A Look At Christmas Future

So, just for fun, let’s pretend the season begins today. Who is enjoying Christmas 2012 as the World Champions of Major League Baseball?

AL East

  1. Boston Red Sox
  2. New York Yankees
  3. Toronto Blue Jays
  4. Tampa Bay Rays
  5. Baltimore Orioles

I have to say this AL East is not the most dominant division in my mind anymore. Boston wins in 2012 because the talent is there, they will be healthier, and Bobby V won’t let them fold in September. But the Yankees won’t pitch like they did last year, the Jays are stronger, and while I have the Rays low right now, NEVER count them out! The O’s are still a year or two away.

AL Central

  1. Detroit Tigers
  2. Kansas City Royals
  3. Minnesota Twins
  4. Chicago White Sox
  5. Cleveland Indians

I am not impressed with this bunch at all. Tigers win by default since they have the best pitcher and hitter in the division. My controversial pick is Kansas City. I may be a year early, but 85-86 wins is not out of the question as that young team starts to come together.

AL West

  1. Texas Rangers
  2. Anaheim Angels
  3. Seattle Mariners
  4. Oakland A’s

Somewhere in recent history the Rangers and Angels became the Yankees and Red Sox. Not sure how that happened, but it is fascinating to watch. There is no division in baseball with a wider gap between the top and bottom halves. Right now I give the Rangers the edge because they seem deeper in the lineup and bullpen, but a few more moves could change that.

NL East

  1. Philadelphia Phillies
  2. Atlanta Braves
  3. Florida Marlins
  4. Washington Nationals
  5. New York Mets

MLB 2012 Most Interesting Division Award goes to the NL East. Hard to bet against the Phillies and their big 3 rotation, but the team is aging rapidly and will be without Ryan Howard for a while (perhaps the whole season). The gap between 1 and 4 is not as wide as it might seem. The Braves have made few moves but they are young and good and a little health will go a long way for a team that would have been in the playoffs under this year’s format. The Marlins and the Nationals are improved teams that already had good young cores. They are still works in progress so I feel it too early to deem them worthy of the postseason, but they are not far away. (Take note NL West).

NL Central

  1. St. Louis Cardinals
  2. Milwaukee Brewers
  3. Cincinnati Reds
  4. Pittsburg Pirates
  5. Chicago Cubs
  6. Houston Astros

I love what the Cardinals have done this offseason, plus they are getting their ace back. No guarantee that Wainwright is as dominant as he used to be, but there are plenty of reasons to think this team will pitch better than it did in 2011. The Brewers are still good without Prince, but their fate really lies in whether Ryan Braun misses a third of the season or not. The Reds have made some moves, but I’m not a believer yet. The Pirates feel like they are treading water, the Cubs are in rebuild mode, and the Astros are terrible.

NL West

  1. Arizona Diamondbacks
  2. San Francisco Giants
  3. Colorado Rockies
  4. Los Angeles Dodgers
  5. San Diego Padres

The Diamondbacks have made some win now moves to capitalize on their big turn around, the Giants have…..ah, don’t want to think about that right now. The Rockies don’t impress me, the Dodgers have two great players and a lot of second basemen (good luck with that), and the Padres are back in rebuild mode (and are laying some ground work, btw).

The ShakeDown

In the AL, the Red Sox, Tigers, and Rangers win the divisions, with the Yankees and Angels claiming the Wild Cards. Angels win that battle and beat the Red Sox and face the Rangers in the ALCS. The Rangers, continuing in their quest to be the Buffalo Bills of MLB, win the pennant.

In the NL, the Phillies, Cardinals, and Diamondbacks win the divisions with the Braves and Giants taking the Wild Cards. The Braves win the WC showdown when Chipper Jones hits a pinch hit home run off Jeremy Affeldt in the 11th inning. The Braves go on to defeat the Cardinals and face the Phillies in the NLCS where the magic continues. Braves take the pennant.

In the World Series the Atlanta Braves defeat the Texas Rangers in 6 games, and the NL wins its third straight World Series.

Of course, I’m going to change my mind about all this next week when the Giants sign Prince Fielder. Ha!

