Julian over at Giants Nirvana took place in an online vote for a GM of the Year award. I'd link to the tweets where he discusses it, but Twitter's search engine is just a guy in a rusted-out van, going through stacks of index cards and old newspapers. The point is that Julian voted for Brian Sabean over Billy Beane, and he made some strong points to back up his vote.
That specific point is probably a debate or topic for the offseason. But it got me thinking about today's topic, which is the brilliant under-the-radar moves that Sabean made this year. He had duds with the minor moves, don't get me wrong. Letting Travis Blackley go looks like a mistake, and Clay Hensley didn't pan out. In retrospect, it was silly to keep Emmanuel Burriss instead of Mike Fontenot. Also, that move was silly in currentspect.
But 16 percent of the right now is made up of players who are taking spots from players who could have been much, much worse. This is a salute to them, and the GM who brought them here when we were debating Nick Johnson or some crap. Also of note: Marco Scutaro wasn't an under-the-radar move. Everyone liked that move at the time. It was just about the perfect trade based on cost and need.
A free Jose Mijares
This one still doesn't make sense. Mijares is a 27-year-old pitcher with a history of success in the majors. He will be eligible for arbitration for the first time after this season, so he's not that expensive. He was in the middle of a pretty nifty season with the Royals. But he made it through waivers, first going through alllll of the teams in the American League, from Red Sox to Rangers, and then through allllllll the teams in the National League with a worse record than the Giants, from Astros to Dodgers. Not one of them saw the utility of a player like Mijares.
Sabean did. And when he claimed him, probably expecting the Royals to ask for a substantial trade return before pulling him off waivers, the Royals just … gave him away. Here you go. Never mind that the Royals could have revisited trade scenarios with teams in the winter, offering up their young lefty before they actually had to pay him an arbitration award.
It made no sense. There has to be more to the story, and it probably involves a verb we're not comfortable with, like "rummaging" or "buggering." That's the only explanation. What the move did was give Bochy the freedom to use Jeremy Affeldt as a multi-inning guy, or to bring in Javier Lopez in the seventh inning if the situation dictates. It also gives the Giants a little flexibility when it comes to re-signing Affeldt -- the urgency isn't quite there like it was last year.
Chris Stewart for George Kontos
The Giants had to either put Stewart on the 25-man roster or expose him to waivers, as he was out of options. They didn't have a lick of leverage, not that they would have if Stewart had an option, because he's Chris Stewart. He's a capable backstop. Quick release, but not exactly a rare specimen.
From that position, the Giants somehow wrangled a young reliever with good Triple-A numbers out of the Yankees. He's become a de facto long man for the playoffs, but he's under contract for the next five years, so he'll get a chance to move up the bullpen ladder if he keeps producing.
This one was actually noteworthy enough to merit an offseason post, but it was still just a random raffle ticket. His career OBP -- in the majors, no less -- was intriguing, as was his speed, but he was probably going to hang out with Todd Linden in Fresno for the year.
Then he played. On June 7, he was hitting .288/.390/.468, which is a player you'd give a $100 million contract too. Of course, he couldn't keep it up, and he went back to his low-average, good-patience, low-power ways, with a side of fouling off a zillion pitches in every at-bat.
He'll never be a good starter because he has the Jobu malady when it comes to breaking balls, especially at his back foot. But he's a competent reserve, and as a defense-first fill-in following the Melky suspension, he's done well enough.
And dig this: His NLDS line was .286/.375/.571 in 14 at-bats. His NLCS line so far is .286/.375/.571 in 7 at-bats. That's really hard to do.
One of my favorite moves of the year, even if only because it's a reversal of one of Sabean's worst moves as a GM.
Before the 2008 season started, the Giants were counting on a 41-year-old shortstop. They knew they were going to have a 41-year-old shortstop. They had the entire offseason to find a backup in case, oh, I don't know, the 41-year-old shortstop pulled something in spring training. They didn't get anyone. And that's how they ended up with Brian Bocock, Opening Day shortstop, which gets funnier and funnier to type after each passing year.
It could have been a similar situation this year, except it wasn't injury that was the big fear, but offensive incompetence. There was a decent chance that Brandon Crawford couldn't hit his way above the Bocock line, and the alternative behind Crawford was, what, Theriot at short? Burriss? Goodness, there weren't a lot of good options.
Arias was a shortstop with a prospect pedigree but a rough injury history. If you have a Baseball Prospectus subscription, you have to read a recap of his career. And if you don't, well, your life is sorely devoid of Miller-related baseball wonkery, and I pity you. There was every reason to suspect Arias would be Triple-A filler, but there was also a chance he could be something more.
He was worth an extra win if you believe in WAR. That doesn't mean a lot to a team that won its division by eight games, but he looks like a competent infield backup for the next couple years -- one less thing to worry about in the offseason.
Huh. Well, this turned out to be about 700 words longer than I was expecting. But, uh, here you go. These moves didn't win the division, and they might not help the Giants win the World Series again, but they were all pretty nifty moves. This is just a show of appreciation. Now here's a GIF of Gregor Blanco saving a perfect game: