Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Giants Free Agent Conga Line

Looking over the Giants needs and the ranks of the free agent pool, and assuming the Giants don't pull off a trade to pick up, say, Pat Burrell or Richie Sexson, to play 1B for us, I have come up with what I think would be a good plan for keeping the Giants competitive in 2007, while looking to the future as well. But this is all for fun, there's too many moving parts to keep track of to really forecast what the Giants will do, one wrong guess anywhere and the whole ball of string unravels.


Got to sign Bonds but do not fall for his wily ways of trying to drive up his price, with his public negotiations techniques. He is not that much in demand, if any. The threat of his age, recent injury problems, surly attitude, BALCO hangover, potential government indictment, and his approach of a sacred baseball career record held by Hank Aaron, a saint of a player compared to almost anybody in the history of baseball, let alone Bonds, plus the strong likelihood that there is one wacko in every town who will take umbrage that their home team has signed a pact with Bonds who that fan considers a scourge of the game, sullying all that is good and beautiful about baseball, the grand quintessential American national pastime, will keep all teams bids below $5M plus generous incentives for games played that Bonds has publicly spat on already.

I see the Giants being able to sign him for $7-9M (call it $8M for calculations) plus if he really want more, he can have incentives based on games played. Linden can then take over in 2008 if he is ready or we can pursue a free agent like Vernon Wells, Adam Dunn, Ichiro, or Andruw Jones, among others, as Bonds' salary will then be freed up by his free agency.


Sabean always have a hankering for a closer, so I think he will sign two players to back up that position. First, he signs Justin Speier, who has been a good reliever with closer aspirations to a 3 year, $11M contract ($3M/$3.5M/$4.5M; he made $2.25M last season). He also signs Mike Stanton to a $1.5M contract for one year or maybe two, I just read Orioles offered him 2 years - he gets a raise for doing well for us last season when he made $1M. Foulke could be another option but he would have to sign for much less given how poorly he has done recently and he's probably going to resign with the Red Sox. Benitez will have no past history with Bochy and will pitch setup in this configuration, but hopefully the Giants can trade him elsewhere.


Sabean has been saying that the majors will be shifting towards the running style offense of the 80's a la the Cards and who better to charge up the Giants than Dave Roberts, who stole 49 bases last season under our new manager, Bruce Bochy, and 23 the year before when he was injured early in the season.

The bad part is that he will be old, 35 years old next season, plus has an injury history, but we don't really have any true CF in our system who appears to have the offense that Roberts bring - Fred Lewis, the most advanced CF, who has been viewed by some as a potential corner OF once/if he develops power, is a year or two away, at least - so a 2 year contract with team option for $10M total ($4M/$5M/$6M team option with $1M buyout; he made $2.25M last season) would not block out Lewis necessarily, Lewis probably won't be ready until Roberts second season, and by then Bonds should be gone. Hopefully, Lewis, Linden, EME, or Schierholtz would be ready by then to take the 3rd OF spot, with Roberts and Winn playing the other spots, or the Giants could pick up one of the top free agent OF then, like Vernon Wells, Ichiro, Adam Dunn, or Andruw Jones. Obviously Winn would move to RF with this. Plus nothing would prevent Roberts from playing another OF position too.

Also, Roberts has been used almost extensively as a platoon player because of his inability to hit LHP or stay healthy, so that works for the Giants to keep his salary down - as most other team will not want a platoon player as that means you need a CF to play against LHP, and thus either be not interested in him or offer him less because he is going to be platooning. The Giants can pay him more because they can plus they have Linden around as the fourth OF to play games that Bonds or Roberts do not play. Plus Linden has hit LHP better during his short MLB career thus far. That gets Linden more ABs in 2007 as the 4th OF too.

So the Giants get the speedy OF they have been looking for to ignite the offense, after striking out with Durham and Winn, leading to a top of the lineup of Roberts, Vizquel, Winn, Bonds for RHP. Now for some run producers.


