He reports that at the Comcast Lunch, I suppose just today, Sabean said that he can't imagine trading a bigger, stronger Jonathan Sanchez for a bat, adding further that Noah Lowry will have to wrest the fifth spot in the rotation from the incumbent Sanchez.
What happened is that Greg Papa asked about trading Sanchez for a corner infielder and Sabean, noting he saw Sanchez throw Tuesday in Arizona, said, "He's bigger and stronger. He's ready to pitch. I have a hard time thinking we could trade this player for value. Plus, he's the incumbent. Lowry is going to have to unseat him."
Vote of Confidence for Sabean and Bochy
Meanwhile, Neukom said at the lunch, "We think we have the best general manager and field manager in baseball,"adding they all decided it would be best to concentrate now on putting a good team on the field and worry about those messy contract issues in October.
What this means is that Sabean doesn't think he will get equivalent value for Sanchez in trade. And I totally agree. If Sanchez can pitch for a whole season like he did - and dominantly so - in the first half of the 2008 season, he would put together a sub-4 ERA season, which would make him easily a #2 type starter. That is easily worth a middle-of-lineup hitter but he won't fetch anyone like that right now. On the other hand, I think he's capable of showing it in 2009.
However, an idea I've been luxuriating in has been this: what if we just kept Sanchez and create a truly monster rotation? Sanchez strikes out a LOT of batters, which as I have reported, is key to a successful playoff run in the post-season. With Lincecum, Cain and a #2 caliber Sanchez, we would have not only a young rotation but one with three pitchers who could arguably be the #1 or #2 starter for any team in the league, with Bumgarner and Alderson looking to join them in 2010 or 2011.
The only way that works is if the Giants position prospects continue to show the skills they showed in the minors and develop further.
- That would mean Ishikawa at 1B, who as I showed in a recent post, isn't that platoon oriented, no more so than other young players who are top lefty firstbasemen. Plus he plays great defense there.
- That would mean Villalona continues to develop and be capable of playing 1B or 3B in the future.
- That would mean Frandsen and Noonan become the clear choices at 2B now and in the future, respectively.
- That would mean Burriss continues to develop and can handle SS
- That would mean Sandoval proves to be adept enough to field 3B adequately and continue to hit well.
- That would mean Lewis continues to develop and can hit 20 HR as he thinks he can.
- That would mean Schierholtz translate what he did in the minors to the majors.
- That would mean Posey continues to amaze with his hitting.
Those are a lot of ifs, driven by the fact that the Giants don't have any truly plus hitters except potentially Posey and hopefully Villalona and Rafael Rodriquez. Still, the above is not totally out of the question either:
- Ishikawa and Frandsen have had success hitting in the majors, as well as the minors, and just need to continue it.
- Burriss, despite his defensive lapses, shows good hitting skills that should continue to develop.
- Sandoval was actually above average defensively in his short stint at 3B in the majors last year, and both Baseball America and Deric McKamey thought that he could become adequate defensively at 3B with experience and practice, and reportedly he took thousands of grounders over the off-season to prepare for 3B. And he showed good hitting skills with his peripherals throughout most of his minor league career and just continued to show it in the majors, with the added plus of adding power to his mix in 2008.
- Schierholtz hasn't had a disappointing season yet and has continued to hit over .300 when given the chance in the majors.
- And Villalona, Noonan, and Posey did well in the minors in 2008 and showed enough that I think they will continue to do so in 2009.
I think so. Most of the projections I've seen places the Giants at around .500 for the season, or 81 wins. And personally, I think some of the projections are conservative, I think it is very possible that some of the players could beat their projections. I think that is a decent expectation to have for this season and not that hard a hurdle to jump over and do better without a lot of over-performances. I think if we can just get two out of the three (Sandoval, Ishikawa, and Frandsen) to meet their projections, the Giants can make 81 wins, and I think they can.
To get over 81 wins in 2009, it would take a few of the below:
- Sanchez pitching like Cain or better with a mid-3-ish ERA
- Johnson pitching like he did in 2007 and 2008
- Zito pitching like he did with the A's, with an ERA below 4.00
- Wilson moving to the upper echelon of closers with a low 3 (or better) ERA
- Rowand hitting the way he was the first two months of 2008 for a whole season
- Lewis being able to hit 20 HR while still hitting like he has hit in the majors so far
- Renteria having another of his career peak seasons
- Frandsen matching training buddy Dustin Pedroia's breakout season in 2008
I like where the Giants are right now in terms of their development. I think Sabean has done a good job so far and is deserving of the vote of confidence Neukom gave him. It is also as I had suspected, that Neukom does like Sabean but couldn't be too open about his support early in his term as owner, though I think this is still kind of early as well, I would have waited until after spring training and passed it on as part of the opening day celebration.
Still, I wouldn't give Sabean an extension now. I think we need to see generally good progress by the Giants young players and prospects for him to get an extension. Big question marks that need to be answered positively, besides those above, include:
- Posey showing he has what it takes to do well in the majors
- Villalona showing he has progressed
- Rodriguez showing he is worth the money given him
- Bumgarner and Alderson continue to do well at a higher level
- Some good performances among the other prospects, like Gillaspie, Kieschnick, Crawford, Adrianza, Fairley, Noonan, Culberson, Downs, Rohlinger, Jesus Guzman, Thomas Neal, Hector Sanchez, Julios Izturis, Henry Sosa, for examples