to cost anymore than 2 years and around $10 million or so, plus it would mean the Giants hang on to all their pitchers for another season (or at least start of the season). He's also a little under-rated on defense. He's not a great defender, but he's very serviceable at 1st, 2nd and in the outfield, and I'd say league average at 3rd and better than what Jose Castillo was last season. Well worth it if he'd continue to do what he's done over the last 3 seasons, and I don't think there is any question that he would.
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Friday, December 26, 2008

Giants top 20 Prospects: GBB Edition

John Sickels, who covers minor league ball for the Sports Bloggers Nation as well as minorleaguebaseball.com, came out with his annual top prospect list this past week and his Giants list had a few odd choices for his top 20. One of which was Waldis Joaquin ranked 9th. Joaquin has some upside and has a good young arm, don't get me wrong, but there are a lot more accomplished prospects in this organization that didn't make it onto the list, such as the Cal League's minor league pitcher of the year, Kevin Pucetas. I figured I would go ahead and rank the Giants top 20 prospects in the order I believe they should be at this point in time. Take into mind that I am not including any of the players who have debuted for the Giants (outside of Connor Gillaspie) so Pablo Sandoval, Travis Ishikawa, Nate Schierholtz, Emmanuel Burris, Sergio Romo etc. won't qualify for my list. Because I could literally make a whole post on each prospect, I am going to try and keep things short and simple. So here we go:

1. LHP Madison Bumgarner: The imposing lefty is quickly gaining national recognition as one of the premiere pitching prospects in all of baseball. His stuff got better and he got tougher to hit as the year wore on which bodes well for his advancement status. The Giants are hoping he'll be a fast tracker like the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw and will be up contributing to the team in 2010 at age 20.

2. IF Angel Villalona: The 18 year old 3B/1B'men was the organizations number 1 rated prospect heading into 2008. He didn't dominate last year in the way that they were hoping, but still had a respectable season in low-A ball, .264, 17 hr, 64 RBI in 465 ab's, which isn't bad when you consider he played the season at age 17 (turned 18 in September) against prospects that were mostly 19-22 years old. Still 2-3 years away, but still ahead of the curb for his age and has the potential to hit for average as well as 25-30 home runs a year should he develop accordingly, maybe more. I can't help but think of Miguel Cabrera when thinking about what young Villalona can be. He probably won't end up being quite as good, but has that kind of talent. His big issue right now, like with a lot of very young power hitters, is cutting down on his k's. (118 last season compared to only 18 walks)

3. C-IF Buster Posey: The #5 overall pick from the 2008 amateur draft is already making noise as he had a terrific winter league in Hawaii. He signed late in 2008 and didn't get to do much in the minors, but he should start out in San Jose (high-A ball) in '09 with the chance at advancing as quickly as his play will allow him, which means I wouldn't completely count out the chance of him making a cameo with the big club late in '09. Best catching prospect since Joe Mauer and I think he'll end up even better than the Twins young backstop. Outside chance he could end up at 3rd or 1st base, depending on team needs, but should stay behind the plate, where he's well above average as a defender and thrower.

4. RHP Tim Alderson: Tim #2 has a wacky delivery in his own right, but the 6'6" righty just looks dominating and those looks aren't deceiving. He doesn't have quite the upside of MadBum, but kind of reminds me of a mix between Cain and Lincecum. Has more of Cain's size and stuff, and has a Lincecum-type unorthodox pitching style. He is right up there with the best pitching prospects in the game though, and is a little more polished then MadBum. Should start in AA but like the other top guys, his play will determine how quickly he advances. I think we could see him late in 2009 if he pitches again like he did last season.

5. 3B Connor Gillaspie: Rounding out the top 5 is the solid all-around player, Connor Gillaspie. The Giants think so highly of his ability at the dish that they gave him a call-up last season in September which tells me we could be seeing a lot of the '08 supplemental pick in orange and black in 2009. Everyone compares him to a little bigger version of Billy Mueller, which isn't bad at all, but I think he has potential to be a little better than Billy was. Whether he realizes it is the million (or 2.5 for him) dollar question, but I'd say chances are on his side.

6. 2B Nick Noonan: He played decently in Augusta in '08 and the 19 year-old should keep improving. He plays very good defense, and had a decent year with the bat hitting .279, showing a little pop (9 hr), and the ability to drive in some runs (68), which are nice qualities to have in a middle infielder. He also had 29 stolen bases in '08 and has 47 swipes in 54 attempts compiled in 171 minor league contests. Needles to say, his defense, ability at the plate and base running make him one of the more fundamentally sound players in the organization now and he's only 19 years old. He still needs to cut down on the k's and learn the strike zone a little more before he can be considered an elite middle infield prospect and start climbing the ladder too quickly.

