That's the difficult task set forth in front of Brian Sabean and other GM's this offseason. With ever shrinking frames, and disappearing pieces, they still need to take the pieces they've got, find some new ones, and come up with a good looking picture. And the trickiest part is that they have no idea what they picture will look like when all is said and done.
There are many opinions and lots of ways going about this. The theories about how to put a winning team together is perhaps the most fiercely debated topic between sports fans. I've got my own theories, but there are a dozen much different theories out there. As much as I'd like to say I'm right, I can't for sure. Of course, neither can anyone else.
So, here's my analysis of things the Giants need to address, and what I would do with the assumed payroll to get it done with who's available.
What SF Has:
LF Barry Bonds - $15 Million. (Figure after $5 Million taken out to be deferred, and $4 Million of his signing bonus paid 2004)
CF Marquis Grissom - $2 Million.
3B Edgardo Alfonzo - $6.5 Million. (Includes $1 Million of his signing bonus to be paid 2004)
2B Ray Durham - $6 Million.
SS Neifi Perez - $2.75 Million
SP Jason Schmidt - $8.5 Million.
SP Kirk Rueter - $5 Million (includes $1 Million of his signing bonus paid in 2004).
SP Jerome Williams - $300,000.
RP Jason Christiansen - $2.3 Million.
RP Felix Rodriguez - $3.55 Million (Player option, includes $500,000 of signing bonus paid in 2004).
RP Rob Nen - $9 Million.
Payroll: $60.9 Million for 11 players
I'll give each of the arbitration eligible players $600,000 for these purposes. Some may get more, some may get less, but that's a fair mean. All are expected to be kept.
TOTAL 2004 PAYROLL SO FAR: $64.5 Million for 17 players
With Brian Sabean having quoted an expected payroll of $76 Million, that leaves the Giants about $11.5 Million to spend to fill all their holes, which is a lot. 8 players need to be signed, and as many as four starting position players, depending on if the Giants decide to start any of the group of Torrealba, Perez and Feliz.
The question is, what do the Giants need to improve in?
HOLES THE GIANTS NEED TO FILL:
It's easy to say the Giants just need to sign 2 starting pitchers, and 6 position players. There are roles that need to be played on this team, and those roles are the holes that need to be filled.
Starting Pitching: We need two more starting pitchers to go with next year. There are some options inside our system, including young pitchers like Kevin Correia and perhaps Noah Lowry, or the rumored transferring of long reliever/spot starter Jim Brower or former starter Joe Nathan to the rotation. However, with Rueter and young Williams in the rotation, we definitely need at least one more guy who can go deep into games. Another veteran would be nice, too. The Giants and their fans seemed too jittery having three young pitchers in the rotation in 2003.
RBI's: Though the Giants were 15th in the majors in runs scored, San Francisco's hitters did very poorly at driving runners in. Their .258 average with Runners in Scoring Position ranked 23rd in the majors. Especially in the playoffs, the Giants were hurt by not taking advantage of scoring chances. With an unsettled rotation, the offense can't count on pitching keeping them in games.
Hitting Right Handed Pitching: San Francisco's overall batting average was weak (.264, 16th in the majors), but a lot of that came from the team's inability to hit right handed pitching. Against righties, the Giants only hit .257/.330/.402, 21st in the majors. Against left handers, the Giants hit .285/.365/.500, 5th best in the majors. Getting some left handed hitters is the key to this problem. Though fans worry about the ability of left handers to hit in Pacific Bell, some have become too over-obsessed with this home field quirk. The Giants play half their games on the road, and though the Giants had an advantage at home, they found themselves at an incredible disadvantage on the road versus the northpaws.
Power: While less of a necessity than the others, certainly this is an issue. There were no serious power threats on the team aside from Bonds, with two players (Cruz and Grissom) tied for second on the team with 20 HR. The Giants were 12th in the league in Home Runs. While playing at Pac Bell will depress power numbers overall, this number could still stand to go up.
Now, with only $11.5 Million, not all these holes are going to be filled in an ideal manner, but this is what the Giants need to pay attention to.
MY (reasonable) DREAM 2004 GIANTS LINEUP
I've got a different philosophy of building a team than others do. I believe in having a solid lineup from 1-8, a team with no huge holes offensively that can sustain rallies throughout the batting order and can threaten at any time. Many of my friends who I've discussed the offseason with are blinded by the brightness of such stars like Vlad or Sheffield that they don't care about having three sub-.260 hitters with questionable power or consistency batting at the bottom of the order that would have to happen to afford such a player. I see incomplete teams with big names all the time, such as the Rangers with A-Rod or the Expos with Vlad before this year, and never see those teams in the playoffs. Even the Cubs with Sosa had problems before this past year. I don't think having Bonds & Vlad surrounded by 23 scrubs is a winning team, nor a team I'd even pay to see. For that reason, I have no interest in such big names.
I also have no interest in switching relievers to starting roles, in particular Brower and Nathan. For one thing, our bullpen is the one part of this team that is set, mostly healthy, and ready to go. Any switches weakens two important spots of our bullpen (Long relief that Brower does, and the setup job that Nathan claimed last year). Moreso, neither Brower nor Nathan have the ability to be full-time starting pitchers, from what I've seen.
Brower's ERA as a starter the last four years is 5.05, while just being 3.73 as a reliever. While he shows flashes of brilliance as a spot starter, that's just the perfect role for him. Also, the fact that even this past season he averaged less than five innings a start will put more pressure on the bullpen that would be weakened without him.
