Monday, December 15, 2003

Dustan Mohr
vs LH vs RH Overall
2001 17.353.421.353
2002 250.304.343.484 383.269.325.433
2003 117.265.348.453 348.250.314.399

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest 

Brian Sabean’s career as a general manager is marred by wild inconsistency.

On one hand, he made his debut with the brilliant, but much-maligned at the time, trade of Matt Williams to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for Jeff Kent, Julian Tavarez, and Jose Vizcaino. He made sure Barry Bonds will likely finish his career as a Giant, and for less money than he is actually worth. He signed valuable, high-OBP types Ray Durham and Edgardo Alfonzo to reasonable contracts a year ago. He acquired one of the games better hitting catchers for the 2004 season in the person of A.J. Pierzynski. He has generally restrained himself from locking in players to long term deals that would hamstring the team’s future payroll flexibility.

But at the same time, Sabean has exhibited glaring shortcomings in his ability to run the personnel side of a baseball team.

In his tenure, the team has drafted only one player that has made any kind of meaningful contribution at the major league level. And that player, Jerome Williams, has less than a full season under his belt. The draft strategy employed by the Giants of stocking up on arms, which they treat as a form of currency to be exchanged in mid-season trades, has left the system barren of positional prospects over the years. And the lack of success of those pitchers, both the ones that remain in the organization and those that are traded away, calls into question the ability of those scouting the arms the team has drafted in the first place.

At the major league level, what’s disturbing is the seeming lack of understanding the Giants’ braintrust possesses when it comes to valuing marginal talent. A year ago, with no competition for his services, the team inked shortstop Niefi Perez, one of the worst hitters in recent major league history, to a 2 year deal worth $4.25 million, giving up a compensatory draft pick in the process. They also signed center fielder Marquis Grissom for 2 years and $3.875 million, despite the fact that he is helpless at the plate versus right-handed pitching. The trend continued this season when Jeffrey Hammonds was signed for one year at $1 million. At that cost, the Hammonds contract is not an egregious mistake; but it’s too much for a corner outfielder that hasn’t been a productive hitter since leaving the comfort of Coors Field three years ago.

Had that been the last signing of marginal talent this off-season, I would have been disappointed, but still optimistic. Then, irrationality struck, as the Giants signed Michael Tucker to a Two year, $3.5 million deal. To add insult to injury, the signing of Tucker, who is a Type B free agent, just 12 hours before he would have been non-tendered by the Kansas City Royals means the Giants have to give the Royals their first round pick in the 2004 MLB draft. Word is now coming out that this was intentional, that Sabean did not want the team’s first round pick.

Looking at the acquisition itself, this is a baffling decision. Claiming to be operating on a tight budget, Sabean goes out and signs a backup outfielder for two years and $3.5 million. In Tucker and Hammonds, the Giants now have a combined $2.5 million committed to a fourth and fifth outfielder. Of course, the scary possibility exists that the team is convinced that these guys can share a starting role. The horror…

Michael Tucker
vs LH vs RH Overall
2001 346.263.341.422 436.252.322.415
2002 398.256.336.410 475.248.330.406
2003 123.236.307.366 266.274.342.474 389.262.331.440

On the surface, it doesn’t appear THAT bad. The 2003 Giants struggles against right-handed pitchers was a glaring weakness, and while those numbers against righties isn’t anything to write home about, Tucker would appear to be an acceptable left-handed bat that can be a part of a platoon in RF and CF. But those numbers don’t tell the right story.

Kaufman Stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals, is an extreme hitters’ park -- the most favorable hitting environment in Major League Baseball outside of Coors Field. And for the past two seasons, Tucker has called Kaufman Stadium home. To get an idea of how much he has benefited from playing in Kansas City, just look at Tucker’s home/road splits over the past two seasons:

Home Road
2002 238.328.408.542
2003 195.297.371.518

Those are scary, Coors Field like splits.

To be fair, Tucker’s numbers in 2004 are unlikely to be as bad as the road splits he displayed with the Royals. Players who leave Colorado, while certainly experiencing an overall statistical decline, usually perform at least slightly better in a new uniform than their previous road splits would indicate. But in Tucker’s case, there would have to be a very large jump from those road numbers in order to be of any value as a player receiving a large number of at bats.

If the Giants do nothing more to improve their outfield this off-season, and go with a Tucker/Hammonds platoon in 2004, then Giants fans everywhere will be longing for the days of Jose Cruz, Jr. in right field.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Potential Good Acquisitions - 1B  

Rafael Palmeiro
vs LH vs RH Overall
2000 144.326.415.569 421.276.391.553 565.288.397.558
2001 151.272.362.576 449.274.387.559 600.273.381.563
2002 159.220.315.465 387.295.420.615 546.273.391.571
2003 170.282.374.588 391.251.353.473 561.260.359.508

At 39 years old, Palmeiro is in the twilight of his career. But the man can still knock the ball out of the park, and would be very solid addition to Giants lineup if they can ink him to a one or two-year deal. According to The Star-Telegram, the Rangers will not offer Palmeiro salary arbitration this off-season, meaning the Giants would be able to acquire him without giving up a compensatory draft pick. In 2003, Rafael saw his batting average against right-handers take a hit. And while such a drop at age 38 is certainly of some concern, I’d speculate that 2004 will see that average bounce back to around .270, just a little bit off his 2001 and 2002 form. As a guy who should be able to play between 125 and 135 games, he would provide an OPS around .900 without a platoon split. He’s not a long-term answer, but the time for a championship is now, and Palmeiro would be a great short-term solution at 1B.

