November 2011

Giants offseason rumor mill

Giants are said to be in the market for Grady Sizemore

Rumors are rumors. But as it’s mid-November, there seems to be little else to talk about.

So here are some the rumors going around about the Giants’ offseason roster plans.

GRADY SIZEMORE: The Giants have been mentioned to be in the group of teams interested in the Indians outfielder. Joining the Giants are the Rangers, Yankees and Cubs, according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com. The Phillies, Red Sox, Indians and Rockies are also said to be interested. That’s a big group with a lot of deep pockets. The oft-injured outfielder is said to be seeking a one-year deal to rebuild his value, which would make a good fit for the Giants. But the Giants are looking for a bargain. They are not in a position to get in a bidding war over damaged goods.

CHONE FIGGINS: The Mariners are reported to be willing to absorb some of the cost if they can find a trade partner for Figgins, who is owed $17 million over the next two seasons (plus at $9 million vesting option if he makes 600 PAs in 2013). Figgins does have two qualities the Giants seriously lack: plate discipline and speed. However, he’s coming off an injury-filled season in which he hit .181 in 313 PAs. His 2010 was also a disappointment, when he hit .259. However, his on-base percentage that season was .340. Nothing special. However, there was only one player who had more than 200 ABs for the Giants last season who had a higher OBP than .340 (Pablo Sandoval). Figgins’ 42 steals that season were more than twice as many as any Giant managed last season. So if the price is right, the Giants would be wise to listen to any deal the Mariners offer. Figgins can play 2B, 3B and outfield. MoreSplashHits actually was considering a trade for Figgins last season for Aaron Rowand, but then the Giants cut Rowand and his $12 million contract for 2012. That may have been the best bad contract-for-bad contract deal for the Giants. I read a blog earlier this fall saying the Giants should deal Barry Zito for Figgins. A good deal for the Giants. But the math doesn’t compute. Zito is owed $46 million over two years, a disparity of $29 million. The only other fat contract the Giants have to offer is Aubrey Huff, who will make $12 million ($10 million, plus a $2 million buyout). And as bad as Huff was last season, Figgins was worse. So I don’t see that as being a deal the Giants would be willing to make. The best deal may be one in which the Mariners are willing to pay at least $12 million of Figgins’ remaining $17 million.

JASON BARTLETT: The Padres are looking to cut costs, so SS Bartlett is said to be available. But at $5.5 million for 2012, the Giants could do better for less.

JOSE REYES: Jon Heyman reported that he didn’t expect the Giants to be a player on Reyes or Jimmy Rollins. We don’t either. Reyes was reportedly offered a six-year deal for $90 million from the Marlins. No way the Giants compete with that. Heyman said the Giants are still in the market for a SS, 1B and OF. Well, the SS and OF we understand, but 1B? They already have Aubrey Huff, Brandon Belt and Brett Pill. So what do they need with another 1B?

Trivia time: How many current MLB managers once played for the Giants?

Mike Matheny played 2005-06 for the Giants, winning a Gold Glove in 2005.

The announcement of Mike Matheny as the replacement to Tony La Russa as Cardinals manager got us to thinking. How many major league managers once played for the San Francisco Giants.

Can you guess?

Well, the answer is five. Here they are.

Dusty Baker (1984)

Baker was signed as a free agent by the Giants on April 1, 1984. He played in 100 games with the team in 1984. He hit 3 HR, 32 RBI and batted .292. Baker was traded to the A’s in March 1985 for two minor leaguers.

Ron Roenicke (1985)

Roenicke was drafted in 29th round in 1975 by the Giants but did not sign. He was signed as a free agent by the Giants on May 3, 1985. He played 65 games with San Francisco in 1985, hitting 3 HR, 13 RBI and batting .256. He was released on April 1, 1986.

Bob Melvin (1986-88)

Melvin was acquired on Oct. 7, 1985 in a trade along with Juan Berenguer in exchange for Eric King, Dave LaPoint and Matt Nokes.  He hit 24 HR, 83 RBI and batting .220 in his three seasons with the Giants. He was traded to the Orioles on Jan. 24, 1989 for Terry Kennedy.

Bud Black (1991-94)

Black was drafted by the Giants in the third round of the 1997 draft but did not sign. He signed as free agent with the Giants on Nov. 9, 1990. He played four seasons with the Giants, going 34-32 with a 3.95 ERA.