7. RHP Kevin Pucetas:
The freshly turned 24 year-old didn't even make Sickels' list, but Pucetas won Cal League pitcher of the year award in '08 throwing in a league with some of the top pitching (and hitting for that matter) prospects in baseball. His career record as a minor leaguer alone has him in this spot: 32-7, 2.47 era, 267 k's compared to 69 bb's in 343 minor league innings. He doesn't throw 95 MPH, which may be why he hasn't gotten the national attention that he deserves, but he's been the Greg Maddux of the lower minors over his career cause he flat out wins and he throws strikes. Has outside shot at making the team in 2009, but I think he'll probably end up in Fresno for the start.

8. LHP Jesse English: The 24 year-old lefty has already dealt with a career pausing injury (took away either most or all of his '03-'06 seasons) and has come back strong. The big lefty has always had strikeout potential (11.2 k's/9 IP) and really put it together as a full time starter last season. Again, the injury back-up forced him to backtrack his development so even though he was drafted in '02 and just turned 24, he's only had two full, healthy minor league seasons ('02 & '08) and in those seasons he's dominated. He was used as a reliever when healthy in '07 and had 57 k's in 34 innings. Should start '09 in either AA or in Fresno.

9. OF Rafael Rodriguez: 16 years-old and freshly signed out of the Dominican, so he hasn't done much in the states to go off of yet, but according to Felipe Alou, has Vladimir Guerrero type potential. He certainly has the size already (6'5", 198 lbs) and I can't wait to see him play in Salem and Augusta this coming summer. Could end up jumping into the teams top 5 prospect mix by next winter, as the Giants fell he is every bit as good as Angel Villalona when they signed him a couple of years back.

10. RHP Henry Sosa: The 23 year-old righty finished off the 2007 season so well that the Giants were hoping for big things in '08, but an arm injury kept Sosa out until late in the season. '09 now becomes a big year for him as he needs to take that next step and show the ability to pitch at a higher level than just A ball. His minor league career and his potential reminds me a lot of Jonathan Sanchez's at that point in his career. He just has to trust his stuff and throw strikes earlier in counts and he'll be fine.

11. 3B Jesus Guzman: The 24 year old was signed away from the A's in hopes that he could challenge for the 3b job in San Francisco this coming season, and he could end up being a steal. Has been scary good with the bat over his last 2 minor league seasons including a Texas League batting championship in '08 (.364) and a .300, 25 hr, 112 RBI season in the Cal League in '07. Anytime you hit .364 in a season, you know your a player and I completely expect to see Guzman take off. He's also setting records in the VWL as we speak. At 24, and with 5 minor league seasons under his belt though, it's time for the youngster to take that next step as he's entering the final phase of prospect status. Even if he starts the season in Fresno though, he should be an in-season call-up at some point. I'm really looking forward to seeing him play/progress in 2009.

12. LHP Clayton Tanner: Another member of San Jose's dominant starting rotation from 2008 as he (20 during the season) and Alderson (19) were the young guns on the staff. The lefty has been rock solid since he was drafted in the 3rd round in '06. Not quite the upside of Alderson, Sosa and MadBum, but certainly has the ability to become a decent big league starter, maybe along the lines of a Noah Lowry if he can realize the potential he has and keep improving. He's got the control and consistency. Could be in the top 5-7 team prospects after the season.

13. LHP Ben Snyder: 23 year-old lefty would have probably landed in the top 10 easily had he pitched better after being promoted from A to AA last season. Carried an era barely over 2 in his first 2 seasons in A ball, including going 8-3 with a 2.00 era and 73 K's with only 18 BB's in 14 starts and 85 innings pitched with San Jose last season before heading to AA and struggling for the most of the second half of '08. Still carries a 29-15 record with a 2.89 era in 2+ minor league seasons though, so he's been successful overall. 2009 will be a crucial year for him, like it will be for Sosa, as the Giants are really trying to figure out just exactly what they have in these guys. Snyder was San Jose's best starting pitcher when he was there, and that says a lot, especially when he was in the same rotation as English, Pucetas and Alderson.

14. LHP Scott Barnes: The 21 year-old left kind of came out of nowhere last season and put up numbers comparable to those of Madison Bumgarner's in his short stint in Augusta (3-2, 1.38 era, 0.67 WHIP and 41 k's to 7 bb's in 33 IP) after pitching a full season in the St. Johns University starting rotation where he held a career record of 17-7 with a 3.24 era and 273 k's in 249 innings pitched. Sure, he's 2 years older than Madison, but '08 was his first season as a pro too, and he really gained everyones attention with the way he finished it off. Probably stays in San Jose for at least most of 2009, if not all, as the Giants like their pitchers to throw a full season at some level of A ball before advancing.

15. SS Ehire Adrianza: The 19 year-old had only 66 at-bats in 2008 and they were all spread out between Rookie League, low-A ball (Augusta) and Fresno, but showed his upside: decent bat, patience and great defense. He's another one who I'm going to be very interested to follow in 2009 as it's still not clear just exactly what he's able to do. Still he held his own in a few games in Fresno at 18 which has to give him a boost of confidence.

