Time for a look at the 2008 Giants.
C – Bengie Molina
1B – Dan Ortmeier
2B – Ray Durham
SS – Kevin Frandsen
3B – Rich Aurilia
LF – Fred Lewis
CF – Dave Roberts/Rajai Davis
RF – Randy Winn/Nate Schierholtz
SP – Matt Cain
SP – Tim Lincecum
SP – Barry Zito
SP – Noah Lowry
SP – Kevin Correia/Jonathan Sanchez
Setup: Brad Hennessey/Tyler Walker
Closer: Brian Wilson
The Giants rank 13th in the league in OBP and 15th in SLG – and that includes 500 plate appearances of Barry Bonds. Take Bonds out of the picture in ’08 – a legitimate possibility – and you’re looking at the worst offense in the league.
Durham, Roberts, and Aurilia have been offensive black holes for the Giants, and they’ll be eating up $18.5MM as members of the ’08 club. Feliz and Vizquel have been terrible as well, but at least their contracts are up.
I have to stop right here and say that this team absolutely must write off 2008 as a complete rebuilding year. There’s just not enough offensive talent, young or old, to field a competitive team. When teams fully commit to a rebuild, like the Devil Rays, Marlins, or Nationals, unexpected good players typically emerge. The Giants need to find the next Dan Uggla or Carlos Pena.
In the infield, you’ve got two dead weight veterans and an open left side of the infield. I say you just use Frandsen at short all year. He may not have the arm for it but he could have a nice little Ryan Theriot season before shifting to second in ’09. Don’t give up on him if he has a bad two months. Stick Aurilia at third for lack of a better option, and use Ortmeier at first all year. Let him get comfortable at the position and not worry about losing his job.
The outfield is a jumble of bad veteran contracts and mildly promising youngsters. Here’s my plan. Ship off Winn and the $16.25MM remaining on his contract for 2008-09. He had a .775 OPS in ’07, respectable if he’s used in center. Eat $6MM of the contract – it’ll be worth it to free up precious playing time for players who will be part of the future. Once Winn is gone, relegate Roberts to firm fourth outfielder status when he’s healthy. (I’d say move his contract too, but let’s not get greedy).
That leaves some power in Schierholtz, a speed/power combo in Lewis, and blazing speed in Davis. Give these guys much-needed Major League reps and don’t be a slave to your own bad contracts.
So the 2008 need for the Giants is to truly commit to giving as much playing time to young players as possible. They have to find some cheap position players who are at least league average.
If we use the term luxury generously, we can label a few vets as such. Those would be Molina and Winn, who have bad contracts but played OK in ’07. If these guys can be moved for a positive return, it’s a no-brainer. If Sabean could duplicate his Matt Morris feat and unload the entire contracts, it would be huge.
The one true luxury, though, is starting pitching. You aren’t going to find many young 1-2 punches in baseball that are decidedly better than Cain/Lincecum. These two are the future – the main goal for ’08 is to not wreck their arms.
Lowry should’ve been traded at the deadline. I know McCovey Chronicles has been pushing for this for a while. Lowry had a 3.92 ERA this year despite a ton of baserunners. He’s doing an OK job trying to become a groundball/contact pitcher. He’s 27 and signed reasonably through 2010. The problem is that an elbow strain may cause other GMs to view him as damaged goods. That’s a shame, because he might’ve extracted one or two very good and much-needed position players given the terrible free agent market. Could Garrett Atkins, Brent Lillibridge, Edwin Encarnacion, Steven Pearce, Conor Jackson, or Jeff Clement be acquired? If Lowry can re-establish his health, that’s the route I attempt.
I don’t think the bullpen is terribly important for ’08. I’d like to see what Wilson can do with a closer job. Sanchez should be brought along in the rotation. Maybe make an Octavio Dotel-type signing, someone you can spin off in July.