Friday, September 30, 2011

Your 2011 Giants: Postmortem Press Conference

Giants Management likes to hold their first post-season press conference on the day after the last day of the season.  Last season, it was obviously very late in the year, but it isn't even October yet.  Oh well, that is how the baseball bounces every year.

Andy Baggarly and Hank Schulman provided their partial transcripts.  I took some quickee notes here (I missed the very end) so I'm relying on Tim Kawakami's full transcript that he provided on his blog with help from his writer friends, plus my comments after each Giants management comments to a reporter's question.

Please click title to see full post.

—-BRIAN SABEAN and BRUCE BOCHY, season wrap-up presser/

-Q: Can you talk about the positive things you saw this season?

-SABEAN: To win 86 games is an accomplishment in itself. Because we were challenged all year. So I give all due credit to the manager, the coaching staff and the players themselves for having the right attitude, playing it out until the end.

And overall, I think we’ve set a bar pretty high as to what our expectations are, which is how to conduct ourselves, our professionalism and moreso this culture we’ve created—you come through the clubhouse door, you’re ready to play.

I can’t say enough about our veterans or how our young players responded to what the mantra is in there.

And then the fans have been completely… off the wall as far as their support, including in the last three games. And that’s the atmosphere these guys have created.

-BOCHY: I think your goal every year is to contend, to get in September and play meaningful games that decide whether you make the postseason or not. And we did that.

Sure we’re disappointed we didn’t get there. I think if you look at yesterday, shows you how difficult it can be at times with what happened with some clubs there—Atlanta for example, Boston… and we had to deal with a lot.

But the guys kept going and pushing, looked like we were out of it, then we ran off a nice streak to get back in it. So to go down to the last week and still be alive, I consider that a success.

Now believe me we’re not happy we’re not going to a postseason.

But… I think if you look at individuals like a Vogelsong, Bumgarner getting to .500… I felt great for those guys. They were a big part of why we did contend. We know we have some work to do.

I think you do have to look at the silver lining during the course of a season on what you did do well. I thought the guys kept fighting. Sure we had a tough month there but they still found a way to bounce back and stay in it.

ogc:  Typical things management says afterward.  Sabean-isms and Bochy-isms.  Disappointed Bochy did not mention Pablo Sandoval's accomplishments.

-Q: Brian, last year you kept most of your own free-agents. This year, do you go into it thinking you might need a lot of new faces? Do you assume some may be gone no matter what?

-SABEAN: That’s one of the reasons we’re meeting so early. I don’t think we’ve ever had a, quote, organizational meeting, or at least with the front office and the coaching staff getting together as soon.

Biggest reason, to answer you’re question, is we’ve got 13 arbitration-eligible players. Conventional wisdom would tell you we’re not going to bring all of them back because of how we have to build a budget.

We have eight free-agents and as a result of building a budget, with what you can control, being who you choose to arbitrate with or go further than that contracturally, and who you have under contract, you’ve got to be selective with what you want to do in bringing your own guys back.

And then once you build that model, let’s say, of what you’re going to spend, and specifically with our pitching staff, then you decide what the outside world can bring. But that’s our first challenge—identify who we can go into the future with, which is immediately, for 2012. What that means against the budget. And then identify or target what we need to do from the outside world.

ogc:  Lots of obvious stuff that one could have gotten off Cot's Contracts (great resource for contracts and arbitration info).  Sabean always does a good job of saying a lot without saying a lot.  He likes to, as he puts it, keep things hidden behind his kimono.

-Q: Have you been given general budget parameters?

-SABEAN: I have not other than what Larry spoke to publicly. We know it’s not going down. It’s right around 124-plus as we ended the season.

ogc:  Well, if they hope to sign Carlos Beltran, it will have to go up, that much is clear, and as they note later, they will be trying to pursue him.  That's a policy that existed under Neukom, not at all under Magowan, so this is possibly a good sign for the Baer era/reign.

Looking over the Chronicle's salaries estimations, the Giants $124M will barely cover the players that they are thinking of keeping.  Add in a free agent SS and maybe a better backup catcher, and there goes the whole payroll budget.  Beltran would definitely be a huge bump up on the payroll, so he's not looking that likely.

-Q: Are there any particular positions you’re going to be focusing on, either in free agency or the trade market, for example shortstop, lead-off hitter, outfield? And what are the challenges when two of your key players are coming off of injury years?

-SABEAN: I go back to the nature or the theme of the meetings—the first model we have to build is how we keep this pitching staff intact. And how many dollars it’s going to take against the budget.

Secondarily, to the Posey or the Sanchez issue, they’re both coming off significant injuries.

We did talk about our catching situation last night. We know that Buster’s going to catch, but we can’t over-tax him early. So you’re going to have to have a back-up plan, in terms of a back up, let’s say, not knowing how many games that back-up might have to catch.