16-20:
16. RHP Kelvin Pichardo (23 years old, power reliever) 17. RHP Edwin Quirarte (21, power reliever) 18. OF Wendell Fairley (20, all-around outfielder) 19. SS Brandon Crawford (21, all-around SS) 20. OF Roger Kieschnick (21, power hitting outfielder).
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Monday, December 22, 2008

Giants Quiet Down For Holidays

Over the first month and a half of the off-season, the Giants have been one of the busier teams in baseball signing 3 major league free agent players and being very active amongst other free agent and trade discussions. However, they haven't made a news breaking move since signing Edgar Renteria a few weeks back and they probably will stay relatively quiet until after Christmas. They did make a move that may have gone slightly under the radar though by signing minor league free agent Jesus Guzman. The Giants nabbed the 24-year old third basemen in hopes that he could figure it out in the upper levels with their organization. The youngster hit .305 with 25 home runs and 112 RBI in high A ball with Oakland in 2007, then went on to lead the Texas league (AA) in hitting last season batting at a .364 clip with 14 home runs and 76 RBI. What is a little worrisome though is that he hasn't really done much (59 at-bats) above Double-A. He has carried his success from '08 into the Winter though as well as he and Pablo Sandoval have been tearing up the Venezuelan league. They both share the league lead for home runs (12) and are 1-2 in average, but Guzman has an amazing 63 RBI in only 215 at-bats (compared to Sandoval's 33) . Yeah, it's only a winter league, but the kid looks like he's really starting to put it together with the stick. His only rough stretch over the last 2 season's came when the A's tried him out for a few weeks in Sacramento (AAA affiliate) after he tore up the Texas League, but he hit only .237 in 59 at-bats. Still, the Giants have to be somewhat enthused that they got their hands on a minor league batting champ who's young with upside (has averaged a .323 avg, 21 hr's, and 100 RBI over the past 2 seasons) while giving up absolutely nothing. I haven't ever seen Guzman take one swing, as I've been scouring the Internet on video of him but there just isn't much. However, judging by his stats, and scouting reports, he has patience and power, the two things the Giants need to improve on the most. Since he hasn't really done anything above AA, he'll have outplay some people in order to make the opening day roster, but it wouldn't surprise me if he ends up on it. The big knock on him is his defense, where he is supposedly average at best. So that is something to keep an eye on (the Giants aren't going to subject their young pitching to poor infield defense). Since it doesn't look like Sabean's actively trying to add to the infield (there are options), I'd say Guzman starts out in Fresno but will be seen in the orange and black early on in 2009. A great spring though (or at least one in which he outplays the likes of Ishikawa and Bowker), and no other additions to the infield, could land him a roster spot or if things stay the same, the starting gig at third base even.

Other than the Guzman addition, there really hasn't been much to talk about regarding the Giants. They still do remain in the hunt for Randy Johnson but it doesn't seem like it's as sure of thing as it seemed during the winter meetings. The latest from Johnson's agent is of course the usual "my client has strong interest from a few different teams" and we "aren't rushing to make a decision". To me it sounds like he's waiting for something better to come along and if he really wanted to be a Giant, he would have signed by now. If the Giants don't end up with the Big Ugly/Unit, they may turn their attention elsewhere. Randy Wolf has been linked to the Giants a few times in past years and they'd seem like a decent match-up, although I would not give Wolf anymore than 2 years on a deal. I think the best case scenario for the Giants here would be to get Johnson signed to a deal, maybe even add on an option year if it gets the deal done. I could see RJ being an effective pitcher for 2 more seasons. The only question some have about him pitching here is the icey cold April and Septmeber nights and RJ's tender back, which may cause him issues.

*The Giants Baseball Blog would love to wish all our readers and all Giants fans a happy holiday's. We will not be posting again (baring breaking team news) until after Christmas. Thanks for visiting our blog and join us again after Christmas to get ready for the 2009 season.*
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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Jonathon Sanchez for Delmon Young?

About a week ago there was a blurb mentioned from the Winter meetings about the Twins offering the Giants Delmon Young for Jonathon Sanchez. While that trade straight up wouldn't be the best deal for the Giants as their need is for infielders and not outfielders. However, this proposal did get me thinking. I wonder if the Twins would consider expanding the deal and adding a few more players into the mix. My offer to the Twins would be Jonathon Sanchez, Nate Schierholtz and Randy Winn for Delmon Young, Michael Cuddyer (atlthough I still consider it if Cuddyer weren't involved) and Nick Blackburn. Here's why it would make sense for both teams:

