Waiting for Boof
Blog devoted to the San Francisco Giants
     Monday, November 15, 2004

Early Contender: If It Wasn't For My Horse Award, Free Agent Division

Twelve million dollars. Daaaamn. That's a lot of clams to throw in the direction of a 37-year old guy. Boy. Omar Vizquel was traded last year to the Seattle Mariners, but the trade was voided by Vizquel's inability to pass a post-surgery physical. The Giants will be paying $4M+ to a 40-year old shortstop, three years after he failed a post-surgery physical. Hopefully, this time he'll study.

If there is an imposing outfielder signed or traded for -- Beltran, Drew, or Ordonez are the only three free agents who would qualify -- this signing could benefit the Giants in the short term. Vizquel plays a good defensive short, and he could hit .290 with a fair amount of walks and speed in 2005. If the Giants improve the middle of the order, Vizquel can contribute next year. It's possible.

It's not my money. I mean, in a way it is. I'm a sucker for anything with a Giants logo, and the money from that $60 Giants harmonica keychain surely went straight to the team's pockets. That's not the point. In the grand scheme of things, I don't care if the Giants have a $6M payroll or a $600M payroll. They just need to win. If Omar Vizquel is making too much money in 2007, it really doesn't strike a chord of injustice in the pit of my soul. Good for him. If he doesn't take it, someone else will.

But, and this is a Russ Ortiz-sized but, vastly overpaying Vizquel can not affect anything else. There can't be a, gee, we would've loved to signed Actually Decent Player X, but, well, this Omar thing broke us. This is known in legal circles as The Edgardo Defense, and it can't happen with this deal. If signing ancient players in questionable health for millions of dollars is going to tie the team up, perhaps they shouldn't do it. Just a thought.

Brian Sabean was quoted as saying, "I'm worried about next year. The year after that and the year after that will take care of itself." In a way, that is how we all feel. If the Giants make the playoffs, few people are going to turn to their friends during the NLDS and say, yeah, but what about 2007? The length of the contract is an abomination, and the money is way too much. If the Giants can find another hitter to fill out the lineup, however, they'll be in better shape than they were to start last season.

Real Hitter

It isn't pretty, but it would be better than people would give it credit for. A problem with this is Beltran is not going to be a Giant. Henry Schulman, still the best beat writer around, writes the Giants are interested in Ordonez and Drew. Good. In the same stroke of the pen, he says the team is also interested in Danny Bautista, Steve Finley, Richard Hidalgo, and Jermaine Dye. Less good.

There aren't that many outcomes with this deal. Choose Your Own Adventure-style:
The team's budget is not affected by the signing, and Vizquel is injured or not productive. (Turn to page 41)

The team's budget is not affected by the signing, and Vizquel is healthy and productive. (Turn to page 45)

The team's budget is drastically affected by the signing, and Vizquel is healthy and productive. (Turn to page 62)

The team's budget is drastically affected by the signing, and Vizquel is injured or not productive. (Turn to page 68)

Page 41
Vizquel spent most of the year on the disabled list. When he wasn't injured, he hit .201. Deivi Cruz started a majority of the games. This didn't make a whole heck of a lot of difference.


Page 45
When Vizquel left the room, Sabean lifted a cushion of his couch. He pulled out a shiny quarter. Or, perhaps, several million dollars.

"I believe I will give Magglio a call after all," Sabean said. As he picked up the phone, he silently planned what he was going to wear during the ticker-tape parade down Market Street.


Page 62
As Vizquel left the room to rub gold dubloons all over his body, Sabean grimaced.

"Omar will be a good addition, but now I can't afford to get an expensive outfielder or reliever," Sabean said. He then signed a couple of hobos hanging out in a public bathroom. The hobos were drinking expired Listerine they found in a dumpster. Sabean then signed Danny Bautista. Several stock market analysts moved Market Street Confetti, Inc. from "hold" to "sell".


Page 68

The toilet was an old model, but it had no problem disposing of what Sabean was throwing in it.

"Take that, money," Sabean cackled. "Burn in hell."


Perhaps Sabean's first wife cheated on him with an anthropomorphic stack of money, and this is why he hates it so. Vizquel's contract only calls for $2.75M next year, which still leaves $7M to $15M in some mock budgets for 2005. Ye ship is not quite ready to be abandoned, as the team can still cobble a good team together for next year. There will be plenty of time to worry about the back end of this deal, but worrying about the short-term should wait until the roster is complete.

2) Deivi Cruz is not the same player as Vizquel. There is an argument to be considered that Cruz is likely to have a better offensive season than Vizquel. Their respective ages, for one thing. But a cursory look at both players' OPS isn't going to tell the story. Vizquel has a longer history of maintaining his average-dependent productivity than does Cruz. Vizquel is faster, and a fairly successful basestealer.

And there is the defense. Cruz has the range of Chris Speier -- today, that is -- and his arm is only average. A couple of defensive statistics seem to think Cruz is as good as Vizquel. Defensive stats are a wild, untamed Manifest Destiny for the statistical world. Win Shares disagrees with UZR, which disagrees with Adjusted Runs Prevented.

