What would be off-season baseball without playing a little general manager. I don’t play fantasy baseball, but I do spend a ridiculous amount of wasted time thinking what I would do if I had the single best job in the world: General Manager of the San Francisco Giants.
This envy is probably why I am certain Bruce Bochey is the greatest living manager and yet Brian Sabean, who by all rights built this team from the ground up, rates barely above George Bush’s approval ratings. I try to be fair, but I can’t help it. I’d sell my soul to the devil to come back to this life in Sabean’s job.
Truth be told I’ve spent a fair amount of my life second guessing the great ones like Terry Francona during Boston’s historic run and Bruce Bochey during every torturous decision over the past five years. But right about the time Bochey put a lineup that couldn’t win a Triple A game, chalk full of lefties against a lefty flame thrower, against the powerful Washington Nationals and won is the time I realized the Bochey is a warlock, shaman and zen master rolled into one. I vowed to never again think I could do his job.
But Sabean… well, I truly believe I could do better so the second-guessing will continue long after both of us are gone.
We dispensed of the bad news in the last post: Sandoval has to go on to other adventures in other places. Take the pebble from my hand Kung Fu Panda and see you in ten years at a reunion where fans will give you the longest of standing ovations. Just don’t put on the uniform as a player again because I don’t want to pay you. No hard feelings.
That sets up the good news. If I was Brian Sabean today, I think I could actually build a team that would win a World Series in an odd number year. Next year in fact. Back-to-back. Remove all doubt about the Dynasty. Cement it.
First: do nothing. Let Panda go. Do not reach out to Jake Peavy (we already have him signed; he’s named Tim Hudson), Ryan Vogelsong, Sergio Romo or Michael Morse. Each played well, each is in line for a better pay day, and each will find suitors willing to over pay despite the flaws we saw in them over the season.
Thanks guys, see you at the reunion too. Romo is a tough one because he’s been such a staple for the Giants through this whole championship era. But he wants closer money and closer responsibilities and as we found out, he’s a right-handed specialists in closer camo and nowhere worth the $10 million a year his hometown LA Dodgers will give him. Say goodbye.
From the moment I heard Morse using the 1980s classic Ah Ha’s “Take on Me” I knew I loved the guy. His playoff at bats were probably more important than any other player on the roster not named Panda. But he’s lost in the outfield and went a better part of three months with fewer home runs than can be counted on one hand because teams busted him inside and he couldn’t adjust. His future is as an American League DH, so go forth my friend and prosper. We really will miss you.
Second, take all of that money, every last bit of savings and sign one guy. For once, go against the Brian Sabean grain to spread the wealth, win some and lose some philosophy of overpaying veterans trying to catch lightening in the bottle and find one true superstar. We absolutely need a cleanup hitter, and don’t say Nelson Cruz. We need a younger cleanup hitter. Think Giancarlo Stanton. Empty the minor leagues, load up the vault. Pay him the $25 million a year you saved by letting all those other guys go, give away your top three prospects, throw in an Andrew Susac or Matt Duffy (anybody but Joe Panik) and go get Stanton.
It’s exactly what Sabean should have done with Adrian Gonzalez four years ago but never tried.
If that fails try to raid the Kansas City Royals for Lorenzo Cain or go get Yoenis Cespedes from the Red Sox’ crowded outfield. Or if all else fails, open the check book and make sure you sign the next great Cuban, according to the USA Today:
Yasmany Tomas, Industriales in Cuba: Tomas is often compared to other Cuban outfielders like Yoenis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig, and Cuban baseball expert Peter Bjarkman said body- and strength-wise he can hold his own with Puig. But Tomas’ plate discipline is even less refined than what the Los Angeles Dodgers star showed in his early days in the minors. And while Tomas, about to turn 24, throws well, he doesn’t match Puig’s arm, speed or zest for the game. Tomas’ size and athleticism, as well as the Cuban lineage, make him appealing – perhaps enough to garner a contract in the $60-70 million range – but he figures to need some time in the minors polishing his game.
I’ll give Sabean credit. He already signed one cheap alternative, Daniel Carbonell, who might become a great outfielder from Cuba. And folks think the Giants are going to make a strong push for Tomas, who baseball writer George King says is better than the Red Sox’ Rusney Castillo.
The Giants have lacked a true cleanup hitter since the retirement of Barry Bonds. One can argue the lead-off spot has been a decade-long problem, but when Pagan is healthy he may not be Rickey Henderson, but the team wins. Signed for two more years, we have to ride with him for now. That leaves the four-spot as the one glaring need that would make everyone else in the lineup fall in place.
Pagan, Panik, Posey, XXX, Pence, Belt, Crawford and 3b.
Admittedly replacing Sandoval will be tough, but this is what Sabean does best: bargain-basement signings. He found Cody Ross and Pat the Bat and even Morse on the scrap heap. He can find a 3b for this year or even let the dynamic Matt Duffy play there despite his absence of power. Or give Adam Duval a real chance to unleash his power. Regardless of who plays there that’s a team that can can dominate with bench players like Ishikawa, Arias, Blanco and Sanchez who are proven role players.
The rotation is just fine: You have to give Tim Lincecum one more chance. Matt Cain should be back and better than ever. Petit earned a chance and is a bargain. Bumgarner is worth two starters. Hudson at 40 is the best end-of-the-rotation guy in baseball. Finally, once the off-season signing hysterics play out, Sabean will find some talent off the scrap heap or some of the talent in the minors will rise just as they did this year.
We don’t need much. We simply need one highly quality linchpin to bring this fabulous team together from overachiever to true powerhouse.
There it is. April 2015 can’t get here soon enough but for now, it’s time I become like Jimmy Fallon in Fever Pitch, the normal winter guy who doesn’t obsess about baseball every waking moment. Let the baseball diet begin. Happy off-season.