This is part of a series of posts in which we call out all 30 teams for their wily offseason moves and tragic offseason blunders.
The Giants are a team accustomed to winning. Hitching a piggy-back ride on the burly, steroid enhanced shoulders of Barry Bonds, the Giants had 8 winning seasons in a row from 1997-2004, never finishing lower than second place in the NL West and always either making the playoffs or remaining in contention until the season’s final days.
But as goes Barry, so goes the team, and as Bonds has struggled with injuries, age, and legal woes the past two seasons, the Giants stumbled to two consective third-place finishes in two consecutive losing seasons.
So coming into this offseason, the Giants knew what they had to do. Naturally, the had to sign a new Barry to carry them to new heights of glory and victory. But just to be safe, they re-signed their old Barry as well.
Clearly, it’s going to be all Barry, all the time for the Giants in 2007, as Barry Bonds closes in on Hank Aaron’s all-time home run record to jeers across America, and Barry Zito tries to justify recieving the richest contract ever given to a pitcher in baseball history. In a symbolic passing of the torch from Barry to Barry, Zito took over Bonds’ role as Paula Abdul in the Giants spring training version of American Idol. The result was no less terrifying, as you can see.
But the Giants are going to need all the distracting Barry-related sideshows they can get, as they are unlikely to win many victories on the field. With one of the oldest starting lineups in the major leagues (average age: 36), the Giants desperately needed to get younger this offseason. Letting 40-year-olds Steve Finley and Moises Alou leave as free agents was a good start (although there was no way in hell Alou was going to return after his father got the axe), but then the Giants responded by bringing in a host of fading, injury prone geriatics like Rich Aurilia, Russ Ortiz, Ryan Klesko, Bengie Molina, and Dave Roberts.
While Zito will certainly give a boost to a fairly solid rotation, he basically just replaces departed ace Jason Schmidt, and meanwhile the rest of the team–guys like 85-year-old Ray Durham and 90-year-old Omar Vizquel–are going to be another year older and another year slower. Alou’s .301 batting average and 22 homers are going to be sorely missed in the heart of the order, as there is no way that Dave Roberts and Ryan Klesko will be able to duplicate that kind of production. Amazingly, Aurilia of all people is penciled in to bat third.
In short, this is a 76-win team that didn’t improve at all in the offseason, and probably got worse. This is bad news for longtime GM Brian Sabean, whose job is reportedly hinging on the Giants’ showing this year. It’s going to be a long, tiring summer for Sabean and Giants fans, as well as for the rest of America, as we are forced to watch one of sport’s all-time greatest villains pursue, and in all likelihood break, its most hallowed record.
Offseason Grade: C
Acquisitions: Barry Zito, Dave Roberts, Rich Aurilia, Bengie Molina, Ryan Klesko, Russ Ortiz
Losses: Jason Schmidt, Moises Alou, Steve Finley, Shea Hillenbrand, Mike Stanton, Tim Worrell
Projected Lineup, Rotation, and Closer
CF Dave Roberts – .293/.360/.393, 49 SB
SS Omar Vizquel – .295/.361/.389, 24 SB
1B Rich Aurilia – .300/.349/.518, 23 HR
LF Barry Bonds – .270/.454/.545, 26 HR
2B Ray Durham – .293/.360/.538, 26 HR
3B Pedro Feliz – .244/.281/.428, 22 HR
C Bengie Molina – .284/.319/.467, 19 HR
RF Randy Winn – .262/.324/.396, 11 HR
LHP Barry Zito – 16-10, 3.83
RHP Matt Morris – 10-15, 4.98
RHP Matt Cain – 13-12, 4.15
LHP Noah Lowry – 7-10, 4.74
RHP Russ Ortiz – 0-8, 8.14
CL Armando Benitez – 17 SV, 3.52