Signs of Life #sfgiants

The Giants went 3-3 against two 2016 and 2017 playoff teams (although writing this just might jinx the Cubs…haha). That 3-3 is pretty good, especially considering the odd nature of this weekend’s series in Washington DC. The team didn’t play for 2 straight days, then experienced another rain delay, and then played 3 baseball games and extra innings in just over 24 hours.

If you back the clock up to August 1, when the Giants hit an unofficial reset button, they are 7-5, and 5-4 against playoff teams (I’m including the Diamondbacks).

They are not setting the world on fire, and they are not going to dig themselves out of any holes (think: get back to .500), but this is encouraging nonetheless. If nothing else, they are playing baseball more typical of the good Giants teams we’ve seen in the past: better starting pitching, better defense, just enough offense.

Some thoughts:

  • Last week Jarrett Parker looked like the greatest Giants outfielder of all time not named Bonds or Mays. This week, he looked a lot more like Jarret Parker. This is who he is: he’ll bunch together some good at bats, and he’ll bunch together the strikeouts. I’m still interested in him as a power bat off the bench, but this week helps bring balance to the force and remind everyone that Jarret Parker is not the answer to the Giants OF problem.
  • Chris Stratton had a great start on Sunday. He’s sort of the Jarrett Parker of the Giants system when it comes to pitching. He’s a little too old to be super intriguing (Madison Bumgarner is almost exactly one year older). But late bloomers are a thing. And he could contribute if he can find consistency. More likely than not, he will have some good starts like yesterday that involve a lot of strikeouts, and he’ll have some rockier starts that involve a lot of walks. But this is where my pro-Righetti bias shows in full force: I have way more faith in the Giants developing Stratton into something useful than I with Parker.
  • Joe Panik having the best day/series of his season (6 for 12 with 2 walks, 3 RBIs, and a home run), and then getting thrown out/doinked on the head at home plate is very emblematic of the season. The Giants don’t get to enjoy much of anything for long in 2017.
  • The Giants have two key guys now, Panik and Brandon Belt, who have struggled with concussion issues. This is not something baseball teams normally have to worry about with non-catchers, which means this is not a good sign for the Giants already fragile core.
  • We need to talk about Pablo Sandoval. He has not taken the world by storm, but he doesn’t look bad either. And then, that home run he hit yesterday, off of a top Cy Young candidate, was something else. If I were good enough of a scout to know if he was still useful I wouldn’t be writing this blog, but it does look to me like there is something left in the tank. Now, there are limitations with Pablo (his inability to switch hit anymore), but I’m intrigued to see how this year plays out and if there might be a spot for him in 2018.
  • Finally, we need to talk about Matt Moore. I have always been high on Matt Moore, and he was a large part of my fantasy baseball strategy and when some doofus drafted him right before I was going to draft him I was upset. I was so confident he was going to have a great year. I’ve felt a lot better about that doofus stealing Moore from me as the year has gone on, but THE mystery of 2017 to me has been Matt Moore. I don’t know what to make of his start last night. Maybe it’s nothing, but those are the kinds of results I expected to see all year-long. Did you see how everything was down and sharp and nasty. Where has that been?! For now, it’s going to be start to start until he regains consistency, but yesterday was a positive step for sure.

Enjoy watching Giancarlo Stanton for the next couple days!

A Winning Week! #sfgiants #weekinreview

So, the Giants are good now, right?!
Hahahahahaha…

Jokes aside it was a good week: 4-3, and they finally won a division series over a team not named the Dodgers.

This week does raise a couple of tensions for Giants fans as we close out the final third of the season.

No one wants to watch loss after loss, and ending the season on a high note is a good thing, but the better this team plays, the higher their draft spot becomes. In baseball this is not such a huge deal, but still a mild concern.

More to the point (at least in my view), the better certain guys play, the more likely the front office is to fall in love them.

For example: Jarrett Parker just had a great return to the lineup. A friend and I joked that the answer to the riddle of 2017 must have always been Parker.

I like the guy. I call him Captain Jack for his resemblance to Johnny Depp’s Pirate’s character. He’s played the last 4 games with more panache, energy, and effectiveness than just about anyone not named Buster this season.

