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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Trading Rowand Might Be An Option

MLBTradeRumors.com posted and interesting piece today regarding the different players around baseball that are being vastly overpaid. After looking at the list, it makes me feel a little bit better about the Rowand, Renteria and Zito contract disasters, and it also got me thinking of how to possibly get one of these guys, most likely Rowand, off the Giants hands.

Now, this is mostly just speculation on my part, and since there really hasn't been anything to report on for the Giants over the last 2 weeks, I figured why not start some trade speculation. If the Giants have any hope of getting some of the dead weight like Aaron Rowand or Edgar Renteria off their roster, it would likely be in a deal in which they'd have to bring back some other teams' overpaid player in what basically amounts to a swap of bad contracts. Right away, when looking at the list of baseballs most overpaid players, the one name that I was surprised to see on there was Alex Rios. The 28 year-old outfielder was the guy that Brian Sabean and co. were considering dealing away either Tim Lincecum or Matt Cain for in the winter of 2007, but eventually passed. Rios went over to Chicago after the deadline this season, and played terribly. He hit just .199 with 3 home runs, 9 RBI and 26 k's in 146 at-bats with Chicago. The White Sox are also the team that brought up Aaron Rowand, and were supposedly interested in him when he was a free agent 2 years ago before the Giants swooped him up. Rios is due to earn 60 million over the next 5 seasons and Rowand is on the hook for 3 more years and $36 million. I also look at the White Sox need for second base while the Giants have Freddy Sanchez for another year, and I think he's expendable to them.

I have no idea if the White Sox would still have interest in Rowand after his 2 sub-par years in San Francisco though, and I'm not sure they're looking to trade Rios so soon after acquiring him as they may want to give him a full year in Chicago before assessing his performance. I just think that a Rowand and Sanchez for Rios deal would make some sense for both parties. The Sox would get a veteran center-fielder who they're familiar with and who's had success in Chicago in the past while also saving themselves upwards of 25 million dollars. They'd also get a second basemen who's been an all-star and a .300 hitter for much of his career in Freddy Sanchez. The Giants, I'm sure, would like to get Rios because they still see the upside he has and a move to a new league could be a nice change for him. In a way, he's almost seemed to digress over the last couple of seasons and I can't help but think that a move to a new league would give him a fresh start. I also look back to the summer of 2007 when Rios player here with the AL all-star team and put on a ridiculous showing in the home derby, repeatably hitting balls deep into the left field bleachers and up near the giant coke bottle that sits 505 feet away from home plate at AT&T Park. Again, this probably won't even be discusses between the two teams, but if they did, they'd probably see a little bit of logic in that deal.

WORLD SERIES
: Major League Baseball's Fall Classic takes kicks off tonight, with CC Sabathia squaring off with former mentor, Cliff Lee. I'm always stoked to watch the World Series, regardless of the match-up, but I really think the Phills and Yanks are about to give the world one heckuva battle. Both of these teams have the big offense, and both have their pitching staffs working at close to full health. I just really like the momentum that the Yankees have going for them right now, and I think they'll end up being too much to handle for the reigning world champs. The Yankees are running a 3-man rotation with Sabathia, Burnett and Pettite, who are all throwing very well in this postseason. I think Sabathia and Pettite could pose match-up issues vs. the Phills trio of Raul Ibanez, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley which could give them the slight edge in an otherwise tightly matched world series. I'm a National League guy, so naturally I'll be pulling for the Phillies here, but if I were to bet, I'd say the Yanks take it in 7.
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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sanchez and Garko Must Be Better In '10

The majority of the Giants' fan-core have been very open about there displeasure for Brian Sabean's trades from this last summer. Sabean sent two of the teams top-5 pitching prospects (#2 Tim Alderson and #5 Scott Barnes) away in separate trades for Freddy Sanchez and Ryan Garko, and their first 2 months in the orange and black couldn't have gone much worse for them.

For Freddy Sanchez, it was a problem for him to stay on the field. He played in just 25 of the 67 games that took place while he was on the Giants roster, and when he did play, he clearly was affected by his back. His numbers took a big time plummet after the trade, but I think it's more so the injury issues with Sanchez that have people frustrated. He's a good hitter when he's on and healthy, but he just couldn't stay on the field after coming over from Pittsburgh. He sported just a .295 OBP and a .619 OPS while with the Giants, and wasn't much of a run producer either, hitting just 1 homer, driving in 7 and scoring only 11 runs while hitting at the top of the Giants lineup. When taking a look at his career, if you take away 2006 and 2007's career years for Sanchez, he's really been mediocre. The Giants dealt for him based on his 2009 performance at that point, and I think Sabean felt comfortable dealing Alderson because he knew Sanchez wouldn't just be a rent-a-player. Because of that, I don't think the Giants will seriously consider declining their $8.5 million option on him. Since that's the case, all we can do is hope he gets right next year and hits over .300 with 40+ doubles and 75+ RBI, cause he's being paid to put up those kinds of numbers, and hopefully still has that potential.

