Friday, February 12, 2010

Lincecum Signs: Two Years, $23M

I discussed much of this at my other blog post regarding his arbitration hearing. He signs for two years, $23M. $8M in 2010, $13M in 2011, $2M signing bonus, $1M per year, plus performance and award bonuses (just in case he wins another Cy Young). There is a good overview on the deal on San Jose Mercury and Andy Baggarly comes through again with great intell on his blog, including the figures on what he'll get for which awards he wins.

Great deal for both sides, lets each side breathe for the next two years without contract rancor, both sides wins a little, gives a little, and Lincecum is set for life. And there is nothing to prevent the Giants from working out another deal in the next two years to tie him up his last two arbitration years and into his free agency years. I think deals approximating King Feliz and Verlander's recent deal, but about $10-15M more, would be amenable to the Giants in the next two off-seasons.

This just goes to show how unreasonably worried fans were about the whole situation, and particularly all the bashing the Giants got (and I did some too) from many fans for "dissing" our star, do they know what they got? The Giants know what they got, but they also have a business to run and there were historical precedents that suggest that the Giants had a good chance of winning the arbitration hearing, which I pointed out in my other blog post and comments.

So instead of having one winner and one loser in the hearing, the two sides worked it out, with basically the Giants getting what they wanted - an $8M salary in 2010 - and Lincecum getting his $13M request in 2011. They both win.

Sabean Naysayers Exposing Their Bias

As I've been saying for a while now, fans show what their true feelings are when they react to any potential news for the Giants. Sabean-Naysayers will bash him to pieces for the alleged mis-action, and the Sabean-Supporters will praise him no matter what (though they are a much much rarer breed).

I would label myself in the middle. I not only bring my experience as a Giants fan since 1971, but my interests and experience in business, and my experience in math and statistics, which I applied daily as an analyst for the past 25 years. You cannot be blinded by your feelings one way or another, you have to look at the situation as clear-eyed as you can. And I have been like that as a fan since I first became one, telling my few fellow Giants supporters on the East Bay that there was no way the Giants were contending during those mediocre 70's while they were talking big about the season.

As I've been saying for a while now, Sabean is not the be-all and end-all, he has made many mistakes, the latest of which was the acquisition of Ryan Garko. But you have to view the big picture and not throw the baby out with the bath water. You have to see if you like the team as it is and where it is headed. That is why I supported giving him the prior two-year contract and again when he got his latest two year contract. He has done a good job overall.

The big picture is that the team is in great shape right now. Our pitching is among the best in the majors. It could be the best once Bumgarner joins the rotation. We have a strong bullpen anchored by Wilson and Affeldt (but he's going to want a lot to stay beyond 2010 now). Our offense, while not good by any means, it does not have to be good, it only has to be average in order for our team to win 90+ games and compete to get into the playoffs. And if we have another good year, free agents will suddenly find our ballpark to not be that bad for the money and be more willing to sign on in hopes of being that last cog to bring us a World Series championship.

In addition, our farm system is looking good. Posey, Bumgarner, Wheeler, Neal, Kieschnick, Noonan, Crawford, RRod, Adrianza, and Joseph, are all good prospects, and if Villalona ever gets over his legal problems, he would join the list too. I would also add Bowker, Schierholtz, Burriss, and Frandsen, as they are not prospects anymore, but could become contributors. All we need is one or two other position players to pay off, besides Posey, and we have a nice looking lineup within 1-2 years led by Sandoval and Posey plus those other pay offs. I would keep an eye on Neal and Noonan near-term, RRod and Adrianza long-term, among the prospects, and I really like Bowker's and Schierholtz's chances.

Change Does Not Equal Improvement

Plus, switching does not mean that things will improve. That is a fallacy that those who demand that Sabean be replaced are getting wrong. Neukom could decide to bring in a retread loser, like that guy who ruined the Mets, don't remember his name, among others. And even if they hire a young stud, just because the guy is young does not mean that he knows how to do the job, as he is most probably inexperienced and could just flub the job.

What people forget is that not only was selecting the players a decision he made, keeping them is also another decision. And in terms of prospects, he has not been wrong in giving up on them many times. And he has kept the prospects that has mattered thus far: Cain, Lincecum, Wilson, Sanchez, Sandoval. I think other prospects will be added to this list in a year or two.