But that said, he’s 28 and he strikes me as the classic AAAA player. Too good for the minors, not good enough for the Majors. Perhaps he can settle into a nice 4th or 5th outfielder role, but my fear is that he has a great two months, and the Giants become convinced he’s the guy, and here’s our new starting OF.

While I would love to regret writing that last paragraph, there are a few of these kinds of guys who concern me because their success in August and September could undercut shrewder moves.

I would include Pablo Sandoval in this list.

Giants fans should root hard for Samardzija and Moore and Bumgarner and Crawford and Melancon, and probably for Pence and Cueto to finish strong. Root for Ryder Jones to establish himself. For Ty Blach to keep the good times coming and for Kelby Tomlinson to prove he belongs.

I’m not so sure with Parker.


Another interesting case is Chris Stratton. Stratton took Matt Cain’s place in the rotation (although I expect Cain to get a final, highly publicized start, to end the season. Probably in the closing series against the Padres).

This means Stratton essentially has a 2 month tryout.

Here’s where my lack of confidence in the Giants front office is betrayed: I kind of like Stratton, and certainly enjoy watching him pitch more than Matt Cain (sorry Matty). But he’s about to turn 27 and still hasn’t figured it out yet.

I like his stuff. I like the idea of more options and greater depth (the Giants desperately need this, especially if Cueto opts out). But I get concerned that two good months might allow the team to make a lazy decision.

And that’s basically my issue with this front office. There’s a tendency to take the easy way out.


Contrast this with the Dodgers. Granted, any comparison of the Giants and Dodgers right now is tough. I do not think these teams are as far apart as the standings show. But, one team is having maybe the greatest regular season in the last 100 years, and the other is having one of the worst seasons in franchise history. Less than a year ago, both teams battled the eventual Champion Cubs (and lost, but it was a battle).

The biggest difference between the teams is youth and depth, with the Dodgers coming out ahead on both counts.

I would add to that ruthlessness with which the Dodgers have been making decisions. Andrew Friedman is finally showing us what a “moneyball” guy would do with a big budget and it’s more than a bit awe-inspiring.

That being said, the Dodgers, to this point, have been able to operate the last couple years with essentially zero sentimentality.

Even the extension offered to Clayton Kershaw was more a baseball decision than a fan base decision (although it was certainly both).

If the Dodgers win it all this year (and until proven otherwise, I’m sticking with my Nationals prediction), they will finally be faced with some sentimental decisions. Do they, for example, give a big contract to Yu Darvish just because he helped them finally win?

The Giants have erred to the side of keeping their own guys and sentimental favorites around, even if longer than needed, as a reward for winning, as a way to protect the culture, and as a way to keep the fans engaged. It’s not necessarily a bad idea.

But the Giants have rarely been ruthless. They tend to go just a bit too far with their guys. Aubrey Huff, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, for example (though it’s actually a long list).

I’m interested to see how the Dodgers handle this going forward, and I’m even more interested to see if the Giants can get a bit more ruthless, because I think they need it.

Sad Pandas #SFGiants #PabloSandoval

You are sad. It’s ok. You are a human being. A human being who allowed yourself to grow attached to men wearing shirts that say “San Francisco” on them.

There will be no more Panda sighting on the shores of McCovey Cove.

I’ll admit to being bummed. Although, I am not as bummed as if Pablo had of signed with the Dodgers or Padres.

But, I also admit to be kind of excited. What does this all mean? If Pablo came back, this offseason would have been pretty boring. Maybe a Peavy or a Vogelsong return, but that would have been it.

Now, it’s crazy town. You’re going to hear about Jon Lester. Yasmany Tomas. Chase Headley. And who knows what else. At least it will be interesting.

3 Thoughts:

1. Several other writers have pointed out the uniqueness of Pablo. How do you really measure his value? He represents such an interesting figure in recent Giants’ history, and yet signing him to a long-term deal could have been devastating. Can you imagine not being able to sign Crawford or Bumgarner because of Panda’s contract? On the other hand, who the heck is going to play 3B? This was a true conundrum from day 1.

In the end, the Red Sox have probably screwed themselves up both now and into the future. Which means they are going to trade Pablo to the Dodger after the 2016 season and then win the World Series in 2017 because baseball. (By the way, I live in Boston and sports radio here has been saying “heck no” to the Panda for weeks. They think he sucks. I think this is hilarious).

