Giants' general manager Brian Sabean has taken some flak over the past few years, and some of it has been well deserved. The seven-year, $126MM contract he gave to Barry Zito and the five-year, $60MM contract for Aaron Rowand have been colossal disappointments. He traded Francisco Liriano, Joe Nathan, and Boof Bonser to the Twins for A.J. Pierzynski. Edgar Renteria should not be making $9MM per season.
Yet in spite of those moves, a look at the current roster shows some shrewd low-budget options that have landed the Giants in the World Series opposite the Rangers, with one of the more interesting rosters in baseball. Let's take a look:
While Rowand's deal looms over the others, it should be noted that the Giants will be paying their primary outfielders under $2MM this World Series. Cody Ross is due roughly $1.1MM from the Giants after their August waiver claim, and already has an NLCS MVP trophy to his name. Pat Burrell was signed following his release from Tampa Bay, and the Giants are only on the hook for about $300K. He supplied 18 home runs and an .872 OPS. Andres Torres arrived in San Fran with little fanfare, but he's been a key to their success generating a whopping 6.0 WAR at just $426K this season.
Remember when experts said that the Aubrey Huff signing was one of the worst of this past offseason? Huff totaled a .290/.385/.506 line and led the club with 26 homers while earning just $3MM. Juan Uribe returned on his second one-year deal with the club for just $3.25MM and tallied 24 home runs of his own. While the two-year, $18.5MM Renteria deal was awful, the Giants managed to fill the void on the cheap and get a .754 OPS from the position during Uribe's 103 games there. Freddy Sanchez missed the begining of the season after signing a two-year, $12MM deal, but totaled 2.7 WAR in 111 games, easily justifying his $6MM salary. Pablo Sandoval, of course, manned the hot corner for next to nothing.
It may have been a bit late, but the Giants made absolutely certain Buster Posey was Major League ready, and did he ever silence any doubters who may have questioned his power after a slow start in Triple-A. Posey's .305/.357/.505 line has Giants fans swooning, and voters fretting over whether he or Jason Heyward deserves NL Rookie of the Year honors.
Sometimes the best trades are ones you never make. Over the past several seasons, we've heard about possible Tim Lincecum–Alex Rios and Matt Cain–Prince Fielder trades, as well as several others involving both Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner. Through it all, the Giants stuck with that quartet, who totaled under $15MM in 2010 salary, and were rewarded tremendously.
There were 722 players drafted before Brian Wilson in 2003. There were zero in 2010 with more saves and only eight relievers who posted a mark higher than Wilson's 11.21 K/9. In 2005, 851 players were drafted ahead of Sergio Romo — he of a 2.18 ERA and 10.2 K/9 in 2010. Ramon Ramirez and Javier Lopez, acquired at the trade deadline, combined for 46 innings of 0.98 ERA ball. Jeremy Affeldt's two-year, $9.5MM deal may not have been a huge bargain, but it was hardly a disaster. He totaled a 2.80 ERA over 112.1 innings as a Giant, though he struggled more in 2010. They received quality innings out of the likes of Guillermo Mota ($750K) and Chris Ray (acquired from Texas for Bengie Molina).
It's possible — assuming a starting nine of Lincecum, Posey, Huff, Sanchez, Uribe, Sandoval, Burrell, Torres, and Ross — that the nine players who take the field on Wednesday night wearing orange and white will be earning a total of just under $23MM. That's less than the trio of Zito, Rowand, and Renteria alone earned this year ($39.5MM). And let's not forget they're paying Mark DeRosa approximately $6MM for just 26 games as a result of his injuries.
That total alone is greater than the entire payroll of teams like the Pirates and Padres, and yet the Giants find themselves four wins away from baseball's highest peak. The 2010 Giants serve as a rare example of a team that managed to overcome some of the game's worst contracts through low-risk, high-reward signings, and seeing talent where others thought there was nothing left or it simply wasn't worth the investment.