Garko's a different story. Sure his failure in the NL can be partly attributed to learning the new league, but his performance in SF was borderline disastrous and only seemed to get worse as the season wore on. So bad in fact, that Bruce Bochy went back to Travis Ishikawa, the guy Garko was supposed to take over for, for much of the final month of the year when the Giants were making their run at that Wild Card. Garko also made some pretty ugly mistakes in the field too. If you take away one big game in Colorado in which he hit 2 hr's and drove in 4 runs, his numbers would be as follows: .235 avg, 0 hr, 8 RBI, .299 OBP and a .597 OPS in his 40 games with the Giants. Pretty disappointing that the only 2 home runs the so-called power-hitting first basemen hit in 40 games with his new team came in the most offensive friendly yard in baseball. I'm not trying to rip these guys apart, just stating the facts as to how their time in a Giants uniform went last season. These guys were dealt for to help the Giants with their pursuit of a playoff birth and they did nothing to help that cause. All this being said, these guys are Giants now and will be next season, so all we can do is hope they can turn things around, cause they have the potential too. Garko has 25 hr, 90 RBI potential, even as a platooner as he showed in Cleveland. He can be a valuable player, and the Giants are going to need to see that out of him next year.
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Monday, October 19, 2009

Performance Review: Sabean and Bochy

With so many people expressing mixed emotions about the Bochy/Sabean extensions over the past couple of weeks, I wanted to take a little bit more of an in-depth look at what these two have done here during their time in San Francisco.

It's no secret that Sabean has made big time mistakes over the past couple of years through free-agency. He signed Aaron Rowand and Barry Zito to multi-year deals that will ultimately pay the two under-achievers nearly 200 million dollars before their time in San Francisco is up. Then capped it off by guaranteeing a aging, injury prone under-achieving Edgar Renteria nearly $20 million for 2 years. Even since he took over reigns of the Giants in the mid-90's, free agency hasn't been too kind to Sabean and that's not how he's put his good teams together. Sure, he did get Juan Uribe for peanuts and Jeremy Affeldt on a great deal last off-season, but come on, every time this guy shells out multi-year, big dollar contracts, he flat out misses. If you look back through the years that Sabean has been pulling the strings for this team, all his big acquisitions that have paid off have come via trade (Jason Schmidt, Jeff Kent, Ellis Burks, Livan Hernandez, Kenny Lofton, Wilson Alvarez, Roberto Hernandez, Rob Nen, Randy Winn ect..). Now, a lot of those guys he ended up re-signing after he acquired them, and a few of them really paid off in that way (Jason Schmidt, Jeff Kent, Ellis Burks, Rob Nen) but those guys don't count as true free agent acquisitions since they were already with the team. So, Sabean's track record has clearly indicated that he's been much better on the trade market than he is in free agency.

However, ever since 2003, his trades have really turned into crap shots. The one player acquired after 2003 that I can think of as having an impact with the Giants for multiple seasons is Randy Winn. Other than that, all that comes to mind are Shea Hillenbrand, Sidney Ponson, Ryan Garko, Freddy Sanchez, dealing away Russ Ortiz after 2002 and getting nothing in return, and of course, the dreaded AJ Pierzynski deal. So, Sabean's had a bad track record in free-agency throughout his career, and now all the sudden he's striking out in the trade market that he used to be so good with? So why did the Giants extend him you ask? I think it's largely in part because of what he's done in the last couple of drafts. He's really rebuilt the farm system, although they still lack a bunch of offensive talent. He pulled the trigger on the small, unorthodox Tim Lincecum when other GM's where skeptical and I think that one pick is what ultimately has Sabean still running the team. Take away Timmy, and the Giants are very ordinary. Now Sabean has another tough task in locking up Lincecum for the long-term as he hits arbitration this winter.

I can't say as much about Bochy, because he's only been here 3 seasons, and in two of those seasons he really didn't have anything to work with on the field. What I've seen from him though, hasn't been bad, but certainly not great. For starters, I really do like the way he uses his pitching staff. It seems like everyone gets enough work in the pen, but they don't get overworked. He lets his starters' performance dictate how long they go in a game, and doesn't rely so much on a pitch count like Felipe Alou did. Now, that said, he does have some tendencies that I'd like to see changed. I don't like his stubbornness with the lineup. He insisted to hit Bengie Molina cleanup over the second half of last season at a time when Bengie was a guy who was weighing down the lineup in multiple ways. And like his predecessors, Felipe Alou and Dusty Baker, he definitely seems to feel much more confident in playing the veteran ballplayer. I can think of numerous games when Nate Schierholtz was hot in which he insisted on playing a struggling Randy Winn over the youngster. I'm just not sure this is a guy you want leading a young up and coming team. He's a little laid back, kind of suited to run a veteran ball club, and they might need some more energy from that spot. So yes, like with the GM spot, it would have made a lot of sense to get a younger person in there with new energy and philosophy, but at the same time, Boch did well with what he had in '09 and it would have been tough to fire him after that year.

