By not expecting miraculous overhauls, you are actively promoting your mental health.
If you, as a Giants fan, and by virtue, a rational human being, expect for this team to be transformed into a thumping lineup full of clubbers and dongers, you're setting yourself up for disappointment and hair-pulling insanity.
And I'm going out on a limb here by saying this, but... you don't need that in your life.
As we intermittently and half-heartedly watch the MLB playoffs, we keep thinking, "God, we were so damn close. That could be us in there!"
Yeah, it could have been, and we were so very close.
Whether or not we could have competed against the Phillies is debatable, but at this juncture, it is neither here nor there. By finally coming to terms with 2009's result, we inevitably shift our Giants thoughts toward the offseason signing period and 2010, with with a wandering jealous eye trained on playoff scores.
Here's what it's looking like:
Hitters w/guaranteed deals: Rowand ($13.6M), Renteria ($10M)
Arbitration eligible hitters: Frandsen , Garko
Players under control (minimum deals): Ishikawa, Schierholtz, Velez, Lewis, Torres, Bowker, Burriss, Whiteside, Rohlinger, etc. (all guys that have been shuttling back and forth between the minors basically)
Free Agents: Juan Uribe, Freddy Sanchez, Randy Winn, Bengie Molina, Rich Aurilia
There's so many things to speculate about here, so let's just go with the most likely scenarios.
I see the Giants cutting their losses with Ryan Garko. They made an effort to get some corner infield pop to complement Ishikawa, and it didn't work. Granted the guy needs consistent at bats in a new league to be successful, but it didn't happen, and although Sabean gave up LHP Scott Barnes in the deal, there may not be any room for Garks. He is arbitration eligible, and his salary would probably net him between $3-5M per year, something I don't see the Giants biting on. Cutting ties without offering arbitration is known as "non-tendering" a player.
Kevin Frandsen is a bit of a mystery. He may just a be a 4A player that the Giants are tired of. I can see this well-liked guy being non-tendered as well, despite his low price.
As for all these other guys, it'll just be up to management. I'm not going to sit here and debate whether Emmanuel Burriss or Ryan Rohlinger should be backup infielders, it just doesn't matter that much (although I'd go for Rohlinger).
The real questions lie in what to do with 3 key free agents: Juan Uribe, Freddy Sanchez, and Bengie Molina.
The case for Sanchez:
We were all disappointed by how this worked out. I was even more disappointed that Sanchez himself knew he'd need surgery, and that the Giants brass swept this under the rug. So, let me get this straight... we traded a top 5 prospect for an injured guy? If Sabean wanted him so bad, why not just take a stab at him in free agency?
The case for bringing him back lies partially with the amount we gave up for him (Tim Alderson), but mainly for the stability he will bring to the lineup and his ability (when healthy) to get hits and get on base. He plays very good defense, and is a valuable veteran presence. I'm simply not comfortable with some sort of strange timeshare between Eugenio Velez and another guy.
He has an option that the Giants can pick up at $8.5 million. This is doubtful, because no one on the open market would give him that. I think they will either offer him arbitration, or will agree on a lower annual salary on a two year deal.
The case for Uribe:
Uribe's performance this season was exemplary. He did everything in his power to help this team, and he deserves a raise from the $1M he made this season. However, I believe whether the Giants bring him back depends on the market for him. He deserves at least $4M per year on a two year deal.
Re-signing Uribe and Sanchez allows the manager (assuming it's Bochy... another blog for another time), a great deal of lineup flexibility. Between Sandoval, Ishikawa, Sanchez, Renteria, Velez and Uribe, there are seemingly an infinite amount of infield combinations. Not pretty combinations, but nonetheless...
Uribe is a great clubhouse presence, and players like him are simply invaluable to a club. Would you be comfortable with the Giants not signing Freddy Sanchez and keeping Uribe to start at 2B and spot start at SS, while Velez takes over at second? I would.
Again, these things are not pretty, but this is what we're looking at.
The case for Bengie Molina:
The case is not great. Bengie was our heart and soul for a few years here. In all honesty, he deserves better than this; than to be discarded like an old newspaper. It is, unfortunately the nature of the beast, and Buster Posey is the future catcher of the organization.
At this stage in his career, Bengie will be looking for a multi-year deal, and will surely receive multiple two year offers. The thing is, we just don't want him for two years.
In my opinion, Posey will not be ready to be a full time catcher at the beginning of 2010. He is close, but just not quite there offensively. He's too green yet, and needs to start next season in Fresno. Therein lies the issue.
Do we sign a guy on a one year deal? Ehh...
Then what kind of offense would we get out of that position in the first half of next year? If you recall, Bengie was basically our only offense (other than Panda) in the first half of last year. Without that production, we wouldn't have been close.
See... this sucks for everyone.
So, why can't we just spend money and bring in some hitters?
Okay, well easier said than done. There simply aren't that many great hitters out there on the market. We're not getting Jason Bay or Matt Holliday, so just forget about that. Sorry. Not gonna happen. And even if it did, it would KILL US longterm. You do want to sign Lincecum and Cain in a few years, don't you?
