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Monday, December 12, 2011

Where Are They Now? A Quick Look at the 2010 Giants

Just a shade over a year since the 2010 Giants celebrated a World Series championship, the 2012 team takes shape with roughly half of that team elsewhere. With Fontenot tendered a contract for 2012, let's take a look at the 25 guys that brought home the trophy.

2010 World Series SF Giants now lacing up elsewhere (or nowhere):

Aaron Rowand (Marlins - minor league deal)
Edgar Renteria (retired)
Juan Uribe (Dodgers)
Ramon Ramirez (Mets)
Andres Torres (Mets)
Travis Ishikawa (Brewers - minor league deal)
Jonathan Sanchez (Royals)
Cody Ross (Red Sox)
Pat Burrell (retired)

2010 World Series SF Giants that remain:

Tim Lincecum
Matt Cain
Madison Bumgarner
Brian Wilson
Sergio Romo
Santiago Casilla
Jeremy Affeldt
Javier Lopez
Buster Posey
Freddy Sanchez
Pablo Sandoval
Aubrey Huff
Nate Schierholtz
Mike Fontenot
Guillermo Mota
Eli Whiteside

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Adios Andres

So while the Marlins are making headlines by signing or being in on the biggest names on the free agent market (are they really going to lure Pujols away from St. Louis!?) the Giants have actually had a pretty active offseason.

To quickly review:

1) Resigned Lopez and Affeldt
2) Traded Jonathan Sanchez for Melky Cabrera
3) Extended Sabean and Bochy
4) Traded Andres Torres and Ramon Ramirez for Angel Pagan

The last one is the newest development. It's an under the radar trade for anyone that is not really a Mets or Giants fan. But it's not a move I can blame Sabean for and one that I actually like. Let's be honest, Andres Torres was a fan favorite and a very popular Giant inside the clubhouse as well. But let's be even more honest and face reality that Andres Torres was likely going to be non-tendered in a week. The fact that Sabean could match up with the Mets and get a productive player back by throwing in Ramon Ramirez is surprising. Surprising in the fact that Sabean didn't get fleeced and that he actually made a trade that makes baseball sense.

This trade has a domino affect. One, the Giants essentially save money. By paying only Pagan in arbitration as opposed to Torres and Ramirez they likely just saved about a million bucks. Two, they shipped off Torres to a team where he'll likely get a lot of playing time. That's a good thing for a now former Giant that was beloved but was going to barely see the field in 2012 if he was even going to be offered a contract. I'm happy for Andres though I'll miss his energy (and especially his defense which was really f'ing fantastic). Three, it moves Melky Cabrera out of the leadoff and centerfield discussion. Both of those are good things. Four, it creates more questions in the outfield. We can pretty much pencil in Pagan in centerfield and Cabrera in a corner outfield spot. The question now becomes... who takes that other outfield corner spot? Do the Giants give rightfield to recently married Nate Schierholtz? Or do they give left field to Aubrey Huff and platoon Belt/Pill at 1B? Or do they put Belt in LF and let Aubrey man 1B? These questions likely won't be answered until Spring Training when the Giants get to Scottsdale and see what shape Huff is in and how he manages the outfield.

What it essentially rules out is any other additions to the line-up. It sounds like Keppinger is minutes away from being traded to an AL club, likely for salary relief and maybe a B prospect. The line-up is nearly set. The only remaining riddle is... where does Huff play and does Belt have a chance to see much playing time as a SF Giant in 2012?

Pagan answers the centerfield and leadoff problem. He's not excellent but he's a poor man's Coco Crisp who everyone thought the Giants were going to wind up with at the beginning of the offseason anyway. At least I did. He has speed, he has some extra base power, and occasionally his OBP's are respectable. I'll take it.

In essence, so far this offseason, Sabean has basically traded Ramon Ramirez, Jonathan Sanchez, and Andres Torres for Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan. That's actually not terrible.

We'll see some other minor tweaks and hopefully an extension to one or both of our star starters. But I don't see much else on the horizon. I do notice however the Giants are shaping up for a roster purge after 2012. Pagan and Cabrera are in their final years of arbitration and can hit free agency after the season. They will be joining Freddy Sanchez, Jeremy Affeldt, and Aubrey Huff in that 2013 free agent market. And lest we forget, Aaron Rowand's salary comes off the books after 2012 as well.

I can see figments of a Giants plan here, I just don't know what that end game is. An all home grown team in 2013 with appearances by Gary Brown, Joe Panik, and the Brandon's? All I can say is I am intrigued by this last trade, think it'll help the Giants more than it'll hurt them in 2012, and will patiently await that Keppinger salary dump.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Offseason Depression

So today the Giants extended Sabean and Bochy through 2013 (with options for 2014). They've been busy this offseason, what with re-signing Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez and trading Jonathan Sanchez for Melky Cabrera and reminding fans every chance they have that they're not going to do much of anything to fix what was the worst offense in the NL last year.

That's right. This team that was coming off a 2010 World Series championship, that had its most ludicrous (and lucrative) season in its history in terms of attendance and merchandise sales in 2011, is modestly bumping the payroll from 125M to 130M. That, folks, is a pittance for a team with the success the Giants have had in 2010-2011.

At today's press conference to announce the extensions for manager and GM, the Giants made sure to repress expectations. Pujols? No. Fielder? No. Reyes? No. Rollins? No. Beltran? Probably not. Cody fricking Ross? Not sure.

Oh, but the Giants are assuring us that they're working on extensions for Cain and Lincecum. That they're talking, exchanging broad figures, and that nothing concrete is on the horizon but that they want to make something happen.

Um, did they not pay attention to 2011? Tim fricking Lincecum finished with a sub .500 record with an ERA in the 2's!!! Matt Cain has a career sub .500 record despite being one of the better pitchers in the NL for years.

Have the Giants considered that Tim and Matt may have no intention of sticking around SF if the team refuses to spend its money on guys that can actually knock in runs? You know, those things that, when added up, actually equal wins? Apparently the Giants didn't get that memo. They think (pray) that the recoveries of Posey and Sanchez and the upgrade (?) of Cabrera in the outfield will cover the warts of the woefully pathetic O.

Let's examine what must go right for the Giants to have even a decent offense next year...

1) Posey and Sanchez will have to come back and act like it's 2010 with no health setbacks.
2) Huff will have to rebound. He doesn't have to be Huff 2010 but he can't be anything close to Huff 2011.
3) Sandoval must show 2010 was his fluke year and 2009 and 2011 were the norm.
4) Cabrera must prove that 2011 was actually a turning point in his career and not just a fluke career season at age 27 in a hitters haven where there was no pressure.
5) Brandon Belt and/or Nate Schierholtz will have to hit like starting MLB outfielders.

That's a whole lot of ifs with not a whole lot of room for error(s). Now, granted, the Giants are not finished with their offseason. But here are some names they have been linked to: Barmes, Bloomquist, Hairston Jr.

Thankfully, the Pirates and Dbacks have saved Sabean from being Sabean. Hairston Jr is still out there though. It's clear the Giant are looking for a utility infielder even though they have two on their roster (Fontenot and Keppinger). Expect one or both to be traded or non-tendered however. They're starting to cost money. And the Giants aren't about spending too much of that this offseason.

The Winter Meetings start next week. Expect some big name free agents to come off the market. None will go to the Giants. No, the team with one of the best revenues in MLB, that has a World Championship fresh in its history, that has a packed park every night... will be sitting on the sidelines.

If the Giants hadn't won it all in 2010, I would be much more angry about it. As it stands, I'm still pretty pissed. I hate when rich teams try to cry poor. And while a 130M payroll is nothing to sneeze at, the product on the field needs improvement. And that costs money. Money that the Executive Committee is apparently saving for a rainy day.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Free Agent Predictions 2011

It's my second annual free agent prediction list. Like last year, first I'll take you back and show you all of my MLB predictions from March and show you how unreliable I actually am and then I'll give you my free agent list. Here we go (bold means correct):

NL Playoff teams: Giants, Reds, Phillies, Brewers
AL Playoff teams: Rangers, Twins, Red Sox, A's
ALCS: Red Sox vs Rangers
NLCS: Giants vs Phillies
World Series: Giants vs Red Sox

Since the awards have yet to be given out, I'll check back to see how I did on those later.

I did get 3 out of 8 playoff teams. That's a .375 average and if I were a hitter, that'd put me in the Hall of Fame. Moving on, here is where I think the top free agents are headed come Spring Training 2012.

Albert Pujols (Cardinals): He's not going to leave St. Louis. Plain and simple. The Yankees and Red Sox can't come calling to blow him away with an offer and the Cardinals, coming off a championship, won't be able to explain to their fans that they couldn't afford to resign him. He'll be a Cardinal for life. Actual: ANGELS

Prince Fielder (Cubs): Like with Pujols, the really big market big money teams don't have a need for Fielder. Milwaukee won't be able to give him the contract he seeks. When the Cubs signed Carlos Pena last year for 1 year only, I immediately penned them into the Fielder sweepstakes. And I think they win it. They will not have much competition. The Nationals may test the waters, the Jays will call, and the Orioles always try to make a splash but in the end it's the Cubs. Theo Epstein is there now. Chicago is a great city. And the Cubs have the money and the position vacancy to throw at Prince. Besides, the Cubs and Cardinals are rivals. The Cardinals will have Pujols. The Cubs need an answer at first. And that answer is Prince. Actual: TIGERS

CJ Wilson (Yankees): The Yankees need starting pitching and CJ Wilson is the best pitcher out there. Unlike Cliff Lee, CJ Wilson won't spurn New York. Actual: ANGELS

Jose Reyes (Brewers): Reyes is a complete wildcard. He could go almost anywhere or he could stay a Met. There's not a team out there that wouldn't take him. He's an above average defensive shortstop, he's legit with the bat, and he can steal bases. He's got pop and speed at the top of the line-up. But he can't stay healthy or be depended on to stay healthy. So where does he go? I am going to say Brewers simply because they have Prince's salary coming off the books which they can allocate to Reyes over a shorter commitment. It didn't hurt that Ryan Braun, their franchise leader, also lobbied for him. The Brewers also happen to have a shortstop opening. Actual: MARLINS

