Thursday, January 24, 2008

Giants Youths Seek ABs

The Giants young position duo most likely to get significant playing time in 2008 - Kevin Frandsen and Dan Ortmeier - met with the press yesterday (Wednesday), along with Brian Sabean, and the Chron and Merc had their versions of the press conference.

The Chron's version noted Kevin Frandsen's and Dan Ortmeier's determination to win playing time by building up their bodies and changing it per the team's instructions. Frandsen showed off his new physique, and Ortmeier likewise added more muscle and changed his proportions in order to generate more power.

That was the key for Geovanny Soto, a prospect for the Cubs who like Ortmeier was a good prospect coming up, but hadn't been doing much at the higher levels. So last off-season, he worked on his body and got into tip-top shape and had a monster offensive year in AAA, then coming up and earning the starting job then and for 2008.

Not that either Frandsen and Ortmeier can hit as well as Soto, just that sometimes it doesn't take much to get the prospect to another level. Also, Frandsen talked about his strong feelings of friendship and respect for Durham but also basically challenged Durham publicly that he's going to take the starting job. But can he?

Sabean had some good words to that effect, stating:
"I think at this point it looks favorable. I think the players realize that, and Boch and the coaching staff realize the transition we're in. To not give guys like Frandsen and Ortmeier a chance to play, in the phase we're in, would be counterproductive."
Still, Sabean added that nothings in stone, that the offense and roster will be a work in progress into the regular season, mainly through trade, though free agents remain a possibility. Basically, that's the same as any year, if you produce, you have nothing to worry about, if you don't, we will replace you with someone we think can do the job. Also, both players were asked about that and responded that neither of them were promised anything by Giants management. Ortmeier noted:
"But I respect that because I want to be ready to compete and win a job," Ortmeier said. "That was my mindset from the first day of the off-season and it remains the same today. Whether we sign somebody tomorrow or we don't sign anybody at all, I'm focused on being healthy and ready to contribute."
Bochy was there too and had some info to share:
"Kevin looks like he's ready to take over and play on a regular basis," Bochy said. "But you do have another second baseman (Ray Durham) who two years ago threw up some great numbers and hit in the heart of the order. We're geared toward pitching and defense, but we'll have to knock in runs, too.

"So as manager, there'll be some tough decisions, especially when you're coming off a season like we had. We want to get back on track. It usually comes down to how much trust you have in your young players and who else you have on your ballclub. Right now, I'd say Ortmeier and Frandsen would get a lot of playing time."

Bochy said Ortmeier still has to answer questions about his defense and his switch-hitting stroke, especially from the left side.
Happiness: No Feliz

The good news is that the Giants have moved on from Feliz (though there appears to be a tiny window open). They offered him a two year contract and he turned it down. So the Giants are moving on and looking into trades and other free agents, apparently.

Morgan Ensberg was mentioned by the Merc (I like him best, no cost in prospects, could be low cost/risk, high reward if he returns to past excellence, which I think is still possible, Garner didn't like him or use him well, I heard) and Crede has been a constant name tied to the Giants, and now there's a link, in that Rowand highly recommends him and Ron Schueler, Sabean's new advisor, was the ChiSox GM when they got Crede, and Ron has been pushing for Crede.

However, Sabean had to add the word "pretty", as in, "we've pretty much moved on," which leaves a window open for the Giants to sign Feliz. But that is the Chron version, the Merc version quotes instead: "We moved on," Giants G.M. Brian Sabean said. "I don't see us doing business." I don't see means that there's wiggle room for something he didn't see.

And according to the Merc, sources close to Feliz said that Feliz is thinking of dropping his agent and coming back to the Giants, either at the Giants terms (two years) or possibly even if it is only a one year contract. But according to Baggarly, it was left unclear if Sabean would reopen negotiations with Feliz.