(-SB)

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On Mat Latos

Two recent events have conspired to plant a seed of thought…and I will admit this is not fully formed yet. These events are:

  1. Pujols signing with the Angels
  2. The Padres trading Mat Latos to the Reds for some good stuff in return

So, the seed of thought is this: The Giants should consider very strongly trading Tim Lincecum. My soul hurts typing that last sentence, but I am starting to consider that it might be the best idea. Hear me out…

1) Lincecum still has 2 team controlled years (expensive arbitration years, yes, but he’s not a rental). Latos has four years left, part of what made it easier for the Reds to give up so much, so the Giants are at a bit of a disadvantage here. BUT…

2) Tim Lincecum is better than Latos and has hardware to back it up (CYAs plus a Ring). Also, Timmy has never been injured.

3) The Giants should lock up Cain and Bumgarner is under control for a while. Hopefully they’d get at least one good arm (plus a significant bat) in return for Lincecum. They should be fine, especially in the long-term, in the rotation. (Side Note: they could really do this if they still had Wheeler in the system…just sayin’).

4) As I said last week keeping Cain and Lincecum is going to be incredibly expensive, and while I’m in no way opposed to keeping them both, at some point Buster is going to get paid, and Panda, and MadBum, and Wilson (if they want to keep him) and it goes on and on. Someone is going to get left out at some point.

I have no idea what the Giants could/should get back. I don’t have any fake trade ideas. But seeing Cardinal fans take a deep sigh of relief when the club didn’t tie their fate to El Hombre for the next decade and then observing the return the Pads got for Latos makes me curious. It makes me think. It opens me up to the possibility.

I don’t like to say it, but they should think about it. At the very least.

(-SB)

Extensions

As I wrote last week it has been somewhat surprising to observe the reaction of St. Louis Cardinals’ fans to the loss of Albert Pujols. I have not done a ton of research into this, but the overall sentiment has been “total bummer, but we are better off in the big picture.” That’s a very mature response. If/when the Giants lose Tim Lincecum there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth in Giantsland.

Right now, the weeping and gnashing of teeth has been reserved for the “moves” made by the team this offseason. Everyone seems to have figured that re-signing Carlos Beltran was a minimum given and on top of that maybe a Jimmy Rollins or a Grady Sizemore or something extra. Nope.

And here’s why. As much money as we may think is flowing around AT&T Park in the wake of the World Series, the serious cash is being reserved for this:

Do you love Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum? Great, here’s what it’s going to take to keep them:

In other words, 5-8 years and probably more than $200 million to keep them both around (Lincecum may make $25 million in arbitration this year which is almost the yearly average value of the Pujols deal).

I’m not saying this to be a downer. I’m not saying this to argue the Giants should trade or let one of them walk. I’m not saying this to argue there shouldn’t be a better option at shortstop next year.

I’m just offering some perspective. No way the Giants can make a move for a big-time bat and keep these dudes in orange and black.

If you are going to blame anyone, blame this guy:

(-SB)

What the Burriss!

I might be in the minority, but I actually don’t mind the moves the Giants have made this offseason. Especially if they lock up Timmy and Matty then they accomplished some key things:

  1. Locked up their best players for the next x-years.
  2. Improved the offense without breaking the bank/trading away their best players/taking on another stupid contract.
  3. Left themselves with some flexibility to make in-season moves (a strategy that has actually helped the team the last three years: see Penny, Sanchez, Burrell, Ross, Lopez, Beltran).

That said, I do have a bone to pick and it looks like this:

which is as good as Manny Burriss has ever looked with the bat. I wrote last week that the thing the Giants needed to do was fortify themselves at shortstop. I love Brandon Crawford and I want him to do well so badly, but that desire does not erase the fact that he’s not ready to be an everyday major league shortstop. I’m going to root for me to be so wrong, but I also would love to see some help at this position.

The Giants seem to think Burriss is this help. Which is like the Patriots thinking they’ll be fine with Jed Hoyer if Tom Brady goes down. Nope. That’s foolish.

It’s foolish to think Manny Burriss is going to be helpful to the Giants.

This is a disaster waiting to happen and it is going to lead to a bad trade for Edgar Renteria or someone like him come July.

Maybe the Giants are lying. They are one of the stealthier teams in MLB. Maybe all this “we’re done/we don’t have any money” talk is a front and we’ll have a real option come March.

But it sure doesn’t look that way. God help us.

(-SB)

On Pujols

I should admit upfront that I am a bit of an Albert Pujols fanboy. Maybe it’s because we are the same “age”. Maybe it’s because I’ve never lost a fantasy baseball league where I had him on my team. Maybe it’s because I called that moon shot he hit off Brad Lidge in the playoffs a few years back. I don’t know. But he has been my favorite non-Giants/non-Red Sox player for years now.

