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Friday, January 29, 2010

Giants 2010 Top-20 Prospects: GBB Editon

The Giants have been so busy this offseason with player movement and rumors, so our prospect ranking for 2010 has been delayed a bit, but with spring training quickly approaching, I wanted to get it out there. Especially since a few of the guys off the list will be appearing in Scottsdale with the big club, and I want to make sure everyone knows a little something about players like Thomas Neal, Nick Noonan and Clayton Tanner. These are the top 20 prospects in the Giants system based on our ratings, we're not taking any other publications into consideration when making this post, this is %100 our opinion.

#1 Buster Posey, C: The 22 year-old backstop is baseball's #4 overall prospect, according to BA, and figures to play heavily into the Giants' plans in 2010. He was the minor league player of the year last year when he hit a combined .325 with 18 homers and 80 RBI and a .955 OPS split between high-A San Jose and AAA Fresno. He had 17 un-impressive at-bats with the Giants at the tail end of the year and will start the year off in Fresno to get some final refining before arriving in the big leagues for good. Best Giants positional prospect since Will Clark, and I'm expecting him to have that kind of impact on the team when he eventually arrives. Should fit right in with Joe Mauer and Matt Wieters as the top young catchers in baseball.

#2 Madison Bumgarner, SP
: BA's #10 overall prospect got his feet wet in the bigs last season as well, and fared much better than Posey during his September showing. In fact, his 4 game stint that yielded a 1.80 era and 10 K's in just 10 innings of work has given the Giants the confidence to consider the 20 year-old the favorite for the open fifth starters spot. The 6'4" lefty went 12-2 with a 1.66 era, a 0.95 WHIP and 92 K's in 131 innings of work split between A and AA ball in '09. The drop off in K's were mostly due to his diminished velocity (down from 95-97 mph to 91-92 mph). However, the Giants are confident that the drop off in velocity was because of mechanical issues like throwing across the body rather than anything health wise or permanent. I'm expecting Bumgarner to win the Giants 5th starters spot out of spring and make a strong push for NL Rookie of the Year as he follows in the footsteps of Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum.

#3 Thomas Neal, OF: Neal has given the Giants system a huge shot in the arm, as they've been hard-pressed to find any kind of outfield prospects with legit power, but Thomas Neal appears to be just that. He made BA's prospect of the week a few different times in '09, in route to hitting .337 with 22 bombs and 90 RBI and a 1.010 OPS. The 22 year-old brings tremendous patience in his approach, and that should really help him at higher levels, another area of development in which the Giants have lacked over the years. He'll be in Spring Training with the big club, but I'm expecting him to start off in AA Richmond, while possibly appearing in AAA Fresno before the end of the year. Depending on how he's doing, and what's going on in the Giants outfield, we could see him with the big club at some point in August or September and could definitely have a future in with the Giants and possibly as a middle-of-the-order type bat.

#4 Zack Wheeler, SP: It's tough to rank Wheeler this high based on the simple fact that he's yet to throw a pitch in his professional career, but he looks like he's going to be the Giants right-handed version of Madison Bumgarner. Throws 93 with consistency, and can touch 95-96 and was doing that as an 18 year old, so he's still go plenty of room for growth. He's got sound mechanics and really reminds me of a young John Smoltz with the way he delivers the ball to the plate. Likely slated to start the season in low-A Salem, but I expect most of the 19 year-old's work in 2010 to come in San Jose.

#5 Tommy Joseph, C/1B: Unfortunately for the Giants, they've lost their top 1st base prospect in Angel Villalona for the foreseeable future, but luckily for them, they've got Tommy Joseph to help ease that loss. The former high-school catcher will likely find himself at first base when he starts his pro career in April, and I'm expecting big time power from him. He hit 15 homers in 77 at-bats as a high-school senior, good for a rate of 1 homer per 5 at-bats. That's some raw power right there. He also showed uncanny patience for a high school hitter by walking 21 times in 98 plate appearances. I'm expecting Joseph to take off offensively once he gets comfortable at first and quickly become the Giants first-basemen of the future.

#6 Roger Kieschnick, OF
: Big time power prospect hit 23 homers and drove in 110 runs for the San Jose Giants in 2010. Does strike out a bit too much, but improvement in that area should come with time. He's not quite as polished as Thomas Neal as a hitter, but the Giants envision both of them in their future outfield plans. Roger's also got baseball in his bloodline as his big brother Brooks played with the Cubs and Brewers in the 90's and early 2000's. He'll start the season in AA Richmond and could elevate as quickly as his play will allow him too!

