Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Youth Movement: At Last?

Despite Damon Bruce's declaration yesterday on KNBR that the Giants are finally having a youth movement, just because of the Durham trade, the Giants clearly started their youth movement in earnest with the trade of Matt Morris to the Pirates, which cleared salary and opened up a rotation spot for Correia. After that, the Giants also played Frandsen and Ortmeier extensively, as well, and during the off-season, the only real move the Giants made was to get the above-average Aaron Rowand, marking the first season in a long time where the Giants did not pick up a low to mid-priced, average or worse veteran that blocked a young player even though they could have used one at 1B and 3B, though technically signing Omar Vizquel did take a spot but there was no one he was blocking.

They have already announced that Eugenio Velez will get to start at 2B regularly now that Durham was traded, plus Burriss will start to see regular play at SS, as Vizquel is moving aside - at his suggestion even, showing how classy he is - to allow the youngsters to play. Ivan Ochoa will also see time at 2B and SS as well. That is in addition to Fred Lewis starting in leftfield and John Bowker starting at firstbase.

On top of that, really, the Giants have had a youth movement in the pitching ranks in force with the addition of Matt Cain into the starting rotation, as then there was Cain and Lowry in the rotation and youth through the bullpen. The bullpen is pretty much all Giants farmhands except when Yabu was around (and technically Chulk, though he was acquired for a farmhand) and the starting rotation is pretty much all Giants farmhands except for Zito. And Sabean has announced to the world that the Giants are not trading young pitching and won't pick up any veteran rentals, so any trade they make will both not give up young pitching plus won't pick up any old veteran.

According to KNBR, the Giants mysteriously announced a roster change but won't give the details until tomorrow morning. They speculate that perhaps there was a trade made.

Giants Mess

Baseball Prospectus is currently allowing free access to their content, so being a typical cheap Chinese, I perused some stuff. One had a section on the "Giants mess." Apparently all their top draft picks want the world in bonuses. #1 Posey reportedly is serious about getting 8 figures ($10M+) and there has been few talks so far. #2 Gillaspie, according to one source, apparently had "delusional" bonus demands. Both #3 Kieschnick and #4 Crawford want the first round bonus they felt they should have gotten, if they didn't screw up and watch their stock drop.

I think eventually all will sign except for perhaps Crawford. Posey has no reason to go back to college ranks and risk injury. So his agent, much like the agents in the last draft, is trying to justify his fee by trying to get big bucks from the Giants, before he signs just before the deadline for probably around $5-6M. I would not be surprised if he gets more than Tim Beckham.

Gillaspie should also sign because he's going to be getting around $1M bonus and risk losing that to injury. It is not like he is that good that he could increase his draft level much more by staying in school. I think the agent might have something to do with it, again, because they need to justify their fee. So they wait to see what others get and try to get his client a little more than that.

Same with Kieschnick, lower bonus, but still substantial enough to not risk going back to college.

Crawford, however, was a legit 1st round talent who dropped a lot. He's also going to UCLA, so he can finish (or get much closer to) college and get his degree there. Plus his bonus, unless the Giants pay a lot over slot, would not be so much that staying in school would make some sense with a reward that he could make a lot more with a good season. The Giants will probably have to go much over slot to sign him.

I think the Giants could and would pay overslot to get all four, particularly Posey. Still, it won't be a huge disaster if they don't sign any of them, as the article's title - "Giants Mess" - implies. They would get a similar pick in next year's draft, and with their high slot now, they could end up with 2 of the top 6 picks in next year's draft, and I don't think that would be the worse thing in the world. Plus they would get a pick in the supplemental if Gillaspie don't sign. And the talent level once you get to Kieschnick and Crawford part of the draft, isn't so good that moving the pick from this year to next will drastically change the Giants odds of finding a good player.


  1. Another excellent post, Martin. Your detail-backed and independent opinions are a refreshing change from the standard media and largely media-fed bloggers. --stevetokyo

  2. Thanks for the comment Steve. I sometimes wonder if I'm Don Quiote railing at the windmills, but I think the suit of armor is a nice fashion statement. :^)

    Speaking of opinion, soon after posting, I think that the Giants move has to be a trade or a significant signing.

