Big League Dreamin’

Well, I learned the answer to a question I thought I’d never have to ask yesterday morning: What does -50 degrees feel like? The answer: About how you’d think it would… way too cold. There aren’t many guarantees in life, but there is one thing I’m sure of: Montana will never make national news for weather. It’s dangerously cold out here, but we just go about our lives like nothing’s changed. Snow day? There’s no such thing. Another thing I’ve learned during my time in Big Sky Country; spend a year in Montana, and you’ll be prepared for just about anything life throws your way. I’ll be headed for the Golden State on a work trip in a few weeks, and it can’t get here soon enough.

But this is a baseball blog folks, not a “KG’s life story” blog. And boy, could I sure use some baseball in my life right about now. We’ve spent so much time on the prospect front lately, I think it’s about time we get back to the 25 men who are the envy of every minor leaguer in the organization. This isn’t really intended to be a formal post, but more of a place to chat about a few things that have been on my mind lately. It may seem a little random, but try to stay with me here.

The Big Question

The big question everyone seems to be asking these days is, “Did the Giants do enough this winter?” There’s definitely some major disagreement on the part of the fanbase regarding Sabean’s offseason work, but there’s also a good chunk of the fanbase who would fire Sabean in an instant. Most of that crowd doesn’t hang around here, which is just fine by me. Honestly, how can anyone actually tell you a team did or didn’t do enough before a Spring Training game has even been played? I don’t think they can.

When I look at the overall body of work Sabean and his staff put together this winter, I see every major roster hole filled. Maybe you have an issue with the individual players who they signed to plug those holes, but it’s hard for me to be overly critical when the only position battles in camp are for bench and bullpen jobs. There are certainly other teams in baseball who would like to have that kind of certainty this time of year.

Weaknesses

For me, the key to this season will again be depth. And I do feel like that is still an area of weakness, despite Sabean talking so much about it during his end-of-year press conference. I really don’t know how much more could have been done about the starting rotation (I’m not going to nitpick the Lincecum and Vogelsong signings), but the Giants just don’t have an Archie Bradley or Jameson Taillon sitting in AAA right now ready to move in at the first sign of trouble. Between Petit, Huff, Kickham and Escobar, there should be enough options in case one of the regulars hits the 15-day DL. If someone suffers a more extensive injury like Vogey did last year, then you may have to start looking at trade options. Obviously, you can’t plan for things like that.

When I talk about depth, the two areas that concern me the most are the infield and bullpen. I really think this roster could have used another proven reliever, so guys like Hembree, Kontos and Machi would have been battling for one spot rather than two. Another MLB arm, lefty or righty, would have really tied things together. There are a couple kids lurking in the minors like Derek Law and Josh Osich, but I can’t envision either of them in San Francisco before mid-season.

I also would have liked a more reliable option to take time off Scutaro’s hands at second. This is really where I feel the front office didn’t do enough, as the options were certainly out there. Shankbone talked very early on in the offseason about the Dodgers’ utility guys that would hit the market, and I certainly thought the Giants would have looked at one of them. As it went, those guys didn’t stay unemployed for very long. The A’s scooped up Nick Punto in a hurry, the Cards brought in Mark Ellis to provide Kolten Wong insurance, and Cincinnati plucked Skip Schumaker. Any one of those guys would have been a good fit for the Giants, and probably could have seen plenty of playing time. Even the Dodgers – after losing all three of those guys – got back into the infield market recently by giving Justin Turner a minor league deal. He was a non-tender guy, and it wouldn’t have taken much to bring him in for a look.

These are certainly small problems to have in the grand scheme of things, but I do think there will come a time this season when depth will be an issue again, and the lack of proven options off the bench might come back to haunt the front office. The Giants just have too many players with injury history to ignore that possibility. At that point, maybe a trade or two would need to take place. We’ll see how that all plays out.

Posey’s conditioning

Have you seen the pictures of Buster from the commercial shoots and Fanfest? Wow, he looks good. There’s been all kinds of talk about his offseason regimen, building strength to get through the grind this summer. Well, he certainly looks bigger to me, both in his arms and upper body. He’s supposedly up to 215 lbs now, and I have no problem with that. Personally, I think he’s as upset as anyone about what happened last season. When he was needed most to pick things up (in the second half), the production just wasn’t there. Buster seems to be one of those guys for who it only takes one time to learn a lesson, and his poor second half was likely a wake-up call. I’m looking for big things from him this season. He’s a leader on this team, and the Giants will go as he goes in 2014.

Final Word

Sorry if this seems a little scattered, I know it’s a little different from most of my posts. But there are so many things to catch up on right now, so many different storylines to discuss. Rather than writing one exasperating post, I figured I’d break them up into some smaller ones, touching on three or four topics each time. We’re less than a week from pitchers and catchers reporting, and the days are moving slower. If you’re like me, you need some baseball chatter this time of year to keep your spirits up.

So, hit me with some feedback. Did the Giants “do enough” this winter? What are the weak areas of the team? What are you expecting from Buster this year? Feel free to chime in, and I’ll be working on a few more of these to get us through next week. As always thanks for reading, and stay warm… it’s chilly out there. Seriously, seriously chilly.

