Saturday, July 2, 2011

SF Giants... I'm Worried.

I've never been a believer that a "big bat" would fix the Giants woes.  There isn't enough depth to require pitchers to respect one bat.  Look at Matt Holliday's offense when he played for the A's.  Since Huff has so little slugging, and when Pablo was out, pitchers aren't worried about the line-up.  Another example, Burrell's first five (?) HR's this season, how many total RBI's did he earn from them?  Five.  Doh!  Anybody wanna tell me the G-Men don't get base runners in nearly every game? Even since 2009, this hasn't been a problem.  They can't get them in.  They need higher averages and more speed.

In 2010, I used the nickname "ASAP" for the top four of the line-up (Andres Torres, Freddy Sanchez,  Aubrey Huff, Buster Posey).  As in "we need some runs ASAP."

For 2011, I am calling the Giants line-up the "noffense."  'Nuff said.  No explanation necessary.

Okay, everyone is talking about possible trades.  If you've followed the Giants for a few years, you'll recognize that Sabean & the Giants' front office tends to go for value in their trade deadline moves.  Looking at under-performers compared to career (Burrell, Garko, Ross, Huff), recently injured and rehabbed (Sanchez & DeRosa), and bringing up prospects to fill needs (Velez, Fransen, Bowker, Burriss, Downs, Crawford, Ford, etc).

Next year, 2012, will be a very different year, and a fairly different team IMHO.  So, who knows?  Well, I know they are right in the middle of a potential playoff run this year.  I just said "playoff run", so why does my title say "I'm Worried"?  I'm worried we'll end up with Rick Ankiel as an outfield bat.  And Jason Varitek as a veteran catcher.  Or Mike Cameron as yet another platoon outfielder.

Here's the deal to make:
SF Giants trade to Baltimore Orioles:
Jonathan Sanchez
Guillermo Mota
Emmanuel Burriss

SF Giants acquire from Baltimore Orioles:
J.J. Hardy
Adam Jones

Why is this deal a good two-way trade?
Orioles are #12 in MLB in team batting avg (.259) and OPS (.718) and 20th in runs (322).
Giants are #25 in MLB in team batting avg (.240) and 26th in both OPS (.664) and runs (291).

Orioles are #27 in pitching ERA (4.40), #2 in most HR's given (97), and 27th in WHIP (1.40)
Giants are #4 in pitching ERA (3.21), #30 (best) in most HR's given (45)  and 5th in WHIP (1.23)

There is no way the Baltimore market is going to outspend NYY or Boston.  So, I would expect they might need to cut some payroll before 2012 to stay around $90M (Cot's: 2011=$86.9M, 2010=$73.8M, 2009=$67.1M).  J.J. Hardy will be a free agent next year ($5.85M in 2011) and Adam Jones is Arb 2 ($3.25M in 2011).

I might, humbly, expect Hardy to fetch about $10-12.5M next year (excellent 2-way shortstops are valuable!), depending on the structure of his contract (2011=..305 avg, 13 2B/11 HR, 30 RBI, .365 OBP, .538 SLG, .903 OPS.
And Jones to make about $8.5-10M (2011= .285 avg, 15 2B/13 HR, 46 RBI, .329 OBP, .473 SLG, .802 OPS).

Jonathan Sanchez isn't "mentally unstable" or "a headcase" or any such nonsense.  He simply hasn't yet "tuned" his mechanics enough to be consistent.  I swear, I believe he will win a Cy Young in 3 or 4 years.  Hardly any pitcher (especially LHP) in MLB has better deception right now (when he's 'on' of course).  How difficult must it be for a batter to 'stand-in' when Sanchez can throw a fastball behind your back over over your head at 94 mph, and then strike you out with a filthy slider at 91 mph?  Personally, I'd be thinking like a boxer "protect yourself at all times".

Sanchez simply needs to fix his delivery.  I don't think it is 'arm slot'.  I think it is his landing foot.  His right foot gets too 'closed' IMHO, his toes pointed too much towards the first base line, not home plate.  This is simple sports kinesiology.  (Basketball, finish shots with follow through towards the basket; volleyball spike, finish arm swing towards target; golf swing, finish swing with belt buckle facing target; etc.).  His hip gets "locked", it is similar to how a professional soccer player uses hip rotation to kick a soccer ball properly, not just one's legs.  But I think this will be simple, and repeatable.  Just land with right foot pointed more towards home plate each time.  He'll figure it out.  Faster would be better than slower though.