    According to Damon Bruce, his source told him that Eliezer Alfonzo is going down. The only way that would make sense is if they sign Posey and put him on the 25 man. If they were bringing up Pablo Sandoval, as he speculated, then why wait until morning to announce (which he, to his credit, also noted)? And especially if it is Steve Holm.

    I think the logical thing is that another veteran got traded and like Ray Durham, requested that the trade not be announced until he had a chance to tell his family so that they don't learn about it over the radio. That would preclude Taschner, who, BTW, has been annointed a set-up guy by Bochy in his last two pre-game shows (according to in-game chat by announcers).

    That leaves Randy Winn, Rich Aurilia, and Bengie Molina. Sorry Richie, but he's frankly not significant enough for a team to trade for him now (or give up much for him). Winn and Molina has been productive enough.

    Molina, however, fields a position where we have no real starter in the minors. Pablo Sandoval is the closest and if they kept him in San Jose this season so that he could spend more time with Decker to improve his defense, I doubt he's good enough to come up now.

    Winn, however, has a ready replacement in Schierholtz, whom Sabean has said for a while now that he is deserving but just don't have a spot to play. Plus, as I noted, Wells Fargo changed their commercials to use JT Snow when Winn has been doing it for 2-3 years now. I doubt he held out for more money and his media image is still squeeky clean, so why change unless you know the Giants are going to move him and sooner than later.

    Still, according to Andy Baggarly of the Merc (http://blogs.mercurynews.com/extrabaggs/2008/07/22/roster-move-alfonzo-down-holm-up/), Alfonzo IS going down: people were giving him support and hugs after the game. Word was that Steve Holm would come back up and Bochy was going to rest Molina more often.

    Meanwhile, Sandoval, who won't be 22 until next month, is smashing the ball in AA, .343 thus far, plus yesterday was 3 for 7 with a homer, double and six RBIs. Unless Molina is traded, though, I don't see Sandoval coming up soon except for a September call-up, I think that is a pretty sure thing to expect.

    BTW, it was noted on various media outlets that Lewis is battling a bad bunion (isn't that what old men get?), something that might require surgery, which would then sidelight him for 8 months. That impresses me to no end, and makes what he is doing all the more impressive, as his feet are what keeps him here. Imagine how well he might be doing with healthy feet!

    Then again, how could he and the team let his feet get so bad in this day of modern medicine and sports care?

    Given 8 months, if they finally do the surgery on him at the start of August, that would put him out until April of next year. He goes through extended spring training and could be playing by the end of April. Wait any longer, and he's out to mid-2009.

    So that got me thinking. Ishikawa is doing very well in AAA, about what could be expected based on his 2005 season in San Jose. If Lewis goes down, they could move Bowker to LF (or even to RF if Winn is traded) and bring up Ishikawa to play 1B for a while and see how he does, as I believe he is out of options in 2009, he has used up 3 so far; I'm just not sure if he is eligible for a 4th year option.

    And for anybody not familiar with my stance, it's not like I'm in love with Ishikawa or anything as a commenter claimed a few days ago. Someone long ago said to anybody who would listen (perhaps that commenter) that Ishikawa was a waste of time, that he should just be released, he is not worth the trouble or the cost. All I ever said was that he was a worthy prospect and should not just be tossed away like nothing.

    So, to prove my point, I did analysis showing that Ishikawa showed a lot of good signs, as well as the negatives that others listed.

    I still say the same thing about him now: the Giants are not in the position where they can throw away legitimate position prospects. Period.

    Will he make it? Who knows? But he has shown enough power and strike zone discipline (witness his high walk rate) that he could possibly be a good lefty platoon at 1B: he plays great defense, hits for power and walks a lot so that he gets good OBP.

    And what is the cost of keeping him around? $100K per season plus a roster spot? Do we really have riches at 1B that we can just dump him?

    That guy actually thought Brad Veriker or Jason Columbus were better bets, so at least I can say that I have better sense than he does, as both are long gone and are not on any prospect lists (nor in organized baseball, they have been out for 3 seasons now) and Ishikawa at least is still banging away in AAA.

