Tuesday, December 29, 2009

DeRosa Press Conference

Andy Baggarly has a report on the conference call announcing the signing of DeRosa:
  • No set position or place in the lineup yet for DeRosa. He don't mind as long as he's in the lineup everyday.
  • Sandoval is still floating as well, either 1B or 3B, depending on where the Giants can add another bat.
  • Still looking for another hitter. Will focus on 5th starter and catcher later. In previous talks, already said he would be happy starting the season with Bumgarner as the last starting pitcher and Posey the starting catcher, though he would prefer to start Posey in the minors.
  • Giants have an offer to Uribe still. Could win the starting position at 3B.
  • The Giants are LaRoche were miles apart during the winter meetings; unlikely to do anything.
  • Holliday's contract demands price him above where the Giants are willing to go.
  • Adrian Beltre appears to not be on the Giants pursuit list.
  • Giants trainers were "pleasantly suprised at the condition of [DeRosa's] wrist when he had his physical. Expects to be 100% by spring training.
  • Other teams viewed him as a contingency plan in case they didn't land a better one, and he didn't like being Plan B. Plus, he wanted to be able to choose where he goes versus being forced to go somewhere.
  • Bochy likes DeRosa batting 5th. I think that's a good spot too, because his OBP is relatively high for the team, plus his SLG is generally high because of his HR power.
  • He likes playing infield as that is where he came up as, but he's willing to do whatever the team wants, whatever is best for the team. He is fine with giving Bochy a lot of options, he realizes that is what got him to this point in his career.

Monday, December 28, 2009

You Say DeLefty, I Say DeRosa

Most reports are stating that the Giants are signing Mark DeRosa to a 2 year, $12M contract. Hank Schulman has his blog entry on it, Yahoo has one on that plus signing Uribe, and the ever reliable MLB Trade Rumors has a post on it, chronicling the timeline.

Judging from the posts there and elsewhere, fans are not that enamored with the deal. Some say it's an overpay, others say that he's not the answer, and there are the few who like the deal.

Giants Thoughts

I don't have any problem with the signing of DeRosa. His versatility gives the Giants a lot of options around the diamand plus another power bat in the lineup, along with decent OBP. We have a lot of question marks - LF, RF, 1B, C - and he can fill 3 of those. He can also play 2B and 3B.

Thus if Bowker, Lewis, and Schierholtz all struggle, DeRosa could be a steady offensive producer in the corner OF. It looks like Ishikawa is being given another chance to start at 1B against RHP, so when there is a LHP starting, DeRosa could play either 2B or 3B, with Sanchez playing the other position, and Sandoval would move to 1B. If anybody is injured or going through a bad stretch, DeRosa could pitch in there. He's going to be our goto super-utility guy.

I'm OK with Uribe if he's not signed to too much money. People love him but he played above his head in 2009, he's not likely to repeat that performance. He's more likely to repeat his 2006, 2007, 2008 performances where he wasn't that good. And that's OK, he's out backup player at 2B, 3B, and SS plus is another power bat off the bench.

This also does not negate the possibility of the Giants signing a power hitting 1B or LF either. DeRosa is probably going to be, at minimum, the hitter getting all the ABs against LHP when Ishikawa sits. Sanchez hasn't made it through a season without some rest, and Rowand will need some more rest as well, as Bochy noted, so DeRosa could play RF for a game with Schierholtz taking over CF, which he did on occasion in the majors. Not an ideal situation long term, but for a game here and there, it's tolerable.

I think his salary is OK. $5M would have been better but $6M is fair enough for his versatility and his ability to play for significant parts of a season and performing well doing that. His age is a concern, but even with the injury, he still hit 10 HR in 239 AB, so it was not his power gone, it was his ability to get base hits and getting on base that suffered.

And as I've noted, the offense even with no other moves should be improved over 2009's and DeRosa would nudge it up a little more. And with our pitching as good as it was, it won't take much more to push us to the 90-95 win range, which should be good enough to compete for the NL West title.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

BA's John Manuel's Personal Top 20

Baseball America's John Manuel posted his personal Top 20 prospects at their prospect blog the other day. Of course, the Giants top two prospects show up, Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner, at number 9 and 10, respectively.

9. Buster Posey, c, Giants

WHY HE’S HERE: The 2008 College Player of the Year, Posey combines athletic ability and hitting prowess with playing a premium position.

WHAT HE’LL BE: Remember Russ Martin before Joe Torre played him 150 games a year? Posey may not have Martin’s fiery leadership, but he’ll be a similar catcher with better hitting ability.

WHEN HE ARRIVES: As soon as he shows he can receive effectively for pitchers like Brian Wilson and Matt Cain, who have premium velocity. Then he’ll have to take it up another notch to handle Tim Lincecum’s wicked velocity and late movement.

10. Madison Bumgarner, lhp, Giants
WHY HE’S HERE: No pitcher has had Bumgarner’s sheer results the last two seasons, when he went 27-4. He did it in 2009 with diminished velocity but it didn’t seem to matter as he mowed down Double-A competition at age 19.

WHAT HE’LL BE: Bumgarner’s mound presence and ability to pitch off his fastball evokes Cliff Lee. He has similar mound presence and could match Lee if he regains some of his slider’s lost bite.

WHEN HE ARRIVES: The Giants have enough other rotation options to keep Bumgarner on the farm for at least part of 2010, and perhaps until late in the season, when he could get another bullpen cameo.

Giants Thoughts

Nothing really new here for those who follow prospects, but good to get a current confirmation. This is another comparison where I see Posey compared to the D'gers Russ Martin, but this is the first I've seen of Bumgarner being compared with Cliff Lee. BA chronically complains about how the Giants don't really talk much with them about their plans and thoughts about their prospects, so I would take with a larger grain of salt what they say about what the Giants might do with them.

However, to give BA a plug, I was involved with a couple of fantasy keeper leagues which unfortunately folded over the past year. However, by looking through BA's Top 10 lists, it enabled me to draft the following out of this Top 20 list: Mike Stanton, Jesus Montrero, and Casey Kelly. And I should have chosen Madison Bumgarner over Josh Vitters (it's a mistake to draft for need up that high) and was planning on getting Alcides Escobar but someone just beat me to him. And I got Gordon Beckham, who would be on this list if he didn't make the majors last season.

Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas 2009!

And happy wishes for a wonderful 2010, the decade the Giants will take it up a notch and hopefully win a World Series championship!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Most Expensive Week In Major League History

Hank Schulman previously noted that had the Giants instead waited just another week to bring him up, Lincecum would not have been a Super-Two this year.

That is probably the most expensive week in major league history, it will cost them anywhere from $12-24M in 2010.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sabean On-Line Chat on 2009.12.09

Sabean had a chat on-line on December 9, 2009 and the transcript was released. No big news, lots of wasted questions/opportunities, but wanted to report on it.

treal_jay: Brian, position-player-wise, what are the Giants' most critical needs in order of high to lowest priority?

Sabean: Regardless of position we need to improve our offense. Pablo Sandoval will be the fourth hitter, and we will need to be able to place someone in back and in front of him.

OGC: Fans following closely would have known this already.

k90sdrk: Do you think Buster Posey is ready to catch at the Major League level, and how consistent will he be in a 162-game season?

Sabean: We are not sure. Having said that, he is ahead of his own development schedule and has been named the Minor League player of the year. So it may come to that with him being our catcher, and if so, we are willing to take that risk. Because he's played so little professional baseball, it's hard to predict what he will do in his first Major League season.

OGC: Fans following closely would have known this already. To some, Sabean has been waffling on this publicly, but really, from what I recall, the original comment was not that he wasn't ready for the majors, it was that he wasn't ready to catch over 100 games in the majors. He could still start out as the starting catcher, but then the backup catcher would have to be ready to catch more games than most backups. He probably would also get some of the DH opportunities, and given his versatility in the field, he could also find ABs playing 1B or even the OF.

dbgiant21: Do you expect to pick up a "Juan Uribe" this offseason, such as Nick Greene, or would it be preferred to use homegrown players?

Sabean: We consider Juan a super-utility type of talent at this time; we don't know of our ability to re-sign him. If he does not re-sign, we will look internally at people like Emmanuel Burriss or Ryan Rohlinger who can play the middle of the infield.

OGC: Fans following closely would have known this already. I know Andy Baggarly noted it at some point at his blog. Uribe wants starter money and a multi-year contract. Many fans want him back, but if he gets what he wants, I see a Neifi Perez redux, and fans will turn on him because he hit over his head last season and should return to his poor hitting ways going forward. Baggarley also reported Sabean mentioning Burriss and Rohlinger at his blog, noting astutely that Frandsen's name was not even in the mix. Looks like Kevin Frandsen might have burned his bridge and the Giants are looking to unload him.

mescalbean: Mr. Sabean, thank you very much for the opportunity to ask a question. My question is this: on the basis of the 2009 season, have the Giants seen enough of John Bowker, Travis Ishikawa and Nate Schierholtz to determine whether they can be starter-calibre ballplayers?

Sabean: Short answer is probably not. Having said that, they will be given ample opportunities in Spring Training to distinguish themselves.