If worst comes to worst, and Sabean fails to address their obvious needs this Winter and the team comes out and struggles under Bochy next summer, I wouldn't put it past the "Bowtie" to eat the final year of their deals and cut them loose.
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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Bochy, Sabean Sign Extensions

Though it wasn't official at the time, it was made pretty apparent in the Giants' postseason press conference last week that both manager Bruce Bochy and general manager Brian Sabean would be returning to the team for the 2010 season. On Tuesday, it became official, as both signed 2 year extensions with the Giants, with a club option for 2012 on both.

I'm still not too thrilled with the fact that both of these guys are going to stick around for another couple of seasons, but the deals are done, and I'm not going to sit here and magnify the mistakes these guys have made over the last couple of years. Sabean has been hit-or-miss in the free agent market over the past 5 years, with most of his moves coming up as misses. The area in which he has succeeded in though, is rebuilding this teams farm system. The organization, from top to bottom, is in much better shape now than it's been at any point this decade, and I think that is what ultimately got him his extension. The Giants are giving him two more seasons to see if he can finish off what he's started building here over the last few drafts, but if the Giants can't make the postseason in the next two years, I'd say Sabeans' run will finally come to an end. Bochy also will be here through 2011 with Sabean, and although I see the logic in bringing him back, I've not been too impressed with Boch in his time here running the team. That said, he did get his bunch to overachieve mightily this year, and the Giants' brass likely feels that he's the guy that's going to lead them back to the postseason. I just wasn't a fan of the way Boch filled out his lineup card on a nightly basis, such as the continues use of Bengie Molina in the cleanup spot, even when he was clearly struggling and hurting the team in that spot. On a positive side though, I do like how he'll play guys who are playing well, like playing Juan Uribe over Ryan Garko on most nights when Uribe was roping the ball and Garko was struggling. I'm really going to be interested to see how the Bochy/Sabean tandem pans out in 2010, as both will have expectations for the first time in a few years.

Sabean's going to have an interesting agenda this winter, as he'll try and add offense to the team without disrupting their great chemistry they have amongst their pitching staff. This team was really a hitter or two away from being a legit contender, and Sabean will be hard at work trying to find those bats this offseason. I just really hope he doesn't overpay, whether it be via a trade or free agency. The whole baseball world is aware of the Giants strengths and weaknesses, and teams know they're going to be in search of offense. The Chronicle's Bruce Jenkins wrote a piece last week in which he listed a few potential trade options for the Giants this winter, but none of the potential game changing, middle of the order bats the Giants need could likely be had without subtracting from their pitching staff. The one guy who's seemingly been mentioned every year over the last few seasons as a potential trade chip is Jonathan Sanchez. The 26 year-old lefty is coming off his best season as a pro (including a no-hit performance in July) and really started reaching his potential this year. He's the one guy I'd deem expendable in the right situation, since they have Madison Bumgarner so close to being ready to take a spot in the Giants rotation.

Trade Target?
One name from Jenkins article that I would really like to see the Giants pursue if possible is B.J. Upton. I'm fairly certain that he'd cost the Giants more than just Jonathan Sanchez, but he's the type of guy I'd consider putting together a nice package for, especially since he's coming off a sub-par year and his trade value could be at an all-time low. Apparantly the Rays are really focused on signing Carl Crawford to an extension, and they have 22 year-old top prospect Desmond Jennings (.320, 11 HR, 62 RBI, 52 SB in AA and AAA in '09), ready to start his big league career. The Rays are not likely actively seeking to deal Upton, but I'm sure he could be had in for the right deal.
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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Giants Offseason Begins Now

The Major League Baseball offseason doesn't officially start until the end of the World Series, when free-agents can file and trades can be made. However, for the Giants and GM Brian Sabean, the offseason planning should start now.

Even after a year in which they overachieved, the Giants have a bunch of question marks heading into the winter. In our last post, I put a bow on the Giants season and talked about some positive things they have to look forward to in 2010 (Pablo Sandoval, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Brian Wilson etc..) but they still have a bunch of things they need to figure out in house, and they only will have a couple of weeks to do so before all the baseball world enters the off-season mode.