And the Giants may have screwed themselves too, but we have four more months of rumors and craziness before we can really know. Remember, it is rarely the team that “wins” the offseason that wins the real season.

2. The word is Pablo wanted a change. Pablo wanted money. Pablo wanted to be courted. Pablo wants to be BFFs with David Ortiz. Pablo wants to DH. All of that may be true.

I have my own theory.

As much as people in the Bay Area love the Panda, and as much as he as meant to this team, he is not Buster Posey. It was Posey’s presence who moved Pablo to 3B in the first place (remember he was a catcher). It was Posey who led the team to their first title in 2010 while Pablo sat on the bench. It was Posey who got paid the longest and richest contract in franchise history.

The Giants are Posey’s team.

The Red Sox are David Ortiz’s team (with Pedroia a close second), but I think Pablo wanted to be seen as vital. As a hier apparent. As “the man.” He was never going to be the man in San Francisco. He might not ever be the man in Boston but he could be. And that, as much as anything else, is why he left, in my opinion.

3. What next? The hot rumor of the day has the Giants going after Yasmany Tomas and Jon Lester. Tomas is another conversation for another post, but Lester gets your attention in a second.

If they didn’t have the money for Pablo how do they have it for Lester? It’s different money in terms of value, but it still begs the question. If the Giants get Lester then that’s pretty much it for the offseason.

I’d love to have Lester, don’t get me wrong, and it would certainly fulfill my hope to fortify the rotation, but I also think the Giants now have the flexibility to do several things:

  • Ervin Santana and Chase Headley?
  • 2 pitchers?
  • Bring back Romo?

I’m all in for Santana and Headley. But, it’s going to get weird now, hang on tight.

-SB

Life With and Life WithOut Pablo #SFGiants #PabloSandoval #Pitching

Since the New York Yankees won 3 straight World Series from 1998-2000 no team has been able to repeat even once.

I’ve written about my theory as to why this is true here, here, and here. Basically, it goes something like this: a team adds more pitching to a good team and is able to win the World Series, only to see a drop off the following year. That drop is usually due to not adding MORE pitching to help sustain the level of success seen in the championship year.

Of course, this is a simplified theory. There are probably a lot of reasons team’s struggle to repeat including the new CBA, complacency, injuries, the marked improvement of some other team, and the signficant fact that WINNING A WORLD SERIES IS REALLY HARD TO DO.

The Giants are outliers to my theory for a couple of reasons. The 2010 team pitched as dominantly as the 2009 and 2011 versions. The biggest difference there was Buster Posey. Again, a simplified explanation, but also true. When Buster played they won, when he wasn’t in the lineup they struggled.

The Giants saw a drop off occur in their pitching after the 2011 season. Simplified theory, part 2: Tim Lincecum started to suck. 2014 saw the team improve relative to the 2012-2013 versions, but it still is a ways off from where they were before.

I write all of this as a backdrop to the conflict I feel in my soul about Pablo Sandoval. Here are two links (one and two) that will tell you about the Pablo rumors swirling, just in case you’re still in World Series mode.

Now, somewhere in the bowels of Giants’ headquarters there is a white board with three columns on it. One column is labeled Left Field, another Third Base, and the final Starting Pitcher(s).

Underneath each header is a list of names of baseball players. Based on the Giants’ history and preferences I am almost certain that there are the following names at the top of each column: Alex Rios in LF (followed by Michael Morse, and internal options), Pablo Sandoval in 3B (followed by Chase Headley, Alberto Callaspo, and internal options), and Ervin Santana,  Jake Peavy, Francisco Liriano, Ryan Vogelsong, and a long list of other names under SP(s).

There are some years and dollar figures next to each name and there’s a scrolling feature for each column that allows Brian Sabean and the brain trust to mix and match, like a lock tumbler.

Of course there are a myriad options for the crew to consider: Peavy at 2 year, $15 million allows us to do x, y, and z, and so on it goes.

But, at the end of the day, there are two plans: Life With Pablo and Life Without Pablo.

And if I’m sitting in those meetings I can go either way.

Life With Pablo

Life with Pablo is going to take at least 5 years and it is going to cost at least $85 million. I’d be happy with that, but it’s probably going to take more than that and each dollar/year higher than this makes me incredibly uncomfortable.

