Monday, December 17, 2007
Clueless Giants Free Agent Signing V. 2008
So what do the Giants do? They decide that they need to "get speedier" and sign Dave Roberts to a three year deal, despite the fact that they already have an overpaid, mediocre center fielder whose contract they're kicking themselves over in Randy Winn. Not surprisingly, Roberts has a miserable year, the Giants suck, those holes that went unaddressed continue to kill the team, and the Giants immediately regret Roberts's contract. Seriously, like two months into the season.
Now flash forward to the present. It's the winter of 2007. The Giants are coming off an even worse season, those same holes at the corner positions remain unfilled, they've been trying desperately to unload the Winn and Roberts contracts, and their best hitter is gone in a sea of legal troubles and embarrassing Peter Magowan shenanigans, which means that they have even more work to do to make the offense respectable. So naturally, Brian Sabean's first move is to go out and sign yet another center fielder to a five-year deal.
What. The. Fuck.
I'm sorry, but the signing of Aaron Rowand to a five-year, $60 million deal is so stupid, so pointless, and in such obvious contrast to what the Giants actually need, that I'm beginning to think that Sabean isn't so much incompetent as he is just flat out insane. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and thinking it'll work at some point, right? Isn't this just Sabean repeating the same "defense wins ballgames" crap over and over again? When it inevitably fails and the team sucks again, will Sabean just yell at Giants fans to get off his back like he always does?
The Giants have way more issues that should be taking precedent, like the fact that this team still has no power at positions where power isn't too hard to find, and yet Sabean has gone and signed a guy who plays a position of relatively low urgency. Meanwhile, the team is still stuck pondering the pros and cons of Dan Ortmeier at first base. What is going on here?
If the Giants were on the cusp of contention, this signing still wouldn't be good, but at least it'd be defensible. Five years and $60 million for Rowand is preferable to five years and $90 mil for Torii Hunter, and Rowand is a nice player who could put a team over the edge if they needed center field help. The Giants aren't on the brink of being a contender, though. Not even freaking close, and locking up a non-impact for five years is just the last thing they need to be doing. I absolutely, positively guarantee that in two years, in the winter of 2009, the Giants will be desperately trying to dump Rowand's contract.
Rowand is coming off of a fabulous year, no doubt, but it's also a year that just reeks of a contract-year surge, and it came while Rowand was playing in an extreme home run park. He hit 25 home runs total in the two years before and now that he's moving into a park that is very stingy on power numbers, he could easily regress back to those middling 2005-06 numbers, which certainly wouldn't make him the "middle of the order threat" that Sabean touted him as. His plate patience is nothing special either, as his career high in walks is 47, but this should really be of no surprise coming from a franchise that still doesn't understand the value of batters not making outs.
As for his defense, Rowand is considered a great fielder and won a Gold Glove last year, but as we all know, GG's are meaningless and I think a lot of his defensive rep comes from the time he broke his nose crashing into a fence while making a spectacular catch in Philadelphia. A lot of the more advanced defensive metrics I've seen rate him as sort of above average, not super-stupendous.
Does this signing make the Giants immediately better? I guess, but that just means it turns them from a 105-loss team into a 103-loss team. Hooray! Rowand may help the ERAs of the Giants' young pitchers with his glove, and he may defy the odds and average 25 homers over the entirety of his contract, and I'll sit here and eat my crow and enjoy it, dammit. More likely, though, his defense makes a barely marginal impact and he regresses to the .700 OPS threat of his career norms, while I sit and stew and stick my middle finger at Sabean's photo on sfgiants.com.
I hate to be such a gloomy-gus on this, but the Rowand deal strikes me as yet another ill-advised, wrong-headed, and poorly-researched free agent signing, the kind that we Giants fans have been suffering over for far too long now. You can stretch for positives and find some, but you could have done the same for the Matt Morris, Armando Benitez, and Mike Matheny signings, and those all proved to be absolute dead fish. I'm not ready to come out and fully agree with the topic of this discussion, but I'm getting there.
P2: Who says the Giants, then or now, regret the Roberts contract? And the assertion that Roberts had a miserable year is so misleading as to be irresponsible. True, he has a poor early season, due to injuries. After the AS break he had excellent production.
P3: Who says the Giants are even trying, let alone desparately trying, to unload the Roberts and Winn contracts?
P4: Calling a respective, recognized and awarded exec "insane" just makes you look hysterical, easy with the name calling, but short on the reasona and logic.
P5: You seem to assume a zero sum situation, where, if the Giants sign a CF, they then cannot sign a 3b or 1b? How stupid is that proposition? How can you even propose that the signing somehow means they haven't been looking for either a 3b or 1b, or both? Particlularly when Sabean has said he IS looking for a 3b and the papers are full of stories of 'interest' and 'contacts,' etc. Then you go on to say, regarding 1b and 3b, "power isn't too hard to find." Isn't this completely indefensible? Who are and where are these readily found guys? And, more importantly, what proof do you ahve that SAbean has not attempted to sign them, or trade for them? What can you tell us about their cost? This post is so adolescent, railing because things are not going your way, with absolutley no appreciation for the realities of the 'market.'