Derrek Lee
vs LH vs RH Overall
2000 101.228.328.436 376.295.379.527 477.281.368.507
2001 116.310.394.560 445.274.333.452 561.282.346.474
2002 125.264.391.480 456.272.374.498 581.270.378.494
2003 105.333.462.600 434.256.358.486 539.271.379.508

Ivan Rodriguez, Mike Lowell, Jeff Conine, Derrek Lee. According to most speculation out there, Lee is going to be the odd-man out for the Florida Marlins next season. After assuming the leadership mantle for the Marlins in their run to a World Series title, it would be difficult to let Pudge Rodriguez, who want to return, walk away as a free agent this off-season. And with Jason Stokes working his way through Florida’s farm system, the team is not about to sign Lee to a multi-year deal. Either Conine will take over at first or Miguel Cabrera will man the hot corner next season with Lowell sliding across the diamond to 1B. Regardless, many consider it a forgone conclusion that Lee will be wearing a new uniform next season.

The question for the Giants is: What approach should they take to pursue Lee?

As was the case a year ago, this off-season will be characterized by players being forced to accept less money than would have conceived just a couple of years ago. One of the side-effects of this is that many teams are have chosen to stay relatively inactive before December 7th, the deadline for teams to decide whether or not they will offer arbitration to elibible players. For the most part, this is because teams are unwilling to sacrifice draft picks when signing free agents. This affects players like Derrek Lee, who are not eligible for free agency, as teams wait to gauge the market. If no team is able to swing a deal for Lee, there is a good chance that Florida will non-tender him, allowing any team other than the Marlins to sign him without sacrificing draft picks.

Lee would be a great fit for the Giants. Although the team needs more players that hit righties well, Derrek does not have too much of a platoon split. He is only 28 years old, meaning that he has just entered his peak power years (his 31 home runs this season was a career high), and he is a very good defensive player. Any team that can lock Lee up for four years at less than $5 million per year will be very happy with their return.

Brad Fullmer
vs LH vs RH Overall
2000 389.311.355.589 482.295.340.558
2001 403.295.354.491 522.274.326.444
2002 366.301.377.560 429.289.357.531
2003 30.267.324.400 176.313.398.517 206.306.387.500

That is a nasty platoon split, but it’s falls in the direction of what the Giants need. Fullmer hits the stuffing out of the ball when facing right handers; and while it’s relatively easy to find lefty-mashing first basemen (see Andres Galarraga), finding guys that mirror that against right-handers is no easy task. In the world of inexpensive options, Brad Fullmer is the perfect acquisition for this team. Add a platoon mate to complement him on the roster and you’ve got a dangerous bat from the 1B position. Unfortunately, rumors persist that Fullmer and Alou weren’t exactly the best of buds in their Montreal days, so this scenario probably isn’t too likely.

Hee Sop Choi

vs LH vs RH Overall
2003 17.059.360.118 185.232.349.449 202.218.350.421

A year ago, Choi was one of the most highly regarded prospects in the game. He combines power beyond his age with a keen batting eye -- a guy that will likely be drawing 100 walks to go along with 30 home runs a year at an early point in his major league career, all while playing excellent defense. Choi was all set be the everyday first basemen for the Cubs in 2003 before the team unloaded the dead weight of Todd Hundley’s contract on the Dodgers for the dead weight of the contracts of Mark Grudzielanek and Eric Karros. The thought at the start of the season was that Karros could platoon with Choi (a questionable developmental strategy to begin with). In the context of a team trying to win now, it made sense; Karros has always mashed lefties while carrying a wiffle bat to plate vs RHPs. And early on, Dusty Baker stuck to the plan.

But in early June, Choi incurred a concussion in a scary collision with Kerry Wood, forcing Choi to the disabled list. By the time Choi returned, he had already lost his job, getting only 40 plate appearances over the next month as Dusty rewarded Karros for his veteraness by playing him every day. Soon thereafter the club acquired Kenny Lofton and out machine Randall Simon, and Choi became an afterthought. If the 2003 season is any indication of how little the Jim Hendry and Dusty Baker value Choi, he should be available at a relatively cheap price.

