Though this Giants team is only one year removed from their first World Championship in San Francisco, it appears that they are in need of an offensive face-lift. Their anemic offense wasted one of the greatest team pitching performances in their history in 2011, and the Giants need to find a way to capitalize on it during this lucrative window of opportunity. The trick is for them to be able to do so without a surplus of young Major League ready bats, and without the willingness to increase payroll. Here is what I suggest the Giants do to make a legitimate run at another World Championship:
The starting staff comes into the offseason pretty well set with Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, Vogelsong, and (gulp!) Zito all under team control for the 2012 season. The Giants also have Minor League pitcher Erik Surkamp if needed, so starting pitching depth is not only the strength of the team, but it is extremely deep as well. With Surkamp probably needing a little more seasoning at AAA, and Zito needing to be nowhere near the rotation, the Giants should look to the FA market to land their number 5 starter. It’s strange to fathom that this Giants team should be spending more money on their already dominant starting staff, but with Jonathan Sanchez being recently dealt, adding another good arm would be money well spent. I feel that a nice fit for their rotation would be Edwin Jackson. Still under 30, Jackson always seems to be overlooked and undervalued (seems he gets traded every month). He is still young, throws constantly in the upper 90s, has thrown a no-hitter, and shouldn’t be overly expensive. I say the Giants could land him to a shorter deal, something like 2 years/14 Mil with a third year team option. Jackson would thrive pitching in the spacious parks in the NL West and facing some of the softer hitting lineups around the NL. This would give the Giants a very formidable starting 5, even if Vogelsong takes a step back this year. Vogelsong and Jackson both have been able to rack up innings in the past, but with Cain, Lincecum and Bumgarner eating around 700 innings, they will not have pressure to do too much.
I still am not really sure why the Giants elected to pick up Affeldt’s $5 million option when they easily could have declined the option and signed him at half of that price. If he decided to go elsewhere, they could have simply signed another solid LHP, or went the cheap route and used Dan Runzler in that spot for the league minimum. Runzler could have been the long man, throwing mop-up innings like Mota, and been used as L H specialist like Affeldt for one-tenth of the cost. While I’m not a huge fan of giving relievers multi-year deals, I am ok with the resigning of Javier Lopez. The guy has been money for the Giants in a season and a half, and he is very useful come playoff time against the likes of a Howard, McCann or Utley.
I think the Giants should definitely offer arbitration to Ramon Ramirez, as he is a durable 7th inning guy, and they should call up minor league flame-thrower Heath Hembre. Hembre could instantly step into the 7th or 8th inning role, and is the obvious in-house choice to one day replace Brian Wilson. Hembre was unbelievable this year during stops at San Jose (Hi-A) and Richmond (AA), posting a 1.86 ERA, 1,14 WHIP and 38 Saves while striking out 78 in just 53 innings. With Hembre up on the big squad throwing 99 MPH darts, and Romo and/or Casilla ready to close things out, I feel the time is now for Wilson and his beard to go. I would trade Brian Wilson and his $8.5 million dollar salary to the Marlins for 1B/LF slugger Logan Morrison to fortify my offense with someone who can hit for power and get on base. The Marlins will get a good closer and someone to help keep fans in their new ballpark. Trading Wilson may be a nightmare PR move at first, but it will ultimately better the team. Closers are immensely overrated and if they could land a young, middle of the lineup masher for a guy who throws 70 innings a year, it’s a move they have to make.
With the additions of Logan Morrison and Melky Cabrera already under their belts, the Giants no longer need to worry about signing overpriced big bats. Unless something crazy happens and Rollins becomes a bargain, I feel Brandon Crawford is the Giants every day SS next season. While he will be lucky to hit .230 next season (and possibly for his career), he is a potential elite SS with the glove and will save many of the hits that he doesn’t provide on offense. Getting Buster Posey and Freddy Sanchez back will be huge for the Giants who lacked hitters who could work the count and use the entire field last season. Belt would be my starter in Left Field as he is the better defensive option out there over Morrison, who will be at 1B. Belt is a .300 hitter with 20 HRs waiting to happen, and with regular playing time (let him play Boch!), 2012 could be the year.
Although Keppinger did struggle towards the end of last season, I would offer him arbitration and use him as a utility guy off the bench. With Ross leaving via free agency, I would sign Grady Sizemore to a one-year, $5 million deal with incentives, and plug him into RF. This would allow Nate Schierholtz to go back to his more comfortable spot as a defensive replacement and pinch hitter. Playing a corner spot would also go a long way to keep Sizemore healty, and they could still use him occasionally to spell newly aquired Cabrera in CF. It would also allow star prospect Gary Brown to get a half-year in both AA and AAA before being called up in September and taking over in CF full-time in 2013. I would not tender Whiteside a contract and keep Chris Stewart as my backup catcher since he is great on defense and halts the running game. The bench would be greatly fortified with 11 million-dollar-man Aubrey Huff, and a guy to mash LHP in Brett Pill.
This team should be vastly improved on offense and even a little on the starting rotation (who would have thought) while coming in with a team salary, even after arbitration and contract raises, just around what it was the previous year. Avoiding the big free agent signings will also allow the Giants to keep all of their 2012 draft picks, as they attempt to fortify a slowly depleting farm system. Here is how the 2012 opening day roster would shape up with these changes:
2012 OPENING DAY ROSTER:
1) Grady Sizemore RF
2) Freddy Sanchez 2B
3) Logan Morrison 1B
4) Buster Posey C
5) Pablo Sandoval 3B
6) Brandon Belt LF
7) Melky Cabrera CF
8) Brandon Crawford SS
9) Pitcher’s Spot
Aubrey Huff 1B/LF
Brett Pill 1B
Nate Schierholtz RF/LF/CF
Jeff Kepinger 2B/SS/3B
Chris Stewart C
So what do you think? Please leave a comment to let me know (click comment bubble at the top of the post)…