Sunday, December 23, 2012

Giants Latest to Pick up Rosario: Last?

As reported a few days ago by the Chronicle and SFGiants.com, the Giants picked up Sandy Rosario via waivers, after a successive of waiver claims - plus a trade in the middle by the A's and subsequent loss back to Boston, but not before shipping Graham Godfrey over the Red Sox for nothing - left Rosario with five team changes in this off-season alone.  He has not done much in the majors, in fact, stunk, but had great minor league stats.  Will the Giants be his final team of this off-season?

ogc thoughts

I think so, at least for much of spring training, as I have to think that he is out of options and must either make the team or be put throught waivers again.  I view this as another one of the Giants reclamation projects akin to their pickup of Santiago Casilla, not that he'll necessarily be as good (and who knows, he could be better, look at his minor league record).  A hard thrower who has had a ton of control problems in recent years in the majors, showing a major case of jitters perhaps, as he has had a very good career of controlling his walks in the minors.  But not only that, but he couldn't strike out many in the majors either.  Still, very limited usage in the majors, so who knows what he might do if given some time to calm down and pitch.

He had a bit of a breakout season in 2012 in AAA, 1.04 ERA in 25 appearances with 16 saves, 26.0 IP with only 20 hits and 2 walks, striking out 24 for a 0.7 BB/9, 8.3 K/9, and 12.0 K/BB ratio, showing the excellent control he has had most of his career, in fact, a career high by almost double in K/BB ratio.  That is Romo territory at the major league level.

Nice pickup, overall.  He's a strikeout machine in the minors, exhibit a lot of control, really, most of his career, his major problem has been giving up too many hits, in spite of all the strikeouts.  He would be really good if he can do three things with the Giants:  one, avoid the hits, the BABIP on him has been incredible in the minors, but that could just be very very bad BABIP luck because as a reliever, he doesn't get a lot of IP, two, bring his strikeout ability to the majors, where it has been sorely missing, and three, control the walks, and he does have those last two on his minor league resume, he just needs to bring that consistently to the majors.  And the Giants have had a pretty good record in the Sabean era with pickups, except for the dark years of rebuilding and losing.

But he will be 27 YO for the next season, so he does not have much more time to figure things out.  Hopefully the Giants pitching doctors, particularly Dick Tidrow, will find the cure for what ails Sandy.

He takes a spot on the 40 man roster, leaving the Giants at 38.

In addition, the Giants added Cole Gillespie, signing him to a minor league contract, which is just going to confuse me even more as we still have Conor Gillaspie in our farm system.  I have occasionally caught myself confusing the two of them for each other when reading about prospects.  :^)

Conor is most probably gone by opening day as I believe he is finally out of options and will have to be put through waivers once the Giants decide that he is not going to make the 25 man roster.  He has mainly played 3B, so he will need to show some versatility in spring that he can play other positions, else he's probably better off with an American League team that can DH him regularly.

I can see Minnesota being into him, they took Buscher off our hands a while back and gave him a lot of playing time despite hitting that was not that good at 3B (wasn't really good even for SS), though I don't know what their 3B situation is right now.  But like I noted, DH is probably a good spot for him.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Your 2013 Giants: Casilla Signed for 3 Years, $15M

Avoiding arbitration, the Giants signed du jour closer Santiago Casilla to a 3 years, $15M contract, which has a vesting option for the fourth year, which is currently a team option with $1M buyout (Baggarly, Schulman, Pavlovic, Haft).  It is still pending a physical, but those are generally a legal formality.

This sews up his last arbitration year plus two free agent years and controls a third year as well.   This also covers returning the last important piece of the bullpen, as now Romo, Affeldt, Lopez, Casilla, are signed and Kontos and Mijares are controlled, leaving a spot open for competition, as Mota is not expected back (nor was he that important either).  Also, Shane Loux was resigned recently as well.

ogc thoughts

Another dotted i and crossed t.  The bullpen is now pretty set (not that it wasn't before, as the Giants did tender a contract) with only one spot open.   With Hembree, Otero, Hacker, Loux, Machi, and Runzler still around, I assume the Giants are keeping that last position open for competition, as they usually do when they have a number of prospects on the cusp of reaching the majors.  That is why I think they most likely will keep LF open as well.  Of course, if a great option for either becomes available for a great low price pre-spring training, things could change, but for now, competition appears likely.

I like the deal, even though it covers ages 32 to 34 and could include 35.   Relievers are generally reliable into their mid-30's.  The concern is that Casilla has had injury problems in the past and includes his blister problem in 2012, when he was pushed to 73 appearances, a giant leap in usage over his previous years of around 50 games and 50 IP, but his usage was more Roogy in that he only pitched 63.1 IP.  

Casilla has been an integral part of the Giants bullpen since he joined the Giants.  He turned his career around when he came up with a devastating spike curve that complemented his mid-90's fastball, something the A's apparently was not aware of when they let him go (one would think that he could not have added such a great pitch so quickly once the Giants signed him, but I'm not sure of the timing of this addition).  That led to his 2.22 ERA in three seasons with the Giants and two World Champion rings.

I think the Giants are going to go with a closer du jour usage pattern during 2013 in order to save Romo's arm, which has always been iffy because of his slider.  That fits with Casilla's problems with his blister when he became full-time closer last season.  Spread the duty around - including Affeldt and Lopez - so that if one part goes down, there are the others to keep it going.  Could be the first successful bullpen by committee over a full season if they can pull it off.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Your 2010 Decade Giants: Choices

Choices.