Buster Posey

(Sfgiantsphotos.mlblogs.com)

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18 thoughts on “Big League Dreamin’”

  1. KG, there’s a commenter on Giants Extra with the handle dgg. He’s up in Montana also. You two should go out for a pint, small state that Montana is.

    as for Sabean’s moves, I think he missed the mark on upgrading the rotation. He’s betting a lot of money that Lincecum can command his fastball. Hudson’s getting good money coming off a bad injury at an advanced age for a pitcher. I don’t know how much Vogey has left in the tank. This 3-5 in the rotation can all rebound and be effective and keep the Giants in contention, but there’s non-insignificant chance that they take some lumps.

    In the ideal scenario,
    I would have punted the pick for Jimenez. Signed Josh Johnson and Bronson Arroyo. Still risky, but the upside for Jimenez and Josh Johnson seemed too god to pass up.

    1. Hmmm…I’ll have to stop over there and see what this dgg character is all about. Odds are I’ve probably crossed paths with a relative of his at some point. That seems to be how Montana logic works anyway!

      I can’t fault you for wanting more out of the rotation. I guess I can understand why Sabean went with the 3 that he did. Maybe it’s irrational, but I’m excited about Hudson. I think he’ll be a steady presence in the rotation. Don’t mind the 2-year deal. I don’t mind bringing Timmy back either, although that money likely could have been spent to snag a bigger piece. I do think he (Timmy) is committed to becoming a more consistent pitcher. He’s not a kid anymore, and he knows what success looks/feels like. I think he’s more of a competitor than we give him credit for… but he needs to prove it.

      Vogey is probably the one that I would have upgraded, especially after they declined the option. Maybe Sabes could bear the thought that Ryan might go to Pittsburgh or some place and beat the hell out of the Giants for the next two years… Kidding, but that’s the spot I could have gotten on board with a Haren or Josh Johnson 1-year deal. The only thing I wouldn’t have advocated for is punting the pick. I probably value that pick more than the next guy/girl. Will it help win games in the next couple years? No, but I think the organization will be glad they held onto that thing for years to come…

  2. I think the season hinges on the Starting Rotation. It could be very good if everybody bounces back as expected/hope for, but that is a lot of ifs. 3/5’s of the rotation needs significant improvement on last season and Huddy needs a full recovery from his horrific ankle fracture.

    Personally, I didn’t see anyone on the FA market that is a lock to be better, so I’m not saying they should have signed FA player X, Y or Z. I don’t think there were any great options out there. Still, I think the rotation is shaky and is the crux of the 2014 season.

    1. DrB – as I told Ryan, I would have been in favor of a Haren or Johnson signing to take the 5th starter role, but the timing of those two signings really didn’t work in the Giants’ favor. It seemed that the Giants were in talks with Hudson while the Dodgers were working on Haren and the Padres on Johnson… so there probably wasn’t a realistic scenario where the Giants signed two of the 3 pitchers anyway.

      Considering that each of the 3 signings (Vogey, Timmy, Hudson) were 2 years or less, and didn’t cost a draft pick, I think the front office was successful in putting the rotation together this winter. I expect nice things from Hudson, and I believe Lincecum does have the potential to log sub-4 ERA’s again. But you are absolutely correct in that there are a number of questions around this group. They have a lot to prove, and hopefully they’ll use that motivation to their advantage. There’s no real way of knowing at this point, obviously.

      1. Yup. I was just going to add that I am pleased that they did not go over 2 years on any of the pitcher contracts. With the flotilla of pitching prospects in the pipeline, no sense in plugging it up with a bunch of long term deals that could go south.

      2. I saw those today… for all the negative Giants reviews from the pundits this winter, the projections are sure looking good. Honestly, if the pitching staff can stay healthy, I do expect them to be in contention.

  3. I’ll go back to the Jimenez deal. Lose the 14th pick, but pick up the comp pick from LIncecum’s departure. Not so bad. Since we’re still in hypothetical realm, go back and lose two more games and get the protected pick (I think it was just 2 losses).

    Haren, Hudson, & Arroyo seem pretty interchangeable. But Bumgarner, Cain, Jimenez, Johnson & Haren would have been most ideal because Johnson and Haren are both on 1 year deals and Jimenez has some beastly upside – and his price is really looking good right now.

    But hey, GM’s can’t operate in a vaccuum. Sabes felt he had to make his moves early.

  4. Nice post, mostly agree.

    I see your point about MI backup, but the consequence of signing someone is that we lose Adrianza. I really like his bat and love his defense. All the defensive metrics rated his short stint in the majors as being above average – if you average the three, he saves 1.5 wins per season, and that is roughly what Oliver projects for him. So even if he’s replacement level as a hitter (and he probably adds something with his base-running too), which is really low, he looks like he can add 1.5 wins just on defense alone. So that’s why I’ve been pretty adamant that we don’t pick up anyone MI.

    Plus, I think that Panik is getting close enough to being ready for his chances too, should Scutaro goes down. Again, he’s not going to be a great or even good replacement, but he’s kept his K% on the low side while staying right around 1.0 BB/K, which is great, at each level, which is what the better hitters do. I am happy to have two such players as depth behind Scutaro.

