Sunday, March 25, 2012

Analyzing the San Francisco Giants' Off-Season Moves: Part 1

Many people have asked me throughout the off-season, what I've thought about the Giants' moves. In short, I've said "I'm pretty okay with them. I like what they did, but I think they could have done more." This is my in depth analysis of those moves. I'll rate every move on a +/- scale between 1-5 with how much I think it will help or hurt the Giants.

Anyone that remotely followed the 2011 San Francisco Giants (which is nearly everyone around the Bay Area since they were coming off their first world title since moving West in 1956), knows that their chances at the playoffs essentially ended May 25, 2011 when Marlins' utility man Scott Cousins bowled over Posey in a bang bang play at the plate. Everyone has their opinions on that play, which I think was a perfectly legal play that had a horrific result, but this post isn't about that night. To compound matters, the Giants lost their clutch hitting second baseman Freddy Sanchez on June 10. A friend of mine were at that game and sitting about 30 rows back on the third base side when the injury occurred. We could hear Freddy Sanchez scream, and knew that it wasn't going to be a "one game missed" type of injury. No, in effect, the Giants' season was slowly imploding on itself, as for the rest of the season we'd see Brandon Crawford, Orlando Cabrera, Mike Fontenot, Bill Hall, Emmanuel Burriss, and a few others all try to plug the middle infield spots. The Giants ended the season four games out of the Wild Card race and Giants' brass knew some changes had to be made. That leads us to the moves they made:

October 2011
After watching the Texas Rangers implode in the World Series against the Cardinals, the Giants' watched quite a few of their 2010 championship players choose free agency instead of trying to work out deals to stay with the club. Here are those players:
- *Carlos Beltran (It was assumed he was a rental all along so this wasn't a shock. He signed a deal with the World Champion Cardinals where they'll look to him to help plug the huge hitting hole that Albert Pujols has left)
- Pat Burrell (He just didn't put up numbers in 2011 and the Giants' respectfully told him to look for a job elsewhere. He actually ended up retiring.)
- *Orlando Cabrera (I understand why the Giants signed him last season, but he wants more playing time than he was going to get in San Francisco. I actually looked all over and can't find where he went)
- Mark DeRosa (DeRosa spent most of his time in a Giants' uniform on the DL, and just as things looked promising for him, he hurt himself at the plate in what looked like a career ending injury. A quick Google search shows that he's in camp for the Washington Nationals this year, though.)
- Guillermo Mota (Mota's actually back with the Giants this Spring, but he opted for free agency at the end of the 2011 season.)
- Cody Ross (All the chants of "Co-dy! Co-dy!" had died out at AT&T Park during the 2011 season as Ross came back to Earth and played like the utility outfielder that he is. Understandably the Giants told him they were going in a different direction and he looked elsewhere. He signed with the Boston Red Sox who are hoping to avenge one of the greatest September collapses in MLB history.)

* Neither Cabrera or Beltran were on the 2010 World Champion Giants, but they were key free agents that the Giants weren't able to resign this season.

I understand why all of these players chose free agency. The Giants were coming off a disappointing season, and players go where the money is. With the organization loudly talking about how they are/were going to keep Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain long term, it doesn't take a mathematician to figure out that will leave little room to sign big name players like Beltran.

The Giants also activated Buster Posey and Freddy Sanchez from the Disable List in October but that's because the Disabled List goes away at the end of the season.

November 2011
In November the Giants mostly just added minor leaguers to their squad. However, they made a move that I don't understand....they released CF Darren Ford (who is now playing for the Seattle Mariners).

It was quite obvious that Ford was never going to be a .300 hitter, or a Gold Glove outfielder, but speed on the base path is like a lefty specialist out of the bullpen. You don't just give it up for nothing. Any true Giants fan will tell you Darren Ford is a big reason the Giants got to the playoffs in 2010, when he came in to pinch run in the 9th inning, stole second and third, and scored on a wild pitch. Honestly, none of us were ever going to tell our grandkids anything about Darren Ford except for that one game in September of 2010. I still think San Francisco should have tried to get something for him, even if it was just a minor league player. Losing the speed of Darren Ford is a -1 for the Giants.

December 2011
December 7: The Giants trade CF Andres Torres and RHP Ramon Ramirez to the New York Mets for CF Angel Pagan. 

My mother was not happy with this trade because Torres had become one of her favorite players. She may be the only one. Torres had a dream season for the Giants in 2010, but explained to everyone why it took until he was 30 years old to crack the big leagues for good in 2011. He swung at everything, and didn't hit anything. There was also this problem:

Torres getting on base in 2010: "Yes! Now we'll get a stolen base and have a runner in scoring position"
Torres getting on base in 2011: "Please don't get picked off. I know we're all taught how to run bases in little league but you keep getting picked of---oh wait, you got picked off again."

It was brutal to watch. Here are Ramon Ramirez's 2011 stats: 3-3 record, 2.62 ERA, 4 SV, and a WHIP of 1.17. Those aren't bad stats when you go down the stat line, but I distinctly remember being worried that we were going to give up leads every time he entered the game. I'll miss him more than Torres but not enough that I'm disappointed he left if it meant we could get Pagan. Essentially, we got a better, younger (albeit only by 3 years) version of Andres Torres and didn't give up much to do it. Let's say +2 on this one.

Then Eli Whiteside and Jeff Keppinger were forced into free agency when the Giants non-tendered their contracts.

The Giants had Buster Posey coming back this season, Chris Stewart still around, and promising up and coming Hector Sanchez in the minor leagues at the catcher position. Rookie Brandon Crawford, utility man Mike Fontenot, and injury prone Freddy Sanchez were all they had for middle infield depth. They knew what had to be done. they signed Eli Whiteside. I'll never defend this move. This was awful. Let's break down the two players more.

Buster Posey - injured but RotY and definite starter when he comes back
Eli Whiteside - can't hit and spent all last season dealing with an elbow injury
Chris Stewart - can't hit but has one of the best arms I've seen in a long time
Hector Sanchez - needs more time in the minors but looks promising

Eli Whiteside has no business being on that team. Posey can catch most days, and when he's playing first or resting, you play Stewart. If by some freak accident, both are unable to catch, you have Pablo Sandoval who came into the league as a catcher so he can back up. Whiteside just takes up space on a team that has enough trouble hitting already without carrying a career .218 hitter.

I already outlined the problems the Giants have at the middle infield spots. Let's also take into account that Keppinger was the only hitter that reliably put the ball in play for the Giants. How can you carry four catchers...and 3 middle infielders? Especially when two are Sanchez (who's career looks to be seriously in jeopardy) and Crawford (who could probably benefit from another season in AAA). The idea that Whiteside is who the Giants needed, and not Keppinger, will always leave me dumbfounded. That's a -3 in my book. (Keppinger is now with the Tampa Bay Rays)

For those of you keeping score at home: we're at -2 right now.

The Giants also signed 2B Joaquin Arias in December, who I don't know enough about to judge. His stats aren't horrible though. (In 113 games, he's a career .276 hitter with 23 RBI. His BB/K of 6/19 is pretty horrendous though.)
The other move they made was signing RHP Eric Hacker who has only pitched five games at the big league level over three years. Again, not enough to judge.

And that's where we'll end tonight. I went through the final three months of last year with you guys tonight, and next time I'll bring us up to date.

With the Giants losing the offseason battle right now by -2 in my book, I can tell you things get better. Look forward to the January-March post coming soon.

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