Friday, November 30, 2007

Good News: Lincecum and Cain Trade Would Be Shocking

I'm a little late to this but what the heck. At a conference yesterday where Sabean announced a passel of new advisors, he answered some questions about the Giants plans. There are reports on that conference call at the Chronicle, the Mercury, and the Bee, that I've read.

Of course, as my long-time regular readers know, I've complained repeatedly that each reporter seems to have a different take on what was said in the conference call, or leaves out what I think is important information that another reporter fortunately saw fit to publish. That's why I wish the Giants would still post their press conferences on-line at their website so that people like me can hear what was said and get all the information.

There are great takes on it at McCovey Chronicles and El Lefty Malo. And I posted some stuff at both sites, of course.

The main takeaways are these, which I rank in order, that's about the main value I can provide over what's been done already:

First and foremost, Lincecum and Cain isn't going anywhere unless Sabean is "shocked" with a tremendous offer. Miguel Cabrera was asked about and he ripped the Marlins for asking for the moon for him. He basically complained that any team approaching the Giants ask for Cain or Lincecum and, reading between the lines, he's tired of them until they are ready to put up a blockbuster package. From the reports, Cabrera was not blockbuster enough because he's probably not signing an extension and would leave in two years, and neither was Delmon Young blockbuster enough. Our two ace pitchers are virtually untouchable because of "what their future brings".

Good, that's the way I feel too. It sounds like that Sabean is trying to work on other teams to give up a 3B and/or impact bat for young players other than Cain and Lincecum, and he speculates that once the winter meetings are over, the price might go down for such a player. He thinks he will get this player(s) via trade most probably, rather than free agency, and he has "about a half dozen" deals that he is working on.

Second, the Merc's account notes that Sabean said that he wouldn't shy away from acquiring players for major roles who haven't proven themselves at the major league level. That's quite a departure from past tactics and would open up the team to more trade possibilities. Andy Marte is mentioned in the accounts, and the Chron went through a laundry list, though I must say here that no NL West team is going to trade off a good prospect that they have to us, it can come back to haunt them repeatedly if they lay an egg in the trade.

I cannot remember the last position player we did that with during Sabean's tenure. In fact, I don't think that's ever happened, the closest would be obtaining Jeff Kent, who played a lot but wasn't a starter (that is, hadn't played a full season; he did start a lot of games so he wasn't untested or unproven, just wasn't ever given the opportunity to play a full season) when we got him. He's probably also the youngest non-starting player we obtained to become a starter too, heck, he's probably the only non-starter acquired to become a starter.

In addition, the Chron's version notes that they are open to hitters who play any position, even ones that currently seem filled. Sabean noted, "We're smart enough to know that whenever the iron strikes, you have to make the adjustment." I don't particularly like this because I'm afraid he might pick up another OF when we have so many OF prospects who 1) have done well in short stints with the Giants and 2) have done well in the minors, enough to earn a chance to show what they can do up here. But I guess a Delmon Young would have been nice, though still I would like to see Schierholtz get a shot in RF.

Third, Rajai Davis is not considered ready for CF, and more importantly, the Giant are thinking of moving Winn back to CF and, depending on which version you read, RF would go to Schierholtz or he and Lewis will compete for it. As nice a story and history that Lewis has had, I think Schierholtz has the bigger potential and hopefully he will become the starting RF for the Giants in 2008. That would provide a nice middle of the line-up bat right there.

The cloud in the coffee on this feel-good story is that the Giants are still considering free agents for CF and as noted above, they will acquire regardless of players we already have. It sounds like they will be among the bidders if Andruw Jones is willing to go with a 1-2 year contract. Plus they have apparently contacted Aaron Rowand's agent. And who knows who else they might be "kicking the tires" with.

The Merc's account also noted that the Giants has tried shopping Roberts, Durham, and Aurilia but found no buyers. It also noted that they were not looking to move Molina either. And Winn I think he still has a no-trade until sometime next year, maybe mid-season.