Jimmy Rollins (Athletics): J-Roll has been a Phillie for a long time. And he's been a franchise player for them. But the Phillies need to cut some costs somewhere and Rollins will fall victim to the economics. And unless he lowers his contract demands (5 years) the Giants won't be interested. Teams that lose out on Reyes will go hard for Rollins. But will they meet his asking price? I can't see him going to another team in the NL East though he'd be a good fit in Atlanta. And I can't see him signing with a team that on paper is a non-contender. That leaves a handful of teams. And most of those teams already have a shortstop. However, Rollins is an east bay kid and although he'd look good in Orange and Black, I see him across the bay, playing for Oakland. He fits a need (SS and leadoff) and Billy Beane occasionally springs for an unlikely free agent. It's between Oakland and Philadelphia and I think Oakland offers just a little more. Actual: PHILLIES

Carlos Beltran (Red Sox): The Giants will make a sincere effort to resign Beltran but in the end, Beltran won't see the upgrades he's looking for from the offense and Boston will offer more money. He's the best outfielder on the market and you think the Red Sox are happy about how their season ended? As per usual, the Yankees and Red Sox will spend money trying to fix unfulfilled seasons. Beltran will get his wish to play for a contender and get paid handsomely to do so. Actual: CARDINALS

Aramis Ramirez (Marlins): The Fish are rumored to be looking to spend this offseason as they prep to open their new park. They have a black hole at 3B and Aramis Ramirez would be a "splash" name to add to their roster. It's a good fit for both parties. Actual: BREWERS

Roy Oswalt (Rangers): Oswalt is the 2nd best name on the market for starting pitchers. He isn't what he used to be but he is still very good. The Rangers will need to replace CJ Wilson and Oswalt is a perfectly acceptable addition to their rotation. Oswalt gets to return to Texas in what will likely be his last contract and the Rangers get a competitive right hander who isn't the ace they need atop the rotation, but a nice complementary arm to Colby Lewis and Derek Holland.

Jonathan Papelbon (Dodgers): Papelbon will have a hard time living down the loss against the Orioles that ended the Red Sox season. Most Red Sox fans seem ready to see him leave. Plus they have Bard waiting in the wings. The market is flooded with closers. Papelbon is the biggest name. The Dodgers, still currently under McCourt rule for a little longer, won't be able to say no to the soon to be former Red Sock. - Actual: PHILLIES

Michael Cuddyer (Phillies): The Twins would like to keep him but he's going to outprice himself from them on the open market. The Phillies have already been linked as have the Rockies. He would seem to be the ideal Giants acquisition (30's, versatile) but the Giants don't seem willing to shell out the cash. Philadelphia isn't a bad place to end up and I can't see why Cuddyer would turn down Philly if they offer him market value. Actual: ROCKIES

Edwin Jackson (Nationals): The Nationals almost had Edwin Jackson before. Now that he's a free agent, they can just sign him. He'd be a nice #3 or #4 starter in a rotation fronted by Strasburg and Zimmermann. Actual: NATIONALS

Francisco Rodriguez (Phillies): It seems like the Phils would just resign Ryan Madson to be their closer but they may prefer K-rod. By letting Rollins and Oswalt go, the Phils should be able to sign both Cuddyer and K-rod. Actual: BREWERS

Joe Nathan (Marlins): The Marlins didn't seem satisfied with Juan Carlos Oviedo even before they realized he wasn't Leo Nunez. Nathan has had a long track record of success and due to his injuries should cost less than K-rod, Madson, and Papelbon. Expect the Fish to hook this closer. - Actual: RANGERS

Ryan Madson (Red Sox): Madson may not find a closing job in this market. If not, he'll have to settle for big bucks and a set up role. I could see the Red Sox bringing in Madson to compete with Bard for the closer's role. Unless another closing job opens up elsewhere, it's probably Madson's best chance at playing for a team that'll let him at least fight for the closer slot. Actual: REDS

Mark Buehrle (White Sox): Unless St. Louis magically could afford him, it's hard to think Buehrle would leave the South Side. Actual: MARLINS

David Ortiz (Red Sox): David Ortiz IS the Red Sox. Sure, he'll flirt with some other teams but in the end, Big Papi IS the Red Sox heart and soul and they'll do what they can to keep him. Actual: RED SOX

Grady Sizemore (Nationals): I want the Giants to sign Grady Sizemore to an incentive laden deal. He is the very definition of high risk/high reward. That being said, some other team will give him some decent guaranteed money. That team will be Washington who needs a CF'er and is looking to have its first contending year. - Actual: INDIANS

Coco Crisp (Giants): Sigh. Crisp is the type of player the Giants should avoid. He can't stay healthy and he's not really that great. He's a useful player. He can steal bases and he plays good defense. He apparently wants to stay on the West Coast and he wants to play for a contender. Unless the Angels trade their centerfielder, that sounds like the Giants. Money talks but Sabean has made the outfield his offensive priority seemingly. There is just too much smoke here not to be fire. Hopefully it'll be a 2 year deal max. And hopefully Crisp doesn't have a 2012 like Andres Torres's 2011. Actual: ATHLETICS

Josh Willingham (Indians): Willingham seems consistently underrated as a player. He provides 20+ HR power and has a career OPS of .836 mostly in ballparks that are neutral at best and favorable toward pitchers at worst. The Indians are an interesting team in 2012 and Willingham would be a solid addition to their line-up. Actual: TWINS

Rafael Furcal (Cardinals): Furcal is probably the 3rd best shortstop option after the big 2 of Reyes and Rollins. He wants to go back to the Cards and the Cards would like something to work out. Sounds like they'll get something done. Actual: CARDINALS

David DeJesus (Giants): The Giants won't resign Beltran but they could go after Crisp and DeJesus. DeJesus was almost a Giant in 2010 before he hurt himself. This time Sabean gets his man and 2/3 of the A's 2011 outfield. Actual: CUBS

Carlos Pena (Dodgers): James Loney's time may be running out in LA. The Dodgers need to surround Kemp and Ethier with more power. Pena gives them that power. Actual: RAYS

Brad Lidge (Twins): Lidge is a tough pitcher to value. The Twins could give him a shot at closing. Or he may have to wind up setting up somewhere. My guess is he winds up in Minnesota. Actual: NATIONALS

Jonathan Broxton (Mets): The Mets are rebuilding and Broxton needs to go to a team that'd be willing to let him reestablish himself. They're a perfect match. Actual: ROYALS

That's all I got for now. I'll update this list as each free agent signs. I barely got any right last year so I'm feeling pretty good this time around. I mean, I couldn't be much worse than I was in 2011...

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Giants check 2 items off their To-Do List

So I haven't posted in 6 weeks. That's pretty much unacceptable. But what was there to say really that you folks didn't already know? The Giants couldn't keep it going with all the injuries and eventually petered out and fell to the surprising Diamondbacks.

Baseball felt a mini renaissance of sorts due to playoff chases that culminated in stunning fashion on Day 162. Red Sox and Braves fans had their hearts broken while Cardinals and Rays fans rejoiced. Nowhere is it summed up better than in the article here. Good luck finding drama like that in any sport any time soon. That only was the beginning, as we came to find out, as the NLDS had 3 series go to Game 5. Which of course, was merely a precursor to one of the best World Series played by two evenly matched teams with game 6 of the Series being one of the most entertaining baseball games ever played in modern history. An instant classic.

The St. Louis Cardinals are World Champions now. Can't say I'm happy with that. Tony LaRussa is the Bill Belichick of baseball and I hate that he now has 3 World Series rings. And aside from the Giants winning multiple trophies, I like new blood getting a taste. The Giants straight beat the Rangers last year. But the Cards and Rangers could have played a 10 game series and it wouldn't have been able to clearly determine who was the better team. It was one of the most balanced Fall Classics in awhile and the first to go seven since, well, since that World Series in '02 that may or may not have happened. And although I hate Texas (the state) for a lot of reasons, I really did wish the Rangers got to sip the champagne. Their fans were classy when the Giants won it on their field last year. It would have been their first championship. The Cardinals now have eleven. But I guess it was better than seeing the Phillies or Yankees win so I guess I'll take it.

So now it's officially the offseason and the Giants have already kicked it off with the resigning of Javier Lopez and the imminent return of Jeremy Affeldt (who's 5 milli option was picked up). First of all, let me state that I'm happy both will be back. I thought at most the Giants would keep one guy with a very real possibility of losing both. And although I think Lopez is more valuable, the Giants and specifically Brian Sabean mentioned Affeldt would be back which made me think the Giants would let Lopez walk. I didn't know how I felt about that. But now, they're both back. But it wasn't on a home friendly discount. Lopez is going to make 4.25M in 2012 and 2013. There's murmurs that Affeldt might restructure his option for a 2-3 year contract which might make it more team friendly. We're yet to see that development so as of right now, it stands that a middle reliever is going to make 5M next season. That's 1M less than Freddy Sanchez. Hopefully they had preliminary outlines of a new contract because that's a steep price for a lefty reliever that has had 1 great season, 1 good season, and 1 mediocre season. And although Runzler hasn't been completely impressive, if the choice was between Affeldt and his 5M or Runzler and his 600K, you go with Runzler, especially if your team is on a budget and needs a lot of help on the offensive side of the ball. Lefty relievers are a commodity and the relief market last year was ridiculous. Still, these contracts seem to be a tad high.

But you can't grade an offseason until it's complete and for now, Sabean has ensured that his two left handed stalwarts will be available in the 'pen in 2012. And that is a good thing.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Bill Neukom OUT as Managing General Partner? WHY!?

So in case your head has been buried in the sand all day, you're well aware that the Giants just made an awful PR move and a crippling short and long term move for the health of the franchise. They sacked Bill Neukom.

Bill "Bowtie" Neukom.

And why? Because he had the vision and fortitude to try to make the Giants the Phillies, Red Sox, and Yankees of the West. He supported The Franchise show on Showtime in an attempt to give the team more notoriety and more exposure (especially to those East Coasters).

He exploded the payroll from about 90M to 120M following a surprise World Series title run.

He invested in the farm system and refused to sign long term contracts to free agents while showing a willingness to extend the team's core players.