So let me use this space to promote the idea of finding a way to trade Felix Rodriguez to the Chicago Cubs. As a team with a recent history of overvaluing relief pitchers (see: Antonio Alfonseca, Mike Remlinger), and with Felix’s veteraness and personal experience with Dusty, the Cubs are a prime candidate to unload the overpaid Felix Rodriguez on. They may also be a team willing to hand over Choi in exchange for the pleasure of taking F-Rod.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Sabean Solidifies the Catcher Position 

Steve Shelby, whose SF Giants New Diary is an indespensible resource for Giants fans, sent an email out to a group of us Giants bloggers looking for our reaction to this past Friday's trade of Joe Nathan, Boof Bonser, and Francisco Liriano for A.J. Pierzynski. Here was my response:

At first, I was slightly happy about this trade, with the worry that Sabean may have given up too much to get the deal done. But over the weekend, I have grown more and more excited over the move. Pierzynski is one of the best catchers in baseball. He is a left-handed batter who hits righties well, which is an area of serious need for this team. He is also only 26 years old. As a hitter with power to the gaps, A.J. is at the age when many players start to transform that gap power into home run power. His only true weakness is that he doesn't draw a lot of walks. Nevertheless, if the Giants can hold on to A.J. for more than one season (at a good price, of course), they will have solidified what may be the hardest position to fill for years to come.

Nathan, who for most of his career has sported a very, very poor K/BB ratio, may never have trade value as high as he does right now. Hopefully for him, he continues with the success that he had this season. As for Bonser and Liriano, I'm not enamored by the potential of either of these guys. Boof hasn't been able to sustain his early success as he's moved up the developmental ladder. He may become a solid major league reliever, but I don't think he has much true value. Liriano has been beset with injury problems the past two seasons.

It appears that Sabean has learned just how easy it is to find quality relief pitchers. Worrell, moving into the closer role, provided an example of how any solid relief pitcher can fill the role of closer, while Nathan's success shows that a mediocre-to-poor starter can be a valuable reliever.

My only concerns for this trade revolve around how this affects the rest of the roster. Pierzynski, as an arb eligible player, isn't exactly locked in at a low price. Word is, the Giants are trying to negotiate a long-term deal before going to arbitration. This is the right move. The other concern is what this means for further player acquisitions this off-season. I'm among the crowd that thinks Vlad Guerrero is a real possibility for this team. The MLBPA already appears to be in anti-collusion mode, indicating the anticipation that the free agent market will be depressed this off-season. Furthermore, the Yankees, who do not believe Vlad has any interest in heading to NY, are saying that they don't want to be used as a bargaining tool to drive Guerrero's price up.

Aside from that, what other moves might Sabean have in mind? I'm happy to hear rumors of trade talks with Marlins about Derrek Lee. As a player they may end up non-tendering, it should take very little to acquire him in a trade. My positional analysis on outfielders should have made it clear how much I covet J.D. Drew. I also find the Sexson talk exciting, although I don't know what it would take to get him. I don't share the high opinion some people have of Torrealba. He had a pretty good year in 150 PAs in 2002, but he didn't hit all that well last year, and there is nothing in his minor league history to success that Yorvit would ever be a starting catcher at the Major League level. I hope that teams like the Brewers are higher on Yorvit than I am, as that would make a Sexson trade more of a possibility. But I have trouble believing that he is very highly thought of by major league GMs.

Let me throw one wild trade out there that could be possible, but that I don't think Sabean would ever try to make.



Hee Sop Choi
Juan Cruz

As someone who doesn't think any intelligent GM would consider giving up Choi and Cruz for a mediocre catcher and an overpaid reliever, in no way would I expect Jim Hendry to agree to such a trade. But if the Cubs are indeed desparate to strengthen their bullpen, they are one of the few teams that the Giants may be able to unload Felix's contract on. On top of that, it appears that the Cubs have already started to give up on Choi. Some team is going to get him cheap and be very, very happy with their return. I think the same thing will happen with Cruz.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Positional Analysis - First Base 

The 2003 NLDS between the San Francisco Giants and the Florida Marlins will be source of many bitter memories for Giants fans. Among those horrors etched in our minds is the sight of J.T. Snow barreling slowly towards home plate in Game 6, running as though he’s dragging a 100 pound weight behind him, unable to knock the baseball lose from the clutches of Ivan Rodriguez as the last out of the series is recorded. And before the shock of playoff elimination had even had a chance to wear off, the thoughts of many fans turned towards what lies ahead for the Giants in 2004; what new faces will grace the starting lineup?

One area of consternation for Giants fans over the past few seasons has been the production provided from first base. Fans watched as Snow’s bat began to treat the baseball as its own personal kryptonite, sapping all the power away from what was once a source of strength for the team. And after a 2002 season which saw J.T. post a measly .704 OPS, Snow was relegated to platoon duty, as the aging wonder Andres Galarraga saw the starting lineup against southpaws. The result was surprising. Snow put up an OPS of .834 vs. right-handers with an overall OBP of .387 while the Big Cat, fueled by a lefty-mashing bat, posted an .841 OPS. And while those performances did not constitute elite production from first, the position once again became strong point in the lineup.