    Believe it or not, he actually tries to sell his minor league expertise, hopefully he has learned a lot since then. But PT Barnum's old motto comes to mind here...

  3. I would imagine most of these guys will get signed near the deadline, but I have to disagree with your view of what would happen if we didn't get any of the top 4 in the fold.

    First of all, we wouldn't get anything for Crawford's pick -- that would just be gone. For Kischnieck they would get a supplementary round pick between the 3rd and 4th rounds, which is a little lower, but as you say not significantly.

    However, Gillespie is more of a grey area, and I have to be honest, i'm not entirely sure what the ruling is here. Teams that fail to sign their 1st and 2nd round picks get a similar slotted pick in the next year's draft, but the rule does not state the same for the supplementary round (which is itself a compensatory pick, not one of the team's draft picks). I'm not entirely certain on this, but I think that in Gillespie's case we would not get a compensatory pick next year.

    Obviously for Posey we'd get the #6 pick next year (another thing that seems unclear is what would happen if say, 3 or 4 of the top 5 picks went unsigned, but that's such a longshot I don't know if they've really drawn that all up), but he question becomes can we sign two top 6 picks if we can't sign 1. Or worse, does the front office feel budgetary pressure to take at least one signability pick rather than the top guy on the board.

    Assume that next year we'll see the same amount of contract demand inflation that we've seen the last couple (which seems likely as the industry is awash in cash at the moment). And assuming that, having essentially lost the entire top of their previous draft the FO will want players closer to the majors (college 3 years) then we could be looking at some real intimidating numbers coming from two top 6 picks (and in one of those cases, we'd have no bargaining power as the compensatory pick for Posey would not return the following year, it would just be lost).

    On top of that of course, is the huge PR hit of a "rebuilding" team essentially losing it's draft because i couldn't negotiate deals for the top 4 guys. This organization needs good news; the news of losing 4 top picks would just be a tsunami of bad press, and I have to believe would cost some people some jobs (particularly if the record keeps going downhill and the stands continue to bleed fans). To be taken seriously as having some kind of long-term plan, they have to get at least Posey signed, and really I'd say at least 3 of these guys have to be brought into the fold.

  4. Hello Martin -
    My interpretation, when they say "roster move," is that it is an internal move, someone up, someone down. Yes, 'rsoter move' is general enough to include trade, but I think if they'd made a trade, there would be more indication than just 'roster move.' I supplement my argument with the observations made by reporters tha Alfonso was getting hugs and well wishes by the other players, indicating he is likely being sent down.
    I am pleased to see them putting Velez back at 2b. He is poor defensively almost anywhere, but we are pretty well covered in the OF and I would not want to see him start ahead of almost any of our other OFs. His great range could make up some for an average or slightly below average defense at
    2b. I think, if he makes the team it is at 2b - and I wouldn't care if he hit 2nd, 7th or 8th. The infiled is our gaping hole and, while 2b is not nearly as gaping as 3b and SS, it still requires our finding an adequate replacement. Velez is kind of a long shot (and, remember, I was a big booster of his last year), but he could add something if he can steady his play.
    With Durham gone and Omar relegated to parttime player, there is plenty of playing time for Velez, Burriss and Ochoa. 2 1/2 months is a pretty good and significant audition. Hopefully, many questions will be answered.
    Lastly, and appropos of your comments about the knee-jerk negativism that is so prevalent on the blogs, have you noticed how silent the lunatic fringe has been regarding the trade?
    What I mean is, Sabean said the team was rebuilding, wouldn't go after FAs or trade young pitching - he said that at the beginning of the season. No body believed him. In fact, he's traded Durham, benched Omar and, thereby opened up a lot of playing time for 3 rookies. But no one acknowledges that, no one says, "Gee, Sabean was true to his word..." The criticisms of Sabean remain the same - yet nobody acknowledges how young this team has gotten, adknowldeges that Morris, Kline, Stanton (I think his leaving was recent), and now Durham, and Omar have all either left the team or (Omar) taken the bench. Sp is amongst the youngest in the league; RP is young and getting younger - and has plenty more youth trying to push up to the bog leagues); even the IF is getting younger - and promises even more youth in the very near future (loss of Omar, Aurilia); OF is not in diapers, but it is far removed from Bonds/Roberts/Alou - it definitely is not old.