I have seen the stats, but not a whole lot of Vizquel. With this in mind, it would be inappropriate to make an uninformed endorsement of one shortstop's defense over another. It can't be done with my limited knowledge. The only thing I can write with any degree of certainty is that Omar Vizquel is a much, much, much, much, much better defender than Deivi Cruz. He is now, and he will be in ten years. If Vizquel shows up to camp in Lil' Brudder condition, he'll still be better than Cruz.

There was a moment when it was obvious the emperor, played by defensive statistics, not only had no clothes, but was clearly waving its wang in my face. It was upon a quick glance at the range factors of Mo Vaughn and J.T. Snow. According to range factor, which some people still take seriously, Vaughn has been better in the field than Snow over their careers. The only way to comprehend that last sentence without rupturing the fabric of space and time is to pretend "range factor" is a statistic used only by appliance companies to measure something to do with eating.

An ignorant dismissal of defensive statistics doesn't make the contract better, but it isn't insane to hope for Vizquel to be a good defender. Ignoring money, my roulette chip would go on Vizquel for the next season if it were a choice between him and Cruz. That doesn't make things right, but those plans to run the station wagon in a sealed garage might be premature.

posted by G at 2:03 AM

     Thursday, November 11, 2004
 The best rumor mill of the offseason, Prosportsdaily.com, has linked to a couple of Pedro Martinez stories which involve the Giants in some way. The only way the Giants sign Martinez:
Martinez's agent: Ned, I've noticed something funny in this contract we just signed.

Ned Coletti: Funny?

Agent: Yeah, there is an asterisk next to the words "$15 Million for three years".

Coletti: Hmm.

Agent: And then, in tiny print, it reads, "Amount may be paid either in U.S. Legal Tender, or in the appreciative hugs and kisses of children in and around San Francisco."

Coletti: Well, I'll be....

Agent: And then, in even finer print, it reads, "Our lawyers have determined each hug and kiss to be worth one million dollars."

Coletti: That's generous. I'd think they'd be priceless.

Agent: Uh....

Coletti: The more important aspect of the contract comes after all those clauses, actually.

Agent: Really?

Coletti: Towards the end. Last page. His signature.


Agent: Hello? Hello?

This does not qualify for Oscar-caliber drama yet, but wait until the twist:

A phone rings.

Coletti: Yello?

Pedro's Shoulder: Sproing!


Pedro would be nice for the short-term thinker, not as attractive for the long-term thinker. For all the talk of the rotation being set, a whole lot is riding on Noah Lowry and Brett Tomko sipping from the same magic canteen as last season. The only real way for the Giants to get Pedro is for him to settle for a serious second father-discount to reunite with Felipe Alou. Just like Vladimir Guerrero did last year, remember?

The rotation has been assigned a low priority for the offseason, which is probably the right thing to do. The Giants made a flurry of moves to retain a lot of the players with options. Down the line:

J.T. Snow

One of the easier decisions to make, it should be worth a couple of million to see if he's for real. If he isn't, he'll be able to come off the bench. Just because your comfortable old sneakers aren't worth anything, doesn't mean you shouldn't keep them. Also, it should be noted these sneakers were ridiculously good last year. Maybe they sprouted limbs and did your laundry for you. You can't expect your old sneakers to do your laundry for you forever, but it's worth a couple of bucks to see if they will. Still, a very good chance they'll just sit in a corner and smell.

Marquis Grissom

He was incredible in April, and then the Grissom we had a right to expect for the rest of the year. His biggest value -- turning into vintage Sammy Sosa against lefties -- remained intact, and he has built up the same reserve in goodwill bucks that Snow did. Still, the only way this move made sense was spelled out in the initial Chronicle article:
However, (the deals) were finalized only after Sabean gained assurances from some of the players, particularly Cruz and Grissom, that they would be satisfied to return in subordinate roles if the Giants sign or trade for the long-term solutions they seek at shortstop and center field.
As an insurance policy, Grissom is less than exciting. As a spot-starter who can handle centerfield and club lefties, he's a huge asset.

Deivi Cruz

As an insurance policy, Cruz is less than exciting. As a spot-starting shortstop who can handle second and handle the bat a little, he's...wait a sec. If there is no upgrade to short or center, the Grissom and Cruz moves are boring failures.

Brett Tomko

Tomko was as big of a surprise as Snow, and maybe he did benefit from his stretch-run against the Badnariks of the league. Still, he's worth the price to see if he's for real. When he's on, the dude looks real. Mid-90s fastball, 12-to-6 curve, and enough location to keep the hitters worried. When he's off, it's uglier than Tori Spelling after going ten rounds with...no, just Tori Spelling will do. He was an easier decision than Snow, in that there wasn't a Pedro Feliz lurking in his shadows.