Frandsen and Ortmeier Show

The two young players, though, were the star attractions. Both are hoping to get a lot of ABs. Ortmeier said that he wanted 500 AB, to which Frandsen then retorted that he wanted 700 AB (which is only possible if he led off and didn't walk or get HBP much). Both are excited over the opportunity they might be getting.
"It's a new era, a fresh start for all of us," Frandsen said Wednesday. "All we care about is playing for the Giants, for this city and the fans in our ballpark. We're here to show them they should be excited about us because we can play. We've watched each other have great success in the minor leagues."
Ortmeier knows that he's not going to replace Bonds's production:

"I'm definitely not going to come in and try to hit more home runs," Ortmeier said. "I'm going to try to do what I do, which is make good, consistent contact. I think I'm strong enough, and my mechanics are good enough, that if I hit the ball, it's going to go. I'm not too worried about that. You can't come and think, 'I gained 10 pounds. I'm going to hit 15 more home runs.' "
The Chron noted that at this time, Aurilia looks likely to be sharing time with both Frandsen and Ortmeier, at 3B and 1B, respectively. It also noted that with Aurilia around, the Giants will not be in the market for mentors like Tony Clark or Mark Sweeney. That kills the rumor that the Giants are interested in Tony Clark, which to me has always appeared to be just a suggestion that Clark's agent threw out there to drum up business for his client.

We'll end with a quote from Frandsen, who talked about working out with Dustin Pedroia, who the Red Sox stuck with after a horrid April:

"There's no bigger confidence boost than having someone stick with you after a month like that," Frandsen said. "It's what you'd hope the Giants would do if they give me an opportunity: stick with you and let you go through your lows, let you fight out of it."
Niekro Gone

Unsurprisingly, Lance Niekro is no longer a Giant. He recently signed with the Houston Astros, which is where he grew up when his father was an Astro player.

8 comments:

  1. Forgot to give some of my thoughts.

    I like that they are preparing themselves to start, even though no promise has been made to them. That shows hunger and I think that's good for prospects to have that hunger.

    I like Sabean's statement about letting the young guys play. He admits that there is a transition going on - despite the comments about competing in 2008, which could have been just rhetoric - and that not giving the young players would be "counterproductive".

    Glad that Feliz is inching closer and closer to having the door shut on him, but like any good horror movie, you fear that the boogeyman is suddenly going to jump up and live again. I'll rest easy the moment a press conference by another team announces Feliz's signing.

    Ensberg has been mentioned for a long while now, and he makes sense, but given that nothing has happened for him yet, I have to think that the Giants are not really that into him, for whatever reason. Maybe they are getting more comfortable with the thought of Frandsen at 3B? Still, that's temporary until Durham is traded or DFAed, in my opinion, Frandsen will be the starting 2B by the end of the season, one would hope.

    Glad that the rumor about Tony Clark is dead. I would rather have Ortmeier platoon with someone out of our farm system than bring in a vet - besides, JT Snow can earn his advisor money by tutoring Ortmeier on the side and lending his hand in mentoring, why get Clark?

    Just hope most of the young position hitters will get at least 300 ABs to show what they got.

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  2. Hello Martin. I posted this on Lefty's site, so sorry for the repeat, but I was looking at his salary numbers and I calculate the Giants are at $71 mil for '08, well below the $95-105 that has been talked about. Not only do they, potentially, have $30 mil left over, they can not only bring in another player, Feliz, say, but they are also positioned to eat some salary if they want to DFA Durham, for example. Looking at this "surplus," it is interesting and remarkable that Sabean has not signed a $5 mil RP. He can clearly afford it.
    I am puzzled by his thinking regarding Feliz. I would think it perfecftly reasonable to sign Feliz for one year. But I cannot see any advantage in signing him for 2. If you sign him for '08 you then can more easily DFA Durham and plug in Frandsen at 2b - with Aurilia in the backgroun in case either Frandsen or Ort fail. By why sign Feliz for '09? If Ort and Frandsen play well, 5 positions are set for '09 (1b, 2b, and OF) and possibly C. Omar is signed but you can still get out of the contract if you can find a replacement. That would mean, going into the winter of '08/'09 you would only need a significant upgrade at 3b. So why commit $5 or 6 mil to Feliz, knowing you're going to be looking for an upgrade next winter?