As much as I would love a home town boy like Kevin Frandsen playing 2B, the problem is that we need somebody to drive in runs and Durham did a good job of that last season. He also wants to come back and thus might provide a little hometown discount to play here. Reportedly he is willing to go for a 2 year contract with an option, so maybe $16M ($7.5M/$8.5M) plus a team option for $9M (he made $7M last season). It doesn't mean that Frandsen won't get his chance because Durham can always be traded if need be, and get us some needed position prospects. But it does gives us options.

Frandsen can play the Feliz uber-utility role in 2007, taking games at 2B, SS, and 3B, thus giving him a lot of ABs to allow the Giants to evaluate how good he is. He's obviously doing well in the AFL right now playing shortstop. So one option is to go with Frandsen at SS after the 2007 season, when Vizquel's contract ends. Another is that there has been talk of giving Vizquel an extension beyond, so Frandsen could end up at 2B instead and Durham can be traded. Of course, these presume that Frandsen has done well; if he hasn't, we still have Durham and Vizquel.

In addition, Durham has not played a full season in a long while now so to expect him to would be folly, thus Frandsen could come in and the offense would not suffer as much as it would have - or cost the team needed prospects to pick up another 2B - with Frandsen there as starting backup for not only 2B but SS as well, plus probably backup at 3B. Vizquel is no spring chicken himself and could be sat a number of games to rest. Besides which, there are not many good options out there for RBI production at any other position.

Another way to go with this is, if the Giants are able to trade, somehow, for a slugging 1B like Sexson or Burrell, they could instead use Frandsen at 2B, and this 1B would take the #5 lineup spot that Durham would have filled, with the money that would have went for a free agent 1B and Durham going to pay the 1B we just traded for.


I still think the Giants need to bolster the rotation and I still think Schmidt is the way to go, but unfortunately, he is probably out of our budget range with the salary we will probably see Matsuzaka get ($51.1M for just the right to negotiate with Boras, his agent?!?!? And Boras wants at least 4 years at $40M minimum!!!). So plan B for me would be to sign Greg Maddux for the $8M he is reportedly looking to get (he made $9M last season).

I was amazed by his performance last season. His PQS DOM% was in the 60%, still among the elite (Schmidt was in the 50% by season's end), when the Dodgers acquired him (no time to check his Dodger PQS but I do know he did pitch well for them). Plus he has a world of knowledge about pitching that Cain could learn from. Sure, he's old, but he pitched well for much of last season plus this would free up $8M for free agents next off-season. Hopefully Lincecum will be ready to take over in 2008.


We are already starting to run out of budget, so we need to go for value here and get more bang for the buck. The Giants should go for Rich Aurilia, as he should get less than comparable 3B free agents. Reportedly the Giants went after Mark DeRosa to be our starting 3B, but the 32 year old just signed a 3 year, $13M contract to start at 2B for the Cubs. That now sets the bar for what Aurilia can expect to get.

Aurilia, at 35, has a much greater risk of decline due to age, but he has been a starter before and he has hit well the past two seasons, unlike DeRosa, who is a career backup, who wasn't even a starter last season. Maybe we can get Aurilia for a 2 year contract with a team option ($3M/$4M/$5M TO, $1M buyout for total $8M; he made $1.3M last season).

This is probably a bit high to get him at, hopefully we can get him for less, but the free agent class this year and next is pretty barren of good 3B, unless you like Hinske, Randa, Inge, or Lowell. Hopefully Villalona will be ready by the time Richie's contract is over or a trade can be made for players like Ensberg, Josh Fields or Joe Crede, Dallas McPherson, and Kevin Kouzmanoff, at some point.


Here, the options are not so good either, for this year or next. Nomar would be intriguing but again the money problem. Looking at all the alternatives here, Craig Wilson looks the best. He is not the best hitter but players like Hillenbrand and Casey are probably looking to get $6-8M per season, and Wilson can probably provide similar offense for much less.