In baseball, there are a multitude of choices being made every season and off-season, choices as to how the team will proceed into the future.  From reading, I get the sense that there is a portion of the Giants fanbase who view the 2012 off-season much like the 2010 off-season:  full of mistakes and treading water.   I disagree.

Giants 2012 Offseason and  2010 Offseason

The Giants, while having a rabid fanbase that's been setting attendance records regularly at our gorgeous park, is still limited in what they can spend on player payroll.   They cannot keep up with the Jones (or Guggleheim's or Steinbrenner's).  So while it might have been nice to add a Josh Hamilton or other high priced player to the payroll, there is the opportunity cost involved with such a move, which is that there is less money for the Giants to sign up our young players into the future.

That was not understood in off-season's past, it was not understood this off-season.  Getting a Hamilton or similarly salaried player would have meant that the Giants payroll would have went much above where they were targeting, which means lowering spending in future seasons to balance things out (because ultimately it is still a business and need to make money).

That would impact the Giants ability to sign up Lincecum, Posey, or Sandoval, further into the future, forcing them to let go of some their core homegrown players at some point, and would affect their ability to sign up Pence long-term as well.  It also puts the team at risk too, for if Hamilton goes off the wagon or be like most 31 YO players, start declining in production at a great rate, and we'll be out the money and still have to replace his production (think of it as having 2 to 3 Benitez type contracts on the roster).

It was not the Giants choices, ultimately, that decided their fate in the 2011 season, in any case, it was the silly, unthoughtful, unethical, uncalled for choice by a Marlin's borderline roster player, who knew he didn't have a good chance of scoring on that flyball, but decided that his best choice was to become a human missile and heat seek Buster Posey and blast him to kingdom come.  That he was surprised that a human being would crumple from such an impact, was the biggest surprise, what did he think was the worse case scenario?  A hangnail?  I have no doubt that had Posey been around, we would have made the playoffs and there would have been no reason for fans to think that status quo was bad for the 2011 season and therefore bad for the 2013 season.

I think the two offseasons cannot simply be dismissed as status quo.   Not when you have a number of young players who can and should improve in the following seasons.  Not when the lineups are set up to be good enough to win over 90 games with the pitching and fielding that we have, leading to great defense.  For that is the goal, to win at least 90 games, which historically gets you into the playoffs and should win you a division title, and if that is status quo, then give me status quo.  And as good as the chemistry is and was, it was the performances that won them the title.

KC and the Giants, and how Choices Connect Them

A recent column by a Yahoo columnist surmised that the Royals were trying to be like the Giants, and find winners who will create a clubhouse full of harmony and camaraderie, which leads gold and riches and championships.  Ignoring, of course, that it was pitching, pitching, and more pitching that won the championship for the Giants.

That got me thinking about the Royals choices.  I realized that the Royals could have been in the Giants shoes (or at least close to the same fit), had they had made different choices.

In 2006, the Royals had the first pick of the draft.  FIRST PICK.  Can pick anybody and nobody could stop them.  They selected Luke Hochevar.  He has barely been a back of rotation starter in the majors.  They obviously was sold a bill of goods by Scott Boras there.  There were numerous better picks just immediately afterward.  Longoria.  Kershaow.  Of course, Big Time Jimmy Tim.  Max Scherzer.  Ian Kennedy.  Even Brandon Morrow or Joba Chamberlain would have been much better picks.

Imagine how different things would have been had they chosen Lincecum.  Who knows who the Giants would have selected instead.  Most had them picking up Daniel Bard, ironically, who is making a name for himself as a reliever, when most teams were worried enough about Lincecum that he would just be a reliever.  I had been hoping for Kyle Drybeck because I didn't think anyone better would make it to us, but then one mock draft had Lincecum falling to us, and lo and behold, we got him.

In 2007, the Royals had the second pick of the draft.  Moustakas has not been bad but he hasn't been good either.  Matt Weiters went a few picks later (maybe the Hochevar signing didn't impress them enough).  Of course, our Madison Bumgarner.  Jason Heyward, but he don't count because the Braves already had him in their hip pocket because he played all the teams, telling them that he's going to college, where his college professor parents want him to be.  Meanwhile, the Braves scout who has been a buddy of the family for 5-6 years win the kudos of the front office organization for that coup.

And in the second round, there was also Jordan Zimmerman and the player to be renamed later, Giancarlo "Mike" Stanton (I guess he hated being mistaken for that relief pitcher who once was a Giant), though by that point, picks are more like lottery tickets than picks make with great foresight, so can't really blame KC for missing out on them, but at the same time, they were available.

The Giants were pretty much out of luck if they did not have Bumgarner around to select, among the players similarly available to them.

In 2008, they had the third pick and selected Eric Hosmer.  There is still hope out for him, and who knows what he could do, but so far, not so much.  Of course, the Giants picked Buster Posey a couple of picks later.  Brett Lawrie, Ike Davis, and Wade Miley were other good picks later who look to have good careers, plus Aaron Crow and Gordon Beckham, both of whom have had up and downs, Crow is a reliever (though good) and Beckham after a great start, has appeared to have lost it.

The Giants in that draft was associated most with Justin Smoak, that I can recall.  Many Giants fans were so enamored with him that they were angry about Posey being selected and openly said that Sabean made a mistake.  Clearly, history has shown that Posey indeed was the correct choice.

