Thinking Outside the Box
Given this dire circumstance, the only way the Giants get Barry Bonds successor this off-season is to clear out enough salary via a trade. That would allow the Giants the financial flexibility to sign Vlad or Tejada or trade for a Magglio Ordonez or Carlos Beltran or Jacque Jones. But who to trade? The player I would trade is Edgardo Alfonzo.
First off, I like Alfonzo a lot and was very heartened by his acquisition last year. Plus he came up huge for the Giants in the second half and in the playoffs. However, he makes the most sense out of the big salary players: Bonds, Schmidt, Durham, and Alfonzo. The Giants have Pedro Feliz who can play 3B and he hit well enough last year to suggest that he may be ready for regular play. At worse, Sabean gets a cheap free agent to split 3B with Feliz, like he did with Rich Aurilia and Bill Mueller when they were starting out. Or if the Giants are really lucky, a good 3B is non-tendered on Dec. 20th and the Giants can swoop in.
Where to Send Alfonzo
The most logical teams to send him is either the Yankees or Mets since Alfonzo loves NY and all his family is still there. Afterall, this is the same player who paid $50K to get ads on taxi cabs all over NY thanking the fans. And he was a good player for the Giants, a standout guy so we shouldn't try to send him to another non-NY team where he would be far away from his family again and hurting over the trade, especially if it's to a non-contender. Besides the two NY teams could use Alfonzo so that makes it easier.
The Mets have Ty Wigginton at 3B, no great shakes there in 2003, so Alfonzo would be a huge upgrade. Plus the Mets really wanted to keep Fonzie but just wasn't sure about his back. However, Alfonzo's back held up well in 2003 and his contract has one less year now, so perhaps the Mets would be willing to take him back. Plus, after the poor year they had last year, getting Alfonzo back, who was a fan favorite, should help attendance. They can give up either Jose Reyes (long shot but hey, why not try since they would have Alfonzo and Matsui in place) or Jason Phillips (since Feliz would take 3B for us, Phillips would platoon with Snow).
The Yankees have Aaron Boone, whom they just re-signed, so that would be harder to do, but Da Boss has stockpiled players before and he might enjoy flaunting a Mets icon of Alfonzo's stature at their cross-town rivals. Boone could sit (they had Contreras relieving last year and Jeff Weaver stockpiled) or maybe DH or play some 1B now that Nick Johnson is gone and Giambi is still hurting. As well, Alfonzo can still play 2B so he can spell Soriano sometimes. Plus Alfonzo has only averaged 134 games the past three years so Boone can play some 3B, 1B, and DH to get ABs and still get into over 100 games - it's not like Boone has played that well as a starter that he must start 160 games.
The Giants could take Jorge De Paula (don't know much about him but he looks cheap and he did OK in limited play with NY, plus he's from the Dominican Republic; reportedly Vlad prefers Spanish speakers, in particular Dominicans, on his next team) or Erick Almonte (could be our SS-utility guy and maybe become our starter, lifetime .269/.327/.365/.693 in 104 AB, only 25, 26 next season plus he's also a DR too). Or maybe even take Jeff Weaver off the Yankees hands, with the Yankees ponying up all of Weaver's salary (though he makes $9M in 2005 so I would prefer not to take him but rather take a pitching prospect, unless the Yankees pay at least half of his 2005 salary too).
What's the Net Net?
Trading Alfonzo for a pre-arbitration player would clear about $6M, making a bid for a big impact player possible. In addition, the rumored trades of Neifi and Christiansen (to the Rockies and the Padres, respectively) could clear another $2-2.5M, which should be more than enough to start talking with Vlad or Tejada. There is also the long rumored trade of Felix Rodriguez too, which would also free up payroll to get Vlad or Tejada and probably free up $2M or so as well. However, all this manuevering could be for naught if Vlad or Tejada does not sign with us and would leave us with no big RBI bat behind Bonds so it would be a huge risk.
But right now, though I liked Alfonzo a lot, I would take the risk. I assume the team is going to do like last year and spend to their mid-season budget again (around $80M), so pulling the Alfonzo deal first would clear the way to negotiate with Vlad and Tejada, and the other trades can happen on their own pace. Supposedly Vlad wants Spanish speakers and Tejada wants to stay in the Bay Area, so the Giants could fulfill both those needs. But that doesn't mean that they eventually sign with the Giants.
The Plan B in this situation, should the free agents not sign with the Giants, is that there are teams still looking to move big money outfielders who are still good, like Geoff Jenkins, Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Beltran or Jacque Jones. As a result, the Giants could always trade for an OF and have Feliz share 3B as noted above. Any of those players should be able to match Alfonzo's production from last year.
Time for a Patented Sabean Maneuver
In any case, it will take a bold move on the part of Sabean and the Giants to get the high-impact successor to Barry Bonds on board while Bonds still has something in his tank. While he could be like Ted Williams, who slugged 29 homers in 310 ABs in his last season at age 41, he could also be like Willie Mays, who quickly declined from 52 homers to 37 to 22, before stabilizing in the 20-29 home run range. The winter meetings would be a perfect time for the Giants to pull off all these trades. If they happen, most probably Sabean will stall the finalization of the deals until he gets at least the big one done.
And who knows, maybe if all the rumored trades happen, the Giants could afford to sign both Tejada and Vlad with back loaded contracts. OK, pipe dream, but the proposed moves should pave the way towards signing either of the two major free agents, either of whom would make the Giants a better team in 2004 and beyond and both of them have some strong reasons to prefer going with the Giants over other clubs, giving the Giants some leeway in negotiations. Go Giants!
Martin Lee writes 'A Biased Giant's Fanatic's View' for SFDugout.com when the mood and muse strikes him. He wants to teach and share his love of baseball and, in particular, his love for the San Francisco Giants. He will believe to his dying days that Bobby Bonds was robbed of being the first 40-40 player and should be in Cooperstown. Please feel free to e-mail him at BiasedGiantsFanatic@yahoo.com if you have a question or comment.
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