Thursday, December 9, 2010

Making sense of the Giants' offseason (thus far)

So what’s the Giants’ plan? To be honest, it’s not terribly clear.  One has to believe that the plan was largely to rebuild the roster that won them a World Series. That fact is perfectly obvious. They re-signed Aubrey Huff, their best player from 2010. They brought back Pat Burrell, one of their best midseason moves of 2010 and most critical contributors in the second half. They signed Miguel Tejada, who basically replaced Juan Uribe with an extremely similar – and significantly more ripened – skill set, but at a substantially cheaper price in terms of years, and slightly cheaper in annual value. Regardless of how you feel about these moves, be it they were brilliant or misguided, the intent was clear. After that, though, it’s gotten a bit confusing.
To make this simple, let’s eliminate Posey and Whiteside. That leaves 23 roster spots remaining. Let’s also eliminate the twelve man pitching staff, which let’s face it, is inevitable. My guess would be: Lincecum, Bumgarner, Cain, Sanchez, Zito as starters, and Wilson, Romo, Casilla, Affeldt, Lopez, Runzler and Ramirez as relievers. There is one wrinkle, though. The Giants have been said to be trying to convert Runzler into a starting pitcher. Why? I’m not exactly sure. I read Sabean said that Runzler’s best shot at making the bullpen is to stretch out and become a long reliever. Let’s ignore the fact that he’s younger, cheaper and has better peripherals than Jeremy Affeldt – thus may be a more serviceable non-LOOGY lefty out of the ‘pen than Jeremy, whom I still adore for his Game Six emergency innings against Philly, by the way. But anyway, that’s perhaps a discussion for another time.
That leaves us with 11 remaining roster spots. And this is where I can’t say with absolute certainty I know where the roster is headed. The starters will be Sandoval at third, Tejada at shortstop, Sanchez at second and Huff at first. That leaves 7. In the outfield, you have to expect it to be Torres in center, Ross in right and DeRosa in left. Each one of these players is under contract; each of them will be on the roster. That leaves 4. That leaves Ishikawa (league minimum or about), Mike Fontenot (re-signed for $1 million), Aaron Rowand (still here for 2 years and too much), Pat Burrell (re-signed for $1 million) and Nate Schierholtz (league minimum or about). If you’ve lost count, that’s already one too many.
Another possibility is that Brandon Belt could make the club. Brian Sabean gushed about him yesterday – seriously, he talked about not only his defense and advanced hitting approach, but also about his base running – and said that he’d be given an opportunity to make the club as either a first baseman or left fielder. He’d essentially be displacing Aubrey Huff to whichever position he doesn’t end up. This seems a real possibility to me. If that happens, the Giants have two too many.
And in case that’s not enough for you, the Giants also have interest in returning Edgar Renteria. They don’t just have interest because they’ve actually already made him an offer. That’s now three too many. And if you wanted to make it four, you could, because Sabean has also made it clear he would like an additional left-handed bat.
And when you lay it all out this way you can only come to two conclusions: 1) the Giants don’t know what they want to do with the roster, and in some cases they can’t quite know because of players like Brandon Belt that they feel they need to see in the spring, and thus are collecting as many pieces as possible or 2) they are getting ready to move a player of two. That could simply mean optioning Ishikawa or Schierholtz or both to AAA, or that could mean a trade. But in any case, you have only 25 roster spots; I don’t think any of these guys have minor league options, and something has to give.
There’s also a good chance that Mark DeRosa won’t be right, again, or Freddy Sanchez’s shoulder will take longer than thought to heal. And if that’s the case, the Giants are clearly covered. But it’s probably safe to say the Giants again won’t have a set lineup in 2010, at least not at its outset, but believe it or not they might be getting closer to one – Torres, Sanchez, Huff, Posey, Sandoval, Ross, Belt, and Tejada. Believe it or not, that’s a perfectly balanced lineup that never has a righty and a lefty hitting back to back.
I think the safest conclusion is that you just need to wait and see. They don’t know how they all fit yet, so how can we? You can keep on trying, god knows it’s fun, but you’re just going to tie your brain into a knot.


  1. I think the Giants are adding as many versatile players as possible, like you pretty much said. DeRosa may not get better, Sandoval might start the year in Triple-A if he doesn't get right (although I think they finally scared him), they say Freddy's shoulder should be ready for Opening Day (which means there's a good chance it won't). I wouldn't be surprised if the Opening Day lineup looked something like this:

    Torres CF
    Ross RF
    Huff 1B
    Posey C
    Burrell LF
    Tejada SS
    Sandoval 3B
    Fontenot 2B

  2. I think the plan is actually very obvious. The plan is to both be prepared for what they hope for and to be prepared for what they fear.

    The Giants hope Pablo Sandoval will get in shape and show he can return to near 2008/9 form. The Giants hope Freddie Sanchez will be ready for opening day and be able to give then a full year unlike what he did in 2009 and 2010. The Giants hope Branden Belt will show he is ready to be a member of the starting lineup on opening day. The Giants hope that both Aaron Rowand and Mark DeRosa will show they still have game left in spring training so that they can become trade bait and the Giants can dump some of their dollars.

    The Giants fear that Panda will not show he can return to form. The Giants fear that Mole will not be ready for opening day. The Giants fear that Belt might need more AAA seasoning before he is ready to be a MLB starter. The Giants fear that DeRosa will never be able to perform at a MLB level again.

    14 non pitchers/catchers for 11 spots both covers these fears and provides trade bait if all the hopes become true.