Saturday, November 13, 2010

Champions On Their Terms

  • This ain't a popularity contest:

The Giants and Twins had payrolls around $100 million in 2010 and built their teams the way they saw fit rather than acquiescing to what's popular; nor did they make any attempt to appease those that were critical of them.

It's amazing how the excuses start popping up when circumstances don't go according to "plan". Loathe to give credit to the respective front offices, there's a caveat; an allegation of luck; a reason why they shouldn't have won and repeated criticisms that they did and how phantom success will negatively affect the future.

The Giants functioned with a popgun offense; a group of foundlings and castoffs; deep pitching; and a play from his gut manager----the antithesis of the stat zombie way. And they won the World Series.

The Twins had a higher payroll than they usually do; a manager who is also criticized for his calls; and a system that they adhere to on an annual basis.

Selective and random, the Giants championship was seen as something of an anomaly; the Twins solid season not as great as it should've been.

Let's take a look at their 2011 prospects for improvement....or not.

San Francisco Giants

Free agents: Denny Bautista; Pat Burrell; Jose Guillen; Aubrey Huff; Brandon Medders; Guillermo Mota; Edgar Renteria; Juan Uribe; Dontrelle Willis.

Players available via trade: Pablo Sandoval; Barry Zito; Aaron Rowand; Mark DeRosa.

What they need: a shortstop; to keep Aubrey Huff and Juan Uribe or find suitable replacements; an outfield bat.

Players to pursue via free agency: Orlando Cabrera; Miguel Tejada; Alex Gonzalez; Lance Berkman; Russell Branyan; Jorge Cantu; Adam Dunn; Nick Johnson; Paul Konerko; Adam LaRoche; Derrek Lee; Carl Crawford; Johnny Damon; Eric Hinske; Magglio Ordonez; Manny Ramirez; Jayson Werth; Marcus Thames; Adrian Beltre; Orlando Hudson.

Players to pursue via trade: Gordon Beckham; Jose Reyes; Stephen Drew; Ben Zobrist; Jason Bartlett; Carlos Quentin; Alex Gordon; David Murphy; Juan Rivera; Aaron Hill; Dan Uggla; Hanley Ramirez; David Wright; Colby Rasmus.

I find it hilarious that the immediate talk after a World Series win is on two things: 1) Is this a budding dynasty; and 2) Can they keep the team together.

The Giants----a group of patched together discards from top-to-bottom----are not a team that one would look at as a dynasty; nor do they have to be kept together whatever the cost.

For all the ridicule he receives for his adherence to old-school practices, Giants GM Brian Sabean puts together a competitive team every year possible and does what's appropriate given the situation at the time.

Because they were such a fly-by-night roster (aside from that starting pitching), the Giants have many options to let go those that may be too expensive or maximized their usefulness (Huff, Uribe) and look to alternatives that will fit into their salary structure and close-knit, cohesive clubhouse.

Since Freddy Sanchez can play both second and third base and they have an inexpensive chip to trade in Pablo Sandoval, the Giants can look for a second baseman or third baseman. Checking with the Mets on Wright; the Marlins on Uggla; and the Rays on Zobrist are good ideas. Apart from that, they could make a reasonable move on Adrian Beltre.

The departure of Renteria and Uribe's unsuitability to be an everyday shortstop make finding a shortstop a priority. Reyes may be out there and the Giants have the prospects to entice the Mets to consider it----it'd be costly; I'd ask for Madison Bumgarner to start the negotiations----but it doesn't hurt to ask. The Diamondbacks have been willing to move Stephen Drew in the past; then there are the likes of Gonzalez, Cabrera or Tejada who could fill in on a short-term deal. (It'd be a bit of a kick in the head to the World Series MVP Renteria if he's replaced by Cabrera; the countrymen from Colombia don't get along.)

Burrell, Cody Ross, Guillen and the other scrapheap pickups might not be back, but there are risky and potentially lucrative players on the market----would the Giants take a shot at Manny Ramirez?

Huff can play the outfield if he returns, so that opens the door for a first baseman who can hit. Dunn and Berkman are solid veterans.

The Giants have the prospects to do something drastic; the contracts of Rowand and Zito are albatrosses, but the club has shown the creativity to find bits and pieces to work around any and all payroll constraints.

Billy Beane has gotten all the accolades across the Bay because of his supposed "genius"; but Sabean has something that Beane doesn't----a championship ring; plus he's reviled by the stat zombies. My kinda guy.

Minnesota Twins

Free agents: Jesse Crain; Randy Flores; Brian Fuentes; Matt Guerrier; Orlando Hudson; Ron Mahay; Carl Pavano; Nick Punto; Jon Rauch; Jim Thome.

Players available via trade: J.J. Hardy; Francisco Liriano; Delmon Young; Denard Span.

What they need: a big-time, frontline ace starter; bullpen help; a second baseman; a shortstop; a third baseman.

Players to pursue via free agency: Cliff Lee; Jorge de la Rosa; Doug Davis; Jon Garland; Jeff Francis; Aaron Harang; Hiroki Kuroda; Hisanori Takahashi; Jake Westbrook; Rich Harden; Grant Balfour; Joaquin Benoit; Joe Beimel; Jose Contreras; Chad Durbin; Octavio Dotel; Pedro Feliciano; Kevin Gregg; Dan Meyer; Will Ohman; Takashi Saito; Dan Wheeler; Adrian Beltre; Orlando Cabrera; Juan Uribe; Felipe Lopez.

