He gets a $4M contract for 2015 (age 33 season), with $1.5M in incentives that he can earn, plus a team option for 2016 for $5.5M (also with $1.5M in incentives) or a $700K buyout. MLBTR reports that he took less years and money so that he could get more playing time playing for a contender, and he liked the idea of living in SF) .
Great acquisition by the Giants, as now we have a great backup (career .353 OBP both overall and batting leadoff) for lead-off should Pagan hit the DL again. He has averaged 22 SB per season, and 25 SB over a 162 game season. Makes great contact, over 90%, plus his K/BB ratio is a hair over 1.0, which is great, he is a hitter in the mode of Scutaro: high BA, high OBP, low SLG/ISO. That is great for both leadoff and batting second, which Aoki has mostly been doing during his MLB career.
He is kind of a reverse Blanco in that he has hit LHP better than RHP as a major leaguer. Yet he's the starter and Blanco is the backup, and I would attribute that to Blanco never figuring out how to be himself when he's leading off. He lets the pressure gets to him up there, whereas he's been a good (i.e. average) hitter batting lower in the lineup, 5, 6, 7. If he could just do what he does lower in the lineup, he'll be a starter and could get a nice longer-term contract.
Personally, if Aoki is the starter, I would rather just go with Aoki at leadoff now, instead of Pagan, since he has a low SLG, and use Pagan in the middle of the lineup, like 3rd, where he has hit before, giving us a couple of speedsters hitting ahead of Posey, Pence, Belt, for them to drive in, with Pagan having the ability to drive in guys as well. Pagan has said he's fine anywhere in the lineup, as long as he is in the lineup, though that could have been for show. Aoki has been healthy so far as a major leaguer, for the most part, with just the one DL in late June last season, with a left groin strain, so he would be more likely to provide stability up top.
And if we are going to bat Aoki in the bottom of the lineup (frankly, I don't agree with all the talk so far, as Bochy noted hitting McGehee anywhere from 4th on down, and I think it would be better to mix up 6/7/8 among McGehee, Aoki, and Crawford, depending on who the starter is, and what they have in the bullpen), it might be better to bat him 8th because then he could function as a secondary leadoff hitter, heck, bat him 9th and the pitcher 8th, to put another speedster ahead of the top of the lineup. But as we all know, this is probably all for naught, as Bochy's talk ahead of the season will typically yield to what his gut (and circumstances) tell him to do later in the season.
On the financial analysis side, it's a pretty good deal even at what he produced last season, where he was at 1.0 WAR (WAR is being priced around $7M per WAR right now, so he's getting paid at around 0.7 WAR production), but if he reverts to his 2012-13 rate of 3+ WAR, the Giants got a huge bargain plus can keep him for 2016 as well. The main difference appears to be his defense, he was kinda good in Milwaukee, but horrible with KC, resulting in the wide swing. And so far, wide swings like that is common, it's not uncommon to see players rate well then swing around up and down, like BABIP does.
But if you want to go by performance, he's been good in 2012-13, poor in 2014, which could be a result of him playing with a pulled groin muscle, which would cut into his speed and ability to cover as much as he used to, resulting in lowered defensive stats. Then again, while rWAR has his defense good then bad, fWAR has his defense bad then OK, so who knows? UZR has an opposite assessment of his fielding relative to DRS and that other metrics that Baseball-Reference.com uses.
Oh, and by fWAR, he's been roughly average WAR (slightly over) each season for the past three seasons. That is probably part of the reason Fangraphs thinks the Giants got a bargain (right near end of article; though this other Fangraph article calls it "a steal"). An average player is earning around $12-14M per season right now, and the Giants could retain him for $12.5M over the next two seasons, or roughly half his production value of the past three seasons per fWAR.
The Fangraphs article mentions something that has been noted before: the Giants are powerless. To be more precise (as I am wont to do), the article notes the Giants lack of homerun power. But it is not like they have no power, for while they lack overall HR power, they make up for it with other power, as shown by ISO. Belt, Posey, and Pence are good power hitters, with pretty high ISO, plus Crawford is right around average power and Pagan a bit behind. It is McGehee, Panik, and Aoki who are powerless. And I would note again, the BP study of linkage between a team's offensive profile and success in the post-season found that there is no correlation between power hitting, whether HR or otherwise, with deep post-season runs. So while this is interesting as a talking point, because of fans' preoccupation with dingers, for us Giants fans, the more relevant fact is that it won't hurt our chances to win another trophy.
