My first response to the Mark Sweeney deal: Damn. I'm going to have to finally get it straight which one is Mark Sweeney and which one is Mike Sweeney. I lived in blissful ignorance for all of these years. It doesn't matter what the question was, Mark Sweeney wasn't the answer. Well, unless the question was, "Who is an affordable, acceptable utility player that can help the Giants against right-handed pitching?", but now you're just being a pedantic twit.
But Mike Sweeney isn't The Answer, capital letters, to the offensive woes of the Giants. While I may often disagree with Brian Sabean on how to build a roster, I'm going to assume he doesn't see Sweeney that way either. Sweeney isn't Daryle Ward, and he isn't John Mabry, and for that we thank him. For all of the ups and downs we had with Brett Tomko, it's worth noting that he wasn't Darren Oliver. Sweeney is a mid-30s player coming off a career year - red fuh-laaaag - but his stats indicate a player who will give quality at-bats (low strikeout/good walk numbers). A Sweeney/Lance Niekro platoon isn't going to embarass anyone, and their combined strengths make it easy to give a tentative thumbs-up to this deal.
The word "tentative" sneaks its way in there because this can't be the last of the offensive improvements. We can expect Sweeney to give something close to J.T. Snow-like production, along with an ability to play the outfield. The team is still wholly reliant on Barry Bonds, Moises Alou, Ray Durham, and Omar Vizquel staying healthy. Even in that unlikely scenario, there are no guarantees that group would be effective enough to comprise even an average offense.
The idea that the Giants might be looking for a third baseman is encouraging. It would be easy for a team to say, "Are you nuts? We have two third basemen. What would we need another one for?" When I initially thought of Nomar Garciaparra coming to the Giants, it was as a makeshift first baseman, so I'm just as guilty of thinking inside the box. But, as it happens, the Giants are hardly infested with good third basemen. Pedro Feliz led the team in homers last year, and that's a sentence that goes down like a mackerel smoothie, but that, combined with his solid defense, could intrigue another team into taking a chance on him. Edgardo Alfonzo is what he is, which is one of the highest-paid utility players in the game, and an iffy one at that.
Of the remaining hitters, there is only one worth taking a chance on, and it's Nomar. There are about twenty other teams looking at Nomar for an outfield spot, or third, or short, or some light yard work, or second, or first, or.... His willingness to move anywhere on the field is increasing his marketability, and the Giants will have a lot of competition. Few teams are in the Giants position though. They need a short-term fix to add in to their old lineup. Risks are unavoidable, but the biggest risk of all is the status quo. Long-term contracts are not advised, but the team needs to win now. Nomar would prefer to be on the West Coast, and he isn't going to want to sign a long-term deal, hoping he stays healthy to seriously jack up his price for the next round of free agency.
Here's the risk: the Giants have an expensive third baseman contributing nothing to the team. Another one, I mean. The response to that potential risk? Oh, well. They would have at least tried everything they could try. Taking on Nomar's salary isn't going to prevent them from getting a player like Vladimir Guerrero. There is one difference-making hitter on the market, and his value has been decimated by injury problems.
This is the ultimate high risk/reward situation, and it makes a lot of sense for the Giants to at least make some intial inquiries. Nomar might not be that capitalized answer, and he might not even play a hundred games of his new contract. However, the contract will be short enough to not foul up roster building for several years, and he's about the only chance the Giants have for a significant lineup improvement at this point.
Nomar or bust.