But with Snow’s poor performances of 2001 and 2002 still fresh in our minds, and with Galarraga’s fragile 42-year old body, Brian Sabean would best look elsewhere for 2004’s starting 1B. The search should not be too difficult. Like small forwards in basketball and wide receivers in football, it is easy to find productive players at first base. Armed with a simple understanding of the concept of replacement level, finding an adequate bat to fill a hole at first base need not be an expensive endeavor. The question is, does Brian Sabean grasp this concept? A year ago, he displayed gross ignorance of the subject when inking Neifi Perez to a 2-year $4 million contract. Here’s hoping that a similar lapse of reason does not present itself this off-season.

Today’s piece will provide a look at what options the Giants currently have at 1B. My next post will look at potential acquisitions.

Arbitration Eligible Giants

Pedro Feliz - 3B, 1B, OF

vs LH vs RH Overall
2001 58.397.413.672
2002 97.289.320.402

I mentioned Feliz in my outfielder analysis, but let me say this again:

Pedro Feliz should not be starting at an infield or outfield corner on a regular basis.

While the power spike he displayed in 2003 is encouraging, that .278 OBP would be a huge liability for the offense, especially if it came from a guy playing first base on a regular basis. Bringing Snow back for another year would be a much better option than allowing Feliz to play everyday. Because Pedro can step in and play any position on the infield or outfield corners, he has some value to this team. If the Giants decided to sign him to 3-year deal at about $500k per year, I don’t think it would be a bad idea. That level of salary presents little financial risk; and in the unlikely event that he breaks out, the Giants will have a bargain on their hands. But anything more than that deal would be a mistake. As a player who will be 29 this coming season, he does not project as a productive major league hitter. Assuming that the Giants do not come to some sort of agreement with Pedro, the Giants will offer arbitration to Feliz. If the projected arbitration figure is somehow much higher than $500k, it would be best to non-tender Feliz and look elsewhere.

Giants Free Agents

J.T. Snow
vs LH vs RH Overall
2000 129.256.351.395 407.292.370.479 536.284.365.459
2001 49.306.386.388 236.233.368.377 285.246.371.379
2002 70.229.382.429 352.250.336.347 422.246.344.360
2003 48.208.387.229 282.284.387.450 330.273.387.418

After making the easy decision of declining the $6.5 million option on Snow, and exercising the $750 buyout clause in his contract, the Giants are left with a question. Do they still consider bringing him back? 2003 marked the strongest performance for J.T. since the year 2000. As the left-handed bat in a strict platoon, Snow was not the liability he had been the previous two seasons. Against right-handers, his .837 OPS represented one of the stronger bats in the lineup. Unfortunately, those 2001 and 2002 performances cannot be ignored. Snow will be 36 this coming season, and another regression with the bat would leave the Giants with a serious hole in their lineup at a position which should always be one of offensive strength.

Over the past few seasons, many analysts have tried to rationalize Snow’s presence in the lineup by singing the praises of his defensive excellence. Ignoring the fact that when it comes to defense, Snow’s reputation precedes his performance, such arguments are a smokescreen. The value of good defense at first base simply isn’t enough to compensate for a weak bat at the position. First base is by-and-large considered the easiest position to play defensively. It is where productive middle infielders and corner outfielders move late in their careers when they can no longer handle the rigors of their old positions. The marginal defensive value of a good first baseman like Snow, the difference between him and an average fielder, is simply not that large. It’s the nature of the position.

There is talk of bringing Snow back at a reduced contract for another year, but with any such act it must be made clear that Snow’s role will not be an everyday one. He simply cannot hit left-handed pitching. If the Giants can sign Snow to a one-year deal at less than $2 million, then it may not be a bad option. However, Sabean must me mindful of what other options are lurking in the first base market.

Andres Galarraga
vs LH vs RH Overall
2000 118.347.400.483 376.287.359.540 494.302.369.526
2001 112.268.336.554 287.251.322.422 399.256.326.459
2002 85.294.368.329 207.246.335.420 292.260.344.394
2003 94.309.369.574 178.298.342.444 272.301.352.489

Just two home runs shy of reaching 400 for his career, it must be very tempting for Galarraga to return to the field in 2004. I would love to see him achieve that milestone, but bringing him back as a Giant would probably be a mistake. The Big Cat performed wonderfully for the Giants this past season, aptly filling the role of lefty-masher in 102 plate appearance against southpaws. But expecting a repeat performance next season is unreasonable. Galarraga will turn 43 in June, and his low batting averages in 2001 and 2002 indicate that he had lost a lot of the bat speed that had allowed him to be a .300 hitter for much of his career. And while 2003 may have marked a return of sorts to his previous form, history dictates that at his age, a reversion to the performance levels of the previous two seasons is more likely than sustaining that excellent 2003 form. As a player who doesn’t walk all that much, Galarraga’s value is very reliant on his batting average. If that were to drop back down to around .260, he would no longer be an asset in the lineup.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Back to Work 

