Waiting for Boof
Blog devoted to the San Francisco Giants
     Monday, October 27, 2003
 

The Outfield



Assuming for a moment there are SBC scientists working on grisly ways to insert Jose Cruz's knees into Ellis Burks' legs, which should be a given, what about the problem of Burks' advancing age? He wasn't much of a hitter last year, so the whole plan is pretty much shot. Imagine though, Cruz waking up in a bathtub full of ice, with a note reading, "We have taken your knees. Seek medical attention." I'd watch that movie. Even more so if Burks made a metallic, Lee Majorsy "sprrroing" sound every time he jumped.

The saga of Dr. Clemente and Mr. Maldonado isn't going to continue in San Francisco. I'm not going to place all the blame for the combustion of the 2003 Giants squarely on Cruz's shoulders, but I would have liked to see what would have happened if he had caught that ball. Or hit the other balls. Or locked himself in his bathroom, several days in a row. Forgetting the sordid details and moving on, this is not a bad offseason to be shopping for a right fielder. There are two great hitters on the market, with the Yankees likely to add only one. Though Gary Sheffield did play third base at one point in his career, which could foul everything up.

The only problem is the number of right fielders available is proportional with the number of vacancies. Even worse for prognosticating, teams happy with their right fielder could want someone for left field. Or a team losing a center fielder, like the Mariners, can just shuffle their outfield to fit the free agent. There are also about ten teams who could make securing an outfielder their top priority as easy as making it their last.

The Giants are somewhat flexible, in that Marquis Grissom can move to right if they pursue a center fielder. This lets in the possibility of Mike Cameron, or Kenny Lofton. The Giants are looking for more offense from the position, according to Brian Sabean, which might mean this is the spot they are looking to spend their limited reserve.

Here is a list of all the major league teams, with my best guess as to whether they're looking for an outfielder or not. My notes as to why I think certain teams may or may not be in the market are at the bottom.

The Contenders

Who: Vladimir Guerrero
How: Free Agent
Why: He's young, and the kind of special talent a team could build around. Bonds isn't going to be the best draw in town forever, and the team could use Vlad as a transition. He considers Felipe Alou one of his closest friends. It makes a lot of sense, damnit, just listen to me!
Why not: Jose Canseco was also one of these special young talents, which is to say there is no sure thing, and this team can't afford to eat $100 million on an injured or underperforming player over several years. The Giants don't do risks well.

Who: Gary Sheffield
How: Free Agent
Why: He can hit. Also, he's totally good friends with Bonds. Imagine when Sheff gets caught passing a note to Bonds, and Felipe Alou makes him read it in front of the whole team! It's totally going to say something like, "Kirk Rueter's wife is HOT!"
Why not: He's going to be expensive, and isn't getting younger. His defense is passable now, but it could be ugly in 2007. I get the feeling he's not going to turn down top dollar just because he and Bonds are canasta buddies.

Who: Jose Guillen
How: Free Agent
Why: He's always had the latent talent according to scouts, and he's a very athletic player coming off a breakout year.
Why not: It's sensible to be suspicious of the one-year wonders. Also, Guillen's strenght is hitting left-handed pitching, which is not a weakness of the Giants.

Who: Raul Ibanez
How: Free Agent
Why: He was a very good hitter in 2001 and 2002, and is a left-handed hitter.
Why not: He was marginal in 2003, and doesn't have the best defensive reputation. He's likely to be overpriced.

Who: Carl Everett
How: Free Agent
Why: Comedy. He can hit a little, too. In a perfect world, he'd platoon with Grissom to make a Voltron-like beast among center fielders.
Why not: Even if the Giants can stomach his famed volatility, which is a big if considering the value the front office places on chemistry, his price might be too high for his talents.

Who: Juan Encarnacion
How: Likely non-tender
Why: He's an average hitter, though a little weak for right field, and actually has hit right-handed pitchers better over his career. He's also fast, and can play good defense.
Why not: He makes a ton of outs, and would probably be a step down from Cruz.

Who: Mike Cameron
How: Free Agent
Why: His road stats from 2001 and 2002 suggest he's a fine hitter hurt badly by the acres of Safeco Field. His defense would be perfect for Pac Bell.
Why not: He's another hitter who hits lefties better, making him a poorer fit with the Giants. He won't be cheap, either.

