Giants Deal Ramon Ramirez and Andres Torres to the Mets for Angel Pagan

The Giants have made their first move of the 2011 Winter Meetings as they have agreed to send CF Andres Torres and RP Ramon Ramirez to the New York Mets for CF Angel Pagan.  This seems to be a great deal for the Giants, as they traded a good relief arm, which they are over-flowing with, and a soon to be 34-year-old CF, who the were going to non-tender anyways, for the 30-year old CF, Angel Pagan.

Torres was completely overmatched at the plate in 2011 (.221/.312/.330), showing that his amazing and inspirational 2010 season was most likely a fluke.  Torres began showing his age last season, as leg and foot injuries limited his time on the field.  With the November addition of Melky Cabrera, Torres became a candidate to be non-tendered, thus making this essentially a Ramirez for Pagan swap.

Ramon Ramiez was very good out of the pen during his year-and-a-half stint in San Francisco.  He posted outstanding numbers last season, boasting a 2.62 ERA and 1.17 WHIP, with 66 strikeouts in 68.2 innings pitched.  Ramirez is very durable, but seems to be more comfortable as a 7th inning guy.  Ramirez is still young enough where he can be of value to the Mets, but with the Giants committing serious money to Affelt and Lopez, and Heath Hembre being close to taking over a prominent bullpen role in the bigs, the Giants did not want to pay upwards of $3 million to retain Ramirez in 2012.

By bringing in Angel Pagan, who like Torres is a switch hitter, the Giants fill some of their major needs.  They obtain a starting CF and potential leadoff hitter, which allows Melky Cabrera to slide over to RF. and bat in the lower half in the lineup. which should really help the Giants.  Pagan also fills a huge void on the bases (32 SB in 2011), where the Giants ranked 24th in the Majors last year with only 85 stolen bases as a team.  This move also makes sense, as like Cabrera, Pagan is in his last year of team control and will not block top prospect, Gary Brown (CF).  This will give the Giants a chance to give Cabrera and Pagan a one-year look, and a chance to offer one of them a contract offer to play RF in 2013 (and possibly beyond), if they choose they are worthy.

This seems like a great move for the Giants, as they have improved their offense, team speed, and defense, without giving up a major piece of their organization.

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Giants Having Discussions with Free Agent SS Alex Gonzalez

Rumors have begun swirling about the Giants having contract discussions with free agent shortstop Alex Gonzalez, and while these may just be rumors, this seems all too typical of Brian Sabean.  Alex Gonzalez, who will be 35 by opening day, is a veteran shortstop who is limited on defense at this stage in his career and refuses to draw a walk, as his career .291 OBP suggests.  Gonzalez is coming off a very poor season in which he hit .241 with an anemic .270 OBP (22 BB in nearly 600 plate appearances).  While he does have some pop (15 HRs in 2011), he makes his living hitting mistakes up in the zone.  Given the spacious ballparks in the NL West and his age, his power will more that likely take a serious dip in 2012 and beyond.

Hopefully Sabean has learned from his past mistakes of throwing piles of money at senior citizen shortstops like Edgar Renteria (minus the 2010 World Series heroics), Miguel Tejada and Orlando Cabrera.  Sabean should either pony up for younger, better options such as Jose Reyes or Jimmy Rollins, or give the job to Giants farm hand, Brandon Crawford.  Crawford, like Gonzalez, doesn’t offer much on offense, but he has the potential to be a gold glove caliber SS at the league minimum salary.  At a position where offense is a luxury, Sabean should give the job to Crawford in 2012 and see what he can do.

Great News: Bloomquist Doesn’t Choose the Giants

Sometimes the best move a team can make is the one that never happens.  All you have to do is look back at last offseason when the Giants were throwing too much money, and too many years, at 2010 playoff standout, Juan Uribe.  Uribe, feeling disrespected, took the Dodgers “lesser” offer of 3 years, 21 million dollars (win-win for the Giants), and managed an abysmal slash-line of .204/.264/.293, while also spending time on the DL.  The Dodgers get to live with that contract for 2 more years still, as Juan gets further away from his prime years.  Since the Giants actually offered Uribe more that what the Dodgers did, you can file this one under dumb luck.

The Giants were not so lucky when they again thought with their hearts and offered an outrageous contract to the aging Aubrey Huff last offseason.  Huff was coming off an outstanding 2010 season and played a huge role in the Giants winning their first World Series in San Francisco.  This is when the Giants should have thanked him for his service and allowed another team to overpay the guy.  With Huff being a type-A free agent, the Giants could have netted both a first round and sandwich round draft pick when Huff signed elsewhere, which would have been an outstanding consolation prize for the Giants farm system.  Instead, the 33-year-old veteran ended up signing a 2-year, 22 million dollar deal, and managed to produce a horrible year at the plate (.246/.306/.370), all while blocking the Giants top prospect, Brandon Belt.  I bet the Giants wished they had an extra $11 million to throw at one of the elite free agents this year.

This offseason it appears that the Giants may have been bailed out again, as their generous offer to career 33-year-old utility man, Willie Bloomquist, was not taken.  Bloomquist instead took his career .264/.317/.337 slashline back to Arizona, where like Uribe, he took a lesser offer.  I can only assume that Bloomquist would have been penciled in as the Giants everyday SS, where he was barely serviceable in his prime, and been the equivalent of a ten-times-more-pricey Brandon Crawford at the plate.

General Manager, Brian Sabean, needs to focus more on signing free agents who are coming into their prime, as well as utilizing his own top prospects.  Until he does that, you can expect more deals targeting players who are on the wrong side of 30.