He embraced new age stats. He spent the money the team made on... well... the team and improving it.

And the so-called Executive Committee apparently had a problem with this.

Mostly, they were butt hurt that Neukom did these things on a whim without fully informing them.

And so, as egotistical investors are wont to do, they called for Neukom's head because he was gathering all the good will and doing things without their complete permission.

Sure, maybe this communication thing would be a factor if the owner was making piss poor decisions and driving the franchise into the ground and costing the investors millions of dollars. But um... the Giants won the World Series last year. They were contending up until a couple of weeks ago THIS year despite some devastating injuries. Their future looked bright with Posey, Sandoval, Lincecum, Bumgarner, Cain, and Wilson.

Now?

Larry Baer is taking over. Larry Baer is the second coming of Peter Magowan. The same Peter Magowan that after the 2002 World Series let Jeff Kent walk, spread a tax evasion story about Dusty Baker, and forced Sabean to trade Russ Ortiz due to budgetary constraints just when Jason Schmidt and Russ Ortiz proved themselves as legit 1A and 1B aces (a solid recipe for not just contending but making and winning a World Series).

Magowan was "a fan" of the Giants but he also cared more about the bottom line. Neukom was a fan of baseball and went about business in a logical, rational way. In other words, he didn't cut corners then go sign Barry Zito to a 126 million seven year contract.

The fact that Neukom is being forced out is terrible news for Giants fans. The investors are pissed that he spent their "rainy day fund". That essentially means that they're pissed he took all the revenue the team has made due to merchandise sales and World Series carry over and spent it back on the team.

Consider this. Brian Wilson, Pablo Sandoval, Jonathan Sanchez, Matt Cain, and Tim Lincecum all have some very big pay increases coming their way. That doesn't even take into account the raises for Ryan Vogelsong and Nate Schierholtz, the arbitration cases of Ramon Ramirez, Santiago Casilla, Mike Fontenot, and Jeff Keppinger, and the impending free agency of Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt and Carlos Beltran. Even if the Giants didn't sign a big free agent this winter, payroll would have to increase to keep Lincecum (due for a 16-20M price tag), Cain, Wilson, and Jonathan Sanchez. I was skeptical it could be done WITH Neukom at the helm. Now? I fully expect the Giants not to make smart BASEBALL decisions but try to make economically driven BUSINESS decisions. What does that mean? It means it's very likely the Giants will non tender Jonathan Sanchez this winter i.e. cut him loose for absolutely nothing rather than pay him. It means the Giants will look into trading Cain so they can pay Lincecum instead of paying them both. It eliminates any chance whatsoever the Giants will sign a significant free agent. And you can expect the Giants to fill the roster from within or sign over the hill vets that are no longer good. I get a very strong Juan Pierre vibe.

All in all, it's not just a bad day for the Giants, it's a bad trend that hurts the long term hopes of the franchise. Even though 2011 was a lost year, due to injuries mostly, 2012 and 2013 looked like positive years where Giants fans could realistically hope for another World Series title. Now? Undoubtedly there will be major turnover in the roster and not for the better and the window to win multiple championships may have just been slammed shut.

It's not quite like Chris Cohan just bought the Giants. But it's not as far off as you'd think.

Baer is a puppet and a marketing spinster. He says all the right things but he is essentially a politician. He'll shake your hand, tell you what you want to hear, but will never be telling the full truth.

Giants fans went from feeling like a rising power in the West with a World Series title already under the belt to... well... despair.

And if you think I'm overreacting or Giants fans in general are overreacting? Just watch. The sky has already begun to fall.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ding Dong, the 2010 Mojo Is Dead

The Giants magic has finally run out. It was a wild, torturous ride in 2010. It ended with a surprising World Series title and carried into the offseason and into the 2011 season. The Giants were the walk off win kings. The fun torture was still happening where things were always exciting and interesting and eventually ended in Giants handshakes around the mound. Then Buster Posey and Freddy Sanchez sustained season ending injuries and the vibe took a hit. Except, it didn't. They kept winning. They climbed to 17 games over .500. They sent 5 All-Stars to Arizona. Then they went to Philly, one of the most hyped up series of the year, a rematch of the NLCS to face the best team IN BASEBALL, and they took 2 of 3.

Then?

THUD.

The Giants traded for the centerpiece of the trade market in Carlos Beltran and have gone 11-21 since his arrival. Of course, Beltran immediately got injured upon becoming a Giant, fitting in nicely with his new teammates.

The Giants have put 18 players on the DL this season. None of the position players that had big years in 2010 to carry the team have come close to having even mediocre years. Huff has been awful. Ross has been awful. Torres has been awful. Burrell has been injured. Renteria is a Red and Uribe is a Dodger. Sandoval, who was not very good last year, has been the team's best hitter and the only beacon of light in an otherwise dreadful year offensively.

After the July 31st deadline came and went, no one expected that Jeff Keppinger, a career utility fielder who was having a nice year as a starter in Houston, would be Brian Sabean's best acquisition. Beltran has been a bust, hitting for a high (yet soft) average while wearing a Giants uni. He has 4 RBI as a Giant and tonight stranded 6 runners by himself. Even worse, he looks like he could care less out in the field and has routinely let gettable balls fall in for hits. And we haven't even discussed the mind boggling Thomas Neal for Orlando Cabrera trade. Cabrera was playing 2B for the Indians. And Sabean traded for him to be our SS. Nevermind that Brandon Crawford had been a magician at short with the glove and could actually have decent AB's (despite a low average). You see, the Giants don't like players that aren't aggressive at the plate and are quick to belittle "passive" hitters like Fred Lewis or Brandon Belt who actually look to take a walk every once in awhile. Cabrera has made a few decent plays at short but more often than not he has been shaky to awful and has actually cost the team runs. And if I have to hear how he's been on playoff teams the last several years I'll throw him. There's a reason those teams haven't brought him back. He's not good. And we gave up a pretty decent outfield prospect in Thomas Neal for him. You don't trade one of your better prospects for Orlando Cabrera. Especially after you gave up one of your top prospects for Beltran. The Cabrera trade didn't have to be made but Sabean felt like he had to get someone at shortstop so he did. We'll see in a couple of years whether or not that trade will go down as one of the real bad ones.

Wheeler was difficult to part with but at least Beltran was a valuable commodity. Cabrera? Let's just say the Giants could have signed him this winter on a minor league deal but instead wound up trading Thomas Neal for him later on. Sickening really.

The Giants have folded. The DBacks smell blood in the water (much like the Giants smelled Padre blood last season). They sit 6 back with 26 games left and while mathematically they're still alive AND have 6 games head to head against the Dbacks, no logical person could be watching this team and think they have any chance to actually reach October again.

Their body language is awful. The pitchers are finally reaching the breaking point in terms of frustration when it comes to the offense. And Wilson and Posey and the Sanchez's are all still out.

There was "magic inside" AT&T Park for a season and a half. But it finally has run out.

Last homestand? 3-7. This homestand against the absolute dregs of not just the NL but MLB? -3-5.

Time to grab those 2010 DVD's and throw them on. This season has unofficially ended.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Other Shoe Dropped

So when Brian Sabean said he was working on a bigger deal when he acquired Jeff Keppinger, we now know who it was.

Ladies and gentleman, your new rightfielder: Carlos Beltran


We're so used to Sabean smoke and mirrors that it's hard to comprehend that he actually acquired the guy he was linked to all along.

It's a big pick up. I wanted Carlos Beltran on the Giants all the way back when he was a Royal. Then he ransacked the 2004 postseason and I REALLY wanted him. Now, 7 years later, he's a Giant. He's not exactly the player he was but he's still above average. And the fact that he and Pablo are both switch hitters makes the new middle of the line-up much harder to pitch to for opposing managers. Remember last year's NLCS when Bochy could bring in Javier Lopez and shut down Utley and Howard? Sure, Charlie "Senile" Manuel ("Lincecum and Cain are good but not great") tried to insert Jayson Werth in between his lefties once to no avail but the point is the Giants had a counter for the Phillies lefties. With Beltran and Sandoval batting 3-4 there are no specialist relievers that can come into the game and neutralize them. Beltran isn't hitting lefties as well as he has in the past but he's not a eunuch up there either.

The Giants got the crown jewel on the market at the deadline and when was the last time the Giants could say that? Jason Schmidt and (gasp!) Sidney Ponson were at the top of the wishlist in 2001 and 2003 respectively but when was the last time the Giants truly acquired a top flight hitter? Freddy Sanchez was a nice complementary piece. But go down the list and you see the Ricky Ledee's, Roos Davis's, and Shea Hillenbrand's of the world. Ellis Burks may have been the closest thing but it cost the Giants their leadoff hitter at the time. And Randy Winn wound up having a huge final two months with the Giants in 2005 but that was extremely unexpected.

No, Sabean this time saw a gaping hole left by Posey and he filled it with the biggest bat on the market. The Phillies may counter with Pence, who was my original pipe dream. But if the Giants just set the market by trading Zach Wheeler for a 2 month rental then the Astros have leverage to demand the Phillies entire farm system for Pence.

And who knows? Sabes may not be finished. There is still a black hole at catcher and shortstop and given that the Mets actually threw 4 million dollars back into the pot, you might see the Giants leave Cincy with Ramon Hernandez on Sunday. Or some other catcher. Because even with the addition of Beltran, the Giants bottom third of the line-up is littered with automatic outs, whether it's Whiteside, Stewart, Tejada, Crawford, or Fontenot.

Giants clearly are going for the trophy again in 2011. Ownership has stepped up to the plate and already hit a home run. It cost them a major chunk of their future as Eric Surkamp now becomes the top rated starting pitching prospect in the Giants farm system. We can only hope Beltran makes it worth it. San Francisco didn't bring him on to solidify a division title. They brought him on to get them to the World Series. We'll know in October if the move paid off.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What's The Other Shoe?

The Giants are playing well. They are 4.5 games up in the division. They just made a trade for Freddy Sanchez Lite (Jeff Keppinger). Brian Sabean is talking all sorts of crazy claiming he's working on a bigger deal. And the Giants are starting to sit down the dead weight (Tejada gets DL'd, Zito gets skipped, and Huff gets to enjoy the bench while Belt gets some starts).

