Friday, August 10, 2012

How Much for the Melk?

I was going to tackle this topic, but with the news that the Giants and Melky's reps agreed to table any extension talks until after the season, it didn't seem worth the exercise anymore.  However, someone at Fangraphs posted their analysis on this and I thought I would refer to the post and list some of its conclusions with my thoughts.
That gives us a four-year, $46.2 million deal for Cabrera. And Assuming Cabrera demands five years, we can add in the final year on Rios’ deal, giving us a five-year, $58.7 million deal. Either way, Cabrera will make slightly over $10 million per season. 
Going back to Gordon’s deal, this actually makes sense. Gordon is our most recent comparison and he only made $37.5 million over four years. But since Melky will hit the market, he’ll likely command a larger salary. It looks like anywhere between $45 million to $60 million is what it’s going to take to sign Cabrera.
ogc Thoughts

The media reported that the Giants supposedly started by offering a contract similar to what the Padres recently signed Quentin to, 3 years, $27M.  I agree with Shankbone's comment in the comments that, if this was true, it was a good cautious first offer.  Given his poor numbers previously, particularly his fitness issues when he was with the Braves, I have to think that most teams are going to be cautious with their offers.

However, all you need is one big spender to upset the cart, and now that the Dodgers are owned by owners with deep pockets, they could be a big spender, particularly since they could be looking for a LF in the off-season.  My hope there is that they take a liking to Victorino and sign him to be their lead-off hitter and LF, which would mean that they don't have any place to put Melky and thus no reason to sign him.

The Yankees could pursue him as well, but with Brett Gardner looking ready to make the majors, they would have Gardner, Granderson, and Swisher, and, again, no need for a Melky, unless he wants to become a DH.  Plus, he wasn't treated the best there either, he was left with a bad taste in that parting.

Verrry Interrresting!

I think the timing is very interesting.  It sounds like the Giants approached Melky's agents in the period just before the trade deadline.  For them to say that they will wait until the off-season to negotiate suggests to me that Melky's agents are thinking much bigger numbers than the Giants either are seeing or willing to pay.   Then all of a sudden the Giants go out and trade for Pence, pulling the trigger on something they had been thinking about for over a year now.

I have to think that these are related events.  Sabean hates being behind the 8-ball in negotiations with anybody.  It helped that he had already targeted Pence before, so it became a matter of seeing what the Phillies wanted in return, instead of Houston, who I think wanted Wheeler and Brown.  Luckily, they could use a nice young developing catcher as the value of the deal, plus we could throw in Schierholtz, who is not so bad a ballplayer, great off the bench at minimum, and maybe he ignites playing in a ballpark that favors LH power hitters like him, and Rosen, who looks like he'll be a major league reliever at minimum.  The Astros can't really use someone like Schierholtz, but for a team still hoping to compete for the playoffs in coming years, the Phillies find a lot of value in a player like Schierholtz.

Win-Win for the Giants

This helps the Giants and Sabean two ways.  First off, what a great lineup we have this season.  I see people talking about Cabrera, Posey, Pence, Sandoval as 3-6 hitters, but that is a huge waste of Sandoval's offensive talents to bat him 6th.  Once he returns to the lineup, they must bat 2-5, most baseball theories revolve around putting your best hitters 2-5, you never, ever, put your arguably best hitter in the 6th spot.  If Bochy does that for any length of time, my respect for him would go down (but would still be high).

Secondly, the need to keep Melky (and thus his leverage) goes down greatly, because we will still have Sandoval, Posey, Pence for 3-4-5 next season.  And odds are that the Giants will be able to keep one of Theriot or Scutaro to start at 2B and bat second in the lineup.  Either would do well there, though I think it more likely that Theriot will be retained than Scutaro, both for age and probable cost, unless Scutaro really likes it here.  Plus, Noonan has been doing nicely in AAA this season, he could be ready for major league playing time next season.

And the way Pagan has hit this year should kill off any more talk about him making over $12M per year, which I thought was way over his worth.  He seems to like it here, so I think that something in the 2-3 year range, for $6-7M per season, is probably more in line with his worth.  The Giants could decide to sign him and make him our leadoff guy, or if Blanco is able to adjust during the off-season (not doing good job of it this season), he could be our leadoff guy, or our cheap starter, batting 8th and lending a leadoff presence down there.  Plus, Brown looks like he could be ready for the majors by mid-next season.

