Back in August, I was convinced that the offseason strategy was going to be about starting pitchers and only starting pitchers. Back on Monday, I was convinced that the offseason strategy was going to be about starting pitchers and only starting pitchers. The Giants very rarely surprise with their offseason moves. When was the last truly surprising trade or signing? Andres Torres for Angel Pagan? It's been a while.
Here we are, though. It's November and the Giants need to find a left fielder. It's possible that they're cool with Gregor Blanco in left and Angel Pagan in center, but that doesn't sound like them. They weren't fine with it last year, after all, which is why Norichika Aoki was here in the first place. The odds are outstanding that the Giants will explore all sorts of different options for left field.
And if they're declining a reasonable, $4.7 million investment on Aoki, they have something brewing. It could be -- hear me out -- a cockamamie idea. Let's explore the different varieties of cockamamie they could be up to.
Cockamamie idea #1: Spend the offseason budget on a premium outfielder and lesser pitchers
First, I should point out that I don't hate all of these ideas. I just like using the word "cockamamie." In this scenario, the Giants settle for an expensive-but-not-premium free agent like Mike Leake, or maybe they go after rebound candidates like Jeff Samardzija and Doug Fister, or maybe both. But the bulk of the offseason budget is spent on someone like Justin Upton or Yoenis Cespedes.
Maybe Jason Heyward?
Oh, baby. The Sporting News photoshopped that, and I can't get it out of my head. Six of the Giants eight position players would be in their primes for the next couple years, with only Buster Posey turning 30 before the 2017 season starts.
This would be a way to spread the money around, really. Instead of $180 million on David Price, would it be possible to give $120 million to Heyward and $60 million to a pitcher (or combination of pitchers)? Dunno the specifics of what every free agent is worth, but it's not an unthinkable strategy. Spending on a hitter would make the Giants even less balanced, but it would still make them better.
I could see it.
Cockamamie idea #2: Price, Greinke, or bust
I know that $5 million doesn't sound like a lot for a decent corner outfielder, but it's still $5 million the Giants wouldn't have been able to spend this offseason. It would be the difference between pursuing a $22 million pitcher and ignoring a $27 million pitcher, and the Giants weren't willing to accept the latter fate just to secure Aoki's services.
Aoki was worth just a win in each of the last two seasons, you know. I like the guy too, and I'm still surprised the Giants declined the option, but he's still a limited player. And if the Giants had to choose between, say, Greinke with Blanco in left or Leake with Aoki in left, you can understand why they made that decision proactively.
I'm skeptical that Aoki's salary should prevent the Giants from doing anything, because it's not my money, but I see how it could prevent them from making the move they want to make.
Cockamamie idea #3: BOTH GREINKE AND HEYWARD HAHAHAHA
Or something like that. See, the Giants have about $140 million currently earmarked for 20 players. That's including Yusmeiro Petit and Hector Sanchez, both of whom might be on the bubble for the roster, so the total committed payroll might be lower.
A 10-percent bump in payroll from last season -- on the low side in recent years -- would put them at $190 million. That's about 50 million to spend on the rest of the roster. One of those open positions would be the long reliever, which could be filled by Chris Heston for the minimum. Another would be the backup shortstop, which could be filled by Ehire Adrianza or a super-low-cost free agent. The fifth outfielder could be Jarrett Parker or Mac Williamson or tomorrow's version of Justin Maxwell. And so on, and so on.
The only places to really spend would be on the rotation and on a left fielder.
Maybe without Aoki, they're thinking big. Maybe it's not an either/or situation. Maybe they're going to use the gift of Joe Panik and Matt Duffy's indentured servitude to have the biggest offseason since Barry Bonds came over.
It's unlikely. But the numbers suggest it doesn't have to be science fiction.
Cockamamie idea #4: The Giants want to be flexible and prepared for any of the above scenarios
This is the one. This is the most reasonable and likely of all the cockamamie ideas, which by definition makes it the opposite of cockamamie. Still enjoying writing "cockamamie," though.
The Giants don't know where anyone is going. They can't just go to Costco and put Zack Greinke in the cart. Free agents don't show up two days later, like they were eligible for Amazon Prime. They might pursue Mike Leake and find out he's completely smitten with Pittsburgh. Or the might pursue Greinke and find out that fog makes him itchy. Heyward might not want to play in a park that's brutal on lefties, and we know how Justin Upton feels.
@walkinthewalk I hate going to SF. The ball travels like crap there— Justin Upton (@JUST_JUP) December 23, 2011
They just want to be prepared in case there's a chance they can get two mid-level starters and a Cespedes. Or one ace and an Upton. Or two aces and Darren O'Day. You never know what the wacky offseason might bring.
Or maybe they're just gonna end up with Ian Kennedy and Marlon Byrd back on a two-year deal. Still cynically holding out for that one. But the Giants already had the money to be flexible and creative. Looks like they're freeing up even more money to be more flexible and creative than we previously thought, even if the offseason ends with them being as pragmatic as usual.
(I would have kept Aoki still, dang it.)