Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Problems in Giantsland.

We got issues in Giantsland people.

While I was out walking my dog last night, a serious thought struck me.  I realize not many fans will ponder what I ponder.  My brain just doesn’t stop.  It isn’t always a good thing.

Sabean and Bochy have both said “Huff needs to be prepared to play left field for 2012.”  Something to those words.  I don’t think they’ve expressed anything as concrete as “Huff will START in LF.”  Even still, the idea of Huff in left field is a MAJOR ISSUE.  And don't expect for a second, SaBochy aren't expecting Huff to start.

Let’s read into this a bit.
Bochy & Sabean have admitted we need a CF and a lead-off hitter.  And probably a SS.

Let’s say that SS is a free agent: Clint Barmes.  We might want Jimmy Rollins or Jose Reyes for arguments’ sake, but I don't think our budget gets there without moving Zito and/or Dirty and/or Wilson.  No trade, just signing. No giving up of prospects or current players; just signing.  IF we sign a shorty, Crawford’s value diminishes to about 20% (as a 40-man or injury replacement only).

Let's say that CF is free agent: Coco Crisp.

That leaves left field to Huff.  Just like Sabean and Bochy have alluded to.

Where’s that offensive threat we need hitting #3 or #4?  If Pablo doesn’t hit third, it should only be because we get Beltran, Kemp, Pujols, or someone else of superstar status.  If Pablo hits #3, we need another bat at least as solid as Posey (.280+ avg, .330 OBP, 20-ish HR) batting #4 or #5.

We got a logjam at 1B, so we aren’t looking there.  2B is Freddy Sanchez, unless he’s hurt, but we can’t figure to sign a second baseman to get that kind of production- too expensive and one 2B would block the other.  The only SS that is likely available is Reyes, and he’d bat lead-off.  If we could get Asdrubal Cabrera or Jhonny Peralta, they might also fit this role.  Still, I’d say one of these shortstops would likely be leading off too.  3B is Sandoval.

So, our big offensive upgrade logically needs to come from the outfield.

Cuddyer, Francoeur, Markakis, Melky Cabrera, and Adam Jones fit that #4 or #5 type hitter as outfielders.
If it isn’t a Posey-type (high avg, OBP, and some power), then we need a bit more power (25+ HR) at a .260-ish avg.  Some base running speed would be a big bonus.  Hitters like Nick Swisher, Carlos Quentin, maybe Josh Willingham, or maybe Vernon Wells. I'm not even willing to consider Kubel, Fukudome, or DeJesus types.  Just my opinion, YMMV.

If either Belt or Schierholtz have a complete season, it wouldn’t be unheard of for either (or both) of them to be close to this productivity ‘range.’  Maybe .270 hitters, .330 OBP, .760 OPS, and 20 HR’s.

So, if Huff plays LF, and publicly it has been stated that RF is Nate’s job to lose…  We need a power-hitting centerfielder.  Uh-oh.
Can we get Andrew McCutchen, Adam Jones, or Matt Kemp?  The top CF’s based on performance and fitting our needs would be: Matt Kemp, Ellsbury, Granderson, Melky Cabrera, Josh Hamilton, Carlos Gonzalez, Adam Jones, McCutchen, and maybe Torii Hunter.

I’d say most of these center fielders are ‘untouchable’, but maybe not all of them.  I’ve written about Kemp, it depends on what happens with the Dodgers front office/management/ownership/finances.  Melky is probably attainable for J. Sanchez and maybe a mid-prospect.  Adam Jones just might be attainable for a fairly large prospect package.  Hunter might be available, he’s got a massive $18M salary for 2012, his final contract year.  I’ve exhaustively written about how the Halos have five outfielders and want to cut payroll.  So, maybe.  But Hunter is 36 years old now, and doesn’t play CF any longer.

Andrew McCutchen would interest me as much or more than anyone else on this list, since I think he still hasn’t hit his ceiling.  He’s still pre-arb and under team control.  He’s the kind of guy I could see having a jump in his .276 career avg to nearly .300 if he were protected in a deep lineup.  I could project him to Josh Hamilton or Carlos Gonzalez type of stats easily.  Yup, I’m serious and not drinking any Tang today.