Mike Matheny (2005-06)

Matheny was signed as a free agent by the Giants on Dec. 15, 2004. He played two seasons in San Francisco in 2005-06, the last two of his playing career. He hit .239 with 16 HR, 77 RBI in those two years. He won his fourth Gold Glove award in 2005.

Projected 2012 Giants 25-man roster, as it stands now

Tim Lincecum should expect a significant pay raise above the $15 million made in 2011.

With the re-signing of Javier Lopez, the optioned exercised on Jeremy Affeldt and the acquisition of Melky Cabrera, the Giants’ 2012 roster is starting take shape. There are still decisions to made, particularly with to tender some arbitration-eligible players, of which there are 13.

So here is the 25-man roster, based on players currently under the Giants’ control in 2012 (a-denotes arbitration eligible).

LINEUP

CF Melky Cabrera-a
2B Freddy Sanchez
3B Pablo Sandoval-a
C Buster Posey
1B Aubrey Huff
RF Nate Schierholtz-a
LF Brandon Belt
SS Brandon Crawford

BENCH

C Chris Stewart
IF Mike Fontenot-a
IF/OF Emmanuel Burriss-a
OF Andres Torres-a
1B Brett Pill

STARTING ROTATION

SP Tim Linecum-a
SP Matt Cain
SP Ryan Vogelsong-a
SP Madison Bumgarner
SP Barry Zito

BULLPEN

RH Brian Wilson
RH Sergio Romo-a
RH Santiago Casilla-a
RH Ramon Ramirez-a
LH Jeremy Affeldt
LH Javier Lopez
LH Dan Runzler

NON-TENDERED

C Eli Whiteside, IF Jeff Keppinger

Notes

Torres, Fontenot and Burriss are also non-tender candidates. We’ll count them on the roster for now. The Giants may non-tender all players, then attempt to sign them back at a cheaper rate.

The Giants have already committed $81.7 to 2012 contracts, including the $12 million they will pay Aaron Rowand to NOT play for the Giants.  If the Giants non-tender Whiteside, Keppinger, Torres, Fontenot AND Burriss, they will still need to pay $36 million to the remaining eight arbitration-eligible players, according to mlbtraderumors.com projected arbitration salaries.

That puts the 2012 payroll at $117.7. GM Brian Sabaen projected the 2012 payroll to be at $124 million, a modest jump from the $118 million figure they opened the 2011 season.

It doesn’t leave a lot of room to add more salary with a payroll at $117.7 million and three open roster spots yet to fill.

Giants offseason off to decent start, but what’s next?

Javier Lopez signed a two-year $8.5 million deal to remain with the Giants.

The Giants have opened the offseason with three significant moves. They exercised the $5 million option of reliever Jeremy Affeldt, signed reliever Javier Lopez to a two-year, $8.5 million deal, and traded pitcher Jonathan Sanchez to the Royals for outfielder Melky Cabrera.

All solid moves, at least in this blogger’s opinion. But what do they mean going forward?

For one, it basically settles the bullpen for 2011. The seven pen pitchers would be right-handers Brian Wilson, Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla and Ramon Ramirez and lefties Affeldt, Lopez and Dan Runzler. Romo, Casilla and Ramirez are arbitration-eligible. So it’s possible that the Giants could consider packaging Casilla or Ramirez in a trade that could bring more offense, and then give someone like Waldis Joaquin a shot. But we’d consider that unlikely.

It also settles the rotation of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong, Madison Bumgarner and Barry Zito. And with the availability of solid candidates within in the system to step into the rotation right now, it also seriously reduces the odds of the Giants considering a trade of Lincecum or Cain this offseason.

Another non-move by the Giants was the re-signing of infielder/outfielder Willie Bloomquist with Arizona. Word has it that the Giants offered Bloomquist more than the $3.8 million, two-year deal he got to stay in Arizona. Word has the deal the Giants offered was $4.6 million.

The Giants are still looking to upgrade their offseason by either adding a starter either in the outfield or shortstop (filling both holes unlikely).

