- They will consider Uribe for the starting 3B position. Of course, they considered Dan Ortmeier for the starting 1B position too. I think they just said that to assuage Uribe's bruised ego over not getting a starting position.
- He won't, however, be the starting SS, as Renteria will be that given his repaired elbow and his good history. Left unsaid, of course, is that if Renteria sucks again, he could find himself seated in favor of starting Uribe (assuming he's hitting OK).
- Neither Sabean nor Bochy is comfortable with Velez/Torres in LF as the leadoff solution. I've been saying this for a while already, but good to get it confirmed. Sabean said as much in his previous interviews, he was never stating that they would be the lead-off solution, he was only stating that they were one of the current solution available to them.
- Speaking of lead-off, they are reconsidering Aaron Rowand for leadoff. Well, it worked pretty well for a while last year. I don't think it's a horrible solution, and could be the best we can do with our current personnel and expected performances. Let's see what we get in 2010, and this will change.
- Apparently getting a left-handed hitter is the next thing on their free agent agenda. He was rumored to have offered contracts to Adam LaRoche and spoke to Scott Podsednik, and when asked about Johnny Damon, he noted that no deal was imminent, which implies that he has talked with Damon's agents but, while they were not close, they are not so far apart that they aren't still talking. Damon would obviously fill the LH and lead-off spot, and probably LF too.
- And that LF would take up the rest of their payroll leeway, so that would mean that catcher and #5 starter positions could be filled by Posey and Bumgarner respectively, unless Lincecum signs for much less, getting a back-ended contract.
- Looks like trade is not the route for LF, as everyone wants their best pitchers. And no trade is not surprising, they don't have any mid-tier prospects they can really trade right now, except for maybe Neal, and I think he can boost his value up even more this season with a continuation of what he did in 2009, and they are not going to trade Posey or Bumgarner.
- Travis Ishikawa will not be the starting 1B, but it sounds like there is a good chance that he will be a reserve on the team plus perhaps play some in the OF too (has to be LF with those legs of his). Not too surprising. They signed DeRosa to big bucks so he will get the title of starter, whereever that happens to be. Even before this, I think the lineup will change by pitcher, and some games will see Ishikawa starting against RHP at 1B, plus he will probably coming in late in games to provide his league leading defense at 1B. This makes it sound like he will also sit against tough RHP too, and given his poor road numbers, he might be sitting a lot there as well, though still getting some starts there to keep sharp. And DeRosa will play against all LHP (he crushes them) plus is OK (most years) against RHP. This is actually not bad for him, they still like him enough to keep him around and see if he can further develop as a hitter, and it sounds like they will give him ABs.
As much as I don't mind Rowand leading off, he's probably most productive for us batting 7th. I think he might be thinking too much when batting in the middle and getting into bad habits hitting. The more I think about it, the more I think putting Schierholtz leadoff might be best. He has some speed, so he can probably get into double digits SB. He is not hitting yet for power, so that lack of power factors less up top. Batting leadoff might get him to think more about getting on base and taking more pitches and getting more walks. And I think he should be able to hit for a good batting average.
That would basically put Schierholtz 1st, Sanchez 2nd, Renteria 3rd (for now), Sandoval 4th, DeRosa 5th. Then Rowand would be 7th and Posey 8th, though once Posey starts hitting, he's probably moving up to the middle of the lineup, and Renteria to the 8th. Ishikawa or Uribe could then bat 6th, depending on the pitcher and how Bochy is going to use Ishikawa. And Posey and Renteria would swap once Posey is hitting well.Now, if Bowker beats out Schierholtz for RF, then I think it would have to more like Renteria 1st, Sanchez 2nd, DeRosa 3rd, Sandoval 4th, Bowker 5th, and so on the same.
Right now, I'm not interested in any of the rumored free agents at the prices I would expect them to want. If we can get them on the cheap, in the Uribe price range, I think that would be OK.
Speaking of which, I think the salary Uribe got is reasonable. He's a backup who could see significant duty depending on the situation, but could be sitting if things go well for the Giants. It's a nice raise over last season, as a reward for what he did for us, but isn't wildly out of place in the market for free agents. He can start at 3 positions - 2B, 3B, SS - plus be a potent bat off the bench, balancing against the left-handers we could be carrying: Ishikawa, Lewis, Schierholtz, Bowker.
