Friday, March 30, 2012

Your 2012 Giants: Late Spring Rosterbation

Lots of interesting news on the roster composition (Baggerly, Schulman, Pavlovic, and Schulman on Fontenot).

First big news is that the Giants are planning to carry 12 pitchers, not 11, even though Vogelsong will be on the DL and his turn in the rotation will be skipped.  The worry is that Zito might have a short start and thus tax the bullpen early.  This change in plans is good news for a pitcher looking for an opportunity to show off what he's got.  The media list Dan Otero, Steve Edlefson, and Jean Machi as the possibles, and I agree with their thinking that Dan Otero is the guy they bring up.

I've liked Otero for a while now.  His K/BB ratios are out of this world.  I'm not sure why he's been slowly brought up the farm system, though looking at his seasonal stats, it looks like he probably got injured in late 2009 and missed a good portion of 2010, and thus why they have been slow since, to give him time to recover and get back to 100%.  His stats remind me of Sergio Romo.

Of course, the other eleven pitchers are Lincecum, Bumgarner, Cain, Zito as the starters, in that order, and Wilson, Casilla, Romo, Affeldt, Lopez, Mota, and Hensley in the bullpen.  I have liked the pickup of Hensley, but with Zito's struggles, I think I like it even more.

Not that I don't think Zito will eventually prove useful enough that we keep him around, but with Mota and Hensley around, another pitcher could be crappy (remember, Bumgarner didn't do that well in early 2011 either and the bullpen was used a lot with Madison doing poorly and Zito struggling, most probably due to internal injuries from his car accident, before he DLed).  I think Zito will be fine as our 4th or 5th starter, in any case, as people forget that the vast majority of teams do not have that great a 4th or 5th starter.  Let Surkamp mature and develop a little more in AAA, that's where he would have been if he wasn't the emergency starter last year and brought up.

The next big news is that Bochy backed off from committing to Whiteside or Stewart as the only backup, they could carry three, but they could also carry one and perhaps neither of those two, which would imply that Hector Sanchez as the only backup scenario is being discussed by Bochy and Sabean.  Not too shocking given how well Sanchez has been hitting all spring.

I view this more as a dry hump where Bochy teases the fan base with this possibility, as a reward to Sanchez for how well he has done in the spring, but I expect him to say something to the effect that "it was a very hard decision to make, a tough one, but we really think a lot of Sanchez's potential and think it is best for him to start in AAA and get regular playing time."  And I agree with that.

We still don't know what we got with Hector.  Most prospect analyst books say that he's more of a future backup catcher type.  But look at the hitting he has done as well as the raves he got as a catcher from pitchers last season.  Given Posey's uncertainty long-term at C (I still see him moving to 3B or possibly 2B eventually - I originally had him going to 2B, but Panik looks good there plus I saw a comment that Posey might not have the ability to handle 2B, particularly after his injury.  Of course, if he moves to 3B, Sandoval would move to 1B, and that works in terms of how good either is with the bat, Posey is just an ordinary hitter at 1B, very good at 3B), I think the Giants have to see if they can get Sanchez to develop into a starting catcher, because as nicely as Tommy Joseph has done so far and as nicely as Andrew Susac looks in being good offensively and defensively, you never know when they will hit the wall developmentally, even Hector too.  It is not like Hector is only anybody's Top 100 prospects in baseball list.  We have to continue to develop Hector as a starting catcher.  And that happens fastest with him in AAA in 2012, at least to start.

Besides, I think Stewart is more than adequate as backup.  The main call for him to start at catcher, at least initially, is when Posey gets moved to 1B for a start, pushing Huff either out or to LF (where then Schierholtz is out).  That works best with a LH starter going, and last season Stewart hit .295/.392/.409/.801 against LHP and he is 278/.371/.407/.778 lifetime.  Plus, he was rated by the Fielding Bible to be among the leaders in the majors in preventing runs with his defense, that despite it being a counting stat (meaning the more you play, the more you can produce) and he only played roughly a third of the innings that the leaders played as starters.  He could be perfect in a platoon with a LH-hitting catcher and late innings replacement.