OGC: Finally, some new information. The Giants look like they are keeping the three (Ishikawa was the one on the bubble). It looks, at the moment (haven't covered all the recent news, sorry, busy), that the Giants are hoping to upgrade either 1B or OF, but apparently they will keep Ishikawa around if he shows enough. This could be a veiled reference to the rumors that the Giants are looking to sign Nick Johnson, an oft-injured but extremely talented hitter, who is OK defensively at 1B, they could feel that if Ishikawa shows enough, they would keep him to backup 1B and be a power bat off the bench, plus defensive replacement late in games to give Johnson less wear and tear.

Other news that has come out is that the Giants see Schierholtz competing for RF, that he hasn't been handed that starting position. And that's not real news, again, the Giants rarely hand starting positions when the player has competition and had not distinguished himself in the majors yet. As I've been noting, it looks like the Giants are having Bowker and Schierholtz compete for the starting spot in RF, with the other becoming the backup OF. Also, while people are scared of Velez/Torres as our leadoff option in LF (I'm scared too), I'm hopeful that both of them will do well in spring training and they will make Bowker the starting LF and Schierholtz the starting RF, assuming the Giants don't sign anyone for RF.

eddiesf: Which team in our division do you think will be the biggest challenge to our ballclub in 2010?

Sabean: I'm not sure, but the West seemingly has a shotgun start every year. From recent history it's usually up for grabs every year. Our goal is to be in position to win the division.

OGC: Dumb question, anyone who has observed Sabean before would have known that he would not say anything that will give another club a quote to put up on their clubhouse noteboard. And Neukom has been saying since he was announced that our goal for 2010 was to be in position to win the division.

nomobonds: If both Bumgarner and Posey are on the Major League roster next year, who in your opinion will be the organization's top Minor League prospect?

Sabean: Dan Runzler, Waldis Joaquin and Joe Martinez have a chance to make our 12-man staff. I'm going to monitor very closely the progress next year with Brandon Crawford, Francisco Peguero, Thomas Neal and Roger Kieschnick.

OGC: Good question, good info. Now we know who the Giants consider to be their top prospects in the organization, with Peguero being the most interesting, as the other three could have been guessed at. I guess that means that Pucetas has fallen down in their eyes (but his MLE was OK before) and that Brett Pill nor Brock Bond did not impress them enough.

nomobonds: Performance-wise, which Giant impressed you most last season?

Sabean: Sandoval, because of the fact that he met our needs and expectations, and actually surpassed our expectations.

OGC: Win one, lose one horribly. How could any Giants fan not know this one? At worse, Lincecum would have been answer. It would have been infinitely better to make it about minor leaguers again.

sucio1: Hello, Brian. My question is, are you confident that if the Giants are not able to fill their needs via free agency and/or trades that you could field a competitive ballclub in 2010?

Sabean: Yes, by virtue of our pitching staff and its depth.

OGC: Good to know a direct answer, but their comments and such this off-season basically conveys that they feel that they are competitive enough to battle for the title in 2010 but that they realize that there are shortcomings that they can try to fix and improve their chances. And clearly, that is because of our pitching staff.

Sandals: Since losing Brad Penny to the Cardinals, do you plan on looking for a starting pitcher this offseason? Or would you be comfortable with a rotation that contains both Jonathan Sanchez and Bumgarner come April?

Sabean: Because of Bumgarner's talent alone, he is very capable of being our fifth starter, but much like the Posey situation, we want to be sure that we are not rushing him. As a result we will continue to look at other options. Bumgarner very well though could be the fifth starter.

OGC: Again, pretty much what anybody following the Giants closely would have known already. The more I think about it, the more I think we have to sign someone, anyone, to be our #5 starter, and to let Bumgarner get a full season in AAA. I think that he can compete in the majors now, but that he still have things he needs to work on in order for him to reach his potential. And research has shown that prospects who spent a full year in AAA before promotion to the majors tend to stick better (mainly because AAA filters out those who clearly shouldn't have been promoted to the majors, who had a lucky hot streak in AAA that falls short in the majors).

Plus, with Lincecum's huge salary upcoming, if Bumgarner is as good as advertised/hyped, we are probably losing Lincecum to free agency or perhaps forced to trade, and thus, since we don't really need Bumgarner now but could really need him later if Lincecum is gone, we may as well delay his entry into the majors until 2011. That would extend our period of competitiveness.

Sandals: Are you looking into signing Tim Lincecum to a long-term deal this year? Or if not, could it be done next offseason?

Sabean: At this time we are going to wait until January and us filing our number for arbitration, and then view their filing number to decide if there is a window or opportunity for more than a one-year deal. Or decide it's more prudent this year to go with a one-year contract and if that's means going to arbitration then we are prepared to do so.

OGC: Already should be known, sigh...

gintssoxfn: I'm a Giants season ticket holder and look forward to the upcoming season. What are plans to strengthen the lineup, especially at left field and first base? Any interest in players just a level below the top dollar guys -- players like Hank Blalock, Xavier Nady, etc.?

Sabean: We are exploring opportunities to upgrade at first base and in the outfield, from a run production standpoint.

OGC: Good enough question, but Sabean knows how to say something without saying anything. He's good at keeping things under his kimono.

APeeler: Your best guess as to what level Thomas Neal will start next season?

Sabean: Probably Double-A at the beginning of the year. Who knows at the end of the year where he'll end up. He played very well in the Arizona Fall League against older and more experienced players.

OGC: Good direct, specific question, hard for Sabean to dodge, netting good information. Didn't realize that he did well in AFL, wasn't following it as closely as I had used to.

APeeler: What is the best part of the Winter Meetings?

Sabean: The fellowship.

OGC: Ugh, good one, bad, horrific one. Gag me with a spoon...

strakman1: How are the health issues with Edgar Renteria and Freddy Sanchez?

Sabean: They seem to be doing fine with their offseason rehab programs and will be thoroughly evaluated at the first of the year to get a timetable to start baseball activity.

OGC: Good to get confirmation of this, but the Giants have been saying that both are fine and, of course, any formerly injured player will be thoroughly evaluated before spring training.

bond1942: Will Ryan Garko be tendered a contact this week?

Sabean: We have until Saturday at 9 p.m. PT to make that decision, and as of now we have not made that decision yet.

OGC: No news, already known, but confirms that he is on the bubble. Most probably they are looking to upgrade from Garko's expected salary ($1-2M) to a better starting option at 1B, and dropping Garko would help pay for this better option, should they sign any 1B/OF.

Sabean: We feel that these meetings are productive at putting our roster together. We don't feel pressure of having to do something while we're here. We are prepared to act in a timely fashion when the right opportunities present themselves. Thanks everyone for joining us today. Happy holidays, and we will talk to you again after the first of the year.

OGC: Well, that's some news, he has announced before that the meetings were not productive, so this is good news for those who are hoping for upgrades in the lineup.

Giants Thoughts

As noted, nothing really new revealed here, which is typical, because the questions are either not phrased well or the questioner was not well informed. 99% of the info here could have been gotten by reading Andy Baggarley's blog for an hour or two.

I would point out first that the impression that Sabean is being wishy-washy on Posey, while understandable, is not correct. He never said that Posey wasn't capable of starting for us, he said that the Giants evaluation personnel did not think that Posey was ready to play 100 games at catcher for us. But if forced to, they would do that while, obviously, giving the backup plenty of starting opportunities.

And none of that is really new info. They have been pretty clear in saying that Posey could win the job in spring training, but that they would be OK with him in the minors and performing his way onto the roster. Any free agent catcher who signs with us would be stupid if he thought that he might not be a backup. The Giants will have to pay extra if they want something extra from the backup catcher, but he's clearly at best keeping the seat warm for Posey.

I still think that Jose Molina would be a good choice, though now that the Giants have stated explicitly that Bengie Molina is no longer being pursued, he might show brotherly support by not signing here after his brother got "dissed" by the "ungrateful" Giants. He's a superior defensive catcher, could take over for Posey late in games where defense is more important than offense, and he could teach Posey a tip or three.

Regarding upgrading the lineup, it sounds like the Giants are looking mostly at an upgrade at 1B, meaning that Sandoval will be kept at 3B. That's where Pablo's value will be maximized in the Giants context. He is a premium hitter there, not as much as at catcher, but with his body and Posey around, he wouldn't be there long term anyway, but not at 1B and he's still learning to play defense at the corners. Keep him at 3B, let him learn that one position and hopefully he will learn to be adequate to good there, others like Mike Schmidt, started out poor defensely and improved to Gold Glove quality.

It seems like the Giants like Ishikawa enough to keep him around if he has a nice spring again, making me think that the 1B they are pursuing would be someone like Nick Johnson, who would have to accept less money because of their injury history, but is a good upgrade offensively. Then, should the worse happens, they are covered with Ishikawa taking over the starting position.

Garko appears to be the consolation prize if the Giants are not able to sign any 1B upgrade this week before they have to non-tender him if they decide they don't want/need him.

The super-utility position appears to be either Uribe, Burriss, or Rohlinger. Uribe wants starting money and multi-years, but rumors is that he's getting resistance there, so he might fall back into our hands later. Rohlinger has been prepared by the Giants to take on this role for a while now, and they had been saying that about him. He appears to be a Uribe type of hitter: no average but has power in his bat. I would think that they would be better served to start Burriss at 2B/SS in AAA in 2010 so that he can make the case of being the starter in 2011, unless they think that he's not capable anymore.

