Thursday, October 6, 2011

Ideal SF Giants 2012 Lineup?

I realize many visitors have been returning frequently, and following my writings.  I thank you for your interest and attention.  I can only hope that some of my thoughts may inform or spur further ideas.

I’ve now gone through many, many scenarios for what the SF Giants can do for 2012:  Albert Pujols.  Matt Kemp.  Jose Reyes.  Erick Aybar.  Nick Markakis.  Adam Jones.  Andrew McCutchen.  Jeff Francoeur.  Melky Cabrera.  Clint Barmes.  Michael Cuddyer.  Carlos Quentin.  Asdrubal Cabrera.  Jhonny Peralta.  Nick Swisher.  Josh Willingham.  David DeJesus.  Coco Crisp.  Jimmy Rollins...

Zito for Wells.  Zito for Figgins.  Zito for Peavy.  Zito for Dunn.  Zito for Lackey...  Zito for garlic fries and a beer.  Zito for President...

So many trade/acquisition alternatives.

I’m starting to narrow it down in my head.
Personally, I think Andrew McCutchen fits best for an outfielder.

The list gets too long to run through all the reasons.  But Kemp isn’t likely to be traded intra-division, especially to us.  Adam Jones is less disciplined at the plate.  Markakis can’t play CF for 2012.  Quentin, Willingham, and others simply don’t offer enough performance, consistency, and stability IMO.  While Cuddyer will certainly be a good acquisition for some team, his demand this off-season is simply too high compared to his ‘actual’ value IMO.

I’m pretty much left with one of my original choices, Melky Cabrera.  Who would be simpler to acquire, and work excellently for the Giants’ plans.  Another original consideration, Nick Swisher, would also be quite good, but he strikes out quite a bit, and the circumstances of him being available are a bit less likely (I think ONLY if NYY sign Beltran).  Both are Cabrera and Swisher are switch-hitters, I think Melky could have a bit more speed than Swish.  Both have reasonable arms from the field, but aren’t exactly Francoeur or Ankiel- or Nate.

When I really consider this, it becomes easy.  No, not just for the fact McCutchen is a bit cheaper or younger, though both factors certainly contribute to his overall value.  I think he has the highest ceiling- well above Adam Jones.  I think Melky might be very close to his own ceiling, though I believe he can maintain his performance for many years.  Swisher, I think it worth considering how much his teammates make him better, surrounded by prolific hitters up and down the lineup.

So, young, team-controlled, and highest ceiling...  But that isn’t really the clincher.  I’ve seen how McCutchen interacts with his teammates, how hard he plays.  His ‘vibe’.  And I can’t help but think his personality slots perfectly somewhere between Sergio Romo and Tim Lincecum.  A little ‘off-ish’ in the best way possible.  A cool vibe.  But his business is real, and he gets fired up the way I could see other Giants really digging.

Yeah, Andrew would fit the clubhouse.  Hell, he would MAKE that clubhouse.  And that is an absolute clincher for me.

I don’t care if we have to trade Jonathan Sanchez, Ramon Ramirez, Max Ramirez, Ehire Adrianza, and a center field prospect for him.  We might even need to add another valuable prospect like Chris Dominguez.  McCutchen would be worth it.  I’d trade nearly as much as I would for Matt Kemp.  Not quite, but fairly close.


Then I run through a pieced together lineup...

First concern has to be payroll budget.  I got to what I figure would be $139M. The depth of this team is much more extensive than my past $135M roster projections.  The Giants would have 5 incredible starters in the rotation.  Ramon Hernandez on the bench for catching duties.  Andrew McCutchen hitting lead-off or in the 2-hole.  This roster offers -by far- the most flexibility and fluidity, while still having significant offensive upgrades and key Giants players included.

I realize McCutchen probably has the most value at the very top of the order, batting lead-off or second.  I tried filling the SS position with Crawford, it works at $131M on my sheet.  But we got that lefty 5-6-7-8 thing I’m so not in love with.  Not just the LHB’s (left-handed bats), but who they are: Huff, Belt, Schierholtz, Crawford.  It’s just too weak for an NL team with a pitcher hitting 9th.  The top of the order is RHB heavy (McCutchen, F. Sanchez, Posey), while the bottom is LHB dominant.

Gee, go figure…

I’ve got the perfect solution…

…  wait for it

Erick Aybar.
Ha ha ha.  Tell me you dint see that comin’?

And talking about clubhouse presence.  I get a sense Aybar would quickly become a fave.  He's got that "Uribe up" thing going.  But in an even more fun way, and way more fervor.  I dunno if he's a prankster in the clubhouse, but I could see it...  Him even topping Huffs' antics.