#7 Dan Runzler, RP: Kept his era below 1.04 at all five stops he made last season including in San Francisco with the Giants (1.04 era, 11 K's in 8.2 innings). Still can be a tad wild at times, and really reminds me of Brian Wilson when he was breaking in with the Giants. He's left-handed and can get the ball upwards up 97 mph and those guys don't come around too often. I think Runzler is going to become one of the Giants premiere relief arms and should give Bruce Bochy a solid late inning option along with Jeremy Affeldt and Sergio Romo.

#8 Brandon Crawford, SS: Had kind of a Jekyll and Hyde showing in 2009, as he started the year red-hot in San Jose (.374, 6 HR, 17 RBI in 105 at-bats) then hit a wall in AA (.258 avg, .298 OPS in 392 at-bats) before finally figuring it out and leveling off. Very sound defensive player with upside in his bat, but he's got to find his stroke at the upper levels. That start in San Jose and a few spurts in AA have given me hope that he's going to figure it out. Plate discipline needs to improve though, but certainly has the chance to be a solid all-around shortstop in the future.

#9 Francisco Peguero, OF: Speedy, high-average prospect really burst onto the scene in 2009 and put himself on the Giants map by hitting a solid .340 at low-A Augusta after hitting .394 to begin the year with in Salem. He walked just 5 times in over 240 plate appearance, but the Giants are sure patience will come with experience.

#10 Nick Noonan, IF: Still hasn't had that breakout season, but at age 20, he's already got 2.5 solid pro seasons under his belt. Kind of disappointed by hitting just .259 with San Jose in 2009, but still has a ton of un-reached potential. Some compared him to a lesser powerful version of Chase Utely, but his bat isn't quite where the Giants are expecting it to be yet. I think 2010 will be a big year in terms of telling us what kind of player Noonan will become.

#11 Henry Sosa, SP: This spot is mostly based on potential, and what Sosa's shown when healthy, but he's yet to put together a full, healthy season since coming to the organization in 2006. Still showed glimpses last season, going 6-0 with a 2.36 era in 14 starts in AA. His strikeout numbers were a tad low (5.5 K/9) but his 1.19 WHIP was a positive. He could make a full-time switch to the bullpen, which could keep him healthy, but I'd love to see the 24 year-old figure things out as a starter cause he's got the potential to be right up there with Bumgarner and Wheeler if he can figure it out.

#12 Clayton Tanner, SP: I seem to like Tanner a lot more than most scouts do. He's put together two solid seasons in a row in San Jose at ages 20 and 21, and now should finally be moved up in the system after just turning 22. He's not flashy, but he's quietly gone 22-14 with a 3.33 era and 205 K's in 256 innings of work over the last 2 years. I'm very intrigued to see how he fairs in his first test above level A, but I think he's going to continue to deal and could find himself in the top-10 of the 2011 prospect list with another good year. Kind of reminds me of Noah Lowry in a way as he's really been solid in the minors, but isn't too flashy and is really flying under the radar so to speak.

#13 Rafael Rodriguez, OF: Still extremely young (won't be 18 until July) and raw, but showed some great poise in rookie ball in 2009. His power isn't quite there yet, but hit the ball wall and showed good plate discipline in his 35 games in Arizona. He's another guy who I'm excited to see in 2010 and will keep very close tabs on throughout the year as he's likely destined for low-A Salem to begin with.

#14 Ehire Adrianza, IF
: Kind of the infield version of Francisco Peguero, didn't do too much offensively after being hyped up coming into the year. Still just 20 years old though, so he's got some time to put it all together still, but I'm just not sure he's ever going to have the bat to match his all-world glove.

#15 Jason Stoffel, RP: Had a solid career closing out games for the Stanford Cardinal, and very well could end up being a steal as a fourth rounder. Throws hard, and has a nice secondary pitch to compliment his fastball. I'm expecting him to climb the ladder very quickly and eventually be a contributor to the Giants bullpen.

#16 Waldis Joaquin, RP
: He's one of the better relief prospects in the system and had a nice brief showing with the big club late last year. Joaquin is another guy who is getting a spring training invite and could very well find himself on the teams' opening day roster if he throws well. He's not an easy guy to hit, as he only allowed 41 hits in 64 innings of work in the minors last season and at age 23 is just now realizing his potential.

#17 Chris Dominguez, 3B
: Ranked by BA as the Giants' systems top power hitter. Another guy who could end up being a steal for where he was taken, he was definitely one of my favorite picks of the draft. Not too sure about his defensive abilities, haven't heard anything positive or negative yet as I've only seen him swing the bat. If all things went well with him, I could see him turning into a Troy Glaus/Mark Reynolds type, but that's absolute best-case scenario. I'm expecting a lot out of Dominguez though, and look for him to play most of the 2010 season in A San Jose with the other hitters from the '09 draft.