The story is more of the same for Nathan, who was a starter before serious shoulder surgery back in 2000. When he came back in 2001 to rehab in the minors, the stamina his shoulder had was telling. Even during a stellar April 2002 at Fresno (4-0, 2.83 ERA), he averaged just over five innings a start. The shoulder got worse during the season, and he averaged 4.2 IP per performance as his record dropped to 6-12 with a 5.60 ERA in Fresno. More telling is that, after that performance, he was called up in September to the Giants as a reliever, and went unscored upon in three relief appearances, working just over an inning per appearance. As a reliever, he averaged just over an inning a start, and was one of our best relievers, with a 2.96 ERA and over a strikeout an inning. Looking at those numbers, and that history, I see no reason to mess with something that isn't broke the way that it is.
Enough about what I wouldn't do; here's my batting order and rotation for 2004:
1. Durham, 2B – No reason to move him out of his leadoff spot, nor away from second base.
2. Jose Cruz Jr., RF – $2 Million. After his .250 year, he won't earn high cash. However, he is not a true hole in the batting order. He takes a lot of walks, and can hit for power, having 20 HR during a bad year in a pitchers park. Especially if he gives up switch hitting (he hit .233/.354/.380 from the left side, but a nice .301/.403/.515 from the right side), he shows all the signs of being able to bounce back. He also hit much better hitting early in the lineup, batting .309/.367/.655 in the 2 hole last year. He can feast on the fastballs in front of…
3. Bonds, LF – ‘Nuff Said.
4. Alfonzo, 3B – If he is the Alfonzo from last year's second half, he's a good hitter to have hitting behind Bonds, especially with who I've got batting 5th.
5. Lee Seung-Yup, 1B - $3.5 Million. This Korean slugger is ready to come to the majors, after breaking the Asian home run record last year. The left hander is looking for $1.5-2 million, and an area that has Korean ties. The SF Bay Area has the third highest Korean population in the nation, other than New York and Los Angeles, and of the four teams that play there, only the Angels look like players (and are considered favorites) to sign him. However, between getting a chance to play with Bonds, and the Bay Area, Yup could easily be drawn to San Francisco. I bat him fifth to separate the lefthanders in our lineup, and to use his purer power to drive in Bonds, who would still get 150+ walks a season even in Babe Ruth himself batted behind him, and Alfonzo, who can get on base easily. He is a risk, as the Korean leagues aren't as highly regarded as the Japanese leagues, and no one expects him to hit 50 HR in the majors (at least, not yet), but he's a pure power hitter and fills the need vs. right handed pitching at a bargain price. Plus, he draws a sizable fan demographic to keep filling the seats at Pac Bell, since some people worry about the Giants being able to keep selling out the Bell. Remember, 25 homers would be 2nd on the Giants.
6. Grissom, CF – I'm not expecting another career year from him at 37, but he is still a capable hitter, and has enough power to make people notice him still. He's still a killer against left handed pitching, and could very well hit fourth, between the lefties, on those days.
7. Rich Aurilia, SS - $3 Million. Although Aurilia is going to test the free agent market, people are asking him to move from short and go to third (like the Red Sox). I don't think that's likely to happen. Combine that with his love of the Bay Area, his young family, and his ability to be one of the few guys that gets along with Barry, and he could very well come back at a nice price after a couple of subpar seasons for him. He's still a clutch guy, and is always competitive, and can hit 2nd if Cruz doesn't fill that role.
8. Torrealba, C – Catching is the shallowest position in the majors, with less major league proficient guys than there are teams. Torrealba has been excellent in a platoon role with Santiago the last two years, and is comparable to Charles Johnson defensively, having picked off runners at first and third as well as throwing out nearly 50% of runners at second, all from his knees. He's a gamer, and though his offense may suffer a small drop in his first season starting, he's better than many options out there, and much less expensive.
1. Schmidt – As long as he's healthy, ‘Nuff said.
2. Rueter – His act as a soft throwing lefty is a perfect way to follow up the power righty pitching first. Again, he'll hopefully be healthy, as he showed he was feeling fine at the end of the last year.
3. Williams – The 2nd year player has earned his shot, and should be good for the full year.
4. Cory Lidle - $2 Million. A look at Lidle's stats from last year may induce a wince, but look at his stats for his career, and note his home teams. It's no coincidence that he's got sub 4 ERA's on natural grass and 5+ ERA's on turf. Since 2000, he's gone 3.95 on grass and 5.73 on turf. As a groundball pitcher, he relies on grass and a good defense, two things SF can provide. This guy impressed in his two years on Oakland's staff, and can go deep into games (2 complete games each of the last two years), and has impressive control (He has over 110 strikeouts each of the last three years, and has kept approximately a 2-1 K-BB ratio over that time.). Most importantly, coming off a tough year, he'll be cheap while likely to rebound, especially if throwing in a great pitcher's park with grass.
5. Kevin Correia - $300,000. He's earned his shot with a good showing late last year, and we have a couple of minor league options (Lowry, Bonser) ready if he falters.
Brower, Herges, Eyre, Christiansen, Rodriguez, Nathan, Nen. 7 guys, all signed and ready to go, with all the roles (long relief, lefty specialist, set-up, closer) filled.
New Players: $11.7 Million for 8 players.
Total Payroll: $76.2 Million
So, there it is. I can't say this is what will happen, but it's what I'm rooting for. Enjoy the offseason, Giants fans.
Love me, hate me, idolize me, or laugh at me, just don't ignore me. Let me know what you think: write me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
The views expressed in the columns do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the site's publisher, writers, or other staff members. The content on this site may not be redistributed without the expressed consent of SFDugout.com.