Thursday, December 04, 2008

Giants Flurry of Signing: Renteria Next

Sabean moves fast again: According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the Giants will announce the signing of Edgar Renteria to a two year, $18.5M contract later today.  That's very close to the rumored two-year, $18M contract that the Giants supposedly agreed to last week.

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.”
They are confident that Howry will be his old, reliable self on the mound in 2009 (and of course they are, else why give him a contract :^).   And believe that both Affeldt and Howry could help close games as well.

Rumor Mill

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:

Renteria SS
Winn RF
Lewis LF
Burrell 1B
Sandoval 3B
Rowand CF
Molina C
Burriss 2B

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:

CC Sabathia
Tim Lincecum
Matt Cain
Jonathan Sanchez
Barry Zito

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)
Bob Howry
Jeremy Affeldt
Sergio Romo
Kenichi Yabu

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).


  1. The big problem with the lineup that you propose is that you would have minus defenders at all infield positions and at CF, not exactly the recipe for success. That awesome pitching rotation would partially negating with the flurry of ground balls finding holes or cement gloves.

  2. Well, to be clear, I'm not proposing it, it appears to be where the Giants are headed. I proposed to go with the young guys and not sign anyone.

    Still, good point, the defense will be lacking there. Here is what I can find on that.

    At 1B, while Burrell will be a liability there defensively, he did start out as a 3B when he was drafted, and immediately was made into a 1B/OF once he joined the Phillies. His minor fielding percentage basically matched his majors at 1B, and was slightly below average, so he's not a hack there in terms of fielding percentage. His range factor was basically the same as well, and in the majors on a 9 inning basis, he was worse as an outfielder than as a 1B, relative to the league average. He was roughly 94% of the league average as 1B, 92% for OF. So at least he is better at 1B than OF, and given his inexperience at 1B, could improve particularly with tutoring from Snow, while his OF is probably all that he can achieve.

    At 2B, most observers I've seen said that Burriss can be a good 2B defensively, good range, good hands, but needs to concentrate more.

    At SS, Renteria was near the bottom of the list for most statistical analysis I've seen, like according to PMR, he's at 95.24%. But according to the Bill James 2008 Handbook, errors in the infield is elevated 15% over the league norm at Detroit. Not sure why, but that was true for the 3 year period of 2005-2007. However the Giants infield is exactly at 100 for the three years. So that suggests that perhaps there is something else at play for why his defense sucked at Detroit last season.

    Still, his fielding percentage was right at league average, so was his range factor per 9 innings, so those are positives in his factor as well.

    At 3B, Sandoval will be Sandoval. While he'll never be a defensive pro, if he can hit well there, he would more than make up for the weakness defensively.

    Overall, 1B shouldn't be any worse than last season's Bowker-dominated play there, 2B-SS combined Vizquel/Bocock/Burriss quality is offset by Durham/Velez poor defense which to me makes Renteria/Burriss a push on defense there as well, and Sandoval couldn't be any worse than Castillo either. So the defense, while not good, probably isn't any better or worse than last year, with the possibility of being better if Renteria was affected by Detroit's stadium and/or if Burrell can pick up 1B OK. It should be better if we don't sign Burrell and instead play Ishikawa mainly there.

    And I guess I'm already wrong, the Giants envision Renteria as a #2 hitter, so says Sabean and Bochy. Maybe Winn will return to leadoff spot, unless the Giants trade him, which is possible if they are able to sign Burrell, perhaps to offset salary. I suppose Rowand could be traded as well, but I would rather keep him, as we would be selling low for him while we should be able to get equal value for Winn.

  3. According to Baggarly's account of Sabean's discussion of the winter meetings, the Giants are probably not getting involved with Sabathia unless things change, probably meaning Giants pay what they are comfortable paying and not what the market (or Yankees) can bear.

    That appears to be true for any of the big ticket guys. So I would not bet on any of these guys now.

    Also, he ruled out getting an outfielder (don't "see us acquiring an outfielder."). Apparently Fred Lewis is coming along nicely and will get special Nike shoes. Perhaps they can have a line of shoes called "Bunion" for Lewis? :^)

    Lastly, no trades are currently being discussed (killing the Cantu rumor and verifying what I said about the Marlins leaking out this "deal" that they were seeking) and he said basically that Sanchez is crucial to the club right now because they feel that any contribution from Lowry would be a surprise. I would agree.

    OK, lastly, Sabean could be done with the offense. He's looking to trade for power but is not concerned about the team's lack of power as a major concern. They believe that Sandoval being in there for the full year will help improve things.

    There are ways to score without the long ball, and Burriss would provide a lot of speed, plus the addition of Sandoval AND Renteria would help with that since Castillo and Vizquel weren't that big in HR hitting. However, Burriss would be a negative at 2B relative to Durham. Also, if they go with what they got, Ishikawa would probably be playing 1B a signficant portion of the time and would help with power there. Also Schierholtz should provide power from the bench.

    The Giants were scoring at a 4.3 runs per game pace in the time after Sandoval joined the team, so the addition of Renteria should help with improving on that.

    The Giants now are, to me, clearly competitive and should be vying for the division title giving the flux all the other teams are in, particularly with three teams selling off their best players or letting them go or the D-gers losing three starters from their rotation, and not much talk about how they are going to replace them in 2009. Well, that and their great starting pitching which I think will can be dazzling in 2009 if all pitches to their potential as I have noted for each.