For the rest of the roster, right now the starting lineup looks like this:  Posey C, Huff 1B, Burriss 2B, Sandoval 3B, Crawford SS, Cabrera LF, Pagan CF, and Schierholtz RF.  The Giants have been clearly telegraphing that Belt most probably will end up starting at 1B in AAA, particularly with that talk recently with Meulens saying that Belt has holes that he needs to fix up.

Fans will be upset with that but people forget that spring training is often an experimental practice ground for some of the pitchers.  They are not pitching to Belt solely to get him out, they will be trying out different pitches and different patterns.  But once the real season begins, if he still has the holes the Giants think he has, he will be exposed AGAIN like last season.

I see some are drinking Belt's Kool-Aid, but I'll point it out again:  none of the prospect hounds or Giants fans thought much of Belt when he was drafted, but the Giants were the ones who 1) saw the potential, 2) helped him recraft his mechanics, and 3) gave him the opportunity to fly up the minors to the majors, so if anyone understands how good Belt is and where he's going wrong, it is the Giants.

I think we can all agree that Belt has great potential for great things in baseball.  Why not make sure that he is ready and not have him yo-yo up and down?  People also forget that great prospects do not always become great players.  Hello Andy Marte, Sean Burroughs, etc.  People also forget that Belt clearly has some hole(s) because he struck out at a 30% rate in AAA and the majors.

And, furthermore, yes, he might hit well in the majors now, and be a good player, but if he can cut down the strikeouts to how he was doing it in AA, he could be a major star, hitting for average, walking a lot, striking out a little, hitting a lot of homers, plus great defense to boot.  Moreover, once you dump Huff (as many Belt believers think), you don't have that option anymore, we are pretty much stuck with Belt at 1B, no matter how poorly he is hitting.  We need the risk mitigation that sending Sanchez and Belt to the minors provide, and that is something that fans do not understand yet, but that I've been harping on for a number of years now.

What if Sanchez and Belt were brought up and they fail.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, they're so good they can't, right?  But good prospects fail all the time, Matt Weiters came up and hit nowhere close to what people thought he would hit.  After two so-so seasons, he finally started hitting consistently last season, his third one.

What if the Giants do as the fans ask and they play and play but at the end of May, they are still not over the Mendoza Line?   Can someone say "the offense probably stinks"?  Because Huff would be gone in most fans' scenario, traded away for a thong.

Or what if Posey is struggling as well, or worse, injured again?  Keeping only Sanchez most probably means we lost Stewart to waivers, who not only is good defensively but good hitting against LHP?  A team out there will want him to be at least a platoon/backup catcher.  So we probably have Whiteside as our starter and Jackson Williams as our backup catcher, as they send Sanchez down to AAA to figure out his bat.  Do we really need another Bocock moment?

With both in the minors, we get to see whether:  1) Huff's Pilates work helped out or not and he's hitting or not, 2) Posey holds up to the workload or not, 3) Stewart holds up as backup catcher seeing more playing time, 4) Cabrera, Pagan, and Schierholtz produces as our starting OF.  Then if any of those fail, hopefully Sanchez and Belt is doing what we hope they can be doing in the minors and be brought up in May sometime, or maybe Peguero might breakout and start in the OF.  Risk mitigation, options provide that.

I think Huff will be fine in 2012, closer to his career batting line than 2011's.  I've looked at the teams he's been on, plus been observing his interviews, and he is not a leader.  Nothing wrong with that, but while he makes airs about that, he's not.  If anything, he's the class clown, and you don't need to go far to see that, with his whole Rally Thong routine.  And people might not recall, but Huff was hitting OK, but nothing good, until Pat Burrell joined the team and started hitting great, at which point, Huff started hitting great.  Pat Burrell is a leader, an instigator, but Aubrey is not (and again, nothing wrong with that).

And I noticed that on teams where he's the offensive leader, he's usually struggling, having a lower half seasonal batting line for his career, but when he's surrounded by hitters, he relaxes and is able to hit well.  No shame in that.  A lot of hitters struggle when they have the weight of the world on their shoulders.  Ishikawa couldn't hit for anything in 2009 until he "put himself in God's hands" and stopped thinking about it.  He hit close to .800 OPS the rest of the way (I still think he can be a good 1B for a team somewhere; he's with the Brewers, last I heard).  How many times have we heard a batter say that his breakthrough in getting out of a slump was to stop thinking and just follow that ol' rule:  see ball, hit ball?