But there are so many reasons to go there. People love Pablo. He puts butts in seats, and this is no small thing, especially for this group of owners. He is the most marketable/recognizable Hispanic player in a market that needs to be relevant to Hispanic fans.

Then there’s the reality that Pablo represents who the Giants are in many ways. You look at him and wonder “how does this work?” And yet it does. And that’s how A LOT of people look at this team and the run of the last 6 years.

He also is the embodiment (ha ha) of the kind of hitting approach that the Giants have used so successfully the last two championships: see pitches, make the pitchers work, foul stuff off, put the bat on the ball, put the ball in play, makes something happen.

The stat heads freak out about this kind of stuff, but if Posey is the steady hand at the wheel, and if Pence is the spiritual leader, Pablo is the heart and soul of this team. It is difficult to quantify that. His contract might detract from other future moves or prove to be a bummer at the end of the deal, but if there really is a three-year window of opportunity, Pablo helps you win in that window.

Life with Pablo probably means bringing back Ryan Vogelsong. Not that he’s a bad guy, but that’s the extent of the pitching reinforcements that Giants fans will see.

Life with Pablo means essentially running out the same team that you saw this year and hoping for some rebounds from Cain, Lincecum, etc, and while it’s possible it doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence.

This is where my non-sentimental, logical baseball guy comes out.

The best way for the Giants to repeat next year is to reinforce the starting rotation. Most championship teams add pitching, or have pitching emerge over the course of the season that leads to an improved run production. This phenomenon is more predictive of success than offense, and correlates more to the actual results than how well the team’s offense produces year to year.

All that to say, the Giants are in a great position to repeat because most of their core lineup is in tact, which means they can invest their limited resources in pitching.

If they were to add even one quality starting pitcher, in addition to a fully restored Matt Cain, they would be well on their way to seeing a significant uptick in their pitching production.

So, logic would dictate that the best plan is:

Life Without Pablo

Life without Pablo would mean enough resources to go after several quality pitching options. The Giants could do a larger deal with Ervin Santana (who I think would flourish at AT&T). The Giants could do multiple deals with Francisco Liriano and Ryan Vogelsong. Or Liriano and a high risk/high reward type like Brett Anderson.

Life without Pablo would mean Gregor Blanco, starting left fielder. It would mean going cheap at third base. Alberto Callaspo? Adam Duvall? Matt Duffy? I’m not sure, but something along those lines. (Although the teams says there are no internal options).

Life without Pablo could also mean the return of Sergio Romo, who they would be able to pay, and who would be very important for relevance in the Hispanic market.

Conclusion

A part of me will die if Pablo goes to Boston or to the Dodgers (especially the Dodgers, who could also steal Romo, by the way).

The Giants have a lot of interesting options coming up through the system for the outfield, but there doesn’t appear to be anything compelling happening at third base. It’s such a rare thing in baseball these days to have a core guy play third base as well as Pablo does while hitting clean up. Even if he’s fat, it seems worth it.

But, those pitching numbers are hard to deny. And if the Giants could add two good options to the rotation for the price of a Panda how do they not do it? (For the record, whatever the Giants do I really, really want them to gamble on Brett Anderson. And I get very excited by the potential upside of Liriano and Anderson).

Life with Pablo is about stability and praying that someone (Lincecum, Petit, someone) steps up and boosts the staff from within. Life without Pablo is about adding the pitching reinforcements a team needs to make a strong run at repeating.

I can be convinced either way.

What should the Giants do?

Thinking Ahead (2015!) #SFGiants #RosterMoves

Evaluating a team’s needs after a Championship is one of the toughest things to do in sports. Think of the Giants decision makers right now: How could this year have gone any better?

I suppose the Giants could have kept up their torrid opening month’s pace and won 107 games. They could have swept their way through the postseason. Either way the result is the same: another ring and another parade.

What if, for the sake of a thought exercise, the Giants had Matt Cain at their disposal? Let’s say he was pitching at his career average level. About all we can surmise is that the Giants wouldn’t have traded for Jake Peavy. And that, certainly, could have set off a disastrous chain of events. Perhaps a trade for Chase Utley or Asdrubal Cabrera, which would mean no Joe Panik. The Giants won a World Series by essentially losing all the starts that Matt Cain would have made. Furthermore they found Joe Panik. Recipe for success.