The complexities go beyond just a SS, CF, and leadoff for our needs.  We can expect Gary Brown is scheduled to start in CF for 2013.  If he is called up by August 2012, I won’t be surprised.  Especially if we are contending for the playoffs.  So, we need a CF for 2012 and one who is possibly open to moving to LF if Nate stays in RF for the future.

We'd be really, really lucky if Gary Brown comes up by 2013 and is really a true lead-off hitter.  But if we get someone here for 2012, we might need to keep them through 2013.  If that is Crisp, our outfield gets messy.  We might have Belt in LF if Pill stays or Posey moves to 1B.  We got Brown playing CF.  We're looking at potentially shoving Belt out of playing time if we get a great outfielder.  So, I'm figuring Crisp is a one-year ($7.5M) or two year (($13M: 6.5, 6.5) deal.

We also have no planning for our vital #2 hitter once Freddy is gone in 2013.  Again, we might get really, really lucky if Joe Panik becomes this guy.  But expecting someone like Nate to be that .290 avg and .340 OBP guy is way too much.  Our best long-term plan is getting a shortie who can lead-off of hit #2.  Rollins is borderline on that, considering a possible decline with his age.  This is why Aybar fits so well, as you all no doubt know I am convinced.  Crisp won't be around long, and certainly isn't a 2-hitter in a great lineup.

Huff, Belt, and Schierholtz are not center fielders.  And Nate loses a bit of his field value if his isn’t in RF for home games.  Andres Torres isn’t being talked about by the brass, and Crisp isn’t a big bat, even though he can be a ‘productive’ bat.

There are very few big bats coming from the CF position.  And usually they are All-Stars.  If we end up with Crisp for lead-off and some other solution for SS (maybe starting Crawford?), we still need a bat in the outfield.  That likely pushes Nate to the bench, since we’ll have to admit Sabochy will start Huff in LF.  History has shown Bochy and Sabean will bench Schierholtz before Huff.  Especially to START a season.  If Huff falters, maybe he DOES get a short leash in 2012.  But he still starts on the 2012 roster.  And I don't really expect that leash to be as short as a Rottweiler's on a pinch collar.  Not that I like it, it just is.

Now, you get into another issue, if we have Nate on the bench.  There is no secondary player who can play CF in a pinch.  We’ve had both Torres and Ross to cover each other in this spot for the past year and a half.  I think Burriss played a tad in CF in 2009 after a late-inning switch or pinch-something, if needed.  We also had guys like Randy Winn Bowker, and Fred Lewis to fill CF duties if absolutely needed.  We wouldn’t have that, if Nate starts on the bench.

That means we might need another OF on the bench.  That DEFINITELY pushes Burrell out.  Maybe it helps bring Ross back into the fold.  Maybe Torres as a defensive replacement and pinch runner has more value than anybody.  We only have a few minor league prospects that might realistically work for this bench spot.  Justin Christian, Tyler Graham, or Francisco Peguero.

Considering the tri-toon of Huff, Belt, and Pill from 1B and LF; that takes one bench spot.  Nate takes the second.  IF we NEED a CF capable bench player, you now filled three of the five bench spots.  But wait.

You still need a UT and FCP (Freddy Contingency Plan).  And your fifth has to be a catcher.

I don’t see it.  Even if we consider Pill can (maybe) play 2B and Belt/Huff can play 1B or LF.  We go without a CF back-up if Nate gets pushed to the pine.  We still need a utility player (UT) capable of playing SS as well.  Previously we had guys like DeRosa, Keppinger or Uribe who really shouldn’t play shortstop.  But a IF/UT guy like Fontenot CAN play shortstop.  A shorty for short.  Our “Littlest Giant”.  Ha ha.  Okay, I’ll stop.

We don’t put Crawford or Adrianza on the bench, they’ve basically never played anything other than short.  If they aren’t starting, they need more experience with playing time in the minors.  Guys like Charlie Culberson and Edgar Gonzalez are the only players I see being ready and Sabochy favoring for that UT role from our system.  They’ve played some at short and the majority of the infield positons.

We can’t really afford to put Nate in the 4th outfielder spot.  He hit .278 with a .326 OBP with 9 HR in 362 PA’s this year, and a 112 OPS+ for 2011.  That’s solid and not worth trying to upgrade IMO.  Add his defense?  He’s gotta be on the field every day.  But, I’ve said that for over two years now.  *sigh*.  Plus, he'll probably earn just under $2M for 2012.