This season, with Sandoval and Posey back, plus Cabrera and Pagan up top, Huff should not feel as much pressure.  Particularly Sandoval, he could have had 30+ homers last season had he played the full season and most hitters suffered a loss of power during the season after having hamate bone surgery, so what if he was held back and does even better in 2012?  DrB noted 40 homer potential for Pablo and my analysis agreed.

And I think the offense not only will be much improved, but will be up there with the 2010 team.  Pagan looks good as the replacement for the 2010 Torres, but even if not, Gregor Blanco looks like he could be the second coming of Torres.  He could step in for Pagan, should he fail to get going.

And even if Pagan is playing well, Blanco will probably get his chances, like Torres did.  Unfortunately, Schierholtz's style of playing appears to invite danger and injuries.  I've seen players like that through baseball history, Pistol Pete Reiser was like that for the Brooklyn Dodgers, he was good when he played, but he was injured so, so much.  I would put Aaron Rowand in that category, he would be hitting well for us, grooving the balls, then he would get injured, one way or another, and there goes the season.  So I see Nate going down, again, at some point in the season.  Still, if he's healthy, I think that he could have a breakout year, when he is on, he's white hot.

I think Crawford will surprise with his hitting.  He impressed me greatly last season, being able to avoid strikeouts by getting his bat on the ball and putting it into play.  I felt that with adjustments, the balls he hit would turn to base hits and that started happening late in the 2011 season, then he continued it in the AFL and then Spring Training.  I would bet on him and Blanco as the likely nice surprises of 2012 out of the hitters.

Burriss I'm still not sold on.  I've seen too many prospects do well in spring, only to disappoint in the regular season.  But this is his do-or-die season so at least we get to try him out as starter for a while, and see whether he finally broke out or if he's a AAAA player.  And no matter what he does, there is also the possibility that the Washington Nat's might be willing to give us an OK prospect for him in trade, as he's a local D.C. product and they might be looking for a 2B, as they are not sold on Desmond, from what I've read.

I think Cabrera will do enough to justify the trade.  He probably won't duplicate 2011's stats, but I wouldn't be surprised if he does, because players sometimes breakout at his age, as their cumulative experience finally adds up for them and/or they finally grow up and prepare properly for the baseball season.  Even if he produces what he did in 2009 (which is roughly what he produced from 2009-2011), that is good enough for our offense to win a lot of games with our pitching, if everyone one else hits as projected.

I don't know about Pagan.  That is why I'm glad we have Blanco and Belt/Huff in case he fails.  Risk mitigation is a wonderful thing.

Posey, nobody knows.  So far, so good, everything as progressed very well, looks great.  I cross my fingers and hope for the best.  That's partly why I want Sanchez in the minors.  I want him getting ready to be the starter for us, in case of any issues with Posey's return to baseball.   We don't know if Posey has to play 1B all season in 2012, or even sit out the season.   Risk mitigation.  Plus, keeping Stewart, if Posey for any reason cannot catch, a platoon of Stewart and Sanchez should be a good enough imitation of Posey that our lineup will bend but not break, particularly if Sandoval and Cabrar are hitting..

That leaves the bench.  Obviously, one backup catcher and I don't see how there can be two, we need all the spots for versatility.  I think Brett Pill got one spot, he has been OK playing all the corner positions and would be the power bat off our bench.  I think with the uncertainty about Franchez and Burriss, plus they just waived  Fontenot, they are clearly keeping Theriot, likely for the reasons Schulman noted, that the team needs right-handed hitters.  And Gregor Blanco has done so well, plus all the columnists think that he's in for sure (the waiving of Fontenot also fills the Giants need for a 40-man spot for Gregor Blanco), and that's four bench spots.

I don't see how the Giants can go with only one backup middle infielder, so I would guess that Joaquin Arias has impressed the coaching staff enough to win the last bench spot.  He has impressed with his defense and has been a good hitter in the minors.  But this could be how they keep Hector Sanchez up as well.  That would also explain Bochy's hesitation to note Stewart or Whiteside as the backup catcher..