Sign him to a 2 year plus team option ($4M/$4.5M/$6.0M TO, $500K buyout for total $9M; he made $3.5M last season). He is only 30 years old next season and has a career .834 OPS, .815 OPS on the road (PNC is a hitter's park). His power is good and universal, he hit one every 19 AB at home, one every 21 AB on the road, so his HR power is real. He has even hit .357/.367/.536/.902 in SF, though in only 9 games. Plus he wouldn't need to play a full season, he's been a part-time player much of his career, so the Giants could give Sweeney a good number of AB's there, particularly since he is only OK vs. RHP, being a righty. Plus he has played LF before, so he could take some games there as well, if necessary.


The Giants don't really have much left to spend and so has to get creative here. Plus defensively, there's not much out there for catchers, one would have to look forward to next season. So the Giants should sign Mike Piazza.

Piazza hit well last season under Bochy plus this would allow Alfonzo more games played to see if 2006 was a fluke (most likely) or if he can develop further to be a starter going forward. Plus he could play games at 1B as well. In addition, as bad a defensive catcher he may have been, the Padres were able to win the division with him playing last season. Piazza made $2M last season, including a buyout, so he probably can be signed for $3M for one year.

If Alfonzo proves to be a backup catcher, then next off-season there will be more to pursue among catchers who might be free agents. Among the players who could be free agents: I-Rod, Michael Barrett, Jason Kendall, Jason LaRue, Jose Molina.

Another idea I had was signing Doug Mirabelli for his defensive abilities and he would cost less than Piazza. But since I was worried about offense and Bochy found a way to win with Piazza behind the plate, I decided to go with Piazza. But the offense would not be that bad even if we had Mirabelli instead.

Payroll Results

I went through the contracts plus the ones I suggested above and with contracts ending for Benitez, Bonds, Stanton, Vizquel, Matheny, Maddux, Piazza, and Worrell, it would add up to about $46M in total contracts expiring, freeing up more than enough money to pursue a top free agent like Michael Barrett, Michael Young, Ichiro, Adam Dunn, Vernon Wells or Andruw Jones. Also, there is a rumor that Durham was offered a $10M one year contract by the Giants (or a 2 years, $16M contract) and if that happened, that would make the total salary freed up for 2007 to be $56M.

Of course, there will be some raises in existing contracts plus paying young players more, like Cain, so that puts the total available for free agents next season to be either $40M or $50M, depending on what Durham is signed for. In addition, the Giants purportedly had $45M to spend and the contracts I suggested above totaled $42M, so that would mean that $6M in addition would be available for free agents next off-season. In any case, there will be a lot of money to chase free agents with and potentially a lot more good players to chase.


C: Piazza, Alfonzo
1B: Wilson, Sweeney (LF)
2B: Durham
SS: Vizquel, Frandsen (2B/3B)
3B: Aurilia
LF: Bonds
CF: Roberts, Ortmeier
RF: Winn, Linden

SP Maddux, Morris, Cain, Lowry, Sanchez
RP Speier, Benitez (hopefully traded but here for now), Stanton, Wilson, Chulk, Hennessey, Correia


vs. RHP: Roberts, Vizquel, Winn, Bonds, Durham, Piazza, Wilson, Aurilia
vs. LHP: Winn, Vizquel, Wilson, Bonds, Durham, Piazza, Linden, Aurilia

Final Thoughts

I came into this exercise thinking that there is no way the Giants could cobble together a good team but I think I did pretty well in my "what-if" exercise here. With $3M left over, that gives me a little wiggle room if I underpriced any of the above players, plus I think I might be over for some of the players as well, so some of them will balance out too. And that covers the entire roster, except for the pre-arb players who will be paid near minimums, though Cain probably will be getting a long-term contract similar to Lowry's during spring training. That shouldn't be too much, just a couple of mil or so.

A lineup as posited just above would a pretty good offense, with on-base stealers at top, HR hitters in the middle, even the bottom will be pretty good too, even when Alfonzo starts instead of Piazza. And if Bonds sits, the lineup for RHP would still be pretty good: Roberts, Vizquel, Winn, Piazza, Durham, Wilson, Linden, Aurilia. LHP would be a different matter because Roberts probably is sitting too, as well as Sweeney, so that would mean an OF of Ortmeier, Winn, and Linden and a lineup of, say, Winn, Vizquel, Wilson, Piazza, Durham, Linden, Ortmeier, Aurilia, which is OK but not that great either. Hopefully Bonds don't happen to rest on the days a LHP is going, though Roberts sometimes do well against LHP.