In Sanchez’s case, that shoulder was finicky before he had the second surgery. Thank goodness as we speak and I don’t know how it’s going to turn out, but at least we have the possibility with Keppinger to protect ourselves there.

But in general, we all know that the lead-off spot is a driving force in your line-up, we don’t have that. And we have to make some decisions on what we think of Crawford specifically as we go into 2012.

And we really don’t have a centerfield alternative within that we necessarily feel comfortable with. That does not mean that that will end up being our specific targets, if it ends up that way in free agency. But that’s pretty much what we already realized as weaknesses.

ogc:  Implies that they might look for a better backup catcher, much in the mode of Yorvit Torrealba, who they have almost signed or traded for a few times in the past.  This also seems to imply that Keppinger will be kept around at least until the Giants are sure that Freddy Sanchez will be healthy enough to start the season.  In fact, this to me, seems to indicate that Jeff Keppinger might be kept just-in-case, all season.  Lastly, clearly stated, the Giants will have to go outside and locate a CF alternative, whether free agent or trade.

-Q: What are your thoughts on Cain and Lincecum long term and Jonathan Sanchez for 2012?

-SABEAN: Well, I’ll address the fifth starter first. Jonathan Sanchez, as you know, we can control with him being arbitration-eligible.

We do know his value when he’s healthy and how he’s pitched at times for us. That will be a big decision, and I don’t want to speak for the manager or the pitching coach, that our fifth starter situation might come down to what happens – whoever the candidates are – in spring training.

I personally don’t think Surkamp’s ready. We know that Zito’s had his trials and tribulations especially this year from an injury standpoint. Jonathan is a viable candidate for that spot given his track record.

Cain, as you know, is a free agent at the end of next year. That might be more pressing to address, per se.

But we are going to be open-minded in Timmy’s situation. I think what we will probably do first with these arbitration guys is to address the one-year look first and maybe solve that piece of the puzzle before you go forward in a bigger fashion.

I don’t want to speak for how a negotiation could go from the other side but that might be one of our approaches. I’m not going to say that will be our only approach.

ogc:  Despite speculation by the media, Jonathan Sanchez will still be around.  I thought that was unfounded, Sanchez has been a very good pitcher for us, and at $5-6M, still a good value to keep around as a 5th starter, and had he not be injured, would have been good trade bait this winter.

Basically, it looks like Dirty will battle with Barry Zito for the #5 spot, and as long as both are healthy, he should get the job and Zito will become our long-reliever and spot starter.  Given all the injuries, though, neither is a lock for anything right now.  Meanwhile, Eric Surkamp will get AAA in 2012 and prove himself at another level, he hasn't looked good at all in any of his starts after his first one.

What he said about Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum makes sense.  We have not heard any word from Lincecum's agent, but Tim noted that he is only interested in shorter deals anyway, so a two-year deal is probably what will happen there.  Cain might get something along the lines of what Verlander got, but down a notch or two.

-Q: In recent years, you haven’t given out anything longer than a three-year contrct. Could that change that and how will that affect your thinking with Beltran?

-SABEAN: The first way that we’ll play, again, is with the pitching staff.

I hate to be redundant but until you really can build a budget that can hold a free agent coming in or retaining a free agent of your own we have to decide how many years out we can go or would go with our pitching staff.

We can’t just pull players or figures from out of the air, we have to have a specific budget because our relative budget isn’t going to explode from year to year or be able to go up with one real significant acquisition. We know we’re going to have to spread money through the roster.

ogc:  Question have to ask, avoidance answer, saying the obvious.  Classic Sabean.

-Q: So are you saying that, if you get your pitching staff in order for the long haul, it would be more likely you’d go after a free agent?

-SABEAN:That would be a topic that we’d have to sell to ownership being that we would want to have to show them first how we can go forward with this pitching staff.

Once we do that either in a specific way by getting it done or more so just in our game plan in how and when we’ll visit these folks, then we can make the recommendation of ‘There’s X player out there we think is going to take this’.

Or in Beltran’s case if he’s still in the mix with us, ‘This is what we recommend on him, this is how it will fold in.’

Our pitching’s going to get expensive, that’s the punch line and we have to take care of that first.

ogc:  Amen to that, pitching first.  The rest is just their decision-making process, and often that is all Sabean will share, his process for reaching the answer to the question, but not the meat of what the question was hoping to get.  His kimono is usually very tight-fitting, not letting loose of much information.

-Q: When you released Rowand, you said you weren’t sure about Zito’s status going into the winter. What is Zito’s status?

-SABEAN: He’s under contract, he’ll be in spring training, it’s that simple.

ogc:  Sometimes the media reads too much into statements.  No way that Zito could be released, which is what a lot of Giants fans are calling for (and hence the media asks), the better question is what role do they envision for Zito in 2012, assuming Jonathan Sanchez is healthy and producing as he is capable, taking the #5 starter role?

