Saturday, January 03, 2009

Handy Manny: A Giant?

The rumor flying around (thanks to Alex for posting in comments) is tht the Giants are "aggressively" pursuing Manny Ramirez.  Hank Schulman gave many good reasons why that probably won't happen with this most excellent blog posts here and here.  The rumor is of a 2 year base with third year option that can vest and a fourth year team option.  Another rumor is that Boras is looking for a 5 year, $90M deal, much like the one he negotiated for Bonds in 2001.  Reportedly, they have turned down a two-year, $45M offer that with an option would be a three-year, $60M contract, from the D-gers, meaning whatever the Giants offer will have to beat those numbers and/or years.

Giants Thoughts

I thought I would address a number of points/issues I've seen regarding signing Manny.  First, though, I would note that I wouldn't sign him, mainly because I want to see the young prospects play.  However, given that the Giants have to be concerned about attracting ticket buyers, I can understand the attraction, as they can ill afford another non-competitive losing season, particularly Sabean since he's being evaluated by Neukom this season.

And that's the first thing, would the Giants pursue him?  He's the cleanup hitter we need and they inquired about him in 2007 so they had interest in him before and he has the capabilities the Giants need for their lineup.  Even with the glut of outfielders, I think Rowand or Winn are valuable enough to be easily traded, Winn in particular, to drop salary in return for a nothing much prospect or two.  However, they probably aren't willing to go more than 2 years with an option or two, making that rumor more believeable.  But if Boras wants a huge contract, then the Giants are not in the game, as they probably only want a short term deal.

Thus, second point, would the Giants work for Boras?  If Boras thinks that two years is OK because the economy will look bad for up to two years, and then hopefully pick up by the 2010 off-season, then he could backtrack on his demands.  In that way, much like Bonds did, Manny would get one last big contract at that point.  

In fact, Boras has done short-term contracts to build value and/or wait for better market conditions before:  I-Rod.  I-Rod signed a one year deal with the Marlins for the 2003 season, when the market was not going his way, then signed a long-term deal the next off-season with Detroit.  That could be another way the Giants sign Manny, for one year, maybe $20-25M but with, say, $10-15M of that deferred into future seasons, like how I-Rod did it.

Thirdly, how would Manny fit in with Neukom's  proposed "Giants Way"?  He clearly would not fit in the Giants Way, but assuming the above, he's a short-term signing whereas the "Giants Way" is a long term plan and philosophy that the team hopes to instill in their prospects first and 25 man roster eventually.  With a short 1-2 year deal, Manny would be clearly a hired gun and meanwhile, any prospect copying the worse aspects of Manny's behavior would quickly be reminded who the head honcho is:  Neukom.

All this said, this smells like Boras churning his PR machine to make the D-gers sweat that their most likely strongest competitor in 2009, the Giants, could sign Manny to sweep us into the playoffs as the last puzzle piece of the off-season to fill.  This could squeeze a few more bucks out of the D-gers and/or get them moving faster (which appears to be working, they just recently renegotiated Andruw Jones' contract to defer most of it in exchange for his release by the team; this was something that could have been done long ago, as most have known that Jones is out in LA for a long while, but just now got done, which opens up budget to boost their ability to bid for free agents).

While some say the Giants won't do this because they passed on Bonds recently, who share many negative qualities as Manny, they forget that Bonds would have been 43 in 2008, whereas Manny would "only" be 37 in 2009 and 38 in 2010.  Given how well Manny hit in 2008, he should be a relatively good risk to take, in terms of risk of offensive decline, for a two year deal.

And while the Giants are jammed packed with outfielders, Manny is a big enough upgrade that trading either Rowand or Winn should be doable.  Particularly Winn since he is a good enough hitter/runner to hit leadoff capably, and has been one of the best fielding RF in the majors in the past few years.  That would open up a starting spot as well as off-load salary in 2009.

I think for a 1-2 year contract, and around $20M per year, it would be a good deal for the Giants and put them on top for the division.  It would help the Giants lineup immensely while taking away some opportunity away from Schierholtz.    With all the pitching additions, then Manny, they should be the team to beat in the NL West.   Since most were used to dealing with Bonds, I think most can adjust to Manny, particularly since he's more of a friendly fun-loving personality relative to Bonds.   And a short deal should make him relatively well-behaved.

Regarding 4th OF playing time, unlike others, I think Roberts will not get the vet nod for more playing time, he didn't get it in 2008, why would they do that in 2009?  With more rest for Rowand, plus late defensive replacement for Manny giving some playing time to somebody, I think the Giants will give the bulk of that to Schierholtz (shifting Lewis from RF to LF), and I believe Schierholtz is the Giants backup plan should Lewis's recovery be stalled in any way.

Again, all that said, I think the D-gers see that they cannot let him get away and still appear to be the team to beat in the NL West (even with the losses they sufferred in their pitching staff) as it was he that made them an above .500 team in 2008, and thus they will eventually give him a contract long enough to get him to sign a contract with them.  Even without him, I think the Giants can contend for the NL West title because they have improved while every other team has declined in one way or another.

In particular, with a rotation where the team - if Zito and Sanchez can pitch to the potential they showed in 2008 - can win almost any game plus a bullpen sturdy enough to hold any lead given it, the Giants should be exciting enough to watch in 2009 without additional offense added.  Games will be close and exciting, with the team winning as much as they are losing, and if they make it into the playoffs, they have as good a chance of heading deep into the playoffs as anybody because of the strength of their pitching rotation top to bottom, particularly since it would add Sanchez to the bullpen.