Sabean has not done a perfect job, but he has done a good job overall. Yes, if free agent signings had been done better, we would have more money, but as we saw this off-season, just because you have money does not mean that good players will come here. And I shudder to think what if we had not signed most of the players we did, we would have Lewis in CF (where his defense would be exposed), Burriss at 2B or SS, and who know who we would have at C, Edgardo Alfonzo? When a team has holes and needs to get someone off the free agency to fill a position, you sometimes just have to hold your nose and sign the best you can for what was available. With his trades (and decisions to not trade good prospects), he has shown that he knows talent when he sees it, most of the time.

The more important thing is that the team is looking good now, in the near future, and longer-term. The team has one of the best defenses, lead by their pitching rotation. It looks to get better shortly once Bumgarner gets put in the rotation, and longer term when Wheeler makes it up here. The offense is led by Sandoval and he'll be supported by Posey in 2011 and beyond, and I think at least two among Bowker, Schierholtz, Neal, Kieschnick, and Noonan will rise soon and be significant cogs as well. We also have RRod, Adrianza, maybe Villalona, and perhaps others longer-term.

And with their renewed emphasis on getting good Latin talent signed, they could have more in the pipeline. Plus, once they start winning regularly again, with their poor back of the first round draft pick, hopefully they can start devoting money towards those who fall because of signability concerns, like how the Yankees, Red Sox, and Tigers, among others, have been doing in the back of the first round. Both would help our farm system going forward, in addition to starting to be more active in the Asian prospecting arena, which they said they were going to do, but of which there is no evidence yet, unlike their signings on the Latin side with Villalona, RRod, and other big money signings.

Go Giants!


  1. When you say that the Giants "have one of the best defenses", would you care to explain how you reach that conclusion.

    The way I see it, they are below average defensively at C, 1B, SS, 3B, and LF. They might be about average at CF & 2B. Schierholtz has the ability to play plus defense in RF, but he is an unknown.

  2. The way I see it is that they were v good defensively in 2009, with the players they now have at C, SS, 3B, and CF. C and CF are a year older, but SS may be healthy and 3B will certainly be more experienced. LF ought to be an improvement over the staggers of Lewis and Velez; and as Boof says, Schierholtz has the ability to play plus defense in RF. The weakness at 1B (Huff vs Ishi) may be telling, but then we had Garko and Aurilia there last year as well as Ishi. All told, by this reckoning, we should have as good a defense this year as last, when we had one of the best in the league. When Posey plays, I dare say that C will be improved too.

  3. I thought I had made it clear enough with the reference to pitching: when I say defense, I am talking about overall defense, which is pitching and fielding, not fielding defense. Sorry I didn't make that clearer, but I've been using this nomenclature for a while now, so I thought it might stick by now, but I guess I'll have to be more explanatory.

    Your complaint about our fielding defense would be about last year defense too because there is a similar group of players. Yet, a sign of their good overall defense was the fact that their unearned runs for the team was 6th in the league last year.

    Meanwhile, I think I can say that our overall fielding defense is still good. While 1B has clearly gone down, I would say that 2B is clearly improved (Sanchez 7.4 UZR in 2009 vs. Burriss -3.7, Uribe 3.5, Velez -5.3, Frandsen 2.1), Renteria was about average (-0.2 UZR), but assuming he plays most games there in 2010, that is an improvement because Uribe was bad there (-1.2 UZR in 2/3 less games) and you have to think that his elbow affected his throws as well.

    Sandoval was only -0.1 UZR there at 3B, and assuming 1) that young players can still improve, 2) it's his second full season at 3b, 3) a little less weight, but more muscle and less fat, he can improve his defense there.

    In the OF, Lewis was 3.9 UZR in LF, but DeRosa was 2.0 in much less games in LF, plus 2.2 in RF, I think he should be a huge improvement over Lewis. Rowand is slightly above average with 1.3 UZR and should not get much worse, he's still not that old. And Schierholtz had a 5.1 UZR, very close to Winn's 9.6, and in slightly less games. Schierholtz's UZR/150 was 13.1 and Winn's UZR/150 was 17.4, but Schierholtz for his career in RF in 135 games in the majors has a 19.0 UZR/150. I would say that he'll be at least as good as Winn, and possibly better once he gets to start regularly there.

    So even the fielding defense looks to be above average, maybe not the best, but with our pitching, we will have the best overall defense - both pitching and fielding - in the majors.