#18 Darren Ford, OF: Speedy center fielder had a breakout season in 2009. Granted it was his third go-round in A ball, he still has a lot of tools that the Giants like. He's a great baserunner, who gets good jumps and can steal bases at a high percentage. He's also a very good defensive center fielder. Kind of reminds me of Rajai Davis/Michael Bourne type and showed some surprising pop last year (9 homers in 380 ab's). Should start 2010 in AA and could be in Fresno before the years done.

#19 Craig Clark, SP: The lefty did a tremendous job in '09, though he was a little advanced for his placement. He threw well at age 24-25 at a level (high-A) consisting of mostly 20-22 year old players. Still, a 16-2, 2.86 era with a 8.2 K/9 ratio cannot be ignored. Those are some gaudy numbers no matter what level your throwing at. In fact, in his 3 year minor league career, Clark is 29-9 with a 3.12 era and an 8.5 K/9 mark. I'd like to see him make the jump to AAA to start the year with in '10.

#20 Brett Pill, 1B: Entering the final phase of prospect-eligibility at 25, the year he had in 2009 can't be ignored. He hit .298 with 19 hr and 109 RBI in a league notoriously known for big ballparks and good pitching (AA's Eastern League). Reminds me a lot of Travis Ishikawa, just right-handed, and could find himself in the mix with the Giants if Aubrey Huff gets hurt or doesn't rebound from 2009. LHP Aaron King, RHP Matt Graham

Just missed:
LHP Aaron King (had nice showing in 2009 in San Jose, another solid lefty, very Scott Barnes-like), RHP Matt Graham (huge potential in his right-arm, dropped a few rounds in draft because of commitment to UNC) , IF Connor Gillaspie (major dissapointment last year, but not ready to give up on him yet)

Best of the rest:
RHP Jose Casilla, RHP Edwin Concepcion, 1B Brandon Belt, RHP Steve Edelfsen, LHP Eric Surkamp, OF Wendell Fairley, C Jackson Williams, RHP Kevin Pucetas, C Hector Sanchez, RHP Jorge Bucardo
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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Giants' Roster Shaping up for Spring

After the Giants inked Bengie Molina to a 1-year, $4.5 million dollar deal last week to shore up their starting catching spot, the Giants appear to have their roster set as Spring Training begins in just a few short weeks.

The one piece of news that surfaced last week, and something that could very well impact the potential opening day lineup, was that Freddy Sanchez recently went under the knife in order to clean out his shoulder. The surgery will apparently keep the 2-time all-star and former batting champion out for all of spring training and could cause him to start the regular season on the DL. The Giants are counting on Sanchez to be a huge part of their offense and anchor the top part of their order, especially since they don't have a true leadoff man, so they're going to be very cautious with his rehab. This is where that re-signing of Juan Uribe pays off so big. Instead of having to re-work their whole lineup plan and move Mark DeRosa from left field to second base, they can simply insert Uribe and keep the rest of the lineup as planned. DeRosa could get also get some looks at second, but I think the Giants are going to want to keep him in the outfield as much as possible, as they don't have a ton of outfield depth at the moment. They could have had Xavier Nady, who in my mind would have fit in perfectly with the Giants, at around $4 million for 2010 if they wanted, as he just signed a 1-year, $3.3 million deal with the Cubs. Don't be surprised to see him go to Wrigley and put up a big year, like .300, 25 homers and 90+ RBI, .850+ OPS big.

Since it appears that Sabean is no longer considering positional talent on the free agent market, it appears the only potential add for Giants from here on out would be a reliever or 2, or possibly a fifth starter. I believe Sabean as at a point in where he's not really pursuing anyone, but is probably monitoring a few guys (Chan Ho Park, Kiko Calero?) just in case they fail to find an employer in the next few weeks. I was kind of hoping the Giants would add a high-profile type starter to allow them to ease Madison Bumgarner into the mix like they're doing with Posey, but after seeing the contract the A's just singed Ben Sheets to, (1 year, $10 million guaranteed) I don't think they'd get anyone to fit their budget. Erik Bedard is still out there, but since Sheets got $10 million without pitching in 2009, Bedard is going to want a nice sum of money too, and he actually threw in 2009 and threw very well (for the parts when he was healthy). If the Giants surprise though like they did with Molina, and pull a rabbit out of their hat, imagine the potential of a Lincecum-Bedard-Cain-Sanchez-Zito fivesome? I think they'd be your NL West favorites, and with that staff, they could be the class of a wide open National League.

