Sunday, December 02, 2007

2007 GM Winter Meeting: My Musing

First, I want to try something different with this post and perhaps future posts if I get a good response from readers (and it appears I have about 100 core readers, thanks!). My main man Myron views my posts via his cell phone sometimes and I know I have an issue with verboseness. So I'll do this, say, for the rest of the year and then reassess in the New Year.

What I'm thinking of starting each post with, for lack of a better term coming to mind immediately, is an executive summary. And to make it interesting to me, as much as I like to pack into each post every bit of information I think is pertinent to understanding what I'm writing about, I'm going to try to go in the opposite direction with the executive summary (plus, my executive summary tends to get pretty large anyhow) and condense it to as few words as possible. Think of it as the "anti-ogc take". But time is a premium to me because of my family and job search, so, in advance, please excuse me if I take a short cut on it and leave it overly long, but I'll try to do it for as many as I can this month (assuming enough people say they want this).

anti-ogc take

Winter meeting start with wimper: Feliz offered arbitration. Barf, but that's life sometimes.

If I were GM, I would stand pat and see what we got with our prospects and players. No trade unless "shocked".

People worry too much about offense, sometimes good offense is a great defense/pitching.

Trading is best if there are replacements ready to take over for lost players.

Pause in 2008 to see what we got. Play prospects whereever we can: Wilson, Ortmeier, Frandsen, Schierholtz, Misch/Sanchez/Correia, maybe Lewis.

Be patient. We're rebuilding. No need to make moves now, any moves made now probably could be made mid-season or next off-season, won't make a signficant difference in our 2008 or 2009 seasons in terms of making the playoffs in any case. So if we screw up 2008, who cares, we get a better 2009 draft pick, which probably should be the most important goal of 2008.

Don't worry, be happy we got Cain and Lincecum (with Villalona too).

GM Winter Meetings

With Sabean et al heading to Nashville I thought I would talk about where I see things with the Giants right now. I got into it a bit in my comment with Marco (who stole my thunder! :^) but wanted to capture it all in a post.

Barf: Feliz Offered Arbitration

First off, Feliz has been offered arbitration. What some fans don't understand sometimes is that life's situations forces you into bad places sometimes. That's life. With no great 3B alternative internally or via free agency, the Giants need to get a 3B and as bad as Feliz is, he is great defensively.

So it is a calculated risk to do this. If he accepts, then we are "set" at 3B, though we would have to probably overpay for him in arbitration, probably in the $7-8M range, though I'm hoping for more like $6-6.5M since he is so lousy offensively. Luckily, most teams feel the need to hold back their negative comments, but here they can probably blast him with both barrels because no matter how he feels about being treated here, he has to do well in 2008 to entice another team to sign him to a contract.

However, most probably at what I would place at 99.9999%, Feliz will turn down the offer because with the deadline for refusing only being next Friday, accepting arbitration would make his stance for a 3-year contract appear to be a whim - which will hurt any negotiations his agents have with teams in future years for a long-term contract. Especially given his big talk about finding schools elsewhere and other statements made to reporters about his impending free agency. With so little time to decide, he is pretty much forced to refuse arbitration if he is at all serious about a 3 year contract. Of course, that's assuming he doesn't get signed to a 3 year contract over the weekend (and I'm laughing at that notion too :^D).

So in all likelihood, Feliz will refuse arbitration and him being a B free agent, should he actually sign with anyone else, the Giants will get a draft pick from the signing team. Unfortunately, the risk of us re-signing him, say, in Jan/Feb timeframe still exists because 1) I don't expect any team to seriously want to sign him to a contract, particularly if they have to give up a draft pick, 2) with Pittsburgh offering Bay to the Indians, Marte probably is gone in that deal, and I'm not sure which other 3B is available, though I've seen rumors that Encarnacion can be had from the Reds (Lowry or Sanchez?) and the 'Dres have Headley and Kouzmanov, but that's intra-division so very unlikely, plus they might move Headley to 2B as some rumors state.

If I Were GM

Basically I would want to stand pat. Not that I think that we are all that great (except Cain and Lincecum, natch), but that doing any move for the most part is, to steal from what others have written, like moving around the deck chairs on the Titanic (not that I think the Giants are like the Titanic, that's others thinking).

