There are a couple of ways to look at the Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez re-signings.
The first is as someone who thinks the Giants will blow past their budget from 2011. In this world, sure, get the extended warranty and clear-coat protection on your BMW. You can afford it. Get the rhinoceros insurance too, just in case you take that baby to Namibia. Good teams have good bullpens. You deserve a good team, San Francisco. Pay a premium for those relievers because you're going to need to hold the leads that your new, expensive hitters give you.
That's a nice world. I'd like to live in that world. It's probably not the real world. But it could be! Heck, we're not in the closed-door meetings where they're strategizing about how to contend for the next three years. Maybe they have a bunch of shiny pie charts titled "The Lincecum Window", in which they detail how they're going to spend buckets of money before Tim Lincecum is a free agent, maximizing the pitching in place for the next two years.
Every indication the Giants have given, though, is that the team payroll isn't going to be much different than last year. And most of it is spoken for. The team that is in desperate need of offense -- desperate, desperate, horrible need -- just spent $9 million on a pair of left-handed specialists. Left-handed relievers are the diamond-studded strap on the guitar of a team; the 17th Diet Coke at a place that doesn't give free refills. If it's the last possible thing for a team to worry about, go for it. Where the Giants appear to be? Ludicrous.
It's a typical Sabean move, though -- he likes cost certainty with his left-handed relievers. He paid premium prices to acquire and keep Steve Kline and Jason Christiansen, and even though those two were duds in their final seasons with the Giants, that won't happen to Lopez or Affeldt because
The best lefty specialist in Sabean's tenure (other than Lopez) was Scott Eyre, who was acquired on waivers, but left when the Giants wouldn't pay to keep him. After he left, the Giants messed around with Jack Taschner, Erick Threets, Alex Hinshaw, and Geno Espineli before paying for Affeldt, so I guess that's part of Sabean's thinking. The last time he didn't pay to keep a guy, the Giants were without solid lefty relievers. That turned them from a 74-win team into an unthinkable 72-win team.
And behind Affeldt and Lopez, the Giants have an amazing collection of lefty specialists who walk five or more batters for every nine minor-league innings they pitch. The Giants chose to keep Hinshaw over Joe Paterson, and it looks like that decision cost them close to $5M.
This has the feel of an offseason where the only acquisitions are Ryan Ludwick and Ronny Cedeno, with the Giants saying, "Hey, we had to keep the pitching together!" Two lefty relievers. Ten million dollars. Unless the Giants are planning on spending a lot more money than we think, or unless Aubrey Huff goes Gil Meche and retires for the good of the team, it seems like a bizarre allocation of limited funds for a team that has a clearly defined weakness.
I can almost, almost see going for the cost certainty on one of the lefties -- give it to Lopez, then, as a World Series bonus -- but both? Weird. Just weird. As I wrote earlier, this offseason is going to have a familiar ring to it.
In a word: No. If we had signed Guerrero or [Gary] Sheffield, we would have been without [Jim] Brower, [Scott] Eyre, [Matt] Herges, [Dustin] Hermanson, [Brett] Tomko, [A.J.] Pierzynski, Feliz, [J.T.] Snow, [Jeffrey] Hammonds, [Dustan] Mohr and Tucker -- obviously not being able to field a competitive team, especially from an experience standpoint, given our level of spending.
In a word: No. If we had signed Reyes or [Prince] Fielder, we would have been without [Javier] Lopez, [Jeremy] Affeldt, [Guillermo] Mota, [Jeff] Keppinger, [Coco] Crisp, [Mike] Fontenot, [Raul] Ibanez, and [Yuniesky] Betancourt -- obviously not being able to field a competitive team, especially from an experience standpoint, given our level of spending.
Winter is coming.
(Thought I have to say, I am a little attached to Lopez, and I will enjoy watching him if he doesn't implode. Never forget.)