The major questions for the Giants will be what to do with their impending free-agents, and they certainly have a couple of key ones. The two guys who have been tenured here the longest, Bengie Molina and Randy Winn, will both be free agents in a couple of weeks, and I'd say chances are that neither will return. It's pretty clear that Winn will be finding a new home, as he struggled through 2009 with minimal power and without his usual steady average and base stealing abilities, but Molina will poses a tough situation. I think the Giants want him around for another season, to help Buster Posey with his transition to the big leagues and to keep him with these young starters who he's worked so well with over the years. However, Molina will be one of the most sought-after catchers in a very thin free-agent market and will most assuredly get bigger dollars and more years from other interested teams. Based on what Buster Posey showed in his brief stint in September here, he still has a little ways to go before he can be counted on as an everyday guy, so if Molina does depart, Sabean will need to find another veteran presence who can share and possibly shoulder the load should Posey deem un-ready.

It's not just the catching position that is unclear for the Giants in 2010 though, as they sit right now, they have openings in right field, left field, the corner infield spot that Pablo Sandoval doesn't end up at, and quite possibly second base. Unfortunately the Giants will be paying Edgar Renteria to play everyday at short next year otherwise they could use an upgrade there as well. Judging by Sabean's words in his postseason press conference, it appears as if the Giants are planning to have Freddy Sanchez back in 2010, even though he's going to cost upwards of 10 million dollars and sorely (no pun intended) disappointed in his brief stint here this summer. The real tough questions with this team though lie in the outfield, where Sabean will need to fill 2 spots. The Giants don't have any outfielders in the system who are remotely close to contributing at the big league level, so unless they plan on rolling with Schierholtz and Velez as their corner outfielders, there will be some movement there.

It's going to be another month or more before moves start to be made, sure, but that doesn't mean that the Giants should be sitting on their hands waiting for things to happen. They need to figure out how they're going to address all the questions above, and hopefully by the time November roles around, they'll have their plan in place.
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Monday, October 05, 2009

Giants End Season On High Note

The Giants ended their 2009 season on Sunday, going out with a victory in San Diego, capping off what was a very surprising and successful year for the organization.

Pablo Sandoval also put a nice final touch on his season, as he hit the game-winning solo home run in the 10th inning to put the Giants on top for good. Then Brian Wilson came on to shut the door on the Pads for his 38th save of the year. It was really a fitting way for "Big Panda" to finish off his year with that home run, as he really emerged as the Giants' team MVP in 2009. He showed a glimpse of what he could do at the end of the 2008 season, and didn't disappoint in the slightest in 2009. Sandoval's final line for the '09 season looks pretty darn good: .330 avg, 25 HR, 90 RBI, .943 OPS, and I think he's just starting to tap into the potential that he has. It took him a little while to get his power bat going too, as he only hit 3 home runs over the first two months of the season, so he's definitely got some room for improvement. What really surprised me throughout his season, was the improvement he showed in his plate discipline. It's no secret that he's more of a free swinger than your average ML hitter, and that works for him, but the reason why he was able to carry an average in the .330's for most of the season was because of his improved eye at the plate. He walked just 4 times in 145 at-bats as a rookie last year, but walked 52 times in 572 at-bats in 2009. Oh yeah, he's still just 23 years old, which means he's not even close to hitting his full potential yet, and that's pretty scary.

Unfortunately, the Giants didn't have many other young players step up and cement themselves a full-time role with this team going forward. Nate Schierholtz showed glimpses at times, but the more at-bats he got over the course of the year, the less impressive he was. Same with Eugenio Velez. His first 200 at-bats of the year couldn't have gone much better than they did, but then he mellowed out a bit towards the end of the year. Velez did, however, show that he deserves a pretty prominent role with this team going forward. If the Giants decide not to exercise their option on Freddy Sanchez, and don't add anyone else from outside the organization this winter, there's a solid chance Velez could end up at second base, or at least play heavily into the mix there, in 2010. He did go out on a positive not though as well, as he was 3-5 with 2 runs and 2 sb's in Sunday's season finale. Another guy who really stepped up at the end of the year was Andres Tores And it really was the younger players, Ishikawa, Sandoval, Schierholtz and Andres Torres, that carried the Giants in the second half. The team did not get big contributions from Bengie Molina, Randy Winn and Aaron Rowand in the second half whatsoever, but their pitching, defense, and young timely hitting kept them in the wild card race until the final days of the season, and that's likely more than any Giant fan was expecting out of them coming into the season.

GBB Note
: Posting here has been a little sporadic over the last 2 weeks, as we've been busy with school and other obligations, but we fully intend to get back on track of at least 2-3 posts per week in the offseason. We'll have much more season review and offseason previews throughout October, as well as some other MLB playoff talk, so stay tuned!!!
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