We have two great pieces in Cain and Lincecum. They impart advantage in our starting rotation for the reasons I have given before. Unless someone is willing to trade us, say, a young starting 1B, young starting 3B, and another good prospect (preferably SS, like if D-gers offered us Loney, LaRoche, and Hu), I wouldn't give either of them up. But if someone is willing "shock" me, as Sabean had put it, then I would have to consider and probably do the trade.

Trade When It Makes Sense

But even then, I don't want to trade just to make a trade. Lowry and Sanchez are probably our two biggest trading chips, followed by Hennessey (long, set-up, closer plus starter), Correia (SP/RP), Misch (SP/RP), and perhaps Henry Sosa (I'm assuming Villalona is untouchable; he signed for less because he liked us, to trade him away would send the message to all other Carribean players that they shouldn't sign with us for less because we might just trade him away soon afterward. Plus, he has 40 HR potential, it would take Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder or someone similar to entice enough to take Villalona off my hands).

The way I see it, we have a nice set of pitchers, and it is special in terms of Cain and Lincecum, but we are not yet overflowing in talent, there is no great surplus as people have been saying we have. If we trade people away, we create holes in pitching that will need to be filled up quickly by prospects in 2008. And what if they don't, or, as some fear, one of our young pitchers become injured, stating TINSTAAPP. That just drops us back into the hole of needing more talent.

So before we go too far with our rebuilding, we need to know exactly what we are rebuilding. Trading away what we think is surplus today, especially given TINSTAAPP, could result in us needing pitching again. So even for our lesser trading chips than Cain/Lincecum, we should not be looking to just trade them just to mix things up, we need to make sure we get equal or better value in exchange for them.

What's wrong with taking a pause in 2008? We should see what we got with all our prospects, not just Lewis, Schierholtz, Frandsen, Ortmeier, but give another year of development for all our prospects in the minors, plus, probably most importantly, giving Bumgarner, Alderson, Fairley, Noonan, Culberson, Williams, D'Alessio, Oteri, and other draft picks a full season to see what they can go. For example, Sabean thought that Bumgarner and Alderson could be contributing to the majors in two years, which means 2009. 2008 would be proof in the pudding whether such a timetable is feasable or not.

And, of course, all our pitchers in the major league staff as well. Cain and Lincecum appear to be great but yes, pitchers are high-priced china-dolls waiting to break, and they are not often what they seem. I think one more year should tell us what to expect from the two of them. Wood and Prior, to name a prior young two-ace constellation, started having physical problems within a couple of full seasons.

But trading them off because of this physical reality seems like a way to CYA, it is not one of going for the gusto. I want a World Series championship. I'm not going to beat myself or the team up if they don't win one, but I want one. I believe a two-ace rotation is a powerful way of controlling a short series and that's what the playoffs are, a series of short series. Whether it is Cain/Lincecum or a combo of one of them with one of our upcoming starters, I don't really care, but I feel very strongly that this is the way to greatly improve our chances in the playoffs.

Some believe that we first need to focus on winning in the season now. That's useless ultimately because if you trade away your advantage now, there is no guarantee that you can trade your way back to that strength after you build up the team. Either way, you need to rebuild the team, so why break up your advantage now to get an incremental rebuild that still requires a lot of rebuilding (the Miguel Cabrera gambit) and why not keep your advantage (Cain/Lincecum) and continue the rebuild in 2008 and see where the pieces fall.

I strongly believe in pitchers with a lot of command (i.e. high K/BB). Cain, unfortunately, has struggled there all of his career. Both Bumgarner and Alderson have been huge command pitchers (as well as dominating with the K) and we should have a good feel for how good both of them are in 2008, and whether either can replace Cain in this duo-ace role.

Another thing that people seem to forget is that there is a ying/yang to offense and pitching. If you have great pitching, you don't need to have such great offense. If you believe in Bill James Pythagorean concept, winning is a function of run scored and runs allowed, and if we concentrated on keeping runs allowed low, we don't need a great offense to win 90 games and (most times) make the playoffs. Heck, we don't even need an average offense, to be at .500 this last season, we only needed a slight improvement in the offense to reach that.