GBB Note: I was originally planning to do our top-prospect evaluation post today, but I've recently injured my thumb and currently have it in a splint. Unfortunately I can't type for as long as that post will take me at the moment, but I fully intend to have that up in our next post on Thursday, so be on the lookout for that.
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Friday, January 22, 2010

GBB On HotStove TV!

Hey guys, I just wanted to give you a heads up that I will be making an appearance on HotStove TV over at http://www.hotstove.com/.

On the Agenda will be the Giants off-season moves thus far, the situation regarding Tim Lincecum and arbitration, and I'm sure we'll also get into the latest news, Freddy Sanchez having surgery and likely missing all of the Spring and the early part of the season. Be sure to tune in and support yours truly and The Giants Baseball Blog! Live at 1PM Pacific Time, be there!

If you missed it, here is the video attached below:

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bengie Returns, Arbitration Begins

In a move that really came out of nowhere, Brian Sabean and the Giants have re-signed Bengie Molina to a one-year, $4.5 million to return to San Francisco for the 2010 season. Molina rejected a better offer from the Mets to return to the Giants, apparently showing who he thinks has the better chance to win in 2010.

Earlier in the offseason, Brian Sabean made it clear that the Giants wouldn't be entertaining the idea of bringing Molina back, which made me really scratch my head when I heard the news. I thought KNBR must had made a mistake, but it wasn't the case. With the way the market has shaped up, and the wacky contracts that have been given out to mediocre catchers (2 year deals to guys like Pudge Rodriguez and Jason Kendal), plans obviously changed. The catching market wasn't very lucrative to begin with, and the only other starting catcher options outside of Molina were Rod Barajas and Yorvit Torrealba. Molina is knows the Giants pitching staff inside and out, and will provide more offensively than both Torrealba and Barajas, and I think those were the two factors that ultimately pushed Sabean's hand. Molina was the best option left on the market as far as catchers go, and will enable the Giants to ease Buster Posey into mix rather than throwing him into the fire. Although I was really excited to see Buster Posey get significant playing time early in the 2010 season, I certainly see the logic in bringing Molina back. They obviously feel Posey isn't ready to handle the full load, and judging by what he showed at the end of '09, he really isn't. I don't love this signing by any stretch, but like the others this offseason, I can't really complain about the terms of it. All things considered, the Giants are a stronger team than they were at the beginning of the day, and that's the most important thing.

The Giants also have begun arbitration cases with their eligible players. Sabean did avoid arbitration with Jonathan Sanchez by signing him to a $2.1 million deal for 2010, which I think is a very fair deal for both parties. Now Sabean can turn his focus to Tim Lincecum and Brian Wilson. Lincecum's party submitted a figure in the neighborhood of $13 million while the Giants countered with $8 million. I'm actually a little surprised the Giants didn't offer at least $10 million, but I think Lincecum will still end up getting closer to the $13 million he requested than what the Giants offered. It looks like he's going to indeed break the arbitration record of $10 million set by Ryan Howard. I think the Giants should just give him the $13 million and keep "The Franchise" happy cause he's worth about double that to the Giants anyway. The Giants and Brian Wilson were much closer in their case. Wilson submitted a $4.85 million request and the Giants submitted an even $4 million. I'd guess the Giants will go ahead and give him $4.5 or so for next season. And with these moves, it looks like the Giants' offseason work could be winding up. They've finally got the catching question answered, and unless they have a right-fielder or a number five starter fall into their lap in the next couple weeks, I think they're pretty much done, outside of possibly adding another reliever to the mix.

Coming Soon: Be on the lookout for GBB's 2010 Giants Top-20 prospect list!
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Monday, January 18, 2010

Eric Byrnes Wants to Play in SF

Spring Training reporting dates are exactly one month away, and most teams are putting their final touches on their rosters, while the remaining free agents start to accept lower offers than what they were seeking when the offseason began (see Adam LaRoche) to ensure they'll be employed in 2010.

One player who just became a free-agent after being released by the Diamondbacks is Northern California native Eric Byrnes. I think Sabean would be open to adding another outfielder on his terms, and I could definitely see Byrnes fitting into Sabeans plan. Not too mention Byrnes has made it crystal clear that he would love to be a Giant, he lives in the area during he offseason and has an outstanding relationship with the Giants flagship radio station, KNBR 680. Baseball wise,Byrnes is coming off of a couple injury plagued seasons for the D-Backs, as he's hit just .214 with 14 home runs, 54 RBI and a measly .655 OPS in '08-'09 combined. A broken hand cost him 2 1/2 months in '09, and when he returned, the D-Backs were out of contention and playing younger players like Gerardo Parra. I don't think all of Byrnes struggles over the last 2 seasons can be attributed solely to injury, because when he was healthy, he didn't look very good either. That said, he's just 2 seasons removed from a 26 homer, 50 stolen base season, and at age 33, he's still probably got a rebound and few good years left in him. The good thing about his situation, is that any team that might want to add him, only has to pay him the league minimum, as he'll collect 11 million from the D-Backs in 2010. Because of that, he's no somewhat intriguing for a lot of teams.