Alternative Universe Scenario

All in all, life could have been much different for KC and SF.  By 2010, the Royals could have had Lincecum, Bumgarner and Posey on their major league club.  In 2011, Posey, Gordon, and Butler would have been a nice trio hitting in the middle of the lineup, plus Melky Cabrera, Jeff Francoeur, and Eric Hosmer.   That would have been a pretty stout offense with Posey in the clean-up spot.    Meanwhile, with a rotation of Lincecum, Greinke, Bumgarner, Chen, Paulino, they would have been pretty good, assuming that with this configuration, the cheapskate ownership would have ponied up to sign Greinke longer term at that point.

Of course, that is assuming KC would have gotten the same out of them as the Giants did.  Remember, Bumgarner was struggling to figure things out when Tidrow stepped in and helped correct his mechanics.  And Lincecum, who knows if KC might have tried to muck with his mechanics and try to change him.  Or believed the hype and made him a reliever.   Crow was a starter and they made him a reliever and he was the #9 draft pick overall (I wonder if he regrets not signing with the Nationals in 2008?).  I can't imagine Posey being any different, however.

For SF, things would probably be the exact opposite, almost.  Without the trio of Lincecum, Bumgarner, Posey, the Giants of 2010 to 2012 would probably be best known for putting "Cained" into the lexicon, as Matt continued to lose despite pitching well, and perhaps would have left already via free agency or trade, another "if only" figure in the SF Giants history, up there with Jack Clark.   The team would have been struggling because the prospects they probably would have ended up with instead would not have collective produce what any of these three produced individually.  And Sabean would have been rightfully fired during this period.

Luck, Schmuck

That is why many Giants fans still view the Giants and Sabean as lucky.  Other teams could have and should have drafted them before Sabean did.  Therefore, Sabean was lucky and is so terrible that he should have been fired years ago.

These people seem to never follow the logic of their assumptions out in full, to my view.  If having a player fall to you is luck, then the Yankees were lucky that Jeter fell to them when Sabean (yes, our GM in his former job) jumped on him when the opportunity to draft him came up.  Heck, the Angels were lucky that Trout fell to them late in the first round, as 20 other teams passed on him (and a couple of teams twice!).  In fact, you can then make the case that any team in history who selected after the first overall pick was lucky, because that first overall pick could have chosen that particular player instead and your GM would not have been so lucky to get him.  That is what the logical extension of that assumption made by people thinking that Sabean was lucky.

The funny thing, as the KC example showed, it was not just Sabean who was "lucky".   The Royal's GM could have been as "lucky" as I covered above.   In fact, the Ray's, Oriole's, and Pirate's GMs could have been as lucky too, as they also picked in front of the Giants in those three key pivotal drafts.  Yet, none of them were "lucky", it was Sabean who was "lucky" (though the Rays obviously love Longoria still).

There is luck, and there is preparation enabling you to jump on it when the opportunity and the fates decides.   Nine teams passed on Lincecum and Bumgarner, obviously thinking that their pick was the better pick.  Posey was considered strongly for the first pick, but none of the teams between the Rays and Giants considered him, according to the sources passing notes under the table to expert draft analysts, they had their minds made up.

The Giants could have gone with the status quo.  Oh, Lincecum's body won't hold up, and that wacky mechanics!  Oy!  Bumgarner was viewed to go later in the round due to his cross-body throwing that indicates future injury problems.  And Heyward, who looks like McCovey hitting, was a natural or any one of the hitters who were available then and deemed worthy of a 10th pick.  What!?!  Another pitcher?  Posey?  No, we need a HITTER like Smoak, Posey was only expected to be a gold glove catcher who hit OK, for a catcher, not OK for any position on the field.  He'll never reach 20 homers in a season, even at his peak, he was only expected to reach the mid-teens in terms of potential.

The fact of the matter is that after all the hemming and hawing, and all the rationalizations against him, it was Sabean who OKed the selection of all of these players.  Tidrow, Barr and the scouts did make great contributions in finding these players, but really, that's true of any organization, the manager does not do everything.  It is the manager who finds the talented people, hire them, and put them into position to make himself look good, ultimately.  It is the sum of the decisions he makes along the way, whether he actually made them himself or determined that his lieutenants were good enough to make the calls themselves, that adds up to what the end product is.

The end product is two World Championships in three seasons.  He was so "lucky" that his Giants were the first NL team to do that since the 1975-76 Reds won them in two consecutive seasons and only three NL teams have done that since the Giants moved to SF:  the Dodgers also won two in three, in 1963 and 1965.  Including AL teams, that adds five more teams in the 54 years since the Giants move to SF:  Yankees 1961-62, Oakland 1972-74 (three in a row), Yankees 1977-78, Blue Jays 1992-93, Yankees 1996-2000 (four in five).

So were all those teams lucky too?  If so, why are we bothering to even follow baseball, since championships are determined by mostly luck?

I prefer to give credit to the people who make the decisions.  The GM who selected the players.  The manager who put them in place to succeed.  The hitters who decided to swing at the pitch and got the big hit, the pitchers who decided to throw the strike that got the outs, the fielders who made the great play to get the out.  In the moment, real time.