Frandsen is the unsaid factor here and appears to be ticketed to be traded at some point this off-season. Not surprising, he has said and done many things that prospects just don't do, particularly Giants prospects who have done OK but not great in the minors. Too bad, I would have loved to see him get a shot with us, since the Giants were his and his late beloved brother's favorite team. Who knows, maybe he can't be traded and he ends up winning the utility role in spring training.

In the outfield, there are no hot free agent prospects there but Baggarly noted in one blog post that they are considering signing a CF and moving Rowand to LF, though they don't anticipate needing to do that. The Giants brass has already promoted Velez/Torres as their leadoff option, but Sabean had noted before basically questioning going with that, meaning that they understand that's not a good option but it would be the option they would have to go with now. I'm still hoping that Bowker wins LF and Schierholtz RF, then you could have Bowker, who had a very high OBP last season leading off, or even Rowand there as he did well there for a while.

Lastly, I think the Giants absolutely needs to sign someone to be their #5 starter. If Randy Johnson is willing to take pocket change, sure, go with him. I think Bumgarner would be best served starting the year in AAA before he makes the majors, hopefully in 2011 as that would mean that the #5 starter was performing and healthy.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

2009 Winter Meetings News So Far

There have been a number of reports out about the winter meetings: Haft, Baggarly 1, 2, 3, 4, and Schulman 1 and 2, plus a trade rumor regarding San Diego's Kouzmanoff. I will run through all the news I have available right now.


I'll start there as that's pretty exciting if true. However, I'm not sure what they would want back in return. The notice mentioned Fred Lewis and Kevin Frandsen as the trade offer from our end, and I agree, I would not be excited by that.

Then again, Kouzmanoff has not been that great in the majors, his OPS the past two seasons were low 700's whereas Fred Lewis has hit better than that during his time in the majors, even when he was struggling last season. Still, that's great power to get, it would secure 3B with Pablo moving to 1B (good bye Ishikawa and Garko), I think he was at least OK defensively, and even if he is in arbitration, he would still be getting only $3-5M according to the article (given his poor OPS, I would think that it would be closer to $3M, as the formula for the first year in arbitration is normally (if I remember right) around 40-60% of the average pay he would get as a free agent, and Pedro Feliz being about a similar player getting $5M at 3B, that would put him in the $2-3M range.

It is mentioned that the Twins might be in play, offering Glen Perkins, but I would rather have Lewis ALONE instead, rather than get Perkins. Pucetas at minimum, should be able to match what Perkins has done so far in the majors.

According to Baggarly, however, the 'Dres don't want Lewis. If Frandsen and Pucetas gets the job done, this would be an overpay over what the Twins are offering, but I would do the trade (of course, all speculation, don't know what the Giants are offering, if anything, it is a rumor after all). I would rather trade Martinez with Frandsen, if possible, as I like Pucetas.

Velez/Torres Lead-Off

Well, this would put a tight crimp into my thoughts on how the 2010 roster might fall out. If both are kept on the roster, then either Bowker or Schierholtz gets RF (with either Bowker returning to AAA or Schierholtz DFA?; I also read somewhere that the Giants were not happy Bowker left winter league and he wasn't happy about them ordering him to winter league).

Lead-off? Ugh! That would not be acceptable to me. I would rather leadoff with Bowker instead, or even Lewis. Velez is not the option for lead-off yet, after his hot return to the majors, after sucking early in the year, he cooled off totally.

To Aug. 9: .429/.458/.661/1.118, 3BB/10K in 56 AB with 1 SB and 1 CS (50%)
8/10 to end:.233/.282/.358/.640, 13BB/37K in 193 AB with 9 SB and 4 CS (69%)

So not only would his defense harm the team, his offense would not even make up for it. And there is a reason Torres was a journeyman when we signed him. He just got lucky this year with his hitting. Maybe he finally learned how to hit, but are we really going to bet on him learning? That would not seem to be the Giants or Sabean's way of doing things in the past.

This news does not make me happy with Sabean.

Marlon Byrd in the hand?

There is also talk about the Giants pursuing Marlon Byrd, which would preclude having these two as leadoff, though I don't know who would start otherwise, other than Aaron Rowand again. Plus, Byrd has benefited GREATLY from hitting in one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the majors, his OPS in his three years there was around the low 700 on the road, so any deal he signs would be an overpay if they are basing it on his overall numbers, which is very nice, with Texas the past 3 years. He was roughly a high 600 OPS before Texas, which rings true with his road numbers with Texas, so NO THANKS, PLEASE!

Signing him for big money would not make me happy with Sabean either, even more so, as I think Velez/Torres should be able to do what Byrd did and for much less in pay.

Johnny Damon Lead-off?

Another possibility is Johnny Damon, who the Yankees would no longer need if they trade for Curtis Granderson, as rumored. He would totally upgrade lead-off and he has been decent defensively in the outfield, if I remember right. I only wonder what his price would be, but if the Giants are willing to pay it (and not prevent us from keeping our pitching in the future) I would be OK with an overpay, he's been a pretty good player, though getting old, so there is that risk.

Panda Clean-Up

But this does make me happy: Pablo Sandoval has been annointed the new clean-up hitter. That is where he should have been hitting at the end of last season except that Bengie Molina would have had a gamer hissy-fit probably and bemoan his lack of respect, and by the way, he's no clean-up hitter and did he mention that he deserves more years and more money?

Middle Hitter

With Sandoval crowned the cleanup hitter, now we need to settle 3rd and 5th. The team is apparently still looking and Sabean noted that there are more options in the infield than outfield at the moment. I would think that could change once it is learned which players were non-tendered. Apparently there are two "what-ifs" regarding 3B, so Sandoval, while clearly cleanup right now, could play at 1B or 3B.

Payroll: Low $90M

That is about what it was last season, though a slight raise, as I think they started with a high $80M last season. About what could be expected. Hopefully Neukom will open the purse a little more if Lincecum wins more money in arbitration than expected.

No Catching for Sandoval or Garko

That is good news to hear. I'm tired of Giants fans suggesting that we start Pablo there. He is too valuable to play behind the plate, we need him in the lineup for as many of the 162 games as he can, and if he were catcher, he would probably miss at least 20 games if not more if he is injured.
Garko, I would have been intrigued to see him hit there, but since it has been so long since he started, it would not be fair to him to try to start catching again, let alone be the starter, even if it is temporary until Posey comes up. In any case, I read somewhere that the Giants are not even sure they want to be paying millions of dollars for Garko in arbitration if he is platooning with Ishikawa at 1B. Sounds like the Giants have to decide whether Garko is the starter or not, and if so, then that means Ishikawa is gone. I would be fine with him being paid more and platooning, but it's not my money.

No Penny Pickup for Giants

It probably has already been announced already, but Brad Penny appears to have signed with the Cardinals for $7.5M plus $1.5M in incentives. He tried to get more years and similar money from the Giants, but they backed off and he signed with them.

That's OK with me. I think Pucetas would be adequate in the #5 starting spot, and perhaps be decent even, instead of just average. With Lincecum's payday possibly huge, I think we have to pass on Penny unless he's at a good price. That's not a good price.

Another pitcher who is noted as a possible Giants target: Brett Myers, late of Phillies, also part-time closer for Phillies too. I would love to have him as our 5th starter. Jason Marquis is also mentioned, but while he would be OK as our #5 starter, I don't want to be paying him very much to do so for us, under $5M, but I don't expect him to sign for so little. I would pay more for Myers.

The Giants are looking at some international pitching free agents as well.

They are also considering Bumgarner as the 5th starter, though they then would want a veteran reliever in the bullpen if that is done. I'm not sure what the connection there is, though. Because they expect him to pitch less innings?

Other internal options include Joe Martinez, who pitched nicely in the AFL and Kevin Pucetas, who is being asked for in trade conversations, which confirms for the Giants that he would be an OK option for #5 starter. As I noted somewhere, Pucetas' MLE would put him in the mid-to-high 4 ERA which would be great for a #5 starter.

Keeping Medders

Speaking of pitching, the Giants appear to be keeping Medders, by tendering a contract and offering arbitration to him, unlike Garko who is on the bubble. I like what Medders did in 209 and would love to have him in the bullpen again. He would push out someone in the configuration I had in a prior post, but that would be OK with me, he did well for us.

Uggla Trade?

Appears to be coming to a head, the Marlins are ready to unload Uggla to the highest bidder, but right now the Giants appear to not be among the front runners. Still, they could come in with a late bid and try to win him. I think I would rather have Kouzmanoff, if possible, especially if it is Lewis and Frandsen for him. About similar hitting, better defense from Kouz than Uggla, whether Uggla plays 2B or 3B.

But if, as Baggarly notes, Uggla's trade value plummets because the Marlins waited too long (see Twins botching of Johan Santana trade), and we can get him on the cheap, in terms of prospects traded, then it would be great to get him, even at the big price he would probably net in arbitration. He also noted that even if the payroll was used up in this scenario, Neukom could OK raising the payroll to fit him in.

Starting Catcher

With Posey pretty much dismissed at the opening day starter (with the caveat that spring training could change things), the Giants are now looking for a starting catcher who is OK with not starting should Posey prove to be ready. Hard to find anyone like that unless you overpay someone for 2010. Sabean said that he's taking his time on this, which to me means that they probably have a few names who they are targeting and they will keep close tabs on all of them, and once all but one is signed, he would work at signing the last catcher for as low as he can get away with it in January.