The Giants: They'd be getting a young right-handed bat who massively underachieved in Minnesota last season and has huge potential. In the long run, Young will be better than Schierholtz and is a way better fit in this ballpark. Young reminds me of a younger Alex Rios and I think it's only a matter of time before we see that 20-20 or even 30-20 potential (probably the '09 season). He's only 23 and Delmon has already put together 2 respectable seasons. I think this 3rd year is the one where he will really take off and start realizing his potential. Also, Nick Blackburn could come in and take Sanchez's spot in the rotation. He doesn't have the upside that Sanchez has, but he's a solid young pitcher in his own right. His rookie season was a very good one (11-11 with a 4.05 era in 193 innings pitched). I'd rather have Slowey, Baker or of course Liriano back, but any of those 3 are probably off limits, at least in a proposed trade like this. Also asking for Cuddyer in addition may be stretching it a bit, but he would provide them a decent option at first or third. I'd still consider the deal though even if Cuddyer weren't involved though as Young's potential is that good.

The Twins: They have privately been shopping Young after he didn't perform up to their expectations and supposedly had some attitude issues. They could have interest in Winn as a right fielder for them as his contract expires after the '09 season and would probably put up better numbers than Young did for them last season. Schierholtz could play left field for them or take over in right when/if Winn left in free agency. And of course, they'd get their man in Sanchez, a guy with Francisco Liriano stuff and a guy they've had their eye on for a while now. They could figure that this deal could help fans forget about giving up Matt Garza, who's skills were put on display for the whole world to see in the fall. It just seems like a deal that could make a lot of sense for both teams. If the Twins really offered Young for Sanchez straight up, then you'd have to believe they'd have interest in doing this deal as well. They'd just be adding on a guy who would end up being their 5th starter and Cuddyer, who hasn't been as productive over the last couple of seasons.

All in all, the Twinkies rotation would look pretty darn good, and piled with young arms with a lot of stuff. Baker-Liriano-Slowey-Sanchez-Perkins with Boof Bonser as a possible swing man or reliever is a nice set-up. Also getting two quality outfielders in the veteran Winn and the youngster Schierholtz would help offset the loss of Cuddyer and Young. While the Giants get two much needed power/run producing bats into the lineup and although Blackburn isn't as nasty as Sanchez, they'd be getting themselves a more than capable starting pitcher.
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Monday, December 15, 2008

2009 Roster Projection Part 2

Towards the end of November, I gave my first line-up prediction of the off-season and now it's going to be a little bit easier as things look like they are rounding into shape, at least as far as the Giants management is concerned. I still see this team with a major hole at whatever corner position Pablo Sandoval doesn't fill. They also have a hole in their starting staff where it looks like Noah Lowry cannot be counted on to be ready for the season, thus has prompted talks of Randy Johnson joining the squad for a year. I still think the Giants, although they say they are pretty much set, have a few things up their sleeve (for better or worse) and I could now see a Giants' roster lining up like this come April.

Signings: 3B Joe Crede (1 year, $6.5 million w/incentives and option year), IF Ty Wigginton (2 years, $12 million), LHP Randy Johnson (1 year, $8.5 million+incentives)

Lineup-
LF Fred Lewis
2B Ty Wigginton (I could see Sabean having interest in Wigg's power: 23 hr' in 386 AB's, and versatility)
RF Randy Winn
3B Joe Crede (Giants have had interest for almost a year now, I bet now it happens)
C Bengie Molina
1B Pablo Sandoval
CF Aaron Rowand
SS Edgar Renteria

Rotation-
RH Tim Lincecum
LH Randy Johnson (Added as insurace, could end up being the #2, for match-up reasons)
RH Matt Cain
LH Jonathon Sanchez
LH Barry Zito (He should be better in '09, but I said that last year too)

DL?- Noah Lowry (2 forearm surgeries. Could be ready to start the season, but the team obviously isn't counting on it and/or doesn't know what to expect from him when he does return)

Bullpen-
CL Brian Wilson
SU Bob Howry
SU Jeremy Affeldt
RH Sergio Romo
LH Alex Hinshaw
LH Jack Taschner
RH Keeichi Yabu/Luis Perdomo (rule 5 pick)

DL? Merkin Valdez (Forearm surgery also. Too bad to because a healthy Valdez and Sanchez may have gotten the Giants J.J. Hardy. Supposedly should be ready around the start of the year though.)