No DIPS random luck to muck up the analysis, sure, there is luck in everything if you really want to push it, but I prefer to honor the good work made by the people who make the decisions, the ones who when given the opportunity, made the best of their chances, of their choices.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Your 2013 Giants: Torres Returns Home for $2M, One Year

Reports on Torres returning:  Schulman was first, Pavlovic, Haft.  One year contract for $2M.  Snippet from Schulman:
Instead, manager Bruce Bochy said Thursday, Blanco and the switch-hitting Torres will compete for playing time in left field. Bochy said it will not necessarily be a left-right platoon, even though Torres hit much better against left-handers for the Mets in 2012.
The Giants looked into more seasoned right-handed-hitting outfielders such as Cody Ross, Reed Johnson and Scott Hairston, but they either were not willing to take a part-timer's salary or not what the Giants wanted defensively.
Torres, who turns 35 next month, is attractive because he can play all three outfield positions, including center if Pagan needs a day off or gets hurt.
Giants executive Bobby Evans said the team is not necessarily done shopping, as Sabean wants to keep looking for ways to improve the club and add depth. That includes the bullpen, which could gain former A's and Cubs right-hander Chad Gaudin, whom the Giants signed to a minor-league contract with a spring-training invitation. Gaudin turns 30 in March. He can start or relieve and could fill the Guillermo Mota swingman role.
Another interesting datapoint is that the Giants payroll is projected to reach $145M for the 2013 season, about $15M more than last season, as the team pushed to keep the team mostly together. 

Plus a good quote from Baer about the Giants strategy:

"Our strategy is just different, developing guys and bringing them through the system and sprinkling in free agents and trades when it makes sense," Giants President Larry Baer said Thursday. "We've done free agents before, but we're trying to do more of a homegrown thing."
Baer, when asked about another major acquisition this winter, said, "Anything is possible," but made it clear the Giants would not do so in reaction to the Dodgers.

"You can't let what any other team does alter your strategy. That would be a mistake," Baer said. "If we're going to look at the Dodgers spending all this money and say we're going to be free-agent-centric, we don't think that would be smart."
Andres was his usual bubbly self:
"I cannot stop laughing," Torres said, articulating his joy. "It's such a great feeling."
"I just want to be there," he said. "[Manager Bruce] Bochy knows that I'm going to be ready to play. They know what I'm about."


Torres, who became a free agent when the Mets declined to tender him a contract on Nov. 30, drew interest from a handful of teams.

"No disrespect to them, but I told my agents that I wanted to play for the Giants," said Torres, whose deal is worth a reported $2 million. "My heart was there. The Giants were the team that gave me an opportunity."
Pavlovic has a nice quote from Evans and thoughts on Belt:
President of baseball operations Bobby Evans said at the winter meetings that the Giants were hopeful to give some younger players a long look, so this could also open the door for the likes of Francisco Peguero or Roger Kieschnick to contribute at some point. We’re talking about a player that’s going to hit seventh or eighth in the lineup, so the Giants can afford to mix and match a little. I do also suspect that — despite what they’re saying now — the Giants will give Brandon Belt some time in left field next spring. If he turns into a consistent hitter, they’ll need to find a way to keep him in there on days when Buster Posey needs to play first base.
ogc thoughts
Welcome back, Mr. Torres!  At $2M and one year, he could make a good platoon with Blanco, as he hit well vs. LHP in 2012, though currently that is not the scenario the Giants are looking at.  Instead, as they have in seasons past, they have made an effort to leave at least one spot open for some of the young prospects to compete for playing time.  With much of the lineup looking set, LF look to be that position in 2013, though apparently the Giants have not shut the door quite yet on finding a Huff-like deal, like the one we got him on in January 2010 (my speculation on this, given how high payroll is already). 

As I have been suspecting in posts previously, Peguero and Kieschnick will get a chance to compete for playing time in the Giants outfield, at minimum as one of the bench players.  Given the grooming of Noonan for utility duty, I would not be surprised to see him playing LF during the spring, Arias too, as many people will be battling for probably 2-4 bench spots. 

And if there is no clear starter in LF, that would open up four spots for competition, 2-3 utility OF or perhaps a third utility MI.  I am assuming that Theriot will be resigned - he must be looking for a better team for starting playing time, else why hasn't he signed yet given his interest in returning and the Giants interest in signing him, but if he don't got a spot yet, have to think he'll be baaack, with the other two MIs being Arias and Noonan, should the Giants go there, as Blanco and Torres could share LF, Peguero or Kieschnick could be the third utility OF or since Belt can and should be playing some LF, they could go with Noonan instead.

For Belt will clearly be in the mix as well.  Posey being used at 1B in conjunction with giving Hanchez a good number of starts to develop him (as well as rest Posey), would obviously push Belt out of the starting lineup if he didn't play LF during those games.  Belt had a nice season, which is amazing given his struggles with avoiding the strikeout and with hitting homers, so I'm really looking forward to him putting together the lessons from the 2012 season with his latent power, and give us an even nicer season in 2013.  That would go a long way towards a repeat Division title.  And so I don't see Belt sitting down as much in 2013 as he did in 2012, and that means starting him in LF when Posey moves to 1B, instead of resting, when Hanchez starts at C. 

I assume Hanchez will again be the personal catcher with Zito again, plus take on Lincecum as well.  I was thinking about how much media questioning Posey had to put up with about him having to catch those pitchers in the playoffs, when I realized that perhaps Bochy was playing mind games with Buster.   He could have more forcefully let the media know in no uncertain terms how much he backs up his catcher, but maybe he did that in private so that the media questioning would put a fire under Posey to perform even better than he had before.  And looking at the World Series, if so, good plan.