The Giants are 16 games over .500 and Brian Sabean says they're lucky to be in that position. It sounds like ownership is ready to bite the bullet and go for it again (whether that means sacrificing some prospects or taking on more salary).

So.

What deal was Sabean working on when he mentioned a bigger deal? In my dream fantasy land, it meant he was talking about Hunter Pence. But Hank Schulman ruled that out. Obviously it was Beltran then, right? Well, Baggarly shot down Beltran.

So what other big fish is out there? Sabean always likes to get those under the radar guys. I was thinking maybe Nick Markakis but that seems like too much of a financial risk. Michael Bourn perhaps? I hardly would classify Bourn as a difference maker however. Michael Cuddyer? Apparently Sabean had talks with the Twins about Cuddyer. A glorified Mark DeRosa if you ask me.

Sabean has put a lot of emphasis on pitching and defense so I'd have to assume the player he was looking at was solid defensively. Again, I think back to the Orioles. Adam Jones? Forget anyone on the Royals and the Cubs.

I'm left scratching my head. I have no idea who Sabean is going after besides the obvious (Beltran). I want Pence and I'm REALLLLLY hoping the Keppinger deal opened the dialogue. But the Astros have seemed pretty intent on keeping Pence thus far.

I guess we'll see. There's a week and a half before the deadline. Sabean picked up this year's Mike Fontenot. Now he just needs to conjure a player that has elements of the Ross and Burrell pick ups last year. A bigger fish. Can he do it? We'll know come Aug. 1st.

Oh, and as always (especially with Timmy going for the sweep against Kershaw)...

Thursday, June 30, 2011

It's Halfway Through the 2011 Season...

And what do we know?

We know that the Giants are ahead of the pace they were at last year when after 81 games they were 41-40. They sit at 46-35 after tonight's 2-1 disaster in Chicago (they should have won but at least Timmy was spared going under .500 again). The Giants were in 4th place at this time last year. They needed a scalding hot July and a Padres collapse to win the division on the last day. This year they have racked up injuries, lost their best offensive player(s), yet somehow sit in first place by 2.5 games.

It's unexplainable. The team doesn't have Posey or Freddy Sanchez. Huff has been a no show with the bat pretty much all year. Torres is looking like the journeyman outfielder he had been his whole career. Bochy refuses to let Pat Burrell start. And our catchers and shortstops arguably are less threatening than our pitchers with the bat.

So how is this team in first place?

Well, obviously the pitching (and in particular the bullpen) has been lights out. But we can't expect them to maintain this pace. At some point, the offense needs to pick up the slack. And Sabean is going to have to work the phones to get some legit reinforcements (he'll have to do more than get lucky on some misfits this season, there are too many holes and injuries).

So what next? What do the remaining 81 games have in store for the Giants? What do they need to do to legitimately defend their World Title?

1) The team needs to get healthy. The Giants and Sabean have about a month to evaluate the club when their line-up is at full strength with the pieces that are coming back THIS season. That means Fontenot and Belt specifically. Sabean needs to see if Belt can pick up any slack in the offense. If not, a trade for a corner outfielder is likely. If Belt can provide some offense, look for Sabean to upgrade at shortstop or second base. Fontenot is a great utility guy but he's not an every day guy. He's proven that year after year.

2) The Giants need to avoid a major pitching injury. They've been cruelly savaged by injuries this year but have been lucky to not have it hit their bread and butter: the pitching. Wilson spent a week on the DL to open the season, Casilla was out for awhile, and Zito of course just came back. Neither Casilla nor Zito were really missed. However, if Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, or Wilson were to go down for a stint, it would no doubt finally be the straw that'd break the camels back. The Giants have zero pitching depth in the minors. Which leads me to...

3) Jonathan Sanchez needs to figure it out. Zito had a very encouraging first start back. He'll have some other nice starts like that. And he'll have those starts where he causes Giants fans to curse the gods. The Giants hitting is so bad that they genuinely need 5 amazing starters to consistently limit opponents to 3 runs or less. Vogelsong has been a godsend. What Giant fan ever thought they'd say that? He's what Ainsworth was supposed to be, only way older! I have my doubts that Vogelsong can keep it up all year. And I don't much think Zito will all of a sudden return to Cy Young form. The Giants NEED Jonathan Sanchez to be the above average starter he was last year. When Jon Jon is right, he's as dominant as the righty aces. He just can't be expected to go deeper than 6 innings. And with our pen, we don't need him to. But he needs to get back to the gradual improvement path he was on. The Giants need him to come back from the DL like Jonny 2010.

4) Sabean needs to get a bat and maybe two. If Belt doesn't contribute at all and Burrell continues to waste away on the bench, Sabean needs to get a couple of legit hitters. My pipe dream is Hunter Pence and JJ Hardy but that would likely empty the farm system. I don't know who'll be available in a few weeks but Sabean HAS to get this crew some help. Who knows how long the Giants will have this run of amazing pitching and the Giants are due a significant pitching injury. They need to cash out while they can, push all the chips in, and gamble for multiple titles while the iron is hot. The Giants can still win the division with the team they have now but they can't seriously expect to knock off the Phillies, Brewers, Braves, or Cardinals if they don't upgrade the offense.

With 81 games down and 81 games left to go, I can't say I'm unhappy with where the Giants are. The Posey injury is really depressing and the Giants are definitely feeling the absence of Freddy Sanchez with the Bill Hall/Manny Burriss combo at second. But they're in first. But they need help. And we know the Rockies are going to go on a tear at some point in the 2nd half. They must DEFEND and reinforcements are needed.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Look At The Giants Outfielders

We're 2.5 months into the season. The All-Star break is about a month away. The Giants have survived an insane amount of injuries (welcome to the DL Freddy, you get to take Pablo's vacated DL spot) and somehow have managed to cling on to first place. They've done it without their star catcher and for the most part without their best hitter (Kung Fu Panda). Panda's back and looking like he missed zero time (and managed not to gain back any weight). That's good news. The bad news is the Giants have a negative run differential and very few teams make the playoffs with a negative run differential. It can be done (see: Giants 1997, Padres 2005) but it's rare. And it's next to impossible to go deep in October and actually win a ring with a stat like that accompanying your team.

The Giants have a black hole at catcher right now. Eli Whiteside and Chris Stewart are not MLB starting caliber catchers. Period. However, it's hard to find an offensive minded catcher that is good enough defensively to handle this type of pitching staff. Catchers like Posey don't grow on trees so finding a true replacement for him isn't going to happen. But the Giants can improve elsewhere.

Where?

The outfield. Bet you were thinking I was going to say shortstop, huh? No, Crawford should get every chance to nail down that spot. His offense may come and go but his defense is spectacular and these Giants pitchers need someone that can catch the ball in the infield. Besides, except for Jose Reyes, there really aren't any talented offensive shortstops either.

Which leaves our outfield. Take a look at our rotating 5 outfielders:

Burrell

against RHP: .255 AVG, .386 OBP, .875 OPS
against LHP: .152 AVG, .235 OBP, .431 OPS

Rowand

against RHP: .190 AVG, .252 OBP, .533 OPS
against LHP: .380 AVG, .407 OBP, .987 OPS (!!)

Schierholtz

against RHP: .279 AVG, .328 OBP, .787 OPS
against LHP: .150 AVG, .143 OBP, .293 OPS

Torres

against RHP: .281 AVG, .379 OBP, .833 OPS
against LHP: .095 AVG, .240 OBP, .335 OPS

Ross

against RHP: .258 AVG, .346 OBP, .762 OPS
against LHP: .297 AVG, .366 OBP, .879 OPS

Diagnosis?

Ross should be our only every day outfielder. Schierholtz and Burrell
and Torres should never start against lefties. Rowand should never
start against righties.

Granted, it's only mid-June so this isn't the largest sample size and
these splits are based on this year only. That being said...

If Sabean is looking to find a bat somewhere other than catcher, maybe
SS or 2B shouldn't be the goal. This team needs another outfielder that can hit
righties AND lefties. Only Cody Ross is decent in that category.

My sleeper trade candidate? Hunter Pence. We'd have to give up a lot (possibly a Belt AND Wheeler combo) but Pence is a solid starting outfielder who would remain under the Giants control through 2013. He'd fit right in as a solid building block with Posey and Sandoval and our pitching staff. But if not Pence, there should be other outfielders available come deadline time that the Giants could pick up to help fill the Posey (and Sanchez) void.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The 2011 SF Giants - The Year of the Injuries

It'd be funny if it wasn't so sad. You almost expect to see a key Giant get hurt once a week at the rate they're going.

I did the list last post and since then the Giants officially added 4 more men to the Disabled List: Mike Fontenot, Darren Ford, Buster Posey, and Brandon Belt.

Fontenot and Ford's injuries are relatively minor and both probably could have avoided the DL had the Giants not needed their roster spots. But Posey is gone for the year. There's been a lot of debate about the play but I'm not going to get into it.

My official take? Clean play, awful result, and it could have been avoided. Cousins had the lane and the hit to Posey was completely unnecessary but it wasn't dirty. And in regards to Sabean's comments regarding Cousins, I have no opinion other than he is acting as a lioness would in protecting her cub. Sabean drafted Posey. Saw him ascend the ranks. Watched him win the franchise a World Series ring. And then saw him get plowed in a horrific home plate collision. Tim Lincecum carries the nickname "The Franchise" but Posey was the real franchise player. The star player the Giants planned on building around for years. And now his future is clouded. And Sabean is understandably pissed. He is protecting his star player like a vicious cornered lioness protecting her young. That's all I have to say about that.

The Giants are without their star catcher, the cornerstone of their present and future, for God knows how long. The most negative nelly would say it's a career threatening injury. The most optimistic says he'll be back by Spring Training as the catcher with no lingering issues. No one knows what to expect. We know Buster himself wants to be the catcher when he returns and Sabean and Bochy have gone on record to say that'll be his call. But we'll just have to see how the rehab goes. In the meantime, the Giants top prospect has also hit the shelf after being hit by a pitch.

