Giants beat reporter Chris Haft fields questions from the fans about once a week on SFGiants.com and provides responses based on his own thoughts, as well as the sentiment of the Giants, from his conversations with the front office. He did so this week, and addressed this question:
"What is your opinion of keeping the champs intact? Having Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner for full season will help. Javier Lopez, Cody Ross and a healthy Freddy Sanchez will help. Andres Torres and Mark DeRosa for a full season will help. And a motivated Pablo Sandoval and a much more confident pitching staff will help. I say they win 100 games, as is."
Though I don’t always (or maybe even often) agree with Haft, I agreed with his response in this case completely. He said, “Though the players…mentioned should indeed bolster the Giants’ performance in 2011, I couldn’t disagree more.” He went on to say he understands the fans’ “…affinity for this club…but as they say in the business world, if you stand still, you’re falling behind” And finally, he said, “remaining constant can lead to becoming stagnant.”
There is almost no possibility the Giants win 100 games next season if they do nothing but reacquire Huff and Uribe. There’s far too many “IF’s & And’s” to count on here.
And on my Brandon Belt blog, someone commented saying: “The Giants beset course of action is to re-sign both Huff and Uribe [for around $20M] and Renteria at about $3M for 1 year to be the backup SS.”
I have to be honest. This is exactly the type of inside-the-box thinking I’m hoping the Giants avoid. My short answer (and comment back) was: Not trying to improve (and unwillingness to change) is exactly the sort of thing that will instill complacency in the players and result in mediocrity over the long haul. The Giants need to be able look beyond the champagne blurred vision, and make quality decisions that will improve the club rather than stand pat.
Anyway, I started writing this yesterday evening. Since then, the Giants have resigned Huff for 2 years and $11 million annually, with a club option ($2 million buyout) for a third.
This isn't the sort of contract that's going to sink the battleship, but then it's certainly not something I'm going to pretend to be thrilled about either. It does appear that the market value of a win (above replacement) is going to be between $4.5 and $5 million this offseason. If that holds true, Huff will need to be worth around 2.2 - 2.5 wins per season. I think he can - he did post a 5.7 WAR in 2010 - but then he posted a 1.4 wins BELOW replacement in 2009.
Most concerning of all, though, is this: Sabean said he may now have to "move some money around" following the Huff signing. What that means to me, quite possibly, is that they spent more on Huff than expected and don't have much to play with beyond that. They still have no shortstop and Uribe has far more leverage in this market than Huff. And their only left field candidate is a 35 year old coming off back to back wrist surgeries, the first of which was completely unsuccessful.
The Giants have not scored 700 runs since 2006, when Barry Bonds was still in uniform. To assume the Giants' pitching staff will continue to hold opposing teams to 600 runs or fewer every season is foolish given the various land mines that emerge in a season (injuries, down years, et al). And, finally, we have a recent example of a team that made it to the NLCS in back to back seasons, followed by doing nothing to improve itself in the offseason, only to fall below .500 and finish fourth in 2010. That's right, the Dodgers.
I don't know how much money they have left to spend. I don't know what other plans they have. I just know that to return the Champs and do nothing else is a mistake, because that's not going to get them to 700 runs and beyond. And if that's what they do, and if you do enjoy the torture, you'll be in for another San Francisco treat in 2011. What's the answer to the post title question? Probably not as currently constructed, and some creative thinking and tough decisions are needed now more than ever.