For example, last season the Giants allowed 4.44 runs per game. We averaged 4.22 runs per game, good for 15th in the league. A 4.44 runs scored would have moved us up to just 14th place. I think trying to get back to .500 should be our first step in rebuilding, and it should not take much to reach there.

Also, if we keep the same pitching together, growth, maturity and development should drop that to the 4.2-4.3 range. Or we could trade off one of our good pitchers and replace him in the rotation with a lesser pitcher, and stay in that same 4.4-4.5 runs allowed range, but add hitting that raises us up by 0.2 runs per game. In other words, unless we hope to rob another team, whatever hitting they provide us will only be offset by the loss of pitching and lower replacement, it is pretty much a zero sum game unless you can trade off non-starters and prospects who were not part of the sum in the previous season.

Trading off a core member of the previous season's team creates a hole there unless you have someone to replace and pretty much duplicate his performance. We have no one of the caliber of Cain and Lincecum coming up in 2008 to replace their performance, so we take a hit there in order to improve our hitting. Zero sum.

That's why trading off Lowry and/or Sanchez would lead to an improvement. Lowry is a good pitcher, but Misch appears to be a similar type of pitcher and is even better at both striking out batters and not walking as many. Lowry can be replaced in the rotation with someone similar and, more importantly, someone who might match his performance. Sanchez was only in the bullpen, and we have a number of people ready to move into the bullpen who were not there in 2007, again, adequate performance replacement.

You don't trade just to trade, you need to take the whole team into context and move your chess pieces accordingly.

Take Pause in 2008

As noted above, we should take a pause in 2008. Trade only if it clearly makes the team better, but otherwise stand pat. By pausing, I mean we see what we have in our hand with our prospects. We need to see if Ortmeier is any good at 1B, Frandsen is any good as a hitter, Schierholtz is any good in RF, Lewis is any good in the OF, see if our pitchers get better or get injured/inconsistent, see if our prospects continue to develop (or not). I think things will be clearer where we are and what we got after the 2008 season.

Thus, assuming we stand pat and do no trade (the main trade I would like to see is to get a young 3B prospect cheaply plus unloading Durham for either bullpen or 1B and perhaps trading Winn for good prospect or two), I would want to see a lineup at the start of the season of:

C - Benjie Molina
1B - Dan Ortmeier
2B - Ray Durham
3B - Kevin Frandsen
SS - Omar Vizquel
LF - Roberts/Davis
CF - Winn
RF - Schierholtz

UT - Alfonzo/Rodriguez, Aurilia, Lewis, Davis, Velez?

SP - Lincecum, Cain, Zito, Lowry, Misch
RP - Wilson, Walker, Hennessey, Correia, Sanchez, Chulk/Messenger, Kline

Question Marks

1B: I understand the concern over Ortmeier. I'm not saying he's going to be as good a hitter as 2007, but it's not like he hasn't been a good hitting prospect before. Let's see what he can do before we trade off someone valuable to fill 1B. Given the strategy of punting 2008 and taking a pause, why not give Ortmeier half a year to see what he can do? If he fails, we insert Aurilia in there or make that trade that people have suggested to get a 1B.

2B: If we unable to trade off Durham, we have to play him in hopes he can return to his previous normal good hitting self. If he hits, then we work hard to trade him off for someone so that Frandsen can play 2B, or even play Frandsen at 3B and Velez at 2B. 2008 should be all about finding out what our prospects can and can't do. Though if the rumored Durham for Sexson trade goes through, I would be OK with playing him over Ortmeier, as I think it is more important to see what Frandsen can do at 2B than Ortmeier at 1B, for all the reason Chris used in his excellent rebuttal to my suggestion of starting Ortmeier at 1B. I would prefer trading Durham for bullpen help, if I had my druthers.

3B: I understand the concern over Frandsen's fielding at 3B. But he couldn't be as bad as Ryan Braun's hacktastic fielding (and not that he would match Braun's hitting), and since he played there before, he couldn't be THAT bad a fielder, as long as he is about average, that's all we can hope for, the main thing is we need to see what type of bat he has so that we can decide whether to start him at 2B in 2009 or search for another 2B. So we find him a position to start at and go from there.