The main rumor out there for these vets has been Molina to the Mets, but that seems to be a false rumor now because the Mets just today traded for Brian Schneider, late of the Nats, because he is a strong defensive catcher and not much of a hitter, and the articles stated that they were looking for a defensive catcher so that they can possibly non-tender Johnny Estrada, who they just received in a trade and who is not known for his defense either, he's known for his offense. Molina is acceptable defensively in some quarters, not so much in most others. His main value is his bat relative to his position.

Fourth, the Chron's version includes a quote from Bochy that I found interesting. It followed Sabean's answer to the question of what happens if the Giants don't acquire someone, which was that he would focus on making "our pitching stronger" (so they'll acquire more pitchers?). Bochy said, "It's always good to have an impact player, but they [Arizona] didn't have an impact player. They didn't have one guy. We've talked about a different brand of ball, everybody contributing and not leaning on one guy or waiting for a guy to hit a three-run homer. Sure, they are great to have, but there are teams that win without them."

That's a view I've been hewing to in my statement, though not explicitly stated, that we could be competitive offensively with what we have. In 46 games where Bonds did not start, the team averaged 4.7 runs per game according to a post-season article in the Merc. Admittedly small samples, but still, that's not a small amount of games either, that's almost a third of the season plus it was sprinkled all across the season for the most part until the very end. There was that big scoring game where they scored 15 runs, and taking out that outburst drops it to 4.5 runs per game. The team allowed 4.44 runs per game in 2007 and I expect it to be better in 2008, due to improvements in the starting rotation (full season Lincecum, Cain more consistent, Zito over jitters) and the bullpen (Wilson and Walker should help improve the bullpen greatly), so that's a .500 record right there.

The main thing, whether it's starting Ortmeier at first and Frandsen at third as I've been pushing for, or Zito, Lincecum and Cain improving on what they did last season, is that we give it a shot and see what happens. That's the bottom line, you cannot get much cheaper than Ortmeier at 1B without trading away some valuable pitching to get an alternative at 1B, and there's no guarantee that we can get a good 1B or 3B for Lowry or any other package. And even if you get a better 1B prospect (again at the cost of a good pitching prospect like Sanchez), there is no guarantee he's going to be any good either, and even if he is good, it doesn't make us good enough to compete for the division title, unless we get the second coming of Morneau, Howard, or Fielder.

So give the youngsters a chance, it is not like the Giants are going to be that competitive in 2008. Worry over cost/benefit don't really fit in when the cost is giving up good pitching prospects to get a valid 1B prospect versus giving Ortmeier a chance at 1B. At worse, if he fails, Aurilia can take over, or perhaps we can trade for someone mid-season, just as suggested now by others. Why not give Ortmeier a chance to start and see what happens, we can always get that suggested player mid-season instead.

Fifth, the Bee's version quotes Sabean as saying that Frandsen could play 3B if the Giants can't talk Feliz into another one year contract. I know that there are people who don't want to see Frandsen at 3B, but as far as I'm concerned, I'm worried less about defense than giving our young prospects a chance and seeing what they got. But he doesn't have the starting job sewn up, Aurilia was mentioned too.

Apparently Feliz's agents are asking for a 3 year deal - as good as his defense has become, and Baseball Musing's PMR shows him as one of the best in the majors, getting 30+ more outs than expected for the number of balls handled, his offense is equally horrid - so good luck with that, I will put this demand up there with Aurilia's agents asking for 4 years, $32M initially when he went free agent with the Giants. Not. Going. To. Happen.

Seeing that Feliz was so good defensively according to PMR, I can swallow it if the Giants do sign him to another one year deal (but I won't be happy, it'll be like taking nasty medicine, like cod liver oil). But still, we need to see how Frandsen can do as a starter. So whether it's we just give him 2B, we give him 3B, or we trade Durham and give him 2B, we must give Frandsen a chance to do what he has done in the minors, and prep for 2009. It will be nice if we are competitive in 2008 (much like it would have been nice to be competitive in 1997, after Matt Williams was traded away; fortunately we were more than that) but I say again that our focus should be on 2009 and beyond, if we punt 2008, so be it, if some youngsters come through, hurrah and let's celebrate.