Who: Brian Jordan/Reggie Sanders/Rondell White
How: Free Agents
Why: Not-too-distant glories
Why not: Injury prone, the lot of them, and questionable peaks even when healthy.

Who: Ben Grieve
How: Free Agent
Why: He's still young, and it sometimes pays to give second chances to players who seemingly lost all their ablities overnight.
Why not: He fields like Glenallen Hill, provided Hill ate the worm out of a questionable bottle of tequila first.

Who: Juan Gonzalez
How: Free Agent
Why: He has generally been overrated over his career, but he's always been a good hitter.
Why not: He'll cost money, and has always been wary about switching leagues. He probably wouldn't come to he NL.

Who: Raul Mondesi
How: Free Agent
Why: He's never had a great, or even good, on-base percentage, but he has above-average power. Throughout his career, his 2002 season is the only single season which would really disappoint me from a Giants right fielder in 2004.
Why not: He's surly and doesn't get on base. He also falls in the same category as Guillen, as far as his platoon splits are concerned. Also, he made $13 million last year, so he'll probably want a raise.

Who: Matt Stairs/Jeromy Burnitz
How: Free Agents
Why: Left-handed power.
Why not: They really shouldn't be starters at this point. If Burnitz and Sanders would agree to battle for playing time, it would be interesting, but just barely.

Who: Kenny Lofton
How: Free Agent
Why: His on-base skills are largely intact.
Why not: His defense isn't, and his lack of power would only be acceptable if the Giants put a Sexson-like hitter in one of the other holes.

Who: Todd Linden
How: Farm System
Why: He's cheap, and probably the future. And check out his dominating stats this year!
Why not: Oh, you actually checked. Probably not ready this year, to say the least.


Any of these outfielders could go to any of the teams with a hole. The Yankees could lust after Sheffield and Vlad, or they could sign Luis Castillo and Miguel Tejada, and move Soriano to center and Jeter to third. The Giants could sign Mondesi, or they could finish a brilliant misinformation campaign by signing Vlad. What the Giants do with this vacancy largely depends on what they do with the first base vacancy, which depends on how the market plays out. There are other trade possibilities, such as Richard Hidalgo or J.D. Drew, but it is doubtful the Giants would want to spend the money or the talent to trade for an outfielder.

Next week, filling out the rotation.

posted by G at 12:49 AM





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     Tuesday, October 21, 2003
 

Shortstops



For all we know, Rich Aurilia stands to inherit the fortune of a wealthy baroness aunt. In a twist of delicious irony, the will could stipulate that Aurilia live in a haunted mansion for five years after her death in order to receive the money. The mansion could be on Nob Hill, forcing a reluctant Aurilia to accept a below-market contract from the Giants.

Which is all just a fancy way of reporting the starting shortstop for the 2003 Giants will be Neifi Perez. The Giants are losing gobs of liquid money. In the time it took you to read that sentence, the Giants lost over $506 million. The money fans put down for World Series tickets is the only thing keeping the organization solvent right now. I'm sure when the Giants are able to catch up on their bills, they'll return the money with interest. It's doubtful the Giants are going to add a shortstop when they have one already under contract, considering the, ahem, financial woes of the team.

How bad is Neifi? I don't know. He killed the team as the only left-handed bat off the bench, but he is a very good defender. Depending on which metric you use, he could be a great defender. At various points in his career, he has led the California League, Pacific Coast League, and National League in total chances, putouts, and double plays. It's a lot easier to accurately gauge offensive worth, but there just might be something to the idea of having a great glove at short, and punting offense at a position.

That written, Neifi is a bad hitter. Very bad. Rap him on the back of the head with a rolled up newspaper, rub his nose in the awful mess bad. Bad, bad, bad. He wasn't as abysmal this season as he had been the last two, but, brother, he's not good. If the Giants substantially upgrade rightfield and first base, Perez wouldn't single-handedly kill the offense. As an eighth-place hitter who can generally make contact while refusing to walk, he has some potential hitting in front of a pitcher with two outs. However, if the Giants don't upgrade the offense elsewhere, it's going to get ugly.