-Q: Are there any young players who didn’t come up this year who might be factors next year?

-SABEAN: Our biggest decision is how ready and how much more we can get Crawford and/or Belt to improve. Crawford’s going to the fall league, Belt’s going to the Dominican evidently.

That’s a topic that will be first and foremost in the next few days, how we evaluate their situation.

ogc:  With the Arizona Fall League starting up on October 4th, the Giants will get to see how Brandon Crawford, Gary Brown, and Joseph Panik does against AA-AAA talents, some of whom might already be ready for the majors.

Now Crawford made some progress at the end of the season, hitting a pretty good .256/.333/.419/.752 with 5 walks and only 6 strikeouts in 43 AB in September (and only .278 BABIP, so some upside potentially), so if he can continue to show that progress in the AFL, the Giants can skip looking for a SS free agent and focus mostly on leadoff and CF.  After sitting his first week or so back, for the most part, starting September 11, he started 11 of the next 17 games, doing most of his good hitting then.

I also think that how Brown and Panik does in the AFL will affect how the Giants view the CF and SS positions, respectively.  If either can do very well in the AFL, that should lean the Giants towards a stop-gap acquisition for those positions, as they have been pretty good about not signing free agents long-term if there is a prospect who look like they will come up sometime early in the contract.

They have kept spots open or in flux for a number of prospects over the past few years, so if either look like they can handle the upper levels of the minors well, I would look for only 1-2 year deals for whoever they sign for either position.  Of course, if Crawford continues to look good, Panik would shift to 2B and be Franchez's replacement in 2013, if he does well in the AFL.

Perfect point of the season, having the AFL start now, teams get another extended view of their best players, also playing against the best players, the best simulator of the majors that minor leaguers can get, besides, of course, playing in the majors.   That gives them great info on where top prospects stand, and can greatly influence how decisions are made once the off-season starts after the end of the wait period after the World Series.

I think Brandon Belt is in the mix for 2012, so the Giants should be looking to keep LF open, either for Belt or for Aubrey Huff to play there and either Belt or Brett Pill at 1B (or perhaps both platooning).  Winter League is for getting him more reps/ABs batting against soft-tossers so that he can learn how to handle the off-speed stuff.

-Q: Bruce, if Zito is there at spring training, is he in the mix for fifth starter?

-BOCHY: When we get to spring training we’re going to stay open-minded about the fifth starter. He’s going to be there just like Jonathan.

I don’t know what’s going to happen this winter but that’s going to be a need for this ballclub. I agree, I think Surkamp needs more seasoning. Z will be in the mix there.

ogc:  Nothing new here, what else is Bochy suppose to say to such a question?  But question got to be asked anyway, just to confirm, bad to just assume.

-Q: Bruce, who do you see having the biggest impact on next year’s club?

-BOCHY: It’s a tough call. In these meetings the next two days we’ll be talking about Crawford quite a bit and Brandon Belt.

I think you have to talk about those two, and of course, Brett Pill made some noise when he came up here. Here’s a guy who knocked in 100 runs the past couple years.

I think they’re both going to be nice players in the major leagues, it’s just a matter of when. That’s what we’ll discuss. I don’t want to say one over the other right now.

A kid like Crawford, who we pushed but we had a need there, here’s a guy who hadn’t played very much at the higher level and I thought he got better and better and handled himself very well including the 0-for-4s.

That’s what you look for from the younger players, how they’re going to deal with that. I thought Brandon (Belt) had a little tougher time with that because he’s had more success in the minor leagues and the not hitting thing really got to him a little bit more.

It’s just a matter of him getting at-bats right now. This spring we’ll see where we’re at. The fact they got this experience, that’s nice for us to have under their belts.

If we think we’re fine with a Crawford or a Belt or even a Pill, they’ve got some time up here. Very similar to Posey when he came up in September. That’s an invaluable experience.

ogc:  It is nice to get Bochy's take on Crawford.  I was very impressed with him this season, and after looking at how he changed himself and hit so well in September once he got starts, I would be surprised if he's not the starting SS next season.  But you never know, we'll have to see how he handles the AFL, but that September performance has me impressed a lot.

Funny how Crawford's lack of success in the minors allowed him to relax up here while Belt's great success left him getting bothered.  I think it is clear that Belt will eventually make it up here, it is just a matter of him adjusting, and that will probably just will take more experience.  Matt Williams took quite a few seasons before he figured it out, but I think Belt will be better able to relax in 2012 if we have Posey and Sandoval and hopefully Huff being the main offensive cogs, and Sanchez and Schierholtz good complementary players.   That is partly why I think they warned Huff about playing LF, the Giants might want Belt playing 1B and being comfortable there, to enable him to be more comfortable hitting up here as well.