Anyway, very happy that Torres is back, he's a good egg and hard worker, a good Giants.  Hope he finds again some of what he found in 2010, that would really give our team a boost that might put our offense over the edge and really kick butts regularly in 2013.  Even platooning with Blanco might do that, both are good at their respective platoon positions.  And both are excellent on defense, so I wonder if Pagan might find himself sitting sometimes late in the season, ostenibly for extra rest for the playoff contention, but also because Torres plays stellar defense in CF.

Friday, December 07, 2012

2013 Rule 5 Draft: Giants Add 1, Lose 1

The Rule 5 Draft was held the other day, BA has a nice list of all the players taken at their website.

The Giants lost one player in the AAA Phase, Round 2, RHP Cameron Lamb.  Here is what BA said about him:
Aussie has yet to pitch in full-season ball, but coming off solid season in Northwest Lge
But in the AAA Phase, Round 1, the Giants selected RHP Scott Shuman from the Rays. Here is what BA had to say about him:
Pitches at 93-95 mph with power slider. Tough look for RHB (36 SO% at Double-A)
ogc thoughts

Not sure why the Astros took Lamb.  He's 23 YO and hasn't even pitched for a full-season team yet.  And in the Short Season Northwest League, he was hardly dominating with 6.5 K/9, though nice control, with only 2.4 BB/9.  Good luck to him.

Shuman look very interesting.  His 2011-2012 seasons was not anything to look at, his K/9 was great 14-15 K/9 but his BB/9 was horrid, 10-12 BB/9.  He is 24 (25 next year March) and just pitched in AA.  As BA noted, mid-90 power with power slider and is a bit of a Roogy. But, ugh, that walk rate!

This pick, I think, shows the influence of John Barr.  Since we got him, the Giants started to take more fliers on prospects who once was a big talent but for whatever reasons, lost a bit of their shine and fell a bit or a lot.  Shuman was ranked the Rays #24 prospect after his 2010 season.

His 2010 season was what was so interesting.  Age 22 so old for A-ball, but he had a 3.01 ERA, 13.9 K/9 and 4.8 BB/9, high but doable when you strikeout nearly 3 times as many.   And he only gave up 50 hits in 71.2 IP, plus only 5 HR (a trait he kept on his way up the ladder, low HR/9).

That reminded me of another 22 YO (though LHP so that is special) with mid-90 velocity who did well in A-ball:  Jonathan Sanchez.  He was a starter but in 125.2 IP, had 8.7 H/9, 0.6 HR/9, 2.8 BB/9, and 11.9 K/9. It was the K/9 that was very interesting.  Walks could be worked on, Matt Cain used to be a wild thrower with us in the minors, it is amazing to see him control his pitches so well now compared to then.

Not that he'll necessarily be like Dirty, but he showed some potential in A-ball before getting lost the past two seasons.  Hopefully Tidrow, our pitching doctor, will prescribe something good for him and get him back on the prospect path.  And if not, no big loss, we only paid $50K to get him, and if the other team takes him back, we get $25K back, so at worse it costs us $25K to take a look at him and kick his tires.  Tidrow loves power arms like this, who knows what might happen?

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Risk Mitigation: Giants Style

There is a good quote of Bobby Evans by Chris Haft on mlb.com/sfgiants.com:
 "The work's never done. There are too many ways to try to find ways to protect your team over a long season." -- Evans
ogc thoughts

That has been one of the things I've been harping on the past few years about Sabean and the Giants, about how they practice risk mitigation.  In Sabean's interviews, you would hear the terms "flexibility" or "versatility" but Evans' quote comes closest to what I've been saying, about finding "ways to protect your team over a long season."  That is risk mitigation.

The signings of Uribe and DeRosa and, heck, back to the trade for Winn, represents the first strong signs of doing that, during that period.  After all the issues with Alfonzo, Durham, Benitez, the Giants have focused more of their free agent signings on the lower tiers on risk mitigation, that is, the flexibility to not have a season go to pot from a starter going down.

Of course, there is really nothing you can do if one of your star hitters like Posey or Sandoval, go down.  But for the rest of the team, if you have a good infield utility player and one good outfield utility player, your team can stay afloat in the pennant race should somebody either go down or just is not performing on the field, like most teams run into with prospects.

DeRosa was the ultimate version of that, but I'll start with Winn first since he was one of those first flexible players.  He was and is a tweener, not really good enough defensively in CF but not really good enough offensively on the corners, but basically an average player no matter which OF position you put him at.  So, depending on who is hitting and who is not hitting or not available, Winn was able to play all three OF positions adequately to good, as well as hit adequately.  Roberts was a little like that too, only he was never healthy long enough to do that job for us.

DeRosa was never healthy enough, but he was the ultimate in utility when we got him.  He was really a platoon hitter, killed LHP, but did OK vs. RHP, good enough to play almost regularly, nearly 150 games per season.  However, he was great defensively at many positions, 2B, 3B, LF, RF, and could play SS in a pinch (started out as a pro there) and could play 1B probably OK as well.  He would have been great for us if he had only gone to the expert to get his wrist fixed instead of being lazy and going to the local doctor, who screwed it up.

Last season, Theriot and Arias helped keep things on an even keel while Franchez was out and Sandoval was DLed, while Blanco did likewise in the OF, doing OK enough while starting.  On the previous World Champion team, Uribe and Torres did it for the Giants, even Renteria too, though he was originally hired to be the starting SS but was just injured all the time.