  4. Good stuff Martin. Nice to "talk" to you again. I'm not upset with any of the signings, especially in light of the years that we'll still be seeing Rowand and Zito.

    Happy holidays to you and your family.


  5. Thanks Kent, nice to hear from you too! Happy holidays to you and your family, how is your little one?

  6. MLB Trade Rumors - - has a post on non-tender candidates. There is a smorgasbord of pitchers available, Backe, Bedard, Cabrera, Capuano, as well as relievers, Belisle, Jason Davis, Jason Frasor, Chad Gaudin who could start and relieve, Jimmy Gobble, Duaner Sanchez, plus power in the form of local guy, Jonny Gomes but he's an OF (he's from North Bay, wine country I believe).

  7. Two little ones...and the baby turns two tomorrow. So, life in Oregon is busy (and cold right now). I haven't been posting, but your blog and it's content is a welcomed piece of my daily readings.

    Be well my friend and keep up the good work.


  8. FYI on former Giants: Jason Waddell, who has served us well in the minors, signed with the Chicago Cubs; I guess he was a 6 year free agent. He was what they call an "organizational soldier", a player there to support the true prospects and the organization because, well, they need to field a full team for each game.

    The D-gers raid past Giants once again, signing Erick Threets. Damn that Colletti!

    Former Giants Justin Knodler, who once looked like he would be a fine MLB backup, moving up to the majors fast, left the A's and signed with the Cards.

    Hmms, Luke Hudson was released as a free agent by KC. He was a nice prospect once upon a time, I wonder if he's worth a look. He was injured I guess in 2008, as he has no record of playing. And, wow, he'll be 32 next season.

    Still, big strikeout guy in minors, good control and command of pitches, yet could never make the leap to majors. However, his stats were OK as a reliever, I have to think that if he focused on relieving, he could be like Tim Worrell and be a good reliever in his 30's after failing as a starter in his 20's.

  9. Andy Baggarly reports in today's article that the signing of Renteria means that Rich Aurilia isn't coming back to the Giants.

    Thanks Rich, it was a nice second time around, good luck in your future endeavors.

  10. Maybe I should just have a long comment? :^D

    Randy Johnson is apparently on the Giants radar, having contacted his agent, according to the Chron's John Shea. He's a Walnut Creek native who graduated from Livermore High, and his mother still lives in the area. Unsurprisingly, he's interested in returning to his roots, whether with Giants or A's.

    Also, the Giants believe that CC Sabathia considers the Giants his first choice (one rumor I've seen said that his wife would like to live here; odd since they are building a home in LA area) and is monitoring the situation to see if CC can be satisfied while holding to the Giants pay structure.

    Either would be a big acquisition and would round out the rotation nicely. Getting both would probably mean that Sanchez will be traded.

  11. That proposed lineup is a very poor defensive team and I wouldn't subject a young pitching staff to that kind of defense. Having Burrell at 1st and Sandoval at third is having two guys out of position. It would make a lot more sense for them to acquire a 3rd basemen, a la Joe Crede. Who would also come at a fraction of the cost of Burrell and if healthy, just as good offensively and way better defensively.

  12. I would not like the Randy Johnson signing at all. There are also rumors that Sanchez might be flipped for Edwin Encarnacion. I would like this more than the ridiculous Cantu proposition; but Edwin can't field a ball if it was hit directly to him.

  13. Trevor, that is the key thing about Crede, he is one bad back away from subjecting us to a Durham-type situation again of a "is he hurt? is he healthy?" roller coaster. No thank you.

    The Giants were poor defensively last season as well, Castillo (2B) at 3B, Bowker (LF/RF) at 1B, Durham (just plain poor) at 2B. Burrell at least was a 3B until he reached the pros and played decently if subpar at 1B in limited play, both in minors and majors. I think a former 3B would be one of the easiest to convert to 1B. As long as it's another contract like Renteria's, I would be OK with it (though I still would have preferred signing nobody, but that ship has long sailed away).

    Anon, we have no proven #5 starter, it would be Misch, Pucetas, maybe Martinez, battling for that last spot. We just need a stop gap guy there in 2009 as Bumgarner could be ready for the rotation by 2010, and the Big Unit was pretty good still in 2008. Also, he might be able to give a tip or two to Bumgarner, another tall lefty (though not quite as tall). As long as it's not for a lot of bucks, it should be fine.

    The rumors of Sanchez/Encarnacion was very early in the season, I haven't seen any lately; that was probably the Reds dreaming of what they can get, much like the Cantu rumor.

    Given Sabean's statement that it would take a lot to get Sanchez away from the Giants, particularly because Lowry is not being counted on, I would have to think that a Haren-like deal would be necessary to pry him away, and that's not going to happen, nobody is that desperate yet, and won't be, I don't think.

    I would have to check, but I think I would like Cantu more than Encarnacion. Isn't Edwin helped by his home park, while Cantu was hurt? Personally, I would rather get Dallas McPherson from the Marlins instead for, like, Pucetas or Misch (probably would take another prospect thrown in too).

  14. Thought I should note that most rumors of the past few days have the Giants contemplating offering a deal LESS than what the Brewers offered (5 years at $100M), hoping that CC would be willing to give up money to go to SF.

    Don't recall if I mentioned, but one rumor mill noted that Sabathia's wife wants to go to SF.



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