The point about September being helpful to players the next season is often lost on fans, and thus there is often a lot of complaining if the young players aren't actually playing.  One, patience is a virtue.  Players often learn a lot just sitting back and observing how major league professionals get it done.

Two, the majors is a very different place from the minors, in ways that fans cannot imagine.  It is such a leap that the great manager Earl Weaver had a policy of NOT bringing up his top starters and installing them into the rotation, but he preferred to bring them up as a reliever.  He felt that they needed the time to adjust to being a major leaguer.  He also felt that he could help boost their confidence by finding good spots to put them in.  Being on the bench also gave them invaluable time to study the league's hitters and tuck away knowledge that he could use the next season as a starter, though this is not as important today with all the scouting and pre-game opponent discussions.

-Q: Is Hector Sanchez ready to challenge next year for the spot to help out Posey?

-SABEAN : I don’t think so. And that’s a good question because one of the reasons we actually decided to take a look at Sanchez was he was in A-ball playing very well.

We didn’t know what was going to happen with our catching with Stewart or Whiteside, and they did a great job from the standpoint of handling the staff.

We moved (Sanchez) to Triple-A to see if he could hold his own. He did improve as a receiver and swung the bat decent. We brought him up here to kind of compare him against the other two guys, and in my mind, we saw that he was overmatched.

I personally think he has to go back to the Minor Leagues, but I think Bruce can address that, too.

-BOCHY: For a catcher, he just needs some experience back there handling the staff. I think he’s going to be a nice player.

You have a switch-hitter that can hit from both sides, he has a good arm and I like the way he receives the ball. It’s all the little things that he’s got to get better at, and that’s just catching at a higher level.

It’s nice to have a kid like this in our system, so if something does happen, we can have him available.

ogc:  Not too surprising, but nice to hear what they think of Hector and where he stands.  I still think that catcher is not Buster Posey's long-term position, but even when he moves to another position, I can see him being the backup catcher from that point on, freeing one spot on the bench for the Giants to get another hitter.  That would be quite an advantage for our team to be able to do that.

-Q: Given his track record, do you wipe the slate clean with Aubrey Huff, or his status kind of tied to Brandon Belt for next year?

-SABEAN: It’s a touchy subject because we expected more out of Huffy, and he certainly did, too.

But I will say this: Whether you’re the manager, or how you deal with a veteran player that struggles, I don’t believe that you should turn your back on somebody, or all of a sudden somebody that’s got a track record of hitting, saying that he can’t hit or won’t hit.

If we really thought we had a better alternative earlier, we might have made an adjustment to kind of give him less playing time. But we were hoping that he’d come out of it.

And that’s got really nothing to do with his salary. I mean, if you look at his baseball card before last year, this guy’s been a run producer. He got himself in a funk.

A lot of what went on might have been the residual effect of maybe not doing enough in the offseason, and he knows that. But it was a touchy thing to deal with.

Now, having said that, next year’s a different year. He’s going to have to come in ready. He’s going to have to come in and pull more weight. And if he can’t, as we’ve shown before, the manager’s going to be in a position hopefully to have other choices, and we’ll put other people in there if need be.

ogc:  Huff was the whipping boy in this year's press conference; Pablo Sandoval was it last year.  I like that they call out players in this way (assuming, of course, that they deserved it and assuming they already addressed this with the player first as well).  And Huff was deserving, with all this info about his lack of preparation and lack of will to improve, plus his "Que Sera" attitude, he was surprisingly all this while acknowledging last year that he was tired of losing.  Apparently not, if not for our pitching, particularly Ryan Vogelsong, the Giants would have had a losing record this season, thanks to Huff taking our $10M and resting on his laurels.  With Belt and Pill as alternatives (even as platoon buddies), I think the hook on him will be shorter in 2012, rightfully so, just like why he got a longer rope in 2011, because of how well he did in 2010.

Given his contrition in his final statements of this season, I have to think that he's going to make the effort to do the right things and be as good in 2012 as he was in 2010.  However, however good he does, I hope the Giants do not pick up his option for 2013, the contract was thanks for 2010, and at some point we have to move on, and by then Belt and/or Pill should be ready enough to take the position and hold it in 2013, and, who knows, we could move Pablo there if a 3B is ready by then too.  Tommy Joseph is another possibility at 1B by then, Max Ramirez as well.  And Chris Dominguez has been climbing and he could be ready as well.  And LF for him by that age, just don't really want to see that.

-Q: Do you see Gary Brown starting at Richmond or Fresno, and what goes into that decision?

-SABEAN: That will be discussed a little bit in this meeting, even though he’s not on the 40-man roster. I think he could go to either place because of his style of play and moreso the way he approaches the leadoff position.

