How the Giants Stack Up Now
Not great. In fact, if we were to paraphrase a seasonal ditty to incorporate how things have gone in China Basin so far this holiday season, it might go something like "Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but the Giants moves have been… even more frightful!" But, for the third time, let's say it all together now: In Sabean We Trust.
And this offseason more than most, patience will not only be a virtue, it'll be crucial for Giants fans to avoid going completely crazy. There are more options out there than ever before, and even though most of the ones you've heard of have already signed on with other teams, there remain good players out there at positions of need, with more about to hit the market this weekend.
But, to take off the rose-colored glasses for just a moment, there is also real reason for concern. OK, fair enough, dreaming of Vlad or Sheffield or Tejada may have been unrealistic. But wouldn't Jose Guillen (.311 avg, 31 HRs, 86 RBIs), who just signed with Anaheim for a very modest $6 million over two years, look at lot better in right field, and in the lineup somewhere behind Senor Bonds, than Michael Tucker (.262 avg, 13 HRs, 55 RBIs), who isn't making that much less?
Speaking of the Tucker deal, perhaps the biggest red flag of all came in the way Tucker was signed. The Giants completed the Tucker signing less than 6 hours before the arbitration deadline, which meant that the Giants forfeited their 1st round draft pick to Tucker's previous team, which they would have avoided had they simply waited until after that deadline had passed. A clerical blunder? Hardly, it was completely intentional, a way for the Giants to save the estimated $1.5 million bonus a late first round pick normally commands. That, my friends, is truly scary. On the one hand, Giants management made it clear that they were out of the running for expensive free agents due to a shrinking payroll. But, as teams like the A's, Twins and Marlins have shown, for organizations with a shoestring budget in particular, drafting well is crucial to remaining competitive. For the Giants to sit on the sidelines during the main free agent frenzy and simultaneously forfeit a key building block for the future, all to save about one-third of what they paid Marvin Benard last year, calls into serious question where they are heading.
In the shorter term, the Giants claim that their main focus the rest of this winter is on the pitching staff, adding at least one starter and likely some bullpen help as well. That certainly makes sense. But the lineup moves they've made so far, except for the improvement with Pierzynski, should make all Giants fans very nervous. It's still early and Sabean has been masterful in pulling in valuable pieces very late in the offseason, so patience is the main word. But if this is the roster that takes the field on Opening Day, get ready to see the Chicken Dance play on the Pac Bell video board about 3 times a game, because nothing about the prospects of facing Snow, Tucker, Perez or Mohr further down the lineup is going to encourage opposing pitchers to give Bonds anything to hit.
Splash Hits & Tidbits
Tidbits From Around the NL West
The Dodgers, still likely the main competition standing between the Giants and a successful defense of their division crown, have, like the Giants, so far rated an "incomplete" for their offseason maneuverings. Their main move, the trade that sent Kevin Brown to the Yankees for underachieving hurler Jeff Weaver, certainly does nothing to improve them, at least on paper. But it does save them lots of cash, and it's how they reallocate that cash that may well determine who has the upper hand in the race for the division title next summer.
The main rumor, as anyone with access to a newspaper sports page or internet connection knows, has been that incumbent Boston shortstop Nomar Garciaparra would end up in Dodger blue once the trade sending Alex Rodriquez to Boston is finalized. But as of this moment (and that could admittedly change by the time you read this) not only is the A Rod to Boston deal reportedly all but dead, but even if it happens, the Dodgers may not be a part of the secondary Garciaparra trade (a Nomar trade to the ChiSox for Magglio Ordonez has taken over as the main rumor on that front).
The bottom line is pretty simple. The Dodgers need bats and need them badly. Their pitching was the best in the league, their offense was the worst in the league and the result was predictable—a barely-better-than-.500 record. Their pitching is likely to take a step back with the loss of Brown (whose ERA was second only to the Giants' Schmidt) and superb set up man Paul Quantrill, but they could be improved anyway if they can add some thunder to their lineup and players like Shawn Green rebound from subpar years.
As for the rest of the division, it would truly be a shock if any of the other three West division teams contend, with the possible exception of Arizona if the Big Unit has one more monster year in him, rookie Brandon Webb can somehow replace Schilling and new power bat Richie Sexson gives a charge to a mediocre offense.
Tidbits From Around MLB
One thing Giants fans can take real comfort in is the fact they are not in the AL East. All 5 teams appear to be improved, some dramatically. Recent MVP Miguel Tejada is a coup for Baltimore, and they may well score other big additions with catcher Ivan Rodriquez and stud right fielder Vlad Guerrero. And that might even be good enough to earn them a 3rd place finish. Boston and the Yankees appear certain to again do battle for the division crown and both are reloaded. Stalwarts Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens threatened to leave a huge void in the Yankee rotation, but new additions Kevin Brown and Javier Vasquez, at least on paper, are actually significant improvements. Tom Gordon and Paul Quantrill fortify an already fairly good bullpen while Gary Sheffield is a huge upgrade in the lone weak spot from last year, right field. And despite all of that, some observers feel like the Yankees have been leap-frogged by the Red Sox, who picked up ace Curt Schilling earlier in the offseason and have since pilfered stud closer Keith Foulke from the A's, fortifying their main achilles heel from 2003. Two 100 win teams in the same division? Could easily happen in the AL East in 2004.
They've done it fairly quietly, but the Phillies are getting lots of votes as the most improved team this offseason. The trade for stud closer Billy Wagner earlier this offseason grabbed the most headlines, but more recent additions, like Giants set up man extraordinaire Tim Worrell and lefty starter Eric Milton from the Twins, have them looking extremely solid. And starter Kevin Millwood just accepted arbitration and returns, so take it to the bank, the Atlanta run at the top of the NL East is over.
Like the NL West, the AL West is a mess. The A's have lost Tejada, Foulke, Guillen, Lilly and excellent catcher Ramon Hernandez and certainly do not seem to have adequately replaced those losses. The Mariners also don't seem improved. The Angels, who followed up their surprise title run of 2002 by finishing a country mile out of first place last season, are easily the most improved with the signings of Guillen and top free agent pitcher Bartolo Colon and may be back in business.
That's about it for this installment of McCovey Cove Musings, Giants fans. I'm sure we all look forward to some baseball news that doesn't center on the A Rod trade rumors, and hopefully some of that action will even involve the hometown team!
John Yearout is a Giants season ticket holder and is currently working on a crime novel centered around a fictional Giants star pitcher. His two year old son already features a mean curve ball and is slated to make his Giants debut during the 2022 season.
John welcomes your feedback on the Giants, baseball or the best tasting beer sold at the ballpark and already looks forward to doing research on all three topics in April. He can be reached at: email@example.com
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.