1.20.2006

Sabes Talkin' Giants Baseball

Brian Sabean just the other day had an online chat with fans online. Since you can read it via the link I provided, I won't go over every question because, as any long-time Giants fan would know, Sabean has mastered the art of appearing to say something useful and important but not really opening his kimono to the listening audience. I will provide my take of his answers, whether it is of interest or something that requires reading between the lines.

Sabean: Munter is on schedule to be ready when all the pitchers report on Feb. 15. He obviously opened our eyes last year and will be given a chance to make our staff, probably as a middle reliever.

BGF: Well, that's good news, sort of - it also means that he is not ready at the moment, just that he is "on schedule." That's been one of my worries this winter, based on the fact that the Giants pursued relievers so strongly and signing Worrell and resigning Fassero, when he could have went with the young guys, who did so well. The signings meant one of the three rookies - Munter, Taschner, Accardo - would be sent down at the start of the year. Though that is good for competition plus cover the problem of one of them not doing so well coming out of spring training, we have a number of other relievers looking to move up, Brian Wilson in particular, who could be ready by mid-season.

It also means that despite how well Munter did last season, he didn't earn a spot with his great performance, whereas Cain also did great but is in rotation, no question (given in later answer).

Sabean: [Question on young talent who can surprise] Starting with the pitching, Merkin Valdez will be given a chance to impress the staff. In the catching department, Eliezer Alfonzo, recently added to the roster, will be added to the backup competition along with Yamid Haad and Justin Knoedler. We look forward to seeing Kevin Frandsen not only play second and third base, but he might be given an opportunity to learn shortstop as well. He's on the fast track to become a full-time player in the Major Leagues. And lastly, in the outfield, Dan Ortmeier and Nate Schierholtz hope to get enough exposure this spring to give us an idea how far along their development is.

BGF: Interesting tidbits of info, most suspected, but good to confirm. The trying out of Frandsen at 3B and SS suggests that Sabean may be clearing the way for Marcus Sanders at 2B. Hopefully that means that there is encouraging signs in Sanders recovery from shoulder problems. Also, there are no other 2B or 3B prospects who look like promising starters, so this suggests that Sabean doesn't see Feliz as a long-term guy at 3B or perhaps feel that he might not be able to sign him after the 2006 season, after he becomes a free agent, and thus Frandsen would become 3B insurance for 2007 (though Sanders would not be ready for 2B by then, maybe 2008-9, so that would mean either re-signing Durham or pursuing a free agent there). The Giants also don't have good SS prospect ready soon but with Vizquel signed for another couple of years, I am not sure what trying out Frandsen at SS would accomplish other than perhaps increase Frandsen's value as trade bait, but I hope not, there wouldn't be a better story in baseball than Frandsen starting for the Giants.

Interesting that they mention Schierholtz as a possibility for OF. There was not much in his stats that would suggest that he would be more ready than, say, EME or Ishikawa, in coming up to the majors in 2006, other than EME hasn't proved that he could play a position yet and Ishikawa is now blocked by Sweeney in terms of backup 1B (I have to presume Schierholtz could only win the 5th OF spot).

Sabean: At this point in time, Lance will be given a chance to win the job full-time.

BGF: Looks like the Giants are going to let Lance play against RHP in 2006 and either swim or watch Sweeney and perhaps others take ABs away from him at 1B. He was horrible against RHP in 2005, he will need to learn from his mistakes and grow further in 2006 or he'll strictly be a platoon 1B.

Sabean: [progess in long-term contract discussions with Winn] We're very interested in signing Randy long-term. I talked to him as recently as today and he is interested in pursuing a multi-year deal. Formal talks won't begin until the end of the month or the first week in February.

BGF: What happened to talking to Winn in November, as he originally said? I expect something similar to what Jacque Jones got from Chicago (3 years, $16M or $5.3M/year), which is about the price of the option they Giants picked up to retain him.

Sabean: [get superstar after Bonds?] Replacing Barry, per se, will obviously be almost impossible, but we are committed to sign the best player or players available with the monies that will be available once he leaves.

BGF: Sounds like the Giants don't intend to sign a superstar while Bonds is around. That would kill our chances of signing Derrek Lee after the 2006 season if Bonds is resigned for 2007. I hope the Giants don't sign Bonds for $20M for 2007, Aaron record or not; if he is unwilling to accept at least 50% less because of his reduced playing time, then he is not that serious about bringing a World Series championship to San Francisco, and we should just move on.

Sabean: Our budget for 2006 will end up being similar to last year's figure, in and around the mid-80's, with an opportunity to be increased at the trade deadline.

BGF: It is the Giants practice to have a budget target for spring training with some additional money available to use at the trade deadline to add on salary as needed for a World Series run. This confirms that will happen again in 2006.

Sabean: [Steve Finley playing time] I have spoken with Steve, including just recently, and his desire is the same as ours: to play as much as possible. We feel confident that he'll get plenty of at-bats in our outfield. The only complicated situation that is inherent is that his best position is center field and we are in the process of trying to sign Randy Winn long-term at that position. Having said that, we do have a club option on Steve and it is in our best interests to make sure he does get ample playing time in order to evaluate him properly against picking up that option. So simply stated, we do not view Steve as a bench player, more as a starter in an outfield that will probably change on a day-to-day basis to utilize everybody's strength and keep everybody fresh and healthy.