Now, if the Giants keep Arias, this would be a stretch and depends on the arcane rules of 40 man rostering, but if Pill has any options left, he could go to AAA, with Blanco and Burriss, in that order, covering the corner OF positions, and that could open things up for bringing Hector Sanchez as a backup catcher.  Again, I prefer him starting in AAA, but this is still a possibility, if Pill has any options left.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

D-ger Deal Viability Questioned But Maybe New Owners Have Grander Plans

Very interesting article on ESPN regarding the D-ger sale deal.  Economists are also shocked at the $2.15B price tag (the actual details seems to vary with the wind, but the latest I understand is it is $2B for the team, and $150M for the parking lot, where they own half and McCourt owns half, but the team would control everything and receive all monies generated, but any development would then benefit both).

Andrew Zimbalist, an economist who writes a lot of articles and books on team valuation, noted "At the end of the day, you have to question the deal."  Mark Rosentraub, a University of Michigan sports management professor said "It's the craziest deal ever; it makes no sense.  That's why you saw so many groups drop out.  I don't get it.  The numbers just don't work.  It doesn't make business sense.  ... [it] is over $800 million more than what pencils out for a profitable investment for a baseball team.  If making money doesn't count, this is a great move.  But now we're into buying art and I can't value art.  I can just run the model numbers and it doesn't make sense."  That extra money is basically McCourt's profit off the deal, from what I can tell from the articles I've read, he is suppose to come out of this with $7-800M after paying off debts and his ex-wife.

The article noted, "The problem economists have with the sale of the team being tied to the television contract is teams use their television deals as revenue to improve the team, not to offset the costs of overpaying for a franchise."

One of the economists also noted McCourt's continued involvement as a stunner, but as I noted above, subsequent info from the buying group stated clearly that McCourt's involvement is nil except as an equity partner.  Though I agree with the economists, for the money they paid, they should have been able to buy out everything and push him out completely, when you are overpaying by that much.  They also make the interesting point that McCourt has been in court frequently in the past suing his partners for one thing or another, which would be a headache that the new owners would have to deal with.

Lots of good info on TV deals reiterated here, so I thought I would bring that up.  Fox had offered McCourt a 20-year, $3B deal, which was basically what the Angels got last December from Fox, worth "at least $3B" and apparently the Rangers got a similar deal at similar terms as well. It also noted that a TV deal is not a done deal, that they could start their own regional sports network like the Yankees have with the YES Network (and Red Sox with their NES Network).  Looking this up on Wikipedia, the Giants own 30% of CSN Bay Area, with 45% owned by NBCUniversal (formerly Comcast) and 25% owned by Fox.

Giants Thoughts

Nothing like good D-ger turmoil to warm a Giants fan's heart.  Baer had his "play nice with your neighbors" message about it being good to have a competitive D-ger team, but I am more than happy to see the D-gers fall on their faces for an eternity.

I didn't look too deeply at the numbers, but I thought the deal looked kind of squirrelly financially, but I couldn't put my finger on it.  But the comment above confirmed the thought I had, that the potential TV deal appears to pay for the valuation, but then where is the money for the team?

But either economist noted that most teams are not bought for their financial flow into their owner's coffers.  They are usually bought for their long-term appreciation, which is when they would get their money back.  Still, overpaying by double is a sure way to reduce your ROI by a lot.

Here is how I think the value works out for the owners.  It has to do with the land involved and the new owners wanted to be aggressive and win the bidding outright, without much thinking on the part of McCourt or the MLB before they agree on the deal.  So that's why I think Magic's group went with their "Buy It NOW" bid, a la eBay (this article on Yahoo supports this notion, noting the new owner wanted to "win by two touchdowns."; this article has another figure on a TV deal, $4M over 20 years).

As Mark Purdy notes in his column, the new owner is the CEO of a huge $125B financial firm called Guggenheim Partners, and the official name of the new D-gers ownership group is Guggenheim Baseball Management LLC, and not named after Walters or anything else, implying that the assets of this firm could be intertwined with the D-gers in some way.  What is the mission statement for the new owner?  "all I want to do is get to the World Series."  (Sidenote:  obviously, he's never spoken with Barry Bonds, who, after losing the 2002 World Series, his wife at that time told him, "well, you got what you wished for, you wanted to get to the World Series, and you did...").