Trade Value of OF

A scout was asked about the value of Giants OF, and the answers are not surprising to Giants fans who follow the farm system closely: Lewis, None; Schierholtz, basically none; Bowker, some. I would argue that Schierholtz would be worth more than that, but not much more, so I don't have a problem with that assessment. Nate is doing well in Puerto Rico and so that is good to hear.

Burriss in Limbo

Emmanuel Burriss had setback to the same foot that kept him out most of the season. That is not a good sign as that is his main value as a ballplayer, his speed, and a recurring or hard to heal foot injury could end his major league career before it really began. Too bad, I think he had some promise to become our starting 2B, with great D, good plate discipline, and great speed and SB.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Buster Posey: To Play or Not to Play

Brian Sabean recently noted to the press that the Giants are not sure that Posey can play 100+ games and thus they are looking for someone who would basically be the starter until the Giants think that Posey is ready to play. This was reported by Andy Baggarly at this great Extra Baggs blog, check it out.

Other news include:
  • Both Brad Penny and Juan Uribe turned down the Giants final offer, and thus one can expect that the Giants would not be signing either one. If they were a package, that's great by me, we would be overpaying for Uribe. I wouldn't have minded getting Penny back, but with Lincecum expecting to get $12-24M from the Giants next season, the Giants basically have to hold off signing anyone but a backup/starting catcher until they go through that process.
  • Apparently the Giants are interested in Howry re-signing, but he's not a priority. Appears that they are not sold that Waldis Joaquin will necessarily be ready, or perhaps they are signing him in order to free them to trade off a young reliever to get a player they need. Some people are up in arms, but his overall ERA was great for a reliever, and while I would not trust him with late inning leads, there are plenty of innings in the middle innings where things are still in doubt where he can get innings. I only ask that he gets much less than last year to do a lesser job.
  • Sounds like the Giants are thinking of going with Bumgarner as the #5 starter, assuming he proves to be ready in spring training (people forget about that detail and just think that they are rubber stamping him now). People are not understanding what ready means with regards for the majors. Based on what he did in limited time in the majors (plus last spring training), he looks like he can pitch effectively in the majors if they brought him up. He wouldn't dominate, but who would at his young age? I would bet that he could get guys out regularly. Is he at his peak yet? No, but I don't have a problem with them dangling the majors as a carrot to get him to bring his performances to another level. No shame if he doesn't, he goes to AAA and get to figure out things there.
  • The Giants have officially said that they won't sign any free agent who would cost them their first round draft pick. Even if that pick is not worth that much, ultimately, they apparently decided that the bad publicity that comes with that from the fan base is not worth it. Too bad, I would rather they do what they think is OK from a business risk basis than kowtow to the fan masses. After all, many of them wanted to trade Lincecum or Cain or Bumgarner at one time or another. Or maybe they decided that this draft is deep enough that they can actually pick up someone they like. Lots of different factors come into play, one can go dizzy thinking of them all. :^)
  • Sabean also explained why Molina was not offered arbitration. Makes sense, if they get robbed in the Lincecum arbitration process, they don't want to chance having to give Molina a big raise in the arbitration too, if the arbitrator happens to lean towards Molina. That could force them to have to trade a big salary when they were not prepared to.

Sabean noted that Posey was "whipped" after a full season. And that appears to be true, based on how he performed in the AFL. Not really new news though, we all knew already that he would start if he earned it in spring and would got AAA if he didn't, and that the backup would have to understand that his situation would be tenuous at best. Nice to get it confirmed though.

My Thoughts About Posey

People think it's a slam dunk that he's ready. I don't really know but I am willing to put him in and see what he can do. The Giants are going with their route. Don't konw what is best, just a matter of preference.

What I do know is that he is not a slam dunk to do well. Consider this other prospect:

Great catching prospect? Check!
Great hitting prospect? Check!
Great power prospect? Check!
No pressure situation? Double check!

First month in majors: 22 games, .234/.289/.390/.679, 2 HR in 77 AB, 6 BB, 19 K, 6 RBI
The 2009 season at 71 games: .264/.310/.368/.679, 5 HR in 258 AB, 17 BB, 62 K, 26 RBI
Full 2009 season, 96 games: .288/.340/.412/.752, 9 HR in 354 AB, 28 BB, 86 K, 43 RBI

This is Matt Wieters's stats for the 2009 season. And he's one season ahead of Posey in terms of professional experience and thus should be the more advanced hitting prospect one would think. And he was considered a better hitting prospect than Posey. And he hit better than Posey did in their first full season as a professional. And that is with Posey getting to play in hitter's league PCL while Weiters was in the pitcher's league Eastern League AA.

If it wasn't for his great September, his numbers were pretty poor overall, instead of looking OK for a catcher for his first full season. It was much below average until September when he figured out things in a hurry. He's set to become a star.

Let's take a look at Joe Mauer, another top catching prospect. When he was up for good, here is how he did in his first 27 days (only 27 more days left this season for Giants, and he would probably play this much if he hit like this; I wrote some of this in mid-September but updating for latest news):

20 games, 17 GS, .220/.299/.441/.739 in 59 AB, 3 HR in 59 AB, 9 RBI, 6 BB, 10 K.

Again, he didn't exactly shine as a hitter right off the bat.

Posey's MLE for his 2009 MiLB stats: .248/.312/.386/.698

And here is Posey's stats for his first few weeks in AAA: .235/.333/.314/.647, 0 HR in 51 AB.

Posey eventually sure, but young catchers, even the best hitting ones, can struggle initially when put in the big show. Putting him into the pressure of a playoff chase just adds to all that he will be dealing with, on top of being a major leaguer for the first time, and learning about all that. Are you going to improve the lineup with a catcher like that over Molina? I don't think so.

And thus he is not a slam dunk for starting and doing well in 2010 either.

People keep on forgetting that Bochy has done a good job with all the young pitchers in the pitching staff. They dumped vets like Russ Ortiz, Steve Kline, Brad Hennessey, Kevin Correia, Tyler Walker, Jack Taschner when they either had a young pitcher to replace them or a promising one they would rather keep.

In addition, they could have screwed with Lincecum's service time his first season, like other teams did this season, when he struggling, nobody would have blamed them for sending him back down for a while to get himself straightened out, and that could have reduced his service time enough so that would not have achieved Super-2 status and be arbitration eligible this season. And the way he was pitching poorly, nobody would have blamed them for doing that.

What To Do With Posey

Posey will not necessarily do well if he were to start. But he probably would reach his major league peak production sooner if they did, as I would do. But I understand leaving him back in AAA if he proves to not be ready, that would make him earn his way up, plus delay having to pay him big money until later, which they did not do with Lincecum and perhaps regret now. Plus, they now need to push back expenses as much as they can given that they are going to pay Lincecum huge money over the next four seasons.

It sucks when business concerns plays into player decisions, but that is life, you have to consider factors like that when looking at the Giants actions or any other professional sports team.

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Very Late: 2009 Postseason Giants News Conference

I finally got some free time to type in what I had written almost two months ago. Some are dated - will Sabean/Bochy be re-hired? - but others are not, so I thought, why not? I'm following Andy Baggarly's transcript, and will note my comments with a "OGC:".

1. Bruce Bochy, on what the Giants accomplished...

OGC: That was one of the things I wanted the young players to experience, playing games when they mean that much more, particularly in the majors. As much as I would have liked them to make the playoffs, this is almost as good, maybe better, in that this should give them both experience as well as a hunger for more. If they had won, some might have rested on their laurels for the 2010 season, but now there is no excuse. And as noted, they also realize that those games they might not have performed at 100% early in the season can bite them in the end.

2. Brian Sabean, on his contract situation

OGC: Eh, given that they were resigned, just some spin on the situation. Clearly, the Giants had decided to do it, but like anything else, the hard part was getting both parties satisfied with the contract.

3. Sabean, on Molina

OGC: Clearly, the Giants are willing to go one year with Bengie but not more, and will be vying for his services. Comments since then has not changed that impression. Molina has said that he wants more than one year and he wants a raise, which Sabean has referred to other comments since and noted that he expected another team to offer multi-year to Molina. Hopefully someone with an unprotected pick, like Boston, would try to sign him. I would put the Red Sox and the Mets at the top of the list of pursuers.

4. Sabean on big bat

OGC: Some thought that it was a statement, but it does not say that Velez and Torres are the leadoff option, only questioning whether they are one, and negatively in my opinion. Does say they will look for a disciplined middle of lineup hitter who is less of a free swinger. Brian Giles (former Bochy player) would fit that bill, and Chone Figgins would do that plus be the leadoff guy too. The main point is that while Sabean states that free agency is going to be a challenge and trading a pitcher might not be prudent, he feels that he needs to do something to show the players that the Giants are serious about taking the next step.

