My Big Six Off-season Suggestions for the Giants

My thoughts on what the Giants should do based on where they are right now.

Is your glass half-full or half-empty concerning the Giants 2004 season? I'm very gratified that the Giants were able to compete to the end but when you get down to it, we all want the same thing: we want a full glass, a World Series championship. Many fans are strident with their disapproval for this season but I don't think that accomplishes much. Hopefully the Giants learned this season the dangers of skimping on a couple of millions dollars, which is what it would have costed to get another qualified reliever during the off-season. I offer, forthwith, my Big Six (in honor of Christy Mathewson) off-season suggestions for the Giants.

Suggestions

Suggestion #1: Trade Ray Durham to the New York Yankees for Javier Vasquez and enough cash to make his trade budget neutral. This would clear up space for Pedro Feliz at 3B, with Alfonzo playing 2B, strengthening our infield defense plus strengthen our starting rotation. A risk since Vasquez did not have a good year with the Yankees, but I am betting that getting back to the National League and being re-teamed with Felipe Alou would re-juvenate him. The Yankees would benefit by picking up a player who could lead-off for them, allowing Jeter to bat lower in the lineup. Plus that opens up a spot in the rotation for them to slot in Randy Johnson when they pick him up.

Alfonzo at 2B would improve our infield defense plus make his offense valuable for his position. However, leadoff would be reduced to a problem area again. But picking up Snow's option (as suggested below) would strengthen the top of the lineup with his high OBP plus keep the infield defense stronger.

Trading Durham could also result in Tomko being bought out as the rotation would be full with Schmidt, Vasquez, Williams, Rueter, Lowry. This would free up $2.2M for signing suggestion #2. If Tomko is kept, then perhaps Rueter might become long reliever as suspected on sfgiants.com and the Giants could always pull up the $6M that they flashed at Maddux last year to sign a shortstop.

Suggestion #2: Sign Orlando Cabrera as a free agent for shortstop. Admittedly the Red Sox will probably want to sign him, but he would be ideal for the Giants. He would improve our defense - he's been at or above league averages for most fielding stats for his career- while keeping the offense that Deivi Cruz supplied. In addition, he would enjoy working under Felipe Alou again. He had a down year - not good for a walk year - so I think we should be able to get him signed to a contract averaging $5M over 4 years, say, $4M/$4.6M/$5.4M/$6.0M.

Suggestion #3: Keep A.J. Pierzynski by signing him to a two year contract for $7M ($3M/$4M) - he gets less than 2004 because he didn't hit as well as he did in 2003 nor field as well but gets two years for a little security for him, as catching is a tough position because you are one Pete Rose/Ray Fosse collision of having your career destroyed. Fans complained about his defense and double-plays but then ignores that during his career he has been strong defensively and hit well in runners on situations, which led to 77 RBIs in 2004, so it was not just a matter of hyper-opportunities while batting behind Bonds, he delivered when in those situations.

I like Torrealba but he didn't hit as well in 2004 as he did before. I like the extra offense that A.J. provides for sure over Yorvit, offense that is on par with other full-time starting catchers in the MLB. Torrealba however only hits well enough to share the position with a left-handed catcher, as he kills left-handed pitching but is Neifi-like vs. right-handed pitching.

Suggestion #4: Pick up Snow's option but not Grissom's. Not really a suggestion but have to do's for a couple of reasons. One, because if the goal is to improve the Giant's defense as a unit, there is no way they can get another 1B to come close to Snow's defense for the same price, they would have to sign him to keep the defense at least on par with last year. And there is no prospect ready to take over 1B and provide equivalent defense. Two, because there is very little budget room, signing the above suggestions will probably not leave enough budget to sign both Snow and Grissom and one would have to go. Grissom is the easier of the two to replace.

Suggestion #5: Fix the bullpen by using Foppert in the bullpen in a Nathan-like 2003 role, obtaining a strong setup reliever, and resigning Hermanson. Foppert didn't really do that well in 2003, as acclaimed as he was, and probably could use more experience before becoming a full-time starter but he's shown that he handles AAA well already so going there would be a waste. Why not put him in the pen where we can take advantage of his high velocity pitches in relief situations?

In addition, Earl Weaver recommended that pitchers be introduced into the major leagues like this, to get used to the lifestyle and pace, then can be moved into the rotation as they prove themselves and adjust to being a major leaguer. That would boost the bullpen plus he could be ready to move into a starter's role if there are any missed starts. In addition, with Matt Cain and Merkin Valdez potentially ready to join the rotation by either mid-2005 or start of 2006, the rotation could be very full very soon, with prospective starting pitchers either having to take on new roles in the bullpen or be traded for someone who will take on a role in the bullpen.

The Giants should obtain a reliable set-up reliever. While Franklin was very effective in inherited runners situations, he did not do so well with his own runners. Not sure if other relievers let him down extraordinarily, but his ERA was so high that I don't think so. Foppert can take over the long relief role plus put in work in set-up when things are slow. This would open up a spot to sign a strong setup reliever to work with Brower, Herges, and Eyre to secure the 7th and 8th without burning out a reliever's arm like we did with Brower this season.

