These are the free agents:
- Pablo Sandoval
- Jake Peavy
- Michael Morse
- Sergio Romo
- Ryan Vogelsong
First, I thought I would cover my thoughts on the opening day roster.
Starting pitchers will be Bumgarner, Cain, Hudson, Lincecum, Petit in 2015. Obviously, that means that I'm passing on Peavy and perhaps Vogelsong.
Bullpen will be Casilla, Affeldt, Lopez, Strickland, Kontos, Machi, and a long reliever (Vogelsong?). Law probably joins in 2016. Obvious, that means I think Romo is moving on.
Starting position players will be Posey, Belt, Panik, 3B?, Crawford, Morse, Pagan, Pence. Obviously, that means that I'm not sure if the Giants will re-sign the Panda.
Bench will be Hanchez (I think we have Susac learning to be the starting catcher in AAA), Arias, Adrianza (I think we have Duffy perhaps prepping to be starter in AAA), Blanco and Ishikawa (I think we have Perez still working on his bat in AAA; nice to have left-handed power off the bench)
Tim Kawakami had a nice interview with Sabean (here) where they discussed a variety of topics, including what the Giants are planning with regards to their free agents. Here are some interesting points:
I don’t see our payroll spiking all that significantly, so we’ll have to be creative in how we make the decisions to keep whoever we can get under contract.One, notes that payroll won't jump much. As I'll cover below, he can't sign every one of our free agents without a huge boost in the payroll, hence his comment about being creative, as well as being proactive. Which I read as: get everyone signed before free agency starts (I believe 10 days after the the World Series end). However, he did note that he doesn't think he'll be able to sign anyone preemptively, so most probably all will become free agents and test the waters.
It’s going to take two parties and it’ll probably be a little bit more proactive than some other off-seasons, because of the lateness of playing in the World Series.
Sabean also backed off of Baer's statements to the press that the Giants have never lost anyone that they wanted to keep. He noted that every year is different, every situation is different, every player is different. In other words, "how the hell do I know?" He also noted that the Giants don't chase anyone and that the budget limits what they can do. In other words, if a big money free agent wants to sign with the Giants, they better get it done before they run out of money.
Fangraphs crowdsourced his contract to be 5 years and $80M (or $16M AAV).
I looked at some of the crowdsourced contracts from prior years. Two I would note are Swisher and Victorino, both pre-2013. The Flying Hawaiian had averaged roughly 4 WAR over prior seasons, been reasonably healthy, true, older, but OF generally get paid more, but he got 3 years at only $13 AAV. Swisher, a closer FA, since he plays 1B, had averaged nearly 4 WAR over prior seasons, again older, but he got 4 years at only $14 AAV. Also reasonably healthy, but not perfect, much like Panda.
I admit that being on the wrong side of 30 affected them, but I think that just offsets the fact that 3B, for whatever reasons, don't get paid as much as 1B or OF, on a per WAR basis. And to boot, Panda averaged a shade higher than 2.5 WAR over the past three seasons, much of it based on defense, because his offense has been sliding year by year. I understand that he might be made DH at some point, but is a player whose value is more defense than offense a good fit for such a scenario? I don't think so.
Based on the Giants initial offer of 3 years at $14M AAV, and the above, plus my analysis of prior late 20's 3B re-sign to long-term contracts (Zimmerman and Wright), I still think the Giants eventual land spot was 4-5 years, around $15-16M AAV, I believe that this has been my position since spring. So as low as 4/$60M or as high as 5/$80M. That high end actually fits in with the Crowdsourced number.
Now, looking at the crowdsourced vs. actual, the crowd has been on the low side vs. actual for the top free agents, it looks like, so that's a reason to take Shankbone's stance that he's going to get paid big, at least what they asked for early in spring training, Pence Plus.
But I still think that his agent will screw up the negotiations (and I would note strongly here, I'm not a professional negotiator, nor have I ever negotiated a deal. But I read and watched negotiations in the press). I think if negotiations go as they should normally go, teams will eventually work their way up to the numbers Shankbone is saying. It is basically like an auction, and teams will yield more and more as time passes, getting closer and closer to their best offer. That also yields the over bidding that teams do to climb over each other for the player.
But look at what his agent did in spring. That is not how a professional negotiator does it. That's how a hotshot wannabe pretender does it, especially while trying to impress his client. That's the caricature of bad negotiators in the media.
This reminds me of exactly what Rich Aurillia did. He came out asking for 4 years and $40M. Even back in those days when such contracts was not captured (I think Cots was just starting up around then, from what I remember, I was one of the first I can recall writing about how much teams had budgeted vs. what they had already contracted for), I knew that was a huge over ask, and the Giants didn't even bother to negotiate, they just said buh-bye and moved on immediately. And no team bit so he had to take a low-ball offer in Jan/Feb. That is the future I see for Sandoval, because of the way his agent acted in spring.
