In the press conference that announced the deal, they made a number of comments about the Giants future course (Baggarly, Shea, Haft):
- The plan is to earmark most of their money for their pitching staff, then use the remainder to improve the offense. People rag on the offense, but as I'll show soon, a large part of that decline was the loss of Posey, but people conveniently forget about abnormal, unlikely to repeat events like that. "There won't be any big splash. Our pitching is our gold standard. We have to make sure we take care of that commodity first," said Sabean.
- Evans noted in the meeting that he has just started talking with Lincecum's and Cain's agents, exchanging ideas and some numbers, mostly talking broadly, so they are not very far into the process yet (due to "so many other things").
- They also have a large number of arbitration-eligible players: Ryan Vogelsong, Ramon Ramirez, Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla, Nate Schierholtz, Pablo Sandoval.
- Once they take care of the pitching, then they will see how much money is left in the payroll and see which free agents will fit in that. But they don't anticipate a household name, per se, no sticker shock type of play.
- The payroll has been bumped up to $130M (I believe it was around $125M last season, plus there is always the mythical rainy day fund).
- What they are looking for is better balance and flexibility. Depth is important and thus flexibility with the roster is important. (ogc note: rumors are that the Giants are kicking the tires on Jerry Hairston, Jr., who can play MI as well as COF. I view him as the successor to the role envisioned for Mark DeRosa, though I'm not sure how good he is defensively; DeRosa was great defensively and good offensively).
- Appears that re-signing Carlos Beltran is a longshot. He was asked and agreed that an AL club (with the ability to DH regularly) could probably offer Beltran a longer-term contract than the Giants were comfortable with offering to a player with bad knees in his mid-30's. Still, Sabean noted, "He is a consideration but term will be an issue with anybody we pursue, whether it's him or anybody else. We have a game plan with what we consider a reasonable length." (ogc note: I would note here that they were comfortable with giving Franchez a 3-year contract, which, fortunately for us, he turned down for a two-year, and he's been even more injured prone than Beltran. People need to remember that as business-people, you don't want to negotiate publicly nor give away your hand. The Giants might be willing to give 3 years, but you don't give that away, particulalry in public, it is better if you play poor, act like it is possible that you will pass on signing, show some reticience in re-signing, as negotiations will always be one where each side has to give on something. You can't make a fair offer publicly and not have it bite you in the ass later in private negotiations).
- Baggarly: "Sabean made it clear that the extensions will not be his focus when he arrives at the winter meetings in Dallas on Sunday. He is looking to improve the offense via trade or free agency, with the outfield being the area most in need."
- About SS, Sabean was impressed with the strides Brandon Crawford made in the AFL. He could possibly be annointed the starter, though it was noted that they could carry his questionable bat if the offense improves elsewhere, and it was noted that he did what was asked to do in AFL, getting high marks regarding the strides he has made (ogc: everyone has a questionable bat, that is why in the NL the 8th place hitter don't hit for much, so he has a low bar to make. Plus the pitching makes the bar lower. I think the offense is good enough as is to handle his bat, particularly because he was actually pretty good at avoiding strikeouts last season, so I think it is just a matter of adjustments and experience before he starts hitting. May as well start in 2012 as the starter).
- About Belt, Sabean praised his work in the Dominican Winter League, noting Belt's adjustments and his willingness to go there, accept their challenge (he was not intending to go to Winter League, Giants asked him to, partly to make up for development he missed in 2011 because of injury and sitting on the bench). Moises Alou (GM of the team Belt played on) gave positive reports on Belt. They noted that he was playable in the OF, though they realize that 1B is his best position.
- About Ross, he is still up in the air, Sabean noted, "not sure" when asked about him. (ogc: that is consistent with before, Sabean noted that Ross could come back to the team later, if available.)