I don’t know that the Giants’ attempt at Bloomquist really indicates a particular intent of the Giants in their offseason plan. I think with Bloomquist’s versatility, it just would have given them options. If they go out and sign an outfielder (Carlos Beltran), they could plug Bloomquist in at shortstop. If they sign a shortstop, Bloomquist could play the outfielder, as well as provide insurance behind Freddy Sanchez at second. It’s unforunate Bloomquist opted to stay in Arizona.

Both Ken Rosenthal and John Heyman have surmised that the acquisition of Cabrera makes Beltran no longer a fit for the Giants.

MoreSplashHits disagrees. Even if the Giants sign Beltran, they were still going to need someone to play center field and potentially leadoff. The Giants had made the decision that they didn’t want to go forward with Andres Torres filling those roles. Rosenthal went on to describe the Giants’ budget issue with so much 2012 money dedicated to pitchers. Well, the acquisition of Cabrera actually could end up saving the Giants money. So I don’t see how the Cabrera deal takes them out of the pursuit of Beltran.

The Giants need add one more, if not top shelf, higher-shelf free agent bat. We see that being Beltran or SS Jimmy Rollins. Jose Reyes will get too many years, too much money for the Giants to be a serious bidder. With Beltran or Rollins, you’re looking at a two-year or three-year deal for less money (even though Rollins is seeking a five-year deal. Good luck with that, J-Roll).

Barry Zito is not as terrible as everyone says

Now, there’s a blog headline that will surely attract some attention.

It’s a point that has risen to the surface Monday after the Giants traded away Jonathan Sanchez. Well, many Giants were glad to part ways with the enigmatic Sanchez, their second thought was “Oh, that means Zito is our No. 5 starter.”

But, at  the risk of exposing myself to the wrath of fellow bloggers and online commentators, I am going to take a rather unpopular stand on the Giants letfy.

Now, when any Giants fan thinks about Zito, one thing comes to mind — He has completely underperformed during his seven-year, $140 million contract.

Now, there’s no doubt Zito has not pitched anywhere close to the value of his contract. That’s a given. However, that contract is guaranteed. That money is spent.

It’s like Aaron Rowand. Even though he’s been cut by the Giants, his $12 million contract for 2012 is still on the team’s payroll.

So Giants fans have to stop measuring Zito against the $19 million he’s set to make in 2012 or the $20 million he’ll get in 2013. It serves no purpose.

The question they need to ask on question: Can Zito be a functional No. 5 starter in the Giants’ rotation?

I believe the answer is yes. And I also believe I have the numbers to support that claim.

The first thing I did was throw the 2011 season. Zito was never 100 percent healthy, from the car accident just prior to opening day to the ankle injury that derailed him for two months then was aggravated in July.

The injuries limited Zito to nine starts, which is not a large sample size. For example, if you removed Zito’s worst start — when he gave up 8 run in 3 2/3 innings in his first start after ther All-Star break — his season ERA drops by one run.

Instead, I looked at his 2009 and 2010 numbers. Why? Because they were practically identical.

Then I looked at the No. 5 pitchers of the five NL teams that finished with better records than the Giants. And I didn’t just look at the guy who took the fifth turn in the rotation. I looked at their fifth-worst pitcher.

In some case, like the Cardinals and Braves, it was one pitcher — Jake Westbrook and Derek Lowe. For the others teams, it was a combination of pitchers.

For the Phillies, it was Roy Oswalt and Joe Blanton. For the Brewers, it was Chris Narveson and the three late-season starts by Marco Estrada. For the Diamondbacks, it was smorgasbord of Micah Owings, Zach Duke, Armando Gallaraga, Wade Miley, Jason Marquis and Jarrod Parker.

Here are the numbers:

Barry Zito: 33 starts, 196 IP, 4.09 ERA, 1.35 WHIP

Cardinals: 33 starts, 183 IP, 4.66 ERA, 1.53 WHIP

Diamondbacks: 32 starts, 170 IP, 4.92 ERA, 1.51 WHIP

Braves: 34 starts, 187 IP, 5.05 ERA, 1.51 WHIP

Phillies: 31 starts, 177 IP, 4.02 ERA, 1.38 WHIP

Brewers: 31 IPs, 179 IP, 4.17 ERA, 1.33 WHIP

Zito in 2009-10 had a WHIP that was only behind the Brewers’ No. 5 starter. He had an ERA that’s only behind the Phillies No. 5, which includes 23 starts from Roy Oswalt.