However, the defense will be average at best, as the OF are all average defensively, and only Vizquel in the IF can be considered good, the others are average at best, particularly Aurilia at 3B, Durham at 2B, and Wilson at 1B. Plus Piazza was never that good defensively even at his peak, let alone now when he is much older and not as physically able. So the defense is taking a beating here to allow us to have a good offense.

A starting rotation of Maddux, Morris, Cain, Lowry, and Sanchez can be pretty awesome if they all do what they are capable of doing. Maddux seems ageless. Morris hopefully can stay healthy and strong all season long - we saw what he could do when he's at the top of his game, from mid-May to mid-July. Cain we saw what he could do when he is consistent and he basically was from that skipped start of his in May, he buckled down after that, unlike Jerome Williams, who just buckled. Lowry needs to prove that, when healthy, he's the pitcher we saw and loved in 2005 and not the pitcher who was just OK in 2006; if he is healthy and good, we would have a great four-some. Sanchez should be fine as the fifth starter and, if not, Hennessey is there waiting to swing in there and be the starter.

The bullpen isn't too bad either. Speier should be good as the closer, with Benitez and Stanton as setup men (this assumes Benitez pitches himself into the setup role in spring training). Chulk and Wilson will also be good in there as setup men. Then there is Correia and Hennessey, long relief guys who can go short sometimes too. If Benitez is traded and we don't get relief back, I assume Sadler and Taschner will battle for that final spot, plus even if no spot, they will probably battle Wilson and Correia for their spots in the bullpen as well.

So, in this what-if scenario, the Giants would have a pretty good offense, but not so good defense, coupled with good to potentiall great starting rotation, and a strong bullpen. That's not too bad and would be a competitive team in the NL West plus would be OK in the playoffs as well. I would take the above (assuming the salaries are OK, I tried to figure out what each player might get, based on previous salary and some guesses by other off the Net, but realize that I might be way off on someone's, particularly Bonds, since I strongly believe no one could outbid the Giants to get Bonds).


  1. No wonder you like Sabean so much. Your team is crafted out of a bunch of old guys who are past their usefulness and will assuredly break down during the season when they're not too tired to play.

    Didn't you learn anything from watching the Giants the last couple of years. This team's hopes of success is a fantasy, at best. Realistically, youo're looking at a losing record and 3rd or 4th in the division and one year farther removed from rebuilding this team which is what should be done.

  2. It has nothing to do with loving old guys, it's trying to do something with the poor class of free agents available so that the team is not totally crippled by paying 5-8 years of over the top salary to players who are not really that good, like Carlos Lee and, yes, Alfonso Soriano.

    Give me a young guy out on the free agent class who makes a lot of sense at the dollars being thrown out there, even just a week ago. I thought Speier was it but then he got 4 years at $16M, that's crazy money too. And how anyone can justify paying Stanton for two years, I have no idea, but then that same Reds GM traded away two STARTING position players for a couple of relievers not too long ago.

    My plan above would save $40-50M to spend next season when, potentially Vernon Wells, Adam Dunn, Andruw Jones, Ichiro, Michael Young, Michael Barrett, and others will be available. In addition, if we are lucky, we will have a better handle on who among our young hitters of Linden, Frandsen, Lewis, Ortmeier, EME, Schierholtz, and Ishikawa is ready for prime-time or not.

    Meanwhile, our team as I had constructed, would have a good offense if everyone is healthy, and if one or two are out, we have replacements like Linden, Ortmeier, Frandsen, and Alfonzo who would hopefully be able to replace the player without too much loss in performance, not like when Neifi and Vizcaino was coming in.

    But with Stanton and Speier gone already, either Sabean signs Borowski, who I don't really want at the dollars the market appears to be going (he could be the next Benitez-type signing), or go with Benitez/Wilson. Both are not very palatable for a team hoping to compete.



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