Well, the offseason is here, and I'm already thinking about next year. I mean, yeah, we won the World Series, but wouldn't a repeat be nice? Plus, as a baseball junkie, if I don't have actual games to watch, I start doing too much thinking about constructing the team. So let's look at the potential 2011 Giants.
We'll start with the pitching staff, because that's how we're going to win games. The rotation is already set: Lincecum, Sanchez, Cain, Bumgarner, Zito. Hopefully that will be the actual order, but I'm not sure we continue to insult Zito and put a sophomore ahead of him, even though we should (and it's arguable that Bumgarner should be in the #2 spot).
Lincecum ($14M), Cain ($7.3M), Sanchez (guessing $5M), Bumgarner, ($400K), Zito ($18.5M) = $45.5M or so
Yup, that's expensive. I wouldn't be surprised to see Sanchez locked up to a two-year contract, likely at $14M or so total (6/8 or 5/9), but everyone else's salaries are set, and even if Sanchez does get something else it won't be much more or less than five million. Boy, Zito's contract is ugly.
Wilson ($6.5M), Romo ($400K), Affeldt ($4.5M), Ray (guessing $1.2M), Lopez (guessing $1M), Ramirez (guessing $1.3M), Casilla (guessing $1M) = $16M or so, bringing the total to 45.5+16 = $61.5M
The bullpen isn't cheap either. Ray and Ramirez are non-tender candidates, considering their previous salaries and longer ML service. I am just guessing on these, and I wouldn't be surprised if I'm too high on everyone, but it still doesn't look great. Even if one or both of Ray and Ramirez are non-tendered, with the Dan Runzler: Starter experiment we can't count on him in the 'pen as well (not that we should assume the team would carry three lefties with 3/5 of the rotation being left-handed), so we'd have to either use Joaquin, which is scary, or find another Santiago Casilla on the scrap heap. We're pretty good at that (see: Brandon Medders, Justin Miller), but personally I'd rather keep both and use that ability to find a backup when someone blows up (see: Brandon Medders, Justin Miller). The Giants need their bullpen depth, and having unreliable arms with an unreliable offense is not going to win games.
The lineup and bench are quite tricky. We have three key free agents in Huff, Burrell, and Uribe, and not a lot of payroll room even with Edgar's $10M coming off the books, because we have eight arbitration eligible players, plus raises to several other guys. I wouldn't expect all three to return; two maximum, and at least one.
Huff is the most likely considering his year here both on and off the field, as well as our 1B vacancy considering Belt probably isn't ready yet. Not a lot of teams are looking for first basemen or DHs, and it's unlikely he'd get a job as an outfielder. Carlos Pena and Derrek Lee mean that the 1B free agent class isn't that bad, and is kind of great compared to other positions. I see Huff returning on a 1/8 or 2/14 deal ($7M/year).
Juan Uribe is actually more important to the Giants (if Huff left, Ishikawa could probably play first, but who's the SS if Uribe leaves? Fontenot?), and less likely to return. With the shortstop market having me as the fourth-best option, Uribe could easily get a 2/14 or 3/18 deal as a solid defender with power. Uribe is also a Type B free agent (Huff is too, but I'm projecting him to definitely come back, so this is less relevant), which gives us the option of offering him arbitration and actually having something to gain from it. So let's do that. If he accepts, great, we've got a stopgap assuming Brandon Crawford continues to progress as planned. If not, we can either try to sign him as a free agent or take the pick if he goes somewhere else. I'd offer him a 1/8 or 2/14 deal, just like Huff. But I don't see Uribe returning; the SS market is atrocious, and he could likely get more money elsewhere. This is probably his last big contract, too.
So what do we do about shortstop? There the three options: fill the position internally, trade for someone, or sign someone. Unfortunately, the FA market is crap; Orlando Cabrera, Nick Punto, Adam Everett, or Cesar Izturis could be had, but cannot hit. Bobby Crosby or Miguel Tejada could be had, but cannot field. Cristian Guzman or Julio Lugo could be had, but cannot hit OR field. That’s the entire viable SS free agent pool with one exception. The trade market is a few guys who are probably too expensive (Bartlett, Drew), won’t be traded (Hardy, Scutaro, probably Brignac and Rodriguez), or suck (Everth Cabrera, Brandon Wood). There’s nothing there. The exception is Jhonny Peralta, who despite having apparently illiterate parents, is a realistic option as a guy who isn't a butcher in the field or with the bat. He's not going to light the world on fire in either area, but he's solid and he could provide 1-2 WAR for not a lot with a small commitment. I think he's returning to Detroit, but we need to pursue this kind of player: cheap, fills a hole, doesn't suck.