Bench-
IF Frandsen/Burriss (If Manny isn't starting, they may want him playing everyday in AAA)
IF/OF Eugenio Velez
1B/RF Travis Ishikawa
OF Dave Roberts
OF Nate Schierholtz

This roster is taking into the account that Randy Johnson (who could sign at any moment), Joe Crede and Ty Wigginton (both of whom would fit the bill of power hitting infielder in Sabes' mind) were all signed to 1-2 year deals. The actual proposed lineup I put up would be pretty solid, 1-8, though they won't run as well as if they had Manny at second. Defensively they'd be good and only Joe Crede would be someone with health questions. Also, Wigginton would be a very nice add in my opinion. He wouldn't necessarily need to be guaranteed a starting spot, so Burris and Frandsen would still be very much in the mix. Wigginton would play the outfield (sub for F-Lew vs. tough lefties) and could provide insurance for Crede (if both were added of course) at third base not to mention his ability to play all over the diamond. I definitely am getting a strong Crede and Wigginton vibe though and I really do think that Sabean strikes for one of, if not both. As I said, they both fit needs the Giants have and although they aren't the ideal types of players they should be targeting, signing them to 1-2 year deals beats the heck out of trading Jon Sanchez for a Jorge Cantu or someone along those lines. Anyhow, after Taschner was tendered, I think their bullpen officially became set and if Big Ugly/Unit comes aboard as insurance for Noah (who is looking more and more likely to need TJ surgery) which seems more of a probability than a possibility, the whole staff would be set (not counting possible spring training invitees).

Now, If I were running the team, I'd still have my eye on the relief market and even consider bringing Mark Prior aboard as a reliever while convincing him to follow the path of Kerry Wood. I also would keep any eye on guys like Luis Ayala who, before being tried at closer last season was rounding into one of the leagues more consistent set-up men (combined 2.86 era from 2003-2007). Takashi Saito also just became available and he's been the top closers in the league over the last 3 seasons. Saito, if healthy would look very nice in the 8th inning as the set-up man to Wilson.

As far as position players go, I really like Jerry Hairston Jr. as a possibly utility guy as he plays everywhere besides first and catcher and brings speed, defense and last year he really found his bat (.326 last, .871 OPS last season). Hairston actually put up better numbers than Orlando Hudson in '08, and if Hairston didn't get hurt, his season would have actually blown Hudson's out of the water, and Hudson is considered far and away the top second basemen on the free agent market. He'd be ideal insurance for Burris at second in the Giants do indeed start the year with him as their starting second basemen. Juan Rivera is another interesting option I'd consider offering 1 year deal too and maybe playing at first base. He had 9 HR and 34 RBI in 170 AB's after the break which translates into about 33 Home Runs and 110 RBI in 600 AB's. He looks fully recovered and back to his 2006 form (.310, 23 HR, 85 RBI). I really would consider him a potential starting 1st basemen, with Sandoval shifting to third, if nobody else were added. Also, Michael Barret and Greg Zaun as a possible back-up catcher's are light years ahead of Steve Holm in all capacities of the game (especially in handling the pitchers and calling games), so if the Giants are going to carry a catcher on the bench in addition to having Sandoval and Molina on the roster (which I don't as necessary, but they do), I'd like it to be a veteran.

There are also always some steals on the fa market that come as spring training invitees and end up key contributors for their teams during the season. As far as guys I'd look into sending out a spring training invitee to (no guaranteed contract, basically a tryout), here is a list of a few I wouldn't mind targeting, again, with nothing guaranteed besides the slim chance of making the Opening Day roster. The one guy who just got non-tendered who I really want the Giants to go after is RHP Daniel Cabrera. He had a nice first half in '08 then fell flat on his face in the second. Can you say RH version of Jonathon Sanchez? That's exactly who he reminds me of although he throws harder and doesn't have as much control. I'd love to see him get a chance to fill out his potential pitching at AT&T Park.

Ben Broussard 1B/RF- 2 years ago, the Giants would have loved him at 1B.
Alex Cintron IF- Could make team as a utility guy. He's underrated as a utility guy.
Juan Rincoln RHP- Still relatively young, for a reliever, and looking for career re-birth.
Odalis Perez LHP- Just comparing his numbers to Zito's and he's actually better, just saying.
Brad Wilkerson 1B/OF- Was solid in the NL, could provide depth at first and the OF.
Gabe Kaplar OF- Absolutely smashes LHP, and could be a big RH bat off the bench.
Jonny Gomes OF- Another big RH bat w/Bay Area roots: '05-'07 averaged 19 HR's in 360 AB's but a ton of K's. A poor mans Adam Dunn)
Chris Burke UT- Had 1 decent year ('06) that garnered expectations, then fell off. Though he could be this years' Jorge Cantu and plays positions this team needs depth at.
Daniel Cabrera RHP- As mentioned above, he's a little bit of a project, but has un-hittable stuff when he's in control (which is about %50 of the time). He just needs to harness it and I can't help but think of his potential in this yard and in the NL. I think he will eventually figure it out and even if the Giants land the Unit, I want Cabrera too. Imagine the pitching depth: TL-Johnson-Cain-Sanchez-Zito-Cabrera-Lowry(if healthy). With the youngsters on their way Wow!
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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Winter Meetings Accomplish Little

