SF Giants Offseason Report Card

Bengie Molina and Yadier Molina
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sfgiantsThis is why I’m not a teacher; I’m sort of a pass or fail guy. So since the Giants seem destined to have Bengie Molina bat cleanup for the second year in a row, I suppose they have failed (or at least come close) in their off season mission to improve the team. So, here’s my attempt to put forward a grade and offer some constructive criticism.

Don’t get me wrong, Molina is a great player whose defense, leadership and clutch approach at the plate has kept the Giants afloat the past couple seasons. But to have Molina bat fourth, by design none the less, prevents me from fully endorsing the Giants’ offseason. One NL Scout agrees, saying “Bengie hits third or fourth only with San Franciscoshowing his own confusion with the Giants’ plan.

In the spirit of full disclosure, the Giants have made some sound acquisitions this winter. Their bullpen has been retooled with lefty Jeremy Affeldt and veteran right hander Bob Howry. The duo will add depth and experience to a young but talented and often erratic group down in the Giants’ pen. Brian Wilson is returning for his second year as closer after an All-Star campaign, and youngsters Sergio Romo and Alex Hinshaw, who impressed mightily last year, are expected to be key contributors to the ’09 squad.

SAN FRANCISCO - MAY 06:  Pitcher Tim Lincecum ...
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Super veteran Randy Johnson will also be a key on the mound for the Giants in 2009. This is a move that works on a couple of levels. First, Johnson, a Bay Area native, will be chasing the

300 win milestone, and could likely be the last pitcher ever to reach that mystical mark. This will surely add intrigue and excitement to a Giants season that will probably be short on those elements. Not to mention the Giants love to celebrate history, and would relish Johnson earning win number 300 in black and orange. As of today Johnson is expected to pitch in the second slot of the Gy-ros rotation, between Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum and ace incognito Matt Cain. And if you look at Johnson’s ’08 season you

will see that it was one of the best pitching performances offered in the NL, despite his age and oft ailing back. Still, this addition could provide the Giants with one of the best starting rotations in baseball, and hopefully prevent them from rushing back Noah Lowry who spent all of last year on the DL.

So the Giants shored up their strength, starting pitching, and revamped an area of concern; their bullpen. So what have they done for the offense? What moves were made to improve a lineup with as much pop as a Tom Shane voice over? Allow me to introduce you to Edgar Renteria. The Giants were excited enough about Renteria to commit two years and nearly $19 million to him. Some see this as one of the dumbest moves of the offseason.

Considering the offensive contribution from the Giants’ collection of ‘08 shortstops, Bocock, Vizquel, Castillo, Burriss, and Ochoa, Renteria is a presumed upgrade. However, when not playing the games on paper, one will recognize that the 32 year old has lost a step or two (according to scouts and various other MLB teams who were not inclined to acquire his services). This will prove to be a challenge for the left side of the Giants’ infield and Pablo Sandoval, who, as of today, will be manning the hot corner on an everyday basis for the first time in his career. The catcher/first baseman has shown that he’s competent at third, but he and Edgar could have trouble defending balls deep in the hole, which may weigh heavily on a young pitching staff that won’t be getting much run support.

The Giants’ offseason still has some time as pitchers and catchers don’t report until February 14th, and opening day isn’t until April 7th. It is possible that they could land Joe Crede or another veteran corner infielder, bringing some pop and defense to an infield that is less than inspiring. Such a move would also make more sense of the acquisitions that they’ve made up to this point.

The Giants have committed nearly $20 million to free agents for the 2009 campaign, yet it appears the front office is most concerned with seasons beyond ‘09. The emphasis to align the roster for better success in 2010 and 2011 is a tough pill to swallow when the perceived strength of the team, starting pitching, is quite possibly the class of the league, and we all know how fleeting good young pitching can be, just ask the Cubs.

Team President Larry Baer was on the MLB Network Tuesday responding to questions about the team’s apparent interest in Manny Ramirez, saying that the Giants are looking for a “perfect fit” and that they “can’t have a player who prevents (them) from doing things down the road.” He also has used the term “bridge to the future” numerous times this off season.

Apparently the Giants idea of a bridge is more like a pair of aqua sox and swimming trunks; they get you across the river, but you’re not expected to look good afterwards.

It’s hard to tell what sort of future is out there for the Giants at this point, but it seems Manny would be a great guy to cross that proverbial bridge with. He isn’t going to block any future star outfielders in the Giants’ farm system (because none currently reside there), and he would instantly add credibility and respect to a laughable offense. This is a deal that would come down strictly to money. If the Giants aren’t willing to be honest with the fans and tell them they are content letting Manny go to the Dodgers (for what will now certainly be a discount), and handicap their own interests for the next few season by ensuring L.A. a significant leg up on the division, then I will. The Giants blew it on Zito. Yes, they have a “place mark” of $90 million for their budget, and they’re satisfied with looking at that number in a vacuum, no matter how little use they’re making of half of that number. The Giants are scheduled to spend about $90 million this season, but how much of that is being wasted on Dave Roberts, Barry Zito, Renteria, and Aaron Rowand? $42 million! That is approximately $6 million, $15 million, $9 million, and $12 million respectively (based on annual averages) for the bad contract quartet, and then another $8 million if you were to throw in Randy Winn.

Clearly my mindset is rather Manny centric, and all in all not very healthy, but Manny isn’t the only addition that could make this hot stove league burn a bit warmer for San Francisco. The above mentioned Joe Crede is a good glove man, and could stabilize a shaky infield while allowing Sandoval the comfort of playing first, a more natural fit for him. Additionally, the former White Sox All-Star could be had for a one year incentive laden contract as he needs to prove he’s able to stay healthy over a 162 game span. It’s the classic low risk high reward deal the Giants shouldn’t be afraid to make. Frankly it’s a move that a team that has over half its payroll tied up in five underachieving players HAS to make.

There are other options to add punch to the lineup. Adam Dunn is one that really doesn’t excite many, but he would at least supply a threat to a toothless offense. The former D-Back by way of Cincinnati strikes out a ton, and is a liability at any position he plays. That being said he’s a better fit than Travis Ishikawa for the everyday first base job.

In short it’s been an offseason where the Giants’ right hand has made some moves with hopes of competing in mind; while their left hand has already crossed out the ’09 season from the calendar. Like past seasons it seems the Giants are content wasting another year of a brilliant Tim Lincecum, a great Matt Cain, a 40 something hall of famer, and a supply of hopeful pieces. A bold strategy for a team that hasn’t won a World Series in 50 plus years.

My Giants offseason grade: D.

Theo Fightmaster also writes for The San Francisco Giants Examiner. Please follow the link provided to read his work there.

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