The Giants, having their defensive focus, hopefully can help him be good defensively (they have been able to coax good defensive years out of Burrell and Huff in the OF, per advanced fielding metrics), which would mean a huge bargain for the Giants in terms of WAR, because of how well he bats. Appears that they have learned from the Huff deal: if you are giving a player an opportunity to make good on returning to prior goodness, get a team option so you don't have to pay through the nose in order to retain him for another season, in case the first one was a fluke. Though as noted above, Aoki took a lesser deal (less years and money) in order to get more playing time with a contender (plus he likes the idea of living in SF).
But again, the greater deal for the Giants is that they got a great leadoff option in Aoki should anything drastic happens to the lineup, that is a great risk mitigation move on the part of the Giants. Pagan going out has obviously been a huge problem, both in 2013 and 2014. But losing other players in the lineup could mess things up, at which point, Aoki could take over leadoff duties, and Pagan could hit in a run-producing role, should something happen there. Great depth for the 25-man roster and lineup, depth at leadoff that we haven't had in years (heck, there were years where we wondered who would lead off: remember Dusty pushing Shinjo into the leadoff spot?).
The roster seems pretty set now, with only a few positions open for competition. The starting lineup appears to be Pagan, Petit, Posey, Belt, Pence, McGehee, Aoki, Crawford (my best guess at the Giants expected lineup, at the moment). The starting rotation appears to be Bumgarner, Cain, Hudson, Peavy, Lincecum, with Petit as 6th starter/long relief. The bullpen is Casilla (presumably still closer), Romo, Affeldt, Lopez, Machi, Kontos/Strickland/Okert/Cordier. The bench is Hanchez/Susac, Arias, Adrianza, Blanco, Perez/Ishikawa.
One thing that Sabean has been trying to do in the recent era of competitive play, is something I call risk mitigation in terms of roster construction. He's been talking about this for a long time, talking about the flexibility that certain players provide because they can play multiple positions, and well enough, guys like Winn, DeRosa, Melky, Pagan, Blanco, Arias. That gives the team the opportunity to move players in the lineup, like a Rubik's Cube, shifting without losing a huge step, as most teams need to do when they lose someone important to the lineup.
As I noted, Aoki is a key addition in this risk mitigation scenario as the backup leadoff hitter, in case Pagan is lost again, for any reason, during the 2015 season. This is important because Pagan has played only one full season (2012) out of the last four seasons, missing large parts of three seasons. It is also important because Blanco has proved to not be able to hit consistently well as a leadoff hitter for us during that timeframe.
He actually outhit Pagan for the first month plus after taking over in 2013, but when the bottom dropped out of the lineup, he was caught in the undertow, and started to try hitting 5-run homers to make up for that, dooming his efforts. And that is what has costed him during this career, being unable to hit within his abilities instead of trying to hit according to what he thinks he should be hitting when leading off.
I think he would have been fine as our starting LF, batting 7th, but if Pagan is gone, he would be the logical leadoff guy again, and we've been there, done that, we know that don't work. He's just too valuable as a 4th OF who would not be as huge a drop from the starting OF, because of his great defense. With Aoki in place as the replacement leadoff hitter, Blanco can step in for Pagan and bat in Aoki's 7th place position, with little dropoff in overall production.
Same with other players. Arias at 3B, he's been even better than Sandoval defensively there, while OK offensively. Sandoval being out and replaced by Arias would result in minimal reduction in overall production for the Giants in seasons past. He and Adrianza would also be good enough for a while at 2B, while Adrianza would be good enough at SS should Crawford end up injured again, instead of Bochy simply playing him, as he did in 2013, having Adrianza around could enable the Giants to DL Crawford and let him heal properly and more quickly.
Same with Petit in the starting rotation, he probably would have been fine in that role for 2015, but given the fragility of pitchers (TINSTAAPP), it behooves a team built on pitching and fielding to be able to substitute in Petit when necessary, unlike the Bridegrooms, who, while they had a boatload of starting pitchers that they could go to, they were of the ilk of Maholm, Hernandez, and Correia, they altogether were 5-8 (11-14 overall) with a collective 5.22 ERA in 25 starts.
That type of pitching just eats innings, it leaves a team in poorer position, had Bochy been as good in one-run games as on average, the Giants would have ended up with more wins and won the division. Starting pitching depth is not the most important factor, quality replacement starting pitching is. Petit is quality replacement and he can keep the position warm until the Giants can trade for someone like Peavy.
And, of course, we still have multiple closers, good backup there. Casilla looks likely to continue to be the closer, but we got Romo back, and obviously he was a closer before. And while he's never been a closer for us (except perhaps briefly, when Bochy said he was going to a committee but still mostly just used one guy, whether Casilla or Romo), Affeldt probably would do a great job for us there as well, if necessary. And we have had this trio now since 2010.
