So, it’s safe to say that the Giants blogosphere got pretty pissed off when Carlos Beltran signed an all too reasonable contract with the Cardinals.
Okay, Rory, Chris and every Giants fan with access to the Internet have already weighed in on this, but I feel there is a few aspects to the disappointing offseason that are being regularly overlooked. The Internet is sometimes the place where nuance goes to die. So, lets dig in a little, shall we?
First, the biggest oversimplification is that the Giants are just being cheap. The Giants have a large payroll, plus one of the few (mostly) privately financed stadiums. $130 million or so isn’t exactly the 2011 Marlins or 2012 A’s. I think it’s silly to take what the Giants ownership says about it’s financials at face value, but it would be just as silly for me to pretend I know what the right dollar amount that they should put toward payroll. So, I think it’s unfair to say that the Giants aren’t spending enough money.
How the Giants spend their money is the bigger issue. Yes, spending all that money on left handed relievers was silly. But the real damage was done years ago. In a way, I’m not as enraged as everyone else because I got it all out years ago, when they signed Zito to that terrible contract. That 2007 team was not close enough to contention to merit such an aggressive contract, even if you believed that Zito’s tightrope act would age well. (And I don’t think anyone did). In a way, it’s amazing that the Giants’ ridiculous spending decisions back over 2007-2008 have taken this long to catch up with them. This is the first time since then that they have knowingly bypassed free agents that might just push them over the edge, because of budget considerations.
The annoying thing is not that the Giants have locked the cash register, but the terrible timing of it. The Giants are going into the 2012 season with an okay team, but one with a few glaring and obvious holes. But, take a look around the NL West. San Diego has gone full Oakland and probably will be rebuilding for the next year or two. The Dodgers are still a big market team hamstrung by “ownership”, and have spent the winter turning their roster into Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw and 23 below-average middle infielders. To me, the real contenders in the division are still Colorado, Arizona and San Francisco, depending on what you think of Colorado’s pitching staff. I have a hard time saying that there are more than three wins of talent difference between any of those three teams.
One really good bat and one tolerable shortstop would have made the Giants favorites. Instead, they are part of the pack – they have a shot, but not an advantage. That’s the bit that vexes me. This year is probably the best opportunity they will have for a while for a lot of reasons.
- There is no dominant team in the division.
- San Diego and Los Angeles will probably be worse this year than they will in the future.
- The Giants team strength is pitching. Pitchers do not tend to get better as they get older.
I know that the front office says it wants to use this money to lock up Lincecum and Cain (and probably Wilson?) for the long term, and they think that’s the direction that the fan-base would ultimately prefer. Here’s where I probably part ways with everyone else. I don’t think the Giants should do that. Maybe one of the two starters, but not both. Locking up pitchers to long-term deals is scary enough, but locking up two of them is a poor idea for a team that can’t afford a proper shortstop.
The Giants are not dead in the water. Heck, they may even be considered the NL west’s favorite (if so, by a slim margin). But if they fall short by a couple games this year, they have missed the best opportunity for a while.