Friday, October 31, 2014

Your 2015 Giants: The Hot Stove Is Heating Up

Basking in the afterglow of the Giants third championship in five seasons, it would be easy to forget the reality that a number of our players on this wonderful, wonderful, team are free agents who could chose to move on.

These are the free agents:

  • Pablo Sandoval
  • Jake Peavy
  • Michael Morse
  • Sergio Romo
  • Ryan Vogelsong


ogc thoughts

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.
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.
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.

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.


Panda Payday

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.

More Morse

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?

My Scenario

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.

8 comments:

  1. They had a presser at 2PM. Pretty somber for a 3rd time championship if you ask me...

    Baggs said they made a quick strike offer:
    http://www.csnbayarea.com/giants/giants-make-sandoval-quick-strike-offer

    Any thoughts? We know the history well.

    Here's what I think: Sabean doesn't want Sando to get away, valuing the bird in the hand over the 2 in the bush. Much like when he had Kent leave for a variety of reasons (Some ownership driven) I bet he's thinking about Kent and how things went south after his core guy got displaced.

    Sabean remembers his failures more than his successes. On KNBR with Tolbert and Ratto last night he was citing 2002 and 2003 alongside the rings. That's how he rolls.

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    1. I didn't want Kent to go, mainly because we didn't have any viable replacements coming in. This is a different situation.

      We won in 2014 mostly without Belt. We should have Belt for the whole of 2015, and his production, which has been above what Sandoval has been doing in recent years, should more than cover whatever we lose offensively if we lose Sandoval. Plus, there is the production of Panik over what we got all season in 2014, lots of deadweight period there too as well. Between Belt and Panik, over what we got from 1B and 2B in 2014, we should be covered at 3B with a good defensive player who is replacement level offensively.

      I guess I'm being a bit of a hypocrite by being willing to sign Sandoval at a good contract, but not a starting pitcher, but I guess it is actually the same stance: I don't want to pay superstar prices to either Sandoval or a starting pitcher.

      If we can get Sandoval for $15M or so AAV over his contract, I think that would be fair as well as doable, especially if he can maintain his current production into his early 30's.

      But I don't think we can get a starting pitcher of ace-ilk for something in the $15M range. Pablo is not a superstar, though, either.

      He plays like one in the playoffs, the last two, but his in-season stats are horrible for a player who is making that much money. And how much longer will he last at 3B? Few 3B last into their mid-30's without having to shift over to 1B, which at this moment, we are saving for Posey apparently.

      So if we get Pablo at a fair market price, I'll be OK with a potential long-term problem contract, I love being able to keep our best and favorite players with the team. But as much as I've supported keeping him over the years, that was with a cheap contract, now it's serious money, and I don't want to give in to his agent's outrageous demands.

      Especially since I think we can replace him with one of Arias, Duffy, and Adrianza. At minimum, Arias is as good if not better than Sandoval defensively at 3B and OK offensively. That's our floor. I think Adrianza can be superlative defensively at 3B, much like Sandoval was for us in 2011 when he was fit, he could provide as much WAR just via defense as Pablo provided all together. And I think he has potential to be a hitter too. Duffy probably is good defensively there too, being a SS, and I like his bat the best of the three, though I would note again that I really like Adrianza's bat in the majors.

      There are a lot of obvious benefits to keeping Sandoval around, from Sabean's and the Giants' viewpoint. But not if he's being paid to be Babe Ruth and at best we are getting Babe Young. He has earned a big contract, but he and his agent differs on how big that should be from what the marketplace has priced much better players like Zimmerman and Wright.

      Sure, he's young at 28 YO, and normally a good player that young often gets a long-term contract of 6+ years.

      But unfortunately for him, his body is not a 28 YO svelte in shape athlete, he's a player who has fallen off the food wagon too many times and who has not respected the big money he has been paid and instead told the team to expect a fat Sandoval until he's ready for his new contract. Too bad his math was off and he didn't realize that he was telling everyone that he won't bother to get leaner until his big contract is over. Lucky for him, his agent and brother convinced him to start getting in shape in 2013 and not 2014. But even then, he had a horrible April and September, with a brilliant middle four months.

      If he could do those four months consistently over six months regularly, he would be worth the money his agent has been demanding in the press. Unfortunately for him, every year, it's another excuse, another poor overall season.

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    2. So that's why I'm stuck in-between. I think he's done well enough and probably can do well enough, for the $15M or so AAV that I've been quoting as fair for him, but not well enough to demand Pence Plus.

      I think his agent realized this at some point (he's probably been talking with a lot of teams even though the official day to talk happened only recently) and that is why he's shifted to 6 years (instead of 5), as that gives him a great chance of reaching the $100M contract he's been eyeing for Pablo.

      I haven't decided yet if that is fair or not. I'm certain he's not worth Pence Plus, though. As I noted, I like to keep fan favorites and he has done a lot for this franchise, so much like the Bonds contract, I would probably be happy and just have to hold my nose, just in case. He seems to have responded some to Posey and Pence's pressure to commit to the team, and he's been saying the right words this season. But I find myself going back and forth.