I’d like to apologize to my small (but hopefully still existent) readership for my lack of updates over the past couple of weeks. A combination of personal commitments and the fact that I’ve actually had things to do at work have kept me from being able to spend much time on this young blog. Luckily for us baseball fans, there’s been a lot of interesting stuff out there, like Bryan Smith’s wonderful Organizational Meetings on Wait ‘Til Next Year. In his Giants Organization Meeting, Brian discusses the franchise’s current state of affairs with The Southpaw

I’ve also used some of this time to put together a database of player statistics in an HTML format to provide me with a more efficient reference for my posts here ([sarcasm] learning HTML on the fly is fun! [/sarcasm]). So from now on, instead of providing player statistical splits for 2001 and for the combined period of 2001 to 2003, I will post stat splits for the individual seasons between 2000 and 2003. Using this sort of presentation will make it easier to recognize any patterns in player performance, allowing us to see any gradual improvement or decline in performance, as well as seeing if any season appears to be a statistical outlier, or in other words, a fluke. I have adjusted my positional analysis of the outfield to reflect this change.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Positional Analysis - Outfielders 

As I finally start to accept the fact that the Giants bowed out in the first round of the playoffs, I feel it is necessary to look at what this team needs to do to give them a shot at returning to the World Series in 2004. But before I offer some different plans the Giants could pursue this off-season, I would like to evaluate what the team’s current situation is at each position, and identify which players may be available to acquire. Westwood Blues and Waiting for Boof, who have looked at the rightfield and first base, respectively, have gotten a bit of a head start on me. I’m going to start off by taking a detailed look at the Giants overall outfield situation. There will be some overlap with different infield positions, so bear with me when I venture into potential 1B scenarios. I’ve included AVG/OBP/SLG stats for most players for the 2003 season, and for the three year period of 2001 to 2003. Generally speaking, the previous three years are the best indicator of what to expect from a player in the upcoming season. One other important thing to keep in mind is that any signing of a free agent who has been offered arbitration by his current team will cost the Giants compensatory draft picks. For a brief history of salary arbitration, I’d recommend reading this piece by Doug Pappas. So without further ado, here is the situation for the Giants outfield…

Under Contract

Barry Bonds, LF - $15 million ($16mm salary + $4mm bonus - $5mm deferred)
vs LH vs RH Overall
2000 148.230.320.527 332.340.487.759 480.306.440.688
2001 141.312.487.752 335.334.526.910 476.328.515.863
2002 125.384.556.976 278.363.592.719 403.370.582.799
2003 124.363.509.790 266.331.537.729 390.341.529.749

Nothing needs to be said about Bonds’ ability and his value to this team. He is the best player in the game, and Brian Sabean needs to tailor the lineup to take advantage of what Bonds does with the bat. This means high OBP guys in front of him, allowing him to hit with men on base, and high SLG guys behind him. In other words, no more Rich Aurilia in the 3 hole, which is where Barry should be hitting, and no more Benito Santiago in the 5 spot.

However, there is one issue regarding Bonds that the Giants are going to have to address. In recent months, the idea that Barry may eventually move to the American League and DH has been addressed. If I’m Brian Sabean, I would not allow this to happen, especially while Bonds is chasing Hank Aaron’s home run mark. As Bonds nears #755, this franchise will have a unique opportunity to latch on to the game’s most prominent record. Additionally, the revenue that the team will be able to generate during this chase should help subsidize some of Barry’s contract. Because of this, the team needs to talk with Barry about a potential move to first base in the next couple of seasons. While it would be an adjustment, such a move would allow Barry to play more often without incurring as much of a physical toll that comes with playing in the outfield.

Marquis Grissom, CF - $2 million
vs LH vs RH Overall
2000 125.304.343.408 470.228.273.336 595.244.288.351
2001 314.207.242.363 448.221.250.404
2002 133.293.354.617 343.277.321.510
2003 140.364.399.657 447.280.298.409 587.300.322.468

The epitome of a platoon player, Grissom found himself playing almost every day this past season. In reality, Grissom should not see the starting lineup when a right hander is on the mound. A center fielder with a sub-300 OBP is a serious liability against right handed pitching, especially when his defense is nothing special. As a platoon player, Marquis can be quite valuable (although not $2mm valuable). But it’s important the Brian Sabean finds somebody to share time in center that can hit right handers. Unfortunately, my gut says that Sabean is quite comfortable throwing Grissom out there everyday again.

Todd Linden, RF/LF

As the first real positional prospect the franchise has developed in years, Linden is looked at as a future starting corner outfielder for the Giants. But when is that future? Coming into last year, it looked like Linden would be ready to take over a starting spot in 2004. But Sabean, as he should, will not guarantee anything for Linden, stating that he will likely begin the season down in Fresno. The thinking here is that if Linden's not starting for the Giants then he's better off playing every day at AAA than coming off the bench at SBC. Linden is a switch hitter with patience, power, and pretty good speed for player of his size. Hopefully, he will be ready to claim a starting role early in the season. But if Sabean thinks that he may be able to, then the Giants need to either sign a big bat at one of the infield positions, or have Bonds make the aforementioned move to 1B while signing a bat for the outfield.

