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What We've Been Reduced To

Willie Bloomquist was almost the starting shortstop for the Giants.

It's November 10th. The offseason has been officially going on for a couple of weeks. Giants fans were worried that the team wasn't going to spend money on free agents. That's not entirely true. They'll spend money, but it's going to be spent using the guidelines from the Brower-Eyre-Herges-Hermanson-Tomko-Feliz-Snow-Hammonds-Mohr-Tucker Doctrine of '02. Spread the money around to average-or-worse players, and hope they come together like Voltron at exactly the right time.

When Bill Neukom was deposed, the article on the move was chilling:

Neukom, it is said, believed that this was his money to spend as he saw fit -- and he did so, increasing payroll and buying new technology for the baseball department, among other expenditures. Instead, the Executive Committee wanted the money to be put in a "rainy-day fund" for use in leaner times.

Couldn't be more clear. Back then, it was a story based on unnamed sources, so we could just hope it was wrong. Now its an offseason strategy. The Giants aren't going cheap, exactly. They aren't slashing payroll, trading away Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain to get prospects, which is what several teams would have to do. I think that's important to remember. They aren't the '98 Marlins.

They aren't the '12 Marlins either, though. The Giants will spend just enough to put veterans on the field, even if those veterans are dinged up and from the Dollar Tree, where Sabean keeps leaving $10 bills as tips in the take-a-penny/leave-a-penny dish. That's the story of the offseason. I don't have an interest in going pirate radio on this. Just a post every couple of weeks will do for the rage quota. So it's time to start looking at how to improve the team under this rainy-day-fund paradigm, in which players will still be signed, but they won't be those players.

Okay. Let's turn chicken poop into chicken salad. Well, maybe not that good. Chicken poop into Chicken McNuggets? Well, maybe not that bad. Let's just look at this pragmatically, then. The Giants want a shortstop. And with good reason -- Brandon Crawford was terrible offensively last year. Terrible. He hit .204/.288/.296, which is worse than Neifi Perez's career line with the Giants. Crawford could get better one day. I'd rather not find out if he can do it next year.

So I'm glad the Giants are on the same page. And as much as I hate to admit it, I'd rather have Bloomquist starting 70% of the games at short than Crawford. Not on a ridiculous two-year deal that eats up some of the remaining budget, but all things being equal, Bloomquist is the better hitter right now. That's how little I want Crawford in the lineup without a full season of AAA numbers to evaluate.

But Bloomquist isn't good. He's not good enough with the glove to tolerate the bat -- think Orlando Cabrera, but not quite as abysmal. Even for a desperate team that isn't willing to spend more than a few million, the Giants can do better. I've seen posts that lump Bloomquist in with Clint Barmes and Yuni Betancourt. That's not fair to Barmes.

In this new world, where a beaten and cynical fan accepts that his team is going to do the same old crap, I'm a huge Clint Barmes fan. Huge. He's the prize of the offseason, if this is how the offseason is going to go. Barmes:

  • Can actually field at a really high level, unlike Bloomquist or Yuni
  • Has at least one offensive skill at a position where the Giants didn't have any last season

That one offensive skill is power, and Barmes is usually good for a dozen homers or so. Over the last four years, he's hit .253/.307/.413, good for an OPS+ of 85. If my math is correct, the Giants would have won 134 games last year if they had that production from Miguel Tejada. And whenever Barmes is at short for a full season, he puts up gaudy UZR numbers. If that's not your thing, the scouts love him too. The scouts loved Tejada's defense too, but only in the same way that we all love the Vernon Wells trade.

Baggs has encouraging news, then:

Giants are looking for a SS as a fallback to Brandon Crawford. I can tell you Clint Barmes has some big fans on the Giants coaching staff.

Encouraging in that Barmes is so, so much better than Yuniesky Betancourt. Barmes is a complementary player to Crawford, too, so if the Giants want to keep both on the roster, there would be an easy way to split the at-bats. For a normal manager, I mean. Bochy would obviously start Barmes every game. Which, considering the alternatives, isn't necessarily a bad idea.

Is it sad that this is what the Giants have been reduced to? Of course. They need a shortstop, and there's a 28-year-old star on the market, just waiting for a rich team to overpay him. I'd love for the Giants to be that team. But they're not. So considering the items in the bargain bin -- which aren't really bargains -- I choo- choo- choose Clint Barmes.

Bonds help us all.