All that to say: evaluating a team is so much easier after winning 76 games. I think this why the Giants have had a hard time repeating, and maybe that’s actually a good thing. It allows for the brass to take a good honest look at things and act accordingly.

Nonetheless, evaluation must happen, and so here’s my (very preliminary) best shot at thinking about the 2015 San Francisco Giants.

The Lineup

  • CF: All indications are that Angel Pagan will be ready to go and the starting CF/leadoff man in 2015. When he’s been healthy he’s been good and the Giants have won. It’s truly remarkable that they made it through the stretch run and postseason without him. The big questions for 2015 are (a) can Pagan stay healthy, and (b) can the Giants do some things to keep him around all year? If yes, I expect a productive year from him and this spot in the lineup
  • 2B: Joe Panik will be your opening day second baseman. As great as Joe was (and I love this dude), know that there are going to be ups and downs next year. There will be a stretch where you will wonder about starting Matt Duffy. There will be a stretch where he goes to the bottom of the lineup to find his swing. But, I think Panik showed why he should be a fine major league player for a long time. He plays good defense and showed a solid approach at the plate that will be able to get out of slumps and find ways to help even when the hits aren’t falling. A subplot here is some guy named Marco Scutaro (remember him!). I sort of hope (and I guess the Giants have the same hope) that he retires, which would save the Giants about $7 million. It sounds like he’s going to try to play, and if he can resemble his old self in any way, he would be a great utility/back up guy to spell Panik against tough lefties or when he simply needs a day off.
  • C: Buster Posey. Enough said. But while we are at, I will mention that the Giants have a couple of interesting things going on here. As we will see in a moment, the big decision this offseason (pun intended) focuses on Pablo Sandoval. If Pablo bolts, that opens things up for the Giants financially (they can spread the wealth). If he stays (which I think will happen) the Giants will try to keep their roster as flexible as possible, which has the potential to be a great thing. The Giants need to think about letting Posey play 1B about half the time, April through August. In order to do that, Brandon Belt will need to get some time in left field. It also means trusting Andrew Susac to catch. I would trust him. Doing so will allow Posey to stay fresh for the September/October run the team surely hopes to have next fall.
  • 3B: Again, Pablo Sandoval will be the biggest story of the offseason. MLBTrade Rumors has Pablo coming back the Giants, but Sports Illustrated sees him going to the Red Sox. That seems to be the early odds around the game. My guess is the Giants bring him back a little longer and a higher price than might be comfortable. But, there are a couple of things to remember here: First, the Giants don’t have that many things to do this offseason, so the timing is good. Yes, they need to pay some other guys, but there aren’t gaping holes in this roster. Pablo is fat, but he is also 28, and there just aren’t many 28-year-old, middle of the order, gold glove caliber players out there. In fact there are none. Plus there’s no one knocking on the door in the farm system. Second, locking up Pablo ensures that the Giants will have a core of Pagan, Panik, Posey, Panda, Pence, Brandon, and Brandon (plus Blanco and other bench pieces) for at leas the next two years, and all but Pagan for the year after that. That means the majority of this core could be together for another 3 years. That might be what tips the scale (pun intended) in favor of spending the money to keep the Panda around.
  • RF: Hunter Pence. It’s pretty remarkable how little there is to say here. He plays every day and he plays well. The end.
  • LF: What is ironic, and sometimes lost, in the Giants run of the past 5 seasons is that for 15 years the Giants invested everything they had in Left Field, and they never won the World Series. And then since 2007 they’ve had no stability in LF and they’ve won 3 titles. Part of that is just interesting, but part of that is highly illustrative. It’s not that LF is not important, but it’s obviously not as critical as other spots on the diamond. And this is actually important, because there is a faction that argues the Giants let Pablo go, figure out a cheap 3B option (Chase Headly or Alberto Callaspo), and go big in LF and sign Yasmany Tomas or even try to get Nelson Cruz. I think that’s foolish. It’s much more difficult to figure out 3B well and mix and match in LF, than it is the other way around. Plus, leaving LF flexible allows the Giants put Belt there when Posey is at 1B and not lose Belt’s bat. It also would allow the Giants to carry Gregor Blanco and Juan Perez AND possibly Gary Brown (if they want speed and defense) or an Adam Duvall type (if they want power). I don’t think they bring Michael Morse back (although another cheap deal wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world). I’d rather see the Giants spend on Pablo and go cheap and flexible in LF because it seems to be working.
  • 1B: Brandon Belt. As you may have noticed, I favor roster flexibility with Belt being in LF from time to time and Posey manning first base. I like the Giants ability to mix and match and find something that works, rather than being rigid and trying to have one guy be the answer at every position. But, most of the time, and certainly when the pressure is on late in the season this is where you want Brandon Belt.
  • SS: Brandon Crawford. If he doesn’t at least make the Gold Glove finals next years I’m going to eat my hat and write a series of nasty letters to various baseball writers. Plus, he’s getting better at the plate. What’s not to love.