BGF: Randy has been playing LF the past few years and most talk I've seen says that he's not that good a CF, that he's better off in LF. Of course, LF is taken by Barry for now. I see Finley starting in Bonds place (Alou has said that he expects Bonds to start 100 games, leaving 62 games to Finley) with Randy moving over to LF. Randy has played from 157 to 160 games the past few years, so Alou might give him 152 starts to give him some rest, leaving Finley 10 starts. Moises Alou probably will get into 122-132 games, leaving Finley 30-40 starts. That adds up to 102-112 starts. Which is not too bad. And if Bonds get the DH for another 18 or so games, then Finley is up to 120-130 games. He was hitting fine in May but April, June, July, and August were horrible, but his September was nearing normal, at .801 OPS with 3 homers in only 43 AB. So that is some hope that 2005 was an aberration.

Sabean: [Resign Schmidt if he returns to form in 2006] Absolutely, if he returns to form.

BGF: And that's the key phrase "if he returns to form." Most probably, Schmidt will not return to form, he is going through what Morris did a few years ago, adjust his pitching when he could no longer just blow guys down with strikeouts. But he will still be good if he is able to make a similar adjustment, just not Schmidt Ace good. So it could be his last season with us.

Sabean: Pedro Feliz will be our everyday third baseman and quite frankly, he's one of the better defensive third basemen in our league. To have him in the lineup every day at that position as well as hitting further down in the lineup this year should be good for all parties.

BGF: At least the Giants recognize that Feliz is not getting a lot of walks and so he should be down lower in the lineup. I'm sure there will be those games where he is up near the top of the lineup but Felipe generally don't do that on a continual basis, just as a mix to change things up sometimes.

Sabean: Matt will certainly be in our rotation. It remains to be seen what slot he will take, but we hope he's capable of providing in and around 200 innings.

BGF: Wow, so they expect him to hold up for 200 innings. That would be great if we could pencil him in for that.

Sabean: Kevin's [Frandsen] going to be given every opportunity to show us how ready he is to play in the Major Leagues in 2006. With Durham as our everyday second baseman, Kevin would obviously be hard-pressed to win that spot, but we are encouraged that he does play second and third base at this time and also will be introduced to shortstop. It would be in his best interest as a young player to play every day as a second baseman instead of being on our roster as a utilityman.

BGF: Mixed message here for me. One they see him as a starter, but two, he can play a lot of positions, but three, the team feels he's better off starting and playing everyday. And how could he get every opportunity if Durham is the starting 2B?

Sabean: The signing of Sweeney did not affect our decision with J.T. ... But when we made the decision to give Niekro a chance to become the full-time first baseman going into the future over J.T, we felt he needed some support, which Sweeney provides.

BGF: Looks like the Giants drunk the coolaid on Niekro, thinking he could do better than J.T. could, with Sweeney as backup to Niekro.

Sabean: Tyler [Walker] really stepped up for us in a very difficult situation ... His durability is a valuable commodity.

BGF: That's about his only value, his stats are nothing to write home about.

Sabean: [Why Vizcaino over Aurilia] We had bona fide interest in Richie, but unfortunately his signing would have cost us another draft pick and we felt with the picks we lost last year, and the two we've already lost this year, that it was time to hold onto our picks.

BGF: The Giants actually do care about keeping picks. Let's hope they can do something with these ones in 2006, particularly their first round pick.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you might be reading a little too much into what is essentially a PR stunt. Regardless, nicely done anyways

Kenshin

Sun Jan 22, 04:30:00 PM PST  
Blogger obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

Yes, very good point, it is most definitely a PR stunt. I would consider every one of Sabean's "talks" to be PR stunts. He gives away actual information like it's the rarest thing on Earth, with the smallest of droppers (those thingys people use to drop medicine in baby's mouths). It's kind of fun listening to him being interviewed on the radio, I can mentally "see" his brain's gears cranking at light speed to see how he can spin the question and answer it without really giving away anything truly insightful. He'd be a great politician, I recall reading an interview with the former mayor of Washington D.C., and if you looked at the questions and the guy's answer, you would swear that at least two different conversations were going on at the same time because the answer often took a tangent off the question or just plain did not pertain to the question posed.

That's why I feel you need to try to read between the lines and parse the language to see if there is any crumb of information in there. While most long-term Giants fans probably could have done most of this exercise in their head, I figure there are those out there who may not follow the Giants as closely as I do but would like the insight or just don't want to go through the headache of trying to read the tea leaves. If you'll notice, I probably didn't even comment on half the stuff because I didn't think there was much useful information there that a Giants fan already would have known anyway. There is a lot of fluff in these "interviews", thanks for pointing that out.

Sun Jan 22, 09:37:00 PM PST  
Anonymous Lyle said...

Some responses to your thoughts:
re: Ortmeier and Schierholtz - I don't think he means they are being considered for SF this year, just that the brass want to get a look at them in a major-league environment and have the coaches evaluate their development and potential. Obviously, Ortmeier is ahead of Schierholtz, and if everything goes well he should get a Sept. call-up this year.

re: Fransden - yeah, he pretty much talked all around the situation. I guess he's covered now, no matter how things turn out. I, too, suspect that Sanders is now slotted in at 2B only; and, that Sabean knows both that Fransden deserves a shot at MLB and that his best position is 2B. In essence, he's acknowledging that there may be a choice to be made down the road.

re: Winn's contract - amen!

re: Schmidt's resigning - amen, brother!

re: Bonds resigning - amen, brother, and hallelujah!

Tue Jan 24, 07:49:00 AM PST  
Blogger obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

Lyle,

Thanks for pointing that out, yes, I read too much into that, Schierholtz is only here to be prodded and probed to see where he is.

But to my point again, why him and not EME or Ishikawa? I would say that the two of them are ahead of Schierholtz in terms of making the majors (or rather, just as negatively encumbered to make the majors). Or do they think those two are doing OK with things the way they are but they think this taste of the majors might be the carrot to get Schierholtz to make the leap?

Tue Jan 24, 12:57:00 PM PST  

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