Double-A is a very tough league to hit in: A, because of the Richmond ballpark, and B, it’s really a pitchers’ league. And that’s not a bad thing for a hitter to have to go through.

ogc:  Brown, frankly, did not hit superlatively in Advanced A in 2011.  He did very very well, particularly in the last three months, but that just goes to show how well you have to do to make the majors.  He will have to really kill in the AFL to not get assigned to Richmond next season, I think.  But he did do well enough in those last three months for me not to be surprised if he rakes in the AFL and get the call up to AAA instead.

Also, his success stealing bases was not very good in San Jose, only 73%, and that will be a key component of his value in the majors, being able to steal a lot of bases.  He will need to advance one level at a time and figure out how to steal against that level of catchers' talent before moving to the next.  He is not as polished a base-stealer as I had hoped he would be, particularly since he's a Boras client.  If Boras has all these stats to show GMs in making deals, he should be doing this with all his clients and teaching them how to maximize their talents, I would think.

Brown did, however, tone things down by the end of the season, and during those last three months when he hit well, he was 20 for 25, 80% success rate, which is the benchmark I use as the minimum a stealer has to do where his CS starts costing us more runs than his SB is creating.  He was only at 70% (33 for 47) his first three months, and appeared to smartly stop trying to steal in June, study things, then righted his ship the last three months.

But with a gun to my head, I think I would say he ends up in Richmond.  All that talk about rushing players seem to suggest that the Giants will be more conservative going forward in advancing players.  Still, I think he will do well in the AFL, so the Giants could surprise and promote him to Fresno anyway.

-Q: Follow up, obviously the PCL is a hitters’ league, and it’s closer to home. Will it be a factor that you can keep a closer eye on him?

-SABEAN: Not necessarily. We’ll have him well-scouted. But it is right down the street. We know he’s not going back to San Jose, and we know he could go to Triple-A, so it’s not as if we prescribe to everybody they have to go to the next level before they go to a higher level.

Although I will say that we’re all learning that we’re probably moving players too fast now, even the ones like Brandon Belt that fly through the Minor Leagues.

I think what Bochy can tell you, and what the players can tell you, is that all of a sudden in the National League especially, and in our division, there’s some pretty rugged pitching you face every night.

It’s very difficult to protect a young player that doesn’t have a lot of Minor League experience.

And I’ll use Pill as an example. In Pill’s case, he’s really honed his swing in a lot of ways through those games in the Minor Leagues. And he doesn’t panic when he has an 0-for-4.

Brandon Belt hasn’t gone through that. Bochy can tell you as a manager, his biggest fear is dealing with their failure and what you need to do to ‘protect’ them.

The old-school way was, going back to Brown, you had a hell of a year in A-ball. Well, guess what, you’re going to Double-A, and you’re going to have a hell of a year in Double-A then you’re going to Triple-A and earning your way to the big leagues.

I think we’ve learned a lesson that it’s not as easy to push position players as it is to push pitching now. Because the pitching up here is so good that you better be sure that someone can pull their weight in the lineup.

ogc:  This "keep them close" theory has always been suspected in the media, so it is nice to get this myth out of the way.  I don't see why a team would put a top prospect in the position to do poorly by pushing him up higher than he should be, just so you can observe him up close.  Besides, isn't that what scouts are suppose to do for the team?  And if he really wants a good look, it doesn't cost that much to fly the GM over and watch the player over a week.

-Q: How much consideration will Ross get in coming back, and are you convinced that Schierholtz will be full strength?

-SABEAN: I’m probably 100 percent that he’ll be all right in Spring Training.

-BOCHY: Nate’s fine now. If we had to, I could’ve used him yesterday. He’s been running. He’s good to go.

-SABEAN: Cody will be given due consideration because he’s versatile, including him ending up playing center field a little bit and even leading off.

ogc:  The more I think about it, the more I think Ross is Gone.  There really is no space on our bench for him.  And given the call for a lead-off hitter, and the likelihood that Crawford will be our starting SS for 2012, the Giants will be pursuing a starting CF who can leadoff (which leaves us at Coco Crisp and Nate McLouth).

Even if Cody Ross is still around at the end of the free agent period, the Giants should have settled their CF/leadoff situation by then.  And Andres Torres is probably the one holding the 4th OF spot, as he should be a heck of a lot cheaper than Ross is, even for a one year contract.  Only way he signs with us is if he decides early on that he wants to return on a one year $1M contract and basically take away Torres' spot as 4th OF.   Of course, the Giants could still have both on-board in that case and then drop whoever loses at the end of spring training.

Still, I find that unlikely, and the bench should be full with Pill around and probably playing some LF.  And the money he would want would take up the rest of our budget, just for a backup player.  I just don't see how we can keep him.  Thanks Cody for 2010!