Future Looks Bright

On top of that, I think Belt's apprenticeship in the majors should be nearing an end by next season.  I've been observing his contact rate trends during the season and, based on how the Giants have been using him, they are pretty well attuned to when he's on and when he's not, using him less when he's off, and using him daily when he's on.  Even at that, his batting line for the season would be good enough to bat 7th and not hurt the lineup, and with the high OBP, he could probably be OK batting 6th.  But he's really been good this month, in making contact, so he could be ready now, he just needs to go out and perform the same for the rest of the season.

Furthermore, Crawford has been improving as the season progressed as well, and I think he should be nearing the end of his apprenticeship as well.  If he can hit as well as I hope, he would be OK batting 7th in any lineup, and thus great batting 8th, if that is where he ends up.  I've been impressed with his ability to make contact, and when he is going good, he also gets walks as well.  That plus some pop in his bat and his gold glove caliber defense, makes his a valuable cheap asset at SS for us.

All of this adds up to the Giants being prepared by Sabean to move on from Melky, if he decides that money is worth more than the adulation he has received here in SF.   But if we are able to sign him for fair money - which right now seems to be in the $10-12M range, but he could get a whole lot more if he's able to sustain his high performance  to the end of the season - then, wow, what a lineup the Giants would have for the next 3-4 seasons (assuming Pence is signed long-term).  And who knows, maybe the Giants bid to keep him if he's able to keep it going.

The offense would be good on its own standing, not just because our pitching is so great, and, of course, we would still have that great pitching, with a lot of young starting pitchers like Heston, Kickham, Crick, Blackburn making their way up to the majors in the coming years.

This is very much in line with the vision I had a few years back that the Giants have a good chance to be the Team of the Decade for the 2010's.  Only better, because all I could see back then was Posey and Sandoval for the offense, so I was hoping that the pitching could carry the offense for many years.  But the addition of Brown and Panik improved my outlook, then the surge by Belt really heartened me, and now the additions of Melky and Pence has just about put me up on top in terms of enthusiasm and excitement over the future of the Giants in the 2010 Decade.

But, and this has been my but for a long while, this all depends on Giants ownership to deliver the financial wherewithal to finance this vision of dominance.   They need to step up to the plate and hit a homerun by getting all of these players signed long-term, per Sabean's statement to the press when Pence was traded for, that he went to ownership and got assurances that the Giants could afford to sign both Pence and Melky to long-term extensions.  As Marty Lurie was saying on KNBR over the weekend, if it is just a matter of a million or two in order to keep Melky, hopefully the Giants will do that.

I'm also hoping that Melky will give a hometown type of discount or preference due to the way he has been embraced by the fanbase, particularly the Melkmen and Melkmaids who now patrol the park.  He's now been around enough to know that if you have a manager who believes in you and that you have a good relationship with, that is valuable.  And if he were to move on, the fanbase could quickly turn on him if things go south, whereas he has built up a lot of good-will with the Giants fanbase already.

I don't blame his agents for asking for a lot initially - I would do, that is their fiduciary responsibility - but I also hope that they are realistic as well once free agency opens up for them, and not stubborn holding out for some outlandish number they hope to get, and play to the market forces.  Hopefully his long road to stardom has put some humbleness into Melky and his advisors.


  1. Hmmm, well... I have to say I always fear the Giants' being parsimonious, meaning that they will always get out-bid. Though I guess that's how free agency works, winner's curse. But, it depends on why Melky has turned around, and if it's because of mental approach, I think both a) the Giants will be more conscious of that and b) Melky's no fool, and knows the Giants will be a contending team throughout his contract. It seems he's far-better-liked by the SF fanbase than anywhere else before in his career, and he may be (understandably) leery of playing in another city - thinking the Yankees. Abreu just occurred to me, an example of how a good-great player can get no respect in NYC. Giambi as well. I suppose owners often are fools and someone could pay him $15M per, but still, I doubt it, and the Giants won't have to overpay - and Melky will be smart enough to stay around.

    I too am very pleased with Crawford and Belt. I haven't looked at contact rates and the like, but neither is proving to be a liability which is what many people feared. Belt taking walks has to be a sign of good things to come, and I would always like it to have Gold Glove defense at short - and his hitting is adequate and getting better; a good sign that (even though I know Panda is out) Bochy isn't playing Scutaro at short and Arias at third. So much for Bochy's past-supposed "veteran love" - I've always liked Scutaro, but to play him at third is a real vote of confidence in Crawford. I'd assume the same, they try and keep Scutaro/Therio on the cheap at second short term.

    Pence will be good. You observe well about the 2-5, I think Panda being out simultaneously with Pence appearing puts too much emphasis on Pence. Within that 2-5, he'll be very valuable.