The Giants went into Las Vegas with a few different agenda's on mind (hopefully none of which included strippers, roulette tables and an array of intoxicants). One of which was to try and figure out a way to get power and a little bit of defense onto one of the infield corners. They also had CC Sabathia on their radar as well as Randy Johnson, who could serve as an insurance policy if Noah Lowry is unavailable come March and April. However the most newsworthy item that came from them this week is that Aaron Rowand will be moving down in the lineup. CC ended up in New York, which is for the better anyway. Him, Timmy and Matty would have been brutal for opposing hitters, but it's just too hard to tie up that much money into only two pitchers, especially with Lincecum getting ready cash in big in 2 years. And apparently the asking price for any young hitter who could help was too much. So, amongst all that talk, Brian Sabean, Dick Tidrow, Felipe Alou, Bruce Bochy and Co. have to feel somewhat defeated as they leave Vegas Thursday because they got absolutely nothing accomplished there. Supposedly instead of pursuing players who could help this team, Sabean and co. were busy having dinner with Aaron Rowand, and trying to figure out where Pablo Sandoval and Fred Lewis would hit in the lineup. I don't know, it's always good to start planning ahead, but finish putting your product together before you start discussing batting slots and what not. It's early December, not February. Although I really didn't expected the Giants to do anything earth shattering in Vegas, I did hope that they would have been more involved and had made some progress towards doing something helpful, at the least. Maybe they did and it just got kept behind the scenes, but judging by the way Sabean lashed out at reporters during closing interviews, I'd say it's not likely.

The lack of activity from the Giants over the last few weeks, has lead me and many who follow the team religiously think that the team they currently have will most likely be the team we see take the field April 5th. If that's the case, the Giants would head into the year with absolutely no back-up plan for corner infielders Travis Ishikawa and Pablo Sandoval, both of whom have barely gotten their feet wet at the big league level. Starting the year with this current group of guys would also mean another middle of the order including the likes of Bengie Molina, Randy Winn and Fred Lewis. No knock on any of them as they are all nice players, but Molina isn't a cleanup hitter and Winn and Lewis seem better fit for 2nd in the order, although having one of them hit third wouldn't be too bad. They still may make a move to add a bat, but agian, listening and reading Sabean's interviews from the meetings is leading me to believe that this team is practically set. Joe Crede is looking more and more intriguing by the day knowing. Crede comes with a back issue that isn't clear but as I've state here many times, a one year deal with an option wouldn't hurt anything. Signing someone seems like the only option to get some power into the lineup at this point, as any trade for any type of young hitter seems to have gone out the window as GM's started filtering out of the Bellagio Wednesday and Thursday. Again you never know with a guy like Sabean, but I would expect the Giants to stay very quiet the rest of the winter.
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Monday, December 08, 2008

Winter Meetings Agenda

Major League Baseball's annual Winter Meetings got underway Monday morning in the Las Vegas, but as of midday, no real big news has surfaced regarding the Giants, or any other team for that matter. The Giants seem to be in on a number of players, free agents and possible trade targets alike but I would say that the chances of the Giants making any sort of newsworthy moves over the next few days aren't as likely as their flurry of recent action has lead some to believe. Still though, Sabean is there, hopefully taking part in meetings/discussions all day rather hanging out at the the Hard Rock, sipping cocktails and gambling away. The Giants have a glaring hole in the middle of their lineup and at the corner of their infield and that needs to be number one on the list this week for the Giants management. They've also had an eye on the CC Sabathia sweepstakes while conducting other business. If anything, the front office should have a clear picture as to where the market stands in both the trade avenue and free agency after Thursday. I have composed a list of the most linked players to the Giants over the last few weeks with a little blurb about each, so keep an eye on these guys over the next few days:

CC Sabathia: Giants are in it, and CC would like to come home. This situation is also turning out a lot like the Zito pursuit and they ended up with (unfortunately). Still say he ends up with the Dodgers or Yankees and I would like to see the Giants save that money for offense anyway.

Randy Johnson: He wants to pitch for the Giants (from Walnut Creek, went to USC) and had a great 2nd half in '08. He could be an option if Jon Sanchez is dealt and even though he's not the Unit of 10 years ago, he'd probably be pretty tough in this yard for a year while Alderson fine tunes in Connecticut and Fresno.

Adam Dunn: Though he's been linked to them, he's highly un-likely due to defensive ineptness and park factor, but Giants have at least contacted him due to their complete lack of any power in the lineup. They have nobody who is shoe in to hit even 20 home runs right now. If he could play first and comes at a discounted deal like (say, 3 years, $42 million), he might be worth it. If he came here though think more along the lines of a 30 hr, 80 RBI guy compared to his 40-100 consistency over the years in Cinci. Also, he's not as valuable to his team as his numbers would lead to believe, just ask the D-Backs. However, he is just about entering his prime and his best could be ahead of him.

Pat Burrell: Has the needed power and had he been free last winter, most certainly would have been the pursued outfielder over Rowand. The outfield is crowded now though and he would be below average at first if moved there.