To recap: The Giants have lost their star player (Posey), their best hitter at the time of injury (Sandoval), and their top hitting prospect (Belt).

Yet somehow they have managed to linger around first place (where they sit currently by a half game over the not-for-real Diamondbacks).

I'd say bad karma is hitting the Giants after a glorious 2010 but they're still hanging around! They're hanging around with one of the worst offenses in all of baseball. That's how good the pitching has been. And the pitching will have to continue to be dominant if the Giants have any dreams of repeating as NL West champs without Posey.

Sandoval will be returning shortly despite a minor setback but the Giants needed help even with Posey and Sandoval IN the line-up.

The weak spots are clearly shortstop and catcher. It'll be interesting to see what Sabean does to address Posey's missing bat because it will be something the team will have to face before the trade deadline.

My guess? This is the year Jonathan Sanchez is shipped out for a much needed bat. Lincecum, Cain, and Bumgarner would remain as a strong threesome with Vogelsong continuing to pen his Disney movie career comeback. And yes, that means Zito comes back and is the 5th starter but you didn't actually think they'd cut him did you?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Worst Loss of 2011

I haven't been writing as much as I'd like. I apologize.

This team has been every bit as torturous as last years. But now the Giants are going to have to deal with real adversity.

The Baseball Gods don't seem to be the kind that smile kindly upon a team two years in a row (hence the lack of repeat champions). And tonight, they got back at the Giants with a vengeance. They robbed us not only of an epic come from behind win in what has been an amazing run for the team at AT&T Park, but they may have just taken the franchise player away from the team for months.

Buster Posey is likely heading to the DL. For how long is undetermined at this time. His ankle got messed up bad in a collision with Scott Cousins. It could be broken. It could be a severe sprain. Whatever it is, it looked bad. Awful. And the diagnosis will go a long way in determining whether the Giants have a shot at repeating as NL West champs, let alone World Champs.

What would have been an amazing come from behind win and arguably the best win of the season ended with a Giants loss and Buster Posey writhing on the ground in severe pain.

I as a fan feel sick to my stomach. I can only assume his teammates and coaches feel even worse. The worst thing that could happen to the Giants would be to lose the centerpiece of their offense. They already were dealing with the best hitter on the team being on the DL in Sandoval. If you add Posey to that mix (along with the minor injuries to Fontenot and Ford) then the Giants already anemic offense is in real peril.

And the injuries this season (it's not even JUNE yet) are starting to get real old. Already we've seen these players hit the DL:

Wilson
Ross
Torres
Casilla
Zito
Sandoval
DeRosa

And now you might add Ford, Fontenot, and the biggest problem, Posey to the list.

Unbelievable. The Giants don't have any legit MLB catchers ready to come up either. Chris Stewart and Jackson Williams are the most probable names. And they can't hit in the minors.

It makes me wonder if the Giants might consider giving Bengie Molina a call. He's at home, unretired, waiting for a team to call for his services. I'm not advocating the move but Bengie knows the staff, has a connection with the Giants, and is undoubtedly a better offensive option than Whiteside, Stewart, or Jackson.

The Giants need to make a few roster moves ASAP. You'd have to believe that with Posey hurt, the Giants will be forced to recall their best offensive force in AAA: Brandon Belt. But even if Posey's injury means Belt's return, overall...

A terrible night for Giants fans. Get well Buster.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Assessing the Giants after 15 games

So two weeks into the season, the Giants sit at 8-7. They've had several games they could have and probably should have won but they've also had some nice come from behind wins in games they probably should have lost. They've been hit with the injury bug already with Andres Torres, Barry Zito, Cody Ross, Santiago Casilla, and Brian Wilson seeing time on the disabled list. And they trail the Rockies by 4 games. Colorado, by the way, has the best record in baseball at the moment, sitting pretty at 12-3. Of course, they've largely played teams that are not expected to contend or have not started the year off too hot (the Dbacks, Dodgers, Pirates, Mets, and Cubs). Meanwhile the Giants have played the Dodgers twice, the Padres, the Cardinals, and the Dbacks. Not exactly terrific teams either, but a schedule that has been slightly more difficult. The Giants also have played 6 games at home and 9 on the road while the Rockies have played 8 in Denver and 7 on the road. And this week comes the showdown between the two. The Giants have lined up their top 3 in Lincecum, Sanchez, and Cain while the Rockies will counter with Esmil Rogers, Ubaldo Jimenez (back from his DL stint), and Jorge De La Rosa. It should be a good measuring stick to see where these two teams really are competitively with each other.

But Rockies/Giants is on deck. Let's look at the past 15 games and see what we can assess regarding our World Champion club.

The Giants clearly had some jitters the first week of the season. Opening against their rivals and carrying the weight of expectation and the crown of World Series champions caused them to get off to a slow start. While they easily could have taken the Dodgers series, defensive miscues and brain farts caused them to go 1-3 instead. They had to deal with more hoopla as they were the guests of honor for the Padres home opener as well. And finally, they returned to San Francisco where the real coronation of their 2010 achievement occurred: the raising of the championship banner on Opening Day and the ring ceremony the following night. A whole lot of emotion to deal with. That is why I'm not panicking about the mediocre start. With all the celebratory stuff out of the way, the Giants can now focus on getting back into their normal routine. However, there are some things that may not just go away now that the nerves and emotions have settled. Here are the observations:

1) The Giants are a slow team. This is even more pronounced with Andres Torres out. There is not a single stolen base threat in the every day line-up as it's currently constructed. Brandon Belt has good wheels for a first baseman and Buster Posey has stolen 2 bases already, which is 2 more than he had all of last year. But Posey's stolen bases are a fluke and Belt is more of a deceptive base stealer than a true running threat. Everyone else? Slow. It hasn't been a big issue yet but the lack of speed overall is something that concerns me.

2) Miguel Tejada is going to be inconsistent with the glove all year. Tejada had a big moment in the Ring Ceremony game but, let's be honest, Colby Rasmus should have caught that ball to end the game. Aside from that nice break for Miggy, his Giants career so far has been dotted with errors, poor defensive play, and some really ugly at bats. He hasn't been a liability quite yet, but it's only 15 games in and he's already one of the more maddening Giants. There's no contingency plan for him as both Brandon Crawford and Ehire Adrianza are injured and Mark DeRosa and Mike Fontenot are not everyday major league shortstops. If Jose Reyes is being shopped come July, expect the Giants to be a player.

3) The Giants have depth. I can't remember the last Giants team that had this much depth. Andres Torres gets hurt? Whipping boy Aaron Rowand gets another shot and takes full advantage. Cody Ross can't start the season? Brandon Belt can take his place. Belt may not be hitting as advertised yet, but he has great at bats and soon his average will start to climb. Sandoval needs a rest? Plug in DeRosa. Freddy needs a day off? No worries, Mike Fontenot will step in and win a game for you. The Giants bullpen has a lot of options as well. Marc Kroon is chomping at the bit to get back to the majors and Steve Edlefsen was super impressive in camp and will likely make it up sometime this year. Ryan Vogelsong gets a chance at baseball redemption while Zito sits on the shelf for the first time in his career. Good teams have depth. The Giants have it.

4) The Kung Fu Panda is back. It's early and Sandoval started last year hitting well too but the good news is the power has returned. Sandoval hit 13 homers last season. Two weeks into this season, he already has 4. That is a great sign. He looks good at the plate and he looks confident. That rarely could be said last season.

5) 2011 is going to be a lot like 2010. A lot of close games. A lot of reliance on the pitching staff as a whole. The Giants are riding out some injuries now but they really can't afford to lose the big guns. A sustained stint by Timmy, Cain, Sanchez, Mad Bum, Wilson, or Posey will hurt the team the most. The Giants have to avoid those key injuries at all costs. They can probably survive if others go on the shelf. The hitting is better but not a ridiculous improvement. The Rockies and Giants look like the two best teams in the division by far. There's a lot of parity in the National League right now. A division title is more realistic than a wildcard berth. The Giants will have to make sure the Rockies don't run and hide. So far, 8-7 is acceptable. Given the hoopla starting the season for SF, they're in a good place. They're over .500 and the line-up and rotation are starting to click.

Now bring on those Rockheads and check the humidor. The Giants can possibly blind them with these:

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Your San Francisco Giants Starting 1st Baseman: Brandon Belt

Brandon Belt did it. He convinced the Giants they were better with him than without him. It came at the expense of last year's best pinch hitter Travis Ishikawa, who was designated for assignment. Part of me hopes Ishi makes it through waivers and goes down to Fresno and is there for us. But another part of me hopes some defensively challenged AL club picks him up and gives him at bats. He was a good Giant. He was overhyped during the awful years as the next big bopping first baseman which he was never going to be but he WAS a JT Snow slick fielding first sacker who could take a walk and occasionally pop the ball in the gap or over the fence. He will be missed.

But Ishi's pain is Brandon Belt's gain. Brandon Belt will get to do what Tim Lincecum and Buster Posey weren't allowed to do as hot young prospects: start the season with the big club. Lincecum was called up (for good) on May 6th, 2007 after spending about 5 weeks in the minors and forcing the Giants hands by absolutely shredding AAA hitters. Buster Posey got a cup of coffee in 2009 as a September call up but spent the beginning of 2010 in the minors. He was called up (for good) on May 29th after absolutely dominating AAA pitching.

Brandon Belt?

Brandon Belt is getting his first MLB action on Opening Day. No AAA seasoning. No squeezing him out for a veteran. He is the Giants 2011 starting first baseman. He will take the field at the Latrine tomorrow evening and face Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw and from all accounts will find himself batting 7th and playing first every day after (save for some rest days). Here's something that has somewhat gone unnoticed. It will be Buster Posey's first Opening Day as well. And Pat Burrell's first Opening Day as a Giant, as well as Miguel Tejada's. So Belt won't be the only first timer in a Giants uni. But he will be the only rookie.

The move is ballsy for lots of reason. The Giants are showing they don't care about the long term financial picture as they start Brandon Belt's arbitration clock early, meaning his free agent years approach faster as well. They're sacrificing some defense in the outfield to get Belt's bat in the line-up. Burrell in left and Aubrey in right field? Something tells me we're going to see a lot of Rowand and Schierholtz the first month of the season doing some defensive replacement work. Yes, Rowand made the roster. Yes, he'll likely be the one sent packing when Cody Ross comes back. It makes the most sense as the Giants bench has lost some left-handed pinch hitting with Ishikawa being shipped out.