5. Bochy on offensive philosophy

OGC: This is where The Giants Way manual should help, because we've been talking about improving bunting since Felipe Alou talked about the importance of that because of his failure to bunt in the 1962 World Series. As Carney Lansford noted, before he was let go, the hitters should konw all this stuff before making the majors - moving along runners, situational hitting, etc. - and hopefully his advice filled the chapter on hitting in the manual. He might not have been able to teach what he knew but it doesn't mean that he didn't have good knowledge to pass on. Still, since he's a Hriniak disciple, I'm glad he's gone. From the little bit about Hensley "Bam Bam" Muelens that I read in the aftermath of his hiring to be the new batting instructor, what he said he was going to teach to hitters reminded me of Ted Williams approach to hitting (which I love and adhered to when I played) so I'm very encouraged by his hiring.

6. Sabean on Bumgarner

OGC: Basically said that he thought that Bumgarner showed that he can do good things in the majors, but that to project what he could do in the majors would be folly and would take a lot of people saying that he's ready to get Sabean to rely on him in the rotation. I think that is for the best. We don't know why his velocity went down. Probably (hopefully), it was just the typical dead arm that afflicts many pitchers in their second year. Still, it was very encouraging that he could still get major league hitters out without his best stuff. So a year in AAA - following the Matt Cain plan - would do him a world of good, lets us be more confident of what we got when he makes the rotation in 2011. Plus, it would give Sanchez another year to prove himself as a starter as well, and if either he or Cain don't get extended by Spring 2011, they could be trade bait to get us another batter, with Bumgarner taking over his spot.

7. Sabean on Cain

OGC: Hint that the Giants are working on extending Cain. Not that they will come to agreement but at least they are thinking about it. Basically says that any hitter Sabean has talked with other teams about, the other team would want Cain (and his lower cost contract and longer length of contract) plus prospects for the hitter, who is either controlled for less years (including whatever the Giants think they can extend Cain for) or for more money or both. I love having Cain, I think he's a keeper, and having him and Lincecum atop our rotation for years is a good thing.

8. Bochy on Uribe

OGC: As much as people fell in love with Uribe (just like they fell in love with Winn when he started hitting again), he hasn't hit this well for a number of years now, basically we benefited from catching lightening in a bottle for a brief period. This should get him a really nice contract, so good luck to him, but we're better off letting him go if he's paid bigger money and for multi-years. I think Frandsen could outdo him going forward, as the utility guy for us.

9. Sabean on 2B if Sanchez isn't around

OGC: Moot point now that he is signed for two years. About as good as can be expected, contract-wise, gives us one less thing to worry about, and had he been on the open market or with another team, I think that he would have held out for more money from the Giants or probably signed with the other team, precluding the Giants signing him. Giving him or looking to free agency for a 2B (I would have been OK with Frandsen starting there but the Giants clearly weren't).

10. Sabean on $90M payroll

OGC: Sabean acknowledges that everyone sees the free agent list. Yeah, not attractive, as I've been talking about here. Best sign that he might not do anything in the free agent market. Not surprising that the payroll is about the same, with the shaky economy, that is prudent. People get mad about this but the Giants are paying out $20M for a mortgage plus has been contributing at least that much to the MLB fund that goes to poorer teams like the A's, paying around $30-50M per year, I would estimate.

Basically the same old, same old, as last season, similar budget but Neukom could OK a big purchase if it is a "compelling" situation. With the poor free agent market, I expect that to only happen if aonther team wants to dump a player (like Alex Rios was dumped) and all we would need to do is take on his salary and give up a prospect that they like but we don't. In any case, his recent statement that he feels the need to make a statement shows that he's serious about adding someone else, but as the AJ Pierzynski off-season showed, just because you want to add someone else does not mean that will work out.

In addition, in light of Lincecum's unprecedented second consecutive Cy Young, all bets are off on how much it will cost the Giants to keep him for 2010, and that will make a huge dent in what the Giants can do in signing free agents this off-season.

11. Sabean and Bochy on Posey

OGC: Good critique of Posey's defense and handling of the catching position. Sounds like they think that he is ready defensively, just not sure of his offense. And they both noted that Spring Training could play a hand in whether he starts 2010 in the majors or not.

He didn't do that well in the AFL, so that didn't help but did not necessarily hurt him either. I think the Giants are probably going the Orioles route and sign someone to hold the catching spot warm until they think that Posey is ready, someone like Zaun, whom the Orioles signed last year to keep things warm for Weiters. But if he impresses offensively in spring training, the seat could be his.

I would also note that I'm severely disappointed that Sabean didn't know that the stats in the PCL is not translatable to the majors. First, he should have known that by now, he has been in this position long enough. Second, even if he didn't know, then the reported "sabermetrician" that the Giants supposedly have in their hire should have known this, the Major League Equivalency (MLE) concept has been out for a long time now, from Bill James, and particularly from major publications like Baseball Prospectus and Baseball Forecaster. This is bad enough for me that he will have to really perform in these next two years for me to support him for extension beyond his current contract. Very disappointed.

12. Sabean on defensive deficiencies of a potent bat and the tangent

OGC: This was true last year too, just the deals didn't make sense. Not sure what he meant by waiting for the homer since the team was power challenged entering the season, and even with Sandoval's emergence, still challenged. The problem, to me, was that they were structured to rely on speed up top, but then Burriss then Lewis performed poorly and eventually weren't in the starting lineup (plus didn't show power Giants were hoping for), plus Velez also stunk things up too and was sent down too. Speed all gone.

13. Sabean on Velez

OGC: This statement clearly shows that Sabean is NOT committed to Velez/Torres as leadoff but implies that this is a possibility, depending on what happens during the off-season. As I noted in a recent post, there is really no spot on the bench for Velez, so he would really need to win a starting spot in LF if he's going to be with us in 2010, unless the Giants think that they can dump Torres and rely on either Bowker or Schierholtz to man CF competently for us in short stretches (or even Posey if we get a good backup catcher), which would open a spot for Velez on the bench.

14. Sabean on multi-year contracts

OGC: Question that had to be asked but ultimately, it's clear that Lincecum's agent (and thus Lincecum) wants record amounts of money and I would agree that this is the best route to take: find out what they want once arbitration figures are exchanged, then negotiate from there. And the point is moot now that Lincecum's agent now says that they are only negotiating a one year contract now (implying that the possibility of a multi-year extension is now gone).

And that's probably for the best. There is a clause that allows Lincecum to ask for money equal to current top pitchers, meaning Zito or even Sabathia money, so they could be looking for that much money. And if any long term contract is given, the Giants would not be able to insure that, but still Lincecum has not proven to be durable yet. So it would be best to go year to year now.

But if the Giants are unable to obtain a long-term contract and Lincecum has another monster year in 2010, he could become too expensive for the Giants to hold onto, and they might be forced to trade him to a team who can afford him, like the Yankees or Red Sox or Mets, maybe even the Cubs, depending on how much money their new owners have, plus I guess also the Angels.

15. Sabean on meeting Neukom's criteria

OGC: Clearly, he got the contract, so he must have met it.

16. Sabean on getting new deal

OGC: As noted, he got the contract, moot point.

17. Sabean on being longest tenured GM

OGC: Sabean-esque response, typical.

18. Sabean then Bochy on their rep for vets

OGC: He was being defensive, as he has since the Matt Williams trade. Still, that's his rap. But that stance has a logic behind it. Here is basically what the former President of the small company I worked for told me a little time after I had left the company: we should not have hired inexperienced programmers out of school, we sohuld have hired professionals who knew what they were doing.

That's the dilemma: do you go for the best or do you develop the young? I see people bemoan not going for the playoffs by playing the young, but the young are no panacea. The pros do generally do better and having that track record make them a better bet usually.

However, clearly Randy Winn was declining, his strikeout rate went way up to levels not seen since his rookie season, I would have played Schierholtz.

19. Sabean on Sandoval

OGC: Good question. I don't think Sandoval will ever be fit and trim, but he's probably never really tried either (nor have the money or support as he does now), with professional dieticians and trainers. I think that whatever the Giants dish out, Sandoval seems to be the type to shout, "More SIR!" He worked out all last off-season taking grounders at 3B (and that was of his own volition, I believe, though a Giants scout/coach was the one hitting the grounders), and now working on his overall fitness, so I know he will give it his all during his career to be the best that he can. And that's all you can really ask for, 100% effort. I look forward to seeing his Giants career unfold.

20. Sabean on whether any arb-eligible player could be non-tendered (Medders, Miller, Garko; I believe Miller has already been DFAed)

OGC: Sabean has mastered the art of saying nothing while saying a lot. He could have said this almost any other year too and to a variety of different questions.

21. Sabean on Penny

OGC: Have to say this. If he says Penny is a priority, Penny's agent will ask for more money. They key message is that he has not dismissed the idea of signing Penny. However, I think that the uncertainty over how much Lincecum will get will put the freeze on any Giants free agent signings, except perhaps a backup catcher.

22. Sabean on pitching staff

OGC: Exciting to konw that they are ultra competitive but anyone following Cain and Lincecum through their careers should know that already about them. Better to be that than to be one of those Zen pitchers who seemingly don't care.

There were also questions that Haft captured in his account:

23. Sabean on whether this team like the 86 Giants, which followed with a division winner.

OGC: Duh, Neukom already said that in 2008, saying that 2010 he expected the team to be competitive for the division title with the goal of winning the division.

24. Sabean on Lincecum's strengthening program

OGC: Good to hear that Lincecum understands that baseball needs to come first.