In the Purdy article, he noted that Andy Dolich, a long-time sports management executive in the Bay Area (stints with A's, Warriors, and 49ers), who was an advisor to one of the bidders, had his financial people run a financial model and came up with a bid of $1.2-1.3B as the one that made the most economic sense, which is in line with what one of the professors was quoted (he noted it was $800M over).  So he was blown out by the actual winning bid.

One of the theories he came up with that could explain the grander plans is one where Dodger Stadium would be razed and a new one built near the Staples Center, in the L.A. Live District, which is owned and run by Anschutz Entertainment Group.  AEG would partner with Guggenheim to build the new baseball park, which would benefit the L.A. Live District since there are 81 baseball dates each year (and 3-10 more if playoffs), while Dodger Stadium would be razed to build a new football stadium complex at Chavez Ravine.

And that is basically what I thought is how they plan on making the big money, doing something with the Chavez Ravine property, because it is a huge tract of mostly undeveloped land in land-locked LA, though this baseball-football plan is way beyond what I would have thought.  Kind of like what was envisioned for the 49ers, where there would be a hotel and commercial complex built around the stadium, where synergies would feed off each other for additional revenues beyond just the team itself.

Purdy also noted that Jed York once worked for Guggenheim, so Walter could have perhaps contacted him to discuss the NFL.  It makes sense, as Walter, per this theory, would be very interested in the 49er's quest for their stadium.  But this theory is a bit of a stretch, Walter won't know every employee who has ever worked in his $125B company, and it is not like people from rich families will necessarily seek either other out.  Still, you never know, maybe York sought out Walter's advice at some point, for some reason, when he was pursuing his 49er's stadium deal.

Meanwhile, Walter/Guggenheim has so much money that they do not need to pocket the $150-200M per year TV deal in order to make their investment work for them, cash flow is not the only way to benefit from an investment, which is what the economists above statically assumed.  This reminded me of the situation when the Texas Rangers were sold to their prior owner, he bought up all sorts of land around the stadium, with plans to build, build, build and profit off the synergies thereof.

It didn't work for him, but this football-baseball stadium theory makes a lot of sense.  As nice as I've heard Dodger Stadium to be, it is now around 50 years old, and even Yankee Stadium, the House that Ruth built, was razed (though Fenway and Wrigley still are kicking).  Stadium technology is way beyond now, and you know L.A. love their glitz and glam, and as nice as Dodger Stadium might be, it is neither.

And as the Giants park showed, and I'm sure other parks too, there can be a lot of commercial synergies between the park and the surrounding area, which will show up in the financial statements of the owners in some way, just not necessarily from their Dodger's investment (which was the Texas owner, Hicks, idea).  The owner does not care how the money gets into their pockets, whether through the Dodgers or their other investments, as long as it gets into their pockets.  And given the high probability that the new L.A. NFL franchise should be a huge money maker for the new owner (remember, Walter has many more billions that he can tap into, $2B is pocket change for him), if they can come in with a grand plan for a stadium/commercial complex, the NFL will probably come hat in hand with the coveted L.A. franchise.  

Which means that however the Dodgers go with their TV situation - a deal with a cable outlet or their own network (better bet given the big money involved) - that money stream will probably go straight to the team to be used for payroll and everything, not retained by the owners to get a return on their $2B investment.  And thus they will be a big bidder for free agent riches next offseason, much like the Angels were this off-season, when they signed Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson.

So hopefully Baggerly's report that the negotiations between the Giants and Cain "have picked up talks again" is accurate and shows that both sides want to get things done.  As I noted in my post yesterday, it made sense that there would be a stall in negotiations to see what happens with the D-ger sale, to get a better feel - for both sides - of how much of a threat the new D-ger owner might be in the free agent market next off-season.  I think this boosts Cain's leverage a lot, and think something in the $110-120M range for 5 years is now possible, though anywhere from $100-120M is possible I think, the only clear thing now is that he probably will reach 9 figures.

Baggerly reported today that Baer participated in a chat via Twitter with fans and said that it is a mischaracterization to say that there is a hard deadline or that the Giants are lowballing Cain.  Given that talks have started up again, I rather doubt that the Giants were lowballing Cain (else, at this point, why bother continue talking with the Giants?), but rather, Cain's agents have been asking for the moon on the assumption that the new D-gers owners would be spending big bucks next season.  Particularly given the rumor that the Giants were willing to meet them halfway between their offer and Cain's agent's asking but was turned down.

