Monday, December 08, 2008

Free Agency and Unforseen Factors

One of the fun things about being a fan is making up trades and talking about what the team could do to better itself. But there are often factors that people are not aware about that influence decisions that go beyond baseball.

For example, there have been a number of potential trades over the years where it got nixed by the player because of other factors. I don't recall them from memory, but there have been, for instance, players who refused a trade to a contending team for one reason or another, which, of course, didn't make their team very happy at the time, as they would have dumped salary as well as pick up some prospects.

Giants Thoughts

I thought about this because non-baseball factors have affected the Giants more than once over the years since just the World Series loss to the Angels.

Mad Maddux Money

First that comes to mind is the recent news that Greg Maddux actually wanted to sign with us in 2004, instead of the Cubs, but his wife didn't want to go to SF for some reason. Think how our fortunes might have been much different during those years had he pitched for us instead (using the money they were hiding somewhere to get wish list items). Immediate to mind is that we probably would not have signed Morris to mentor Cain, as Maddux would have been mentoring him instead. In addition, we would not have signed Brett Tomko and Maddux would have pitched just as well.

Plus, as much as I hate Pierzynski, without Tomko around to make the cancer statement, plus Maddux is as much a pain in the butt as Pierzynski so maybe they enjoy each other's company, we might have retained him and not have to sign Matheny or Molina, and still get value out of that darn trade.

In addition, 2005 might have been a winning season (Tomko went 8-15 and the team was 12-21 with him; with Maddux, we could have won another 7-8 games and took the pennant, the 'Dres won it with 82 wins only and Maddux had a 4.24 ERA vs. Tomko's 4.48). In 2006, no Matt Morris 10-15 or 4.98 ERA, Maddux had a 4.20 ERA and thus the Giants again could have been .500, though not pennant contending. And that doesn't include the fact that, being with the Giants, he couldn't have pitched for our competitors and pitch so well for them, that would have helped our playoff chances as well

The down side of "What if Maddux" is that without Tomko messing things up in 2005, we would not have been in position to draft Lincecum in 2006 and Bumgarner in 2007 and Posey in 2008. So maybe it was for the best for our rebuilding.

Vlad Was Not Very Viable

Another what if revolves around Vladimir Guerrerro. I was one of the fanatics pushing for the Giants to get him, and from all publicly available information at that time, Vlad liked Felipe Alou, who was his manager when he made the majors and for a number of years. He gave this glowing interview when facing Alou while he was bench coach for the Tigers, it was so full of respect and honor. Pedro Martinez loved him, Vlad considered Pedro like another father, it seemed like all one big happy family there in Expos land.

However, according to Ted Robinson, local sports broadcaster with the ability to commentate as well in baseball as in the Olympics, Vlad would never have signed with the Giants because he didn't like Felipe. Ted is not one of those sportshow hosts who likes to shoot off from the mouth, his answers are always careful and well constructed, and sincere, so I do not doubt his veracity, though it took me some time to accept that bit of news eventually. I just REALLY wanted the Giants to get Vlad.

So, as much as I liked Felipe as manager for the Giants, if he really cost us getting Vlad - think of how the lineup would have been in 2004-2008 with him in our lineup? - then I would have to say that we are currently negative on the ledger until his revered status in the Carribean can deliver us a plus prospect player into our fold.

Rushed Out by the Ranchero Rapidly

Then there was the case of Carlos Lee. According to reports, the Giants were prepared to go higher with their contract but Lee informed us not to bother, he's signing with the Astros. Of course, no income tax in Texas helps with that decision, but the main factors that pushed him to sign with the Houston Astros was because he has a big ranch in Texas and they finally offered him the money he felt he was worth. Once they gave him that, he told the Giants to shove off. Apparently, he couldn't be bought, he only wanted what he felt was fair for him.

What happened next was that the Giants ended up signing Dave Roberts to cover CF (I guess Lee would have played RF and Winn CF, while Bonds stayed in LF) and then signed Barry Zito to his contract. Had they already signed Carlos Lee, they might not have been able to sign Zito and definitely would not have signed Roberts, who has been injured every year he has been with us.

Can't Go Home; Or Can You?

Then there was Gary Matthews Jr, who thankfully did not sign with us (I was wishing really hard for that one). There are many players who really want to play close to their childhood home, and that home for the Matthews clan (including Sr., who once played for us) is in Southern California. The Giants offered, from what I recall, something close if not equal to what he signed for with the Angels, but he chose them instead. Can you imagine if we had gotten both Matthews and Zito? Then again, Roberts and Zito is a pretty close second right now.

Kan't Kent Kagain

There have also been a number of fans who lament Sabean passing up re-signing Jeff Kent and instead getting Durham and Alfonzo. But they forget one pertinent thing at that time: Kent hated Bonds and he hated the Giants management for treating Bonds differently, and more importantly, preferentially, and he wasn't going to sign back with us. Too much had happened for him to simply return to the team.

Also, he only led us to sign Durham, it was David Bell taking off by not picking up his option and then signing with the Phillies that resulted in us signing Alfonzo. I think the Giants would have been OK with Durham and Bell, and would not have gone after Alfonzo. Instead, they would have been in the market for a 3B the next off-season; I'm not sure who was available before the 2004 season as a free agent, but scanning the transactions, Scott Spiezio was the only name I saw who could remotely play 3B and was still a regular at the time, though Rich Aurilia was also available, but not really a regular anymore (that was a pretty slow off-season, the big signings didn't happen until January for the most part).

Can You C CC?

Another reason this came to mind was the blurb that reported CC Sabathia's wife, if she had the choice, would want to go to SF. He would really give us a monster rotation for the next 5 or so years of his contract, teamed with Lincecum and Cain. However, the Yankees have offered 6 years, $140M and the Brewers 5 years, $100M, and the Giants reportedly are going to offer less than the Brewers.

I don't see how he can give up that much money, even to make his wife happy. But, man, what a nice "What if" that would be, with Bumgarner probably coming up in 2010 and possibly being another ace type pitcher with Sabathia, Lincecum, and Cain. People talk about improving the offense, but when you have a rotation like that, good from top to bottom, that is the same as having a good offensive player who can contribute every game, as some give as a reason why they are better than a starting pitcher.

I have to disagree. A hitter can take over a game and win it on his own, but those games are not that frequent, it takes a team to score runs regularly and consistently. However, a pitcher, when he is on can take over a game and win that game for you - and the best can be on for nearly three-quarters of their starts. I don't think even the best hitters can win more than one or two handful of games of games in any season by themselves, let alone the 20 or so games the best pitchers can take over and dominate.

2 comments:

  1. One small item: If the Giants had signed Lee, Bonds would not have been resigned. The Giants would've walked away.

    ReplyDelete
  2. According to what I recall, Sabean said that signing Lee would not preclude resigning Bonds. The only way that would have worked is the way I described above. That could also be another reason he chose to go to Houston.

    ReplyDelete

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