25. Sabean on Sandoval playing winter ball

OGC: What else can Sabean really say to a question worded like that? I think Sandoval will play winter ball so that he can prepare for 2010.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Travis Ishikawa Named to Topps MLB Rookie All-Star Team

As reported by Haft on sfgiants.com, Travis Ishikawa was named to Topps' MLB Rookie All-Star Team. Congrats to Ishikawa for his award, that will always be on his Topps baseball card, and a nice capper to a nice season.

That said, I like Ishikawa, but it must have been a poor year for 1B, when you compare him to the other players named:

  • White Sox second baseman Chris Getz,
  • Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus,
  • White Sox third baseman Gordon Beckham,
  • Marlins outfielder Chris Coghlan,
  • Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen,
  • Rangers outfielder Nolan Reimold,
  • Mets catcher Omir Santos,
  • Braves right-hander Tommy Hanson and
  • Phillies left-hander J.A. Happ

The only other "huh?" on the list for me is Omir Santos.

Not that I thought Ishikawa did poorly. As I have shown, he did pretty well after May 10, but the judging of how he did will always focus on his overall season and he didn't do that well overall because of how poorly he started the season. And most of the above did stuff that budding stars did. Ishikawa, at best, could be a competent average firstbaseman - nothing to be ashamed of, and that's good for a nice career in the majors, just ask JT Snow.

Giants Thoughts

As much as I would like to see the Giants improve offensively for sure by acquiring another hitter, the consequence of that would be the loss of opportunity for certain Giants prospects.

Getting a LF (or CF if Rowand agrees to move to LF) is the least intrusive and obstructive, as it would force Bowker to compete with Schierholtz for the starting RF position, but as nicely as both have done in AAA, neither is a slam dunk to do well if they were inserted as starters. I would still like to see how Schierholtz would do if given the chance, and I'm realistic enough to know that there's a significant possibility that he might not do well. Same for Bowker.

Getting a 1B, 2B (shifting Sanchez to 3B, and Pablo to 1B), or 3B (shifting Pablo to 1B) would be more obstructive as it would effectively end any use the Giants would have for Ishikawa or Garko, forcing them to either DFA or trade them.

Given Garko's history and right-handedness (where many Giants prospects are left-handed), plus the fact that Barnes was traded for him and Sabean said that he would not acquire anyone who is not part of the Giants future plans, I have to think that the Giants would not acquire an IF which would force out Garko (as well as possibly Ishikawa since has no position flexibility).

For that matter, there usually are a good number of available LF and while Ishikawa-Garko would probably make a good enough platoon team, only Nick Johnson would rank as high as the two of them in a platoon at 1B, and his big problem is that he is better but only when he is healthy enough to play for most of the season. Unless they are thinking of moving Bowker back to 1B, acquiring Johnson would probably result in both players being DFA, with Garko probably netting someone (though not as good as Barnes, I would bet) and Ishikawa being claimed by another team through waivers, and the Giants would only have Bowker and Jesus Guzman as 1B possibless should Johnson go down, as he has to some extent each and every season he has been a major leaguer.

For me, like for 2009, I would have preferred the Giants go and give the best prospects the chance to show what they could do, good or bad. That's not the edict that Neukom gave - he wanted to see enough improvement so that the team was at least .500 - and I understand his position as he needs to worry more about the business side and attracting fans to come see the games.

My 2010 Preference

For 2010, this would be how I would want to do things.

Obviously, the pitching rotation is the strength of the team. I would not diminish it with any trades right now. Lincecum, Zito, Cain, Sanchez is a pretty formidable rotation. For the 5th spot, I would prefer to see Pucetas get a chance to see what he can do up here, with Martinez in reserve.

The bullpen is another strength. Brian Wilson was superb as closer in 2009 and Jeremy Affeldt even more so as our main setup guy. Sergio Romo was mostly superb, except for a brief period where he was lost. Dan Runzler looks to also be in the mix for set-up duties, lessening the need to use Affeldt as much or in lower leverage situations. Merkin Valdez was OK too, and Waldis Joaquin looks like he will take a spot too. And Brandon Medders was a find. These are probably the seven we take to the season, and leaves out Justin Miller and Bobby Howry, both of whom did very well for us, but are probably gone in 2010.

The lineup, of course, is a work-in-progress. I would start with giving Posey the catching job but also signing a free agent catcher who is good defensively and hopefully a mentor too, ideally like Gregg Zaun. Brad Ausmus and Jose Molina look to be viable alternatives if Zaun really wants to stay near his hometown area of Tampa Bay.

1B would be a platoon of Ishikawa and Garko, though it won't be strictly by LHP and RHP. I would also play Garko in LF sometimes to get his offense if the LF is struggling, and Garko is the DH anytime we play against an AL team.

2B is Freddy Sanchez, with Frandsen or Rohlinger as backup.

3B is Pablo Sandoval, with Frandsen or Rohlinger as backup.

SS is Edgar Renteria with Frandsen or Rohlinger as backup.

LF is John Bowker with Torres, Garko, and Frandsen as backups.

CF is Aaron Rowand with Torres as backup.

RF is Nate Schierholtz with Bowker (someone else would take LF) and Torres as backup.

This would mean that Frandsen is DFA or traded if Rohlinger wins and Velez is DFA or traded, as there would be no space for either and neither can be sent back to the minors without exposing him to waivers. It is possible that Velez might shine in spring training and make a good case for LF, but I would just (in my mind, at least) have the above slotted and just announce my "decision" after spring training, justifying it any way that I can. It's time to see what Posey, Ishikawa, Bowker and Schierholtz can do playing pretty regularly, then adjust in May-June was needed.

I think the Giants are pretty much going to follow this route except that they will most probably pursue one of the second tier players who falls through the crack and finds himself without a team in the middle of January and willing to take a small contract in order to secure a starting position with the Giants. Then they would adjust the rest of the roster in reaction to this signing.

I think that there is also probably a good chance of them also signing a free agent starter to take the #5 rotation spot, also another guy looking for a spot and willing to take less. I would not have minded getting Brad Penny back, and who knows, he could find himself on the outside looking in and sign with the Giants for less in order to give the D-gers another slap in the face.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Giants Added 4 to 40 Man Roster; Second-Tier FA; Sign Cain to Extension

Catching up with some news, the Giants recently added four prospects to their 40 man roster. This was reported at their website by Haft, Baggarly, and Schulman. Here they are in order of where I think they rank in terms of contributing eventually (and also probably in order of contributing) to the Giants:

Kevin Pucetas

He had been winning big in the minors until his 2009 big bump of a season, once winning the title of "Most Spectacular Pitcher of the Year" for having the lowest ERA in all of the minors. Baggarly notes that he is the only guy of these who won't appear in his top 30 prospect list for Baseball America because of how poorly he did in 2009. He has never had the "stuff" that pitchers have/need to dominate in the majors. But as Baggarly notes, he is "a strike thrower and he competes well in all aspects ... The Giants always seem to have an affinity for those types of guys."

Not everything was bad. He made a big jump from Advanced A to AAA last season and was only 24 last season, so a bump would be expected. Plus his BABIP was high (.315) so there was some bad luck involved. In particular, the bad luck was in his home park at Fresno. His FIP MLE overall was a 5.01, which is OK for a 5th starter, but his FIP MLE for the road was 4.47, which would put him in middle rotation talent. So I don't see why he was left off the 30 man for the Giants next season, are there really that many better prospects?

Unless the Giants re-sign Penny (right now, unlikely, but if he's not signed by EOY, he might just do it to tweak the D-ger's noses), #5 starter will be filled internally by either Joe Martinez or Kevin Pucetas. He had done very well before, so I think that he should be able to hold down the #5 starter job, if not here, somewhere, and maybe be one of those guys like Brett Tomko or Sidney Ponson who drifts from team to team. At only age 25 plus already one AAA season under his wing, he probably only needs an opportunity on someone's rotation to get to stick around the majors for a few years under cheap team control, then if he can

Brett Pill

Had not done that much with the Giants prior to this season. Like Sandoval and Bowker before him, had a breakout year in AA Connecticut, but really, .830 OPS in AA is not all that impressive. His 20 HR was, as that was double his high before, so at age 24 his power finally kicked in. He also had an odd split in Dodd Stadium, hitting better at home - perhaps they finally figured out how to fix up the park so that it would be more of a hitter's park, because he's another guy who did well there but not on the road in the past two seasons.

In any case, his hitting was not all that impressive, .300/.352/.478/.830 with 20 HR is very nice, but at AA, the MLE for that is only .252/.292/.400/.692 with 18 HR. That's a nice bench player who can start in a pinch with power. His strikeout rate improved slightly to be slightly better than what you want to look for (which is 15%; he had 13.7%), but he's always been on the edge in that way during his minor league career, just slightly above. His walk rate is about what it has always been. And his BABIP was right in range, so this was a season unaffected by luck in that matter.

Why he's on the Top 30 list for BA but not Pucetas, I'm not sure, other than the surge in power plus consistent discipline at the place. At 24 in AA, he's a bit old in the league for a legitimately good prospect, but OK for someone on the fringes of making the MLB roster. I would want to see how Pill does in AAA before I would put him above Pucetas, and he would need to replicate his good strikeout rate and HR power, plus decent ability to get on base. At 25 next year, it is pretty much do or die for his prospect status.

