Giant Implications: Their Options Now

What are the Giants options now that they picked up Grissom's, Snow's and Tomko's options plus signed Deivi Cruz and bought out Jason Christiansen?

I guess the Giants didn't like my Big Six suggestions. :^) Not that I expected them to. It was just my wishlist and though they could still implement some of my ideas, their recent moves to pick up Grissom's, Snow's, and Tomko's options, re-sign Deivi Cruz, and buy out Christiansen's option, makes some of my suggestions impossible or improbable. Let's see how they've changed things.

Sabean Press Conference
First off, Sabean offered some other tidbits of info in his press conference announcing the above actions. Apparently some of them, but in particular Grissom and Cruz, have been told that the Giants will still be pursuing the SS and CR of the future and so they might see lessened playing time. For SS, they will pursue an all-around player. Also, he noted that the Giants need to find an everyday position for Feliz and not have the sharing of positions like in 2004.

In addition, Sabean noted that with Tomko's retention, the Giants would not pursue a starting pitcher as rigorously as they would have had he been bought out, but reading between the lines, this means the key point is that they are still open to acquiring a better starting pitcher. They will still be focusing on the bullpen, in particular a closer and are talking with Hermanson, undoubtedly with the same caveats that Grissom, Snow, and Cruz got, that the Giants may still go with another closer. That's probably why he wasn't announced with the other guys.

Implication #1: Budget
First, these deals mean that the Giants have contracts with 13 players for an estimated $66M. That means that, based on the announced $78M budget, there is only $12M left to sign the Giants arbitration players - Feliz, Mohr, Pierzynski, Torrealba - and their non-arbitration players - Lowry, Ransom, Williams, Foppert/Hennessey perhaps - and any free agents, most probably Hermanson and Tyler Walker and perhaps a free agent setup reliever. That's 12 players for $12M total. Based on my estimates for each of these players, that leaves only $2M to acquire a reserve outfielder and either a setup reliever or closer, assuming they decide to keep all of these players.

Implication #2: Feliz Factor
Clearly the Giants are committed to Feliz. But the only way he wouldn't kill the defense playing fulltime is if he plays 3B or if he plays 1B but with the Giants acquiring a gold glove-type at SS. With Snow in the fold and only able to play 1B, that would suggest that the Giants will have to play Feliz at 3B. However, Alfonzo is still around.

This means that the Giants will try to deal a starter and clear up 3B for Feliz. There are only two likely options to do that. Obviously, first the Giants could deal Alfonzo. He rehabilitated his status as a good hitter and RBI man in 2004 so there should be more interest in him. Another option would be to trade Durham and shift Alfonzo back to the position where he won his gold glove. True leadoff men like Durham are rare plus his injury problems appears to be related to improper conditioning during the off-season, a situation the Giants are remedying this off-season.

There is also a third, very unlikely option: they could move Durham to CF and Alfonzo to 2B. However that would critically weaken the outfield defense. And given Sabean's stated goal of improving team defense, this would not accomplish that, so it should not happen. In any case, a trade of either player could bring the Giants what they seek.

Implication #3: To Keep Or Not to Keep A.J.
There has been a lot of talk that A.J. Pierzynski will not be retained this off-season. As I posited in my earlier article, the Giants would have to drop Grissom to keep A.J. and still acquire a mid-range free agent position player. Obviously, that didn't happen, Grissom was retained. So what happens now to A.J.?

Pointedly, the Giants cannot acquire more than a good setup reliever right now with their budget and roster as is. That means that the only way the Giants can currently acquire a better solution at SS, CF, or closer would be to trade a player away to clear out salary. So it looks like A.J. could be one fo the trading pieces the Giants will be offering to get one of the players on Sabean's want list.

The very qualities why the Giants should keep A.J. are also desirable to other teams as well. He could be packaged with other playrs to get the SS or CF of the future. Being a lefthanded hitter he would, for example, be a good fit at Yankee Stadium and they happen to be looking for a catcher. Maybe they can spare a SS? :^) How about A.J., Durham, and Rueter (to balance salaries closer) for A-Rod and a few million dollars per year to help with the salary difference?

Implication #4: Time for Bonds to Put Up
WIth all these players signed there is basically no budget to get a good player. Last offseason Bonds called for the Giants to get an impact hitter and implied that he would be willing to work with the Giants on his contract to free up money for that. Now's the time for Bonds to do that. It's not like Bonds needs all that money now. So he should offer to restructure his contract so that the Giants can get him the ring he says he wants.

He does not have many more years left, obviously. There must be some way to push off dollars to the future, perhaps a high priced personal services contract for the near future. This is desirable because the Giants look to have a very inexpensive pitching staff in the 2006-2010 timeframe with all their young starters either already up or coming up. That would balance off any money siphoned off to Bonds via this deferment.

Overall Giant Implications
The good news is that Sabean has reversed course. Just a month ago, he told Giants fans to forget it, they're not getting an impact player. Now he is at least talking about looking for the SS and CF of the future. Perhaps Bonds talked with management about this and got them to change their minds. Of course, there's a huge gap between looking for and getting, but at least he's looking.

Sabean appears to be casting a very wide net to pursue the SS and CF of the future. He noted that he spoke to 20 teams already to discuss possibilities. Because the budget is basically gone now assuming the Giants retain all of their current players, expect trades to be the route for Sabean to obtain the player he desires. Besides the players named above as trade bait, other tradeable commodities include Tucker, Mohr, Torrealba, Tomko, and, of course, any of the young pitchers Sabean tends to be trading (though hopefully not Matt Cain, we need to see how he develops).

The key point of these option moves is that the Giants are willing this year to shell out money for players who will be essentially insurance in case the Giants do not obtain the players they are looking for in SS and CF. They were not willing to do so last year and it cost them at the closer position. Perhaps they realized that insurance pieces can be traded if better players are obtained in the meanwhile. And, of course, it helps that the players involved accepted such a possibility of playing a less than full-time role too.

The 2005 Giants, as currently constituted, should be as competitive as 2004 assuming they can get a good closer, or perhaps get another good setup reliever and have a closer by committee situation. But, like I had noted last year for the 2004 team and evidenced by that team coming up short, the 2005 Giants don't look like it will progress any further than just making the playoffs. Not good if your goal is winning the World Series. And I and a number of other people believe that it starts with getting an impact player.

Sabean will need to do his trade magic in order for the Giants to win the World Series. My hopes for this are much higher after his latest press conference than it was just a month ago. This hopefully will be an interesting off-season and not one of disappointment as it was last season. Go Giants!

Martin Lee writes 'A Biased Giant's Fanatic's View' for 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 (remove the "nospam." if you wish to e-mail me) if you have a question or comment.

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