If Sanchez is a #1 or #2 starter on a team that has even reasonable offense, I think he would be much, much more comfortable.  Heck, you don't think that Cain and Lincecum have never thought "I should get out of this city, there's no offense here.  I could be winning 20+ games each year, every year."  Not that they are selfish in their motives- not at all, they are class players.  But "We lose games we shouldn't lose" or "I could really help a team more if there is more offense."  Seriously, I've thought these things for them many times myself.

So, Sanchez maybe can get $4.5-8M in 2012 if he is lucky (he's Arb 3, and making $4.8M in 2011- Scott Boras).  He goes to a team that will value him and not question if he is a #2, #4, #5, or #6 pitcher.  He'll shine.  Heck, I was disappointed when Matt Downs was traded away last year, he's gonna have a very solid pro career IMHO.  You think we miss his 6 HR's, 21 RBI's, and .276 avg, .379 OBP, .586 SLG, .965 OPS?  Oh, that's in only 87 AB's this 2011 season!  Trust me, Sanchez will thrive in a better-suited environment.

It reminds me of NYC locals screaming to trade Andy Pettitte around 2000.  He was a farm system/draft pick, had always pitched very good to great.  Lucky for NYY, they didn't trade him.  He went like 21-8 in 2003, didn't he?  Oh wait, they did trade him.  To Houston.  Oh yeah.  LOL.  And then got him back.  And he went 11-3 with a 3.28 ERA in 21 starts in 2010, at 38 years old.  LOL.

Fans don't realize how rare Jonathan Sanchez's stuff is.  He's a rare pitcher.  His effective wildness has gotta get inside a hitter's head.  But there's no denying his potential.  I just think he will still reach it, instead of those willing to give up on him.  Lefties like him simply don't come around often.

So, I doubt Sanchy, Mota, and Burriss is enough to land Hardy and Jones in SF.  I think it will likely take another piece, maybe Ford or Peguero.  Crawford doesn't leave if I have my say, and Ford wouldn't either.  Yes, even with these overlapping position players arriving.  Orioles trade about $20M out and pick up about $9M in.  They cut a net of maybe $10-12M and get a starting pitcher, reliever, and solid prospect(s) that are MLB ready now or soon.

Giants payroll is more complicated.  From this years $118M, I think it will certainly climb higher next year.  how far will the front office go?  I don't know.  I think $135M or $140M will be the max.  You'll need to ink contracts for Lincecum, Bumgarner, Vogelsong, Ramirez, Romo, Lopez, Runzler, Posey, Sandoval, Torres, and Schierholtz for 2012.  And I'm not sure if Posey will be eligible for Super-2.  Let's add this list and estimate $35-39M total.  With Hardy and Jones, we'll be right at $135-140M payroll for 2012.  Perfect.

The sooner this deal could be done, the better.  Having JJ Hardy lead-off (move Burriss, he isn't a #2 hitter) would be excellent  Then Torres, Sandoval, Jones, Huff, Crawford, Stewart, Schierholtz in that order.  But really, 2012 could be another incredible opportunity too.  Here would be my projected line-up:

1)   JJ Hardy (SS)
2)   Freddy Sanchez (2B)
3)   Buster Posey (C)
4)   Adam Jones (CF)
5)   Pablo Sandoval (3B)
6)   Aubrey Huff (1B)
7)   Andres Torres (LF)
8)   Nate Schierholtz (RF)

Bench options:
Aaron Rowand
Brandon Belt
Brandon Crawford
Darren Ford
Chris Stewart

Why Torres in Left Field?  Jones has a better arm, which may help from triples alley.  You can have the top 6 batters truly be responsible for most of the offensive production.  And your young, top defensive/speed players will keep the 'runs against' down (middle infield & RF, mostly).  You win both ways IMHO.  I don't care if Nate bats .210 all season, his arm in right field is that valuable to me.  Same with Crawford (if he doesn't 'come through' in an offensive opportunity late in a game) as a double-switch with a pitcher.  In National League play, with this roster, I'll take my chances against anybody.