    1. Thanks for the comment. Very good point about the vote of confidence in Crawford since he's not sitting much for Arias to play 3B.

  2. We are in the middle of an extreme inflationary period of baseball salaries. I believe it is extremely difficult to project value right now. The $5 M/WAR standard is probably already obsolete. I like Melky, but the Giants need to be careful to not overpay him for what might prove to be his career year. Like you said, it only takes one team to blow up the market and Melky looks like a very nice fit for the Dodgers. There also has to be at least one other team out there who would think he's worth overpaying for.

    It's quite possible that the Giants will end up with a draft pick after they make a 1 year $13 M offer before Melky signs a $100 M deal somewhere else.

    I agree that a big part of the Pence acquisition is a hedge against Melky leaving. It's a longstanding classic Sabes move.

    1. I agree that it's very hard to project value. I know what feels right to me right now, but, to your point, it might change once we get into the off-season and things evolve.

      Yeah, I'm afraid that there's a team somewhere which will overbid. Got a bad feeling about it...

  3. One of the most interesting negotiations going on in recent years. I cannot make judgement on this one... If I was a GM I would offer 4 years, 13MM a year... and fight tooth and nail to reduce it... He will end up with 5/75 I predict. The power lacking keeps it low. But it only takes one team...

    Sabean deserves credit on these moves...

    1. Agree with your points. I've been pins and needles on this since early season.

  4. I wouldn't write off getting compensation for Pagan quite yet either. He's at 1.7 WAR right now. He could easily be at 2.5 WAR by the end of the season. With a market rate of $5 M/ WAR, he'd be right at $13 M. Would you offer Pagan $13 M/yr on a multi-year deal? No way! But, for just 1 year of risk, $13 M is not out of the question. At worst, if he accepts it, you have yourself a player at market rate for 1 season.

    1. I agree with this reasoning but I'm not sure if that fits the Greybeards MO. Pagan in my opinion is the guy who is most likely to go Cody Ross on us in September and hopefully October. He is a streaky guy, and he has his ups and downs. I would be very happy with a one year offer for him, the downside is an overpay, but the upside is coverage in CF or a draft pick. Not a bad trade off at all, it depends a lot on what happens with Melky as well as Pences arbitration.

      The Giants have the most action in the OF on the FA market! Pretty cool actually, especially after the Roberts, Rowands and what not the past few years. And Freddy Lew. Cannot forget about that dude.

    2. The thought of paying Pagan that much curdles my stomach, but we might need to do that if we have problems trying to sign up Cabrera.

      At $9M per season offer, I can see why Cabrera's agent would want to see how things work out in free agency. Hopefully Cabrera realizes that this is playing with fire if he really hopes to stay with the Giants, unless he makes sure that teams make their offers early so that he can make his choice quickly. But I can see the agent trying to do a Boras and run a long, drawn out bidding, and if the agent does that, we can kiss Cabrera good-bye.

      Early this season, I would have been filled with dread of that happening, but with Pence in hand, I'll be full of regret for what might have been, but accepting of that and OK with moving on. Sabean did a great move to trade for Pence, and, nothing against Joseph, not a a great cost to our farm system nor to our team long-term, just because we have so many capable catchers with potential.

      Ha ha, Shankbone, yeah, I can see Pagan going Cody Ross, that would be great, and maybe Huff can do a Renteria? (I actually feel more that maybe Nady or Scutaro might fill that role).

      Yeah, there are so many ways that things can turn out with other OF, so Pagan will be hard to judge until the others are taken care of first.

      Don't forget Bowker too.

  5. If Melky does not tail off too badly for the rest of the year he could have 200 plus hits for the second time. Those type of hitters are valuable, just ask Ichiro. Ichiro might be a slightly better fielder, but Melky seems to me to be better in the field than most people have asserted. The dodgers could have a decent starting outfield next year without Melky. I would think that the Phillies may be interested. I think he has been a good fit for the giants and even if he hit 290-300 he would be reasonably valuable. If he stays in shape, and continues to play the way he has played this year, ( I mean putting in the effort), he will be a valuable asset worth keeping for at least 3 or 4 years.

    1. Oh, he is definitely valuable, the main question is how much does one want to pay for that value? And do we outbid other teams for him or let him go?

  6. Great article as always, OGC. I expect Melky will get $12-13MM for 4/5 years. 4/50 on the low side and 5/65 high are the boundaries. If a teams steps up and gives him either more years or more than $13 per, I think the Giants let him walk and take the draft pick. I think there's zero chance he goes to NYY, but he could end up an Angel, Ranger, White Sox, Red Sox, etc. If the Giants bid is competative, I would also expect he'd stay here. However, he's not going to give up an extra year or an additional $3 per to play at AT&T.

