I like the chances that the Giants will have above-average players in left field (Fred Lewis) and center (Aaron Rowand) for the next couple of seasons. If Lewis doesn’t pickle your ginger, then maybe you have an affinity for John Bowker or Nate Schierholtz. At the very least, based on the players currently in the Giants’ control, I sincerely doubt there will be two gaping holes in left and center in 2010 or 2011.
The new meme is that the Giants need a three-year or five-year plan. The organization already has a great framework for a contending rotation; the top three are good now, and they have room to improve. Bullpens aren’t something you can plan to perfection, but the Giants have a good foundation of hard throwers with which to work. So the three- or five-year plan boils down to this: find an infield, and find a corner outfielder with power. A team shouldn’t need five years to turn those rocks over.
Trading Tim Lincecum or Matt Cain would switch the plan to something like this: find an infield, and find a front-of-the-rotation starter. Or, find most of an infield, a corner outfielder with power, and a front-of-the-rotation starter. Trading Lincecum or Cain for, say, two position player prospects/raffle tickets would just be a big organizational comb over. Forget trading Peter to start Paul. The three-year plan – nuts to anything longer – should rely on:
1. Picking up the browner grass on the other side of the fence. The Giants need to look for players who are undervalued by their current organization (Carlos Quentin, when he was with Arizona), prospects who aren’t doing a whole bunch (JJ Hardy two years ago, maybe Reid Brignac now), and former top prospects who are kicking around (not just the freebies like Brandon Phillips or Carlos Pena, either. Xavier Nady wasn’t exactly free a couple of years ago, but he didn’t have a Cain-sized price tag, either.) Jose Castillo is a half-assed implementation of this strategy, but the acquisition was made in the right spirit.
2. Keeping the young rotation healthy and together. Lincecum, Cain, and Sanchez are a phalanx of strikeouty doom right now. Lincecum by himself is Steve Carlton, circa ’72. The three top starters are cheap and under the Giants control for the next few years. That’s a head start that few rebuilding franchises will ever have.
3. Smart free-agent signings. Spend big for the fluke free agent hitters – the 20-somethings who somehow make it to the market, like Vladmir Guerrero, Alex Rodriguez (1.0), or Carlos Beltran if they come up, which they probably won’t. Ignore the middling outfielders. Spend small for the stopgaps who are trying to resurrect their careers.
4. Luck. That sounds glib, but every contender has benefited from luck. The Cubs have a catcher in the middle of their lineup who hit .272 with six homers in AAA two years ago. Two-fifths of the Mets’ rotation was given to them by bad teams who needed pitching in the worst way. The Giants need Pablo Sandoval to become a 30-homer first baseman, for Buster Posey to be an All-Star in two years, or for something huge that we can’t count on right now.
5. Patience. Make this guy write a book, and then read it.
That’s my manifesto. It’s all obvious, so I don’t want to pretend like I’ve just discovered the double helix, but there’s been a lot of vague "well, if this guy develops, and that guy develops, and…" in my posts over the past couple of years. Now that I’ve vomited this out onto my keyboard, I feel better.
Comment starter: Of what does your one-, three-, five-, or twenty-year plan consist?