Option Players

Jose Cruz, Jr. RF - $4 million mutual option, $300k buyout
vs LH vs RH Overall
2000 162.290.339.481 441.224.317.460 603.242.323.466
2001 138.290.355.543 439.269.317.526 577.274.326.530
2002 324.253.334.478 466.245.317.438
2003 135.304.405.519 404.233.353.379 539.250.366.414

Good luck in your future endeavors, Mr. Cruz.

After his great display of poor clutch hitting and disastrously bad defense in the NLDS, it’s easy to say that Cruz should not be brought back. The fact is, it would have been hard to justify putting Cruz in RF next year even before the playoffs began. The 2003 postseason aside, Cruz is a very good defender in RF. Unfortunately, he doesn’t bring enough with his bat to justify sticking him in a corner outfield spot. While Cruz does take a lot of walks, he has shown over the course of his career that he doesn’t hit for a high enough average, keeping him from being the OBP machine I’d like to see. That combined with his mediocre power numbers are enough to keep from bringing him back next season. In no way is Cruz worth $4 million.

Giants Free Agents

Jeffrey Hammonds
vs LH vs RH Overall
2000 98.378.439.633 356.323.382.500 454.335.395.529
2001 136.250.320.463 174.247.314.425
2002 84.298.381.512 364.247.320.371 448.257.332.397
2003 25.360.429.400 107.215.306.430 132.242.329.424

I’ve seen some support for bringing back Hammonds as an extra outfielder. Frankly, I don’t see why. Since leaving Colorado after the 2000 season, he hasn’t shown any ability to be a productive major league hitter. If he wants to sign on as a fifth outfielder, I wouldn’t be opposed. But there’s no reason to pay him much more than the league minimum.

Marvin Benard
259/310/411 overall
354/386/554 vs LH
248/301/393 vs RH

Benard won’t be back.

Arbitration Eligible Giants

Pedro Feliz - 3B, 1B, OF
vs LH vs RH Overall
2001 58.397.413.672
2002 97.289.320.402

While that was a nice little power spike, Feliz is still not a guy who should be starting on a regular basis. With a .278 OBP, Pedro is an out machine, and having a guy like that in a corner outfield spot, or at first base for that matter, could have disastrous consequences for this offense. With his ability to play the corner infield spots and backup Bonds in left, Feliz is a valuable guy to have on the bench. If the team could sign him to a 3-year deal for $500k per year, that would be great. I doubt he’ll agree to that, so expect to see him get about that much in arbitration.

Now on to the fun part…

Potential Acquisitions

Vladimir Guerrero - RF
vs LH vs RH Overall
2000 133.376.447.744 438.336.399.639 571.345.410.664
2001 135.319.420.607 464.304.363.554 599.307.377.566
2002 124.290.443.500 490.347.410.616 614.336.417.593
2003 84.393.485.810 310.313.410.526 394.330.426.586

The crown jewel of this year’s free agent market, Guerrero would be the perfect addition to this Giants team. In addition to hitting for average and power, Vlad has started to display more patience at the plate in the past two seasons. Now look at those numbers and remember one other thing: he’s only 27 years old. He’s just entering his peak. The only risk is that of injury. Guerrero missed time this season with back problems, the type of nagging injury that can have chronic effects over the course of one’s career. But judging by his performance over the last two months of the season, he looks like he will remain productive. Vladimir Guerrero would not only be the perfect signing to play alongside Barry Bonds, but he would provide the cornerstone that the team will need when Barry eventually starts to feel the effects of aging.

Unfortunately, the Giants’ brass has gone out of their way to say that they will not be players in the market for Guerrero. I’m not convinced that this team will cut payroll into the mid-70 million dollar range. I think that with a softening of the free agent market, this team will be part of the bidding process for players like Guerrero and Gary Sheffield. Felipe Alou’s presence can only help to draw Guerrero to the Bay Area.

Gary Sheffield - RF
vs LH vs RH Overall
2000 123.285.425.512 378.339.442.685 501.325.438.643
2001 107.374.457.720 408.294.407.547 515.311.417.583
2002 82.293.408.415 410.310.403.532 492.307.404.512
2003 123.341.450.675 453.327.410.585 576.330.419.604

The next best thing… Choosing between Gary Sheffield and Vladimir Guerrero is like choosing between Elle Macpherson and Heidi Klum. One is an aging great who is still going strong, while the other has been among the best for a few years, but still has many great years remaining. The advantages of signing Sheffield over Guerrero are that it would not take as long-term of a deal, and he would probably cost a few million dollars less. As is the case for Vlad with Alou, Sheffield may be drawn to the Giants due to the friendship between him and Bonds. Signing either of these players would instantly give the Giants one of the strongest lineups in baseball, even with the holes left to fill at shortstop and first base.