    SabeySabes will also negotiate with Pence's people this offseason, but there's no rush to get it done as we have him controlled through the end of 2013. I'd expect he'll sign a 3-4 year deal as well.

    Regarding Pegan, there is no way he'll get much north of $27MM/3 from anybody. I expect that the Giants will not match that offer. Two reasons for this: It's too much to pay for a #7 hitter (which is what he'd be -- he's not a leadoff guy) and they have high hopes for a Brown/Blanco leadoff platoon in 2013 -- Gary is coming fast and will be up next month. SabeySabes may "kick the tires" on bringing Torres back on a one year deal as well. Bottom line: Pagan won't be a Giant next year.

    The batting order: I'm going to steal an idea from Bruce Jenkins here (as he mentioned yesterday with Mary Lurie) --Panda is the best pure hitter on the team and needs to hit third. Buster has to bat fourth. Given those two things, I'd hit Mekly second and Pence fifth. A solid Belt at six, followed by two of the four MIF (Arias, Craw, Scoots, Riot) and you have your order. Crawford will get 75% of the work at SS, but expect to see Scoots in there vs. a tough lefty. Arias will replace Panda late innings as he fully heals the hammy. Riot will get 2/3 of the starts at second with Scoots filling in there as well.

    That leaves one problem: leadoff. Pagan just isn't a leadoff guy, but we may be able to squeeze by with him there if 2-6 are hitting well. Belts resurgence really stretches the lineup. Obvioulsy, if Angel goes on another streak, the Giants could pile up a lot of wins. It'll be fun to see Brown there next year.

    Lastly, I expect the ownership to expand payroll to the $135-140MM range next year. I also expect the doggers to exceed that. Overall, I agree that the org is in the best situation it's ever been in during my lifetime; we should contend every year and that's all we can ask of owership.

    Injuries being equal, we should take this division by five games. I think the DBacks will overtake the doggies, as LA just doesn't hit well enough.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      I disagree, if Cabrera's negotiations does fall apart, they need to get Pence signed up long-term, and even if they sign Melky, I still think they need to sign Pence long-term. Just gave up too much, I think, to not do that.

      Plus, both are so young relatively, that signing them to long-term deals would solidify the lineup long-term, to go with the great pitching.

      Interesting point about Brown. I was going to mention that the Giants were giving hints that they were bringing up Brown, maybe, in September, probably give him the Ford PR role. Thanks for pointing him out.

      Interesting idea of having Blanco and Brown share the CF starting role. Unless he excels hugely in spring training, I don't see the Giants bringing up Brown, not with his struggles in AA this season. I think the more likely move is to have Blanco start, with maybe Peguero to push him, or a free agent OF (Torres would certainly be an option). I think the Giants would rather let Brown show off his skills in AAA in spring, and if Blanco is not doing it by mid-season, then if Brown is doing well, he would be brought up at that point.

      According to baseball old-timers, best hitter should be third, but sabermetric studies have come to the conclusion that there are just too many two-out situations to put your best hitter third in the lineup. Generally your 4th or 5th best hitters could go there, ideally you want your best hitters in the 2, 4, 5 spots, plus also your best OBP who is not batting 4th, bats leadoff.

      The Giants great problem is that both Sandoval and Posey are clean-up hitter types. And Pence could be the clean-up hitter on most teams, but not really with the Giants.

      That said, I still like Sandoval batting third because he gets on base a lot, extending the first inning to Posey and Pence and maybe Belt. He would create a lot of scoring opportunities for the guys behind him while driving in guys ahead of him.

      And to my point (somewhere), the Giants have a great problem with where to put all these good hitters, so batting Sandoval third is OK, you want to bat him somewhere in the middle.

      Pagan isn't a leadoff guy, but he gets on base enough that he's not a total liability there ahead of the guys we got behind him. Though, now thinking about it, maybe the Giants should bat Cabrera leadoff, then Scutaro, Sandoval, Posey, Pence, Belt, Pagan, Crawford, that's not too bad either.

      Yes, it will be fun to see Brown leading off ahead of Sandoval, Posey, Pence in the future (and hopefully Cabrera in there somewhere too).

      And yes, the payroll will have to go up some to sign up everyone. I'm not too worried about the Dodgers spending a lot, history has shown that teams can't really buy World Series titles. As long as they spend it on hitters, I would be happy, as it is pitching that gets you World Series titles more often than when you build based on hitters.

      I hope you are right about taking the division by five games. I fear a tight battle to the end.



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