It kind of reminds me of that basketball player who helped destroy Nelson's plans to rebuild the Warriors, forgot his name, but he was the #2 pick and we swapped our #3 (the mormon tall guy) plus future picks to get him, but due to cap, could only sign him to a cheap 1 year contract and he forced the team to trade him because his feelings were hurt by Nelson. His 'agents' were his aunt and a guy, can't remember his connection, could be uncle or cousin, professional, but not a professional negotiator. There was an article years later about how they really screwed up negotiations for any contracts because of their inexperience and incompetence. Pablo's agent reminds me of that as well as Aurillia.
Together, I think that will combine to make negotiations toxic and that he will be like I-Rod in spring training. You want plenty of interested teams talking with you. A hard line in the sand will piss off some of the teams, and tactics like he pulled off in spring will scare off even more. Boston could get to Pence Plus if the agent can keep a core group of interested teams talking and moving deeper into the negotiations, and start a bidding war. But I don't think this agent has it in him to do this, he looked like a novice in spring and there is no way he suddenly got 100% better between then and now.
Just my thoughts and feelings, and as I noted, not a negotiator.
We of course give him the QO and of course he declines. If he's gone to Pence Plus land, godspeed and thank you for all your great service as a great Giant. But my bet is that his agent will scare off all of the teams at some point, and by the time they realize that, most teams will have spent their money on other needs, leaving Panda without a team in February. At which point, the Giants might be able to pick him up for the QO. That's the scenario I see most likely happening.
Passing on Peavy
I don't want Peavy back, it makes me nervous that the Giants have already talked with him. I know I was campaigning to get him back through much of the last two months. Obviously, I've changed my mind.
First of all, I didn't know how bad he was in the playoffs previously, and he was one of two starters (Vogie being the other) to not deliver a DOM start for us even once during the playoffs. He had one nice start and we won that game, but we won in spite of him, the BABIP gods smiled upon him in that Nats start, as while he had a 3 PQS, BABIP could have pushed it to a 2 PQS. And he got BABIP payback in the KC start.
Second of all, I still hope to resign Sandoval at some point (in February). According to BB-Ref, the budget is already to $144M ($162M last season, roughly), so there is $20-25M available. But if Morse and Vogie are signed to what I think, that's $12M, leaving only $8-13M. And if we luck out and Romo comes back for the reliever special, there's really no money for Pablo unless they really boost up the budget to around $180M to afford him. And that's all without Peavy on the payroll.
If we do sign him, he's probably getting around a 2 year, $12M AAV (per FG crowdsource). To retain all these guys, that's $192M. Per Shankbone (and I trust his research implicitly), the luxury tax is $189M. On top of that, the AAV is used for that, so both Posey and Bumgarner's contracts will count for more than what they are currently getting. So we will not be even able to retain all five players, most likely, without incurring the luxury tax. Peavy, for me, is the one to not pursue.
But I am hoping that their talk with Peavy is just initial stuff to let him know that we want to be involved and for him to keep us informed. I am hoping that Peavy is backup plan in case Vogie don't return.
So I say pass on Peavy. Some are worried about Cain, but I think the worry is like last season about Hudson, and I think both are overblown. In particular, Cain's surgery was for much less damage repair than Hudson. I think we get a pretty good if not Perfecto Cain when he returns, since I have not heard about any setbacks (infection was my main worry).
Romancing the Romo
I see the Giants offering the reliever special, 2-3 years at $5-6M AAV. He's still a good pitcher, 9.16 K/9 and 4.92 K/BB, still darn good. Plus all the advanced pitcher's metrics have him looking good, despite his hiccup of a season where he gave up a lot of homers. 2.70 SIERA and 3.40 xFIP, both in line with his career numbers for those.
While I want him back, I have to wonder if he's going to move on, since I don't recall one word discussed anywhere about re-signing him. Who knows, maybe he wants the chance to be a closer somewhere. His elbow has been cranky forever as well, so perhaps the Giants don't want to invest in that eventual situation.
However, his family are huge Dodgers fans, and he's not getting younger, age 31, plus the Dodgers are built to win now, but old already so the time to win with them seems to be now, not, say, 3 years from now, and Wilson is already there, Uribe too. If he does move on to the Dodgers, he's been a great Giant and a key to winning three championships, so many, many grateful thanks for his great performances, but I can't wish him all the best if he joins the Dodgers, sorry, it just works that way.
I expect, once LA gets a proper GM (or did they announce one and I missed it?), they will pursue and get Romo and we'll get to see one of those sick melodramas of another Giants player crying about how he's always wanted to be a Dodger his whole life. This would make me want to beat the Dodgers even more going forward. And Romo will be dead to me.
Vacillating with Vogie
Vogelsong I am OK with a one year contract, but in my plans, I have Petit and Lincecum in the backend of my rotation, and so Vogie would be competing with them for the rotation, with the loser being the long relief guy (this is my view; I would bet the Giants only make the competition between him and Petit). If he's not interested in that, thanks for being a great Giants, thanks for helping us win two championships, thanks for making a point to return to the Giants first before accepting the Dodgers' offer. He is a true Giant, through and through.