  1. Regarding your point about the tradeability of Rowand & Winn, today on MLB Trade Rumors, they cite a Buster Olney article:

    "Olney points out that trading Randy Winn or Aaron Rowand to clear payroll would likely yield very little in the current market."

    I think you may be overestimating the value of Rowand & Winn on the trade market.

    Regarding the signing of Ramirez, although I don't think I would go that route, I think if it was a short deal I could live with it. Especially if they follow up that signing with some other moves, like moving Molina for salary relief and letting Sandoval play C, signing Crede on a 1 year deal as a stop gap, moving one or more of Rowand & Winn for another arm for he bullpen (preferably a young one).

  2. Hence why I noted, "to drop salary in return for a nothing prospect or two".

    If the Giants do add Manny, I think trading Molina would not be a move I would do. To win it all, defense is a key thing and Manny would hurt the defense, so making the defense worse by trading Molina would not make sense.

    However, adding Crede at 3B would greatly improve defense there and thus I can see that move happening if Manny is added. But if it is for more than one year and $5M, then that is beyond my price because Crede has a bad back and we got potential 3B in Gillaspie, Villalona, and Sandoval.

  3. I would avoid Manny completely. He won't be happy with anything less than 5yr/$100mil. It's OK because the Dodgers will outbid us anyways.

    Sandoval is pretty crappy at C and 3B. I'd be OK with Crede at 3rd for 1-2 seasons but back injuries are hard to fix and he had 20 errors last season(maybe due to the bad back).

    If we sign Crede(or any other 3B) do we still sign Aurilia? Or do we just use Frandsen as our utility infielder type guy?

    I wouldn't trade Molina at all. He has been great for us. We could keep him around until Posey is ready. If he continues to hit he'd probably be a type-A FA too.

  4. Regarding Sandoval's performance at C, have you seen the latest reports from BA which show that his defense was actually good on passed balls and outstanding with respect to throwing out runners? The Giants should trade Molina right now, move Sandoval to C, and trade for a 3B right away. The Giants would probably save money, maximize Sandoval's value, get a good prospect or two, and significantly improve their offense in one fell swoop. Molina will almost certainly slip both offensively and defensively next year given his age. Here are the links to the two BA articles:

  5. I agree that Molina's likely to slip. He was hitting above his head most of last season anyways.

    I was unaware of the new reports of Sandoval's D behind the plate. I was pretty much basing myself off of what I read about him before he hit the majors.

    We can't discount Molina's ability to call a game either. Sandoval doesn't have nearly as much experience. I'm not sure what it would do to the development of Lincecum, Sanchez, Cain, Wilson, Romo, Hinshaw, etc. to lose Molina. Not sure it would even affect them at all.

  6. Matt, if any corner IF is signed, I think Aurilia is not signed. I think he is only backup in case Sandoval or Ishikawa craps out as a full-time player. However, if they can hit OK/good against RHP, then Aurilia would platoon with them, probably on a rotating basis so that both still gets starts against LHP and hopefully figure things out.

    BigWig, I have seen the two posts from BA about Sandoval; thank you for posting them for others. I am not surprised by either stat, the reason he's even catching today is because of his great arm, and a scouting report I've seen says he has soft hands, which I think would help with passed balls.

    Unfortunately, those are not the only things a catcher has to do, and the scouts don't think he can do it all.

    Whereas they think that Posey can do it and do it well, eventually with enough experience.

    That said, I see the merits of Sandoval at C, I just don't see great odds of it happening and hence my hesitation thus far. The only way I would do it is we get two good prospects for Molina in the deal, which I don't think would happen, and if we think Posey is ready to start in the majors by mid-2009, in case Sandoval craps out, because we have no viable backup plan if the Sandoval catching experiment fails. That would kill the season and Sabean's chances of getting an extension.

    And that's the main reason I expect Molina to stick around, because it would be huge risk to our W/L to depend on Sandoval, only to have to start, say, Holm (Jackson Williams?), if Pablo fails (remember the Bocock!).

    The way I see it, Molina is a Type A free agent barring a ginormous face-plant in 2009. The Giants would offer him arbitration, and if he accepts, great, they simmer Posey for another season in the minors, and if he advances quickly, Molina could always be traded mid-season and Posey brought up. If Molina leaves in a huff, Posey is probably ready to start in the majors, and Sandoval would be the backup plan should Posey not do well.

    Molina was not hitting above his head, he's been hitting about what could be expected for him, look at his past offensive seasons, 2008 was not out of the ordinary.

    Last thing about Sandoval: BA's last prospect report on him in 2006 said that he has the tools to be average defensively at 3B, that he just need experience there.

    I think while it would be nice to see if he can catch, which maximizes his offensive value, doing that and having him fail, which is the most probable scenario given the information I have on his defense, would only cost him time to get good at 3B.

    We have a big need for a 3B, not so much at C, and that's the major reason I want to go with Sandoval at 3B and not C. He is still plus there offensively, and could be adequate defensively. Gillaspie is a question mark and at least two seasons away, plus Villalona looks like he's probably a 1B long-term, though I would still play him at 3B so that he's a backup should Sandoval fail at 3B.

    Meanwhile, we have Posey at C, with Jackson Williams probably the strong defensive backup who maybe could develop into a starter, Harper, Ishikawa and Villalona at 1B, Frandsen, Burriss, Velez, Noonan at 2B, Burriss, Bocock, Culberson, and Ehire Adrianza at SS, Schierholtz, McBryde, Fairley in OF plus Lewis there already.

    And we have the #6 pick of the 2009 draft.

  7. If we need 3B more than C, if Sandoval need more experience. So why not trade Molina and move Sandoval to behind the plate and solve two problems.



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