You put your best offensive players out there, give them as many opportunities as possible to score runs.  If Belt or Crawford or Ford can't do it late, it isn't really their fault or responsibility.  But hey, once in a while, they too will come through in the clutch.  And that's just gravy.

Obviously, I think Ross, Tejada, Hall, Fontenot, and DeRosa are let loose.  Probably Whiteside too.  Maybe Thomas Neal or Hector Sanchez or Conor Gillaspie make the roster instead of Crawford or Ford.  I dunno.  But I'd go for the line-up I've suggested.
So, Orioles need pitching, maybe can trade some offense, and most certainly always need to trim payroll.  They could trim  approx. $10-12M in this trade and get pitching and a young replacement for Hardy and/or Jones.  The Giants need offense, in the worst of worst ways.  They cut Sanchez's projected payroll for 2012 and get bats now.

If Vogelsong isn't strong this second half or next year, you have so many arms in the farm system, I'd bet one can come up.  You really don't 'lose' by going to 11 pitchers (losing Mota now).  Bochy isn't thinking enough about bats-off-the-bench for National League play IMHO.  Sure, many think he's a genius right now, the Giants are World Series Champs.  I get that.  I don't get why Randy Winn was batting clean-up in September 2009 when we played Colorado and were like 3 games behind them.  I don't get why Molina batted 8th for a significant stint in 2010 (one of the slowest 'runners' in baseball, he could get doubled up even on a sac bunt, right?).  This is National League play...  So many examples...  *sigh*.

I wouldn't be opposed to Ivan Rodriguez spot-starting for the Gigantes this season.  But I wouldn't be willing to give up much to get him.  There simply isn't enough up-side IMHO.  His defense and throwing arm aren't quite up to what they once were.  His bat isn't either.  He's a veteran caller and backstop.  I'd go for Stewart for his defense.  Make a play for others that create offense instead of trying to wish for a flashback time machine of Pudge 12 years ago.

What about Michael Cuddyer?  Yeah, I'd like him here too.  But I don't see any way the Twins part with him.  They have been building a highly competitive team for a few years now.  They moved into their beautiful new Target Field in 2010, right?  I don't care if they are 11 games under .500 right now.  They likely will ADD and build, not subtract IMHO.

Prince Fielder will be a free-agent, what about him?  N-o-t a c-h-a-n-c-e.  Just ask any Giant when they are in their clubhouse, if they'd want him here.  I'd bet that to a man they each say 'no'.  His antics are too self-serving.  Didn't he wait outside the clubhouse for Sanchez(?) after he hit him once?  Didn't security have to remove him from the park after he tried to get into the Giants clubhouse (after a game), when he tried to find Guillermo Mota(?) who *supposedly* threw at him?  His 'bowling pin' routine didn't go over too well here either.  Ain't gonna happen.  Ever.

He's the same kind of trouble, like I didn't want Manny Ramirez here when he left the Red Sox.  I didn't want to see Jose Guillen here last year.  Zito may be highly overpaid.  But when you see him in the dugout during the World Series, standing on the top step, rooting for our team...  Well, it must've really, really torn him up.  But he hung in there, I've really appreciated Zito's attitude.  Fielder, I wouldn't count on it, is all.

Carlos Beltran?  Well, I'm not all that excited about this idea.  I think somebody will likely overpay for his bat.  It is like a lottery draw, they might get lucky, they might not.  He'll help, but would he be the best fit here in SF, I don't think so.

Jose Reyes?  Oh, here we go.  The Sought-After One.  He's having one of those 'better than a birthday wish' type of seasons.  Good timing for him and his agent Peter Greenberg.  He is in the prime of his career at 28.  Is anyone forward thinking enough to see this could be the next Zito or Rowand type contract?  He'll get a stunning, mind-numbing contract with lots of zeros and a few numbers to the left of 'em.  How can he ever live up to it?  I dunno.  What if he gets injured?  I had thought the Giants might make a go for him.  Now, I think the chances are less than 5% to none.  He won't negotiate until the off-season.  He's a rental and you will have to pay dearly for that.  No thanks.