As far as the Giants are concerned, they still could be in the market for another outfielder, even after adding Aubrey Huff and penciling in Mark DeRosa for left field. As they sit now, they have Aaron Rowand, Mark DeRosa and Nate Schieholtz starting across the outfield. Schierholtz is the one guy who they could potentialy replace if someone like Xavier Nady or Jermaine Dye (just because I know Sabean would be interested in him at the right price) fall onto their lap in the waning moments of the offseason, but Byrnes wouldn't fit that bill. Where Bynres does fit is in the 4th outfield role. The Giants will have Eugenio Velez, Andres Torres and Jon Bowker all battling it out for the 4th and possibly 5th outfield spots and Byrnes could joining the battle. I like Velez as a utility guy, and think Torres and Bowker are more than serviceable AAA outfielders who can come up and fill in at times in the big leagues, but none of these guys have, the term Brian Sabean uses so often, "much of a track record". Eric Byrnes has a track record and a pretty good one to boot. I would see the logic in offering Byrnes on a minor league invite, and having him battle it out with the guys I mentioned for a bench spot. Byrnes has the flexibility to play all 3 outfield positions well and outside of Torres in center field, I think he's better defensively than those 3 guys. Since he's so interested in playing here, and would probably gladly except a minor league invite, I don't see why Sabean wouldn't want him in camp with the Giants next month. It would be a scenario in which the Giants would add some insurance for Nate Schierholtz in right, while still allowing Nate to be the everyday right fielder. Byrnes could also spell Rowand in center, and when he's on he'd probably be the Giants best leadoff option when he plays.

So, all in all, bringing in Eric Byrnes on a spring training invite, allowing him a chance to make the team, really could end up a steal much like the Juan Uribe signing was last spring. If he continues to struggle like he's done the last 2 years, then you let him go and it costs you absolutely nothing. Even in that case he'd still give you a nice clubhouse presence and a positive influence on the younger players during spring training. If he makes the team, and regains some of that '06-'07 form, then the Giants get themselves a heckuva 4th outfielder for the league minimum, who could spell Nate Schierholtz vs. left-handed pitching. Heck, if he regained his 2007 form, he'd probably be the teams best outfielder. Not a bad gamble if you ask me.
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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Giants Cut Valdez, Focusing on Catcher

The Giants made a move Thursday to officially get their 40-man roster set after the addition of Aubrey Huff. The odd man out was Merkin Valdez, who was designated for assignment by the Giants, but should have no problem finding a home before pitchers and catchers report to spring training in a little over a month.

I was a little surprised to see Merkin get released, as I still think he has potential to be a plus late-inning reliever in this league, but he's suffered continuous health problems during his tenure with the Giants. 2009 was actually his longest stint in the majors in his career so far, and he didn't do much too impress the Giants' brass. He finished the year with a 5.66 era and a 1.72 WHIP. A lot of people close to the organization, myself included, expected big things for Merkin in '09 after he sparkled in his brief stint in the 2008 season ( 1.69 era, 14 k's and a .237 BAA in 16.1 IP). As the centerpiece in the trade the sent Russ Ortiz to the Atlanta Braves back in 2003, Valdez never lived up to the hype in San Francisco, and I think a change of scenery could probably do him some good. I'm not too surprised with the move either, though there were a few others that I would have rather seen DFA'd than Valdez. I don't think Ryan Rohlinger really has much of a future with this club, and the same can be said for Matt Downs. Even though Valdez struggled last year, he still has a power arm, and is still just 28 years old, so he very well could turn into a solid Major League releiver in due time, but it won't be in San Francisco.

The guy taking Valdez's roster spot, Aubrey Huff, officially joined the Giants on Wednesday. During the conference call that introduced Huff, Brian Sabean also hinted that the Giants are planning to enter serious negotiations with former Giant catcher, Yorvit Torrealba. The 31 year-old backstop is running out of options, as his contract demands placed him out of the Rockies plans and they went with Miguel Olivo to team up with Chris Ianetta. Torrealba doesn't really excite me whatsoever, even as just a stop-gap for Buster Posey. If Sabean wants to add a catcher so Posey isn't forced into a starting spot by default, I'd like to see them go after Rod Barajas. I think Torrealba's a good guy to have on a team and all, but he's a vastly overrated player. He put together a few clutch hits during the Rockies post-season run in 2007, but looking at his stats over the years, both defensive and offensive, he really hasn't been all that good. I don't want to start bashing Yorvit, but there just isn't one particular area of his game that is very good. His career average sits at .255, he doesn't hit for power or drive in runs, and he really isn't anything special defensively. I read somewhere a few days ago that Torrealba sports one of the lowest percentages at throwing out attempted base-stealers in the National League over the last few years. I know he comes to the ballpark each day ready to play, he's a positive presence in the clubhouse and comes up with the occasional clutch hit, but stats don't really lie, and his aren't that good.

