Bruce Bochy, Brian Sabean, Larry Baer, and Bobby Evans held a roundtable discussion on Thursday night for season-ticket holders. You were hoping they were going to say something like this:
"We're probably going to make an offer to Shin-Soo Choo. A big offer. We don't want to say too much because no one knows we're in it. But we're so in it. We'll probably deal Casilla to the Red Sox to free up money, but we're so in this.
Turns out they didn't say that. Actually, there weren't a lot of hot-stove tidbits to relay. There were nuggets of information:
- Tim Hudson saw the Giants' "situation as not broken", and that part of that was Tim Lincecum and Hunter Pence re-signing.
- Sabean joked that the Giants weren't given a lot of credit for "early Christmas shopping" with regard to Lincecum, but the Giants didn't want to start the offseason needing three starting pitchers. I don't blame them.
- Brandon Belt is playing first. Stop talking about him in the outfield.
- All of the free agents who were going to cost a draft pick were out. The whole time.
The note that stuck with me, though, was a part about how the Giants aren't really on a rainy-day-fund budget right now. How, in the right circumstance, with the right player, there could be exceptions and extensions and adjustments to the budget as we know it.
Call it propaganda, and call it wishful thinking, but I buy it. Last season was embarrassing, and a Big Splash would do wonders for the marketing side. Except, I just don't see a good fit. Never did. Here were the premium outfield free agents in September:
The Giants had two pending outfield spots opening up. There were five or six outfielders who were going to get big contracts. Hoping for two of them was always a little goofy.
Think about it -- the Giants would have $50 million worth of outfielders for the next three years, and two of the three spots filled with expensive players after that. That's not just a problem for future budgets. That's a problem for future opportunities in the unlikely event the Giants actually develop an outfielder worth a dang for the first time since Nate Schierholtz.
I don't expect any of those guys to age particularly gracefully. Getting two of them was never a good idea; it was doubling down on the short-term panic. No, the offseason was always about getting one of those outfielders.
The Giants chose Pence. I might have chosen Choo as an analyst, depending on what kind of deal he gets, but I'm thrilled with Pence as a fan. And as a person involved in the GIFfing arts. Once you factor in the draft pick, I'm pretty sure Pence was the best pick for the Giants and AT&T Park if you assume they absolutely needed one of them.
Also, this assumes Nelson Cruz is a pit of free-agent vipers, which he is.
That's it. Mission accomplished. Get one of the premium free-agent guys, and get the heck out. The Giants did it without paying Jacoby Ellsbury $153 million, too. With Pence around, they can look at minor upgrades and platoon options for Gregor Blanco. If that wasn't the plan the whole time, it should have been.
Yet the other day, I got an e-mail, which I'll paraphrase instead of reprint:
How can you write about the bullpen when the Giants need a left fielder, but they're too cheap to get one? Two years ago, I'll bet you would have posted several angry things about how the front office is being cheap. You've changed, man. You've changed. And you smell awful.
Maybe I'm just used to the Giants avoiding other team's free agents, but I just didn't think about it, friendly e-mailer. I don't think the Giants are being cheap. They're being prudent because they already have a lot of future money tied up. That money is out there specifically because the Giants weren't being cheap. If there were that guy on the market, I think the Giants would be a little more active. Like, if Gerardo Parra or Alex Gordon were on the market, young outfielders with the potential to be good for the next four or five years, the Giants might be approaching the offseason differently.
As is, they wanted one of the expensive over-30 guys. They got one. That's not being cheap. The only problem is that we're used to the player. He's not shiny and new. He's kind of mottled and twitchy. So it doesn't feel like a big, fancy, exciting free-agent earthquake.
I'm not sure if the Giants would be better with Dan Haren, Josh Johnson, Bronson Arroyo, and Shin-Soo Choo instead of Ryan Vogelsong, Tim Hudson, Lincecum, and Pence. The offseason would have been more exciting, sure, but I'm not sure if it would have been better. Neither option, though, suggests the Giants are too cheap to get another outfielder. There just wasn't anyone worth getting stupid over once Pence re-signed.