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Monday, February 9, 2015

Grading the Giants 2015 Offseason

It's February.  Pitchers and catchers report in 2 weeks.  Rosters are being finalized.  The free agent market is relatively bare.  So now is the time to take a step back, look at what Brian Sabean has done this winter, and evaluate the team.

Going into the offseason, the Giants knew that Pablo Sandoval was going to become a free agent. They also knew they would have to figure out whether or not they wanted to retain their other free agents, namely Jake Peavy, Ryan Vogelsong, Sergio Romo, and Michael Morse.

When the playoffs began, I thought that Pablo was going to be a goner (I actually thought he and the Red Sox made sense on a number of levels all season long and thought he'd wind up in Boston).  I thought Peavy, with his performance down the stretch, had become the Giants #1 starting pitching priority.   I figured 2014 was Sergio Romo and Ryan Vogelsong's Giant farewell tour.  I thought Morse had won over the hearts of both Giants fans and the front office and that he'd be re-signed because he brought something hard for the Giants to find: relatively cheap power on the open market.

Then the playoffs happened and the World Series was won and, holy crap, Pablo Sandoval had another phenomenal showing in October.  By the time Madison Bumgarner finished destroying the Royals I figured the Giants whole offseason plans must have changed.

They no longer could let Sandoval go, could they?  Not a chance.  Peavy?  Yeah, he helped us get TO the playoffs but he wasn't much help once we actually were IN the playoffs, right?  He could go. Romo?  Love the guy but no doubt he was going to get higher offers elsewhere than from what the Giants would be willing to spend... especially after they re-signed Sandoval.  Vogey?  Looked human in the World Series and no doubt the Giants would look to improve in the rotation.  Morse?  That PH homer in Game 5 of the NLCS?  Are you kidding me?  The Pence/Morse bromance?  No WAY they'd let this guy go.  If there was enough money to sign him after, you know, re-signing Sandoval.

Baseball is a fickle bitch though, ain't it?  Sandoval DID bolt for Boston.  The Giants likely never wanted to pay him 100M but gosh darn it, they'd match the Boston offer of 95M even if they really didn't want to do that either.  But Panda hats and Pandamonium and 3 World Series titles.  The fans would be livid if they didn't make the effort.  So make the effort they did.  And it went for naught. Pablo picked Boston because he wanted a new challenge.  So it goes.  So instead of getting Sandoval, the Giants focused on flirting with Jon Lester.  This probably actually hurt them from a fan perspective because all of a sudden Giants fans saw 95M offers to Pablo and 150M offers to Jon Lester (which he turned down to join the Cubs) only to then see the Giants revert back to their actual way of doing business.  Shrewdly, by avoiding big long term deals, and getting solid if unspectacular talent in return.

The Giants played it safe by re-signing Peavy, Romo, AND Vogelsong to short term deals that were not too crazy in terms of dollars.  They shocked most Giants fans by showing almost zero interest in bringing back Mike Morse who signed with the Miami Marlins for 2 years and basically peanuts. Giants fans (and baseball people) saw a Giant hole at third base and left field and wondered how Sabean would fill it.  He filled it by trading for Marlins 3B Casey McGehee and signing World Series opposing outfielder Nori Aoki.  Neither of those guys will ever be confused with Babe Ruth.  Or Pablo Sandoval or Mike Morse for that matter.   But they both fit the deals the Giants look for when they're in the market: short term and cheap.  McGehee will likely make less than 4M in 2015.  Aoki signed a team friendly one year deal for 4M with a team option for 5.5M that you can pretty much assume the Giants will pick up the second the 2015 season ends.  McGehee and Aoki combined to hit 5 homers last season.  Five.  To put that into perspective, Morse had 6 home runs by the end of April. Sandoval had 6 by the end of May.  Neither Aoki or McGehee are known prolific power hitters. Aoki's highest home run total came in 2012 when he hit 10 for the Brewers.  Coincidentally, McGehee's highest home run total also came while playing with the Brewers when he hit 23 in 2010. It must be noted that the Brewers stadium favors hitters while AT&T Park most certainly does not.

But Sabean isn't an idiot.  He didn't sign Aoki or McGehee to hit home runs.  He didn't sign them to replace the power lost by Sandoval and Morse going elsewhere.  He signed them to, as the Giants love to say, "lengthen the line-up".  You don't need power as much if you got a line-up 1-8 that can get on base and do the little things.  Certainly the 2014 Royals proved this.  Sabean is trying to repeat as World Champs by following the offensive philosophy of the opponent they vanquished to get ring #3.  In AT&T Park, it's not a bad strategy.

So, how does Sabean grade out for this winter?

He went into the offseason needing a 3B, a LF, a SP, and a RP.

He finished his offseason checklist by getting a 3B, a LF, 2 SP's, and a RP.

Now, the needs were met.  But the jury is out.  After dancing with Lester and Sandoval, some Giants fans expected more.  I wanted Chase Headley.  I also sort of wanted Melky back given his price tag. After whiffing on Lester, I was kind of secretly hoping the Giants would be in on Scherzer (I really didn't want them to sign James Shields and we'll see if that was a wise pass now that Shields is in the NL West as a member of the Padres).  However, given all the money the above guys got, I can't fault Sabean for dumpster diving instead.  He has the reigning champs on his hands as it is.  Throw in healthy seasons for Belt and Pagan and Cain and it's almost like Sabean is getting 3 acquisitions for his 2015 squad for free.  Were his moves enough?  Were they satisfactory to the fans?  That's to be determined.  No doubt bringing back 3 guys from the World Series team will be applauded.  This offseason was far from flashy and there is real reason to be concerned with the lack of power.  But the line-up should produce runs and Sabean was able to lure back Vogelsong to provide depth to a rotation with a bunch of question marks.  And while McGehee is not Sandoval, he's probably better than Arias and Duffy.  And he came much cheaper than Headley, Jed Lowrie, and several other 3B options that were out there.

Going into the 2015 season, the team seems to have the pieces to adequately defend its title.  Due to that, you have to consider the offseason a success.

Offseason Grade:  B+