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  3. Thanks allfrank, I noticed you posted those numbers on MCC too. I did not realize that with all that has been going on. Are you sure, even with Rowand and Vizquel added on? Are you including deferred money from prior years (though I've been arguing with others that deferred money don't come out of the current budget, the CBA requires that it be paid over time into an escrow account, like a mortgage).

    Yes, it is remarkable restraint that Sabean didn't sign a reliever based on his past behavior, but as I've been posting, here and elsewhere, this winter has been different - not totally different, but there have been significant differences.

    Again, why DFA Durham? If 2007 is a fluke, he comes back and hit 800+ OPS like he did previously and would be very very valuable in trade to another team. If 2007 is the future, we find out relatively fast and we DFA him knowing that he could join another team, but wouldn't do anything good for them. If 2007 is a low and 2008 is a bounceback to in-between but still the start of the decline at the end of his career, there is still value in that, there will be a team willing to give up a good prospect for him. If we could get Pichardo for Tucker, who was a worse player for career and was terrible that last season with us, Durham should net us an OK prospect.

    We need prospects. We need these lottery tickets. The more tickets we have, the more chance we find someone. In two of the scenarios, we net prospect(s). In the other, we only lose a little playing time, and in any case, perhaps the Giants keep Frandsen at 3B for all of 2008 and try out Velez at 2B once they DFA Durham. The possibilities are endless! :^)

    About Feliz, here's how I see it. There's no way Villalona starts for the Giants in 2009, but maybe he can make 2010. That gives a two year window at 3B where we have no one, right now. Yes, we could sign Feliz to one year, but then what do we do the second year? Sign another free agent 3B? But another FA who is good would want more than 1 year. So then we end up with a 3B who is so bad that he would be willing to take only one year from us anyhow for 2009. And Sabean's pattern from the past is to seek out the poison he knows versus the poison he don't know. Hence Feliz for two years, because Sabean has always been about getting the guy he wants, and Feliz made a big stink about getting a multi-year contract, so by offering a two-year, Feliz wins and the Giants win (in Sabean's thinking).

    Because we need somebody to play there, we can't leave a vacancy sign there at each game.

    Also, the pattern lately is that anybody good and young who is not a Boras client has gotten a contract extension before he goes on the free agent market. So who are we really going to see in the 3B free agent market next off-season anyway? Probably the same sorry set of free agents who were available this season.

    Right? Reggie Sanders. Kenny Lofton. Royce Clayton. Half the names the same, seemingly.

    Oh, thanks again for the numbers, that's pretty good savings on the part of the Giants. Hopefully they are saving up money to spend on the #5 pick for 2008 plus have money left over for the Top 10 (or better) pick we should get in 2009.

    And as I've been saying every once in a while: sign Lincecum to a 5 year contract with an option! That could be the most important move made during the off-season, much like last year's contract for Cain last off-season.

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  4. Actually, I added wrong, the number is $78 mil. And yes, I also believe the deferred money does not count against the announced budget, but is in a separate "fund." I used the contract numbers to the far right on Lefty's site. Not all are there. For pitchers, I added $1 mil each for Chulk and Correia + .5 mil for each of the 5 remaining who will fill the roster. C, + .5 mil. IF, + $ 1 mil, OF, + $1 mil.
    I see your logic on Feliz and Durham. I don't think Sabean sees it that way. I would be very surprised if he would feel comfortable bring Velez up in June, say, and making him virtually a starter for 4 months. His pattern is to bring position players along fairly slowly, and Velez has only gotten 10 or so ABs. He's only going to carry 5 IFs. I would be shocked if, at this juncture, Velez is one of them. That is why I think the decision is between Feliz and Durham (meaning the other 4 spots go to Ort, Aurilia, Omar, Frandsen). To carry both Feliz and Durham, he can carry only 4 OFs.
    That's why it seems so risky to keep Durham. Will he be better than 218? Probably. Will he hit 260? That is a huge unknown/gamble. Velez is not his fall back option. He might keep Durham if he thinks he can trade him in July for a prospect that he could immediately put on the roster, a la Davis. that is a huge risk, don't ya think? What is he likely to gain if Durham hits 230?

