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.


  1. Man I hope we don't sign two outfielders. I'd hope there was room for Schierholtz to start in right, with Bowker getting a little time there. If they sign Podsednik, DeRosa and Nick Johnson that puts DeRosa in left, Podz in center and Rowand to right. DeRosa could still see time at third with Nate & Bowker getting a little time out there. No good.

  2. Matt, one of the beat writers blogs, I think Baggarly, noted that the contract offers are conditional on them accepting the Giants terms before other free agents do.

    I don't see them wanting to block both OF spots, with both Schierholtz and Bowker possibly ready to start, they have been good the past few years of leaving a spot for some with some prospects of starting to win. Obviously, it's riskier for the offense to hope that both do well enough to start rather than to sign a vet and allow the two to battle for the other starting spot.

    Also, all the rumors I've seen has DeRosa playing 1B.

  3. All I can say is that any lineup construction that ends up with a Velez\Torres platoon with a regular starting job is a huge mistake. Sabean appears to be leaning in this direction, based on his comments, and this would be so wrogn on so many levels.

  4. That is one thing you and I agree upon Boof. My only saving grace there is that I would expect Bowker to out perform Velez in the spring and force the Giants to play him there instead OR the Giants happen to sign someone to play LF.



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