This is one of a series of posts in which we lambaste each team for their befuddling offseason boondoggles, and possibly applaud them for their prescient preseason pickups.
The Giants have traditionally put very strong teams on the field year after year, and have had very few truly catastrophic seasons, but this year’s team will have a shot to be historically bad.
Last year the Giants lost 91 games, which tied for the 4th worst record in their 125 years of existence, and this year they could well be even worse. PECOTA is projecting the Giants to lose 93 games this year, and it with a few key injuries or some bad luck in one-run games, one could easily imagine a scenario in which the Giants would lose more than the 100 games they lost in 1984, and thus set a new record for the worst season in franchise history.
- Last season the Giants were dead last in the entire Major Leagues with a .708 team OPS, last in the Majors with a .387 team slugging percentage, and 29th out of 30 teams with 673 runs scored. And ridiculously, that was including the contributions they got from Barry Bonds and his 1.045 OPS!
- By letting Bonds, Ryan Klesko, and Pedro Feliz walk as free agents, the Giants are losing 41% of the meager 131 homers they hit as a team last season. PECOTA projects that the 2008 edition of the Giants will hit a mere 93 home runs. The team leader is projected to be Aaron Rowand with 14, followed by Dan Ortmeier and Bengie Molina with 12 each.
- David Pinto of Baseball Musings is projecting that the Bonds-less Giants will average 3.99 runs per game this season, down from 4.22 last year. At that rate, it will be a year-long struggle for the Giants to even clear 600 runs scored on the season.
- The Giants do have a promising young starting rotation, but their awful bullpen was last in the National League last season with 33 bullpen losses, and has not been upgraded in any way this offseason.
Indeed, nothing seems to be more popular this offseason than making up zingers about how much the Giants will suck this year. A small sampling of a few of the better ones:
“One move to make: Release half the roster.” – Joe Sheehan, Baseball Prospectus
“Take the Fresno Grizzlies, spot them a league-average starting rotation, and what do you get? The 2008 San Francisco Giants.” – Nate Silver, Baseball Prospectus
“I think I’d trust Amy Winehouse to guard my bag of coke before I’d trust [Brian Sabean] to build my offense.” – Dan Szymborski, Baseball Think Factory
“Maybe management thinks the best way to celebrate the Giants’ 50th anniversary of their arrival in San Francisco is to have as many active players as possible who were actually alive the last time Willie Mays was on a major league roster.” – A.J. Mass, ESPN.com
The sad part is, as bad as the Giants are going to be this year, there seems little hope of improvement at any time in the near future. The Giants already have a payroll in the $100 million range, they are locked into bad long-term contracts with Barry Zito and now Aaron Rowand, they have no tradeable assets to speak of, and up and down the system they have one of the thinnest collections of minor league talent of any team. In fact, the highest-ranked prospect in their whole system right now is Angel Villalona, a 17-year-old Dominican youngster without a defensive position who was still playing in Rookie ball last year.
This is a team with so many holes at the major league level, that it could be legitimately said that they headed into this offseason needing to find a first baseman, a second baseman, a shortstop, a third baseman, an outfielder, a closer, and nearly an entire rest of a bullpen.
So how did the Giants get into this mess? Well, for the last 15 years, the team, led mostly by GM Brian Sabean, has systematically mortgaged their future in an attempt to win it all now, trading away, blocking, or simply failing to develop any young position-player talent they might have had, while repeatedly signing big-name “experienced veterans” to overly long contracts. In some sense, this strategy was understandable – after all, if you have arguably the greatest hitter of all time on your team in Barry Bonds, it seems reasonable to try to win now rather than waiting for some distant future which may not come. But the execution of the strategy has been very poor. Despite having Bonds on the team for 15 seasons, the Giants failed to win a championship, and only ever made one World Series, back in 2002.
But even worse than past mistakes is the fact that Sabean and the Giants continue to compound those past mistakes by imagining that they are only a veteran player or two away from contention. No team in baseball is farther away from contention than the Giants right now, especially after the departure of Bonds, and yet Sabean went out and signed league-average centerfielder Aaron Rowand to a gargantuan $60 million, five-year contract which will take him well into his mid-30s decline years, having signed a similar deal with Barry Zito last year. But even setting aside the mediocrity of these players, these kind of signings would only make sense if the Giants had any hope of reaching the playoffs within the lifetime of these contracts. Since that is almost certainly not going to happen, this is a case where the Giants would almost literally be just as well served taking all that money and dumping it into the San Francisco Bay.
Although the Giants are in no position to contend any time soon, at the very least they should recognize this fact, trade away or just eat the contracts of some of the horrible veterans on their roster, and start playing kids and searching through the waiver wires for some promising youngsters to at least start building toward a semblance of maybe constructing a possible contender in five or six years’ time.
Offseason Grade: F
Additions: Aaron Rowand
Projected Lineup, Rotation, and Closer:
LF Dave Roberts (36) – .260/.331/.364, 31 SB
SS Omar Vizquel (41) – .246/.305/.316, 14 SB
RF Randy Winn (34) – .300/.353/.445, 14 HR
CF Aaron Rowand (30) – .309/.374/.515, 27 HR
1B Dan Ortmeier (27) – .287/.317/.497, 6 HR
C Bengie Molina (33) – .276/.298/.433, 19 HR
3B Rich Aurilia (36) – .252/.304/.368, 5 HR
2B Ray Durham (36) – .218/.295/.343, 11 HR
LHP Barry Zito (30) – 11-13, 4.53 ERA
RHP Matt Cain (23) – 7-16, 3.65 ERA
LHP Noah Lowry (27) – 14-8, 3.92 ERA
RHP Tim Lincecum (24) – 7-5, 4.00 ERA
RHP Kevin Correia (27) – 4-7, 3.45 ERA
CL Brian Wilson (26) – 6 SV, 2.28 ERA