  5. I'm just now realizing what a great draft we had this year. We picked up an excellent catcher, a decent hitting 3rd baseman, whatever the hell Kieschnick is, and Crawford, who should've gone first round but luckily for us had a horrible season. I think that the Giants should overpay for all of them. We have money to burn. We saved some money by dumping Durham, Aurilia comes off the books next year, Omar comes off the books next year, and one or more of Winn, Molina, and maybe Roberts could possibly get traded by the deadline. That's about 15-20 mil off the books for us to spend. And that leaves us with Zito, Rowand, and whoever remains out of Molina/Roberts/Winn as our only high-paid players. We should have plenty of money the next couple of seasons that we could either spend on bigname free agents or draft picks and international free agents. Why not use some of it to sign our draft picks this year? Some of them might be crucial members of the next winning Giants team.

  6. Thanks for the clarification Roger. Nuances I did not realize/remember, though I should have remembered that 4th round wouldn't be included.

    Gillespie pick not being replaced would seem to me to be illogical. But that's never stopped the MLB before. :^)

    Posey pick would happen after the actual #5 pick for 2009, and where that falls depends on whether anyone else ahead of us don't sign their guy either. So it could be 6th, but could be further back if others don't sign. But it has been pretty rare for any first round player not to sign, except for Boras clients, so the odds are probably low that it would be worst than 6th.

    If Posey is asking for $10M and sticks to that, god bless him, but not every top 5 pick acts like that, in fact, has there ever been anyone asking for that much? So I really don't think he will not sign, just that he will sign on the last day for $5-6M, and like I said, wouldn't be surprised if he gets more than Tim Beckham, as a ego thing the Giants give him.

    However, if the PR disaster happens, good point, I should have wrote on that, and Posey doesn't sign (I guess I didn't feel the need to go into detail since I expect him to sign), that does not mean they will have problems signing next year, as long as they avoid anybody like Posey who has unreasonable demands, and $10M for Posey is unreasonable.

    I see no budgetary pressure because they should have budgeted $3-5M for this year's #5 draft, plus saved $1.5M on Durham plus was under the payroll budget by around $5-8M (suppose to be mid-90's and ended up, I think, at $87M or so). They should have the money as long as they don't go out and spend extra on free agents this off-season (not a given, but last off-season was very encouraging).

    I agree that to avoid bad PR, Posey has to be signed, but I think the signing of Rafael Rodriguez, and previously of Villalona, easily negate the loss of Gillaspie, Kieschnick, and Crawford, should they happen. I think I would rather have a Rodriguez anyday than the combination of the three. Quality over quantity.

    Thanks again, very good points Roger, wish I wrote them.

    Nice post too, Allfrank. Yes, nobody cares to acknowledge that they were wrong about that, but as you note, their silence is noticeable. Stanton is a while ago, but yes Kline is a recent drop (spring training), good catch. I think that Yabu was kept in hopes that he could be flipped, but now his injury and ineffectiveness probbly killed that, so he might not make it back to our roster when he gets off the DL.

    I guess my point is "Why the mystery?" if it is simply send down Alfonzo and bring up Holm? That's a transaction they've done a million time with no mystery. There should be more to this than a simple swap of back-up catchers, else they just made themselves look like the moronic buffoons that the Sabean naysayers make him out to be. It would be bad PR, IMO.

    Thanks for the spot-on comment boonitez. I agree that they need to sign all four guys, and overpay. And the Giants have not been adverse to overpaying for the right prospects before, as I've shown before. Just not blindly overpay, like $10M for Posey, but a $5-6M bonus for a #5 is overpaying by a lot and I would be happy with that. I would not pay Gillaspie a "delusional" amount, but giving him more than the typical #37 pick (or whatever he was selected at) is totally OK with me, he was rated somewhere in the late 20's, so giving him $1.2-1.3M when his spot is normally $1M is OK with me. Crawford I would not give him first round $1M money for him, because he did not earn it, but I wouldn't mind a $500K (slight overpay) with bonuses for, say, making AAA in two seasons, to compensate for that difference would be OK with me.

    Kieschnick is an OF, RF I think.



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