Holes, Holes, and More Holes... Plus a Reliever

Before the World Series ends, the Giants were already busy making moves on their 2004 team. There will be a lot of work to do, and Brian Sabean and company will have their work cut out for them. They began by declining three options and allowing one player to exercise his own option.

It wasn't even a week after the Giants were eliminated in the NLDS that the Giants announced that they will be cutting $10 million from their payroll. The $10 million was changed to a more favorable $7-8 million soon after, which still just leaves the Giants with around $77-78 million to play with.

The offseason started off for the Giants with options being declined on first baseman, J.T. Snow, and infielder Eric Young, while reliever Felix Rodriguez exercised his player option.

Young was acquired in the midseason from the Milwaukee Brewers as an insurance player for the Giants during Ray Durham's recovery. Young provided to be a good lead off man with speed and good defense, but his offensive performance was under what was expected. Young was not on the roster for the NLDS. The Giants bought out Young's contract for $1 million. Young expressed that he wants to start for a team, and there is a possibility he may return to Milwaukee.

Snow was acquired from the Anaheim Angels in 1997 and has been a defensive force at first base with six Gold Gloves, four with the Giants. He had back-to-back impressive postseasons in 2002 and 2003, but has failed to hit against left-handed pitchers. The Giants gave Snow a $750,000 buyout while declining his $6.5 million option.

On the same day, reliever Felix Rodriguez exercised his player option, and his return to the Giants is anticipated for 2004.

Two days later, the Giants declined the option for Jose Cruz, Jr.'s $4 million contract. Cruz played impressive defense all season for the Giants, which included setting a new club record of 18 outfield assists, and may win him a Gold Glove this season, but the catching error in Game 3 of the NLDS will be a never ending sting to the right fielder. More importantly, Cruz struggled offensively and posted twenty long balls with 68 RBIs in 151 games while also holding the most strikeouts on the club. Cruz received a $300,000 buyout.

The Lowdown:
Young was not expected back after being cut from the NLDS roster. He may have been the only one enjoying the sight of Snow chugging from second base to home plate just to be called as the final out of the Giants' season. Young has been vocal about not understanding why he was not placed on the NLDS roster, because according to him, that was what they brought him there for. Sorry, Eric, you've tasted what it's like to be on a winning team, but now it's time to go back to the Sausage races.
Chances of returning: 5% (Just because nothing's impossible)

The Giants are hopeful on keeping Snow, and Snow is hopeful of returning to the Giants. With their payroll and their choices for a first baseman limited, the Giants will need to negotiate an adequate contract with Snow, possibly offering him no more than $1.5-2 million.

The 35-year-old veteran has expressed his dislike with being benched against left-handed pitchers, but the chances of Snow starting against lefties is still low, no matter how much Snow still believes himself to be an everyday player and that he is capable of hitting southpaws. However, Felipe Alou has other options and Snow will not be starting against lefties with the way Alou has been managing the team. With Snow back on the team and Pedro Feliz wondering in the wings, long time veteran, Andres Galarraga, may be a goner before he reaches his goal of 400 jacks.
Chances of returning: 65%

Felix Rodriguez embodies the inconsistency of the Giant bullpen, but he did have a good postseason. He has learned to use the entire strike zone, painting the corners and blowing fastballs by hitters. Although it is unlikely that the Giants will trade him before 2004, they have many options in the bullpen.

Depending on the recovery of closer, Robb Nen, and the future of the replacement closer, Tim Worrell, Rodriguez's role is still in question. With Worrell most likely gone to be another team's closer, Rodriguez will most likely become the set-up man for Nen.

If Nen isn't fully recovered and Worrell is gone, it is not ruled out that Rodriguez will be the replacement closer, although Joe Nathan is looming. The Giants will prefer Rodriguez over Nathan because of Nathan's shaky outings in the playoffs, where he was not effective at all. Still, the Giants have two solid set-up men in their bullpen with Rodriguez back.
Chances of being traded before season opener: 10%

The Giants are hoping to land a bigger offensive force in right field, and therefore, declined their option for Cruz. Cruz has played spectacular defense, but his offense is a much less compelling story. Although the organization has never seen anyone play right field at Pac Bell (SBC) Park as Cruz has, his lack of offense will help the Giants show him out the door.

However, Cruz may be the only better option the Giants have. Even to the doubt of public opinion, they have mentioned that their payroll will not enable them to sign a big name free agent like Vladimir Guerrero or Gary Sheffield to play right field. Either one of those players will be a blessing offensively and not so much of a downgrade defensively, and will provide the Giants with more life in their post- Barry Bonds years.
Chances of returning: 40%
Chances of signing Guerrero or Sheffield: 20%

Sara Kwan was born in San Francisco and raised in the Bay Area. She currently writes game recaps, other articles, and is the Giant Prophet for SFDugout.com. Any comments or questions about the article, baseball, or the meaning of life can be sent to Sara at kwanchino@alpha-q.net

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