The Season is Over... Wait 'til Next Year

What a year! What a terrible, mess-up year! We all know it and apparently management knows it - Sabean has submitted his mea culpa about how embarrassed he was and now claims to know the beauty of bringing up prospects. But do they know it enough?

I've been writing about this since the beginning of the 2003 season: with the budget looking tight for the forseeable future (i.e. from 2004 to 2006 while Bonds is signed), the Giants could be bold and sign up Barry's successor (my suggestion was Vlad and I worked out how he would fit under our budget - for just an extra $1-2M over what they ended up with, when they were willing to spend a additional $6M on Maddux) or they could be meek and sign complementary players. They choose the latter, signing Tucker, Hammonds, Hermanson, Tomko, Snow, and trading for Pierzynski before the 2004 season. They did so again before the 2005 season, resigning Snow and Grissom, plus added Benitez, Vizquel, and Matheny, all nice parts, all complementary to Bonds in the lineup except for Benitez. While I could see that the Giants were improved both years, I felt that they would be vulnerable without Bonds successor, a point driven home by the results of the 2005 season.

In a post-mortem to the season, Sabean and Tidrow did a Q&A with some season ticket fans that was captured in a diary on McCovey Chronicles. The major newspapers in the Bay Area reported on it as well as if the news conference was just for them but this account seems the most complete. Here are major points and my reaction:
  1. "Sabean is looking for lefty bats and 2 starting pitchers". Other articles written by newspapers noted he is looking for a lefty 1B or 1B/OF. This means that Schmidt, Lowry and Cain have spots in the rotation and that Hennessey and Correia will have to earn the other two; my bet is on Hennessey and signing a non-tender pitcher, a trade or free agent could be too costly given an $85M budget and trying to get the lefty 1B, I assume that's more important right now than a pitcher.
  2. "Edgordo is gone, Feliz is the 06 3b. Q: "How much longer is Alfonzo signed for?" A: 365 days. [I wanted to ask if he had it down to hours]. " Sounds like we have an expensive infield backup, probably will play 3B if Feliz plays LF.
  3. "First base is the only place they are looking for a starter; Niekro isn't it." Only spot that don't have an experienced player signed or expected to sign, so any thoughts of upgrading must happen here.
  4. "Elizier Alfonzo is thought well of - he will be protected on the 40-man. Can't say I agree." Not that big a deal, according to most newspaper accounts, they are looking for an experience backup catcher, Haad wasn't doing it for them and Alfonzo is not experienced. He will probably be the AAA catcher in 2006 given his success at AA and high-A this season. Wasted question in my opinion.
  5. "Sabean still doesn't think he should have signed Guerrero." Yeah, we couldn't have used .317/.394/.565/.959 with 32 Homers, 108 RBI, and 13 SB in 520 AB and 141 games this past season.
  6. "They are very happy with Winn and want to sign him to an extension. Sabean believes part of his hot streak is real improvement." As I've noted elsewhere, this is not the real thing - at 11 homers in September, he would be Barry's successor if he continued that a full season - but he should have improved homerun power over a full season with the Giants because hits and flyouts on the warning track in SAFECO becomes homers in SBC. I expect him to resign for something in the $4M/year range, probably backloaded over 3 years.
  7. "They were impressed with how Frandsen performed." He rose up the system like a rocket this season. If he can continue to impress in 2006 he is probably our starting 2B in 2007 and, if Durham is out for an extended period, could be brought up to play 2B, depending on how Alou ends up using Alfonzo in 2006 (or if Edgardo gets traded).
  8. "Tidrom: Marcus Sanders can steal bases; not many MLB ss steal 50 bases a year. He is 21 according to Tidrow [cleary not true]". A quibble, Sanders just turned 20 and will be 21 next season on August 25th. I've heard that Sanders have physical problems that could affect him greatly, don't get too hyped on him yet. But if not for that, he could have been pushing Frandsen for 2B in 2007.
  9. "The payroll probably won't go down post Bonds." I would hope not, but note the word "probably".
  10. "Eyre is probably the only re-sign; but none of the guys are out of the question." About what I would have expected and hoped for. Eyre is a must sign and he indicated that something should get done before the free agent period; I hope that is true. Tomko is probably gone, I cannot imagine him wanting to be back here after getting benched twice plus he indicated in the last off-season that he was underpaid and pointed to the contract that Kris Benson got: $21M over 3 years. Even at half that I would prefer not to use him. I would rather the Giants plan to go with a 4 man rotation early in the season with Schmidt, Lowry, Cain, and Hennessey and see which goody comes out of the non-tenders. Snow is gone, he can only play 1B and the Giants are looking for a power hitting lefty 1B, unless Snow wants to sit on the bench and not play much for the minimum for vets and I'm not sure I would want to pay that.
Obviously we're not getting Bonds successor this season. Ryan Howard would be the almost perfect addition (actually I think Utley would be since he could play 1B and can hit LHP better than Howard right now, but the Phillies don't have a 2B to replace him while they are still stuck with Thome) but they would probably want Cain from us, which is a no-go for me. Perhaps if they would be OK with a strong pitching prospect, like Valdez (if he isn't getting a Tommy John as reported by Baseball America) and Simon plus a replacement 1B power hitter, like EME, Schierholtz, or Ishikawa (only the latter is a true 1B but the other two probably could be converted to 1B), our only true power prospects.

I think at best we will get a LH 1B who probably cannot hit LHP who we could platoon with Niekro at 1B. Daryle Ward would fit that bill plus play OF too (RF, pushing Alou to LF when Bonds rest, I guess). I'm not sure who else is out there but there's no primo LH 1B coming out to sign so the only way we could get one is via a trade with someone. If signing a cheaper FA 1B happens, then we would have more money left over to sign a better starting pitcher ($5-7M range) which would put Hennessey as the 5th starter.

Thanks for the end of season pennant race fun Giants! I had no problem if we made the playoffs with a sub .500 record, with Bonds and Winn we were a better team than our record. Hopefully the off-season will bring us players to get us over the hump with Barry and cover our behinds if Barry is out again.

Go Giants!


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