-Q: Is it likely that you would not jump into the Beltran negotiations since you have to talk about pitching first? Is it likely he’ll be on the market for a little while before you can start talking to him and seeing where he’s at?

-SABEAN: It could be something as simple as the nature of the kind of player he is, being a switch-hitter, being someone who can hit third in almost anybody’s order, how many American League teams would get involved where he could part-time DH.

And that might mean a longer contract being offered. As you know, Scott’s going to be thorough, and it might take some time. Bochy has talked to him a couple times.

I’ve talked to him briefly. Boch even ran into Scott in LA, and he’s had a good experience here, and he’ll give us due consideration. We’ll see if it’s mutual. I can’t guarantee anything.

ogc:  As I noted above, without a boost to payroll, the Giants cannot afford Beltran, less he signs a massively backloaded contract or defer a lot the monies.  Even then, I don't see anything team won't offer him more in years and dollars.

-Q: Will you go into the season with the assumption that Nate is going to be one of your starting outfielders?

-BOCHY: I think that’s fair to say. I thought Nate really made a lot of progress this year, especially with the bat, so that’s the plan right now. Really, I think he has to look at this as his job to lose at this point in his career.

He’s driving the ball the way we know he can. Now, it’s a matter of him staying healthy. That was his toughest thing this year — the nagging injuries and of course the stress fracture in the foot.

But he plays a tremendous right field, and in this ballpark, that’s critical for us. He’s going into the season for me right now as the starting right fielder.

ogc:  Yeah Nate!  Good to hear.  But that's the toughest thing for him every year, injuries.  Not one year not marred by injury for him.  Going to need some good outfielders to back up the position, so Torres would be good for that.  Huff maybe too if he is in better shape.  But I think Nate Schierholtz is ready for his close-up.

-Q: I’m getting the sense that to score more runs next year, it’s going to be on players returning from injuries, players in the system, guys having better years as opposed to free-agent acquisitions. Is that correct?

-SABEAN: I think it’s going to be a combination of that. The other thing you have to consider, too, is that we’ve got time.

Players don’t get cleared of free agency until — actually now it’s done electronically automatically the day after the World Series, then six days after that, they’re able to be on the market.

My job is to build a model and make some recommendations where we have a plan of action. To answer the question better from an internal standpoint, and this is going to be a big theme, no matter who we have on the field, we have to play better defense.

Our defense wasn’t as good as it should have been. That can help our pitching. We also have to run the bases better. We were station-to-station in that regard, and that’s something that we can control.

That will be a major theme going into next Spring Training. But I hope it’s going to be a combination of all that. We’re going to have to be resourceful to do that.

ogc:  Again with the process, but wouldn't expect Sabean to answer any other way.  Defense and speed on the bench suggests that Burriss will be around, as he plays good defense (when his head is in the game) and provides a lot of speed.  He could play the Ford role of pinch-running and getting things to happen.  That would also suggest keeping Torres around over Ross.

-Q: Do you need to sort out your 13 arbitration-eligible guys before you can even think about what you might do in free agency?

-SABEAN: In some ways. And again, we’re not going to tender everybody. We have time to do that. But we need to be thorough.

Before you non-tender somebody, you better either have someone you can add to the roster internally that’s going to take that player’s place or somebody that you go into the market and get — maybe it’s after other players are non-tendered — to replace that type of player.

So there’s a lot of questions that need to be answered about what we have in the pipeline, what’s in the organization. And before you let somebody go, you certainly have to have an adequate replacement or somebody better, hopefully.

ogc:  It looks like we can get draft picks for Javier Lopez, Ramon Ramirez, and Cody Ross, but I suspect that none will get offered arbitration and while Lopez and Ramirez will probably get signed in time to get us draft picks, I think Ross wanting a multi-year contract will end up signing something cheap in January, so no pick for him most probably.

-Q: Can you see possibly declining Affeldt’s option but re-signing him?

-SABEAN: The best way to answer that is I expect him to be in uniform with us next year. I don’t know exactly how that’s going to happen, but the option is the option.

If we have to pick it up, we could end up picking it up. If we decide to renegotiate in some form, that could happen, too.

ogc:  Great question, interesting answer.  Looks like the Giants will pursue Jeremy Affeldt but will be looking to get a lower salary, and if he sticks to his guns, the Giants still might keep him, but would re-evaluate at that point.

-Q: How do you see decisions happening with the new management structure? Will it be similar to the way you’ve previously worked with Larry?

-SABEAN: I don’t think it’s going to be nine people he’s going to go through. I do know there’s not going to be a managing general partner. There will probably be one chairman he’ll report to.

But Larry will be day to day in the office, working with us hand-to-hand. How and when we’re in meetings above him, I can’t answer that.