So spending $3-4 million on a free agent pitcher to push Zito in the spring — as some have suggested — is not the way to go. Better to spend that money on improving the defense.

Instead, the Giants should go find a veteran pitcher who will sign a minor-league deal as insurance next spring in case of another injury or Zito implosion. This is what they did in 2009 with Todd Wellemeyer and 2010 with Jeff Suppan.

Dirty Deal Done Dirt Cheap: Jonathan Sanchez for Melky Cabrera

Outfielder Melky Cabrera was acquired Monday by the Giants in a trade for Jonathan Sanchez

MoreSplashHits has emerged from a self-imposed blogging blackout.

That’s because there is news to report.

On Monday, the Giants traded pitcher Jonathan Sanchez and minor-league pitcher Ryan Verdugo to the Royals for outfielder Melky Cabrera.

Both principals in the trade are in the final year of arbitration and will be eligible for free agency in 2013.

In Cabrera, the Giants pick up a player who is two years younger than Sanchez, and could save the Giants $2-3 million in salary. Cabrera earned $1.25 million last year. Sanchez earned $4.8 million. That’s why the Giants threw in the minor league in the deal.

Cabrera set career highs with 18 HRs, 87 RBI, 44 doubles, 102 runs, 201 hits, .20 SBs, 305 average, .470 slugging and .809 OPS last year. In seven big league seasons, his 162-game average season would look like this: 11 HRs, 66 RBI, .275 avg, 30 2Bs, 13 SBs.

Cabrera will be the Giants everyday center fielder. It would take the Giants out of the market for free agent Coco Crisp and may lead the team to non-tender Andres Torres.

The trade ends the enigmatic Giants career of Jonathan Sanchez. Sanchez pitched his way out of the rotation in June 2009, only to return and throw a no-hitter against the Padres in his first start back in the rotation. He finished the year strong, going 8-12 for the season.

Success carried over into 2010, when he went 13-9 with a 3.07 ERA. He was especially strong down the stretch and pitched the Giants to the NL West Division title by outdueling the Padres’ Mat Latos in the regular-season finale.

Sanchez continued strong in the NL Division series against the Braves, giving up one run on two hits in 7.1 innings. But the wheels started to come off in the NLCS (0-1, 4.50 ERA in two starts), and he started the only game the Giants lost in the World Series (4 ER in 4.2 IP).

After leading the NL in walks in 2010 (96), he saw his walk rate jump from 4.5 walks per 9 innings in 2010 to 5.9 in 2011, when he was 4-7 with a 4.26 ERA in 19 starts. He went on the DL in June with “strained biceps,” came off in August, but ended with a sprained ankle in August.

Overall, MoreSplashHits likes this trade. When we heard Brian Sabean said that Sanchez would head into spring as the Giants No. 5 starter, we had hoped he was blowing smoke. Turns out, he was. Given his inconsistency, Sanchez wasn’t worth the $5-6 million he would make in 2011. And Cabrera is a better option than the free agent Crisp or the arbitration-eligible Torres.

Bottom line, he’s a vast improvement over Giants CFs in 2010. Compare:

Cabrera (2011): .305 avg, 18 HR, 87 RBI, 102 runs, 201 hits, 44 2B, 5 3B, 20 SB.

SF CFs (2011): .228, 9 HR, 43 RBI, 90 runs, 150 hits, 45 2B, 3 3B, 21 SB.

Cabrera hit mostly in the No. 2 hole in Kansas City, but he moves to the Giants’ best option to leadoff in 2011. That is unless the Giants don’t find a better option to fill hole at shortstop, like Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins, Rafael Furcal or even Willie Bloomquist.

Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury-News reports that the Giants are strongly considering handing the starting shortstop job to Brandon Crawford, if they feel they have made enough improvements to the rest of the lineup.

I read that to mean if the Giants can re-sign Carlos Beltran in the outfield, they’ll give the SS job to Crawford. I also read that to mean the Giants won’t be pursuers of shorstops seeking multi-year deals (i.e. Reyes and Rollins).

If that happened, the 2011 lineup could look like this:

CF Melky Cabrera
2B Freddy Sanchez
LF Carlos Beltran
C Buster Posey
3B Pablo Sandoval
1B Aubrey Huff or Brandon Belt
RF Nate Schierholtz
SS Brandon Crawford

Is that good enough?

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