I think he loves the Giants and if we offer him a fair contract for one year, he'll take and cherish every year the Giants are willing to give to him to stay. He was quoted (saw on Twitter) as saying that he understands Sabean got other people to deal with first, he'll be waiting until they are ready to deal with him. Gotta love a guy who loves the Giants like this.
So just get Vogie signed to fight for spot with Petit (and maybe Lincecum), I think he would go for that, and with Lincecum working with his dad for the first time since 2009, I think he should be back as well. And you all know how I feel about Petit. So I think Lincecum and Petit will win the spots and that Vogie will be long-relief and a nice backup should Cain, Lincecum, or Petit run into any problems in performing the way I think they will. However, I don't know if Vogie is ready to accept this type of role when other teams probably would give him a starter's role.
I think it's either Morse or Sandoval. If I get one, I probably don't want the other, as the lineup would be pretty good and adding the other would push our payroll off kilter. My inclination would be to sign Morse to a 2 year deal, around the same amount ($6M plus incentives to get to $9M), with Blanco and Ishikawa backing up LF (and 1B for Ishi). I love how he hits (when he's on), he's not just a muscle bound power hitter, he's a pure hitter, spraying to all fields, but with the power to make the pitcher pay for making a mistake. Sure, he has poor defense, that's what Blanco is there for.
Plus, he's a great personality for the team. Nice guy, has a bromance with Pence. Perfect guy to DH in the playoffs. And did I mention he's a good hitter?
If things happens the way I think, we keep Morse and Vogie, lose Sandoval, Peavy, and Romo. I still hold out some hope that Sandoval lasts into February and signs with us, but all the scuttlebutt is that Boston will press hard to get him signed. If it is Pence Plus, that's too rich for me and I'll take the draft pick.
For 3B, I think we have an OK solution for 2015. I like what Adrianza and Duffy has shown in their short time in the MLB. I would like to see them compete with Arias for the starting 3B job. In this scenario, with a lineup of Pagan, Panik, Posey, Pence, Belt, Morse, Crawford, 3B, we can afford to experiment with 3B to see what they can produce, with Arias as an OK alternative if neither of Adrianza or Duffy can show what they have shown in the minors and brief majors.
A bullpen of Casilla, Affeldt, Lopez, Strickland, Kontos, Machi, and Vogie long relief, would be pretty good. While I view Strickland as a future closer, for 2015, I see Kontos as the replacement for Romo. Not a perfect one, but good enough given that Strickland most probably would be better than what Gutierrez did for us in 2014 and will hopefully work his way into set-up work. If Vogie does not accept, then the Giants could go with Kickham or Heston or MLB vet who accepts a minor league contract to compete for the spot.
A rotation of Bumgarner, Cain, Hudson, Lincecum, Petit has its question marks but I think that would be good enough to get us to mid-year, since we hopefully have Vogie as depth, plus hopefully one of Blackburn, Crick, or Beede will do really well in the first half to look ready for his closeup (and I still have hope for Kickham). Cain at his prime would be an ace on par with Bumgarner, giving us a nice two-headed ace duo, which is the minimum I recommended in my business plan, using the Dodger's 1960's duo of Koufax and Drysdale as a model.
Then we have wild cards that could give us a great rotation like we did in 2010 and 2012. Lincecum even when struggling these past few years, threw no-hitters, so how good could he be returning back to the mechanics his Dad taught him? And Petit has been "the man" whenever he has a permanent spot in the rotation in 2013 and 2014, his bad starts for the most part have been when he gets thrown out there at the last moment to replace a starter for one start, Hudson and Cain. When Petit was thrust into the starting rotation, in 6 starts he had 4 DOM and 1 DIS for a great 67% DOM/17% DIS. That's ace level dominance.
I think that such a roster would still be able to compete in the NL West and make the playoffs, if not win the division, barring, of course, again, if there are any big injuries. Remember, we started the first two months winning at .667 pace. Unfortunately, Pagan has been even worse than Durham (though we got what we paid for, he was injury prone before with the Met) in terms of getting injured and missing time, at least Durham made 140 games each year. However, if both Cain and Lincecum returns to normal, then we won't need that much offense (and thus Pagan) to win a lot of games. And if Petit can continue to perform, we could run away with the division. Injuries would drop us to just competitive, but still probably playoff bound.
And the Giants need to win the World Series in 2015 to silence the last of the Naysayers who say that the Giants are not a dynastic, unless they win two championships in a row. As if it was our fault that an idiot blew out Posey's leg in 2011, costing us our division lead. And a huge slate of injuries hurt the team in 2013. The Giants should be in the mix of things again in 2015, and if the starting pitchers are as good as I foresee, then they are going to have a nice long run through the playoffs again.