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Friday, November 18, 2011

Confirmed: Larry Baer Hates Us

Peter Magowan did a lot of good things while he was head of the Giants’ ownership group: he spearheaded the effort to keep the Giants in San Francisco, he signed Barry Bonds, he found a way to get voters to approve a new ballpark, etc. But to me, Magowan will be most remembered as an owner who was content to contend; that is, he was happy with building a team that would contend for the division, but never went above and beyond to add more expensive players to the roster. He liked spending just enough to be competitive, and if the Giants made the playoffs it was an added bonus.

Magowan was the first person I thought of when I heard Larry Baer would be taking over for the departing Bill Neukom as the man in charge of the Giants. Whereas Neukom seemed happy to spend money on improving the team (and that’s what ultimately forced him out), Baer comes from the Magowan school of doing things: spend just enough to keep people filling the seats and buying panda hats, but don’t go crazy with payroll. Sell the line of, “all we need to do is get to the playoffs, and anything can happen!” while keeping payroll costs capped.

Any hopes I had of being wrong about Baer were wiped out after hearing his recent comments about the state of the Giants. If you haven’t heard them, check them out here. And check out's thoughts about Baer here.

Here’s a few of Baer’s choice quotes, and my thoughts about each:

(T)he big thing for us is to further secure our pitching.”

Excellent plan! Signing Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum to long-term deals should be the highest priority for the Giants, since the team is built around starting pitching. And one of the strategies to keep the pitching in tact is to surround them with a dynamic offense, right? Well….

“Certainly we want to add some bats. We want to be careful we do it the right way.”

What does that even mean? What’s the right way, exactly? Not overspending on marginal bats? Ok, I’m with him there. Smart plan! Wait, didn’t the Giants recently offer $4.8 million to Willie Bloomquist? They did, right? Ok, so... that whole doing it the right way thing, that's out the window already? Alright then.

“We’re just looking at other things, some utility players.”

Oh, you’re just looking at other things? Some utility players? That makes sense, considering the lineup is so formidable as is. Because if there’s one thing that cost the Giants the playoffs last season, it was a lack of utility players. They simply didn't have enough utility players.

“We’re not necessarily shopping, per se.”

Oh, good. That's nice to hear.

“In a way we have two new free agents, Buster Posey and Freddy Sanchez.”

I just threw up. No, Larry, you’re not adding two new free agents. You’re adding two guys coming off of catastrophic, season-ending, surgery-requiring injuries with no guarantees that either of them will be the players they were before they went down. Saying that Posey and Sanchez are free agent additions is a cop out of epic proportions, a slight-of-hand move to trick people into believing the Giants only need to make marginal improvements to the lineup and not go after more expensive options. Wrong on both accounts: the Giants need a lot of help offensively, and since they've decided not to "rush" their best hitting prospects the only way to get it is to spend money on players who can provide it. Trading for Melky Cabrera, signing a utility player or two, pointing at Sanchez and Posey and calling it a day isn't going to get it done.

This reminds me of the winter after the ’03 season, when Vlad Guerrero  was on the market and seemed to be the perfect piece to add to a 103-win team and provide the lineup protection Bonds had lacked. Instead, we got Michael Tucker, AJ Pierzynski and a bunch of lame excuses about Vlad’s bad back. There may not be a Vlad Guerrero on the market this year, but the excuses still remain. Only now, it’s “doing things the right way” and “our injured guys are just like adding new free agents! Really!”

It’s going to be a long winter.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Giants Get Cabrera, Ambivalence Reigns


What happens when your favorite team makes a trade and you’re ambivalent about it? Do you just shrug your shoulders and move on? Spend countless hours analyzing it to try and make yourself feel either good or bad about it? Make a sandwich?  Let me tell you, I did all of those things today.

Jonathan Sanchez is gone, Melky Cabrera is here, and I’m not sure how I feel about it.

Cabrera is coming off of a year in which he set career highs in virtually every offensive category. His .305/.339/.470 line would’ve made him a God in the Giants’ lineup and he managed to add 18 HRs and 20 SBs for good measure. After a horrific 2010 season, he dedicated himself to getting in shape last offseason (hmm…sounds familiar) and responded with the best year of his career. The Giants are getting him at the right time (he’s still only 27), on the cusp of his first free agent season with plenty to prove in order to get a big contract in 2013. In the short term, it seems like a nice move for the Giants. They’re getting a young outfielder who could be hitting his career peak.

On the other hand, I can’t shake the feeling that this is Melky Cabrera. I could be mistaken, but I think the Spanish translation of “Melky” is “nondescript outfielder.” Before last season he was the very definition of a reserve outfielder, not excelling in any one area but good enough to keep a Major League job. I’m naturally suspicious of a player who has a career year after six plus seasons in the league, and the chances of him regressing to his norm are far higher than him having a repeat of 2011. The Giants may try to shoehorn him into the leadoff spot despite of the fact that he’s not a leadoff hitter, and his range in the outfield is awful. His negatives almost cancel out his positives.

As for Sanchez, it’s not at all surprising to see him go. The Giants would’ve owed him somewhere around $6 million in arbitration, and with Barry Zito still in the fold the Giants would’ve been paying two guys a total of $25 million to fight for the 5th starter’s job. It is a bit surprising that Sanchez’s stock has fallen so low that he wasn’t enough to get Cabrera on his own, since the Giants had to throw in a minor league pitcher to get the deal done. If you’d told me two years ago that all the Giants would get for Jonathan Sanchez in a trade was Melky Cabrera, I’d have called you crazy. They simply waited a year too long to trade him.

So in the end the Giants get a serviceable outfielder coming up on his walk year, lose a talented but erratic pitcher who’s likely peaked, and save a few million in the process. So, good? I guess? I’m still ambivalent.  If Cabrera truly has turned a corner and can repeat his success from last year, it’s a very good trade. If he turns back into Melky Cabrera, it’s probably a wash since Sanchez is unlikely to get much better than he was last year.

Melky Cabrera, your opening day Giants center fielder. Meh.