Sunday, August 06, 2006

Thinking About the Giants in 2007

I sent the text below to a handful of friends who are SF Giants fans. One of them wrote back that it would make a good blog post. Its not so much that the Giants are out of playoff contention this year (because the NL West is sooo bad) as much as the Giants have a huge offseason coming up. 5 of the Giants 8 starting position players and their number one pither are free agents. Furthermore, of the 3 returning starters, Mike Matheny's career maybe over due to the concusion he suffered earlier this season. So for anyone who is a baseball fan here is my original email on the move's I'd like to see the Giants make this off season.


Dear All:

So based on the salaries here:

I wouldn't resign any of the veterans on the Giants roster other than vizquel, winn or morris. Fortunately, these guys are not free agents. The two free agents that scare me the most are shea hillenbrand and pedro feliz. They are both worth about what they are making right now at $4M and $5.8M but I suspect Sabean may wind up signing them both to long term deals in the $7-8M per year range. I am really tired of having guys that hit .270 and under 25 HRs. In baseball I think you either need 8 batters with speed that hit for average and play defense to "manufacture" runs or a handful of guys that can smash the ball to protect each other. Given where the Giants are now, I say Go get 3-4 mashers and then fill the rest of the positions with minor leaguers that play great defense and make the league minimum.

If the Giants are able to resign Bonds for $10M and they dump Schmidt, Durham, Feliz, Hillenbrand, Alou and Finley, who are all free agents, they should have $51.7M to spend on new players this year. I don't really know what Bonds will ask for but a combination of his ego, crappy production and marketing value makes me think that $10M is about right. I think Bonds has a better year next year. My guess is that he hits .270 with 25-30 HRs with healthier knees and more protection.

Based on this list of 2007 Free Agents:

The one guy who I avoid is Torii Hunter. I know that Tony loves him but his defense and hitting stats really aren't that much better than Randy Winn's. His career batting average is .268, he's only hit over 100 RBIs once (102) and he's never hit more than 30 HRs (29). Hunter is already making $10.75M and will get a big raise.

Here is the batting order that I put together based on how I spend the $51.7M:

2B: Soriano (5-6 years fo $75-90M)
3B: Garciapara (3 years $20-24M)
LF or 1B: Bonds (Resign 1 year $10M)
RF: Sheffield (3 years $30M)
LF or 1B: Carlos Lee (4-5 years $40-50M)
SS: Vizquel
CF: Winn
C: Alfonzo

There is definitely a risk of injury with this line up but I believe that it is strong enough to have 1 or even 2 players out and still be solid. Also, with Soriano’s ability to play the outfield and Garciapara’s ability to play any infield position the line up is fairly versatile. I don't know whether or not signing these players for the contracts I am suggesting is realistic but here are my thoughts on each of them.

Consensus seems to be that Soriano is going to get $15M per year, which is all I'm going off of here. I'm not 100% convinced that Soriano is worth $15M. If the Yankees drive the price up too high, I go with Kevin Franzden at 2B, batt Nomar 1st and move up Vizquel to 2nd in the line up. I'd sit on the $15M for next year to sign the best player available when Bonds retires.

Sheffield is making $10.7M this year and the Yankees have a $13M option for next year. I figure at age 38, and having picked up Abreu and his $16M next year the Yankees won't take the option on Sheffield. Sheffield is old and that is a risk but despite his injury this year his numbers have been very consistent since 1998. When healthy Sheffield is one of the best hitters in the game and I would definitely risk the $10M on him but I don't think many other teams will. If another team does offer him more than $10M per year, I resign Alou to 2 years for $10M. I'd drop Alou to 5th and push Lee up to hit clean up.

Carlos Lee is 30 and making $8.5M this year. He is on pace to hit .285 and 40 HRs but I don't put him quite in the elite category so I think that $10M per season over 4-5 years is reasonable. Lee is an outfielder but I assume that either he or Bonds would be willing to play 1B. If we can't get Carlos Lee to play 1B, I sign Craig Wilson to 4-5 years for $28-40M and keep him batting 5th. Wilson can play 1B, Catcher or OF.

Garciapara is obviously very injury prone but he plays great defense and hits for average and OBP every year. Also, he can play every infield position. He is 32 only making $6M in a one year deal this year. I can't see anyone giving him more than 3 years and $24M because age and injury but I would take this risk. If we don't get Nomar, I sign Joe Randa to a 1-2 year deal for $4-5M per season. W/o Garciapara, I'd batt Vizquel 2nd and Randa 6th. I would also consider resigning Feliz at $4M per year, but no more because as the KNBR guy said last year his brain is mush, he strikes out too much and his OBP sucks. It isn't worth $6M+ to wait for Feliz to learn how to hit at age 31. One 3B that I wouldn't touch is Aubrey Huff, who is making $6.9M and rumor has it he may get a big raise in the off season.

At the high end of these contract estimates Soriano, Garciapara, Sheffield and Lee cost $43M next year, which leaves $8.7M to account for increasing salary of existing contracts and bringing up a couple of minor leaguers and/or signing veteran backups. Also, most competitive teams raise their payroll by $3-5 million each year so it is possible that there maybe room to sign another Matt Morris type SP if the extra $8.7M is used sparingly. Given his age, I wonder if it would be possible to sign Mike Mussina to a 2 year deal worth $15M or less.

If so the Giants Starting Pitchers might look like this:

Matt Morris
Mike Mussina
Noah Lowry
Matt Cain
Brad Hennessey

If that is the case, I think the team SP era would have a solid chance of being below 4.00.

There might be a problem in the bullpen but having a great closer is the last piece of the puzzle in my mind and there is always a chance that Benetiz might get his act together. If the Giants could make all of the moves that I'm suggesting I would definitely be satisfied not making any changes to the bullpen because I think the offense would score enough runs to take off a lot of the pressure.



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