That's after signing Bob Howry to a $2.75M contract with incentives yesterday. The incentives are these: additional $500,000 based on games, getting $100,000 each for 55, 60, 65, 70 and 75 appearances. He can earn $1 million based on games finished: $100,000 for 45, $200,000 for 50, $300,000 for 55 and $400,000 for 60.
Howry is happy to be back where he started. The Giants feel that the bullpen is now settled (quotes from AP account):
- Sabean: “I’m sure it’s a comfort to Boch,” Sabean said. “This was a big part of the puzzle and showed how much these guys respected our interest and took the punch to sign with us. The sooner the better that the organization has an idea of what’s going on and the players are more comfortable.”
“The big thing with Bobby is, been there and done it,” Sabean said. “You can’t walk away from the experience. You can’t walk away from the fact that he’s done it. … No question he’s going to return to form and be a valuable cog.”
Now, Sabean will turn his attention to a “small group of position players we have a chance on,” he said.
- Bochy: “Along with Jeremy, it makes us a terrific bullpen and a bullpen we’re going to have all the confidence of the world in,” Bochy said. “It’s going to help to have that kind of experience down there at the end of the ballgame.”
There is also some juicy rumors floating:
- Pat Burrell: According to a MLB report, Pat Burrell is being courted by the Giants (also Mariners and Angels) and the reporter thinks the Giants have an edge because he grew up in the Bay Area and Aaron Rowand is his good friend, from their Phillies days.
- Jorge Cantu: Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports (as reported by MLB) claims that the Marlins had discussions with the Giants about sending 3B Jorge Cantu to the Giants for Jonathan Sanchez.
- CC Sabathia: The New York Daily News (as reported by MLB) reported that the Giants are prepared to jump in as the third team to officially present an offer to Sabathia. Citing Major League sources, the Giants are contemplating an offer of more than the Brewers five years, $100M offer and the Yankees six years, $140M offer, as they hope for a hometown discount.
If the Giants get Burrell, I assume he would be playing 1B as the Giants appeared to have plans for Fred Lewis and he played well too, plus another OF would push Schierholtz to the bench or AAA again. I assume the change in Sabean's thought process towards Sandoval, recently saying he's 3B, not 1B as originally envisioned, represents the market reality that while there were interesting 1B free agents or trade prospects out there, there was not really any good 3B opportunities out there.
Which brings us to the Cantu rumor. I have to assume this was something that the Marlins thought up and proposed, then leaked to let the league know that he's in play. Easier than calling up all 29 other teams and kicking the tires, plus puts you in a better position in negotiations because the other team is coming to you, not the other way around. I think they leaked their own offer because Cantu is too little to get back for Sanchez. He could be a top line pitcher if he ever figures out how to be consistent and last year he did figure it out for a while before tiring out mid-season, but then he returned and did well in spots too, so I think he's ready for the spotlight. We need to keep him if the offers are so puny.
Besides, if we sign Burrell, I think that ends any interest of the Giants in Cantu, as they want to give Sandoval his chance somewhere, and 3B would be his spot if Burrell is playing 1B.
Sabathia, as I noted in a previous post, would obviously give us a monster rotation the likes of which the majors probably have not seen since the Orioles in the early 70's with Palmer, Dobson, Cuellar, and McNally. Since Pat Dobson was one of Sabean's top advisor until his untimely and early passing, that could be driving Sabean's thinking there.
Obviously, signing Sabathia would help the team immensely but I wonder how that would affect signing Lincecum long-term. The precedence of Dustin Pedroia, the reigning MVP, recently signing a long-term contract that extends into his free agent years at a discount gives me hope that Lincecum, the reigning Cy Young winner, would sign a similar contract with us before the 2009 season starts. Also, people think Zito is untradeable, but by his final years, the average pitcher could be making $18-20M on the open market (unless the economy is hit harder than it was in the 2000 period), so if the Giants pony up, say, half his salary, a contending team would probably be willing to take a flier on him.