The front office obviously anticipated a much different market last year for free agents. Perez's two-year, $4 million deal is probably the strongest anti-collusion argument that exists. It was a mistake contract, and one the Giants are surely regretting. A trade market for a $2 million Neifi Perez doesn't exist, unless the Giants pay a portion of his salary, but if Aurilia comes back on the cheap, it isn't out of the question.

The replacement options on the free agent market are less than inspiring, with virtually no one available in trade. Most of the shortstops who would improve on Aurilia are likely to be way overpriced. Here's a list of all the teams in the majors, broke into various categories of shortstop need. Considering the list, there is a chance Aurilia could come back.

The contenders

Who: Rich Aurilia
How: Free Agent
Why: He is an average shortstop offensively and just below average defensively, and that has value on a team looking to balance an offense around Barry Bonds. If Aurilia will settle for a one-year deal, there will be several teams who could jump into the bidding, but he should get better offers. If he wants a two-, or three-year deal, he should be in the Giants price range. Two years, $6 million wouldn't break the bank, and it might be the best offer he gets.
Why not: He isn't going to get better, and is a good bet to get worse soon. His range and bat are slipping. A three-year deal would be a mistake.

Who: Miguel Tejada
How: Free Agent
Why: He's a good young player.
Why not: He's waaaay out of the Giants price range. He'll get a huge deal for a team looking for a franchise player, which Tejada isn't. The Giants have a franchise player, even if only for the next couple of years.

Who: Orlando Cabrera
How: Free Agent
Why: He's established himself as someone comparable to Aurilia, but with better defense and youth on his side.
Why not: He'll get a four-, or five-year deal and will be out of the Giants price range. He does come with risks, and is no guarantee to perform at a .290/.340/.450 level.

Who: Neifi Perez
How: Already here.
Why: He can play defense, and the Giants are going to pay him anyway.
Why not: There are rumors he can't hit.

Who: Kaz Matsui
How: International Free Agent
Why: He is supposed to be Orlando Cabrera with sprinkles, offering doubles power, triples speed, and good defense.
Why not: He'll get a big contract if he decides to come to America, one much too rich for the Giants' tastes. He has never had the best batting eye, and that could catch up with him at a more advanced level.

Who: Tony Batista
How: Free Agent
Why: He has power, I guess.
Why not: He had an awful year in 2003, and was moved off short for a reason. It would make sense for a team like the Pirates or Expos to gamble on him, but not a team looking to contend right away.

Who: Rey Sanchez, Rey Ordonez, et al.
How: Free Agent
Why: No reason, really.
Why not: We already have one of those.


It seems like the Mets and Dodgers will fight for a piece of the Cabrera/Matsui/Tejada pie, with a possibility of teams like Seattle, Colorado, or Baltimore sneaking in. The Giants aren't likely to veer from the Neifi path unless something falls into their lap. Aurilia's agent isn't just throwing darts at The Sporting News and calling up random teams; he knows there aren't too many teams willing to give him a multi-year deal. The biggest competition for Aurilia will come from Colorado or Baltimore by my amateur calculations, but they should be looking at Cabrera as well. Aurilia could sneak back on the team, and that would be great, so long as they find two left-handed bats for the bench to make sure Neifi isn't the one pinch-hitting against John Smoltz in the NLCS next year.

Next week, the rightfield contenders.

posted by G at 10:23 PM





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     Monday, October 13, 2003
 

Lukewarm Stove Action



So, it has come to this. A lone nerd in the wilderness, hunkered over a computer, trying to compute the salaries for the Giants under contract for 2004. The veterans with the multi-year deals are easy enough to figure out, but the youngsters and arbitration-eligible types aren't as clear cut. I've spent a little less than two hours trying to find comparable players to Pedro Feliz and Joe Nathan, in the hopes of gauging the impact their salaries would make after an arbitration hearing. Then it occurs to me, the difference between a wild-assed guess pulled after several tumblers of Jack Daniels, and a guess made after calculated research can probably be measured in hundreds of thousands of dollars. A million or two, tops.

Welcome to the reality of offseason baseball. A time where Jim Brower's arbitration figure, and its impact on the composition of next year's team, is deemed interesting to even one human being. That person certainly isn't me, so I'm hoping one of you out there speaks up.

