Sunday, November 7, 2010

3 Questions: San Francisco Giants

By The Common Man

With the offseason action picking up, it’s time for a new feature here at The Platoon Advantage. Bill and The Common Man will go through each of the 30 teams and highlight the three most pressing questions and issues that face each club as they make their postseason plans. Questions that are going to need answering before Spring Training rolls around in February.

It seems fitting to begin with the champs, so here are three questions facing the San Francisco Giants:

Question 1: Who do you bring back?

The Giants have a bunch of Free Agents. World Series MVP Edgar Renteria and regular season hero Aubrey Huff lead the way, but valuable contributors Juan Uribe and Pat Burrell are also free to walk to the highest bidder. The Giants payroll in 2010 was around $96 million according to Cot’s Contracts. Due to some significant raises, they already have $77 million committed to eight players, and that’s before you can take into account arbitration raises that will go to Cody Ross, Jonathan Sanchez, and Andres Torres (amongst others). Even with a marginal increase in budget in 2011, the Giants are going to have to make some hard choices about how to bring back to defend their title. They’ve already reached out to Huff and Uribe, but both will draw major interest on the open market. Huff figures to want a 3 year deal for around $6-8 million, and Uribe for 3 years and $5-6 million. That’s already a stretch for these Giants, and makes any talk of acquiring Derek Jeter or Carl Crawford sound silly.

Question 2: Is Brandon Belt ready?

Brandon Belt has come out of nowhere this year to become a huge hitting prospect. Drafted in the 5th round in 2009, Belt hit .352/.455/.620 across three levels in 2010 with 23 homers in 595 PAs. Jason Gray said that “[The Giants] changed his stance, hand position, in order to get the most out of his raw talent.” Keith Law also had rave reviews, “love the way they changed his stance, he's more upright now, picked his hands up, more leverage in swing, can get bat to any spot in zone, good plate discipline, pretty good defensive 1B.” There’s a legitimate chance that Belt’s going to break camp with the Giants in 2011, and likely that he’ll be a contributor by mid-season after he gets more exposure to AAA pitching (he has just 61 PAs at AAA so far). If the Giants can’t resign Aubrey Huff, Belt’s probably already a better hitter than Travis Ishikawa to take over 1B. If Burrell’s out of their price range, or they don’t think Huff could handle a shift to the outfield, Belt may even be able to handle LF. Either way, the Giants’ chances of defending their title may depend on a prospect no one had even heard of at the start of 2010.

Question 3: What’s up with Panda (besides his weight)?

No player’s disintegration was more disappointing than Pablo Sandoval. The Kung Fu Panda dropped from a .943 OPS to .732, and actually became a below average hitter in 2010. Sandoval was tremendously exciting to watch as a 22 year old, as he hit like Vladamir Guerrero in his prime, refusing to walk and driving pitches he had no business even reaching. And given his body type, which can generously be described as cannonball-esque, it was even more fun to watch him play ball. But it was no fun in 2010, and he was basically benched for the World Series (getting just 3 PAs and playing in one of the five games). If the Giants believe Panda can get himself into shape for 2011, and even begin to approach his 2009 performance, the Giants could conceivably move Mike Fontenot to 2B and deal Freddy Sanchez and his $6 million salary to a team that needs help, like Minnesota. This would free up more cash for the Pat Burrells, Juan Uribes, and Aubrey Huffs of the world.

One final programming note, TCM will be on vacation on a beautiful tropical island in the South Caribbean for the next two weeks.  He's not sure about the internet connection where he'll be, so his work may be intermittent over that time.  Feel free to mock him in his absence.  Fortunately, Bill will be around to keep you all entertained, even if TCM is too busy tanning to worry about who signs Bruce Chen to a two-year deal.


Zach Sanders said...

If Belt was drafted in the 5th round, can we really say he's come out of nowhere?

Bill said...

Well, only two players taken in the 5th round since 2002 have put up more than 1 career bWAR in the majors (Ben Francisco and Mark Rzepczynski). And if he were expected to do anything at all like what he did in 2010, he'd obviously have been drafted much higher than the 5th round in 2009. So yeah, I think "out of nowhere" is fair.