Rod Barajas at least brings power, drives in runs and keeps teams from running crazy on him. Once Posey is ready, he could become a right-handed power bat off the bench and even play some first base. Barajas doesn't hit for a high batting average, but would bring nearly identical run production numbers compared to what Bengie Molina did. He also is a little quicker on the base-paths than Bengie. He's done a good job with Toronto's pitching staff, as he's caught Cy Young winner Roy Halladay and has helped develop some of the younger arms for Toronto, such as Ricky Romero and Brett Cecil. Not saying that I'd be excited to see Barajas join the team, I like the idea of throwing Posey into the fire and see if he responds like Pablo Sandoval did in 2008, but since the Giants seem insistent on adding another backstop, I think Barajas is the best options for this team right now. He'll provide power to a lineup that still could use it, even after adding Aubrey Huff and Mark DeRosa, he'll call a good game and can slide into the back-up role when Posey officially arrives full-time. I just see more positives in his game than I do in Torrealba's, or any of the other sub-par free agent catching options that are still looking for a home.
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Monday, January 11, 2010

Giants Add Aubrey Huff

In a low-risk, potentially high-reward attempt to add offense to their lineup, the Giants came to an agreement with free agent 1B/DH Aubrey Huff on Sunday. The deal will pay Huff in the neighborhood of $3 million to be their primary first basemen in 2010, after they failed to add their first choice, Adam LaRoche.

Now, Huff doesn't excite me like he would have had they added him 5-6 years back, but It's tough to argue with a potential 30-home run, 100 RBI guy coming in for just $3 million and 1 season. I sort of overlooked Huff this off-season, and didn't write about him at all, even though I probably should have seen something like this coming. I just really thought it would be LaRoche signing with the Giants, and when they had announced they were close to signing a left-handed bat a couple days ago, I figured it would be Adam LaRoche. I would have rather seen the Giants ink LaRoche too, but since his demands were exceeding his worth to the Giants, I see the logic in going with plan B. Huff will give the Giants almost everything LaRoche would have, without quite the defense and batting average. Huff struggled last year to the tune of .241 (avg), 15 (hr), 85 (RBI), .694 (OPS), despite putting up a career type year in '08 when he hit .304, 32, 108, .912. That line he put up in '08 was one of the best in the AL, and although I don't expect him to do that in San Francisco, it's pretty clear that he still has some solid baseball left in him.

The main concerns with Huff are his defense at first base and his dramatic drop-off in production last year. His sub-.700 OPS he put up last year raises some big red-flags, but each time I think about the potential negatives of his game, I remember that he's only being paid $3 million for 1 year and if it doesn't work out for some reason they can put him on the bench. Or if worst comes to worse, they can DFA him and only be out a couple million, but I really don't see it getting to that. I think Huff is going to have a nice rebound year, as he probably wants to prove he's worthy of another multi-year deal before he's done. He just turned 33 years old, so it's not like he's an old ballplayer quite yet, and that's what's giving me reason to believe he's got a couple good years left in him. Again, I would much rather have had Adam LaRoche at first for the Giants in '10, but since they would have had to overpay to get him, it's really tough to complain about the Aubrey Huff deal. And yes, to those of you in question, Huff is better than Ryan Garko.

Huff will arrive at camp atop the Giants' first base depth chart, but he also has the flexibility to play a few different places. Some are concerned about Huff needing to learn a new league, but he's not a complete stranger to the NL. He played with Houston for half of the '06 season and put up some nice numbers (13 hr, 38 RBI, .819 OPS in 224 ab's). I'd like to see him slotted into the fifth spot behind Pablo Sandoval, as he's the one Giant in the lineup who's got a 100-RBI season under his belt. That would place DeRosa in the three spot ahead of Sandoval creating a DeRosa-Sandoval-Huff middle of the order. Not exactly what I was hoping for when the offseason began, but probably the best trio they've had in these spots since 2004, as all 3 are capable of 20 hr, 80 RBI and a .800+ OPS. Huff's $3 million salary could enable the Giants to add another outfielder (Xavier Nady?) if there are still a bunch available heading into February, so they may not be done quite yet. They also could put that money towards a #5 starter like Erik Bedard.