The other side to the offseason -- wishcasting and mock roster construction -- can be somewhat appealing. Less so if your team has just screwed themselves out of a chance at a World Series title, but still the best topic out there. As I write this, I've noticed the hardworking staff at Westwood Blues just beat me to a lot of the points I was going to make. I have no problems being redundant, nor do I have reservations about being redundant, so I'll just soldier on as if I'm the only blogger in the world. The Westwood faction should note that if not for a screening of Predator on Telemundo last night, they would be the ones making the consolation post. Harumph.

The Giants are spending about $59.1 million on a core of 10 players. They retain the rights to eight others, five of which are eligible for arbitration. I think. The arbitration rules for baseball involve terms like "service time", "accruing", and "the first bloodletting past harvest moon nigh", so I might be a tick off on Chad Zerbe's eligibilty. The salaries for the core can be found here. The youngsters and arbitration-eligible types, with speculated salaries, are here. I anticipate only minor changes from these 18, as it is doubtful any will price themselves out of the Giants market, though one from the Eyre/Christiansen/Zerbe pool could be traded or released. The total will be around $64 million for 18 players, if the Giants choose to keep Herges. Robb Nen's $9 million absolutely kills this team, and could be the difference between Vladmir Guerrero and Ben Grieve.

Of the free agents the Giants have, I'd rate them like this:
Decent chance of coming back:
Hermanson
Galarraga

Back only if the salary is right:
Snow
Hammonds
Young
Ponson
Herges
Aurilia

Don't let the door hit your ass on the way out:
Benard
Worrell

Actually, wait, let the door cause physical pain before leaving:
Cruz, Jr.


That leaves six or seven roster spots for:
Starting 1B
Starting RF
Starting SS
Right handed reliever
Fourth starting pitcher
Fifth starting pitcher
Bench players


The labels will change if Brower is made a starter, for instance, but the idea will remain. The wild world of offseason speculating and unrealistic roster construction begins with first base. I'll include only players of a realistic nature, though it's tempting to conjure up ways for Peter Magowan to dip into his own pocket for Carlos Delgado or Mike Sweeney.

The Possibilities
Who: Derrek Lee
How: Trade
Why: He's right-handed and powerful, a combination which would help the Giants in Pac Bell. The Marlins have Miguel Cabrera, Mike Lowell and Jeff Conine all under contract for next year.
Why not: He'll probably get $5-6 million in arbitration, which would eat up a good chunk of the remaining budget. That wouldn't be too ridiculous for a free agent, but the Giants would have to give up some real prospects as well.

Who: Richie Sexson
How: Trade
Why: Dude's good.
Why not: He's even more expensive than Lee, both in actual money and quality of prospects needed to obtain him. If the Giants go for the money-be-damned route, which they are most certainly not, he's available.

Who: J.T. Snow
How: Free agent
Why: He isn't Lance Niekro or a full-time Pedro Feliz. There aren't going to be teams beating down his door, with most teams set at first base. He'll be a late addition to a non-contender if he holds out for money, if last winter is any indication, so he could come cheap. He also saves 3829 errors from his infielders each innning. Look it up.
Why not: He is just barely mediocre as a hitter, and that's in his "on" years. If he were to be absolutely terrible next year, no one would be surprised. He's an option only if his price is $1 million or less, and only for one year.

Who: Pedro Feliz
How: Already here
Why: He's cheap. Some in the organization believe he has potential. He did fine against right-handed pitching for the first time in his career, which does bode well for his future. If the improvement is for real, and he does better against lefties, he would be a great choice for the price.
Why not: I'm not sold. His improvement against righties could be a statistical blip. His upside isn't as good as his downside is ugly.

Who: Scott Spiezio
How: Free agent
Why: We could scream obscenities at him for 81 home dates. He is similar to Snow in his tolerable talent-to-cost ratio.
Why not: In his best year, he was just a warmed over J.T. Snow. Pac Bell would chew him up.

Who: Rafael Palmeiro
How: Free agent
Why: He's old, but he can still hit.
Why not: He's expensive and he wouldn't come to the N.L. That's enough of that pipe dream.