My personal plan is kind of crazy, but probably less crazy than thinking Orlando Cabrera is the answer. Move Sanchez to short and call up Brock Bond. Bond has posted an OBP around .400 for the last two seasons, and he's not bad at second from what I've heard. We'd lose defense in two areas, with Sanchez being a good 2B and probably a mediocre-at-best SS, and Bond being a mediocre 2B himself. But with two mediocre fielders comes two players who can provide offensive value.
Of course, this is all silly because Uribe's going to be back on a 2/14 deal and the organization hates Bond.
The rest of the infield is pretty static, with the only non-tender candidate being Mike Fontenot. Considering Fontenot is an adequate fill-in at 2B/SS/3B and is left-handed, he is a better option than Ryan Rohlinger (RHH in a lineup full of 'em) or Emmanuel Burriss (who just can't hit), I think he should stick around, but if they're looking to cut payroll he'd be a good guy to dump. Keeping Ishikawa really does limit the roster's versatility (OR DOES IT?).
1B – Huff (re-signed to 1/8 or 2/14 deal, so let’s say $7.5M), 2B –Sanchez ($6M), SS - Uribe (same as Huff, so let's say $7.5M again), 3B – Sandoval ($400K), INF – Fontenot (guessing $1.5M), 1B – Ishikawa ($400K), Renteria’s buyout ($500K), C – Posey ($400K), C – Whiteside ($400K) = $25M, bringing our running total to $87.5M, which is scary.
The outfield is pretty well set as well, having the second-least question marks outside the rotation. Burrell is the only big question, but unless we dump someone's contract, we're just not going to be able to sign him. And with five outfielders already, we don't need to.
Since DeRosa can play the infield, carrying two true first basemen isn't that big a problem. Rowand is an adequate fill-in as a spot starter (and maybe a regular if we could..oh God please...trade DeRosa). But I doubt that. More likely, Ross gets traded and Rowand goes back to center with Torres in right and DeRosa in left. But I also doubt that. Except:
LF – DeRosa ($6M), CF – Torres (guessing $2M), RF – Ross (guessing $6M), OF – Schierholtz ($400K), OF – Rowand ($13.6M) = $28M, bringing the total to a whopping $115.5M.
This is why we can't have nice things. Rowand and Zito are locked up to big contracts and aren't providing enough value - but that's a tired enough line, so let's look at the fact that we've got SEVEN of TWENTY-FIVE players making league minimum. The problem isn't the big contracts - okay, that's a huge problem - it's the fact that we're not filling the roster out with farm system throwaways who do well enough to stay but don't get paid much. Plus, after arbitration raises, the Giants’ committed payroll of $76M jumps up a LOT; we’ve got eight arb-eligible players, most of whom are hitting it for the 2nd or 3rd time. And so we can't have Juan Uribe AND Aubrey Huff (dumping Uribe brings us back down to $108M, which is still too much, but not awful), and definitely not Pat Burrell, without a big jump in payroll or getting rid of some valuable players. Forget about Carl Crawford, too.
Fontenot is the most likely cut, IMO, considering Rohlinger can fill his spot, but he does provide a nice lefty bat that can play the infield, and this is a pretty RH-oriented lineup. Ray is next, but reliable bullpen arms are hard to find, and if Chris Ray is your worst reliever (and he is), you’re doing pretty well. Plus, neither of them are really making enough money to have significant payroll impact. Uribe is the most likely to re-sign if management feels like upping payroll again, and a trade of Cody Ross is probably not that ridiculous given his salary (this puts Rowand back in center and shifts Torres to right). DeRosa and Sanchez would be great to move, considering Rowand is probably as good as DeRosa overall, and Sanchez can be replaced by Fontenot or Bond without a considerable loss in production, but I'm skeptical of the ability to just dump their salaries, and Sanchez just isn't getting traded.
Unfortunately, the rotation is the big hit here, and it’s only going to get worse in 2012, as Tim will be bumped into the $15M+ range, Cain is already set to be making $15M, Zito’s deal is getting uglier, and Sanchez is eligible for the third time. The Giants will probably be spending at least $50M, closer to $60M, on just the rotation in 2012. Then you've got Rowand's contract and dear God; 75% of our payroll is locked up in six players. If this team wants to retain its core, we’re going to need some serious production from the farm system or some very team-friendly deals or a big increase in payroll. Now, the Giants probably could support the kind of payroll that would keep us in contention for the next half-decade, but they haven't shown the desire to spend much in the past, and even with new management I don't want to assume it will show up all of a sudden.
Luckily, I'm probably overestimating a lot of salaries. Uribe and Huff returning is very feasible, though adding Burrell as well seems like a pipe dream unless it's on a very team-friendly deal. All in all, I'd expect the roster's only significant changes to be DeRosa instead of Burrell in left, and considering we're retaining most of the team that won a championship this year, that's not bad. Now it's time for everyone to mock me for rosterbating already.