LF: Davis's horrible slump in September screams that his first month with us was a fluke, but that's OK, he's perfect as a platoon buddy with Roberts, particularly since he hits much better against LHP than RHP. I would not have been happy seeing him start in CF and Schierholtz on the bench. Roberts I have extolled his second half after he was healthy, he was back to where he was over the past few years when he established himself.

CF: I would rather give Fred Lewis the start here to see what he can do, but Winn makes too much plus he actually was one of the team's best players in 2007, so we need to let him play and continue to be good so that we can perhaps trade him for a nice prospect or two and THEN let Lewis start in CF. Sitting or platooning him as some suggests, just kills his trade value and we might then have to eat his salary, and I hate wasting payroll.

RF: Got to give Schierholtz a full season to show himself, so even if he has a slow start (much like Kouzmanoff in 2007), he needs to play and get his bearings. Prior in his career, he has needed time to adjust to the higher level of competition, but then once adjusted, he just blasts the ball around. We need to give him that time, even into 2009, as long as he is hitting decently and not like under 600 OPS.

UT: Aurilia is our insurance at 1B and 3B, in case either totally flops, but in no case should he take over starting, he would just be playing a lot more and Frandsen and/or Ortmeier, a lot less, both should still see playing time. Velez I threw in there because we need another infielder, though I suppose Niekro or McCain could fit in there as well. Lewis should still get a lot of AB's, either CF for Winn (give Winn more rest, play him about 140 games), plus RF (Schierholtz isn't playing 162 games), and he gets all the DH opportunities (that's another 15-20 games normally). That should give him about half a season of play, more if Roberts has an injury, which he appears to be prone to.

SP: I would like to see Sanchez take the last spot but realistically, Misch has shown the most as a starter, and I expect him to take the last spot. That's why I think Lowry should be aggressively marketed in trades and see if we can get someone to overpay a bit for him, because I think Misch can step in and do well in his place. And Correia did so well in starting, that he might beat out Misch, but I like Misch striking out so many, whereas Correia doesn't.

RP: Wilson will hopefully hold the closer spot this time, and Walker look like he would be good in setup, in combo with everyone else. Hennessey probably can be traded for good prospects because of all the roles he can take on, particularly closing in a pinch, plus setup and starting, but probably not until mid-season when a team is desperate. That's OK, he can help anchor the bullpen until then. Correia will probably end up here, though I would be just as happy if he pitches knock-out baseball like he did late in 2007 and snare a spot in the rotation instead.

Future Offense

I am not that worried for a variety of reasons. The offense without Bonds in 2007 was potent enough to put us middle of the pack in 46 games, and while that is small samples, it was spread across the season and there was only one real outlier (the 15 run game, plus the 10 run game but that I consider normal). It should be better in 2008 because Roberts will be healthy the whole year (as a hitter, though might have nagging injuries like Durham had before; in previous years injury didn't affect hitting, just playing time), Schierholtz usually improves in his second try at a level and even then he was at 85 OPS+, Frandsen should be able to outhit Feliz's 710 OPS at 3B, and Ortmeier/Aurilia at 1B should not be any worse than Aurilia/Klesko in 2007.

Plus, we don't know what talent will be available after the arbitration acceptance due date next Friday. We picked up Jose Cruz Jr. one time because he was non-tendered (and those should be apparent now, though I'm not aware yet who has been let go) and who knows which players refuse arbitration and go out into the market as free agents. There might be other options available to us soon.

In addition, cost/performance is what is trying us now, so maybe once we get into Jan/Feb we can do what KC and Pittsburg has done in previous years, take on cheap vets who can hold a spot for us while we evaluate things. So maybe get a 1B/3B type who can sit on the bench behind Ortmeier/Frandsen, and Aurilia would truly be a utility player instead of a potential starter.

In any case, there is still a lot of time until opening day to tweak the lineup in a cost effective way while rebuilding. And even if all the things I speculated on doesn't happen? We are re-building, it don't matter much, if we lose more, we'll just get a better draft pick in 2009.