Who: Travis Lee
How: Free agent
Why: There are worse people to take a chance on. Maybe.
Why not: He has a long history of being worse than Snow, which isn't good for anybody. If the eventual choice is Feliz, Lee would be a decent guy to have in a glass case for an emergency.

Who: Eric Karros
How: Free agent
Why: coughcoughhackhackgaggagaggagag
Why not: Just because.

Who: Fred McGriff and Robin Ventura
How: Free agents
Why: "Hey, I've heard of that guy!" There's a slight chance they aren't finished.
Why not: They're finished.

Who: Javy Lopez
How: Free agent
Why: He's versitile enough to catch, and he had a tremendous season.
Why not: He's not as good as he was, but he'll be looking to get paid like he is. He'll be some team's Greg Vaughn in 2006.

Who: Doug Mientkiewicz
How: Trade
Why: He's Snow with a higher average, and he's a known quantity
Why not: He's about to be paid more than he's worth through arbitration, and he'd cost some talent as well.

Who: A random minor league six-year free agent.
Why: Cost.
Why not: Sabean would sooner stick Tony Clark at first than a free-talent type, and I don't blame him all that much. The minor leagues aren't exactly ripe with free talent right now. One exception might be Fernano Seguignol, who hacked his way to AAA glory this year. It'd be a mini-coup if Sabean got him, if only as evidence Sabean can find unconventional solutions for holes in the starting lineup. He's made benches from players like Felipe Crespo, but he's unlikely to gamble on a player to step right in and start.

I'm going to hold back on deciding on my choice, as well as my prediction, until I can survey the rest of the positions. I'm leaning toward starting Feliz, and picking up a Travis Lee-style player to back him up, if not platoon. I'm not geeked about the idea, but it would work if the saved money was applied usefully.

Next week, the shortstop contenders.

posted by G at 9:53 PM





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     Monday, October 06, 2003
 

It Will Never End, Will It?....

1)
"He knows how to find the twisty compensation in this business of losing, being a loser, drawing it out, expanding it, making it sickly sweet, being someone carefully chosen for the role." -- Don DeLilo, describing a distraught Giants fan in Underworld

"So it goes." -- Kurt Vonnegut

"Baaaa. Baaaaaaaaa. Munch munch Baaaaaaaaaa." -- Jose Cruz, Jr., among several others


Of course. I was looking to the second round. Boy, I sure wouldn't want to lose to Dusty. Man, the Braves hitting scares me. After Jason Schmidt's beautiful Game One performance, I started to drift. Even as Sidney Ponson demonstrated that his net worth would be eventually measured in draft picks, there was no reason to be scared. If the Giants could have won just one in Florida, they would have set up a Game Seven in San Francisco, with Jason Schmidt starting. The Marlins could have rustled up all the Josh Becketts and Juan Pierres they wanted, there was no way the Giants were going to lose that game.

Infielders boot grounders. It happens, maybe as often as every couple of games. For Bill Buckner or Tony Fernandez to commit a costly, series losing error is beyond unfortunate, but it isn't a freak occurance. It's like the roulette wheel stopping on green 0; you almost forgot the possibility existed, limited your outcomes to red or black, and having the harsh reminder come after you are already broken. Dropping a flyball like Cruz did, though, now that's special. That's a feral cat covered in honey jumping onto the roulette table, and leaving with thousands of dollars in chips stuck to its fur. It just doesn't happen. There's Snodgrass' Muff, a play from almost one hundred years ago which is still remembered by name. After that, nothing. I'm probably forgetting something like Claudell Washington losing one in the lights, in that crucial series in '83, against the team his team needed to beat, but I'm willing to reckon there just aren't that many comparables. Brant Brown dropped a fly ball in 1998, allowing to Brewers to win a wild game, which could have cost the Cubs a playoff spot. Neifi Perez hit a homerun for the Rockies against the Giants, sparing Brown from infamy. That chowder-like substance sploshing around your ankles is irony. No, wait, humiliation. Either or, really.

Not that Cruz's error was the only thing preventing the Giants from advancing to the NLCS. No, no, this was a group effort. No one could knock runners in except for Edgardo Alfonzo, and no one could field. The bullpen was the Wendy's Value Menu Chili in situations which begged for Immodium A-D. The starting pitching wasn't what was expected from a team which won 100 games.