A lot of questions were answered, but bigger ones remain. Grissom, Michael Tucker, and Dustan Mohr are all capable of playing centerfield, so the Giants aren't married to the idea of signing a centerfielder. However, Sabean has made a specific point about building around the position. The outfield contenders, after eliminating the sub-Mohr options:

Magglio Ordonez

He is more than an outfielder to some. He is the embodiment of that which has eluded the Giants for too long. The big bat behind Barry Bonds. The ol' five-bee. Scores of men have lost their lives searching for this creature, hoping for just a glimpse. Maybe a shadowy picture for future generations to debate. "It's a piece of driftwood floating in some godforsaken loch", some cry. "It's a legitimate protection-providing power threat," others retort.

Magglio would certainly be a good pickup. He doesn't fit into the Giants budget of nothing, but he'd be a good short-term pickup. He lost a good portion of this past year to injury, and is now 30. No general manager is looking forward to a 35-year Magglio, limping out his $15M finale. Not because that's fated to happen, but because it would be incredibly devastating if it did. Few teams can afford to brush off a Giambi-sized implosion.

Sabean is of a similar mind. His hands are bound by the relatively low-key amount due Edgardo Alfonzo. An eight-figure failure would resonate for years. Magglio's a nice thought in theory-land, but it ain't gonna happen. We'll know in 2010 if that's a good or bad thing.

Carlos Beltran

If Sabean is serious about building his post-Bonds team from the middle out -- meaning concentrating on centerfield, shortstop, and catcher as cornerstones -- Beltran is certainly leaning out the window of his speeding limo, pants down, hanging a full moon which lacks any notion of subtlety. He's not going to be a Giant. We all know this.

Even though he is everything any team could ever want in center, he is going to command a ridiculous amount of money. He hits, he runs, he fields, he switch-hits, and he's 27. Here is the post-Bonds cornerstone, folks. Beltran has more tools than the audience at a Puddle of Mudd show, and, by gum, he knows how to use them. He's likely to be another reason to hate the Yankees.

Steve Finley

"Steve Finley will never help the Giants in any capacity. Ever." - From Isaac Newton's, Laws of Motion: The Outtakes

Just how he would cripple the Giants is the question. Being on the team, he obviously wouldn't be able to hit .692 against them, as he has for his career. No, he'll have to be clever. The smart money is on a horrific outfield collision with Bonds, injuring both for the year. The scientific part of you should want to see what happens. The decent part of you whimpers at the thought.

He'll be a Giant, just a guess, and this will be the year he stops being any variety of good. He'll hit .230, lose his power in Pac Bell, and there will be scores of unsolved cases of babies stolen around the Bay Area. Satanic ritual is a good guess, but certainly not an educated one. Maybe he just likes to eat them.

J.D. Drew

Here he is, the sanctioned correct choice. He's injury-prone, sure. Really, really injury-prone. Really, really, really injury-prone. But injuries aren't a problem, so long as they don't affect a player's playing time or productivity. Yeah, that's the ticket.

Drew is in his prime, and his injury history is going to scare plenty of teams away. It would not be a bad idea to give him a huge contract, provided it was incentive-based. If Drew gets 500 at-bats, he'll likely be worth $8M. Less at-bats, less money. Don't tie the contract to stupid incentives, like RBI, because that'll scare Drew off. Just at-bats. That would place the risk of declining production in the Giants court, and the risk of injury in Drew's.

Juan Gonzalez, Jermaine Dye, and Richard Hidalgo

An interesting trio, to be sure. If Grissom could rise from the ashes, these three certainly could. Gonzalez wears out his welcome everywhere he goes. Will he get a contract close to the 8-year, $140 million deal offered by the Tigers in 2000? Only time will tell. Bad idea for anything more than one year, $3M. Great idea for anything less.

Having Dye and Tucker on the same team might fulfill some Taoist prophecy, but Dye isn't likely to be the answer any more than Tucker was. Hidalgo is almost identical to Dye in his balance of upside/downside. In a perfect world, the Giants sign both for less than $1M, and hope one works out. If the Giants sign either, it will be a surprise. Depending on the contract, either would be an high-risk, high-reward move.

Moises Alou

As Bonds' caddy for 150 at-bats, he's welcome on the team. On a Bonds-less team, he'd be worth trying to squeeze out another productive year in left. He is no longer a good defender. Cubs fans froth at the mouth describing his baserunning.

As a starting right-fielder, he's a story told around a campfire with a flashlight and bad acid; if Chernobyl had anything to do with nepotism, this would be its legacy. In both the short- and long-term, Dustan Mohr would be a much better gamble to take.

Jeromy Burnitz

Why is this guy being taken seriously? Because he hit .283 in Coors Field? He was great in Coors, but on the road he was Michael Tucker. We have one of those, thank you.

So there is the option to overspend for the better part of the decade, at least. After that, there is the option to cross your fingers and hope to salvage a career on the cheap. And then there is sweet, sweet Drew. Perhaps we should save the appreciative hugs and kisses for him.

Gently though, children. Gently.

Quick note: A new Giants-centric blog is up and running here. It seems to be on the Fogball side of the statistical velvet rope, at least at first glance. Check it out.

posted by G at 10:29 PM



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