Which should probably be the more important goal of 2008. We got a great pick in 2008's draft, #5, and we should get another good one in 2009's draft. These picks could be just as important to our future as our picks in 1985 and 1986, when we selected Will Clark and Matt Williams.

So why trade for a 1B prospect with a valuable pitcher? See if Ortmeier works and if he doesn't as some suspect, we can still trade for a 1B prospect with a valuable pitcher. Same for 3B. Same for RF. Losing don't really matter, evaluating what we have for the future should be the issue.

Same for Cain and Lincecum, I'm not saying we never break them up, but we wait to see what else springs up from the farm system, there is no urgency to change things up now, there is no need to upgrade positions now, all these changes can be delayed and it won't really affect our chances in 2008 or 2009 much. Such is the fate when your team is re-building and in poor shape talent wise.

Don't worry, be happy we have Cain and Lincecum (plus Villalona too).

2 comments:

  1. I really hate the fact that the Giants offered Feliz arbitration, as I am not convinced that he will turn it down. If he doesn't we will have to suffer through another year of this guy. Blecch! I'm sure the Giants are hoping that he turns them down and some other team signs him so we get another pick. I wouldn't be so sure about that. Feliz & his agent should know by now that there is relatively no market for him.

    By the way, I think that if Feliz turns down arbitration the Giants cannot sign him until May 1. Not totally sure about that, but I think that's the way it works.

    I don't agree at all about playing Frandsen at 3B. If the Giants are really trying to evaluate if he is going to be a viable ML player, he has to play 2B. Even if Durham does somehow play better in 2008 and he manages to be worth someting at the trade deadline, it is not worth the lost evaluation on Frandsen to get a type of prospect similar to what we got for Sweeney which would be the absolute ceiling for what we'd get for him. Durham should be a bench player in 2008 if they are not able to get rid of him.

    Re Davis, now everyone knows why the Pirates were willing to move him. Still, the Giants won that deal big time just for getting Morris' contract off the books.

    I agree that you don't trade for trading sake, however you do want to move certain players before they lose their trading value. I would consider players like Lowry, Sanchez & Hennessey in that group. They all should be moved for young talent, preferably all psotion players. You may be surprised about including Sanchez in that group, however he has yet to show the ability to master 3 pitches and to also consistently work the strike zone. In my opinion, I'm not convinced that he will ever develop either of those qualities. He should be moved while other teams still covet his potential. I really don't think there's any need to explain why Lowry & Hennessey should be moved.

    I've backed the Giants pursuit of Cabrera and still think landing a player of his quality would be a plus for many years to come. However, that's also the rub....many years to come. From all reports, it is not likely thath Cabrera will agree to a long term extension. He intends to test free agency. Therefore, he makes no sense to pursue, if that's really the case. The Giants need to build around youth, but only for the long term. Without an extension, it makes no sense. This is also what is disturbing about hearing reports out of the winter meetings that the Giants are players for Miguel Tejada. There is no way that acquiring an aging SS that will need to move to 3B makes any sense at all.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Boof, I'm not totally happy about Feliz either, I'm hoping the Giants did this because of what they learned from the conversations that they had with his agents already.

    We'll just have to disagree about Frandsen like so many other items.

    Yes, it was great to get Morris's contract off the books, I was just glad that Davis wasn't starting in CF as many columnists had been penciling in for the Giants since the off-season began. You can not always tell when they are actually giving information from the Giants or just their speculation.

    Yes, I want to move Lowry, Sanchez, Hennessey if that gets us good position prospects (only, no use getting more pitchers IMO). I can go either way with Sanchez, but if he gets us a good position prospect, then I'm all for it.

    Here's how a Tejada makes sense (though I will state first that I don't want to do a deal for him). We need a middle of lineup hitter and have a tubload of money to spend. They have stated the objective is to be competitive and they have money to spend. We need a 3B and it's not like he would be blocking anyone currently at 3B, particularly since you don't care to play Frandsen there. Plus we don't give up substantial prospects for him.

    However, whereas we see it as taking on their contract mistake, they actually want pretty good prospects in return. If any of our top trading pieces go, I say no. If any of our top prospects go, I say no.

    If we are paying his full salary, we should not have to give up much to get him, and if they want a lot, forget it.

    ReplyDelete

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