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  5. Thanks for the updated numbers. Sounds pretty good, and I personally don't think the whole deferred money goes in, but I do think that some of the money goes in, probably would be safe to divide it by the years between the year it was earned in and the year it is being paid.

    I was being facetious about Velez, hence my smiley after that statement.

    But I can see the Giants bringing up Velez to replace Durham, or really, to replace Aurilia, because Aurilia would be the starting 3B and Frandsen the starting 2B, once Durham is traded.

    Though Ivan Ochoa, assuming he continues to do well, would be the more obvious choice as utility MI, given his defensive abilities and now improved offensive prowess. Still, Velez is a highly regarded prospect and Ochoa isn't, and as Sabean recently noted, in our situation, our transition, it behooves the Giants to see what the young guys got. Maybe Velez gets a spot start at 2B with Frandsen taking 3B, if he is brought up.

    But yeah, I don't think Velez - at this moment - would get to start. He would have to move up to AAA and have a breakout type of year in order to do that. He seems able to get on base OK, but his slugging leaves a lot to be desired. Still, I am totally amazed at how much he changed after getting out of the Blue Jays system, the most he stole with them was 7 bases the year before we got him, 3 before that (his first pro season), then first year with us, he steals 64 (!!!) bases at a 81% success rate!!! And, hey, he actually played some SS his first season with us, so maybe he can be the MI/OF utility player, in the mode of a Chone Figgins playing all over the place and providing some speed. And power don't mean as much leading off or batting 8th.

    As long as Frandsen is playing, I don't see what the risk of keeping Durham is relative to the strong possibility that he will have a regression to the mean season and be valuable enough for a team competing for a division title to want his experience and abilities.

    However, getting Feliz means paying probably $6-7M per season AND a two season commitment, on top of probably DFAing Durham for no gain OR playing him and not playing Frandsen.

    If he's hitting .230, dump him in April, no real loss of playing time there.

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  6. The risk - harm, actually - of keeping Durham is his impact on the roster. If you have Durham, he plays and Feliz plays 3b. I don't see how they keep both Durham and Feliz - unless they get rid of Aurilia. I think they will only carry 5 IFs; and you have 6 (Ort, Durham, Omar, Feliz, Frandsen, Aurilia). They may keep 6, but I think that depends on what turns out with Capellan. If they keep him, he is going to be a relatively low innings guy - thus, I would expect they would carry 8 RPs if they carry Capellan. And if they do that, they can carry 2 Cs, 5 IFs, and 5 OFs.
    If they carry 7 RPs, they could carry either 6 IFs or 6 OFs. But, that would require carry 6 IFs (meaning Durham) for 4 months of the season - until the trade deadline).

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  7. allfrank, it seems that you are one of the few who really wants Feliz back. Last I heard, he's still not with the Giants.

    The danger is not keeping Durham, it is resigning Feliz. The way I see it, adding Feliz is not going to get us closer to winning. He's at best, just treading water. At worse, he helps the team win a few more games, but unless a lot goes well, A LOT, we will not be seeing .500 in 2008, and his addition would only "earn" us a draft pick lower in the draft.

    Yes, I've used the draft and losing words again. Really, if you chose to re-build and re-assess for the purposes of the future, of course you are taking a big risk of losing. I hate losing, but that is the risk when you play young players, but at this point, the Giants have to risk playing young players and risk losing.

    And if you are going to lose anyway, why do half-way moves like signing Feliz that will: 1) cost you $7M that you could, say, instead spend it on the next Boras client that falls from #1 pick to our #5 pick; 2) cost you a spot in your starting lineup for Frandsen, most probably; 3) could win you enough games to fall back from a top 5pick to a top 10 pick.