Right now, the Giants bench has 3 righties (DeRosa, Whiteside, Rowand) and 2 lefties (Fontenot, Schierholtz). When Cody Ross comes back, it could force Burrell to the bench, another right handed bat. It then can be assumed that the Giants would not part with Schierholtz and leave Fontenot as the only left handed pinch hitter. So Rowand looks to be the odd man out. But that's an issue that can be discussed later. For now, we're less than 24 hours to first pitch. Brandon Belt will be wearing #9 (Matt Williams, anyone?) and playing first. Lincecum and Posey will be playing catch. And the San Francisco Giants will, for the first time in history, open the season as the World Series defending champions. Nothing could be finer. Oh, except it's against the Dodgers. And there's a rumor that there may be a plane flying overhead with an SF championship banner. PLAY BALL!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Roster Decisions and Injuries: What will the Opening Day roster look like?

There's 10 days before games start to count. And the Giants are going to need to start making some tough decisions. Luckily, these decisions are not typical of most teams. They're decisions of World Series champions.

Right now the Giants have about 3-4 guys on the bubble of making the Opening Day roster. If they don't make it, it likely will end their Giants careers. So let's take a look at the guys competing for the last few precious spots:

Travis Ishikawa

Ishikawa has been a good Giant. He's one of our own. And he had some nice contributions to the teams of '09 and '10. However, his role on the team is in jeopardy because he's redundant and expendable. In 2009, Ishikawa had a chance to seize the first base job and claim it his own. He didn't, mostly for not displaying a whole bunch of power and for hitting like a pitcher on the road (his home average was Ruthian). In 2010, he was pushed aside for Aubrey Huff, but was still a valuable piece due to questions about Huff's defense at first. Unfortunately for Ishi, Huff proved adept at first and as the season wore on, Ishikawa's need as a defensive replacement dwindled. However, even though he didn't give Bochy a whole lot of flexibility as he could only play first, he became the Giants best pinch hitter. But this year, the Giants have more depth due to Brandon Belt's explosion in the minors last season. Belt is being touted as a Gold Glove first baseman and also hits lefthanded. He has a much higher ceiling than Ishikawa ever had and he could push Travis off the roster and onto another team. Or Bochy could prefer to keep him as a lefty pinch hitter. The Giants have tried to make Ishikawa into an outfielder as well to give him more value but given the dearth of outfielders and guys that can play first base, Ishikawa has to be the guy feeling the most heat about making the team. Unless...

Aaron Rowand

Aaron Rowand as of right now provides little value to the Giants. He still plays a decent centerfield but he hasn't been warm to moving to a corner outfield spot to add flexibility. The Giants like having flexibility. Rowand is a subpar hitter at this point. He had his worst season last year but he was a good sport about being benched for Andres Torres. However, with a roster crunch, the Giants seriously have to consider cutting ties with Rowand. The only problem is the 24 million he is still owed for 2011 and 2012. Even if the Giants eat most of his salary, he's hard to trade because other teams know he could potentially be had for the minimum if the Giants simply release him. And like I said, he doesn't have much value. AT&T Park sapped a lot of Rowand's hitting ability, but if you put him in a hitter friendly park, he could be useful. He was when he played for the White Sox and Phillies, two teams that play in very hitter friendly stadiums. Andres Torres is the starting centerfielder now. And Cody Ross can play center on days Torres needs a rest. Rowand as a pinch hitter isn't that great either. In essence, if he makes the team, it'll be at the expense of someone who is likely more valuable overall and solely for the reason that he makes 12 million a year. However, the Giants keep saying their decisions will be baseball ones and not business ones and if they stick to that word, Rowand will be one of the odd men out.

Nate Schierholtz

Nate is a fan favorite despite never really living up to his hitting potential. He is an excellent defensive outfielder and he's not atrocious with the bat, but he's not very good either. He doesn't have much plate discipline and his power is limited. His assets are his cannon arm and his base running smarts. He also provides a lefty bat off the bench and as the season wore on, he became a better pinch hitter. But because Nate has a couple of tools, he also could be the most tradable asset. The Giants desperately need a backup shortstop and Nate could be the piece Sabean uses to acquire one. It would weaken the Giants defensively on the bench and unless Schierholtz gets traded, I think he still makes the team, especially if Burrell is the starting leftfielder.

Brandon Belt

Belt is pretty much the key to the whole roster crunch. He really has a chance to mess everything up in a good way. The Giants had no intention of having Belt start the season on the 25 man roster. After a ferocious first year in the minors (he did the full tour: A, AA, AAA, and the AFL and hit at every stop) Belt has asserted himself in Spring Training. He has been as advertised and has seriously made Bochy and Sabean reconsider him for a spot on the roster. Belt was going to be a part of the 2011 team at some point, but no one expected it to be this soon. If Belt makes the team, he undoubtedly pushes Ishikawa off and makes Burrell a bench player. That's a lot of clout for a prospect. Experts believe the Giants could have another Rookie of the Year candidate ready to go with Belt. And the debate is whether he'll get the Posey treatment or if he'll simply force himself onto the roster. Unlike Posey, he has no defensive work needed to be done at the minor league level. He could start at first base immediately. If I were a betting man, I'd say Belt still opens at AAA. But, he might just force the Giants hand. It was evidenced in today's Spring Training game where Bochy, for the first time this spring, had Huff in LF and Belt at 1B. It shows they're seriously considering the possibility.

There has been a small wrench in all of this. Mark DeRosa's wrist has been acting up and he may not be ready to go Opening Day. Couple that with Brian Wilson's disconcerting oblique injury and the Giants might have two spots open on the roster due to the disabled list. Giants fans don't want to see either DeRosa or Wilson open up on the DL, especially Wilson, but wrist tendinitis and oblique injuries are not easy to deal with. This also affects the bullpen picture. Where there was a 4 man push for 1 spot in the pen, it now looks like there could be two spots open. Jeff Suppan and Ryan Vogelsong have faltered and Dan Runzler had an excellent outing to get a leg up for that last bullpen spot. But Guillermo Mota was a key cog last year and Bochy seems to like his veteran presence and if Wilson has to open the season on the DL, it's a good bet the Giants would elect to have Mota on the squad over Suppan and Vogelsong.

A lot can happen in 10 days and it'll be interesting to see what the Giants do to get their roster down to 25. It's a real possibility that Scottsdale will be the last chance Giants fans have to see Ishikawa and Rowand in Giants uniforms and possibly Nate Schierholtz as well. With the Giants likely opening with 12 pitchers, the position battles for two bench spots (or in Belt's case, starting spot) are going to be the only real thing to watch in what has been a relatively drama free Spring Training.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

MLB Predictions 2011

With the MLB season 3 weeks away, it's time for my predictions. I am a seasoned Fantasy Baseball buff, so I have expert level authority on these type of things. Let me know if you agree or disagree with my predictions and feel free to throw in your own.

AL West Champ: Rangers
AL Central Champ: Twins
AL East Champ: Red Sox
AL Wildcard: A's

NL West Champ: Giants
NL Central Champ: Reds
NL East Champ: Phillies
NL Wildcard: Brewers

AL MVP: Adrian Gonzalez, BOS
NL MVP: Ryan Braun, MIL
AL Cy Young: Jon Lester, BOS
NL Cy Young: Tim Lincecum, SF
AL ROY: Chris Sale, CHW
NL ROY: Aroldis Chapman, CIN

ALCS: Red Sox v Rangers
NLCS: Giants v Phillies
WS: Giants v Red Sox

A look at the AL West: The Rangers lost Cliff Lee which closes the gap, but everyone in that line-up can hit. When Michael Young is essentially an extra guy, that's what you call depth. And if Feliz successfully converts as a starter, the loss of Lee doesn't hurt as much. The Rangers should still capture the title. The A's had a sneaky great pitching staff last year. Now they have added enough professional hitters to augment it (Matsui, Willingham, DeJesus). The A's are going to surprise the AL this year. The Angels are well ahead of the Mariners but Vernon Wells wasn't the splash they needed. They'll play well but not enough to surpass the other two teams in the division. The Mariners are in rebuild mode.

A look at the AL Central: The Central should have 3 teams contending in the Tigers, White Sox, and Twins. I just don't think the Tigers have enough starting pithing to win the division. The White Sox look solid but their rotation depth isn't and I think in the end they just miss October. The Twins somehow always find a way to win (except in the playoffs) and with Morneau and Joe Nathan back, the Twins should repeat as AL Central champs. The Royals keep infusing young talent but are at least a year or two away while the Indians are the Mariners of the Central.

A look at the AL East: No Yankees in the playoffs? The Yankees are in trouble. There's no great starting pitching candidates on the trade market and the Yankees need starting pitching. Their offense is another year older. The bullpen is a strength but in a very tough AL East, where every team is improved and no team should be a pushover, the Yankees will not accrue enough victories to win the wildcard. Boston is stacked and should take the division relatively easily. The Rays lost a lot of players including their heart and soul in Carl Crawford. They'll be scrappy and entertaining (if only for the Manny Ramirez factor) and they'll contend through September but will fall short. The Jays and Orioles can't keep up with Boston yet but they are slowly building very good teams. In any other division, the Jays would have a shot. The Orioles are close to not being an embarrassment anymore but they're still a sub .500 club.

A look at the NL West: The Giants are having a great spring training and they're filled with confidence coming off their World Series title. The pitching is still intact and the offense is automatically better with full years of Posey and Ross. Pablo Sandoval looks rejuvenated and could be a monster this year and they have enough depth with DeRosa coming off the bench and the secret weapon Brandon Belt stashed in AAA. They should repeat as NL West champs. The team giving them a run should be, of all teams, the Dodgers. The Dodgers still have a decent line-up and they have balanced pitching throughout. The Rockies are always a threat but I don't see their starting pitching being able to keep up with the staffs in LA and SF. And while Tulo and Car-Go are awesome centerpieces, the rest of that offense in Denver isn't a sure thing. The Padres will still be scrappy but the chances of them repeating last year's performance minus Adrian Gonzalez are slim. And the Dbacks, while improved, are still climbing a long way back toward respectability.

