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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What's Up With This Lackluster Giants Offseason?

Pablo Sandoval is now a Bostonian.  Jon Lester is a Lovable Loser.  Yasmany Tomas got lost in the desert.  If there's any truth to all these insane MLB rumors floated by everyone and anyone, those 3 players were the focus of our San Francisco Giants.  The Giants went 0 for 3.

And if it's true that they planned on landing at least one of those players, it looks like they didn't really have any back up plans in case they missed out on ALL of them.

Here it is, mid-December, and the free agent list has thinned to the point where we're now looking at guys like Emilio Bonifacio and Chris Denorfia to be the Giants big splashy signings.  That is, if they're willing to sign with San Francisco.

It's been a weird offseason so far for the reigning World Champions.  They went after their star third baseman pretty hard but he opted for a new experience.  They kinda tried for Yasmany Tomas and reports say they came in 2nd for the bidding but if they REALLY wanted the guy, you think they could have trumped the final contract he wound up signing with Arizona (6yrs/68.5M).  They then turned their full attention to Jon Lester, the 2nd best starting pitcher on the market and a guy that would have been a great complement to Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain for the next several seasons.  Except Lester wasn't oohed and awed by Tim Hudson and Buster Posey's sell jobs, nor the chance to play for a 3-time championship team with a ton of history and tradition, or a Hall of Fame manager, or in an awesome pitcher's park with great defenders to play behind him.  No, he picked the Cubs.  Why?  Well, they're up and coming, they haven't won a World Series in a lifetime, and... um... familiarity with Theo Epstein?  Not to mention the Cubs infield isn't very good defensively and the ball flies out of that yard like it's being shot out of a rocket launcher.  But hey Jon Lester, good for you man.  Chicago is a pretty cool city and since California's income tax has all of a sudden become an issue for super rich athletes, I guess you made a wise choice.

However, after being spurned by Lester, the Giants seemed to go into a haze from which they have yet to emerge.  Right now, their biggest offseason move has been to tender all their arbitration eligible players.  Aside from that?  Nada.

Meanwhile, Lester's signing caused all the other dominoes to start to fall.  There was a flurry of trades at the Winter Meetings that made the July 31st deadline look tame and all the remaining free agents have been flying off the shelf.

The Giants have a gigantic hole at third base (see what I did there?), a need for another starter, and for now, Gregor Blanco looks to be the starting left fielder.  If the season opened today (and thank goodness it doesn't), it'd be Arias at 3B, Blanco in LF, and Petit in the rotation (alongside Bumgarner, Cain, Hudson, and Lincecum).   Not quite what you'd expect from a team that just won the World Series for the third time in five seasons.

I actually do not mind that the Giants have not been aggressive with the mid-tier free agents.  I like the strategy of not giving up a draft pick unless it's for a game changer (Max Scherzer).  But at some point, the Giants have to get some new bodies.  And with the free agent market for third basemen down to the likes of, well, no one - it's hard to see who our 3B in 2015 will be.  Seriously, the list for available third basemen is really down to converting second basemen:  Emilio Bonifacio, Asdrubal Cabrera, Gordon Beckham... yuck.  At this point, would they be any better than letting Matt Duffy have the job?  I'm not sure.   The outfield situation is equally bleak.  The front office is talking about finding a platoon mate for Blanco as opposed to an everyday type of guy.  Maybe Andres Torres is available... that worked out the last time they tried this experiment.  NOT.

The truth is, the Giants can afford to be patient.  They are coming off a World Series Championship, the ballpark will be sold out for nearly every game before the season even starts, and they haven't really won in the past by throwing a bunch of money around on the free agent market.  Let's face it, Brian Sabean is a master trader (minus that whole AJ deal) but he and his staff are less good at playing the free agent game (see examples: Barry Zito, Aaron Rowand, Aubrey Huff (the 2nd time), Edgardo Alfonzo, Marco Scutaro, etc etc).  While I would have liked to see Chase Headley replace Pablo or a return of Melky Cabrera because he is totally suited for our ballpark, I'm not exactly upset we didn't give them the deals they wound up receiving.

And while the free agent market now looks like Costco (save for Max Scherzer and James Shields), I am oddly confident the Giants will find a few guys that will help keep the team in contention.  Who those guys will be?  I have no idea.  Looking at the free agent lists and who's available in trade it's almost impossible to predict what the Giants can and will do.

I's hard to believe that this could have been the plan going into the offseason - that they were pinning their entire winter hopes on signing either Pablo or Lester or Tomas.  But since all 3 came off the board, it does seem the Giants have been acting dazed and confused while their counterparts in the NL West have been completely revamping their squads both in the front office and on the field.  The Dodgers have made a ton of moves but I can't actually figure out if it makes them any better.  They shipped out Kemp to the Padres in exchange for Yasmani Grandal.  They sent Dee Gordon and Dan Haren to the Marlins which in turn got them Howie Kendrick from the Angels.  They signed talented but health-adverse pitchers Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson to fill out their rotation.  And they traded for Jimmy Rollins to replace Hanley Ramirez.  Does that make them better or worse than the team that won 94 games last season?  Hard to tell.  The Padres are shooting for the stars by trading for offense to go along with their solid starting pitching.  Kemp may only be the first piece.  The Dbacks got Tomas.  The Rockies?  Well, the Rockies are the Rockies.  They'll sign some no name that will hit 20 bombs and trade for a talented pitcher that will get routinely shelled.  Meanwhile, the Giants are playing chicken with everyone (and pretty much losing... or actually winning if these big contracts don't pan out).

It'll be interesting to see how the next month shakes out.

I just hope it doesn't shake out to a 5yr/100M signing of James Shields.  We don't need a 33 year old pitcher that we just lit up in the World Series who will also cost a draft pick.  I like Shields.  He's a great innings eater in the regular season.  But he's too old to invest heavily in and the draft pick shouldn't be wasted on him.  If anything, the Giants should target Scherzer.  A Bumgarner, Scherzer, Cain trio would keep the Giants championship window open likely for the rest of the decade.  Then again, Scherzer is asking for 200M and is represented by Boras, the same guy who pawned Zito off on us.  And speaking of Zito, he's looking to make comeback.  Maybe him? I kid, I kid.  But it IS starting to sort of feel like 2007 all over again when the Giants had a lot of money that came off the books and couldn't wait to throw it at someone not named Bonds.  They tried to throw it at Carlos Lee and Alfonso Soriano and Gary Matthews Jr and none of them would take it.  Eventually they wound up with both Bonds AND Zito towards the end of the offseason.  Maybe we'll be seeing the same thing - this time with Scherzer.

Then again, sometimes it's better to go with the devil you know.  Jake Peavy, anyone?