One hundred games. Damn.

Still, Cruz's error was the defining moment of the series. I was driving over the Siskiyou Mountains, desperately trying to latch onto a radio signal. "Phssszzzzzzzt......Conine pops it up......phsszzzzztttzzzzt.....Cruz is under it.......ffffffffttt....ops the ball!......fphszzzz...t the hell happened there?" Worrell then walked the next batter, and then, as Krukow would say, it was time to wake up and pee; the world was on fire.

Why can't this team just lose? Why do they have to write the greatest chapters in the history books of other teams? Stupid Angels. I mean, Marlins.


2) There was no reason to start Jason Schmidt, even before the extent of his injury was fully known. Jerome Williams was going to start a series-deciding game. Schmidt has rarely pitched on short rest, so there was no guarantee he would have been the same pitcher we saw in Game One. The second-guesser's chorus was silenced by the news that Schmidt's tendon was basically a buzzard-gnawed piece of prosciutto, and I suppose that's a good thing. I don't think you can be in favor of starting Schmidt in Game Four if you weren't in favor of him starting Game Five as well. Or Games Two or Three, both. No one knows how he would have responded to the short rest, but either you accept the fact your best pitcher is only going to be able to pitch two games in the series, or you're in favor of him starting every other game.

Maybe Jerome Williams would have been more focused/relaxed/effective/whatever at Pac Bell, and that would have been worth the risk involved in using your best pitcher in an unfamiliar situation. Doubtful, but somewhere short of ridiculous. Now, imagine this: Jason Schmidt, fully rested, pitching in Pacific Bell Park for a series-deciding game. That's the best situation the Giants could have hoped for, in any round.


3) I almost went back to doing a daily blog for the playoffs, but it wouldn't have made much sense with my inability to even watch most of the games. One thing I'm upset I didn't get to, however, is the ridiculous, asinine, gawdawful roster construction. Twelve pitchers for a five game series? If Alou fought for that, he needs to retire. Jason Christiansen and Scott Eyre each faced one batter in the series, which makes sense, as the Marlins lack a single left-handed batter worth worrying about. The ever-so-important fifth starter, Dustin Hermanson, pitched an inning. Three pitchers, four games, less than two innings. Of course, the series came down to the Giants not having a pinch runner for the ninth inning, with Eric Young collecting cobwebs. J.T. Snow, lumbering around third, lopsided wagon wheels falling off and spontaneously combusting; now that's an image that'll make you take steel wool to your retinas.

That Alou carried five bench players into the playoffs, in a short series, is a disgrace, and maybe the worst managerial decision made by a Giants manager in the past twenty years. Starting Livan Hernandez over Rueter for Game Seven was defensible, even if only for the wrong reasons of what Livan was in 1997. Pulling Russ Ortiz after 80+ pitches in the seventh inning of Game Six was dumb, but the bullpen had held their ground all year. They had earned the trust. Dragging Jim Brower, Hermanson, Eyre, and Christiansen all into a five game series shows an utter lack of strategy and baseball acumen. I've supported Alou this year, even when others were getting down on him for his lineup construction, but he needs to go if his input was the primary force in shaping that roster.

Can we still sneak Greg Bruso back?


4) The trade for Sidney Ponson is basically a horrible failure at this point, pending the success of the compensatory picks the Giants will recieve. I was for the Ponson trade at the time, and I still agree with it to a point. It all came down to what kind of pitcher you thought Ponson was. I was sold, thinking he had turned a corner in his career, and was the best available pitcher. As it turns out, he wasn't Pedro Martinez, and giving up a chunk of the future for any less is likely to hurt. He won't be back, and I'm not sorry at all. I reluctantly feel that way about a lot of players. Jose Cruz wasn't a bad player, just the worst possible player for the worst possible time. I don't know if I ever want to see Tim Worrell in a crucial situation again, either. The Giants have a lot of decisions to make, but most of them should be obvious.


5) I'll start on the monotonous parade of off-season wishcasting, and fanboy roster construction next week. Topic one: How I Plan To Spend Other People's Money On Gary Sheffield and Javier Vazquez. Only about 100 days until 2004. Sigh.

posted by G at 11:50 PM





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