- Sabean, according to Baggarly, left the general impression that he might not make another move to help the offense. Sabean: “I think we have developed enough choices including our young players in the mix and our arbitration eligible players as far as the price point that’s suitable. I think we’ve created enough food for thought and flexibility... Health is always an issue. We hope the guys who were banged up last year come back to form and do their part and pull their weight.” (ogc: I agree that another move is not necessary to help the offense, it should be good enough to win right now, but obviously any additional buffer to risk mitigate another hitter failing to perform would be great.)
This is what I thought should happen, though I am sure that there are legions of Giants fans crying into their garlic fries right now. I am very happy right now that Sabean and Bochy got extended another season plus a team option for another season.
Sabean deserves to continue being the GM, both for putting together the team that we have today and for guiding the team well in the rebuilding phase during the losing. Bochy, as I noted in prior research, is a unique manager, capable of bringing up his team by anywhere from 6 to 10 wins, every other season, that is a WAR of about 3-4 a season, which some sabers price at $4M (and higher) per win, or $12-l6M per season. That's a bargain, as I assume Bochy probably don't make anywhere near that per season.
I was disappointed by Haft's dig at both Sabean and Bochy when he noted that others have done more than either over their tenure than they have. First, sure, there are those who have done more, but that ignores the cycles that Baer talked about in the press conference when praising the two of them. You have to accept that there will be times when a team is losing and rebuilding. It also ignores that Bochy was handicapped by the Padres poor payroll problems that regularly rolled around and decimate the good team he had, then was hurt by the Giants rebuilding period at the tail end of the Barry Bonds era, where the teams weren't good enough to win yet. Every team has a life-cycle of rebuild/compete/repeat that has to play out, nobody is going to be a winner all the time, that is rarely done in the majors, if ever.
Second, and more importantly, Sabean has the team set to win throughout the 2010's and be the team of the decade that I've been predicting for the past 3 years. The pitching is all pretty set up, they only have to lock up Lincecum and Cain right now to set the team up nicely to do well over the next 4-5 years or so. The middle of the lineup looks to be great with Sandoval, Posey, and Belt, and the top of the lineup will hopefully be great with Brown and Panik up top in a year or two.
And with our great pitching and defense (just got the latest THT annual and it has the Giants team defensive runs saved figures there for the past few years and they have been one of the best defensive teams in the majors), what a lot of people don't realize is that it creates a low run environment in almost every game the Giants play in, thus making even a poor offense a good enough offense to win a lot of games with. But people are stuck in the mindset that you can't win with a poor offense and thus think that Sabean is lame for not doing more.
He is doing what he should be doing, securing our future dominance by getting Lincecum and Cain signed longer term. The whole team structure for winning falls apart without Lincecum and Cain up top (and with Bumgarner). I have no doubt that we can get Cain signed to a 5 year contract that might even have a slight home discount. I expect Lincecum to want fair value (i.e. no discount) but given the talk about liking shorter deals, I would be OK with a two year deal with an option year, then focus on getting him signed to a longer term deal next off-season.
There has been no mention about Bumgarner, but given the animosity that probably was engendered when the Giants summarily renewed his contract at their price for the 2011 season, I would hope the Giants look into making Bumgarner happy, it don't have to be a contract to buy out the rest of his pre-free agent years, though I would like something like that, but I think they should show him a little love in the contract negotiations this off-season. And I've mentioned Posey and Sandoval getting signed up long-term as well.
All in all, a well deserved extension for both Sabean and Bochy. Bochy in particular for bringing up the team and making it competitive for the playoffs, when by Pythagorean, by all rights they should have been scuffling around .500 during the 2011 season. But Sabean too, deserves credit for trying to keep the team together in 2011 for another run, but when things got bad, made the big move to trade for Beltran, plus jettisoned both Tejada and Rowand, when they proved to be detrimental to winning. Plus, by keeping the pitching staff together, that enabled the team to survive poor hitting and numerous injuries, and still be competitive enough for .500, by Pythagorean, when most teams losing a key player like Posey for the season would be sunk the moment he went down.