  1. Martin, great take. Thanks for your efforts!

  2. Nice ideas. I've been screaming "use 2008 to evaluate what we have - just forget about contending, use it to let the kids show us what they got" most of the off-season and have been routinely ridiculed for it on most boards. Everybody wants to see "that one great trade" that will suddenly make it all better, and I just don't think that it's possible, or even advisable. I'd like to see:

    1B: Ortmeier/Aurilia
    2B: Frandsen/Durham
    3B "young kid via trade"/Aurilia
    SS: Vizquel
    LF: Winn/Roberts
    CF: Davis/Lewis
    RF: Schierholtz

    The other benefit of doing that is that all the money "saved" is immediately tossed into funded ALL the deferred payments still due guys over the next 3 years - get it out of the way all at once (like ripping off a bandaid) instead of taking a $10M hit the next two years, and the few M the year after that.

    To steal from Nike : "Just Do It"

  3. Gee, thanks Marco, you just ruined my next post! :^)

    Seriously, I was going to work on a "state of the Giants" post and basically go in detail my thoughts on the team, but you put it much more succinctly than I would. :^D

    Yeah, I haven't been popular on boards either, but if I get someone to see my point, then that's great.

    All these people believe in the big fix. Whether it's getting Cabrera (and that popular Mariner's log, USS Mariner, basically use logic similar to my and other's reasoning about the Giants and Cabrera, for their case of Seattle and Santana, basically that doing that trade would gut the team and the team remaining wouldn't be competitive either.) or fixing all the holes on the offense, the Giants can't do that right now with a series of big trades. This is not like 1997 when we had Bonds and some other good players, we have two good players, Cain and Lincecum, but still a bit unproven, and we need another year to get a better feeling for what we got.

    I basically see the same lineup, except for a few differences.

    3B has to be either "young kid via trade" or Frandsen, Aurilia does not start unless youngsters really fall on their faces, and even then they will still see a lot of playing time, maybe they skip a series or two to clear their mind and try again. We must see what Frandsen can do, and if Durham cannot be traded, we have to play Frandsen at 2B.

    LF has to be Roberts/Davis with Winn in CF. Roberts was very good in the second half of 2007 for the leadoff role, or basically what his career numbers show, so it's good you see him starting against RHP: .291/.362/.388/.751 with 14 steals and 32 runs in 206 AB (about 30 SB and 80 runs over a full season).

    Winn, while not great was OK, with a .798 OPS, which is adequate for RF, just the canard that people like to throw out that RF is a power position. If we are paying him that much, we should either start him in CF or trade him. I am OK with trading him, then Lewis could start in CF perhaps (and Bowker might be ready to come up if Lewis falters, and move Roberts/Davis back to CF).

    And yes, Schierholtz must start in RF.

    Now that's a GREAT idea of saving payroll, to pay for all future deferments! Actually, in practice, much of the deferment has to be paid, like depreciation, over time until it is due, so there's not a big amount that's due, normally (except for Bonds's 2007 bonuses probably), but still, take them all off the books now.

    Plus, as I've read in some places that I think is a good idea, move the money back to development/farm system and, like, pay to re-do Dodd Stadium and work out some way that the Defenders pay back the team over time, do a bunch of picks in the 2008 draft of players who fall due to signability problems and if you do volume, you should get a nice haul overall.

  4. Good post, intelligent comment by marcopolo. I hope I've found a rational Giants blog without the sackcloth and ashes hysteria over dropping Bonds. I live in Rockies territory and they're an example of what the Giants should be doing. Forget the big banger and work on developing players. It's cheaper and you can get more of them (check out the Brewers and Diamondbacks, as well as the Rockies). In fact, SF already has a leg up with the young pitchers already in place. If they come through, that is. If it takes a few years, oh well. I've already waited 45 years. Red Sox fans would probably say it'll be that much sweeter, for those who survive to see it. And doing it the other way didn't work, did it? Fifteen years and one (1) World Series appearance, a disappointing loss to an inferior team.



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