Francisco Peguero

If his eligibility wasn't over, he probably wouldn't be on the 40 man roster but would be close to making it anyhow by next year. He had a bad start with Augusta, so, whether by injury or management move (could have been injured or maybe he got put into instructional league), he ended up a step back at Salem-Keizer in June, where he finally got hot in July, whereupon he got returned back to Augusta for the rest of the season, where he hit well in July and August, then after a cold Sept there, moved to San Jose where he hit well there. Baseball America ranked him as the Northwest League's 8th best prospect for 2009.

He improved greatly on his discipline at the plate in 2009, striking out much, much less, and getting it below the 15% threshold. But he wasn't that great in August even though he's right in the mass age range for the league, and his BABIP was extremely high in 2009, though it has been for the past two years, so perhaps his speed accounts for a large amount of that. Even his great San Jose stats MLE is only .303/.361/.333/.694.

That with his speed would make him a good CF candidate, but he is going to have to prove it at every level, and he still has Advanced A, AA, and AAA to conquer before reaching the majors. If each takes a year, that would make him 25 when he reaches the majors. So maybe he makes the majors and right now he's looking like a utility guy, unless he starts hitting for more power plus continue his good discipline and speed. Could be a leadoff guy with defense in CF if he can continue to develop. Again, not sure why him and not Pucetas.

Darren Ford

He is the guy we got for Ray Durham in trade. He's been in Advanced A for the past 3 seasons, basically, so it is about time he figured out the level and league. At 23 for 2009, he's old for the league, so we don't know if his improvement to .294/.382/.451/.833 is because of actual improvement or just because he's now much more experienced than much of the league. Part of it was because he hit 9 HR and another part was because he was able to reduce the number of strikeouts, though it is still too high. However, his BABIP was horribly elevated in 2009 compared to his recent MiLB career, so he would need to keep that up in order to be OK in the majors with that OPS, and a .381 BABIP is not really sustainable except by players like Ichiro.

He is a speed burner (one of the fastest in the minors) and very good defensively in CF, so if he could only figure out how to get on base and steal a lot of bases without many CS, he could have a long MLB career as a utility guy. But he'll be 24 in AA next season, and if he only takes one season, 25 in AAA in 2011, putting him at 26 for the majors in 2012. And it took him two years to figure out Advanced A.

The good news is that he hit .310/.382/.514/.896 on the road for San Jose (their park is a pitcher's park relative to the rest of the Cal League), so he did OK in that way. But the MLE for his away numbers are still only .226/.273/.353/.626, which puts him on the Calvin Murray and Jason Ellison career path. Again, not sure why him over Pucetas.

Second Tier Free Agent Talent

Sabean recently noted in a conference call (partial account by Haft and Schulman; oddly, no full account that I can find) that there is a second tier of free agents - below Holliday and Bay - that would appeal to the Giants. That includes Boras' clients, as it was reported that Sabean acknowledged that the club has contacted Boras about some of his clients. "We know who is available," Sabean said. He also noted that Boras clients are often prolonged negotiations.

This was mentioned after Tim Lincecum's conference call regarding his Cy Young award. Sabean said that he refuses to be a "stalking horse" for any player who is just using the Giants to get more money elsewhere. This is probably a result of the Soriano and Lee snubs before, particularly Lee, whom the Giants were willing to go higher, but Lee told them not to bother, as he apparently got what he wanted from the Astros. Sabean said he doubts Holliday and Bay will have genuine interest because the Yankees, Red Sox, and other bigger-market teams would be pursuing them.

Giants Thoughts

There are some potential for all these players, so I can see why they were protected before the upcoming Rule V draft. However, the Giants only have one spot remaining on the 40 man and the presumption is the Giants were going to sign at least a backup catcher, which would take the last spot. Thus, if the Giants decide to sign another starter (like Penny) or find the second tier free agent hitter that Sabean said recently he would pursue, some of these players could likely be dropped off the roster and designated for assignment.

First would be Ford, I think. I think Eli Whiteside is probably next after Ford, once a backup catcher is signed. Alex Hinshaw is probably on the bubble as well, with the emergence of Dan Runzler. Brian Bocock has to be on the bubble as well, I was surprised others (like Sadowski) were dropped before him.

It is also possible that someone might get traded, but that's hard to predict, it would depend on the other team thinking that our guy is worth giving up one of their prospects for. But I would think that Merkin Valdez could be a possibility, as well as Garko or Ishikawa, depending on the circumstances.

Second Tier Not Really News

I think that it was pretty clear that the Giants were probably not going to sign either of the top two hitters, Holliday and Bay. Holliday has openly said that he hates hitting here. And Bay is being strongly courted by the Red Sox, so I have to assume that they have the money land him if they want him.

Bay is a possibility if other teams are not interested in matching his price (whatever that is) and it happens to fit the Giants valuation. Not sure what the threshold is for the Giants, but I wouldn't pay more than $15M per year for Bay and the guess I've seen right now is that he would get 4 years at $15M per year. I think I would rather pass and let Bowker and Schierholtz have the opportunity to start if it goes above that.

In addition, there are probably second tier outfielders who will be available on the cheap in January. Particularly if there are any surprise non-tenders when it comes time to offer arbitration, the Giants will probably be perusing that list pretty carefully.

I still like Chone Figgins, but he probably won't be a target for the Giants until the Angels decide to not tender arbitration to him as he is a Type A free agent, and thus not cost the Giants their first round pick. I don't see the Angels offering him arbitration, as they might want to play Brandon Wood or Sean Rodriguez at 3B, and Maicer Izturis is another backup option if neither claims the position.

Still, with a billionaire owner (we need such a guy owning the Giants and there are plenty of them in the SF Bay Area), he can afford to eat contracts easily (like Matthews Jr's) and so they might just play chicken and offer him arbitration. At only $5.8M last season, he probably would only get $8-9M tops in arbitration, which the Angels might be willing to risk.

With his great OBP and SB speed, he would be great as our leadoff hitter. The only problem is that he played well at 3B last season, so his acquisition could push Sandoval to 1B and Garko and Ishikawa off the team. He has played LF before, and that would be ideal for us, but I don't know if he prefers to stay at 3B or not.

Speaking of free agents, Dallas McPherson became a minor league free agent a few weeks ago and was recently signed by the Oakland A's, which has recently become a landing place or waystation for a number of former Giants players, like Rajai Davis and Jerome Williams.

Giants Interest Does Not Equal Enough Interest to Sign

There is going to be a lot of agents talking about the Giants interest in their clients because in this economic climate, they have to broadcast that teams are interested, in order to help create some demand for their client and some sense of scarcity. Simple economics and sales savvy.

Just remember that the Giants contact a lot of free agents at this time, because they might have a cursory interest, but that does not mean that they are interested at any price. They are notorious window shoppers. Remember, the Giants contacted Gary Sheffield's agent once and asked if he would be willing to sign for under $10M, when any fan who follows the Hot Stove could have told the Giants that there was no way he was signing for under $10M with any team, he was going to get more (and he did, I think with Detroit). You don't get if you don't ask, but sometimes you are just insulting or disconnected with reality by giving low-ball offers like that. Players, particularly those with big egos, are going to remember that about you.

Need to Sign Cain to Extension

Also, someone on El Lefty Malo suggested that Cain could be traded because he would be very expensive once he gets past our last contract year, which is 2011, and thus we might not be able to keep Lincecum, Zito, Rowand, and Cain on the same roster, and I would have to agree that is a possibility. So one thing to watch for this off-season is if the Giants are able to sign Cain to a two-year extension at a relatively cheap price, say, 2 years at $18-25M. He probably could get $12-15M right now on the free agent market, and with a bit of inflation, in 2011, that would put him around $15-18M per season.

However, he signed a really cheap contract with the Giants already so he and/or his agents might decide that his next contract needs to be for fair value. And that would probably put us out of his price range given our other contracts at that time. Players do accept lower amounts now for the bird in the hand vs. two in the bush, but hard to judge how much lower.

But Cain appears to love being here, he has planted roots here, marrying someone from the area, buying a home here, and since he had no team that he rooted for when he was young, the Giants are the only team he has ever really felt bonds with. A two year contract for the amount I suggested above ($18-25M) would secure his future, and he would still be only 29 for the next season when he becomes a free agent in 2013 offseason. So it might be possible to get him signed to a good extension.

Else, the Giants would need to strongly consider trading him either 2010 mid-season or the next off-season, as then we would only have one year of him remaining. If a trade is envisioned, then I would want something similar to what the A's got for Haren from the D-backs. I'm not sure who else has a farm system like that to give up for Cain, though. But the Brewers have a lot of hitters and need pitchers. The Rays and Angels also have a lot of young hitters in their farm systems too. And the Angels look like they will be losing Lackey, after having lost Nick Adenhart at the start of the season, and don't have good pitching prospects looking ready for 2010.

And there is the suggestion on ELM that the Giants trade Cain to Detroit for Cabrera and Granderson. Thinking further on that, I noted that we would have to either give up Bumgarner too or accept another bad contract like Dontrelle Willis to do the trade as that commenter suggested (which included us throwing in Rowand, Merkin Valdez, Garko/Ishikawa, Henry Sosa, and Jesus Guzman, if I remember the details right; no kitchen sink :^).