They did the same in the bullpen too.  Many Giants fans groaned over the signing of both Lopez and Affedlt to large (for bullpen) contracts prior to the 2012 season.  But they proved to be good backup once Wilson came up lame.  I didn't see any of these Naysayers apologizing when Affeldt flew through the 2012 playoffs with 10.1 IP, giving only 5 hits and 3 walks, striking out 10 and allowing zero runs.  Lopez wasn't used as much, but he was helpful too, 3.0 IP, giving up 0 hits and 2 walks, striking out 4 and allowing no runs too.  Given that he only pitched in the two key series against Cincinnati and St. Louis (wasn't used in World Series), where a run could have tipped the series to the other side, that was critical pitching.  He helped win two of the games in the Reds series, and three of the games in the St. Louis series.

And both served as closers during the regular season as well.  In fact, who didn't serve?  Six different players recorded saves in 2012:  Casilla (25), Romo (14), Lopez (7), Affeldt (3), even Hensley (3), plus Wilson (1).    Pitchers were swapping in and out, pitching setup, pitching closer.  Also the middle relievers got to pitch setup as well.

And who is the ace of the rotation?  The season started out with Lincecum taking the pole position.  Cain got the home opener.  Bumgarner ended up opening the second half of the season after the All-Star game.   Cain got the first game of the NLDS.  Bumgarner got the first game of the NLCS.  And Zito got the World Series first start.  And while Vogelsong didn't get one of these ace first starts, he pitched like the ace of the playoffs, coming in and shutting down the opposition when the Giants were at the brink of losing.  He had only a 1.09 ERA in 4 starts, 24.2 IP, with 16 hits and 10 walks, striking out 21 and allowing only 3 runs.

And don't forget, Vogelsong was the guy who came up in 2011 and not only held the fort in Zito's absence, but proved to be ace-like in performance.  They also had Petit in 2012 and Hacker in 2010 and 2011 did well for us in AAA.  He just resigned with us, at age 30.  The Giants add these guys to hang around in the minors, just in case they were needed.

Blanco, Arias, Loux, Machi, Petit and Vogelsong started the season off in AAA, waiting for the call to the major leagues, insurance players that the Giants stashed in AAA, just in case a starter goes down.  That is risk mitigation.  And where would we have been if we did not have Theriot, who hit very well after returning from the DL, around .340 OBP, in the two spot, until Scutaro came over, capable of playing 2B and SS, and manning 3B until Sandoval returned, then took over the starting 2B spot and never let go.

Risk mitigation, as the Giants and Sabean has done it, is by having versatile utility players who were comfortable serving many different roles on the team, as the need arose.  Need a starting 2B?  Bam!  Theriot slotted in, and did well there until Scutaro was acquired and held the job.  Need a starting 3B?  Bam!  Arias started there, then Scutaro later.  Need a closer?  Bam!  Casilla, then closer by committee (Romo, Lopez, Affeldt), then Romo in the playoffs.  The Giants have been playing the risk mitigation game well over the past four seasons.

2013 Giants Risk Mitigation

Bringing back the whole team, also, the same players look to fill the risk mitigation roles.  Blanco looks like the LF right now, but should a Huff-like deal open up in LF just before spring training starts, don't be surprised if the Giants jump on a nice RH bat to platoon with Blanco or even start in LF.  And Torres is currently on the market.  Francisco Peguero also looks like he could fill the Blanco role in 2013, he plays all three OF positions, looks like he can hit anywhere (like Pablo), has great speed and defense, and even has a RH bat.

The scuttlebutt is that Ryan Theriot is interested in returning and the Giants are interested in him returning as well.  Meanwhile, we still have Joaquin Arias sitting around, ready to fill in, and Nick Noonan has been prepared the last few years for such a role, having started at both 2B and SS in his climb up the farm system.  He also played some 3B as well and probably could handle 1B in a pinch if necessary.

Of course, the bullpen is pretty set, with Romo, Affeldt, Lopez, Casilla, Kontos, and Mijares.  We have the same closer by committee set up for 2013, as the Giants are said to be looking to manage Romo's arm to survive the season and be ready for the playoffs.  The key here was the signing of Affeldt to another contract.

The Giants generally likes to let one position be open for competition, so that 7th spot could be where the compete is in 2013, though rumors has it that they were in on Grilli until he chose to return to the Pirates for two years, since nobody would go three years on him.  He has had a Vogelsong-like resurrection, though he was never as buried or unused as Vogie.  Still, if they were looking hard at Grilli, they might still pick up someone along the way and make Mijares' position the competition spot.  Heath Hembree looks like he will be competing for a spot in the bullpen, and as our future closer du jour, if he should make the team, he could be seeing duty from the middle to set-up to closing, depending on how well he does.

And AAA will be full of potential starter replacements.  Hacker has signed to return.  In addition, Eric Surkamp should be healthy and starting in AAA.  In addition, both Chris Heston and Mike Kickham look like they earned a promotion to AAA with their great pitching in AA in 2012.  So there is a whole rotation full of starters who could get the call.  And I'm not even sure whether Petit might return, he was good last season too.  And don't forget, they could also come up as relievers too.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Mission Accomplished: Giants Sign Scutaro to 3 years, $20M

The  report I can find on this right now is Pavlovic's blog post and Baggarly's blurb which reports on a Ken Rosenthal tweet..  Not too much details, a reported three years for $20M for the Giants to keep Marco Scutaro.  Also, Baggarly tweeted that the Cards never went to three years for Scutaro, but apparently was offering 2 years in the $8M per range, which led the Giants to move to guarantee the third year, giving Scutaro an extra $4M for that third year over the Cards.

ogc thoughts

Mission Accomplished:  Giants wanted to sign Affledt, Pagan, and Scutaro, and they just did.  All the deals reflect the higher salaries being paid this off-season, which is most likely related to the $15-20M boost in revenues that they get from ESPN starting next season with their shiny new contract.

