This is part of a series of posts wherein we deride teams for their dazed and demented offseason dithering, or else deify them for their deftly discerning deals.
The good news this offseason is that the Giants were able to re-sign their second best hitter from last season, despite stiff competition from the New York Mets. The bad news is that said second best hitter was 36-year-old catcher Bengie Molina, he of the .285 OBP, and that Molina will spend another year blocking the Giant’s best prospect, Buster Posey, who is ready to catch in the majors now and would almost certainly outhit Molina.
Good ol’ Brian Sabean. Despite having the best pitching staff in the game fall into his lap in the form of top hurlers like Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jon Sanchez, and Brian Wilson, Sabean’s ongoing incompetence when it comes to assembling even a vague semblance of an offense ensured that the Giants were last in the majors in most offensive categories last season and fell just short of the playoffs with 88 wins.
But still, the Giants were just a few wins shy of the postseason last year, which is nothing to shake a stick at, so Sabean’s mission this offseason was clear: just do what ever it took to add a bit of offense. Sadly for Giants fans, in this mission he has largely failed.
The big moves on the offensive front, in addition to re-signing Molina, were signing Mark DeRosa to play left field, and letting incumbent first baseman Ryan Garko walk as a free agent, in order to sign Aubrey Huff. The problem with these moves is that they do nothing whatsoever to improve the team.
Mark DeRosa is the definition of a “league average” hitter. His career OPS+ is 97, and last year it was 99 – about as close as you can get to average. This is great news if DeRosa is going to play second base or something, but if he is going to play left field, which is a premier offensive position, than league average hitting is going to equal far below average hitting among left-fielders. In fact, The difference between playing Mark DeRosa in left field vs. playing Fred Lewis, who the Giants already had, is a net of exactly 0 wins of difference.
Huff, meanwhile, has fallen off a cliff and into an abyss, as far as offensive performance goes, and his defense is pretty horrible too. Last year he was worth negative $4.5 million for the Orioles and Tigers, according to FanGraphs. I’m not sure what Sabean was thinking here, as the now-departed Garko will almost certainly outhit Huff this season. Actually I do know what Sabean was thinking – the same thing he’s always thinking: how can I sign as many experienced big-name veterans as possible, regardless of their age or actually ability?
On the pitching front there was a bit of good news as the Giants avoided arbitration with Lincecum and managed to sign him to a two year deal. But it’s not like they got a bargain or anything, signing him at just about exactly what he would get in arbitration should he continue to pitch as if he’s in a higher league than every one else, so while the Giants save themselves some headache for next year, they will also be on the hook for $14 million in 2011, even if Lincecum blows out his arm.
Otherwise, not much happened. The Giants did bring in swingman Todd Wellemeyer to compete with Madison Bumgardner for the final spot in the rotation now that Randy Johnson has retired, and the guess here is that Wellemeyer wins out, because Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy have never shown even the slightest interest in giving young players a hand before unless their hand is completely forced. They also brought in Guillermo Mota to replace Bob Howry in a setup role in the pen – this should be a small downgrade.
Overall, I can’t see anything the Giants did to improve themselves this offseason, and their defense probably got a bit worse with the loss of outfielder Randy Winn to the Yankees and reduced playing time at first base for Travis Ishikawa. Meanwhile, they’re counting on their pitching staff to maintain its performance from last year, which was the best by a Giants staff in nearly 50 years.
The Giants still have a good team, on balance, and you can never count out a team with a stellar pitching staff, especially one headed by a guy like Lincecum, because the offense would only have to improve a tiny bit to put up a bunch of extra wins, which could always happen due to random fluctuations in BABIP or something, but the Giants really didn’t do anything this offseason to bring them much closer to their goals or give their fans hope that they’ll be anything bridesmaids again this year.
Acquisitions: UT Mark DeRosa, 1B Aubrey Huff, SP Todd Wellemeyer, RP Guillermo Mota
Losses: SP Randy Johnson, SP Brad Penny, OF Randy Winn, 1B Ryan Garko, RP Bob Howry
Projected Lineup, Rotation, and Closer
C – Bengie Molina
1B – Aubrey Huff
2B – Freddy Sanchez
3B – Pablo Sandoval
SS – Edgar Renteria
LF – Mark DeRosa
CF – Aaron Rowand
RF – Nate Scheirholtz
SP1 – Tim Lincecum
SP2 – Matt Cain
SP3 – Jonathan Sanchez
SP4 – Barry Zito
SP5 – Todd Wellemeyer
CL – Brian Wilson