  4. I think when you can say "best rotation in the majors", "third in the league in batting", "above average defense", and "above average and occasional All-Star catcher for years to come" - that's not too bad for a team that seemed gutted 3-odd years ago.

    One also forgets with all the guffaws about him being the cleanup hitter Molina overall performed better than I would have guessed.

    The "you have to sign what you can get" is reality. And I know this is silly, but as Casey Stengel said "you have to have a catcher or else you'll have a lot of passed balls". There's no black holes on this team.

    And anyway, those who wish to complain about Sabean, well, he didn't hire himself, the team did. I'm not that familiar about GMs other than the familiar names, but if it's like managers, the same tired names seem to go round and round. I can say who I'D like in his place, but odds are, things could be a lot worse. The Giants are pretty much the middle-of-the-pack regarding free agent signings' success - one shudders to think how much the Mets have thrown away in the last half a decade. It's hard to get that excited about Aaron Rowand and Barry Zito in comparison.

    Instead you get a 2 time Cy Young Winner at minimum, now below market, and a potential Cy Young winner and two All-Stars at below market. It doesn't add up to Sabean being a drunken sailor.

  5. I agree with most of your comments regarding GM Sabean and his performance.

    I would not be so quick to fault him for the Garko trade. We would all have given the front office a thumbs up if the player had performed at a similar level after the trade as he did while still in Cleveland. This one is all on the player.

    For the first time since he was hired, the organization has a long-term plan. We have seen how Sabean operated with A) surly high-paid superstars B) budget-constrained decisions (Michael Tucker); and rotten decisions by management (Thank Magowan & Baer for Zito's boat anchor contract). Lets hope that Neukom gives the management team an opportunity to nuture this plan.

    For everyone that complains about the lack of hitting and reluctance of free-agent hitters to sign with SF (LaRoche), I expect to see a steady stream of back-of-the-rotation starters eager to pitch at AT&T to resuscitate their careers (Penny -- ain't no way he worth $7M!). With that in mind, lets wait and see how Sabean handles the 2010 off-season with a hopefully overloaded rotation.

  6. I give credit to Sabe and his staff for rebuilding the farm system. I like the idea of grooming your own position players for the purpose of keeping the pitching staff and not overpaying for free agents to support them.

    I do disagree that Noonan will be ready in the near term. Like Kieschnick, he strikes out too much and does not draw enough walks. Granted, he improved those numbers from last year but his showing(little improvement) to Double A will truly determine whether he deserves the hype.

    Neal, on the other hand, is the best bet to join Pablo and Posey. He showed a lot of encouraging signs playing in the AFL. If he excels in the upper levels, expect him to get an early call up to the big club. However, that won't determine their success now.

    I think Bowker, Schierholtz, and to the lesser extent Frandsen have to show they are part of the future. Defensively, all are solid. Offensively, they all need to show discipline and patience at the plate. And that's going to be Bam Bam's job to drive that fact home. He did wonders for Bowker in Triple A. Now, he needs to repeat that in the majors. If he does that, Giants wouldn't have to worry about LF/OF, RF, or UT for awhile.

  7. Anon, here is why I think Noonan is over the hump regarding this strikeouts and walking (or lack thereof).

    What people have forgotten is that he's only 20 YO playing against players a couple of years older than he is, so he's been struggling with that experience deficit.

    If you look at his monthly stats, he had been regularly striking out roughly 20+ times per month until the last two months of the 2009 season, where he got the rate down to the percentage you want your hitters to be, 15% and under.

    In addition, his last couple of months showed that he started walking more and roughly was walking as much as he was striking out, showing great improvement in both reducing strikeouts and improving walks.

    I'm not saying he's over the hump, but given that he had a very nice two month stretch there after struggling for so long, I would keep an eye out on him to breakout in 2010, particularly in AA, as San Jose's park raises the strikeout rates of most players hitting there (and remember that Augusta's park is also a pitcher's park too).

    I totally agree that Neal is a great bet to join Pablo and Posey, plus I think Bowker is too. Between the two, I think we should have LF covered pretty well going forward.

    I still think Schierholtz can do OK too if given the chance to start in RF, and agree that he has to show it this year.

    Bowker, however, probably will wait in AAA this season, starting and being ready to come up if we need someone in the OF.



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