2012 Giant starting lineup:
  1. CF  R  Andrew McCutchen
  2. 2B  R  F. Sancez
  3. 3B  S  Sandoval
  4. C    R  Posey
  5. LF  L  Huff
  6. 1B  L/R  Belt/Pill platoon
  7. SS  S  Erick Aybar
  8. LF  L  Schierholtz
RHP  Lincecum
RHP  Cain
LHP  Bumgarner
RHP  Vogelsong
LHP  Wandy Rodriguez

OF  R  Francisco Peguero
UT  R  Brad Eldred
IF/UT  R  Edgar Gonzalez
1B/other  Huff/Belt/Pill (tri-toon)
C     R  Ramon Hernandez

Aybar has hit all over the lineup, from top to bottom for Anaheim.  I think Aybar would fit well at the #7 spot, adding some speedy base running and pop toward the bottom of the lineup.  If somehow McCutchen doesn’t fit the Giants’ lead-off, Aybar is right there and ready to move up.  If Freddy goes down, Aybar could hit in the 2-hole.  If Brown isn’t quite ready for lead-off in 2012 and/or Panik doesn’t fit the 2-spot, McCutchen or Aybar can have to #1 and #2 locked up tight as needed.

But my guess is trying to get Brown ‘acclimated’ to MLB pitching while batting in the easiest spot, the 2-hole.  After a bit of seasoning, release the reigns and swap McCutchen & Brown in the one and two spots. That would be perfect, and we’d be a serious threat at the top of our order.

So, Aybar is a nice switch-hitter in the bottom of the order.  Whether Pill or Belt is in there, it won’t be unbalanced or left-handed batter heavy.  I could see Abar’s speed being worth at least 15 runs scored over the course of the season if he bats 7th- ahead of Nate.  Maybe he can score from second on a line drive, and not leave it up to the pitcher to drive him home.  Maybe a sac bunt from the pitcher helps him stay out of a double play if the lineup turns over- and sustains a few key rallies.

Yeah, and Nate has enough of a threat to hit one out, that pitchers would have to consider whether they pitch around him a bit.  One of the most curious decisions in all of NL baseball to me…  Does a pitcher want to face a pitcher to get an ‘easier’ third out in an inning?  Or decide to try to get the 8-hitter out so the pitcher starts off the next inning and lessens the overall scoring chance from the top of the order?  Yeah, Nate is a really solid (and perfect) #8 hitter.  And Erick would be perfect at #7.

What to do with Zito?
Well, I’ve really fallen in love with the idea of acquiring Wandy Rodriguez from Houston in a swap for Zito.

I’ve gotta figure the Astros are at least two years from building a team that seriously competes.  And by then, they also may be required to switch leagues and divisions.  So, they’ll have some maneuvering before they are ready to go forward.  In the meantime, maybe taking some payroll off their hands would be a prudent offer for them to accept?  It could happen.  I’m just sayin.’  They owe Wandy $23M over two years if they don’t pick up his $13M option for 2014.  Instead of $23M, they would pay only $8M total for Zito.

Sure, there may be some teams planning to make trade offers for Wandy, he is a consistent performer.  We might not be able to acquire Rodriguez, if another team’s trade package is more appealing to Houston.  Maybe we need to add a type-B prospect or two?  If we get the right cash offset price, I’d go through with it.

So, we send $38M (15, 16.5, 6.5) to Houston.  We restructure Rodriguez’s contract to a two-year with no option or a mutual option for a third year.  I’m hopeful we can get it to $25M/2-years (12, 13).  Now, we got more depth just in case Vogelsong doesn’t perform as well as we all hope he does.  I have a lot of faith that Vogelsong will continue to perform well, and is well worth a $7.5M 2-year contract.

But I also can’t help but think of the similarities to the story of Brad Thomas, I can’t find a link to the story, but if you are interested, look him up.  His story line eerily parallels Vogelsong’s.  And Thomas struggled in 2011, after a break-out season in 2010.

Still, Vogelsong is a different pitcher and person.  I think his mechanics are incredibly sound, and very repeatable.  I understand his work ethic is second to none.  I trust in him doing what he needs to do in order to be prepared for two more seasons of great pitching performances (and beyond that, too).

Getting back to Wandy Rodriguez.  He absolutely gives us the best chance to win as our 5th pitcher.

It seems clear from Sabean and Bochy that they aren’t really looking deeper into the Giants' farm system than Eric Surkamp.  I don’t know why.  I think Justin Fitzgerald would be the simplest choice to call up for 2012.  We may have a few others close to ready, but it sure sounds to me like it is Surkamp, J. Sanchez, or Zito.

I’d rather force their hand, and take the decision-making away from them.  Trade Zito and Sanchey for pieces we really need.  And we get a 5th pitcher who improves our chance to win each time, every time.  There is no doubt we would be overpaying for Wandy.  Not that he isn’t worth $10M and $13M per year, respectively…  But we are effectively paying (by my estimates) 12 + 15 (Zito) = $27M for 2012, and 13 + 16.5 = $29.5M for 2013, and $6.5M for 2014.  That is $63.  Which is $17M more than Zito’s $46M contract total.

But there is no way you can get a free agency arm better than Wandy Rodriguez for anything near $8.5M per year for a short 2-year contract.