Hermanson did well in his limited time as closer but still not well enough for any competitive team to entrust the role to him. Yet he didn't do well enough starting for any competitive team to give a starter's position to him either. Plus he's only been successful working under Alou, so I think he will come back to the Giants for a salary about that of Brower and Herges but filled with incentives based on being a closer.

Suggestion #6: The Giants should take on another significant investor, at least $50 million (preferably more), which would allow them the cash to obtain a high powered outfielder, like Carlos Beltran, Magglio Ordonez, J.D. Drew, or Steve Finley. This would fund the acquisition of an RBI machine to bat behind Bonds in his final years by supplying the cash that would absorb the losses generated by the addition of such a player. With the Bay Area filled with dozens of multi-centi-millionaires, there must be someone ready to invest (for example, read the article about Larry Ellison in the SF Chronicle) that much into the team.

Yes, we Giants fans are bored to tears by the refrain that no one can protect Bonds. We get that, we all saw how ineffectual Jeff Kent was hitting behind Bonds in 2001 when Barry swatted 73 homers and still got walked 177 times with Kent on deck. That's not the point.

It is kind of like in Goldfinger, when James Bond has a saw aimed towards his genitals, Bond says, "Do you expect me to talk?" and Goldfinger says, "No Mr. Bond, I expect you to DIE!" I do not expect the hitter behind Bonds to protect him in the batting order, as we all know, no one can protect him. No, I expect him to drive Barry in many, many, many times with a high batting average and high slugging average due to lots of extra-base hits. I want to see someone with over 150 RBIs hitting behind Bonds.

Who cares if other teams will still walk him, as long as they are walking him we may as well take advantage of that situation, which is base runners coming out of our ears when hitting behind Bonds. Yes, the #5 hitter had 107 RBI this season but they collectively hit .255/.317/.389/.705 with 19 homers in 656 AB. Just imagine how many more RBIs he would have had if he hit .267/.367/.548/.915 (Carlos Beltran) or .337/.391/.598/.989 (Vladimir Guerrero, 126 RBIs) or even .311/.360/.534/.894 (Miguel Tejada, who actually did get 150 RBIs), to name some power hitters recently or soon to be available?

And yes, we were 2nd in runs this year. And yet the Giants didn't make the playoffs. To make up the difference one can either prevent runs via pitching and defense or score more. I think the moves above improves both defense and pitching. I want to go for the jugular and improve the offense definitively plus getting such a hitter would make the lineups sans Bonds (he said he was taking more game off in 2005) more potent and able to compete plus be insurance in case Bonds ever do regress to the mean and turn ordinary. We Giants fans want to see a World Series Championship while Barry is still with the Giants, the Giants management and ownership just need to do what is necessary to make it a likely proposition rather than a crapshoot.

Net Results of Suggestions

Lineup: Cabrera, Snow, Alfonzo, Bonds, Power Hitter, Feliz, Pierzynski, Mohr/Tucker Bench: Torrealba, Ransom, Dallimore, Ellison Starting Rotation: Schmidt, Rueter, Vasquez, Williams, Lowry (mainly to alternate hard throwers and soft throwers. Relievers: Hermanson, Brower, Eyre, Herges, Foppert, Walker, and set-up reliever.

Despite losing a proven lead-off hitter in Durham, Cabrera would do well enough there since he has some speed plus then Snow and Alfonzo will follow with high OBP so that Bonds should come up most 1st innings with a runner on base, if not more. Then the pitchers face a gaunlet of Bonds, Power Hitter, and Feliz in order to not have any runs score in the first. And A.J. and Mohr/Tucker would follow and not be fluffs either. So the lineup appears to be improved greatly but the bench will be weakened by the loss of Feliz as uber-utility player.

The starting rotation looks improved with (hopefully) a healthy Schmidt at the start of the season for once, Vasquez (as he was at Expos), Williams (body in condition at start of Spring Training unlike 2004), Rueter (hopefully can return to form but as a #4/5 starter, his stats are OK for that spot either way), and Lowry (he is a wild card, will he continue his great pitching or will the league catch up with him?). And the bullpen looks like it will be improved, especially if Herges can return to the form he showed as a setup guy prior to 2004 season and the Giants can pick up a good setup reliever to make a strong quartet of relievers to go with Hermanson as closer.

I will revisit my suggestions once the Giants have made their decisions on players with options, players eligible for arbitration, and Giants free agents, and give my take based on the changed circumstances. In the meanwhile, hopefully the Giants are working on getting more money invested because that's the only way they can afford to get the player that makes the difference between a sure-thing for the playoffs with a good chance for the World Series and a marginal team on the edge of the playoffs, like they were in 2004. Of course, if the Cards didn't lose those three games against the Astros at the end of the season, playing their secondary players more, we could be seeing the Giants playing right now instead of the Astros.

But they did not and the Giants aren't, which requires extra effort on the part of the Giants owners and management to make the moves NOW that will get the 2005 team into the playoffs and hopefully all the way to winning the World Series. If the Giants weren't so close as a team to going all the way, I could accept that we are not regularly going deep in the playoffs, but we have Barry Bonds and Jason Schmidt, and many fans agree that the team is just one key batter and starting pitcher away from a World Series-worthy offense and pitching staff. But it is going to take money that the team currently does not have



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@nospam.yahoo.com (remove the "nospam." if you wish to e-mail me) if you have a question or comment.

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