While I think that the D-gers will be spending, that is not a certainty given what is known right now about the situation, it does look like the new owners overpaid and that they will be soaking in the TV deal to make their return on investment, per what the economists said.  And that situation will not be clarified for a long while, perhaps not even by next off-season, so if Cain's agents were to wait for free agency, they could be taking the chance that the D-gers might pass on free agents next off-season and not get into free agency in a big way until they get all their plans lined up.

Cain does not appear to be a dice roller, so I expect the negotiations to move a lot faster now that the D-ger situation is cleared up for his agents, and a deal will get signed at some point.  I would guess given Baer's statement, most likely no deal will get done before the start of the season, but that there will be more media  announcements like this that the two sides are continuing to talk and moving closer to agreement.  You have to talk tough as a negotiator and nicely once the deal is done, for maximum image as a negotiator in the public eye.

I still think that $20M per season is fair market value for Cain.  I have seen comments that C.J. Wilson's deal sets Cain's price higher, but in researching it now, I see that most of those people were mixing contract numbers.  They saw him signing for 5 years and $78M and assumed the Marlin's $100M deal was for 5 years, but all the instances I found stated that was for 6 years, so really, the Angel's offer was actually very similar to the Marlins, only one year less.  So he only got roughly $16M per season, not the $20M that I saw some quote.

But the D-gers are now a wild card bidder that will provide some upward loft on Cain's salary.  While no sure thing, it is enough of a threat that the Giants will move higher than they had intended, but enough of a question mark that Cain's side must drop their asking price, because not many teams can afford $20M per season and most of the big spenders have spent their money already.  Cain's agents don't want to get into a situation like Madson this off-season or Ivan Rodriguez in 2003, where a very good player has to take a one year deal to wait for a big money team to offer big bucks to him.

That's huge additional risk to take when your client is a pitcher, as Ryan Madson's agent found out, pitching for a contract year to year.  His agents can't advise Cain to leave a 9 digit deal on the table, that would be fiduciary incompetence on the part of his agents, especially in light of the slow growth in the U.S. economy that threatens to implode if the EU or China hits a speed bump in their economies (or debt deals), as well as the possibility that the number of MLB bidders might be limited (the Mets are surely out).

But agents and players have done stupid things before.  There have been players before who turn down big deals (like the Red Sox's Nomar Garciaparra) or asked for contracts way beyond the market interest (like the Giants's Rich Aurilia) who lived to regret doing that.  And I don't want the Giants to accede to stupid outrageous salary demands, should Cain's agents be doing that as a big show for their big new client.

For as sure as it is now that Giants fans complains about the Zito signing, if Cain signs an outrageous deal and, say, his elbow implodes and he's no longer productive (see Noah Lowry for how fast things can change), you will find the same fans who derided the Giants for not giving Cain all the money in the world will be the same ones saying what idiots the Giants were to sign Cain to such a huge contract.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Bochy Among Best Managers Ever In WAR Analysis

I ran into this right after I posted, and I usually don't like posting so close again, but I have to acknowledge it because it ranked Bochy 4th best in history.  It was posted on Beyond The Boxscore by adowrowski, titled "Manager Wins Above Expectancy

Cain and the D-gers Record Sale Price

OK, now things are starting to get clearer for me now, shame on me for not connecting the dots.  Cain's agent is probably salivating about the D-gers big money cache coming as soon as the new owners sign the dotted line:  rumors had Fox offering McCourt something like 10 years at $150M per year, giving the D-gers as deep a pocket as the Yankees and Red Sox, at least $100M per year extra to spend on players.  Schulman clued me in on this concept with his blog post on the sale.

