The Giants will enter 2012 with something to prove after failing to make the playoffs this season. Getting Buster Posey back — and hopefully healthy — will be a welcome sight, but the ugly truth is this: the team is going to need more than just Posey to be successful in 2012. For large portions of the season, the team looked helpless on offense. Night after night, and game after game was spent on aging players that could never get anything going. In addition, the team will have to face serious raises to pitchers like Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, and still try to balance adding offense with finding a solution to the shortstop problem.
Here’s a list of things the Giants should be looking to improve over the offseason. If you feel that I’ve missed something important, feel free to speak up in the comments section.
1. Finding a not-crappy shortstop
In 2011, the Giants leaders by defensive innings played at shortstop are as follows: Brandon Crawford (507.1), Miguel Tejada (334.1), Orlando Cabrera (294.1), Mike Fontenot (284), and Manny Burris (48). That’s an ugly assortment for any team. It’s the same thing as opening a Whitman Sampler and finding it filled with toe nails, black liquorice, and used band-aids. Gross, black liquorice, who eats that stuff?
Both Tejada and Cabrera are gone, and even if they weren’t, their shortstop playing days are clearly in the past. Brandon Crawford was dazzling with the leather, but not so much the bat (66 OPS+). Mike Fontenot is a serviceable shortstop in theory, but it’s hard to imagine him playing the position on a full-time basis for any amount of time.
The big free agent name is Jose Reyes, and while it would be great to have him on the team, his cost will be high. With the Giants changing things at the top with Nuekom’s departure, the team’s spending habits seem to lean towards the cheap side right now. Make no mistake, Reyes is a dynamic, and talented player. Adding him would do wonders as it would instantly improve the team by leaps and bounds. However, I just can’t see the Giants making a strong push for Reyes.
Jimmy Rollins is another name that will be linked to the Giants — Bay Area Ties, among other things — and it’s possible that the Giants might find Rollins more attractive due to price (ie: less than Reyes). Rollins might not have the upside that Reyes has, but he’s been a very good player for a long time. When measuring by fWAR, he’s been worth around three wins per season from 2009-2011. He’ll start 2012 at the baseball age of 33-years-old. A recent post from Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated online states that:
Rollins isn’t tipping his hand about possible landing spots. But he’s clear on two things: One is that he is looking forward to his free agency, and the other is that he seeks a five-year deal.
“Five would be great. Five would be the number,” Rollins said. “I don’t think I want six or seven. You start thinking about 39 (years old). Do I want to play at 39?”
It’s difficult to predict how the free agent market will develop this coming offseason. For the past couple of years, the market has been depressed somewhat. Will Rollins be able to find a five year deal? Hard to say. But in terms of what the Giants are looking for — and what they’ve got in the system — the team really needs shortstop help even if five years feels a little steep.
My prediction is this: the Giants won’t sign either Reyes or Rollins. They might talk with Rollins, but I can’t see the team signing him. For the Giants, I think we’ll see someone like Alex Gonzalez on a one year deal. Or, possibly Rafael Furcal. Furcal is somewhat interesting, but he’s dangerous for a couple of reasons. 1) He’s hit quite well since joining the Cardinals, but if Miguel Tejada taught us anything this past year, it’s that selective endpoints are generally a bad idea (Miggy hit so well for the Padres down the stretch!), and 2) he comes with injury baggage. Furcal would need a health caddy, Crawford most likley, and that might make him unattractive to the Giants.
2. Coco Crisp
The Giants have totally convinced themselves that they need this guy. I mean, what are the odds that on my shopping list I have “Coco Crisp” written down, and here he is! Totally a free agent and totally in our price range. Quick, note to self: create ‘fro hats to sell to fans. Yes. This will work out great.
Final prediction: Coco Crisp, one year, $6M.
3. More value-priced OFFENSE
Willingham has always been a pretty good hitter (nearly +20% better than average by wRC+ over his career), but he fields like a Pat Burrell that’s had acid thrown in his eyes. That is to say, he’s bad on defense. Over his career in LF, plus/minus has him at -18 runs. UZR/150 has him at -4.8 runs in LF and the Fan Scouting Report has constantly given him low marks. If he becomes a Giant, it would push Belt into RF (if the team keeps Belt around) and that’s a pretty bad outfield alignment for a flyball-first pitching staff.
David DeJesus would be an interesting addition. He had a really down year in Oakland, but he’s been good (in a Randy Winn sort of way) at times over his career. There might be a chance that he can play a little CF and while he doesn’t do anything outstandingly well, he’s nearly average at everything. That adds up to a pretty nice player and you would expect that he could provide you with 2 WAR most seasons. The Giants had interest in him during 2010.
Michael Cuddyer might be the most “Giants” player out of this bunch. He’s older, he’s had success in his career (cagey vet), and he’s pretty bad on defense. He doesn’t have the bat that Willingham does (11% better than the league average hitter over his career by wRC+) but he’s “played” multiple positions over his career — none of them really well. Here is Cuddyer’s UZR/150 scores, with an innings played total, for the various positions he’s played over his career: OF (-6.2 runs, 5,705 innings), 1B (-6 runs, 1,652 innings), 3B (-9 runs, 1,373 innings), and 2B (-8.2 runs, 532.1 innings). So yeah, he’s versatile. Which the Giants go crazy for.
Final Prediction: Michael Cuddyer, three years, $32M. They might even try him at 2B some which would be good for laughs.
I also think the Giants will shuffle their bullpen around slightly, but it’s way too early in the offseason for me to start writing bullpen posts. I’ll save those posts for the colder days of December and January. Oh, and we’ll probably need another back-up catcher for Posey.
What’s your final prediction(s) for the 2012 Giants and the additions they might make this offseason? Let’s hear ‘em.