I think trading for Cantu would violate the philosophy that Sabean has been operating under since last off-season of not taking a step backward talent-wise, and thus he wouldn't do it. Sanchez can be a top-line pitcher whereas Cantu is less than a year removed from being a lowly failed prospect released by his former team, the Rays, who at that time could still use useful players, if only to be able to trade them away, but they apparently had no takers. He could revert back to that player after his nice 2008 season.
Burrell would be a huge upgrade for us offensively if we got him for 1B, both positionally and in the lineup. He would be our clean-up hitter and Renteria would probably be our leadoff hitter, though Burriss would be better leading off with Renteria batting 2nd (since Burriss has no power but more speed than Renteria now). But I think this is a more likely scenario:
That would be a pretty strong lineup, and if Lewis is delayed for any reason in his recovery, then Winn would move to LF and Schierholtz would get to start in RF. He would be on the bench otherwise, with Velez and Holm.
The other two bench spots is harder to figure out. Frandsen is probably out of options, and makes the most sense of these to take a bench spot because he can play 2B, 3B, and SS in a pinch, but I don't think he will automatically get a spot, he will need to earn that spot in spring training and in small samples, you never know what might happen. Ishikawa could have one because he should be out of options too and he would be the defensive replacement for Burrell (Burrell was often taken out for defensive purposes by the Phillies) plus be power off the bench, though Schierholtz should also be another power lefty bat. Bowker could also take a spot, but since he still have options, he probably will be placed in AAA and given more time to develop. There is also the possibility the Giants sign Aurilia to be their utility infielder, which could push Frandsen out of the picture.
The starting rotation could be monster:
This rotation most probably will have a collective ERA under 4 and if first three pitch like normal and Sanchez pitch like he's capable, it could be significantly under 4, and if Zito's late season improvement is no mirage (like it was from the 2007 season), we could be talking mid-3 ERA.
And the bullpen is shaping up nicely, particularly if Howry returns to form and Romo is the real thing:
Brian Wilson (closer)
Plus two of Hinshaw (most likely), Sadler, Taschner (could be traded to clear space on 40 man), Matos, Pichardo. And if Valdez can not only return healthy for a full season but pitch like he did last season, we could have a pretty monster bullpen too.
But that is a lot of "ifs". Clearly the potential is there, if we can acquire Burrell AND Sabathia, and hence why the Giants are pursuing those avenues. I don't think Sabathia will come here, I think the Angels will swoop in at the last minute and grab him with a contract between the Giants and Yankees offers, because Sabathia is building a new home in the LA area and would naturally want to be able to go home after home games. But supposedly the Angels are focused on Teixeira right now, and it could be an either-or situation, perhaps they can't get both players. The D-gers should also be pursuing him because of their rotation losses, but there has been no peep of their interest, and if they join, there could be a bidding war with them winning, as the Angels do not want to get in a bidding war and the Yankees probably needs Sabathia as badly as the D-gers.
Still, assuming we get Renteria and then "only" add Burrell, that would be a pretty nice offense to go with our newly nice bullpen and our great starting rotation. Even without Sabathia, that would be a contending team, particularly if players play up to their normal level of play.
I would still prefer to use 2009 as a rebuilding year to learn more about our position prospects, but the Giants clearly have other ideas and appear to want to be not only competitive in 2009 but contenders if they are pursuing all these high-priced free agents. I don't care that much for Burrell since he's a strong defensive liability nor Renteria because of his age, but Renteria's deal is not something to cry about, as he would improve us, and hopefully neither is Burrell's. Obviously, if they fail in their other pursuits, with only Renteria in place, then 2009 will be more of a competitive year than a contending year, unless a lot of players bust out and play well, particularly Sandoval, Rowand, and Lewis, in that order.
I think the bad economic news is also helping push players to accept deals sooner than later (except for top players), because teams might suddenly decide that renewals of season tickets are not moving fast enough and thus take offers off the table. Why quibble and negotiate when the contract is within range of what they are looking for? That could push players in the middle like Burrell (and Renteria) to get deals done sooner, as there are not that many teams with the available budget space to afford a $10M or so per season player and the list could shrink with the bad economic news piling up. And hence why the Giants are probably pursuing these players more than the name guys there (Teixeira and Furcal).