That is why the winning bid of over $2B by the group led by Magic Johnson should not have been surprising, with all that loot coming into their coffers soon, that justifies the high valuation.  And McCourt, who didn't have enough money to buy the D-gers in the first place, leveraging up the team massively, walks off with at least $1.5B for his troubles, thank you MLB and Bud Selig.  Heck, the Chavez Ravine real estate alone pays off his divorce settlement with his ex-wife, and he even keeps a share of that going forward (well, he has to find something else to do now that he has $1.5B to play with) along with pocket change (well, for him, "just" low tens of millions) after the divorce settlement (Jamie probably had one of the most expensive affairs ever, if she had stuck with him, she would be luxuriating in these riches too, though perhaps McCourt might have kicked her to the curb once the money started rolling in, some rich guys do horrible things like that once their wealth takes an exponential leap; but at least in that case, she probably would have gotten more out of any divorce).

One point that Hank did not expand enough on, so the ordinary fan might not fully understand, is his comment about the Giants getting richer.  Yes, the owners are now richer:  on paper.  The team can't really access that extra valuation on the team unless a bank is willing to loan them money, and even then, they have to pay it back eventually plus there are MLB rules on how much debt you can take, plus most of all, they still have the debt on the stadium.  I suppose the team could sell off additional shares of the team (any owner selling shares would get the money, not the team), but not enough to make up $100M extra spending by the D-gers going forward.

And thus the Giants are actually screwed right now.  According to what Ray Ratto noted in his stint on KNBR yesterday on the Razor and Mr. T show (I'm still amazed they go with this name for the show), the Giants are signed with CSN for the next 10 years, presumably at the price they signed on for when they signed the contract (Ratto also noted that the debt should expire after 2016 season, as he noted that the loan was taken in 1997; I recall another source mentioning 2017, however; at that point, the Giants would have roughly $20M more to spend each season).  Although at least the team owns a significant portion of CSN Bay Area, around 30-35% from what I recall, I doubt that CSN Bay Area passes on their income to the Giants regularly, and even if they did, it would not be $100M per year, especially since they only own 30-35% of this sporting network.

So I have to think that the stall was on because the agents set the price very high, due to the possibility of a new D-ger owner soon, and the Giants stalled too, to see what they are really going to be up against with the new D-ger owners, but mostly because the agents were asking for the moon.  And I have to agree with Schulman that, yes, Matt Cain just got a lot richer today.

He still thinks that the Giants will sign Cain to a contract.  I hope he is right.  I was hoping to hold off with a 5 year, $100M deal, but I think $115-125M is now probably where they will have to go to get Cain to sign on a deal.  I think Ratto said $110-115M, but at $120M, that works out to $24M per year, which is top money area (CC and Cliff), and per DrB's prescription of paying more per year to get a shorter contract, that's probably what's going to have to happen to get the deal signed.

Per the good points that Kawakami noted in his blog post about why signing Cain is so critical for the Giants, which Shankbone was kind enough to point out in the comments to my last post (thanks again!), the Giants really have to sign Cain for the team to look competitive in the coming years.  He is a linchpin for any Giants competitiveness going forward, as without him, then Lincecum is probably gone too (for sure, instead of maybe staying). 

But giving Cain top money would then mean giving Lincecum record settling money, $26-30M per season.  At that price, I hope Lincecum is still looking only for 2-3 year deals, as no team can afford the risk inherent with that, except for maybe the Yankees, Red Sox, and now the D-gers.  Lot of business risk the Giants will have to face in the coming years in order to keep the Giants in the running for Team of the Decade, but it looks like no other way other than to bite the bullet and hope that Shankbone and Tom Seaver are right that both Cain and Lincecum are horses built for the long-term.

Either way, the Giants should probably be picking up mostly starting pitchers going forward with their first round picks, their starting lineup is starting to look pretty good going forward.  Posey, Belt, Panik, Sandoval, Crawford in the infield, maybe Melky, Brown, Peguero (or Schierholtz) in the outfield, as I can see the Giants wanting to sign Cabrera should he have another season similar to his 2011 season, particularly since we don't really have any other OF looking like he'll be a starter, though Blanco might also be a possibility if he has a good 2012 season.  I doubt Melky can repeat his 2011 season, but if he can be close to that, they will probably want to keep him around longer.  Even if he is close to his 2009 form, they will probably still try to keep him around longer, just not for as much money.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Deadline Approach: Cain Cain Cain, Fans in Pain

As the season opener approaches, and the deadline Cain had set for settling the extension approaches, many fans are frustrated that the Giants have not backed up the truck and deposited the millions Cain is reportedly asking for (9 figures).  While I'm antsy too, this is just big business negotiating, there was almost no way a contract would be signed early.