The interesting wrinkle in this whole situation is the vast amount of money that is coming off the books for 2010. The combined salaries of Winn, Molina, Uribe, Dave Roberts, Noah Lowry, Sanchez, and Howry add to approximately $34.3M. Before you jump for joy, keep in mind that Lincecum, Brian Wilson, and Jonathan Sanchez will be getting modest raises, as they are in their first years of arbitration. Accounting for that, there is still a solid amount of money available to spend. The key is not spending, just to spend. This is why Bill Neukom and Sabean are non-committal when speaking to a guy like Ralph Barbieri, who makes it a hobby to badger Giants management about "spending money".
Yes, they should put the best product on the field, but this year, there are no sure things, and we must think about the most sound way to compete now, without hamstringing the team when extensions for Lincecum, Cain, Wilson, Pandoval, etc. come up in the next 4-6 years.
Anyway, here are the available free agents.
You can find the whole list here, but here are the relevant options:
Rod Barajas (34) - Type B
Michael Barrett (33) - club option
Ramon Hernandez (34) - $8.5MM club option with a $1MM buyout - Type B
Jason Kendall (36) - Type B
Miguel Olivo (31) - $3.25MM mutual option - Type B
Jason Varitek (38) - $5MM club/$3MM player option plus incentives - Type B
Gregg Zaun (39) - $2MM club option with a $500K buyout; Zaun can void option
Nothing looks attractive here other than Rod Barajas on a one year deal.
Hank Blalock (29)
Russell Branyan (34)
Carlos Delgado (38) - Type B
Nick Johnson (31) - Type B
Adam LaRoche (30) - Type B
Chad Tracy (30) - $7MM option with a $1MM buyout
Blalock and Johnson obviously jump out at you, but Hank is subpar defensively and better suited to the AL. If Nick Johnson isn't re-signed by Florida, he'd be a good fit, and wouldn't be too expensive. Delgado wouldn't be horrible, but after years of us ripping Sabean for signing aging players for millions of dollars, he's too gun shy to pull the trig.
Ronnie Belliard (35) - Type B
Mark DeRosa (35) - Type B
Jerry Hairston Jr. (34) - Type B
Orlando Hudson (32) - Type A
Akinori Iwamura (31) - $4.25MM club option with a $250K buyout
Felipe Lopez (30) - Type B
Placido Polanco (34) - Type A
Freddy Sanchez (32) - $8MM club option with a $600K buyout - Type B
Juan Uribe (31)
I'm a big Mark DeRosa fan. He brings the same adhesive properties that Uribe does, but is a more refined ballplayer. I would love to sign him to play 3B full time, move Panda to 1B, and re-sign either Sanchez or Uribe to play 2B. I don't believe the Giants would go after Polanco or Hudson due to their "Type A" status. And would they be an upgrade over our current incumbents? No. Not really. DeRosa is solid pickup though.
Adrian Beltre (31) - Type B
Joe Crede (32)
Mark DeRosa (35) - Type B
Chone Figgins (32) - Type B
Troy Glaus (33) - Type B
Miguel Tejada (36) - Type A
Juan Uribe (31)
Technically, this isn't a position of need, but you get it. Hmm... some repeat names on here. Figgins would be nice, but the Angels will re-sign him at any cost. The guy that intrigues me, which you'll think I'm crazy for, is Troy Glaus. He spent the whole season on the DL, but he can still hit, no doubt in my mind.
Garret Anderson (38) - Type B
Jason Bay (31) - Type A
Marlon Byrd (32) - Type B
Johnny Damon (36) - Type A
Matt Holliday (30) - Type A
Reed Johnson (33)
Manny Ramirez (38) - $20MM player option - Type A
Rick Ankiel (30)
Rocco Baldelli (28)
Mike Cameron (37) - Type B
Coco Crisp (30) - $8MM club option with a $500K buyout
Darin Erstad (36)
Ryan Freel (34)
Andruw Jones (33)
Scott Podsednik (34)
Bobby Abreu (36) - Type A
Jermaine Dye (36) - $12MM mutual option with a $1MM buyout - Type A
Geoff Jenkins (35) - $7.5MM mutual option with a $1.25MM buyout
Austin Kearns (30) - $10MM club option with a $1MM buyout
Xavier Nady (31) - Type B
Ehh... what looks good to you, keeping in mind that Bay and Holliday are unattainable? Jermaine Dye and Bobby Abreu? Yeah. I'd take one of those guys. They'd require two year deals at around $8M+ per though. Nady and Kearns are interesting as well, but both have their drawbacks.
So you see, boys and girls, there are no quick fixes for this offense. The best I think we could do would be to sign Dye or Abreu to play right, and some two man combo out of the following infield group: Freddy Sanchez, Juan Uribe, Mark DeRosa.
Then of course, that stunts Nate Schierholtz's growth, unless he takes over in LF, where his gun of an arm is under-utilized.
You can sign the injury prone Nick Johnson and give up on Ishikawa, but is that a big enough upgrade to justify doing it?
Then, there's catcher... (my head hurts)
So, after breaking down this dreary situation, I hope you now see that there are no quick fixes. I too wish we could just throw an insane contract at Holliday or Bay to man left field for us, but it's just not feasible. The dearth of signable free agent hitters this offseason is shocking, but it is a fact. This leads us to the following options: trade a big time pitcher or prospect for a big time hitter, or hunker down and do the best with what our options are.
Wish it were different.
Part II coming up in a couple days.