One Last Hope

The rage isn't gone -- just simmering under the surface. The Giants should have had two goals in the offseason. The first should have been to find a shortstop. The second should have been to keep Carlos Beltran. The Cardinals did both! Boy, they're having a great offseason. Except for that one thing. Still, the Cardinals coming away with both Beltran and Rafael Furcal makes me jealous, especially seeing as they're a small-market team.

But the last thing the world needs is some unwashed guy handing out pamphlets in front of AT&T Park, which is sort of the caricature this place would devolve into after just a couple more "WHAR MORE HITTERS? WHAR?"-screeds. Turns out they hit their budget with Aubrey Huff after Barry Zito and Aaron Rowand pushed them to their max. Also turns out that none of those three contracts were a good idea. Let's write 10,000 more words about that some day.

It's the bargaining stage now, and I'm clawing at reasons why the Giants aren't going to have the worst non-Astros lineup in baseball. I think I have a good one. It's not just the return of Buster Posey either, although without looking up his WAR compared to Eli Whiteside's, I think that's good for 27 more wins and 129 additional runs. It's not just the return of Freddy Sanchez, who will really move some sweet runners along in his 33 games.

I can look at the lineup and be thrilled with 25% of it. Another 25% is perfectly reasonable, considering (Melky and Pagan). There's 25% of the lineup that makes me furrow my brow and mutter something like, "okay i guess i can deal with freddy sanchez and schierholtz i guess, they're okay" under my breath. Mix in a hope for some fluky BABIP nonsense or career years, and if you squint, all isn't necessarily lost. The best way to put it: It's not quite as insane as hoping for Dan Ortmeier, Jose Castillo, and a 41-year-old Omar Vizquel will somehow do something amazing.

But give me one more hitter. That's all. And there's still a chance. No, there is another, in nerdspeak. It will take a little effort. It will take some cajoling. It will take threats. It will take a conversation like this:

Sabean: Put Brandon Belt in the lineup.

Bochy: Welllll, you've got Huffy on the comeback trail, and I don't want to stick him in the outfield, mess with his mental state.

Sabean: Put Brandon Belt in the lineup.

Bochy: Wellllllll, Pilly's shown me a lot, and he has the experienced approach that you can only find from a 35-year-old prospect.

Sabean: Put Brandon Belt in the lineup.

Bochy: Welllllllllll, Manny needs some at-bats if he's going to be a pinch-hitter, and he plays first now, so …

Sabean: Put Brandon Belt in the lineup.

Bochy: Hrmmgarrumphwelllllllll, looks like Ted Lilly's on the mound. Welp, can't start Belt today.

Sabean: /flicks open switchblade

I'm not saying that Sabean is openly pushing for Belt in the lineup. But he should be. Belt is the chance at a lineup that can keep the pitchers from a Matt Williams hairline. Belt has the minor-league numbers and the scouting profile of a player that can turn into something better than the league average this year, with the potential for something more. I guess Huff has the same profile, but I'm biased in favor of prospects. That, and science is on my side.

I know this isn't realistic. It's gonna be Pill and Huff and Huff and Pill, with Belt down in Fresno. No, seriously. They'll get another outfielder -- say, have I mentioned my Ryan Ludwick prediction? -- and decide they need Pill's right-handed bat on the bench. I'm often wrong. Here's hoping I am with this one, too …

But look at the ZiPS projections. Ignore the name at the top of the list because we're done with the rage. Most of the lineup -- with a middle-infield exception -- is projected for an OPS+ of 99 or better. I'll take it. But close to the top is Brandon Belt, who is quietly expected to do awesome things. No Beltran? I'll get over it in 2015. But the failure to upgrade the lineup can be softened just a little by using the in-house option wisely.

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