Yet still, the contracts were all relatively reasonable.  Affeldt got $6M per year, and given that League had already gotten $7M per year from LA, that was a fair price.  Pagan got $10M per year, which was the upper range of what I was hoping for (I was thinking $8-9M per, Randy Winn range, if I remember right), but many people were predicting 3 years at $10M, so 4 years at that rate is not outrageous.  And he doesn't even need to duplicate his 2012 season each season to pay off on the deal.  Plus, Victorino's deal for 3 years at $39M ($13M per) make the Giants deal look great, though I would note that one thing most people neglect to mention is that Victorino has many more years of good offensive production than Pagan, and that is the difference there (for Upton, it was his age and potential improvement).  And Scutaro, I thought, should get around the $6M per year that he got in his previous contract that he signed, given inflation and two more years on him, and he probably got $6M/$7M/$7M, which is close enough for me.  As Evans joked at one point, if he can survive that slide by Holliday and still play great baseball, he's going to be fine.

I see some people upset that Gregor Blanco is now the starting LF.  These are the people who are never satisfied unless every starter on the team is some sort of star player capable of great deeds.  Most lineups have a Blanco (actually, they have worse) somewhere in their lineup, and a Crawford, if not more.  These people never look at reality, at the actual teams making up the league and seeing what it takes to build an above average lineup.  And you don't need above average players at every position to do that, you need some really good players in the top half of the lineup - like Pagan, Sandoval, Posey, Pence, even Scutaro and Belt - because most teams cannot afford to have a better lineup than that, and if they do have it better, typically that means that they scrimped on their starting or relief pitching, and then the Giants got them where they want them.

Things left to do are few.  The Giants are interested in bringing back Theriot and I loved having him around too, he is a great backup in case either MI needs a rest or, god forbid, out for some reason.  Those complaining about Blanco don't realize that the Giants is looking for a right-handed complement to Blanco in the OF - ahem, Andres Torres is a free agent - and Nady wasn't so bad last season either.  Plus Peguerao was pretty interesting last season, great defense and speed, could be a Hanchez redux.  They are probably going to look into former starters on the fringe for AAA, just in case, though they did sign Hacker the other day and Heston, Kickham, and Surkamp should be in AAA as well (where's Petit?).  They are probably going to give some vet a minor league invite to compete for the bullpen, though if they prove good to form, they are hoping that Hembree steps up and take that last spot.  And, of course, Brian Wilson is still out there, hopefully he understands why the Giants did what they did and re-join us, this is the best place for someone special like him.  Otherwise, things are looking good for a defense of their championship in the 2013 season.

Go Giants!

Monday, December 03, 2012

Giant Sign Pagan: 4 years, $40M

Reports from Baggarly, Pavlovic, and Shea.  As usual, won't be official until the physical is done, but that is generally a formality.

Baggarly claims CSNBA first call on reporting the year-by-year breakdown (Shea nor Pavlovic did not acknowledge this though):  four years, $5M bonus, $7M in 2013, $9M in 2014, $9M in 2015, and $10M in 2016.  Apparently his lack of prior full-season experience scared off some teams, leaving just the rumored Phillies and Giants making offers to Angel Pagan, and when the Phillies would not commit to a fifth year, he accepted the Giants offer (no word on any salary difference between the two teams, but the Sporting News stated that they gave the Giants a small discount).

Reportedly, there were a number of factors in this decision.  Part of the factors influencing the Giants decision to go to four years (it had been thought that the Giants would only go three years) was that CF Gary Brown was no longer considered on the fast track to reach the majors.  Another part was the Giants preference to keep the cohesion and chemistry that led the Giants to set history with winning six playoff elimination games to reach the World Series, then sweeping to win the Championship.  The Giants also wanted a full-time starting OF, as Blanco is viewed as a platoon type player.

Pavlovic warned that the "timing of this is a bit of a surprise, so we'll see if anything else comes down the pipe later tonight."

Next up:  signing Marco Scutaro.

ogc thoughts

He said he loved playing for the Giants and he ended up staying (perhaps for a little less), despite his wife warning on Twitter that this would be a business decision, so don't hate on them.  This is a good price for Pagan, one year more than I was hoping for, but this keeps a key contributor in Pagan around for 2013 and I think it allows the Giants to let Blanco, Kieschnick, and Peguero (and perhaps Brown despite the concern above) battle for an OF spot.

I would not be surprised if the Giants also sign a right-handed LF like Hairston or even Cody Ross, to compete and most probably end in a platoon with Blanco in LF.   Reportedly, the Giants are interested in Hairston, but so are a lot of other teams.  He only got $1.1M last season, but I can see him getting more than that and for multiple years given how well he has hit the past two seasons, particularly for power.  The Giants also might pay more just to get him away from an NL West team, as he has killed the team in the past, though it should be noted that he has not hit well in AT&T in his career.

He has also played CF OK defensively, so he could see some time there and in LF where he has played well defensively there.  He probably is the ideal guy to platoon with Blanco, as Ross would probably still want more money as well as more playing time.  But he grew up in Arizona, so he might not want to join the Giants - if the offers were basically even - given that he probably grew up a D-backs fan.

And the funny thing is that Pagan was viewed as the one harder to sign and yet he ended up signing first between him and Scutaro.  Most whispers have said that Scutaro is expected to end up with the Giants, whereas Pagan was reportedly pursued by many teams.

