Free Agents Who Need Homes

Free agents... Free agents everywhere. By the time 2004 Opening Day arrives, the Giants may only have one of their original players that was part of the 2002 World Series. Here's a breakdown of the Giants' free agents, the chance of them returning, and where they might end up next season.

Around The Diamond:

Rich Aurilia (SS)
When the Giants went out to sign Neifi Perez to a $2.75 million contract for 2004, it was anticipated that Aurilia will not return. Due to injuries of the most unusual cases, Aurilia did not perform the way he wished to perform in his contract year. Aurilia has spent all nine of his major league years in San Francisco and has been active in the community. Known to be a club leader, his flair for playing on the field and presence in the clubhouse will be missed.

Had the Giants not signed Perez to such a hefty deal, Aurilia's chances of returning would be much higher because of his leadership, and no matter what people want to say about his numbers, Aurilia is still one of the top three offensive shortstops in the National League.

On the other hand, the Giants may be looking to unload Perez. One can only hope. Also since Aurilia did not perform up to par, and because he may have an emotional attachment to this city and organization, and likewise the other way around, the Giants may be willing to negotiate something that will satisfy both parties, and Aurilia will sign on for less money.

With other teams being content with their current shortstops, it leaves Aurilia with less choices, but if a team really wants him, they can easily offer him a contract better than what the Giants are planning to offer him, if they offer one.

After the error by Alex S. Gonzalez that cost them the World Series, the Cubs may be looking to dump him for another shortstop. Aurilia and Dusty Baker have had a good relationship in San Francisco, and he wouldn't mind playing for Baker again.

New York Mets manager, Art Howe, has praised his young shortstop, but has also made it public that he wouldn't mind managing Miguel Tejada, who is a free agent and played for Howe in Oakland, again. Tejada also expressed an interest in reuniting with Howe. The Mets have the money if Aurilia wanted it, and if they want Aurilia, he would love to play in the area where he grew up.

Ruling out all American League teams, because Aurilia has displayed dislike playing in interleague games, that leaves Arizona and San Diego. Arizona has been happy with the production they got from Alex Cintron and are set on having him start next season.

Out of all the teams mentioned, the Padres have the best chance of signing Aurilia. Going into a new ballpark and obviously looking to build a contending team for 2004, Aurilia will be a great offensive addition to their team. However, Khalil Greene has been performing well for them. It will all depend on who else the Padres have next season in their lineup and whether or not they want or need another offensive force on their team.

My Take: Trade Perez for $100,000 and a Subway sandwich... The Giants just might be happier that way. Resign Aurilia. He is an important part of the core of this clubhouse and infield.
Chances of returning: 25%
Possible 2004 Destinations: San Diego Padres, New York Mets, Chicago Cubs

Alberto Castillo (C)

Castillo was one of the nice surprises for the Giants this season, re- emerging in the majors when the team was plagued with injuries. He showed his ability to handle young pitchers, especially the wild Jesse Foppert, and capped off his short time in the majors with a grand slam against the Colorado Rockies. With the veteran, Benito Santiago, most likely gone next season and Yorvit Torrealba taking over behind the plate, the Giants will want him back as the back-up catcher.

My Take: Resign Castillo. He'll be cheap and very useful off the bench. Also, not much would be lost when he starts because of the way he handles pitchers and because his offense is not too far away from Torrealba's.
Chances of returning: 60%

Andres Galarraga (1B)
Whether he comes back to play or not, Galarraga is nearing retirement. It would have been a done deal if he reached 400 roundtrippers, but since he didn't, he has expressed a want to return to the Giants. Galarraga had a great offensive year for the Giants, filling in for J.T. Snow at first base during Snow's injuries and against lefty pitchers. Also, as a pinch hitter, he posted the best numbers with runners in scoring position, a category that the Giants struggled in.

However, if the Giants come to an agreement with Snow, where Snow will be an everyday player even against left-handed pitching (Which is unlikely), then Galarraga will not be needed.

My Take: Resign Galarraga. If Snow continues to whine about not starting against lefties, tough cheese. Facts are facts, and Snow can't hit diddly against lefties. Let's do something for Galarraga after he's done so much for this organization and give him a chance to reach the big 400.
Chances of returning: 50%
Possible 2004 Destination: The next President of Venezuala

Benito Santiago (C)
With a good performance from Yorvit Torrealba, Santiago will most likely not resign with the Giants. The 38-year-old veteran will be looking for his last career contract this time around. Santiago was wearing down towards the end of the season, although his April and May numbers were good. After his pinky injury, he was never the same. His swing was off, and he started to let pitches get by him. His attempts to throw base runners out also declined.