Jorge Cantu: Giants could probably have him at any moment if they want to part with Sanchez. I wouldn't do it, but I could see it happening as a last resort to fill 3rd base.

Edwin Encarnacion: Very interesting player in that he has high offensive upside and is still young (25), but he has been atrocious at 3rd which is why the Reds are shopping him in the first place. A switch to 1B may be in his future, though not with the Reds) which would help the Giants too. There is a slim chance he'll be non-tendered, which would make him a free agent after the December 19th deadline, but I doubt that.

Hank Blalock: The Giants had confirmed interest last July before he got hurt. May not be able to handle 3rd on a daily basis right now (shoulder) and could see power numbers dwindle in this park. Still, reports yesterday had him remaining on their radar as he could be used at 1st until and if he's ready to play third again.

Joe Crede: He's the only possible 3rd basemen who could be had without trading any good young pitchers Sanchez or players like Burris. And although he's a gold-glove caliber defender and a run producer when healthy (he's only played 144 injury-riddled games over the last 2 seasons) so he's very much a risk/reward guy.

Miguel Tejada: The latest in the rumored infielders the Giants have interest in. I'm not sure how seriously to take this as Tejada isn't much of a run producer anymore (13 hr's, 63 RBI in 630 at bats playing at Minute Maid Park half the time). Only way I semi-consider taking Tejada is if Houston took back someone like Dave Roberts as both are in their last contract year. Houstons' journeyman Ty Wigginton doubled Tejada's hr total in almost 1/2 the at-bats, just to show you how low Tejada's power has dropped.
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Thursday, December 04, 2008

It's Finally Official, Renteria Signs

Although the initial report came about 2 weeks premature, the inevitable did finally happen officially on Thursday afternoon as the Giants signed shortstop Edgar Renteria to a 2 year, $18.5 million contract. I've gone over Renteria in depth over the past couple posts so I can't say much that hasn't already been said. I don't love this deal by any stretch, but I don't hate it either. Again, I would have rather seen Rafael Furcal sign since they were insisting on adding a shortstop, as I think his ceiling is a lot higher at this point that Renteria's (yes, even with the back concerns). That said, I fully expect Edgar to return to closer to his career averages next season after a sub-par year in Detroit. Renteria, by far, is better offensively than anyone the Giants have had at shortstop since earlier in the decade when a younger Rich Aurilia was playing all-star quality baseball for this team. The good news about Renteria is that he's supposedly working out diligently in order to right himself after last years disappointment, so he seems determined to rebound. Remember, he is just 2 years removed from an all-star season in Atlanta (.332 12 home runs, 57 RBI, 11 SB in 124 games). His best season came in 2003 in which he hit .330 with 13 home runs, 100 RBI and 34 stolen bases with St. Louis. Now 33, I doubt he has any breakout type seasons like that left, but I do expect an average around .290-.300, with 10-15 home runs and 60-70 RBI at the top of the Giants order while being a steady hand in the middle of the infield. I see him as the shortstop equivalent to Randy Winn, without as much speed. Again, not a game changer, but should be fine over the next 2 seasons and an upgrade to what they previously had. He should be fine here, I just would have rather gone in a different direction and targeted a game changing type shortstop (Hardy, Furcal) or given Burris the reigns for 2009 and looked into someone like Felipe Lopez or Jerry Hairston Jr. as insurance.

The Giants have been the most active team in baseball this winter and they aren't done yet, so active it's been hard to go a day without having something to post about. In addition to looking for more offense at the infield corners, they also have their eye on this years big fish. It appears C.C. Sabathia is very much on their radar and the consensus around the league is that Sabathia's two most likely destinations are San Francisco and New York (Yankees). Or course if the Giants did land C.C., they would likely trade Matt Cain for a power hitter, so you need to take that into account when assessing this situation. Still highly unlikely, but this story is starting to play out very similar to the Barry Zito two winters ago. More on this to come!
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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Giants Sign Howry, Looking At Cantu?

The Giants made their second official signing of the offseason on Wednesday morning signing reliever Bob Howry to a 1 year, $2.75 million deal. Howry gives the Giants another veteran reliever who can handle the pressure of the 7th and 8th innings, but he wasn't the most ideal choice out there. Of course there is always that other free agent that I personally would have liked to see them sign and in this case it was Kyle Farnsworth. Although Farnsworth is coming off of a subpar year with the struggling Yankees, he has always seemed to pitch better in the NL and I could have seen him returning to dominance in a spacious park like AT&T. However, Farnsworth wouldn't have taken a 1 year deal like Howry did so he was likely never even an option. Howry isn't bad, but he had a big fall off last season and although relievers do rebound, his age makes it unlikely that he's got any of those low 3 era seasons left in him. That said, I do expect him t come in and be steady. He's not going to rival anyone as the top set-up man in league, but he should get his era back into the mid-low 4's and his WHIP back below 1.4, at least. Overall I give this signing a flat C for the move. Howry is declining, but Sabean got him on a relatively cheap contract for one year and Howry should be fine for one summer. Not great, but hopefully better than Tyler Walker and more consistent than guys like Billy Sadler and Osiris Matos. With this signing, it also now shifts the Giants main focus to adding some hitters as they get set to head to Vegas for the Winter Meetings.