J.D. Drew
vs LH vs RH Overall
2000 74.257.345.297 333.303.413.520 407.295.401.479
2001 83.289.371.530 292.332.426.637 375.323.414.613
2002 84.262.351.417 340.250.348.432 424.252.349.429
2003 55.218.306.418 232.306.390.534 287.289.374.512

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Brian Giles, reincarnate!

An has been the case for much of his young career, the underappreciated Drew was saddled with injuries this past season. Those injuries, along with Tony LaRussa’s refusal to put his potent bat in the lineup everday, meant that Drew only had 323 plate appearances in 2003, with only 61 of those coming against left-handers.

Taking budgetary concerns into account, J.D. Drew would be the perfect acquisition for this team. He mashes right handed pitching, which is a severe area of need for the Giants lineup. And looking at the period of 2001 to 2003, his platoon split is not weak enough to justify sitting him against lefties. Drew will be 28 years old this next season, and a player with his ability at his age should be playing every day. When healthy, he is capable of handling center field, which would allow the Giants to sit Grissom against right-handers. And if he does have some nagging injuries, his bat is valuable enough that the Giants could justify giving him time at 1B. And with Stan Conte, the best trainer in baseball, on my staff, I’d be willing to risk that the Giants can keep him healthy enough play on a near everyday basis. If I’m Brian Sabean, and I don’t have the money to go after Guerrero or Sheffield, then Drew is my first priority.

With the issue of how he would fit with this team resolved, the question is, how much would it take to get Drew in a Giants uniform? His injury history and LaRussa’s lack of faith make him affordable. With Pujols due for a huge contract soon, the word out of St. Louis is that the Cardinals may be shopping Drew in an effort to keep the payroll down. Rumors are floating around that a number of teams are sitting back and waiting to see if the Cards non-tender Drew, which would make him a free agent. Instead of playing this game, Sabean should be on the phone and finding out what it will take to get him in a trade. If Jocketty really is considering non-tendering Drew and letting him go for nothing, then it shouldn’t take much to acquire him. And if Sabean could lock up drew for $4-5 million for 4 or 5 years, it would be a risk worth taking.

Carl Everett
vs LH vs RH Overall
2000 132.348.411.515 364.283.359.613 496.300.373.587
2001 277.285.361.495 409.257.323.438
2002 283.283.350.459 374.267.333.439
2003 138.254.320.377 388.299.382.557 526.287.366.510

Hmmm... I never knew our favorite debunker of the myth of dinosaurs had such a strong platoon split. Well that just goes to show how wrong perception can be sometimes. Considering the Giants weakness in hitting RHPs, Everett looks like a pretty good fit for this team. Sure, he carries a lot of baggage, but the fact is, he can flat out hit. He would be a good fit for Pac Be... er, SBC's vast right field, and he's able to slide over to center when necessary. Much like Drew, Everett has something of an injury history. But while that's a knock against a player, it also makes him more affordable. Carl Everett would be a great fit hitting fifth against right-handers.

Jose Guillen - free agent
vs LH vs RH Overall
2000 229.275.331.437 316.253.320.430
2001 24.375.400.542 111.252.300.342 135.274.317.378
2003 130.315.371.554 355.310.355.575 485.311.359.569

Those 2003 stats are All-Star type numbers. Unfortunately, you can't put too much stock in them. Looking at Guillen’s numbers starting with the 2000 season, 2003 looks likely to be a statistical outlier. The improvement in OBP is completely attributable to his higher batting average. And with the average likely to fall back to the .285 range, that OBP will fall back to around .333 again. But there is some reason for optimism As a player just entering his peak power years, the slugging that Guillen displayed in 2003 may be a good sign. This guy was a monster when he was coming up through Pittsburgh’s minor league system, so this may be a sign that he’s finally starting to realize his potential. Nevertheless, giving a long-term contract to a player who hasn’t displayed any sustained success at the major league level would be a substantial financial risk.

Jose Guillen, at the price of around $3 million, would not be a bad signing. But he won't be a focal point of your team's offense. A signing of him would need to be accompanied by the acquisition of another productive bat.

Mike Cameron – free agent
vs LH vs RH Overall
2000 110.273.352.427 433.266.368.441 543.267.365.438
2001 136.301.388.566 404.255.340.450 540.267.353.480
2002 142.239.343.535 403.238.338.409 545.239.340.442
2003 147.286.365.442 387.240.336.426 534.253.344.431

With the possible exception of Darin Erstad, Mike Cameron is the best defensive center fielder in baseball. For that reason alone, Cameron is a worthwhile candidate for acquisition. The problem, at least on the surface, is that he hasn’t hit very much. But let’s look at a different split:

235/329/429 home
268/357/432 road

224/324/385 home
278/364/510 road

It appears that Safeco really sucks the life out of Cameron’s bat. If Cameron leaves Seattle this off-season, he may prove to be an offensive asset for some lucky team. Unfortunately for Cameron, SBC Park is probably the most comparable stadium to Safeco Field, so you couldn’t expect that home/road split to suddenly disappear where he to sign with the Giants. But as a right-handed batter, the likelihood is that there should be a sizeable improvement. As for how he fits on this team… Cameron’s presence on defense would help the pitching staff immensely. The only problem is how the team would handle Grissom. If Grissom were to become a platoon outfielder in right, then this could be a very good move. But if Grissom became an everyday corner right fielder, keeping his hacktastic bat against RHPs in the lineup, the Giants offense would suffer immensely.

