Sunday, September 30, 2007

Frandsen Starting 2B 2008?

Duane Kuiper was asked by Brian Murphy of the KNBR morning show if Frandsen might start in 2008, and Kuiper replied that, though he has no inside info, in his opinion Frandsen has earned the starting position at 2B with his play over the past two months, particularly during the month of September. Durham would then be a utility player unless he's traded, a possibility which Kuiper noted that Durham had endorsed recently if he's not starting. It appears that Durham can smell it too.

Key Pivotal Point?

The way the Giants go with this decision could signal a change in strategy going forward. During the Barry Era, it made good business sense to keep the high priced players around, despite their struggles, because if you are spending 25% of your payroll on keeping Barry around, you have to try to win it all with him, you have no choice but to spend all your available payroll on the best players available on the free agent market and cross your fingers and hope they work. Else, why bother to spend all that money on Barry? That led to the series of player acquisitions that fans have lambasted and on which I have concurred, but am willing to forgive because he had to do them, he did the best with the situation he was given by ownership.

People (like Sabean Naysayers) like to point at the Alfonzo signing as the start of the downturn, but really it was the Nen contract and career ending injury that started it. A lot of fans have not realized this connection, they would complain about the payroll being poorly allocated, ask why we would sign mediocrities like Tucker and Hammonds, and punt the draft pick, but when you have an $80M payroll, Nen's $9M of uselessness meant we only had a $71M payroll, then about $52-3M when you subtract Barry, then around $45M when you subtract Schmidt.

If you complain about any of the above, then you are really more accurately complaining about the signing of Nen to his contract because that was the domino contract that forced the Giants to scramble. That was the start if you are going to hindsight things, because if we had his salary to spend, we could have still had the relievers we had and who did well, but another $9M to spend on draft picks and better free agents. I pushed in a post for Nen to do a deal that would spread out his salary over a number of years (plus interest and an extra $1M) should his career be over but with options that would return his salary to normal levels if he returned to normal, but nothing was ever done, he just collected his money and his salary handcuffed the team to seeking out mediocre players while his contract was active, then Benitez's blowout just continued the misery.

But with the Barry Era over, the Giants, by making Frandsen the starter, would signal a change in strategy, as the Giants typically would give the vet the benefit of the doubt since they had done it before. Here's how it might happen. The Giants will start spring training with Durham as starter, Frandsen utility, but Frandsen will be a near starter, much like Feliz was, particularly as I expect the Giants to then resign Vizquel for a cheap $1M contract - they will want good (enough) defense at SS for the price - plus sign someone good defensively at 3B, either very cheap or very best, or perhaps even start Frandsen there (I think that's the best solution to getting him AB).

If things work out ideally, Durham will return to normal hitting in spring training and some contending team will lose their starting 2B (or have their expected starter perform very, very poorly) and they will willingly trade for Durham since he has only one year on his contract. For him the Giants would get a low level prospect they like but who had a slip up somewhere, much like Blackley or Denker. At worse, I think Durham would hit well enough to interest a desperate team with the Giants paying the whole contract and getting a similar type of prospect.

Giants Thoughts

I think Frandsen should start in 2008 to see what he can do: it's time. The only question is where. Ideally 2B should be it but Durham screwed things up with his terrible season. I think the Giants expected 1) Durham to hit well again, 2) to miss significant time again, giving Frandsen an extended chance to show what he can do plus play a lot anyhow at other positions, and 3) be tradeable if Frandsen proved himself capable. But Durham put the kibosh on that by hitting like Neifi Perez.

I've been pushing for Frandsen to start as the starting 3B but obviously it would be better if he was the starting 2B, I just didn't see the Giants being able to trade Durham. But with Durham talking consistently about wanting to be traded, I think where's there's smoke, there's fire, so he could be gone sooner than I had thought. And in today's Merc, there's even a rumor of a Durham for Jeff Kent trade that shocked me! (only if they throw in Andy LaRoche! I'll even take Chin-Lung Hu, he's suppose to be a sharp fielding SS. :^)

Otherwise, my previous scenario of Frandsen starting at 3B until the Giants could unload Durham and free 2B for Frandsen and 3B for Aurilia (and probably utility for Ochoa) would seem the most logical sequence of events. In any case, Frandsen should be the Giants starting 2B of the future, probably within the 2008 season. The next question is will he keep that position for 2009, or would we find Sanders, Burris, Velez, Denker as our future 2B? It is one thing to get the chance to prove you belong as a starter, it is another thing to keep that position.

But Frandsen has been hitting well in AAA since he was 23 plus has hit well the past two months as a semi-starter and hit really well the past month as a regular starter, so there is some hope, though it would have been much better if we could have seen how he did over a full AAA season, so that we know better that his good hitting stats were not small sample flukes - which his weaker results in 2006 when he had his most exposure suggests, but which his dominating hitting in AAA this season plus hitting the past month helped ameliorate.

I am rooting for him, but I've rooted for many a player who didn't make it. I just think he has a great story and it would be nice to have a happy ending to it. Go Frandsen!

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