That is what is shocking to me, that they are looking for a LH hitter when we got so many of them, most of whom need a chance to start. I know, obviously they don't (and many fans don't) think much of our LH options. I think Schierholtz and Bowker deserves chances to start, particularly Schierholtz, and I think we would be pleasantly surprised if Ishikawa were given the chance to start regularly. But they were not so good in the minors that I would make a big stink if the Giants were to get someone who takes their starting spots, though if Bowker has another great AAA season, he needs to get in there somewhere.
I think the Giants will be picking up some minor league bargain contracts late in the off-season, just before spring, to compete for a starting corner spot, either infield or outfield, plus compete for the #5 starting slot. Kind of like the way they picked up Uribe, Medders and Miller last off-season.
With Olivio signing with the Rockies for $2.5M, I don't see the Giants going after any catcher unless the catcher is desperate. That prices backup catchers who could catch a lot in the $2-3M range. If they weren't willing to pay $1-2M for Garko as a non-starter, they should not be willing to do that for a veteran catcher, though I would hope that they bend that rule if Zaun were willing to sign with us (I think he's still a free agent).
I think/hope they will be more serious pursuing the starting pitcher, as I would think, after the Lincecum situation, that they would copy most teams and push off Bumgarner's arbitration time clock by waiting until June to bring him up. We don't really need Bumgarner right now but could use a full season of an experienced him down the line, whereas Posey we need contributing as soon as possible, and the only way that is going to happen is if we start playing him in the majors.
I would be OK with Posey/Whiteside as our catching duo for 2010. I don't think Posey is ready, but only experience will do it for him, so I would be willing to do that, let Whiteside start more often early in the season, while mentoring Posey on the defensive duties of catching (which Bochy would do too). Meanwhile, he'll be feeling his way with MLB level pitching, adjusting, until he's ready to hit.
I think the Giants should just declare Bumgarner not ready to start and go with a competition between Pucetas, Martinez, and whoever else in AAA and AA who had a nice season. Name one of them the 5th starter and give him two months to hold the fort until Bumgarner is ready mid-season. If we strike gold and he does well, it won't hurt to have Bumgarner either continue to pitch in AAA or even come up and long-relief starting mid-season, plus perhaps take a few turns in the rotation late in the season, to give our starters some extra rest. Then we would have another nice arm who we could trade for more offense next off-season.
And if I had my druthers, here is what I would do.
I would put Ishikawa and Uribe into the semi-platoon plan that I had above, plus start Schierholtz or Bowker in RF, while the other would semi-platoon in LF with DeRosa by taking starts against RHP occassionally, plus perhaps take starts in CF as well when Rowand gets more rest this season. DeRosa is not a full-time starter, he is not that good against RHP, and that is fine, he's not being paid to be a full-time starter. And if Rowand is not starting in CF, Bowker saw some play there in 2008 in Connecticut. And whoever is in RF is probably not going to get every AB there, so that is more AB for the reserve. Plus DH duties when at AL parks.
The offensive should be improved overall. The addition of Sanchez at 2B and DeRosa in LF should boost the offense right there over what Burriss and Lewis did in LF. Posey and Schierholtz/Bowker should be able to match what Molina and Winn did. Rowand should also duplicate his prior performance. Renteria was so bad last year that either his elbow really improves or Uribe would take over and do better, so that should be a plus. Ishikawa was much better after his early struggles, plus in a platoon with Uribe, 1B should be better overall with Sandoval taking AB there regularly. Lastly, 3B should be improved as Sandoval was pretty punchless the first two months of the 2009 season, but pretty steady after that.
Pitching should be improved as well, helping to boost wins as well. Lincecum and Cain have arrived. Sanchez finally got his confidence boosted and should be able to put together a full season of good performance in 2010. Zito, well, he showed that his improved velocity of late 2008 was not an illusion and he was able to work with it and figure out how to put together a good season. In fact, he was pretty good until the last month, when he doubled his number of Disaster Starts (PQS terminology). Perhaps if Bumgarner helps the starters each skip a start in the September timeframe, they can avoid the burnout I wrote about in my final PQS post for 2009.
Relief should be improved as well. It started out badly, but by year end we had Wilson, Affeldt, Romo, Runzler, Valdez, Joaquin, Medders all contributing nicely. So relief did well, but could do better in 2010 with the new additions.
All these changes should boost us a few more games in the win column and allow us to be competitors for most of the season, if not at the end.