    If Adrianza had another option year, yeah, definitely would have loved to see the Giants pick up someone, but, again, not at the cost of losing Adrianza.

    1. To answer your questions, as noted, I mostly agree.

      I think the Giants did enough. I disagree with those who don’t like picking up Hudson. Not only is he a proven pitcher, but I don’t see why he won’t heal properly, (unless a doctor knows of other health factors that we are suppose to worry about) plus the Giants have plenty of experience rehabbing broken ankles (see Posey). He with Cain and Bumgarner creates the trio Aces that the Giants have built up their good rotations in 2009-2012 on.

      In those years, Zito was mostly OK average, our 4th starter in performance, so that is really all we need from Lincecum to build another rotation as good as 2009-2012. He was that last season, so unless you are foreseeing him to regress to 2012 levels (quite the opposite, I think he’s ready to return to goodness), he’s at least OK average and fills that role quite well (even cheaper in money than Zito :^).

      Lastly, the Giants never had a rotation of good pitchers in 2009-2012. There was always a 5th starter (usually starters) who was not that good. That give the Giants a spot in the rotation to try to see if Vogelsong can rebound to 2011-2012, but if not, then they can shift to Petit, Escobar, and if anybody in AA surprises, and still have a great team ERA/RA.

      I expect Buster to bust out, because he ain’t having 2013 again.

      The only weakness I see is Morse in LF, but he seems to be healthy and Bochy is a pro at getting hitters to be at their best (study found that hitters improve by 1 WAR under him when acquired), but even if he falters, we have Blanco in place plus I would have no problem starting Brown because of his defense. I like that they took a wild swing for the fences, if Morse is even close to before, that will boost up the lineup, but if not, Blanco would be pretty good there platooning with Perez. And by then, we could trade a pitcher for a coming free agent LF.

      1. Thanks for the comments OGC. I do think, as you say, that Hudson will be a very nice #3 this season. Unless his age catches up with him and he completely nosedives (which seems very unlikely considering his career), I see him pitching to an ERA in the mid 3’s. That will do just fine for a mid-rotation starter.

        In regards to Adrianza: I feel that I have come around to him more than anyone over the span of a year. This time last winter, I’d all but written him off as a prospect with any future. But then I looked a little closer at his offensive stats. He also held his own in Fresno, and did show some impressive poise in his brief MLB action. I just think the timing is not ideal, especially now that the Giants have signed Arias for 2 more years. Arias is an above average defender, and in my opinion he does just fine with the bat. Ehire would likely take more walks given a full season of AB’s, but I don’t know that he could make as much contact as Arias. Ultimately, they both may end up on the 25-man together anyway, but I think only one of them is really necessary. Sure, I’d probably take Adrianza for his potential value down the road, but I’d really only prefer to have one of those two on the roster, with another proven player with a more proven offensive track record to spell Scutaro. To each his own, I guess.

      2. I really like Dr B’s point about the rotation–it’s rare for the Giants (or any team) to have all five starters clicking on all cylinders for a whole season. In 2010, they had four (all but Zito) and again in 2012 (all but Timmy–and then they used him brilliantly out of the bullpen). To get through a season with a good record, you really need four. To get through a postseason you need three.

        The big screaming problem of 2013 was only ONE consistent starter (Bum), joined by Cain in the second half. Timmy was about #4 level, and Zito and Vogelsong were–well, you know. This was offset a bit by Gaudin and then Petit being pretty good injury fill-ins, but by then the damage was done–the bullpen was gassed and the offense got burned out from the pressure of always trying to dig out from holes the starters put them in. If the rotation stabilizes, the whole team will.

  5. It’s cold here in Oklahoma as well. I love Adrianza. It think the MI will be just fine and I am glad that Ehire being out of options forces the hand a bit so we don’t have to see Abreu. I may be a homer but I think the Giants will have a great year with 94-96 wins. Bulked up Buster and slimmed down Pablo should have thier best years as pros. I am optimistic about Belt and Morse hitting 20 bombs each and I think Hudson and Timmy will be two of the better # 3-4 pitchers in baseball. The key to the season in my view will be Matt Cain. Matt needs to pitch like a true #1 and keep the ball in the park. I’m not as worried about Vogelsong as I think he can be replaced by Petit early on if he falters and by Escobar by mid-season.

    1. Hey, thanks for stopping by RBJ. Stay warm out there. I don’t think you’re a homer. Nothing wrong with some confidence this time of year. 94-96 wins would be a great season indeed. I’ve been a little back and forth about things this winter… I’ve probably just had too much time to sit and think about it. But you are correct, if the middle of the lineup hits like they can, Cain pitches like he did in the 2nd half, and even one of the Tim combination puts up solid mid-rotation numbers, this team will have a very nice shot at the playoffs. In my mind, that’s the goal. If they can get into the postseason, I’ll take our guys against anyone else. I do think it’s realistic, but I also think there are many things working against them this year. I guess you could say that about all 30 teams in baseball if you wanted to!

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