Giants 2010: World Champions. Now What?
(originally written 11/20/10)
No great experience in life lacks a potential downside. Carefree lovemaking can lead to babies and, if you’re doing it unfaithfully, lies and divorce and poverty. Winning the lottery can open the door to scamming opportunists, not to mention scrutiny from those “close to” you who feel they deserve an unreceived handout. Got a shiny new Lamborghini? Then you got higher insurance rates, lower leeway from cops, and extra attention from envious hoodlums with time on their hands.
Bring the first-ever World Series title to San Francisco? Decide if the same horses you rode to that title are worth keeping around for the defense of that title. Take abuse from fans who couldn’t care any less about the business side of baseball, and just want to see the same 25-30 soldiers from 2010 return in 2011 no matter the cost. GM Brian Sabean proved he’s not going to operate according to sentiment when he told the San Jose Mercury News, in a rather firm and blunt manner, that Pablo Sandoval’s conditioning will determine if he has a roster spot in 2011—all of four days after the Giants won it all.
Juan Uribe, Pat Burrell, Jose Guillen, Edgar Renteria (who has opted not to retire) and Aubrey Huff are free agents, and only Guillen is a guarantee not to return (were it not for his HGH scandal, and his likely averseness to a non-roster deal, that guarantee might not exist). Renteria’s World Series heroics may have bought him wallet-free dining for life in San Francisco, but they won’t help the 2011 Giants. He’ll be 35 next year, and both his body and skillz aren’t what they once were.
I can’t imagine Edgar returns as anything other than a reserve, which would require his willingness to learn/play at least one other infield position. A lot of players, including his predecessor Omar Vizquel, have to do so to extend their careers. Renteria’s at that point.
I’d hoped that the topic of Renteria would be raised directly to Bobby Evans (Giants Vice President of Baseball Operations) on the initial 2010 KNBR Hot Stove League show, but it was not. Evans expectedly played his cards close to the vest even when generally asked by host (and ex-Giant) F.P. Santangelo if addressing the shortstop position was the team’s top priority of the off-season. Will Uribe return? Personally, I hope so. He’s a rare Giant who can take anybody deep anywhere, he’s not intimidated by anyone, and he can play defense with anybody so long as a no-hitter or perfect game isn’t on the line. He’s versatile, and his mere presence in the field will keep opposing hitters—at least the wise ones—from ever charging the mound.
It’s pretty clear that the Giants prefer Uribe in his current role of supersub, however. The more he plays, the more he wears and his weaknesses are exposed—evidenced by his .248 average. If Panda Sandoval’s 2010 had approached his 2009 at all, and Renteria were healthy, Uribe would have been nothing more than a beefier Steve Scarsone. He might have had to be traded.
I want the Giants to keep Uribe, and I believe they will if the price is right. Two years, $8 to $10 million is about right, but if another club with an opening at short and deeper pockets targets him, he should be allowed to walk. (And no, not the Yankees. They will sign Yankee Stadium over to Jeter before they let his free agency lead him elsewhere.)
On to the Water Buffaloes:
Via the sfgiants.com “Inbox”, Chris Haft was asked the likelihood of a Burrell/Huff encore. Haft—who is far closer to the team and more knowledgeable about the Orange and Black than I am, obviously—replied that left field should be the position the Giants use to upgrade. I want to believe he simply didn’t choose the right word, because when you go up and down the list of free agent left fielders, only Carl Crawford could be considered a definite upgrade at this point in his career. And even he is deficient in the area San Francisco needs the most help—slugging.
If Crawford doesn't land by the Bay, why in the world wouldn’t you bring Burrell back for one year, $5 mil, with an option for the same in 2012? Even if he flops, you still got a great 2/3 of 2010 from him at a price lower than that of most San Francisco housing.
Huff, a player whom the “misfit” and “castoff” labels precisely define, is another story. The Giants have younger, cheaper options in house, as well as several capable free agents including Paul Konerko, Lyle Overbay, Carlos Pena, and everybody’s favorite savior, Adam Dunn. But all except Konerko hit lefty and it’s highly doubtful they’d play at AT&T. Huff wouldn’t have if he’d had any other serious offers.
As I said, San Francisco has in-house options. Sandoval’s defense, namely throwing, regressed at third and the team may shift him to first if he reports to camp fit and produces. Brandon Belt, who according to Evans “will make heads turn in Spring Training”, had a sensational season at three minor league levels and tore up the Arizona Fall League. Like Buster Posey when he got his first extended cup of big league coffee this year, 2011 will be the 22-year-old Belt’s third pro season; he could be ready offensively.
For that reason, I doubt the Giants will seek anything more than a stopgap at the position. Huff won’t break the bank and he’s already wildly popular in San Fran; unless Bill Neukom didn’t appreciate his stunt at the end of the victory parade, #17 should get a fair return offer. After years and years mired on bottom-feeders, the chance to return to a World Series winner has to appeal to Huff and one would believe a contract offer would have to be insulting for him to reject it.
Today, the Scottsdale Scorpions—featuring Belt, Dan Runzler, Conor Gillaspie, and several other Giants prospects as well as #1 overall draft pick Bryce Harper of the Nationals—face the Peoria Javelinas at 11:30 am PST, 2:30 pm EST.