Bench:

Gregor Blanco OF
Juan Perez OF
Gary Brown OF
Travis Ishikawa 1B/OF
Matt Duffy INF
Joaquin Arias INF
Marco Scutaro INF
Andrew Susac C
Hector Sanchez C

Obviously, there aren’t enough roster spots for all these guys. I would like to see the Giants commit to Gary Brown over Juan Perez (although Perez has shown he can handle the playoffs which is no small thing for a team trying to repeat), so if they only carry two OF my two are Brown and Blanco (for a nice righty/lefty speed and defense combo). However, if they go with flexibility all three could be in play. If they don’t bring Morse back that could open a spot for Ishikawa. I’d prefer the INF be Scutaro and Arias, because that would allow Duffy to develop at AAA. But, I also think Matt’s ready to do this full-time if need be. Finally, let’s all hope that Hector Sanchez can get healthy both for his personal well-being, but also because he creates a couple of opportunities for the Giants. He allows Posey to play more 1B and he could be a trade chip.

Starting Rotation:

In my mind, this is actually the biggest issue for the Giants this offseason. Pablo will dominate the headlines, but what the Giants do here will determine how successful they are at repeating next year (more on this in a later post).

The Giants could do nothing and actually field a starting five. It could look like: Bumgarner, Cain, Hudson, Lincecum, Petit. They are all back next year.

However, this doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence, and we all know the Giants like depth, so there will be moves. I think Peavy is gone, Vogelsong could return, Petit and Lincecum will battle in the spring for the 5th spot, and the Giants could add someone else to the mix. But who and for how much are the interesting questions. There is no one knocking on the door right now in the system, but it’s not inconceivable that we start to see the next wave of good, young pitchers late in 2015 and ready to go for 2016. 

  1. Madison Bumgarner. No doubt here, although hold your breath on him staying healthy, strong, and effective all year. My guess is he’s fine in 2015, but wear and tear could become an issue later on down the road.
  2. Matt Cain. I have very little doubt that Matt Cain still has several good years in him. The question is how good? I think he probably has 2 elite years left and then several good years after that…he’ll be the fly ball version of Tim Hudson from 2017 on. His injuries are not the red-flag-structural sort, but more of the wear-and-tear-from-a-decade-of-professional-pitching sort. I’m counting on him being a horse next year.
  3. Here comes the really big decision and the most important move of the offseason. The Giants could go cheap here and bring back Ryan Vogelsong (not the worst idea and it may be what they have to do if they sign Pablo), but I think they need to do more than that. Trade Rumors has the Giants signing Ervin Santana (which I would be ecstatic about at 3 yrs/39 million), and SI has the team picking up Japanese import Kenta Maeda (which I would be less ecstatic about, but it would be interesting). They could also go high risk, high reward here and bring in Brett Anderson or Brandon McCarthy. My preference/prediction is Santana, because I think he’s the best pitcher, for the best deal, and he will be a bridge guy (Lincecum and Hudson are gone after 2015), while the Giants wait on Kyle Crick, Tyler Beede, et al. to figure it out). Remember, the Giants have a 2-3 year window with the majority of the current core, so it wouldn’t hurt to invest in a 3 year pitcher if he’s the right guy (and I think Santana is the right guy… and it would be the right park and the right team behind him…just hope the price is right).
  4. Tim Hudson. Hudson could be worse next year. In fact, his overall numbers will likely be worse because it’s hard to imagine him replicating the stretch he produced to start 2014. But, he could also be better. Why? How? Well, consider that he had massive ankle surgery late in the season in 2013. I think part of the reason he slowed down was that his ankle rehab prevented him from a normal offseason workout. He should be able to get his body ready to go, be more consistent throughout 2015, and hopefully finish stronger than he did this year.
  5. Tim Lincecum/Yusmeiro Petit. The Giants are hoping Lincecum can figure something out and be the guy here. I actually think he would benefit from a move to the ‘pen and the team would be better off giving 175 innings to Petit in a starting role and 100ish to Lincecum in a super reliever role. Who knows, maybe Timmy finds himself in bullpen (wouldn’t be the first time) and can become yet another weapon for Bochy late in games.

