Offseason: So What Now?

Confession: I wrote this post during the off-day when the Giants went down to Cincinnati 0-2. I wanted to be ready, but I’m so glad I didn’t have to dust this off until now.

Well, it’s over! Let’s talk about the things that happen from here. Get a drink, get comfy, because there’s plenty to discuss.

The important dates for the off-season roster construction look like this:

Remember the Pujols and CJ Wilson signings? Winter Meetings.

  • Who are the “eligible players” for the Giants to become free agents? That would be: Marco Scutaro, Freddy Sanchez, Jeremy Affeldt, Angel Pagan, Melky Cabrera, Santiago Casilla, Guillermo Mota, Clay Hensley, Jose Mijares, Xavier Nady, and Ryan Theriot. As you see in the graphic, the Giants will get exclusive negotiating rights with these players first.
  • The Giants have an option on Aubrey Huff they will very likely decline, costing them $2 million (shortened to just “MM” from here on out), and then Huff will become a free agent. Barry Zito’s option is not until 2014.
  • The Giants can also “non-tender” a player so that they are not forced to go to arbitration court with them. That could be likely for guys like Eli Whiteside, Emmanuel Burriss, and Brian Wilson. When they do that, they can become free agents, but sometimes this is done with the handshake agreement that the player will sign with the team that non-tendered them.
  • They can go to arbitration with Dan Runzler, Sergio Romo, Hunter Pence and Buster Posey. They also might sign a long-term deal with two out of the four of these players (Romo, Posey), or settle for a one-year deal.
  • Should those players not agree to a salary for 2013, they will be on the path to arbitration court, which will take place in 2013, probably February.
  • Guys who could just have their salaries set by the clubs, or agree upon some fantasticly low number are: George Kontos, Hector Sanchez, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, I believe Gregor Blanco, and Joaquin Arias. Not 100% positive on the last two, but I’m sure we’ll hear more about them.
  • Everyone else that had extended time on the 25-man roster not mentioned is currently is signed for 2013.

So, what does the roster look like? It looks like this:

Now you’re wondering who’s going to fill some of these holes, and who’s available, right? Here’s your free agent tracker from MLBTradeRumors.com and you’ll see who the Giants might be targeting. But first, think about how the Giants got the new guys in 2012 (sorry, Affeldt and Lopez, you’re old) who they used this year:

  • Melky Cabrera: traded from Kansas City
  • Angel Pagan: traded from the New York Mets
  • Gregor Blanco: Minor League contract
  • Joaquin Arias: Minor League contract
  • Xavier Nady: Minor League contract
  • Jose Mijares: Picked up off waivers from Kansas City
  • George Kontos: traded from the New York Yankees
  • Marco Scutaro: traded from the Colorado Rockies
  • Hunter Pence: traded from the Philadelphia Phillies
  • Ryan Theriot: Free Agent ML signing

Like him or not, Brian Sabean and his group can construct a frickin’ roster. This leaves me wondering how he’ll do it again before the 2013 season. Will they rely on Brett Pill to be the backup 1B? Or will he pull a Minor League contract on a RH 1B to be Belt’s (and Posey’s) backup? Are there solutions in-house like Gary Brown, and Eric Surkamp? Will Brian Sabean and his group be the trading machine they have been of late, or will they sign a Name to a big contract?

Here’s what we could be looking at without any additional free agents being signed, roster and money-wise:

The Giants started 2012 with an Opening Day payroll of $131,355,298, and considering ownership has come out and said the $130MM mark is where they want to stay, the Giants have 19 spots filled (20 with Huff, but he’s getting cut), so they have 6 spots to fill with about $15.5MM. If Bumgarner achieves “Super Two” status, his salary will go from $750K to $3MM in 2013, cutting the wiggle room to approximately $13.25MM for 6 players (this assumes the bar is set at around 2012’s payroll).

Looking back at the depth chart of the 25-man roster, the Giants need someone at 2B, and probably someone to back him up. They need at least a couple outfielders. If Bochy wants his 12-man staff, he’s going to need a couple relievers as well. I expect there will be a lot of talk to trade Lincecum and Pence over the off-season, and all I have to say to that is, “we’ll see.” Nobody thought anyone would want Jonathan Sanchez, so you never know sometimes. Here’s what I guess will be the attack strategy for each position, assuming no trade goes down and there’s $15.5MM to work with:

  • 2B: Try to get Marco Scutaro for a one-year deal, around the $4-5MM neighborhood. They might have to lock him up for two years to get a deal done, though. Get The Shire (aka Mike Fontenot) back to be your backup if the Phillies dare let him go. Kelly Johnson and Jeff Keppinger probably end up being too expensive. I’d mention Freddy Sanchez but he might injure himself actually signing the contract.
  • OF: How cheap can you get Angel Pagan, for how many years, and is he OK with manning a corner spot with Gary Brown up and coming (or does Gary Brown even make it? Prospects are, after all, no sure thing)? Melky Cabrera is as good as gone, so forget that burned bridge option (I would want him back though). Scott Hairston would be a great target if the Mets let him go, and Jonny Gomes could be intriguing if the A’s let him go, too. Austin Kearns could be a name for a back-up role, as could (cringing) pie-thrower Juan Pierre. There will be cries for Cody Ross (and I do love the guy), but they will fall on deaf ears. Grady Sizemore would love to play but has just hurt himself upon hearing me mention his name.
  • Relief: Gosh, I hope Surkamp makes it back, I really do. I know I included him on the money list, and that’s me being optimistic. What if he doesn’t? That’s another spot that needs filling. It’s not like making a bullpen is easy, either, otherwise anyone could be a GM. People will want Jeremy Affeldt, but will they be able to retain his services? I’ll let you dream about Mike Adams, but I don’t think it’s happening. This is going to be where Brian Sabean doesn’t sign seven-figure contracts but gets the ST invites, trades for them, or brings up Heath Hembree from the Minors.

So, as you see, there’s a lot to be done, and there’s going to be a lot of hot air being blown around in the sports radio, twitterverse, MLB Network sides of the world, but Brian Sabean and his crew have a pretty crazy off-season ahead of them as they watch the likes of the Dodgers acquire every name known to the human race while, relatively speaking, they will be pinching pennies to create a roster that is once again competitive enough to make the postseason, and maybe even do this crazy thing again.

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