As far as the actual Rowand signing, I was not in favor at the time either, but it does absolutley nothing to hurt the Giants - and does, in fact, improve them, for both '08 and '09, at least.
I agree it is frustrating we can't find a quality 1b or 3b. Why Sabean gets lambasted for this is beyond me. Well, I would be willing to change my mind if you had some proof of your assertions - if you had some proof that, as you insinuate, it is Sabean's fault, and he is just sitting around the office doing nothing.
Your assertion (maybe it was just an effort at sarcasm, but it doesn't fit when the rest of the piece is so hysterical) that Rowand moves the Giants from 105 losses to 103, I think shows why you are both so hysterical and off base. Why is it a given the Giants will even lose more games next year, let alone 14 more? It looks like you just see everything in the most negative light possible.
I don't think anyone would argue that almost any player coming to AT&T will possibly see a drop in his power numbers. But you go beyond that to, without support, assert he will regress to the 700 OPS of his career norms. You conveniently leave out the fact that his '06 season was negatively effected by his injury. And you mistate the case, because his career OPS is 805.
And, he appears to be a bargain (compared to Lee, Pierre, Matthes, Hunter, Jones). So, for relatively little money he improves the team. I think it is indefensible to write a hatchet piece against Sabean that is so illogical and resorts to bending and mistating facts, when facts are used at all.
My problem is that the Giants have a lot of lineup holes...tons of lineup holes, but CF isn't one of them. They have Winn and Roberts, who aren't great, but serviceable, already under contract who can play there.
So instead of using that $60 mil to upgrade areas of greater need, they commit themselves long term to another veteran center fielder who, in my opinion, probably isn't going to be much better than Winn. I challenge you, or anybody, to tell me how this signing makes sense in any way, shape, or form.
Par 2: Not tons of lineup holes. C, 2b, and all OF are filled, and filled adequately - average or a little better. (and I am assuming Frandsen at 2b; yes, things change if he goes to 3b). That is 5 out of 8. SS is filled; yes, I would have done it differently, but, this is not critical. This leaves 2 holes, 1b and 3b. See below (hope I don't forget to answer)
Par 3: First, I assume Rowand does have a drop off from his production in Philly - I see him at about 295-300, with corresponding drop off in SLG. He is not particularly expensive, particularly, given his offense. He does not cost us a trading chip; he upgrades us. We are not getting him at the expense of some equivalent 1b. Were that the case, we choose between Rowand and a 300 1b, I would be pissed. It gives us an experienced and quality defensive CF, an upgrade over all 4 other candidates. The only negative is it lowers the # of ABs for Lewis/Davis/Schierholtz. I would nprefer to see them play next year. But I can't quarrel with Sabean's strategy (see Aurilia, Frandsen) of breaking a guy in in part time play. After the Niekro disaster, I think this is the better way. You now have the prospect playing sparingly til he shows, over the course of 2, 3 years, that he can handle it. He is, in otherwords, his own insurance, while he spells the vet. When we gave the job to Niekro, we were screwed when he fell on his face - it forced us to give up a good player (Accardo) in order to overpay to get a stop gap. Now, we don't have to do that.
In shrt, I think , under current market conditions, the IF problem is unrelated to the OF. Just as there were many good OFs on the market, there aren't any good IF FAs on the market. And thery are harder to find and even harder to acquire.
I sdon't think we are in any weaker position vis-a-vis acquiring a 3b or 1b than we would be without Rowand. The same players (inadequate tho they be) are still available. And we can still bring in one or more - if the price is reasonable.
I see this as a82-88 win team, and Rowan helps us get there. 85 wins, say, is a hell of a lot more palatable than 71. And this is a virtually zero cost upgrade that will put us in that 82-88 window. So, yes, Rowand and Winn are nearly identical, except Rowand has more power and hits RH, so will have more power in the NLWest. If we had 6 more (that would be 6 300 hitters) we would be WS bound.
However, just given Rowand's past performance and the typical deterioration potential of guys who don't walk much, I'm very skeptical that he'll come even close to matching those numbers. Again, I would bet good money that the Giants are going to be regretting this contract in winter 2009.
As for the freely available first base talent argument, there are players everywhere wasting away in the minors who the Giants could be giving a chance. Just a year ago Jack Cust and Carlos Pena were languishing in AAA, now they're coming off monster seasons. That's not to say that it's a cinch to find a Pena-caliber talent for pennies. But a player better than what the Giants have been trotting out at first base over the past three years? Certainly.
As far as giving a chance to someone languishing in AAA, isn't that what we are doing with Ort?