I have to think that Pagan and/or his agent knew that Sabean do not like waiting so long with uncertainty in their lineup, given how quickly this deal went down after Sabean on Friday stating how the two sides were still far apart.  He appeared to know that if he wanted to stay with the Giants, they would need to wrap it up by the Winter Meetings.  Given how quickly he signed after Sabean reported on Friday that while the Giants felt good about their negotiations with Pagan and Scutaro, they were not close and thus the Giants had made backup plans to move forward without either of them, I have to think that got Pagan to move faster to sign.   He didn't want his deal with the Giants suddenly disappearing, like LaRoche found in 2010 when his 3 year, $21M deal that he thought he was negotiating with the Giants was taken off the table once they signed Huff.

That is how one should negotiate:  be aware of everything that you want to get out of your negotiations and be sure to move quickly when you could lose a deal that you are satisfied with.  After all this, I think it is clear that Pagan did truly value playing on the Giants, as he stated frequently during the 2012 season, it was not B.S., like it was with, say, David Bell, who told Giants fans not to worry about opting out of his contract and then took a reportedly lesser contract to sign with the Phillies.  He did appear to leverage out one more year out of the Giants but that's free agency for you, with supply and demand driving the process.

Good Deal, Could be Great

I'm happy with the deal, it was a fair annual salary, and while I worry a little about the four year, I think that he'll be a fair deal over the life of the contract, as he averaged 3.4 WAR over the past three seasons and the going rate for free agents per WAR is roughly $4.5-5.0M, so the Giants are paying him at a 2.0 WAR production rate, if you are into such calculations (I'm still uneasy with such analysis, because of the uncertainty regarding defensive value metrics, but wanted to cover this angle for another perspective on the deal).

I feel pretty confident that he will produce somewhere around the .281/.334/.415/.749 batting line he has produced over the past three seasons.  That is a .317 BABIP, which he has easily beaten in three of the past four seasons.  He has also averaged 33 SB per season and a 81% SB success rate is very good, hopefully he can teach Brown a thing or two in spring training, and pass some tips to Blanco as well.

As much as people might complain about that batting line, that was actually great for a leadoff hitter in the NL in 2012:  the average batting line was .257/.319/.382/.700.  And the Giants, with roughly that batting line for 2012 (.263/.335/.424/.758) was second in the NL in OPS and clearly much higher in OPS.  They were also 5th in OBP (out of 16 teams, so in the top third).   And our hitters drove in the leadoff guy a lot, as the Giants led the NL with 120 runs from that position, and second was Arizona with 108, third Brewers with 104.

He's also OK for NL CF, where the average was .264/.332/.408/.741.  The Giants overall had a .277/.333/.423/.756 from CF, which was good for 6th in the NL in OPS and 8th in OBP, smack in the middle.  While I like looking at positional comparisons like this, I think the more important point is how well that hitter fits into your team's batting order.  And at leadoff, Pagan was great in 2012 and if he just continues his average from the prior three seasons (which was hurt by his poor season in 2011, which he feels was a fluke because he was out of shape) he should be great for us at leadoff as long as he hits at least that much, which is a lower threshold than what he hit in 2012 or 2010.

Defensively, he wasn't that great in CF, according to DRS he was a -6 for the season.  That was better than 2011 but much worse than 2010 when he was very positive.  His UZR was basically average for 2012, though, but still a sharp drop over his 2010 season while a huge improvement over his 2011.  If he just can be average defensively or just under, he'll be fine hitting what he has hit over the past three seasons.  If he can return to the defensive goodness he was before 2011, he would be a great bargain in production.  If he returns to how badly he defended in 2011, when he was admittedly out of shape, then his hitting would not cover his poor defense at all.

Overall, he's a good deal even for what he produced on average between 2010 and 2012.  Those three seasons were pretty good for a leadoff hitter, balanced by relatively poor defense.  If his 2010 and 2012 seasons is the range that he can produce going forward, that's a pretty good deal for the Giants.  If he can return to his great defense prior to 2011, that's a pretty good deal for the Giants.  As long as he's not extremely bad defensively for the Giants, he's a pretty good deal for the Giants, even if he ends up having to move to LF to make space for Brown in CF, where he has played GREAT defense there previously, RF too.

Pence and Posey

Speaking of RF, I should note that in previous Sabean interview last week, when he was asked if the Giants had discussed a long-term deal with Hunter Pence this off-season, he said "not necessarily."  I guess that they want to see more out of him in 2013 before committing to him long-term.  Or perhaps they are waiting to see how the budget looks after signing other players.

However, Sabean did say that the Giants have been talking about a long-term deal with Buster Posey and are "open to the idea."  Which is great news heading into their first arbitration session with Posey, who is a Super-Two eligible.  After recent big long-term deals with Wright and Longoria, that should set a precedence for Posey's signing.  Maybe something like $6M for 2013, $8M for 2014, $12M for 2015, $15M for 2016, and something in the $15-20M range for his free agent years, that's $41M to cover his arbitration years, then let's say, $16/$17/$18, for a 7 year contract for $92M.  Add an $8M buyout for an 8th season, or $20M salary, and that gives him a 7 year contract for $100M.

Last notes:  Lincecum is reportedly working with the trainers on a fitness plan for this off-season that will be the happy medium between his too much lost in the last off-season and his too much gained in the prior off-season.  Also, the Giants are open to signing Casilla to a multi-year extension.

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