Even though Alou and Santiago share a mutual respect for one another, there is a high possibility of Santiago playing for the Padres, the organization that he came up with. Atlanta is also another possibility with Javy Lopez being a free agent as well, if Atlanta anticipates Lopez to not have the explosive offensive year that he had this season.

My Take: Good-bye, Benito. Santiago has been one of the favorites in San Francisco, but he's been declining at the plate and defensively. It's time to make way for young players like Torrealba, who has proven that he's ready to start. Chances of returning: 10%
Possible 2004 Destinations: San Diego Padres, Atlanta Braves, and wherever else. Benito is too unpredictable.

J.T. Snow (1B): See "Holes, Holes, and More Holes... Plus a Reliever": http://sfgiants.theinsiders.com/2/193603.html

Eric Young (2B): See "Holes, Holes, and More Holes... Plus a Reliever": http://sfgiants.theinsiders.com/2/193603.html

In The Outfield:

Marvin Bernard (OF)
Due to ongoing surgeries and injuries, Bernard was unavailable to play during most of the season. It's another sign of aging. With so little production, the Giants will most likely pass Bernard up to make room on the bench for upcoming outfielders like Todd Linden and Tony Torcato.

My Take: Bernard has served his purpose with us all these years, and now it's time for him to enjoy some retirement time. Everytime he's on the field, he risks more injury... Why not stop it altogether and save the Giants' roster room and his time?
Chances of returning: 10%
Possible 2004 Destinations: His home

Jose Cruz, Jr. (RF): See "Holes, Holes, and More Holes... Plus a Reliever": http://sfgiants.theinsiders.com/2/193603.html

Jeffrey Hammonds (OF)
Hammonds was a midseason pick up that proved to be useful for the Giants. He filled in for all positions in the outfield and gave our older outfielders a chance for rest without the Giants losing too much offensively. The Giants will look at his production off the bench, and if they get in a big jam with signing an everyday right fielder, Hammonds is a great candidate to get the job. Either way, Hammonds will be an affordable player that the Giants would want to resign.

My Take: Resign Hammonds. Whether or not the Giants sign a legitament right fielder, Hammonds will be useful starting or coming off the bench for a decent amount of money. He has power and he plays hard defensively.
Chances of returning: 70%

On The Mound:

Dustin Hermanson (RHP) (SP/RP)

Hermanson was another good midseason pick up for the Giants. He was solid out of the bullpen in long relief, and when the Giants needed him in the starting rotation, he came through, giving the Giants a chance to win in every one of his starts. He also likes to play for Alou, and will not be asking for a lot of money. It was said that he'll be asking for the veteran minimum, $500,000, which is a very decent price for a guy who can work out of the bullpen or be part of the starting rotation.

My Take: Resign Hermanson. There will be holes in the starting rotation due to many factors, and Hermanson has proven to be a very solid starter in the rotation for a cheap amount. A combination of him and Jim Brower, both either as starters or co-starting, will be as good as any big name starter asking for lot more money.
Chances of returning: 65%

Sidney Ponson (RHP) (SP)

The Giants gave up a lot, particularly in Kurt Ainsworth, in obtaining Ponson. Unfortunately, Ponson did not perform as well as the Giants anticipated and will mostlikely not return with the Giants. He will be asking for starter money, and the Giants won't think the amount he'll be asking for is worth the risk again. Ponson was a solid pitcher, but the Giants were looking for a #2 starter behind Jason Schmidt, and Ponson failed to give them that.

Ponson had a few tough outings with the Giants' "B" lineup behind him, but that shouldn't excuse him from doing his job as a pitcher. He also blew a 4-1 lead in Game 2 of the NLDS, which was vital because the sole reason the Giants brought him on board was to pitch in the playoffs.

My Take: Chances of returning: 10%
Possible 2004 Destinations: Anywhere in the American League

Felix Rodriguez (RHP) (RP): See "Holes, Holes, and More Holes... Plus a Reliever" : http://sfgiants.theinsiders.com/2/193603.html

Tim Worrell (RHP) (RP)

Worrell saved the Giants a lot of stress and a lot of work by taking over as the closer. He did a great job as the closer, but with Robb Nen recovering and likely to return in 2004, Worrell will be gone. Having Worrell set up and Nen closing will be a great combination, but as other teams have also seen, Worrell is capable of closing games. Other teams will pursue Worrell and offer him closer money, in amounts that the Giants can't and won't match.

The Philadelphia Phillies, in particular, have expressed an interest in pursuing Worrell after releasing Jose Mesa.

My Take: It will be nice if Worrell wants to stay as a set-up man for the Giants, but the closer money will be very tempting from other teams. Keep Worrell if he sticks to his set-up man money, show him the door if he wants closer money.

Chances of returning: 20%
Possible 2004 Destinations: Philadelphia Phillies, Florida Marlins, Cincinnatti Reds, Pittsburg Pirates



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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