A look at the NL Central: This division could be a dog fight. The Reds, Brewers, Cubs, and Cardinals should all have realistic shots at the postseason. The loss of Wainwright really is a severe blow to Saint Louis however and if the old guys in Chicago's line-up can hit, then watch out. Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, and Carlos Pena are all guys that could hit 30+ homers if they return to form. And their pitching is pretty good with Dempster, Zambrano, and Garza. But the Reds have to be the favorite with a lot of rotation depth and a solid line-up. But I am definitely on the Brewers bandwagon this year. I think Fielder, in a walk year, is primed to go off and the benefactor will be Ryan Braun, who had a down year last year and still put up pretty solid numbers. Greinke and Gallardo are now the divisions best 1-2 and the revamped pitching staff should lead Milwaukee to the wildcard. The Cardinals still have Pujols and Holliday but in the end, they won't be able to keep up with the teams ahead of them. Pittsburgh and Houston aren't contenders at this point.

A look at the NL East: I HAD to pick the Phillies for the NL East title just due to "that historic pitching staff" but in reality I could see the Braves or the Marlins winning this division. The Phillies aren't as great as everyone wants to make them out to be, especially if Utley is out for an extended period. They lost Werth to the Nationals and both Dominic Brown and Utley are dealing with injuries that are not minor. Teams have figured out how to pitch to Victorino, Rollins, and Howard so the offense isn't as prolithic as East Coast writers would have you think. Yes, the rotation is outstanding. But the bullpen isn't. Lidge is anything but consistent and his setup guys outside of Madson don't strike fear in batters either. The Phillies are primed for a letdown which could open the door for the Braves, who are a phenomenally balanced team from top to bottom, or the Marlins, who I think are going to be right there at the end of the season. The Marlins are moving into a new ballpark in 2012 and they still have one of the best players in the game in Hanley Ramirez and one of the best pitchers (Josh Johnson). Their rotation is solid and their line-up is filled with young guys who could put up monster numbers (Mike Stanton is a star in the making). The Fish could be this year's sleeper team. The Nationals would be more entertaining this year if they had Strasburg but they don't and their pitching isn't strong enough to contend yet. The Mets are a mess and I fully expect them to come in last place and have a fire sale at the All-Star break.

And there you go, my predictions for 2011. May we revisit them in November and grade 'em out!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The 2011 Giants Rotation

So Brian Sabean announced the Giants 2011 rotation today and it goes like this:

#1 Tim Lincecum
#2 Jonathan Sanchez
#3 Matt Cain
#4 Barry Zito
#5 Madison Bumgarner

I actually think this might be the best rotation to start with for the Giants. Yes, we all know Matt Cain is the 2nd best pitcher in the rotation and after what he did in October, he surely deserved to be recognized. However, I understand the logic here. Bochy likes to split up his lefties and I can't fault him for that. Also, Lincecum and Cain are consistent workhorses. Bumgarner looks to be one in the making. It makes sense to have those high endurance guys sandwiched around the lower stamina guys in Sanchez and Zito. Zito routinely pitches 190+ innings but he usually doesn't last past the 6th inning. Sanchez has a spotty track record when it comes to going deep into games.

It also breaks up the styles of the pitchers, which is good when you're trying to upset the timing of opposing batters.

Lincecum is a power righty with an assortment of breaking pitches.

Sanchez is a power lefty.

Cain is a power righty that relies almost exclusively on his fastball.

Zito is a finesse lefty.

Bumgarner is a nice mix of power and finesse. He's a control guy but he throws hard for a southpaw.

So I applaud Bochy and Rags for coming up with this alignment. Although Zito should be the #5 in terms of talent, it allows Bumgarner extra days off and will lighten his load over the course of the season. This is something the Giants wanted to monitor considering the heavy increase Bumgarner saw last year in terms of his overall innings pitched.

I also think Sanchez is better suited to match up with teams #2's than Zito. The Giants are essentially challenging Sanchez to step up even more than he did last year. He's going to be labeled the #2 and he's going to face a lot of the opposing teams co-aces at the beginning of the season. It should give Jonathan a confidence boost and should help motivate him.

The current rotation will slot Tim Lincecum against Clayton Kershaw on Opening Day in Los Angeles and Boch will hand the ball to Sanchez to start the home opener against St. Louis, a job Sanchez performed last year against Atlanta. However, this time he'll have to harness his emotion as the WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS banners are lifted in front of what will be a raucous crowd.

The Giants are 1 month and 5 days away from officially defending their Title. Get excited.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Giants Offseason Review

Pitchers and Posey report in 2 weeks. Spring Training is getting close. And with it, the offseason is coming to a close. Sure, there will likely be minor deals made up until first pitch at the end of March. Sabean will no doubt be active in trade talks for guys that are on the fringe of making the team and trying to dump at least some of Rowand's contract on somebody. But the major moves are over. There will be no surprise trades and no more major additions. The roster in and of itself is set, save for some 24th and 25th man competitions.

So how was it?

Well, Sabean liked the status quo, apparently. And why not? The team he is displaying in 2011 is almost identical to the 2010 version that hoisted the World Championship trophy. Sabean caught a lot of flak the past several years and most Giants fans wanted him fired. Well, now he has carte blanche.

If you look at the Giants roster, there's only one major difference. Juan Uribe will be in Dodger blue and Miguel Tejada has returned to the bay to take his place. That's it. That is the only difference. The bullpen on Opening Day, barring a surprise, will comprise of the same guys that got it done for the Giants in 2010. And the line-up will remain largely unchanged. And of course, the rotation is locked down. The only real difference will be the bench and even that isn't too different.

So let's examine Sabean's moves and the Giants offseason, in depth, shall we?

Initially, I didn't see how the Giants could keep this team all together. They had several free agents and a good amount of arbitration eligible players. I figured they'd find a way to keep Cody Ross and Javier Lopez. The other guys? I wasn't sure.

Well, Sabean examined the free agent and trade market and decided he rather have all his guys back. And by all, I mean 90% of them.

Sabean tendered contracts and avoided arbitration with Mike Fontenot, Ramon Ramirez, Javier Lopez, Andres Torres, Cody Ross, Jonathan Sanchez, and Santiago Casilla. That, boys and girls, means they're all going to be back and on the major league roster.

He also doled out a big league contract to adopted son Aubrey Huff. The Huffinator's resigning wasn't a surprise, but the Giants did have some big league competition from the Cubs and, of course, Ned Colletti. Hence the 22 million dollar two year commitment. After Huff's 2010 where he was essentially the heart and soul and face of the Giants offense (even moreso than Mr. Posey) you won't hear Giants fans griping about the contract, even if it was a slight overpay.

The surprise re-signing of the offseason was Pat Burrell. Although Burrell and Huff helped police the clubhouse, it was hard to see how Sabean would fit Burrell on the team in 2011. With Mark DeRosa coming back and uber prospect Brandon Belt ready for a shot, Burrell looked like a luxury. In addition, after Burrell's renaissance season, it was hard to see him accepting a contract that would pay him much less than the 9 million he pulled down in 2010. But Burrell showed that sometimes playing somewhere that you're happy and comfortable does mean you'll take a hometown discount. And in Burrell's case, he took a huge discount. He signed for one million with no incentives. To put that in perspective, every arbitration player Sabean signed (the likes of Mike Fontenot, a utility infielder) will make more than Burrell, who swatted 18 homers for the Giants and was a key reason they made the postseason. That gave me a whole new appreciation for Pat the Bat.

Sabean wasn't finished bringing back his guys though. He offered Guillermo Mota a minor league deal which Mota accepted.

The only losses the World Series champion Giants sustained were Edgar Renteria (Reds), Juan Uribe (Dodgers), Eugenio Velez (Dodgers), and Chris Ray (Mariners). Seeing Uribe not only leave but sign with the Dodgers hurt. He was a great clubhouse guy, a fantastic Giant, and he'll be missed. Other than that, the losses were minimal. While it would have been nice to have Renteria as an insurance policy at shortstop, most Giants fans expected him to retire after a magical end to the season. Instead, he staged a mini hissy fit at the Giants "disrespectful" offer to re-sign and erased SOME goodwill amongst Giants fans. However, he will undoubtedly be cheered when he shows up at AT&T Park next season and deservedly so. He was an albatross in 2009 and was hurt most of 2010. But without him, the Giants may not have won the World Series. And fans will never forget him home run in Game 5. Ever. It was time for Edgar to move on. Even though the Giants don't have a true shortstop on the team (calling Tejada a true shortstop now would be like calling David Ortiz a true first baseman) Renteria's departure will not haunt them. Nor will the departures of Eugenio Velez and Chris Ray. Ray was effective as a Giant and I would have liked to see the Giants keep him but the bullpen is set and it'll be hard enough for Mota and Runzler to make the team so Ray was expendable. Velez was never truly valuable. He had some pop but no plate discipline or contact skills. He had speed but was a terrible baserunner and basestealer. His defense was poor. He could put it together and terrorize the Giants for years as a Dodger. Or he could just continue being a poor MLB player. Not a loss.

With most of his team returning, Sabean looked to address the one hole. Shortstop. There were all the rumors about Barlett, murmurs of JJ Hardy, speculation about Scutaro. In the end, Sabean went to his go-to. He signed an old guy. The good news is that the Tejada signing is only one year. The 6.5 million doesn't crimp the budget. And Tejada, by all accounts, is also a great clubhouse guy and should help ease the pain of losing Uribe. He should hit for a better average that Uribe and get on base at a better clip. He won't have the pop Uribe displayed but he might use the gaps more to drive in runners. The only thing that is worrisome is his defense. He was fine at shortstop for the Padres but he only played half the season. He's going to be expected to play shortstop almost every single day for the Giants (because of that whole not having a shortstop thing I mentioned earlier). That's risky. Opposing hitters will look at Sandoval and Tejada manning the left side of the infield and will aim for it. But the options at shortstop were not great and in the end, Tejada's offense (unless he goes in the tank) should offset any defensive woes.