      I'll have to look at Zimmerman's and Wright's contracts, as well as more recent deals (forgot the Cards 3B deal) and see where I think Pablo fits in among them. But at this point, I would rather pass and give Adrianza the opportunity to amaze us, than to overpay a potentially Fat Panda for the next six years.

      Because a lineup starting with Pagan, Panik, Posey, Pence, Belt would be pretty awesome, plus Crawford and a LF and 3B. As I've been agitating for the past few years, if it were me, I would put Belt into LF, partly to solidify our OF, partly because I don't want him sitting too much just because Posey needs to play at 1B sometimes, partly because I think Ishikawa would be a good platoon partner with Posey at 1B, plus he would provide the stellar defense that Belt does, while Belt probably is much better defensively in LF than Ishi is. Or even resign Morse and start him at 1B, giving him rest with Posey starts, because he's a bit of a fragile player himself, and could use the extra days off and because he's actually OK defensively at 1B, though not as good as Ishi (I lean towards Ishi mainly because he's cheaper for the production, but expect the Giants to lean towards Morse because he's the better hitter).

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  2. OGC: Don't you think they need to add someone else to the rotation? Agree with letting Peavy walk, but they have a huge opportunity to upgrade there. They should do it.

    Shankbone: Agree with your thoughts on Kent. Been thinking of that as a parallel too.

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    Replies
    1. It would be nice to add someone, but I don't think the risk of a big contract is worth losing a draft pick over right now. We could be in the high teens by the time the draft comes, the Mets already dumped their pick for Cuddyer.

      Upgrading would be what some call "gilding the lily." Sure, we could get superstars at every position, but the marginal value of spending all that money to get another good player is pretty much near zero I think.

      I think we have enough now to handle getting to the playoffs and doing well once we get there. I would be OK with upgrading mid-season if necessary by trading for a FA to be (like we did with Peavy this season) and utilizing him in the playoffs.

      But Bumgarner, Cain, Hudson, and one of Lincecum, Vogelsong, Petit should be enough to give us a good chance to get into the playoffs and go deep again. As long as Bumgarner is still as good as he's been, hopefully his arm is up to the workload again.

      But I think the Giants benefited from Bumgarner being the horse that he is. When he came to the majors, he learned that pitchers in the majors did not throw as many pitches as he did in the minors and as an amateur. He cut back some so as not to tire out later in the season, but I have to think that he's been keeping up his stamina over the years and thus is not as affected by so many pitches thrown as other pitchers might.

      But, for me, I have some caution once a pitcher goes past 3,500 pitches, only a select few have been able to get past that without some downturn in performance in the following year or two from what I saw anecdotally. But Bumgarner seems to be built like Feller, Ryan and Clemens before him, cowboy/farmer strong, so while I worry, I feel pretty good that he's going to be fine.

      So with a pitcher like that leading the rotation, plus Cain, Hudson, Lincecum complementing him, I think the rotation is fine. Better than spending $20M on a pitcher like Shields or Price only to see that he can't do that well. Maybe next season once Lincecum's contract is off the books, but I don't want two potential deadweights on the rotation (I think that Lincecum can do it, but I would rather not risk having two high-paid non-performers, I think we learned some from Zito signing; maybe once we get further along in our dynasty and we need to take chances like that, but right now I like what we have for repeating).

      And I still have hopes that one of Crick, Blackburn, Blach, Mejia, might break out in 2015, Beede, Flores, Mella, Gregorio in 2015-16.

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    2. I agree with not spending/going after the big names, but I'd love to see the Giants bring in a Liriano type (Santana would be great too, but I think he'll be too expensive), AND take a flier on Brett Anderson.

      In theory I think the Giants could get away with the six you listed but each one comes with a caveat:

      MadBum just threw a TON of innings
      Cain is coming off elbow and ankle surgery (I think he'll be fine, but you never know)
      Hudson is going to be 40 and has a bad hip (not good news with his motion)
      Vogelsong is going to be 38
      Petit could/should be a fine 4th/5th starter but is such a great weapon out of the bullpen
      And then Timmy, we all want him to bounce back, but he's been a terrible starter for a few years now and counting on him feels like a big mistake.

      I think they have to try to reinforce the rotation, but with shorter term guys if possible.

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    3. Santana got a QO. Maybe Liriano got one too? The Giants won't sign anyone for whom they would lose a first round draft pick. They shouldn't, either.

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  3. I imagine Sabean wants to sign Sandoval in part so that he can get part of his offseason activity settled, and know where he is in terms of budget without having to calculate the effect of losing young players by trading them. He's the kind of guy who apparently wants to know, as much as he can, where he stands, thereby reducing the area of contingency. That means risk reduction, but not necessarily maximum gain.

    I say this because re-upping Sandoval isn't ideal in principle. If the figures that "Evan" listed on MCC are correct, Sandoval's production over the past few years has been in the thirtieth percentile of MLB third basemen with more than 600 PAs. We could surely do better by having a league average third baseman and markedly boosting production in LF and SP. I suspect that those of us fans who aren't starstruck or sentimental about charming, chubby, bat-churning Panda are looking at the situation from a perspective differently from Sabean, equally non-enchanted but far more concerned with safe resource management. I hope the greed of Sandoval's agent Vasquez thwarts Sabean, so that he and we wind up on the same side this offseason.

    ReplyDelete

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