Jose Bautista?  Some seem to think he could be available.  I say absolutely not.  Toronto has a pretty savvy leadership group (in some ways at least, props goes to owner Alex Anthopoulos).  He hit 54 HR's last year and then signed a 5-yr $65M contract in T-Dot (Toronto) after that.  Are you eff'ing kidding me?  He's pulling $8M this year and $14M in 2012.  Maybe the bargain of the decade.  He's filling at least a few of the seats, and if they ever get something together, he is their centerpiece.  And at less than half of his market value IMHO.  However, if we want to give up Cain, Wilson, and Posey, I'm fairly sure we could get him.  LOL.  Maybe he loves Toronto?  Maybe he's a real family guy and wants the stability?  I dunno.  I just think he ain't movin'.

So, we really need an offensive left-fielder or a solid 2-way shortstop or both.

Melky Cabrera?  Pretty intriguing to me.  Fits the bill I think the Giants would like to trade for.  Good avg, power, even 10of 12 stolen bases. low (14%) strike-out rate.  I could honestly see this happening.  I don't know what we trade away though.  No idea.

Hunter Pence?  Doubtful.  Probably too costly.  But would be fantastic IMHO.  But he's kinda a cornerstone of their team.  Oh wait, wasn't Lance Berkman too?  Oh well.  Maybe.  Hits for great average, doubles, HR's, and some speed.  Strikesout a bit much, but it's easy to forgive this in a productive payer, eh?

Yuniel Escobar?  Good average, low K rate.  Very good power for a shortstop.  I think he took the job from Marco Scutaro, right.  Solid.  I'd be happy to see him here.  But I don't think he's worth trading Jonathan Sanchez for.  No way.

Jeff Francoeur?  I don't know what the 'ask' from KC would be.  But it gets complicated, you don't really have a need for Schierholtz if you pick up Francoeur.  Both have great arms, Francoeur is still young enough to be your everyday player.  More offense too.  You could move one of them to left field.  I really like the idea of him in SF.  But I'm worried about the cost. I'd rather Melky Cabrera, personally.  If you get both, Schierholtz almost certainly has to be in the trade package, or Torres.  And a pitcher.  Like I said, I'm worried about the ask.  If they want both gone to cut payroll, then maybe there's a possibility.

Josh Willingham?  Not really enough of anything to make me think he's a big trade possibility for SF.  Look at his K rate.  Too many strikeouts.  Low average.  Tough season for him.  No thanks IMHO.  Same went for Mark Ellis, who just left Oakland.

Jason Kubel?  Probably more available than Cuddyer IMHO.  But I'm not sure he's the right guy to fit into the Giants line-up.  I'd worry about his performance at AT&T (not having great slugging at home games).  He's very similar to Cody Ross was last year.  Would the results be the same, doubtful IMHO.  I'd pass on this deal.

Alcides Escobar?  Decent base stealer, low K rate.  I don't see that much of an upgrade over Crawford, really.  Let Brandon get more familiar with MLB pitching, he'll outperform Alcides in offense the second half of 2011 IMHO.

Ian Desmond?  Base stealers would be great for the Giants.  We've seen how Ford or Torres can affect the outcome of games.  I could see Desmond moving west if there is a package including Pudge coming to SF.  I'm just saying.  If we get Rodriguez, get Desmond too.  I don't see Desmond coming to SF otherwise.  Or just shop around the beltway, get Pudge, Hardy, and Jones please.

Ryan Ludwick?  I've really liked Ludwick when he was in St. Louis.  Couldn't figure why the Cards gave him up.  He's a well above average LF, and would fit nicely in SF methinks.  But you need to be careful with trades within the division.  I wouldn't want to see us facing Sanchy in the NL West.

The two clear 'power' positions are clearly 1B and LF at AT&T Park.  I was sad about the Huff contract deal.  He got a second chance with the Giants.  We picked him up, got him on a World Series Championship team from the Orioles.  Then he wanted full $10M market-rate money from this same team.  He really should've taken a pay cut, since the Giants gave him the chance to be worth more.  You get to $10M for Huff, I thought we should've released him and spent $12-16M to get a real power first baseman.  Now we're 'stuck' with the biggest power position producing numbers like a very good shortstop or second baseman.  Doh.