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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...