Need for Another Starting Pitcher
The Giants have continually been mentioned in rumors, even after the Peavy signing, for a starting pitcher. For example, Shields. Not sure what that would have meant for the rotation because we already had five starters and the Giants have already said that Lincecum was a starter. The only way another starter would work, from what I can figure out, is if the Giants went with my idea that I've been mentioning in comments and posts regarding going with a 6-man rotation, in order to lessen the strain on your aces' arm, and the staff in general.
Clearly, post-season work both adds on strain on the arm, while shortening the off-season for rest and recovery. Having a 6-man rotation means that the average starter gets 27 starts (at 6 IP average that's only 142 IP, at 7 IP, 189 IP). Plus, it gives the manager the ability to skip someone's start occasionally, which pushes up the other starters up a day, while giving the pitcher a 12-14 day blow to rest or work on stuff. Or they could go with the top 5 for a month or so, then sometime in May, go to the 6-man rotation. I think that there are many benefits to having a 6-man rotation, but the negative here is that then there is one less man on the bench, either position player or reliever. And that would limit Bochy's potential moves, and flexibility in strategy.
I think one way this could work is if the team had a position player who could also pitch relief, like if he pitched only to eat innings in a big blowout type of game. A guy like Brooks Kieschnick. I know this is risky, and I'm not suggesting that Posey be the guinea pig, but Buster was a closer in college, and there are other position players who played duo roles like that. Being able to bring in somebody like that would given the manager another weapon to rely on, assuming the Giants develop the guy's pitching as well as his hitting and fielding.
If you have an alternative idea for why the team is looking for another starting pitcher, even one as good as Shield, I would love to hear it. Replacing Lincecum is one idea I've seen, but then that means he's in the bullpen or traded for nothing much (plus the Giants would have to cover most of his salary, that would seem to be a waste). Some might say to replace Hudson, but what if he recovers as advertised and is ready for the start of the 2015 season? Seems we are back to replacing Lincecum. Backup for Cain is another possible reason, but again, if Cain is good to go, we are back to replacing Lincecum. Or the 6-man rotation.
The Chronicle article also noted the arbitration situations for the players eligible and who had not agreed to deals yet. Petit agreed to a one year deal for $2.1M before figures got exchanged. Also, subsequent to that article, the Giants (per MLBTR) agreed to a two year deal with Blanco for $3.6M in 2015, and $3.9M in 2016, covering his remaining arbitration years. He had asked for $4.0M and the Giants had offered $3.3M, so the Giants roughly hewed to their formula of signing some arbitration players to a two year contract with first the Giants offer, then the player's asking salary. He got $200K more overall, bumped up in 2015, while taking slightly less in 2016.
The remaining players and the offer and asks:
- Belt: $3.0M/$4.5M
- Crawford: $2.4M/$3.95M
- McGehee: $4.0M/$5.4M
I do not expect McGehee to get a two year deal. So he'll probably get somewhere in near the middle ($4.7M is exact middle).
Crawford I can see getting a two year deal, maybe even three years to cover his entire arbitration eligibility. Honestly, the Giants offer looks to be on the low side. Using the 40% rule of thumb for the first year arbitration value, that only values him at $6.0M or roughly a 1 WAR player. His ask puts him at $10M per season. Maybe 2 years at $2.5M/$4M, or 3 years at $3M/$4M/$6M.
Belt might be the second arbitration meeting to happen (AJP being the first). The two sides have been contentious before. Apparently the Giants offer is only $100K above his salary last season, from what I read in comments somewhere. Then again, it was a wasted season, as he didn't play very much of the season, plus his batting line went down, as his BA and walk rate plunged, while his strikeout rate went up. At least they didn't ask for a pay cut, as some teams have done in this situation before. His agents appear to be like Lincecum's, looking to avoid committing long-term to anything because they expect the player to have an even better season and really knock the ball out of the park in the next round of arbitration.
I can't really see the Giants getting a $3M/$4.5M two year deal. $4M and $6M is obviously more realistic (mid-point is $3.75M, and the Giants sometimes round upward a few hundred grand for the better players), but I don't really see it happening. I only expect a one year deal, probably just short of $4M, as Belt and his agents continue to bet on a breakout year from him. Don't blame them.
I would love to sign him to a three year deal to cover his arbitration years, plus maybe option a free agent year, as I think he's capable of great things and be Votto-lite, but I don't think his side will allow it. I wouldn't either, if I were his agent.
But as a player gets deeper into arbitration - this is Belt's second of four - money is starting to get kind of big (it's all relative in baseball), and you never know how much a player is willing to take, just for the security, even if he might be leaving money on the table. $10M could tempt some players. Throw in a third year at, say, $8M, and the player might bite, $18M is a lot to turn down, especially given Belt's injury prone ways while batting, with two HBP broken hands in four seasons. Round it up to $20M, and that might get a player willing to sign up. We'll see, it'll be interesting either way.