Offseason Wishlist: Digging Through the Rubble
After the whole Willie Bloomquist almost-debacle, the collective exhale from relieved Giants fans could be felt all over the West Coast. This was then followed by panic, when everyone realized that “fixing the hole at at shortstop” consisted of signing Willie Bloomquist. With him taken off the market, the options are now scarce. Unless you’re interested in seeing Rafael Furcal #OccupytheDL while getting paid $4-5 million, it’s probably time to start getting a little creative.
The only problem is that creativity in the trade market is not exactly our General Manager’s forte. It seems like a yearly ordeal when we hear rumors of a player that would be great for the Giants, the whisperings that the opposing GM is asking for too much, and then seeing that player go to another team for much less. More often than not, either the front office isn’t creative enough to find tenable solutions or the Giants are just “that team” that other GM’s use to raise their asking price. No matter how you swing it, it doesn’t look good for us.
When Brian Sabean first came to San Francisco, he seemed to be something of a trade guru. He turned an aging Matt Williams into six years of Jeff Kent. He unloaded Armando Rios and some pitcher named Vogelsong for six stellar seasons of Jason Schmidt. But ever since that fateful day in 2003 that brought A.J. Pierzynski to San Francisco in exchange for way too much, Sabean has suddenly lost the will to make major deals (up until the still controversial Wheeler/Beltran trade). Not being able to trust your General Manager to make decent trades forcing him to lean heavily on the free agent market is not in the least bit comforting.
So with all this being so, there’s a glaring hole at shortstop right now, and something tells me another season of Orlando Cabrera is not the solution. Brandon Crawford, while brilliant defensively, has failed to impress at the plate. The free agent options are scarce, but not completely hopeless. Given this scarcity, there are two players in particular that are on my wishlist.
First we have Minor League journeyman, Drew Sutton. Now before you have me committed, bear with me. Sutton came up in the Houston Astros system before he was bounced to Cincinnati, Cleveland, and then Boston. Now he’s 28, a free agent, and would come pretty cheap (possibly leaving money for Carlos Beltran in my dreamscape fantasy wasteland of an offseason plan).
Over his minor league career he’s hit .280/.378/.437, playing all around the infield. In limited Major League experience he’s managed to keep his head above water to the tune of .258/.322/.403, while putting up a 21.7 UZR/150 at shortstop in a sample size of innings. If by some miracle he can produce like that over the course of a whole season, I’d call that a fairly productive year for a middle infielder, and a low risk/high reward signing. While other teams bid for the services of Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins (who I also wouldn’t be opposed to), and Rafael Furcal, the Giants could stay out of that melee and focus their efforts elsewhere (for God’s sake, sign Beltran).
My Plan B has been a widely discussed option, as a player that apparently the Giants coaching staff is crazy about (cool I guess?). Clint Barmes would obviously cost a little more money, but as an already established Major Leaguer at least we’d know exactly what we’re getting into. He’s never been one to take a walk with a career line of .252/.302/.401, but a lot of his value comes from his stellar defense (7.2 career UZR/150 at shortstop). His status as an experienced Major Leaguer also makes him a tad pricier, which gives our front office more excuses to not go out and get a real hitter, but that’s a complaint for another day.
Neither of these guys are panaceas for what was a wretched offseason last year, but getting full, healthy seasons from guys like Posey, Sandoval, and Belt definitely will definitely help things. Right now, my pie in the sky is Drew Sutton partly because I’m a sucker for a good old-fashioned reclamation project, and partly because I truly believe he can be a productive big leaguer (by middle infield standards) given the chance to play every day. With a free agent shortstop market defined by players who are either too expensive, too injured, or too bad-at-the-game-of-baseball, this is unfortunately the hand we’ve been dealt. Make it happen Sabes.