Another positive about this Huff signing is that it will leave Pablo Sandoval at third base for the most part, optimizing his quick instincts, good hands and cannon arm. DeRosa will now shift to left field, which also means Eugenio Velez can move back to the utility role and doesn't need to be a starter. And unless Sabean goes out and adds another outfielder, which he certainly may do before the end of the offseason, it looks like Nate Schierholtz will be penciled in to start in right. Huff also has the ability to play the corner outfield spots, although AT&T Park doesn't have your typical right field set-up, which could help get Juan Uribe into the lineup. With Aubrey Huff, the Giants now have a guy who can find the water behind the right-field wall at AT&T Park on a semi-regular basis, something we haven't seen done much since Barry Bonds was around. I'm expecting something along the lines of a .270, 22 hr, 90 RBI, .800 OPS line from Huff in this lineup in 2010, and I'd say that would be well worth $3 million.
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Thursday, January 07, 2010

Uribe Re-Signs, LaRoche Declines

The Giants officially re-signed the super-utility guy that came up so big for them in 2009, Juan Uribe, to a one-year deal, $3.25 million deal. Just a few hours later, it was made public that free agent first basemen Adam LaRoche declined the Giants contract offer of 2 years and $17 million.

We'll start with Uribe. Now, don't get me wrong, Juan Uribe looked like starting material in August and September of last season when he hit .312 with 11 HR with 31 RBI and a .991 OPS in just 154 at-bats. If the Giants didn't have Fred Sanchez, or weren't paying Edgar Renteria upwards of $10 million in 2010, I'd be all for playing Uribe at short or second on a full-time basis, but with the way this team is being constructed, I don't like Uribe as the everyday third basemen. As a matter of fact, he'd be option #3 behind Pablo Sandoval and Mark DeRosa. I like the idea of playing DeRosa in left field, which appears to be in the plans, but I think Sandoval brings more value to third base for the Giants than Uribe does. Juan Uribe isn't quite as good as the 2-month stretch that he finished the season off with, but what that did show is what he's capable of when he gets hot. Bochy should let Uribe's play dictate how often he plays and where he starts. If Uribe is swinging the bat like he did in August and September then by all means, he needs to be in the lineup more often then not, but I don't like the idea of Uribe being handed the third base job, based solely on what he did in 150 at-bats at the end of last year.

I was a little bit surprised and kind of bummed when I saw that Adam LaRoche declined the Giants latest contract offer of 2 years and $17 million. It doesn't appear that Sabean is willing to go beyond three years with anyone in this free agent class, but money and years weren't likely the only reason LaRoche declined. It's no secret that AT&T Park isn't the most hitter friendly park in baseball, and is especially tough on left-handed power hitters like LaRoche. I do think LaRoche has the type of pop that would do fine in this yard though, as he's had success hitting here in the past and has always been able to put up around 25 homers a year while playing in pitchers ballparks. I believe Sabean's going to move on, but I would like to see the Giants continue to monitor the LaRoche situation though, as the only other team who's as interested in him were the Seattle Mariners, who just Casey Kotchman. Something tells me he'll end up taking less money annually than the Giants offered, but will probably get his third year from somebody. I'd be surprised if anyone gives him more than 3 years and $20 million though, as there just doesn't seem to be too active of a market for first basemen this winter.

Since LaRoche seems to be drifting out of the Giants reach, Xavier Nady (pending a physical of course) would now be my target as far as free agent power bats go. Nady's not a premium player, and not quite as consistent as LaRoche, but he's still a guy who really figured out NL pitching befre being dealt to New York back in '08. He hit .330 with 13 bombs and 57 RBI in the first half for Pittsburgh that year. I think he's a sure thing for 25 HR and 90+ RBI with a .285+ batting average, and that would be a great add to the Giants outfield. They could also revisit the Dan Uggla trade talks, but I see him staying in Florida with the demands they supposedly have for him. If the Giants have interest in Nady, then a contract similar to the one they gave Mark DeRosa would be fair in my mind, but I don't know what Scott Boras has in mind for Nady, and with the Giants focusing on a left-handed bat. Nady may not even be in their sites, but on a 1 or 2 year deal, I think he'd be a nice addition to the lineup. I just don't see any other outfielders that are all-around players who'd impact the Giants lineup, and Nady or possibly Jonny Damon or Jermaine Dye are the only guys who may fit that mold, and Nady would be my choice out of those 3. Johnny Damon's left-handed bat fits along with what the Giants want to add, but he'd actually be a liability on defense, and would probably cost more than Nady anyway. I sincerely thought Adam LaRoche would be a Giants eventually, but now it's really any ones guess as to who the next signing will be for the San Francisco Giants.