As seen in many negotiations run in public, like strikes or union deals, or closer, in signing draft picks, things don't get done often until just before the deadline.  I still believe that this extension deal with Cain will get done.

Most importantly of all, that don't fit his behavior from before.  Both of his prior long-term extension deals were not deals for top money.  He could have pushed for more, like Lincecum did with the Indians, hence why I think Lincecum is the harder one to sign of the two into his free agent years.  And he seems like the same guy he was when he came up.

So if the rumors of the Giants latest offer is close to the truth - 5 years, $90M - I still believe that Cain will sign for something in the 5 year, $90-100M range, with possible kickers of one and maybe two years additional at $20M each, both vesting if he pitches enough innings, similar to Zito's option year.  That would bring Cain to the 9-digit level his side craves and that is the key here to understanding the lack of movement and the leaks of information regarding the negotiations.

Cain has new agents - his agents joined a new agency and turned over the reins to, I'm guessing, more senior and experienced negotiators in that agency.  They want to get every dollar out of the stone.  If you give up everything early, they will assume you have more to give and continue to haggle for money.  So had fans been in control and gave Cain the reported 6 years, $120M contract that they were rumored to be asking for, his agents would probably say, whoa there, that's nice, but we actually wanted more than that (agents are very smart - so are GMs - and they never give the other side exactly what their demands are, instead many floats balloons through willing media representatives), and negotiations would now begin on a 7 year, $145M contract (because by then he should get a raise).

It never ends.  Until the end, at the deadline.

So I assume the "impasse" means that the Giants are near where they are willing to pay but Cain's new agents want to make a big splash by securing the first 9 figure contract for a right-hander since Kevin Brown, and attract other top hurlers to join their agency by pointing to that shining example.  So with a couple of days left, I expect there to be movement and the Giants would finally move their final piece to move on the chess board, and with time running out, there will be a glorious press conference announcing that both sides had to give a little, but after kicking some tires around, they were able to come to a mutually agreeable contract, with both sides winning.

Of course, just my opinion, but given Cain's history of elbow issues (at least three reported instances in his pro career, and who knows how many unreported) and his agent's duty of fiduciary responsibility, they cannot in good conscience advice Cain not to sign a contract in the $90-100M range because that could all go away with one snap of something.  Just look at what happened with Ryan Madson, lucky for the Reds it was only a one year deal, but what if he was signed to a 4 year deal?

The bigger issue, to me, has always been Tim Lincecum, followed closely by Bumgarner.  Lincecum has asked for top dollar at every opportunity.  Not to say it wasn't undeserved, but still, that is his behavior.  And Bumgarner has deep family ties that I don't see how he don't end up with the Braves after his 7 years with the Giants.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Your 2012 Giants: Big 6 Questions

In honor of the Big 6 himself, Christy Mathewson, I present my Big 6 Questions of 2012:

  1. The biggest is obviously how much they can get out of Buster Posey in terms of playing time.
  2. Also, if Matt Cain does not sign an extension, would that take his concentration down?
  3. Tim Lincecum has had declines over the past two seasons in certain key metrics, can he stem those declines?
  4. Can Pagan rebound to 2010 performance or will he repeat 2011?
  5. Can Vogelsong do well enough in the #4 spot, as expecting him to repeat would be asking too much?
  6. Can Zito be back of rotation good enough?

Monday, March 12, 2012

2012 Playoff Odds With New Playoff System

The MLB has recently announced that they will implement the new playoff system for the 2012 system, where there are now two wild card teams, and they will play each other for the right to be in the 4 team playoffs that decides who gets into the World Series, at which point it is like the playoffs before.

The Wall Street Journal today had an outside analyst use player projections to estimate the odds of a team making the playoffs, both in the old system and the new system (simulating 3,000 seasons).   The Giants saw their odds increased slightly from 53% to 57%.  They are the team viewed as most likely to make the playoffs in the NL West (which aligns with what I've been saying for most of this off-season):

NL West - Old - New
Giants - 53% - 57%
D-Backs - 27% - 32%
D-Rox - 12% - 12%
'Dres - 8% - 10%
D-gers - 6% - 7%


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