Baseball’s annual Winter Meetings are over. No more TV cameras trolling the lobby at the Anatole Hilton in Dallas. No more drunk reporters hanging out in the bar fantasizing about married life. No more fake scoops by insecure beat writers to one up each other. (OK, that last one probably isn’t true. They’ll still be doing that.)
The San Francisco Giants didn’t sign Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Jimmy Rollins, or C.J. Wilson. But I think we all knew going in to this week that none of those players would be standing at a podium with Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy wearing a Giants jersey and cap.
What was somewhat surprising is that San Francisco made virtually no attempt to retain Carlos Beltran, who they traded blue chip pitching prospect Zack Wheeler for back in July.
I would have liked to see the Giants make an attempt to get more ROI from Wheeler (and shore up an atrocious offensive unit) by getting Beltran back in a Giants uni.
All of this talk about sticking to a $130 million budget in 2012 is disheartening to fans like you and me, who chunked out hundreds of dollars on Giants tickets, parking fees, Panda hats, $10 beers, and anything with a World Series patch on it to see our beloved team last season. The Giants sold out all 81 home games last year (and an additional 12 games if you count the Bay Bridge Series and the final 10 games of the 2010 season).
Based on how fast “limited” tickets sold on “Black & Orange Friday” a couple of weeks ago, I’d say the front office doesn’t have too much to worry about in 2012, either.
So why not add another $10-$15 million to the $130 million budget and get a guy like Beltran? (Pssst. Here’s a hint, Giants fans: I’m no CPA, but I’m pretty sure the more you line up on the expense side of the P&L ledger, the less profit you make at the bottom of the sheet.)
So, the Giants left Texas without a big bat in tow.
Sabean & Co. weren’t exactly MIA, though. In fact, I’m probably one of the few (if not ONLY) Giants bloggers who thinks the team did improve itself this week.
Let’s start with the Angel Pagan trade.
As I mentioned on Mike Silva’s radio show in New York the other day, I think the Giants upgraded their centerfield position from Quick Time 6.5 to Quick Time 10 by dealing an aging Andres Torres to the Mets for the younger and speedier Pagan.
Torres — as nice a guy he is — will likely never replicate the magical season he had in 2010. You know it and I know it. Torres personified the Giants’ 2010 marketing slogan — “There’s Magic Inside.” But he’s a one-trick pony and now we’ve got ourselves a Crazy Horse in Pagan, who will use his blazing speed at the top of the Giants lineup and in center field to continue what Torres started in 2010. I really think he has a good chance to lead the NL in triples and stolen bases this year.
Here’s how I see it…..
- Base hit by Pagan.
- Pagan steals second.
- Freddy bunts him to third.
- Sac fly by Panda.
- 1-0 Giants.
- Rinse and repeat.
He’s also a terrific clutch hitter. In fact, one of his biggest clutch hits of the year came against Vogelsong — a two-run homer on July 8 that gave the Mets the lead in a 5-2 win over the Giants at AT&T Park. (And yes, he swiped a base in that game, too.)
Don’t be dismayed by all the talk about Pagan’s 10 errors in New York last year, either. He has incredible range, whether he’s going back for a back, going lateral, or coming in. He’s truly one of the best defenders in the National League.
Pagan, who logged 200 innings at all three outfield positions in 2010, had a 5.4 WAR (Wins Above Replacement), fourth-best among all NL outfielders. He was second in the league in Runs Saved (20), and led all NL outfielders with a 93 OOZ (Out Of Zone Plays) rate. He’s got a very strong arm, too, finishing second among all NL center fielders with a 2.8 ARM rate.
Some have lamented Pagan’s baseball acumen, saying he made a lot of mental errors for the Mets and didn’t always hustle after every play. Which is what makes this the perfect “change of scenery” trade. He’s in a contract year and is coming to play for a team for which his former teammate, Beltran, gave a glowing endorsement. Plus, he’s reportedly in terrific shape.
The Giants’ bullpen took a hit by packaging Ramon Ramirez in the deal and, yes, that hurts. But look at it this way: Nobody expected Ryan Vogelsong to do what he did last season (or what Torres did in 2010). Guillermo Mota or Santiago Casilla probably won’t be confused with Vogey or Torres anytime soon, but I’m confident that a solid, right-handed arm in the ‘pen will emerge. This could be the year we see Heath Hembree make his Major League debut. Trust me, people, he’s a good one.
Sabean also all but assured that youngster Brandon Crawford — ready or not — will be the team’s starting shortstop on Opening Day by staying away from a slew of free agents shortstops that were linked to the Giants, including Rollins, Alex Gonzalez, Yuniesky Betancourt, Jerry Hairston, and Hiroyuki Nakajima. Hell, even Edgar Renteria‘s name came up this week in Dallas.
I’m totally content with Crawford manning the left side of the infield, I really am. He showed us that he has Major League leather, if not wood. Just how well he performs at the plate remains to be seen. If he bats .240 or higher, I think the Giants can live with that.
I’m also content with the club’s decision not to keep Cody Ross. I know he’s another fan favorite (particularly with my wife), but he’s another “change of scenery” guys who will do much better in 2012 anywhere else but here.
San Francisco will look to have recently-acquired Melky Cabrera (who’s also entering a contract year), Nate Schierholtz and, presumably, Aubrey Huff fight for the other two outfield spots (I’m saying Pagan is an everyday player). Emmanuel Burriss will also get some time in the outfield in 2012. For all the pomp and circumstance surrounding Torres’ departure, I haven’t read too many fond farewells about Cody. So let me be the first: Thank you, Boss. Thank you for being a part of San Francisco’s first World Series title. Thank you for finding your power stroke when it mattered most. And thank you for being an all-around likable guy. Did I mention my wife loves you?
Lastly, the Giants didn’t lose anybody in the Rule 5 draft, so that’s a plus. And they snagged a guy with a plus fastball, Luis Rojas, from the Mets in the Rule 5 draft. So there’s that.
All in all, I’d say the Giants were mostly quiet this past week, but made a couple of moves (and non-moves) that will ultimately be looked back on as significant ones. So I give Sabean a “B” — as in Black Ops. Because like Brian Wilson, Sabes was sneaky efficient — and those chalupas never happened.
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