How Larry has to handle what we turn over to him, I’m sure he’ll apprise you of that once that’s more clear to him.

ogc:  Baer has made the point over and over again in his interviews that really, nothing will change.  The same process will be there that Neukom had, the only difference is Baer is now in charge, not Bill.  We will see if that is true, and whether the decisions and message will be the same.

-Q: Last year you challenged Sandoval at this same news conference last year to lose weight and get in better shape. How do you think he responded to this and what are his winter plans?

-SABEAN: I think his response was great in two ways. We saw what he was like, how he came into spring training and how committed he was.

But maybe even more so, what we forget, when the injury knocked him down, which was a significant injury, he bounced back and if you factor in the games he lost, if he had played those games, he would have had a huge year.

He really understands what he needs to do. He’s going to take some time to go to Venezuela for some family time. But, as I understand the conversation with Dave Groeschner, he’ll come back and participate
in the same program in Arizona.

At this time, I don’t know if he has any plans or will play any winter ball, in and around that conditioning program.

ogc:  About what could be expected in a response.  Got some good personal info on what he's doing.  He's already said that he's going back to the same fitness company to lose the 10 pounds he added this season, and further improve his overall fitness and physique.  I assume he still has things he can improve on during this off-season in this way.  2012 should be good for him.

-Q: Will the Giants allow him to play winter ball?

-SABEAN: I would be open-minded if we could find away that he could continue his conditioning. Do I think he needs to play? No.

But do I understand it’s the nature of what these guys grew up with and his popularity and his commitment and what it means to his country? You have to be open-minded.

ogc:  About what could be expected as an answer.  Gave Sandoval big thumbs-up noting he doesn't need to play, but being flexible with the player's needs and desires.

-Q: Is Justin Christian in the mix for a leadoff job?

-SABEAN: I personally don’t think so. I think he’s a call-up-type of player. He was a guy that we took a look at because of the given situation.

Nobody stepped up. Ross got hurt and never came back. I think he’s an extra man in the big leagues. But I wouldn’t see us going forward with him as our leadoff hitter next year.

ogc:  Not too surprising, he didn't do that well in minors nor majors.  Wasted question, not sure why this was asked.

-Q: You have a lot of internal options at first base…

-SABEAN: It may. It may. One of the topics that’s going to come up, are we better off in the short term or as we look at Brandon Belt and his development as a hitter.

One of the things we don’t know, the pressure that was put on him, how much pressure he put on himself by having to play left field versus just being a first baseman.

I mean, this guy can really play first base. So on the days he was taking that 0-for-4, much like J.T. Snow, he could have saved the game with a 3-6-3 double play or a diving catch or picking the ball in the dirt.

We do have first-base options, including Pill. We have Huff, who’s been told by Boch get ready for anything, you might have to go to the outfield next year; Pill, may or may not play winter ball, played a little bit of the outfield in Fresno.

We might take a look at that in winter ball or in spring training. But we do seem to have some protection at first base.

ogc:  Another wasted question that, as Sabean noted, was mentioned before.  Better question would have been to ask how likely it would be that Belt ends up at 1B given the statement of Huff being ready for anything.  I have to think that winter league will not answer this question.  I think the Giants will play both at 1B and LF in spring training, and Bochy will get a feel for how comfortable Belt is in LF, and if he's still struggling, he would get 1B and Huff LF, putting development of Belt over the current situation.  But I would think ideally Belt in LF and Huff at 1B for 2012.

-Q: What are your thoughts on Keppinger heading into future?

-SABEAN: That’s what we have to decide. It might be a luxury item at the price point. I’m not sure. But again, we know that he can hit second.

We know he plays the position that for some reason, if Sanchez isn’t ready, it gives you good protection, or if something happens with Sanchez’s comeback. He also can play third and first base. We like the bat, but I can’t fully answer that until I see what our other options are.

ogc:  I didn't realize he can play 3B and 1B.  That is basically the Mark DeRosa role.  Maybe the Giants try to sign DeRosa for $1M before having to decide whether to offer Keppinger arbitration and pay him maybe $3M, as the Chronicle thinks he would get.  Either would be good backup for Franchez at 2B if he's not ready for any reason.  Of course, the risk on DeRosa is whether he can start regularly anymore, only the Giants can decide that one for us.  Still, Keppinger appears to be highly rated, I can see the Giants signing him and keeping him around before trading him at the end of spring training if they end up not needing him.  Should be a team around somewhere desperate for a starting 2B to replace someone injured.  I wouldn't expect anyone great back, get someone's failed prospect, just like what we gave up to get him.

-Q: Bruce, do you have anything to say about possibly talking about a contract extension?

-BOCHY: Again, I think we’ll talk when it’s he appropriate time. It’s something that I’ve been thinking about. We wanted to get these coaches done. We’ve got them done. I’m happy for them.