Free Agent Pitchers: With the Giants primary focus surrounding offense, we haven't discussed many of the pitchers that are still looking for places to play in 2010, and there are a surprising number of quality arms still available. If the Giants want to add a fifth starter to allow Madison Bumgarner to start in Fresno and get a little more seasoning, there are some intriguing options. Ben Sheets, Erik Bedard, Jarrod Washburn and Pedro Martinez are a few big name pitchers available. Sheets and Bedard are coming off injuries, so they're question marks. Pedro Martinez could fill the role of Randy Johnson, possibly starting the year in the rotation, then moving to the pen in the second half to ease his workload and allow Madison Bumgarner a rotation spot. As far as the relievers go, I'd love to see the Giants add one more quality arm to their returning group, and there are a few guys who fit that. Kiko Calero ( 1.95 era, 69 k's, .180 BAA in 60 IP), Kevin Greg (Top-8 NL Closer in '07-'08), Russ Springer and Chad Bradford would all be worth a look.
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Sunday, January 03, 2010

What Will the Giants Do Next?

With the signings of Mark DeRosa and Juan Uribe over the last week or so, the Giants have made their first adds of the winter, but there are still plenty of area's of need on the roster, and just about a month and a half left before pitchers and catchers report to spring training.

I didn't love the DeRosa signing, by any stretch, but one positive about it is the flexibility he brings to the ballclub, which will allow Sabean to pursue another infielder if he wants, or turn his focus to the outfield. As far as the infield is concerned, there is still one guy out there waiting to be signed, a guy who I see as a solid fit with the Giants and that guy is Adam LaRoche. He's a real middle of the order type hitter, not these Bengie Molina's and Aaron Rowand's the Giants have been forced to use the last few years. LaRoche would provide the Giants with power at first base that they haven't had since Will Clark, or those first couple of years with J.T. Snow. The good thing about the LaRoche situation, is that he doesn't have a bunch of teams knocking down his door, as most of perennial contenders are all set at first base. According to MLBTradeRumors.com, the Seattle Mariners are the only other team besides the Giants who have made an offer to LaRoche, so he is looking like a very realistic possibility for SF. If LaRoche ends up signing elsewhere, and the Marlins don't lower their demands for Dan Uggla, then Sabean could shift focus to the outfield, where there still plenty of options as well.

We haven't discussed the Giants outfield options as much recently, with most of the free agent focus centering around corner infielders, but there are still certainly some guys out there that could help upgrade the offense in San Francisco. Jermaine Dye and Johnny Damon are the two bigger names that have been linked to the Giants lately, although Damon is a Scott Boras client, and Sabean likes to avoid dealing with Boras when he can. Damon would make some sense in that he could leadoff for this team and definitely help in upgrading the offense, but his defense in left field would leave a lot to be desired. His range and actual fielding abilities are fine, but his arm is about as bad as any outfielder's in the game today, one that makes Barry Bonds' look like a cannon. With that kind of arm, it's tough to keep runners on second base from scoring on base hits to left field. So, I think I'd try and avoid adding Damon if I were a national league GM. I just can't see him playing in the outfield 2 or 3 years down the line.

Dye may be a little more attractive to the Giants because of the likelihood that he'll take a 1-year deal and would provide 30 home-run potential to a lineup that sorely needs it. If he didn't hit just .190 with just 7 homers after the all-star break last season, he probably would have been a top-10 free agent in this class, but his struggles last August and September have caused a bunch of concern around the league. That said, I really believe that Dye is going to come into 2010 focused on proving last year to be a fluke rather than a sign of serious decline, and he's going to have a good year. He's going to be playing on a 1-year deal, most likely, and I think whatever team signs him will get one heckuva value. He may not be a 30 hr/100 RBI guy any longer, but I would expect a line of .275-25-90. A 1 year, $8 million deal with a team option would be reasonable if you ask me. I'd rather have Xavier Nady, but Nady's another Boras client, and a guy who will probably want a 3-year deal. I don't think the Giants are enamored enough with any free agents from this class to offer anyone a 3 year deal, and if they do offer it to someone, it should be Adam LaRoche... The other two guys who I'd take a look at as maybe platoon possibilities are Jonny Gomes and Rick Ankiel. Both have power and can play each corner outfield spot, with Ankiel able to play center as well. Gomes would be a nice right-handed platoon partner for Nate Schierholtz in right-field, and Ankiel could spell Rowand in center, and possibly share left field with Eugenio Velez.
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