 Bullpen:

The big question in the ‘pen is whether the Giants bring back Sergio Romo, an integral part of the “Core 4” who have gotten huge, late outs in all 3 World Series runs. Romo, though, could command closer money from a team desperate for help closing out games (and that is A LOT of teams). I think Romo is gone (I for one will be sad about this, as will all the Mexican-American Giants’ fans, of which there are many).

Bullpens are incredibly hard to predict, but the Giants will count on Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt, and Javier Lopez (all returning) for sure, plus Hunter Strickland, Jean Machi, George Kontos, Juan Guitierrez, Tim Lincecum, Eric Cordier, Derek Law, and even Brett Bochy will be in the mix. Count on the Giants to make some offers to guys on minor league deals. They also seem to find gems every year. 

Opening Day Roster:

Starting Line Up

  • CF Angel Pagan
  • 2B Joe Panik
  • C Buster Posey
  • 3B Pablo Sandoval
  • RF Hunter Pence
  • 1B Brandon Belt
  • SS Brandon Crawford
  • LF Gregor Blanco

 Bench

  • OF Juan Perez
  • OF Gary Brown
  • INF Marco Scutaro
  • INF Joaquin Arias
  • C Andrew Susac
  • C/1B Hector Sanchez

 Starting Rotation

  • Madison Bumgarner
  • Matt Cain
  • Ervin Santana
  • Tim Hudson
  • Tim Lincecum

Bullpen

  • Santiago Casilla (CL)
  • Jeremy Affeldt
  • Javier Lopez
  • Jean Machi
  • Hunter Strickland
  • George Kontos
  • Yusmeiro Petit

-SB

World Champions Again. #SFGiants

Just a couple of thoughts, more thoughtful writings to come later.

First, go read Grant.

Second, the Giants just won a World Series without a number 2 starter (man did they miss Matt Cain in this World Series), without their best hitter hitting (no home runs for Buster Posey who I think played hurt, but still played like a boss), without their leadoff man and center fielder Angel Pagan (and as good as Blanco was, Pagan was missed at times, especially with the LF situation), and with several other roster question marks (Hunter Strickland, Tim Lincecum, Michael Morse, just to name a few).

Third, when all is said and done, Jeremy Affeldt is one of the great Giants of all time. I will fight you to the death on this one.

Fourth, remember when the Giants tried Dan Uggla at second base for two games. I LOVE JOE PANIK has been my mantra all postseason. So good. Can’t wait to watch him for several more years.

Fifth, my worst case scenario basically played itself out, and Bruce Bochy went in a different direction than I would have thought, bringing in Affeldt early. It was the right move. Then he went to Bumgarner for what he/we thought might be 2 or 3 innings. He never had to make another move. Sometimes the best move is the move you don’t make. Bruce Bochy for life, man. He’s the best.

Sixth, Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval had GREAT series’ with their bats and gloves. They covered for Posey big time.

Seventh, the Royals are good. Hat tip to those guys. I’ve been hyping them to my KC friends (who are a cynical bunch) for two years and it nearly came back to bite me. But, they are good.

Eight, Brian Sabean cries every time. Without fail. He’s the best.

Ninth, Michael Morse will make you want to eat your hat. He also drove in the winning run. He was huge in his limited action this postseason. CobraPower.

Tenth, odes will be written to Madison Bumgarner. Boy names in the Bay Area are pretty much taken care of for the next year. There’s not much left to say. All I know is that what he did this postseason, from Pittsburg on, is the most remarkable thing I’ve ever seen in 25+ years of watching baseball.