Since I’ve moved to Boston I have actually met a number of people from the midwest. Far more than I ever knew in California. Which means I’ve met some Cardinals fans. The response to Pujols-to-the-Angels has been somewhat surprising. A little sadness but a whole lot of relief. As in, “I’m so glad we didn’t forfeit our future just to keep El Hombre around.” And I understand that…Cardinals fans look at Pujols and see the next A-Rod, but know the team has much less ability to absorb a bad contract when compared to the Yankees. They knew keeping Pujols meant seeing a lot of good young talent walk away over the next ten years. I get it.

But I also get the Angels. The Angels have been taken to task by the national media over the past few years for all of the free agents they have not signed. Especially last year when they were supposed to get Carl Crawford and/or Adrian Beltre (and before them it was Konerko, Sabathia, Texeria, etc). Everyone thought: “They play in a huge market, make money, won a World Series, and a have an owner willing to spend, why do they keep chickening out at the last-minute.”

Because Pujols. Now, I’m sure they have not been sitting around for the past 3-4 years with a plan to grab Albert when he hit the market, but he did, and because they had passed on some of these other guys they were ready for it.

seriously, who would you rather have for the next 7 years? Carl Crawford, Mark Texeria, Alex Rodriguez, or Albert Pujols? No brainer.

Because here’s the deal. Pujols is a once of a lifetime opportunity. My apologies to the Prince Fielder’s of the world, but this guy is the best player of this free agent class, of the past 5 years, and of this generation. He will slow down a bit, but barring a catastrophic injury, Pujols is going to hit 700 home runs. He is going to be a force at age 40. He is going to guarantee they have a good offense every year for the next 10 years. There are not enough superlatives.

Now, I am not as cynical as I once was, and so if the Giants don’t win the 2010 WS I probably don’t look back on the Bonds’ years the same way, but I’ve lived the reality of having a once-a-generation player as the heart of the team. The Giants had a chance in 1993, ’97, ’98, 2000, ’01, ’02, ’03, and ’04. Yes, it didn’t happen to any of those teams, but as we all know, it could have. How are the 2010 Giants really all that better than the 2000, or the 2002 versions? Pujols himself has won two rings with teams no one thought had a chance, and has lost with teams that were juggernauts (2004, 2005).

Bottom Line: when a player like Pujols comes along, you go all in and you see what happens. No guarantees, but the Angels will be competitive, interesting, and relevant for a decade. Done.

So, while I get all the arguments for letting him go, I don’t fault the Angels for opening the bank vault and rolling out the red carpet. It’ll be interesting to see how we think about this 10 years from now, but I can tell you this, having lived through Bonds, you WILL enjoy every minute of it Angels fans. You will.

(-SB)

Pagans

The Giants made another trade for another so-so outfielder last night. Welcome to the Bay Area Angel Pagan (one of the greatest names of all time). Some thoughts…

1) We will miss Andres Torres. Pagan and Torres are essentially the same player (Pagan brings more bat, Torres is superior with the glove), but Pagan is younger so that makes sense. However, Pagan did not help the Giants win a World Series. Even though it was pretty clear the carriage had turned back into a pumpkin, Torres’ one magical year will always be remembered by Giants’ fans.

2) I want the Giants to trade for Jed Lowrie. It could still happen. But, I just don’t know why we need another outfielder. Unless that outfielder is Carlos Beltran. A good trade, but not the one I wanted. This team still needs to get stronger in the middle of the infield.

3) Grant, at McCovey, nails the true fear at the heart of this trade: what now for Brandon Belt? If everyone is healthy there is not enough room for Huff/Belt/Pagan/Cabrera/Schierholtz/Pill/plus Posey at first from time to time. It is easy to envision a situation where Belt gets the shaft and either rots on the bench or jumps up and down from Fresno. Dude needs to play everyday in the Majors. Make that happen!

4) It sure sounds like this is it. So, your 2012 SF Giants:

  • Angel Pagan CF
  • Freddy Sanchez 2B
  • Buster Posey C
  • Pablo Sandoval 3B
  • Aubrey Huff/Brandon Belt 1B
  • Melky Cabrera LF
  • Nate Schierholtz RF
  • Brandon Crawford SS

Is that going to be good enough?

(-SB)