A new thought while writing this that occurred to me is that the Giants could perhaps make it Cain for Cabrera, plus we throw in Valdez, Garko, and Guzman, and they throw back a mid-tier prospect, say, any of the Baseball Prospectus Three-Star prospects. They might also want us to take on Dontrelle Willis's $12M contract as well, but then I think that is where I would draw the line unless they are willing to take on Barry Zito back (but I don't know if he is even tradeable or whether he can block trades to certain teams).

But, personally, I would prefer to keep Cain and sign him to a two year extension. I think our rotation is superior with him in it, but if we don't have him, then it is Lincecum, Zito, Sanchez, Bumgarner, as our main starters, which might be superior in 2011, but questionable for 2010: will Zito continue to do well? Will Sanchez do well over a full season? Would Bumgarner be able to do well his first season, most do not duplicate how well they do in the minors, there is usually at least some period of adjustment. What will we get out of the #5 starter?

Cabrera would be nice, but I think it is more important to keep the rotation as strong as possible right now, as Bumgarner is probably not ready for the majors yet. Trading off starters starting mid-season 2010 is probably OK, as by then we should know how Bumgarner and Wheeler are doing in the minors, and how ready each of them look for the future.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Lincecum: 2 Cy U Later

Congrats to the two-time in a row winner of the NL Cy Young Award, Tim Lincecum!

According to the Baseball Writers' Association of America website (which will probably change with the next award it gives out), it was a historic vote in many ways.

First, Lincecum had the lowest victory total of any starting pitcher who have won the award in either league (for a season with a full slate of games). The previous low was Brandon Webb for Arizona in 2006 and Zach Grinke of KC this year. Lincecum had a total of 100 points, 11 firsts, 12 seconds, and 9 thirds.

Second, it was only the second time that a pitcher won the award without receiving the most first place votes. He was named first on only 11 ballots, while Adam Wainwright of St. Louis got 12 votes and his teammate Chris Carpenter got 9 himself. They were the only ones to get first place votes out of the 32 ballots. He and Wainwright were the only ones listed on every ballot, which allowed three votes, one for first (worth 5 points), one for second (worth 3 points) and one for third (worth 1 point). Only Tom Glavine did this previously, in 1998.

Lincecum beat Carpenter by 6 points, which was tied for the third closest election in the NL since the ballot expanded from one to three pitchers in 1970. And the 10 point difference between him and third (Wainwright tallied 90 points) was the second closest in NL voting since 1987, when Steve Bedrosian was only 3 points ahead of third place, who was Rick Reuschel, the year he joined the Giants.

The only consecutive repeat winners, a great list to be on, are:

  • Greg Maddux (4)
  • Randy Johnson (4)
  • Sandy Koufax (2: 1965-66) (NL)
  • Roger Clemens (twice 2: 1986-87 and 1997-98) (AL)
  • Denny McLain (2: 1968-69)
  • Jim Palmer (2: 1976-76)
  • Pedro Martinez (2: 1999-2000)

Of course, if Denny McLain were not on the list, it would be a great precursor to a great career. Now the warning is, hope he's not a Denny McLain.

BBWAA-HA-HA-HA: Change, My Ass

Now, I've seen some articles that state that this is a sign that writers today are moving past the old ways of voting where wins and fortitude counts big, but stats not as much. I would disagree.

I would say that this is more of a sign that writers has shown the same bad traits that they showed before: wins-mania and favoritism/familiarity. The only reason Lincecum won was because it happened that the other top two candidates were on the same team and the writers could not rally behind one or the other.

He was named below first on 21 ballots, meaning two thirds of the voters thought there was a better pitcher than he. And 9 of them (roughly 30%) thought that there were 2 pitchers better than he.

I think the argument can be made that he and Chris Carpenter were too close to tell. That I can buy. Just look over Baseball Reference's NL Pitching leaders. ERA, Carpenter and Lincecum, 1-2. WHIP, 2-4 (Haren 1, Vazquez 3). Reverse in H/9, Lincecum 2, Carpenter 4. Carpenter was way better than Lincecum in BB/9, third (Haren 2nd), but he still had a good rate, 2.7. And, of course, K/9 Lincecum was way better than Carpenter.

Where I think Lincecum comes out ahead, and tips things his way, is in games started: he had 32 starts while Carpenter only had 28. Both our local writers (Schulman and Baggarly ) thought Carpenter was better than Lincecum. Carpenter missed almost a month of the season. So how did he show up ahead of Lincecum on so many ballots? If two writers didn't show Carpenter any love and voted for Vazquez 2nd and Haren 3rd, leaving Carpenter off their lists, it would have been even closer, he would have had 98 points to Lincecum's 100 points. In that case, only one voter had to swap the two and it would have been Carpenter ekeing out the win instead.

Then what about Wainwright? He had the 4th best ERA, but 10th in WHIP, nowhere in H/9, BB/9, K/9. He was 4th in total strikeouts, but that was a function of him pitching the most innings, 233.0, and starting the most games, 34 (tied with many others). And, of course, he did lead in wins with 19, which shows again that wins matter to a large percentage of the voters.

He had 12 first-place votes, one more than Lincecum. Wins matter. Carpenter got 9 first-place votes, when he missed a full month and wasn't demonstrably better than the other pitchers. He bettered Lincecum by 5 ER (the number he needed to equal Lincecum's ERA). Wins matter. Basically Lincecum was ranked third by 9 voters and the only two pitchers who were probably ahead of him on those ballots: Carpenter adn Wainwright, and what areas are they better than Lincecum? Wins matter.

Glaciers Thawing

But there apparently is some change afoot, though, so while Lincecum's election is not the sign people think, there is a definite thawing. Javier Vasquez only had 15 wins too, but great ERA, WHIP, H/9, BB/9, K/9, IP, strikeouts, and games started. One could argue that he should have been one of the three spliting votes, not Wainwright.

I would love to see the ballot that put Vasquez 2nd: who did the writer vote for 1st and 3rd? Given that he voted for Vasquez, and both Lincecum and Wainwright was on every ballot, one would think that, of course, Lincecum was first on that ballot. But then how did Wainwright beat out Carpenter for the third place vote when the only things he did better than Carpenter was start 6 more games, strike out a lot more, and won 2 more games.

People think that Lincecum getting voted for is a sign that voters are changing, but really, that's a fallacy. There are two things that voters like. Wins, obviously, is one. The other I would add is strikeouts. It is like HR for hitters, voters love the big strikeout guys. And Timmy has it and with flair and a personality.

It is that plus the fact that Carpenter and Wainwright split votes that Carpenter might have gotten if not for Wainwright winning 19 games. Those are why Lincecum won, not because the voters have suddenly seen the light and embrace saber-stats. That's baloney (or bologna, as Jim Gaffigan might say).

Arbitration Mania

Now for the scary part: seeing what Lincecum will get in arbitration. Ryan Howard got $10M in his first year in arbitration. He was averaging 50+ HR for each full season, so he did have that, plus leading the league in HR before. Won ROY then followed with MVP. Pushing down a little because of the bias towards hitters over pitchers, but then add back some baseball salary inflation, and the Giants are looking at paying Lincecum at least $10M.

That's because Lincecum now has that shiny Cy Young #2, which trumps even what Howard did. I would guess $12M at least, maybe as much as $15M, depending on whether the Giants are stupid with their arbitration offer (like they were with AJP years ago) and underbid. And that high end is possible, as Howard was the test case, got the lower Phillies $10M but then had another monster year in 2008 and so the Phillies signed him to an extension and jumped him to $15M for 2009. As long as they are in the ballpark, they probably can meet Lincecum's agent in the middle and sign him without going to the arbitrator.

That's why the Giants can't sign Lincecum to a long-term contract in hopes of holding down his salary. He's going to get scary sized awards in arbitration. Let's say he does get $12M. If we do the math for the 4 years he's in arbitration - maybe $12M, $15M, $18M, $21M - for a total of $66M. So let's sign him to that.

Bargain, no?

But what if his decline in the second half was related to something physical, and not to him partying hardy last off-season after his great 2008 season? Like what happened to Noah Lowry. Then that bargain contract becomes a huge albatross of a guaranteed deadweight on the team's payroll for the next 4 years.

Pitchers are much different creatures than hitters. There are a lot of things that can go wrong with them than for a hitter. And, as much as I love that he does what he does, as great as he does, he is most definitely an outlier, physically.

So I would prefer the Giants treat this on a year by year basis. If Tim is willing to sign for a contract with a nice home discount, say $40M for the next 4 seasons, I can see that as acceptable risk on both sides. But with him probably getting $12-15M this season, that's chump change for the next three seasons, so I don't see him signing any long-term contract for less than $50M for 4 years, and he probably wants something closer to the 3 year, $54M that Howard got, which with the extra year is much like the $66M I was talking about above.

I expect a one year contract this year, then perhaps the Giants by next offseason would be willing to sign Lincecum to a three year contract for around what Howard got, maybe $45M for 3 years. At that point, Lincecum might be willing to accept less than what he could get in arbitration in order to lock in guaranteed money for 3 seasons, and the Giants would not be as daunted as Lincecum would have another year in the league under his cap (presumably healthy else forget about it).

Otherwise, I would be OK with going year to year, he's going to be here for the next four seasons even if we don't sign him, as long as he's healthy.


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