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Some Thoughts on Trades

Major League Baseball in 2013 is a different beast than a decade ago. It used to be, poor teams said goodbye to their best players and rich teams signed them up to fat contracts and then won a bunch of baseball games. But free agency has turned into an incredibly inefficient system. Over the past couple of years you can rattle off several names that came at steep prices for minimal returns (and that’s just the Angels, boom!).

This is partly why the Giants are either mad-geniuses or simply mad for jumping the gun and locking up Pence and Lincecum. It’s also why I’m not super excited about the list of potential free agents out there (see yesterdays post).

What this means is that trades have become THE way to exploit inefficiencies and improve your team quickly. The Red Sox are an extreme example but their mega-trade with the Dodgers in August of 2012 is the reason they were able to construct the roster that just won them the world series.

The Atlanta Braves are a great example of all these points: brilliant trade to land an impact bat in Justin Upton, and poor free agent decision in signing his brother, BJ, to an expensive deal.

All of this to say: should the Giants explore trades instead of simply adding players through free agency?

My bold answer: probably.

One of the things that makes off-season trade ideas difficult is determining who is actually available. So, far though, we’ve heard rumors of several players placed on the block by their teams. The quick list:

1) David Price: Price is the prize of the trade rumor mill this winter. The Dodgers are already hatching evil plans, and just about anyone who has any kind of decent prospect is going to be floated because Price is good and cheap for another year or so. He would look great in orange and black and go a LONG way to restoring order. The price (pun intended) will be STEEP.

2) Brandon Phillips: Andrew Baggarly’s been pushing this for a couple of weeks, mainly because he wants an all-Brandon infield, but there are things to like here. He’d be a big defensive upgrade over Scutaro, and he’d allow Scutaro to take on a utility role that he might be better suited to at this stage in his career. I think his power would play well at AT&T and his inside-out swing could pound triples ally. He won’t come cheap either but certainly less than Price.

3) Mark Trumbo: Trumbo is not a complete player by any stretch of the imagination but he can hit home runs. He’s an Adam Dunn/all or nothing type who could decline pretty quickly, but the home runs will be tempting.

4) Daniel Murphy: Murphy is the kind of guy that Brian Sabean loves. He is scrappy. He doesn’t walk a ton, doesn’t strike out a ton, doesn’t hit for a ton of power, and has a decent average. He’ll fit right in. On a less sarcastic note, Murphy is lefty swinger who has played 2nd, 1st, 3rd, and the outfield making him an ideal platoon partner with Scutaro at 2nd and a right-handed power hitter in left. I find it nearly impossible to believe this deal doesn’t get done.

5) Dark Horse: no idea who this might be, but I hope the Giants remember the Sanchez for Melky trade. I love the idea of buying low on a young player that someone else is frustrated with.

I have no idea what the Giants would/could/should offer for these guys. Perhaps another post for another time. I would like to offer the following suggestions:

Don’t Trade These Guys:

  • Pablo Sandoval: The Panda would probably fetch the biggest (once again, pun intended) return of anyone on the Giants roster. However, it is my belief that a highly motivated Panda is going to have a huge 2014 season as he heads into free agency. I totally understand the school of thought that says “turn that potential into gold,” but the Giants want to win now and I believe the best way to do that is keep the Panda and let him mash away in their lineup.
  • Brandon Belt: Belt could also be a great chip, although not as bountiful as the Panda. I feel the Giants should keep Belt for much of the same reasons: he’s really starting to put it together and unless someone backs up the truck for BB keep him and reap the benefits of patience.
  • Kyle Crick, Chris Stratton, Heath Hembree, and Edwin Escobar: I am no prospect expert. I try to keep my eye on things but this is not a place I can really claim to know what I am talking about. So, my completely gut-based assessment of our system is that these 4 are untouchable (plus anyone drafted this year). This means I would be ok trading Clayton Blackburn and Gary Brown and others. I might be wrong about Blackburn but he seems the least likely of our top arms to develop into a top-notch starter. I might be eating my words on this, but if we need to move a prospect to make a good deal happen I’d be ok with this one. The other 4, not so much.

My offseason predictions: trade for Daniel Murphy, sign Bronson Arroyo, add a piece to the bench and bullpen. My dream: Carlos Beltran. Let’s do this Sabes.

(-SB)