On November 9th, Giants’ general manager Brian Sabean said “We’ll make a concerted effort to get younger.” Who has he signed since then?
Ray Durham for two years. Durham is a rarity for a Sabean signing, in that he can actually play baseball better than the average major-leaguer. Nonetheless, Ray will be 36 years old by the end of his contract (for you non-baseball fans, baseball hitters in general peak in their late 20s and are in decline by the time they reach their 30s).
Dave Roberts for three years. Roberts will be 37 at the end of his contract. Unlike Durham, Roberts isn’t a particularly good player. He had his best season two years ago, fell to league average last year, has had a below-average career, and would thus be an unlikely candidate for anything other than subpar performance the next three seasons. (In that “career year” in 2005, Roberts ranked 10th among 26 centerfielders with 400 or more plate appearances … that’s in his best season. Last year, as a leftfielder, he ranked 14th out of 27. Given his expected natural decline due to age, it is likely he will rank lower still each season with the Giants. And while his move from center to left field last season suggests his defense is no longer good enough to patrol CF, center is probably where the Giants will ask him to play … and the Giants’ home park has one of the largest center field areas in baseball.)
Rich Aurilia for two years. Aurilia will be 36 years old at the end of his contract. Aurilia is fondly remembered by Giants fans for his enormous 2001 campaign, when he made the All-Star team, led the league in hits, and received votes for league Most Valuable Player. He followed that up with four straight sub-par seasons. He has had something of a renaissance at the plate the last two years, so I’d say the jury is out on how well he can be expected to play in 2007–2008. He won’t be leading the league in hits.
Reportedly, the team is close to signing catcher Bengie Molina (will be 32 next year) and longtime Giant Pedro Feliz (a bad major-league baseball player who will also be 32 next season). Held over from last year are Omar Vizquel, who will be 40 years old, and Randy Winn, who will be 33 (both, obviously, will be one year older than last season). And let’s not forget Barry Bonds, who could easily end up with the Giants again in 2007 … Barry will be 42.
I haven’t mentioned the amount of money the above players will be making … I am less concerned about that then I am about the wisdom of signing aging players to multi-year contracts. Most of the guys we’re talking about are mediocre hitters at best, no matter how old they are, which is what really matters. The Giants are going to be crappy next season, as they were in 2006, as they were in 2005. Rebuilding them will take time, and while it won’t help the team to sign crappy young players, nonetheless the impulse behind Sabean’s claim that he was going to make the effort to get younger was a good one. Sadly, it appears Sabean is still trying to win in 2007, at the expense of the future. The future looks bleaker now than it did back on November 9th, and the near-future represented by 2007 isn’t any prettier.
Here are some excerpts from a Usenet post I made a week or so ago, on what I would do to help the Giants:
Put more money into the scouting and farm system. Dump the current GM and get a staff that is conversant with modern player analysis. Build your roster using all of the above (scouting, farm clubs, analysis).
It is better to spend a lot on a great one than a medium amount on a medium one. When a great one comes along, empty the truck. Otherwise, spend wisely, don't get crap players just to fill the
roster, and your team will get better.
You could go straight to the last page of Keith Law's ESPN wrapup of the free agents, to the part called "Best of the Rest." For those who don't have Insider, here are some pitchers on that list:
Tony Armas Jr. Still not signed, could pitch out of the Giants bullpen, won't cost a lot.
Keith Foulke. Unsigned as of this writing, could pitch out of the bullpen if he came cheap.
Jason Marquis, unsigned. Shoot, give him an invite to spring, he might be good.
Schoeneweis. Put him in the lefty bullpen role if he's cheap. Probably will be, unsigned so far.
Then you re-sign Barry, maybe do the same for Schmidt if the market is less than he expected. Play young scrubs in all the other spots, put the money into the system, and get a new GM. Do that, and 2008 would look better than it does now.