If we have a pitcher ready by 2013, we look to unload Wandy at the 2013 trade deadline, or allow him to leave via free agency.  If none our our pitchers are ready, maybe we need that mutual option for 2014, but I’d seriously doubt it.  We have so many pitchers, I’m betting we can have two starters ready by 2014 (to replace Vogelsong & Rodriguez).

One thing I’m not crazy about is the platoon of Belt and Pill.  Belt has shown he can actually hit LHP better than RHP.  And I think Pill has a minor league career BA or .301 against RHP.  So, maybe I can wish for Bochy to just go with the hot bat and not screw things up too bad.  Not much else can be done.

Huff simply blocks them.  And both Belt and Pill happen to be in our system at the same time.  It happens.  After a season or two, I’m sure we can sort out who stays.  And Ricky Oropesa may want first base sooner than later too.  Same with Posey.  Who knows.

My Ideal 2012 SF Giants Lineup?

I realize I’ve used a lot of fairly high estimates in my worksheet.  I am aware Aybar got only $2M and $3M in his first two arbitration years, respectively.  I realize McCutchen may sign for less than a $60M 6-year deal.  And that I am ‘wiping out’ one year of league minimum pay for McCutchen with his 6-year contract estimate.

These are still just my ‘best guess’ estimates and how I might handle things.

I tended to go toward the high side in each case.  The projections I’m using, therefore, should be a ‘maximum’ for each year.  And one salary I might be off on, will almost certainly be balanced (overall) by another salary I was also slightly off on. Take it for what it is, replace the values with your own opinions.  It’s all good.  But I’ve tried to account for many details.  Like future salaries are likely to be higher ‘overall’ than they are now in 2011.

A player like Michael Cuddyer who now makes $10-12M may be worth $14-15M in 2016.  An arbitration case for Pablo’s arb-3 year may require $15M in 2104, although it might only be $13.5M right now.  If you are aware of how the league minimum salary scale works, I’ve accounted for that too.  I used 450k in 2012 (to simplify things, even though MY estimate for 2012 is about $440k), $470k for 2013, $500k for 2014, and $530k for 2015.  In the end, these are JUST ESTIMATES, people.

The idea of all my decisions is to make them appealing to BOTH parties.  We should WANT McCutchen to sign long term.  He should want to do likewise.  If we had to pay a player like him an $18M salary in an unbalanced payroll year, we could be in trouble.  Accounting for (oh, the puns!) salary raises in our contract structures is a tremendous help, we should utilize.  This is why I’ve put $16M of his salary in 2014.  Surely he won’t mind bigger paychecks early.  And we control costs for upcoming years when Sandoval, Bumgarner, and Posey all have higher salary draws.

We got a lot of the Giants players on the 2012 roster.  We add depth and hitting.  We got a 5th starter who should be a 3rd starter.  And we have a serious bench with power and average.

I have a feeling this is my final roster projection for the 2012 Giants.

It offers the most flexibility, adds bats, and expands well with our plans moving forward.  This is one of the simplest and most streamlined of all the roster projections I think I’ve created.  And I would be supremely happy if this is our Giants 25-man roster for 2012, even if I am no longer around to be able to see them.

I’ve no doubt that other prospects could get a chance to make these rosters from 2012 through 2105.  I’m not accounting for every decision, think of these players as ‘placeholders’.  Maybe Ryan Cavan replaces Edgar Gonzalez once Gonzalez hits his arb-3 year and becomes much more expensive.  Maybe Roger Kieschnick jumps quickly through the ranks and is fast-tracked to replace Eldred or even Schierholtz.  Maybe Culberson steals the second base job away from Joe Panik.

So many things, we cannot know.  I can’t tell which pitcher will make our bullpen first.  Or maybe we will have to sign a FA arm, like we did with Mota, Ramirez, Casilla, and others.

Actually, we could have Jose and Santiago Casilla,  Andrew and Sergio Romo,  and Brett Bochy all in our bullpen by 2015.  Wow.  Team functions could double as family reunions.  Fantastic. If we are really, really lucky, maybe Bruce would have to fly in from parts unknown (Boston?) for said reunions.  lol.

I’ve tried to piece a best-case scenario together.  But I’ve tried to also keep it grounded in reality.  This isn’t meant to be ‘fantasy baseball draft day.’  I believe I’ve been pretty thorough in justifying the how and the why I think these players can be acquired.  There’s no way I can account for everything.  Maybe a scouting assistant for the Pirates knows Salem-Keizer RHP Cody Hall from Southern U A&M and ‘asks’ for him as part of the trade for McCutchen.  Who knows?  Who knows.

Anyways.  I, for one, think this team would be exciting as all get-up to watch for 162 plus games.
What does the “plus” mean?

Playoffs, fool.  Go Giants!

Thanks all for your visits.  Cheers.

Image credits:  Photo of Sergio Romo is my own original photograph, All Rights Reserved.  He tried to break my lens, but he didn't...  The ball hit it, and 'slid off'.  lol.  Erick Aybar from  Wandy Rodriguez from rotoprofessor. Andrew McCutchen from sportsillustrated.cnn

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