    That was adequate the past few years when we had Bonds and were trying to win, PLUS key point here, were within range of winning because the NL West was the NL Least, as some called it. Even if we had Feliz, we will not be competitive enough to win the NL West.

    And I think we will see a lot of use out of Capellan. While I called him a long-relief guy, we have a number of starters who can go a lot of innings, so he's probably not going to see a lot of work that way. So I expect Bochy to use him as a short reliever often enough to see what he got, put him in situations where he can do well and/or in low stress situations, then work him into more stress later in the season. If he's going to take up a spot on the roster, I expect him to get used, no matter how badly he pitches. But if he is bad, he obviously wouldn't see as much as if he did well. Bochy as a manager has tended to use his pitchers in a variety of situations, he seems to know how to nurture them as relievers, and presumably as starters.

    I don't see the Giants carrying 13 pitchers, even with Aurilia as a utility guy, because we'll probably have two OF and a C who can't play any other positions.

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  8. Actually, Martin, if it were up to me, I would get rid of as many of the recent signees as possible Durham, Feliz, Aurilia, Roberts - and in that order). I would be willing to see 90-95 losses to give Frandsen, Velez, Ort, Schierholtz, Lewis, Davis, and pitchers like Matos, Sadler, Misch, Threets... a shot.
    But I don't think Sabean is going to do this. He seems pretty cautious when it comes to playing young guys, particularly when it comes to position players. It seems obvious to me that he is going to keep Durham and Aurilia. I can understand keeping Aurilia as he can play every IF position. Durham blocks Frandsen (at least from his best position) and also has the largest amount of risk of all of this group of vets.
    I can understand Sabean's reticence: we don't have much in the way of MLB ready IFs in our system. Besides Frandsen and Ort, there is only Velez. I would argue Ochoa, but it is clear Sabean doesn't regard him as much of a prospect and he doesn't seem to have a lot of confidence in Velez. I think the Niekro experiment tells us a lot about Sabean. He gave Niekro the starting job - and didn't have any back up plan, and, more specifically, didn't have anyone, any vets, to run out there if Niekro failed. When he failed, he had to a) take a chance (Hillenbrand) and b) trade away a good player. I think he wants an Aurilia type, someone he feels he can plug in and they will play competently in the field and can be counted on to hit 260/270. I think he is uncomfortable having as backup an almost completely untested guy, such as Velez or Ochoa.
    So, if I am right and these are his considerations AND he wants some stability at 3b then I would rather see him go with Feliz than Durham. I will be pissed if he goes with both and Frandsen has to be satisfied with playing parttime/halftime. Even if, as you suggest, they might go with 6 IFs, it still is a big mistake, just the type you are outlining, if he starts the season with both Durham and Feliz. I cannot tell you how pissed I would be if we start the season with, basically, the exact same IF that was so extraordinarily weak last year. As I say, I would prefer we cut ties with all of them; I can deal with retaining 2, if Frandsen and Ort start. More than that is pointless and hurts the development of the team going forward.
    So, for me, I would like the team to take an extended look at all the young guys - and I am hopeful that out of Frandsen, Ort, Davis, Lewis, Schierholtz (and maybe Bowker), and one of the catchers we can find 2 or 3 starters for '09/'10, say, 1b, 2b, RF, and maybe even C.
    Lastly, I basically agree with you regarding Capellan. I think it is pretty exciting that they would pick up such a young guy - and they are pretty good at identifying pitching talent - with the idea they are willing to keep him on the rsoter all year. Obviously they have identified that he has talent and is on the verge of breaking through. If they are right, we get him for almost nothing, deepening our collection of trade-bait pitchers. I hope he is far enough along that he can take a meaningful spot, as you outline, and allow us to carry 12 Ps and 13 position players. I think that is pretty important as we very much need either to carry an extra IF or, possible Schierholtz as a 6th OF, altho I think that is kind of a waste.

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