One of those potential hitting targets surfaced for the first time Wednesday. Yahoo Sports published this article earlier today saying that it was basically a matter of time before Edgar Renteria officially joins the Giants, which won't surprise anyone (My guess is that it happens Friday). What was a little bit of a surprise though was that it discussed a new rumor, one that had the Giants potentially sending Jonathon Sanchez to Florida for Jorge Cantu. I would like to think that Sanchez has more return value than just Cantu so if that's all he's commanding, I'd just assume keep him another year and watch his trade value rise even higher. Cantu isn't a bad player, but common, the dude was signed to a minor league deal less than nine months ago. Even after his breakout last season, I'd still approach him with caution and never would I part with a promising young left-handed power starter to get Jorge Cantu. The dude is basically a slightly better hitting version of Pedro Feliz, but nowhere near the defender. He'll hit a few more home runs and drive in a few more runs than Felis, but his OBP is nearly as abysmal as evident by his .808 OPS posted last season. An .808 OPS in itself isn't bad, but if the player hit 29 home runs and had 41 doubles, you'd expect to see it closer to .900. Also, the fact that Cantu can't touch Feliz defensively evens them out and to me they are an identical player (team value wise). If Sabes is targeting Marlins, sweeten the pot a little and go for Uggla. He's a year older than Cantu, but his career averages show he's a much safer bet to continue hitting 30 hr's and driving in 90 runs per.

I'm not saying that I wouldn't take Cantu at third on this team right now though. He's better than what they currently have and nobody on this team came close to his 29 home runs last season. One deal I would consider would be Merkin Valdez for Cantu. Valdez (1.69 era, 13 k's in 16 IP before injury) could provide a closing option for Florida who just dealt Kevin Gregg, so that may be something both parties would consider.
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Monday, December 01, 2008

Giants Watching Arbitration Closely

Monday, December 1st at 9 pm pacific marks the deadline for teams to offer their free agents arbitration. There was already word out of Detroit early in the day that the Tigers would not be offering Edgar Renteria arbitration, meaning any team could sign him without forfeiting one of their top draft picks. This move comes as a surprise to few as the Tigers bought Renteria out of his contract last month and it was pretty clear that his time in Detroit was over. Now the speculation should start flying again as the Giants have supposedly already been exchanging contract proposals with the 33 year-old shortstop. The team is still expected to be in on Rafael Furcal, but as I stated in my last post, those chances seem to be dwindling by the day and now that Renteria is officially "free" coupled with the fact that Sabean likes to strike quickly could mean that Renteria has moved onto the top of the Giants wish list of shortstops. I'm still not at all sold on Renteria and I still would rather see them put money into Furcal, as risky as that could be, than put big money into Renteria. San Jose Mercury's Andrew Baggerly reported that a Giants medical staff member told him that Furcal is "tough to recommend because of the years he wants" regarding his back injury. What's to say Renteria won't be just a risky, either with in-effectiveness or injury? He's getting older too and plays one of the most demanding positions on the diamond. The only advantage he has going for him is that he wants less years and that's not a good reason to sign someone. I still think Furcal is the better player, a bigger risk, but a superior player and I'd still rather see them sign him if the contract demands aren't too outrageous (3 yr. $37.5 million would be ideal).

The Giants will also be watching the Arizona Diamondbacks closely as they decide what they are going to do with second basemen, Orlando Hudson, and reliever, Juan Cruz. The Giants could realistically have their middle infield set by the end of the week if Hudson isn't offered Arbitration. If they sign Renteria, it would still leave them money left to pursue another player such as Hudson to help fill out their infield as he's been another player they've been linked to. I am weary of that as well because Hudson's offensive game would be eaten alive by AT&T Park as he's never homered and has only 3 extra base hits in 89 career plate appearances there. His splits show that he's clearly been aided by the "BOB" over his years in Arizona. Cruz could be out of the Giants price range (Could be looking for 3 yr. $20 million deal/or to close), but he is the best set-up pitcher in free agency and they have also had their eye on him. Sabean has ignored the bullpen over the last couple of off-seasons and he may finally be realizing his mistake. He already added Jeremy Affeldt the day after free agents could sign, and landing Cruz would certainly make the Giants bullpen one of the tougher ones in the league. Remember, they already have their all-star closer in Brian Wilson and a few young set-up guys in Sergio Romo, Merkin Valdez, Alex Hinshaw and the newly signed Affeldt. Add a Juan Cruz and this group will be set. If Cruz is un-attainable, Kyle Farnsworth wouldn't be a bad consolation.
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