But at this point we have too much work right now. We have [organizational] meetings. I’ll answer that when it’s the right time.

ogc:  Wasted question, knew he wouldn't say anything about that, even if there was anything, he won't say anything.

-Q: Bruce, you said Huff is your first baseman going into 2012; that would seem to take guys like Pujols and Prince off the market for you guys. Can you see a scenario where Brandon Belt is your left fielder, Brett Pill and Aubrey Huff maybe share the first base position?

-BOCHY: Yeah, I think Aubrey knows as we’re coming into 2012 it’s going to be a little bit different. This past year was an up-and-down season for him. It was a tough year for him.

But now you go into the next year, that can’t happen again or you have to make changes. He has to come in ready and he’s expected to get back to the form that he was at the year before.

[Or] we’re going to have to make adjustments there. He does know that we could put him in the outfield. As we break spring training, we’ll see where we are with this club.

It’s going to be important that Aubrey gets back to form. We’re here to win. He knows that.We stumbled this year so if we have to make changes, as you saw at the end of August, we did it. And he knows that.

ogc:  Given the harsh things said about Huff earlier (but things that needed to be said), this question was not that good.  I think it would have been better to focus more on Pill, that could have elicted interesting information about what their thoughts on him is.  Any question regarding Belt in LF and Huff at 1B, you just know it would have gotten something like what Bochy said here, he was not going to say much more, and he already said as much earlier about Huff:  things cannot be the same as 2011, he must get back to 2010 or face the consequences.

Unlike Aaron Rowand, I think Huff will respond well and do well.

-Q: Is there room for all three — Belt, Pill and Huff?

-BOCHY: It’s hard to answer that right now, really, until we get into spring training and see where the club is. Here at the end, yeah, we had room, but [untll] we break [camp], it’s hard to say.

ogc:  Really the question is, is there room for Pill?  Because, barring something horrible happening, Belt and Huff will be on the team in 2012 (and bad things have happened before, see Wilson when he had team made then blew it in spring and got send down).  So one could have seen that the answer is then we'll have to see after spring training.  Wasted question, would have been better, as above, to focus more on their thoughts on Pill.

-Q: Bruce, did you challenge Aubrey as you did with Sandoval last year?

-BOCHY: Honestly, I think he challenged himself more than I had to challenge him. He owned up to what happened this year. And he knows that his struggles helped cause our struggles.

He’s going to get back to what he did the year before, same workout routine, [same] trainer. Whether he dropped the ball last year and didn’t work out enough in the winter, he’s looking at all those things.

He was embarrassed. And he was humbled by what happened. So I think he’s determined to get back to where he was. The thing that’s important with Aubrey right know, he accepted full accountability for what happened to him this year and maybe not working as hard.

ogc:  Bochy was pretty conciliatory here, qualifying things for Huff, not saying that he was out of shape, but acknowledging that Huff will be examining that, among other reasons, for his face plant in 2011.  Honestly, from above, I thought Giants management challenged Huff like they did Sandoval, but it appears that Huff's late season statements are as they seem, he honestly is embarrassed and will work hard to get back to 2010.  Much better than Rowand ever said.

Giants Thoughts

Pretty good press conference.  Got some good information as usual, got some clunker questions again, as usual, but overall good job by the media again.

I think Baggarly and Schulman captured the major points well in their accounts, so I would recommend checking out their links, I won't rehash my points above.


  1. At least Huff's kids have shoes to wear on their feet and food to put in their tummy's. I would hate for the to go hungry and barefoot.

  2. On a more serious note.....Sabes has tended to telegraph his moves more in recent years. He has tended to eschew offseason trades ever since he got burned by the AJ deal.

    He practically shouted from the rooftop who he's going after this offseason. His #1 priority after he nails down the pitching is CF/leadoff and he specifically said there are no in-house options he's comfortable with. There is only one player on the FA market that fills that bill: Coco Crisp!

  3. I pray no coco. Please no coco. We don't need a mediocre centerfielder to eat our small budget towards getting a good player. He is unlikely to be more than a win or so better than torres and could be up to 2 or so wins worse if torres rebounds, and will cost about 5 million more. and would probably take more than one year. Not good. I really dont want Michael Cuddyer of the 111 OPS clunking in the outfield either.

    I hope they keep Beltran, two switch hitters with 60+ xbh power sandwiching Buster would be devastating, and would minimize pressure on Belt, who could blossom as a post clean-up #6 hitter.

    The one move I hope they can make, which would be my White Whale, would be to trade for BJ Upton. Any idea what the prospect cost would be? Rays could really use a near-MLB ready catcher. Maybe Hector Sanchez could make it happen?

    BJ Upton has a .340 career obp, good power, and is a great baserunner. Also a prime defensive centerfielder. And watching him step up this september has been awesome. I would love to have him hold down CF until Gary Brown can take over in 2013.



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