By most accounts, Sabean tried to rid himself of Rowand's contract during the winter and if a team gets desperate for an outfielder during Spring Training, Rowand still could be moved (hey, the Angels took Vernon Wells, so anything can happen!). But aside from minor tweaks, the Giants roster is largely set. Many thought the Giants would make a splash after winning the World Series. But the truth is, the Giants need to save their money for their own guys. Lincecum and Cain need to be extended or re-signed in the near future (if it's even possible to re-sign both guys). So does Brian Wilson. It wouldn't surprise me if the Giants started discussing a multi-year deal for Buster Posey this spring or next.

You have to give it up for Bowtie Bill Neukom for expanding the budget and allowing Sabean to keep the team together. The Giants payroll will likely be around 115 million when it's all said and done. It's the first time the Giants have had a payroll over 100 million in franchise history. So Neukom deserves props for opening the purse strings even though it doesn't feel like the Giants made any splash signings. Notice all the one year and two year deals? It's definitely the Giants gearing up to re-sign the core of the team. Wilson, Lincecum, Cain, and Jonathan Sanchez all will be due big money in the very near future. It's not coincidence the team has refused to sign big money long term contracts the last couple of offseasons.

And for this offseason, the Giants for the most part kept the champions together, expanded the budget, and seem primed to battle for the NL West title yet again. It was a solid if unspectacular offseason for Sabean and Company. As a former Sabean hater, I stand and applaud the effort.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Free Agent Recap and the Winter's Winners and Losers List

Ok, well most of the top free agents have signed and my first official Free Agent Prediction List looks pretty awful. I hit on 2 correct signings; Huff resigning with SF and Uribe signing with LA. Every other free agent signing I had wrong. There are still a few left I could get right but they wont' likely sign until later this month or in February.

But just because my free agent predictions were wrong does not mean I'm giving up on the prediction business. So without further ado, let me give you the winters winners and losers list.

Winners

BREWERS: They didn't trade their portly, crushing 1B. They didn't trade their franchise LF'er. And they completely revamped their rotation, giving Yovani Gallardo and Randy Wolf a capable complement in Shawn Marcum (13-8, 3.64 ERA, 1.15 WHIP w/Toronto in 2010) and trading for the jewel of the trade market, ace Zack Greinke. To top it off, they added depth to their bullpen by signing Takashi Saito. Greinke gives Milwaukee a bonafide ace, which will take pressure off young budding ace Gallardo. A rotation of Greinke/Gallardo/Marcum/Wolf is among the best in the NL Central and matches up well with the Cardinals 1-2 punch of Carpenter/Wainwright. The Brewers coughed up their farm system for a chance to go to the playoffs in what likely will be Prince Fielder's last year in Wisconsin. It was bold. And it was masterful.

RED SOX: The Red Sox already have pretty solid starting pitching and a good line-up. They had an inordinate amount of injuries last year to key players and STILL almost made the playoffs in baseball's toughest division. So they didn't necessarily have to make a splash to compete in the AL East in 2011. But, being that they are the Red Sox, they had to do something after missing the playoffs. And so they decided to make TWO splashes. The Red Sox pried Adrian Gonzalez away from San Diego without sacrificing anyone off their 25 man roster. And then they signed Carl Crawford, the best position player free agent. The Red Sox line-up has zero holes and their defense just got much better with the addition of two Gold Glove guys who, oh yeah, hit the ball very well. Right now they look to be the best all around team in the AL East, if not all of baseball.

PHILLIES: The Phillies lost Jayson Werth and look to be okay not replacing his bat. After watching the Giants completely shut down their line-up, they may have thought adding another bat might have been a good idea. Apparently not. Instead, they're taking a page out of SF's book and adding pitching. The Phillies won't have much of a different look going into Spring Training than they did in the NLCS. Except one major addition to the rotation. The Phils welcomed back Cliff Lee. And now, their rotation is already being named the Greatest in the Game. The Phillies will be a contender in the NL East again and they have enough offense even without Werth to compete for a championship. And getting Lee was a coup.

NATIONALS: The Nationals improved a bit. They got Adam LaRoche on their terms and he'll provide better defense at 1B than Adam Dunn while providing a decent replacement for Dunn's offense. They were the surprise winners of the Werth sweepstakes and they improved their pen a and got a decent prospect with their trade of Willingham. They tried and failed to get Greinke and Lee and their rotation without Strasburg in 2011 is still not great, but they're in the mix for Pavano and at least are planting the seeds for what could be a very good team in 2012 and could contend as a sleeper for the wildcard in 2011.

DODGERS: I hate to give LA any credit for anything. And honestly, Colletti is Sabean-lite. On the surface, the Dodgers made no major moves and not many experts are putting the Dodgers in the "winning" offseason category. However, they added a lot of depth to their rotation by adding Garland and re-signing Kuroda, Lilly, and Padilla. They stole Juan Uribe from SF and will give him the everyday 2B job, an upgrade over Theriot and DeWitt and Belliard. They added a nice defensive outfielder in Tony Gwynn Jr and kept catcher Rod Barajas while cutting loose Giants pest Russell Martin. They signed arguably one of the best setup guys on the market in Matt Guerrier to be the bridge to Broxton. Nothing splashy, but solid moves that should improve LA from their 2010 season.

CUBS: Cubs bring back an aging team in 2011 that wasn't very good in 2010. But they took a flier on Carlos Pena as a replacement for Derrek Lee and in Wrigley, Pena could hit 40+ bombs. If Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano can have productive seasons, the Cubs offense should be able to score some runs. And with the trade for Matt Garza, the Cubs rotation is solid, if unremarkable 1-5. The Cubs also welcomed back Kerry Wood, this time as a set-up guy for excellent closer Marmol. The trade for Garza is what put them in this winning category and if the staff can pitch to their capabilities, the Cubs should win enough to contend for a Wilcard spot.

Losers

ANGELS: Arte Moreno is one of the better owners in baseball. But he started this offseason talking big and failed to deliver. His club targeted Carl Crawford and Adrian Beltre specifically and had Rafael Soriano in their sights. They whiffed on all three and ended up only signing set-up man Scott Downs. The Angels essentially are standing pat a year after missing the playoffs and after Moreno hinted he'd be a big spender in the offseason. Unless they go for the sentimental choice and sign Vlad to be their DH in 2011, in a competitive AL West, the Angels don't look improved from the team that finished 3rd in 2010.

YANKEES: When do you ever see the Yankees in the loser category? Well, this year. The Yankees struck out on Cliff Lee, who they made their offseason priority. Andy Pettitte hasn't decided whether or not to return or retire but if he retires, the Yankees will officially be in trouble. Their rotation is essentially Sabathia, Hughes, and Burnett with no real MLB starters available for their #4 and #5 slots. They'll have to rely on the trade market or 2nd/3rd tier free agents and hope they strike gold. Their offense is intact, but their team wasn't good enough to beat the Rangers in the ALCS last year and they've gotten worse. When the biggest pickup of the offseason for the Yankees is a new catcher that the Dodgers released, you know things are weird in the Bronx. And no, the resignings of Rivera and Jeter don't count because no one ever thought they were going elsewhere.

METS: Both New York teams in the loser category? You bet. The Mets have been a mess for awhile and their team sucks. So what do they do in the offseason? Absolutely nothing. The Mets came in 4th place in the NL East in 2010. Their pitching is not very good from top to bottom. They let one of their most reliable relievers go (Feliciano) and did not replace him. Their rotation comes back unchanged. And the offense and defense comes back in full. A very dull offseason for New York and the only thing fans can hope for is that everyone, EVERYONE, plays better in 2011.

RANGERS: Coming off their first World Series appearance, Rangers fans had high hopes for the offseason. What they really hoped was that Cliff Lee found a permanent home in Arlington and that the Rangers could add to their talented squad with Lee as a centerpiece. Well, they lost Lee. They've tried to compensate by getting even more offense, adding Adrian Beltre and his Gold Glove defense at third, pushing Michael Young to DH, and essentially ending Vlad Guerrero's one year run in Texas. And they added ex-Giant Yorvit Torrealba to replace ex-Giant Bengie Molina as their primary catcher. But they didn't replace Lee. At this point they have to hope their reclamation project of Brandon Webb results in Webb pitching like his Cy Young self from 2006. That is doubtful and they're putting a lot on the shoulders of Colby Lewis and CJ Wilson.

RAYS: So the Rays had a great team for 3 years. And they have loads of young talent. And the AL East should be competitive all around with the Red Sox being the truly elite team in the division and Baltimore and Toronto improved. However, they are completely relying on their upcoming prospects to mesh with their current young talent to fight for the division in 2011. They let Crawford walk, which was a given. But then they traded Matt Garza for long range prospects. And they let their entire bullpen walk including their closer. They're relying on uber prospects Desmond Jennings and Jeremy Hellickson to replace Crawford and Garza. It's going to be an uphill battle for a talented but very young TB squad in 2011.

TWINS: The Twins usually don't do much in the offseason. And they always compete. And they usually are in the playoffs when it's all said and done. But they are on a 12 game playoff losing streak. They can't beat the Yankees if their lives depended on it. And they haven't had a true ace since they traded Johan Santana, even if ex-Giant Francisco Liriano shows flashes. You'd think they would do SOMETHING to get an ace in the building. But they haven't. Yeah, they were in talks with the Royals about Greinke but there was no way Kansas City was going to trade Greinke to a division rival. They likely will re-sign Pavano but even with Pavano back in the mix, they don't have a guy that you would label an ace unless Liriano stays healthy and takes another step to dominating consistently. In the playoffs and with hopes of a World Series title, a team MUST have an ace. And the Twins did not get one. They did grab headlines by winning the bid to Japanese shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka but I'm not convinced he's any better or worse than JJ Hardy, the guy they traded to make way for Nishioka.

That's the winners and losers list. There were a lot of borderline teams on both sides, but I decided to go 6 winners, 6 losers. The other 18 teams made moves that were all right and didn't hurt or help the team to a great extent. I'll go in-depth with a Giants breakdown of the offseason in my next post. Thanks for reading and go Giants!