My point from this rant?
I’m coming to the rationalized conclusion: we ain’t getting a big bat in the outfield.

Huff isn’t getting pushed out from starting.  Somehow the tri-toon of Huff, Belt, and Pill will be an ‘acceptable’ part of our roster to SaBochy.  Nate is in RF...  The center fielders we NEED for a big bat aren’t available unless you make a ‘creative’ trade.  And I don’t see this front office pulling that off.  I’d love it, but I also doubt it.  Oh yeah, IF we get a big bat, they'd likely need to play LF.

Plus, if we get that big bat at CF, we also need a shortstop that is a solid lead-off hitter.  There ain’t many of those types available (Rollins and Reyes).  Again, if we don’t make a creative trade, our options are thin.

Now, to come full circle: budget.

You want a chance to play GM for your own self?
Use my "blank" worksheet a plug in who you think and how much you think they would cost.  Yes, I've made decisions to keep the bullpen and trade Wilson.  The first is due to SaBochy alluding that they will "keep the pitching intact", the latter is due to budget- and trade value; repspectively.

Cost to open is $124M, without moving Zito or J. Sanchez.  If you consider a great way to move them, great.  Please share your thoughts as comments here.

My "blank" 2012 worksheet.

Payroll won’t support a major bat upgrade and a quality lead-off shorty.  The only way is (*still*) moving Zito creatively.  And that likely isn’t enough.  Wilson’s $8.5M and Affeldt’s $5M stick out a bit to my eyes.  I think we need the consistency that a LHP like Affeldt can bring.  But, Wilson, I think we can get a great value from if we trade him right now.  Best to try Hembree now while we still got a rock solid pen to fill in if needed.

We seriously need to upgrade our back-up backstop.
We also can’t go so cheap as to keep Stewart or Whiteside as our second catcher.    I say sign free agent Ramon Hernandez as our first choice.  But there will be other bidders for him.  Several.  Especially if Jose Molina is not available, which I figure to be true.  Two years at up to $9 M (4, 5) total should get him here.  Yeah, it is overpaying.  But I think he’s worth it.

If not Hernandez (or Jose Molina)?  Ramon Castro from the Chi Sox would be next on my list.  He should be a free agent, and a tad cheaper.  Maybe $6.5M total for 2-years?  Third, I’d say Pudge.  Don’t know how many teams you’d bid against for him, maybe one or none.  Maybe a $3.5M one-year plus a mutual option.  Fourth, you go ‘ask’ about Ronny Paulino from the NYM.  If they want more than one type-B or one type-C prospect, I pretty much say no and take my chances with Hector Sanchez or Tommy Joseph being ready.  Or use Johnny Monell or Max Ramirez from our farm.  Stewart can stay in our system in the case we absolutely need him, I’m good with that.

Yeah, we got problems in Giantsland.

If Huff starts in LF, we are probably gonna roll out a lineup like this:
  • CF:  Coco Crisp
  • 2B:  F. Sanchez
  • 3B:  Sandoval
  • C:    Posey
  • LF:  Huff
  • 1B:  Belt/Pill platoon
  • RF:  Schierhotlz
  • SS:  Clint Barmes or Ronny Cedeno

So many weaknesses, it reminds me of those '90-pound weakling' ads in 1980's comic books.  Crisp isn’t an ‘ideal’ lead-off, even if he is ‘good.’
  1. What if Freddy gets injured again?  Imagine what that does to this lineup.
  2. What about Posey?  Let’s just think of his off-days, maybe 25 games at best.  Maybe a lot more if he isn’t quite right in 2012.  The lineup for his off-says sucks like a vampire.
  3. How about if Sandoval and/or Schierholtz are hurt for any duration in 2012.
  4. Do we have any viable option for lead-off if Crisp is injured?  Or a #2 hitter if Freddy goes down?
  5. We are looking weak to begin with.  Take any piece away, and we got 2011 all over again.
That is a weak ass lineup.  That’s all there is to it.
Lots to be worried about.  But yeah, maybe I’m reading a lot into the one comment:
Huff should be ready to play LF.”  Lol.


Image credit:  Freddy Sanchez is my own photograph, taken by me.  All Rights Reserved.

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