An affordable three year deal for Cameron would be ideal if the Giants pursue him. He will be 31 this season, so there is a question of how long he will be able to keep up his phenomenal defense. Once his defense becomes league average, he is no longer an asset.

Shannon Stewart
vs LH vs RH Overall
2000 139.309.340.468 444.322.371.534 583.319.363.518
2001 117.333.397.479 523.312.365.459 640.316.371.463
2002 129.302.392.442 448.304.365.442 577.303.371.442
2003 139.331.389.504 434.300.357.445 573.307.364.459

Shannon Stewart is a good player, and a valuable guy to have at the top of your lineup. That said, he is not an MVP-caliber player, as some have foolishly argued this year. He played well after coming over to Minnesota in a trade for Bobby Kielty this summer, but he did not put up eye-popping numbers. Barring a move of Bonds to first base, Stewart is not a very good fit on this team. SBC’s right field is not a good home for a poor defensive outfielder with a very weak arm. Plus, Stewart's strong play on a division winner will likely cause him to be overvalued on the free agent market. So don’t expect this to happen. Nevertheless, imagine a lineup that begins like this:

Ray Durham
Shannon Stewart
Barry Bonds
Edgardo Alfonso

Adding another solid bat at 1B or LF (once again, if Bonds were to change positions) could make this a very potent offense. Stewart has some serious speed on the basepaths, so whenever he advances to second after Barry is walked, he would be a bigger threat than most players to score from second on a single. Minnesota, possessing a plethora of solid corner outfielders, needs to improve at 2B and SS. I predict that the Twins will defy logic and resign Stewart instead.

Raul Ibanez
vs LH vs RH Overall
2001 20.200.333.450 259.286.354.498 279.280.353.495
2002 373.300.363.582 497.294.346.537
2003 404.319.371.485 608.294.345.454

At 31 years old, Ibanez probably isn’t a good investment for anything beyond 2 years. He’s not particularly apt on the defensive side of things, so RF in San Francisco isn’t the most appropriate place for him. He could be a fit at 1B, but I worry that we may see a decline similar to what we witnessed with J.T. Snow a few years ago. And while the production Ibanez has provided for Kansas City the past few years has been impressive, I worry that his short history of success with the bat may not last much longer.

Jeromy Burnitz
vs LH vs RH Overall
2000 160.238.347.438 404.230.359.463 564.232.356.456
2001 401.262.369.519 562.251.347.504
2002 358.229.333.394 479.215.311.365
2003 328.235.299.503 464.239.299.487

No thank you. You’ve got to love his Isolated Slugging percentage (ISO = SLG-AVG), but Burnitz, who will be 35 next season, is a prime candidate to see a quick and sharp decline in his power numbers. And with that ugly OBP, I wouldn’t want him around my team when it happens.

Raul Mondesi
vs LH vs RH Overall
2000 74.311.386.541 314.261.315.519 388.271.329.523
2001 107.299.453.542 465.241.312.432 572.252.342.453
2002 135.244.346.496 434.228.295.412 569.232.308.432
2003 122.262.319.525 401.274.350.471 523.272.343.484

Ugh. I don’t consider Mondesi a candidate for job with the Giants, but I have this worry deep down that Sabean might. It’s not likely, but it’s just the sort of thing that would cause me to give up on the current management of the team. Yeah, he kills lefties. Whoopty-Doo. It’s not too difficult to find right-handed corner outfielders that can feast on southpaws. Luckily, Mondesi has something of a bad rep in the clubhouse, which by itself should be enough to keep the Giants away.

Juan Gonzalez
vs LH vs RH Overall
2000 114.360.403.579 347.265.315.481 461.289.337.505
2001 117.368.417.675 415.313.356.566 532.325.370.590
2002 81.358.384.580 196.250.300.398 277.282.324.451
2003 99.273.321.434 228.303.333.632 327.294.329.572

While Juan-gone has been overrated by baseball’s mainstream media for most of his career, he is still a very productive hitter. As has always been the case with Gonzalez, he doesn’t often step into the batters box with the idea that a walk is acceptable. But with an average that has generally hovered between .290 and .325 to go along with some very impressive power, Gonzales is still a good hitter to hit in the fifth spot, with the idea that he can drive in the high-OBP guys at the top of the lineup. For the purposes of filling out the 2004 Giants team, Gonzalez is an unlikely target. He’s not a very good defensive player, and he has proven to be extremely fragile in the latter parts of his career. Although the feeling isn’t mutual, he wants to stay in Texas. In all likelihood, Gonzalez will stay in the junior circuit where he can DH.

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