Players to pursue via trade: Zack Greinke; Jose Reyes; David Wright; Dan Uggla; Ben Zobrist; Jason Bartlett; Asdrubal Cabrera; Chone Figgins; Hanley Ramirez; Carlos Beltran; Angel Pagan; Andy LaRoche; Casey Blake; Chad Billingsley; Stephen Drew; Mark Reynolds.

This is a dangerous time for the Twins; they're almost teetering on having to look at their current group----along with the large number of free agents who won't return----and seriously considering drastic changes to their core.

They can't beat the big gorilla----the Yankees-----standing in front of them.

That doesn't necessarily mean they have to bust it all up specifically to that end while they still have a good foundation, but they do have to think about a major move here and there after seeing how the 2011 season starts. Could they consider trading a star player (who's signed to a long-term contract) like Justin Morneau?

I say not this year; but if they have another disappointing end to their season next year----or worse, fall back drastically----they'll have to think about their marketable stars to make big changes. Joe Mauer's not going anywhere, ever; but Morneau? Maybe.

Right now, the Twins template of competent, though not star, starting pitchers backed up by a deep and superlative bullpen is in danger of coming apart. Guerrier and Crain are free agents; Fuentes won't be back. With Joe Nathan returning from Tommy John surgery, the back end will be in good hands with Nathan and Matt Capps; a major part of the Twins winning ways has been the way they've deployed their underappreicated relievers. That's in danger now.

Balfour is a former Twin who didn't work out for them, but he's a different pitcher now; he may be too expensive for them to get. They need a lefty reliever and, as always, there are the familiar names Feliciano and Beimel.

Pavano probably won't be back (buyer beware); I'd consider including Liriano in a trade to get a bonafide ace pitcher. I added Lee as a pitcher for the Twins to pursue, but they're not getting into a bidding war with the Yankees and Rangers for him. A trade for Zack Greinke could work and Minnesota would be a viable locale for the delicate sensibilities of Greinke. Would the Dodgers talk Billingsley? Why not ask?

Delmon Young is coming off his best year and he behaved off the field----the perfect time to talk about trading him.

Would the Twins come up with a package for Wright or Reyes? They can't go on with J.J. Hardy and the vast array of third basemen they routinely plug in to play the position. Beltre will be too expensive for the Twins. Uggla could presumably shift over to third; Alexei Casilla may have learned his lesson after losing his job and return to the solid player he was in 2008.

  • Viewer Mail 11.13.2010:

Jeff (Acting Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE Jayson Werth:

Being a Southsider, let me just say that Jayson Werth would fit RIGHT IN the neighborhood. (Think recklessness meets adventurous meets partyness)

He's from Springfield. My brother-in-law played little league and legion ball with him... and the stories I've heard... HO DANG!

It also sounds like he'd fit in perfectly with the White Sox.

I have concerns about this stuff though. There are the players who can handle living the wild life off-the-field (David Wells, David Cone) and still produce. Werth has stepped up his game in recent years in pursuit of that contract; now I'd wonder if he's going to grow complacent once he's paid. Could he be a Pavano? Werth's going to be a big investment and I'd want to know he's totally committed to on-field dedication above all.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Carl Crawford:

Did you mean to list Carl Crawford twice on the Angels list of free agents to go after? If so, nice emphasis!

My evil scheme to clone Carl Crawford has been revealed by my clumsiness. We need to do damage!!!

Joe writes RE the White Sox:

I think the White Sox are only a disappointment to you. 88 wins was, if anything, better than their talent level. I picked them to win 86, I think. And many others were down on them.

It's a fair point.

I picked the White Sox to win the World Series in 2010 and they were horribly inconsistent despite their talent level (as I saw it). They were better than their record and results with that starting pitching and bullpen; the offense was a potential problem and it ended up being a big problem; that and Bobby Jenks. You know Kenny Williams is going to take steps to fix their issues. Bold steps.

  • Sunday Lightning Preview:

There's a lot on the burner for tomorrow and it might EXPLODE like a power-packed blast of Force Lightning!!!!

As I mentioned yesterday, there's some Moneyball stuff; Roberto Alomar; the media and Derek Jeter; plus the Royals; a couple of smart trades for the Red Sox and Athletics; the Mets managerial search and possible player moves; and the amazing, sudden popularity of Joaquin Benoit.

I was on with Sal at the Sportsfan Buzz a week-and-a-half ago talking about the World Series; Cliff Lee; Derek Jeter; and other stuff. You can listen directly here; or download it from I-Tunes on Sal's site here.


Matt said...

Alex Gonzalez is actually under contract with the Braves for next season. Just dropping in with that vital piece of info.

She-Fan said...

Why would the Giants want Manny Ramirez? He can't play the outfield and he's not the same hitter anymore. Plus, you never know when he'll show up once he signs a contract.

mike fierman said...

I wonder what will be the manny story next year. I have a feeling he won't play. He will demand a ton of money and I just don't think there is a GM dumb enough to pay him. And that might be the dumbest thing i've ever said on-line.