Restoring the rosters: No. 15 – San Francisco

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This is part of a series of articles examining what every team’s roster would look like if given only the players it originally signed. I’m compiling the rosters, ranking them and presenting them in a countdown from Nos. 30 to 1.
No. 30 – Cincinnati
No. 29 – Kansas City
No. 28 – San Diego
No. 27 – Milwaukee
No. 26 – Baltimore
No. 25 – Chicago (AL)
No. 24 – Chicago (NL)
No. 23 – Pittsburgh
No. 22 – Detroit
No. 21 – Tampa Bay
No. 20 – New York (NL)
No. 19 – Houston
No. 18 – Oakland
No. 17 – St. Louis
No. 16 – Florida
The Giants’ legendary inability to develop hitters under GM Brian Sabean doesn’t keep the team from cracking the top half of the rankings, if only barely.
Tim Lincecum
Matt Cain
Francisco Liriano
Jonathan Sanchez
Noah Lowry
Joe Nathan
Brian Wilson
David Aardsma
Scott Linebrink
Carlos Villanueva
Bobby Howry
Jeremy Accardo
It’s hard to beat that one-two punch, and I still have high hopes for Liriano going forward. I’m not sure Lowry is the right choice to round out the rotation, as he may never make it back after two lost seasons. He can be replaced by Shairon Martis, but it’s nearly moot, as Madison Bumgarner, arguably the top pitching prospect in the minors, will claim the spot soon enough.
The bullpen possesses perhaps baseball’s best closer, two more ninth-inning guys and plenty of other setup options. Jason Grilli was next in line for a spot, but the rotation is good enough that the team should be able to go without a long reliever. Sergio Romo was also considered. It’s a couple of years too late for Keith Foulke.
CF Fred Lewis
C Buster Posey
RF Nate Schierholtz
1B Pablo Sandoval
LF John Bowker
3B Pedro Feliz
2B Kevin Frandsen
SS Emmanuel Burriss
OF Todd Linden
C Yorvit Torrealba
INF Brian Buscher
INF Cody Ransom
1B Travis Ishikawa
The scary thing is that this qualifies as huge progress. Three years ago, this would have been an absolutely horrible list populated by Feliz, Torrealba and a bunch of fringe bench players, like Jason Ellison, Lance Niekro and Dan Ortmeier. Feliz and Rich Aurilia were the only legitimate regulars produced during the late 90s and the first half of the aughts, and Aurilia actually spent three years in the Texas farm system before joining the Giants. Even worse, it sure appears as though what did develop did so more as a result of steroid use than from any actual instruction in the San Francisco system.
The lineup above isn’t embarrassing any longer. Sandoval has played like an All-Star this year, and I think Schierholtz and Bowker are both capable of some 800 OPS seasons in the majors. Producing offense at the bottom of the order will be a major problem, but at least the infield defense should be strong.
As for Posey, well, that might be something of a reach at this point. I considered sticking Sandoval back behind the plate and going with Ishikawa at first base, but the Giants are going to need Sandoval’s bat in the lineup at all times. If Posey isn’t quite ready to cut it yet, then Torrealba could start, with Steve Holm as the backup.
The Giants have improved by leaps and bounds over the last few years, and they might be even higher in the rankings if they didn’t blow their 2004 and ’05 first-rounders to sign free agents. With injuries taking a toll on some quality arms, the Giants went the entire 1990s without getting a quality return on a first-rounder. However, they’ve been scoring big since with Lincecum, Cain and now Bumgarner and Posey. They should move up further when these lists are revisited in a couple of years.

Marlins hire Juan Nieves as pitching coach

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This is not a terribly big deal compared to the rumors of who the Marlins want to hire as their hitting coach, but it’s news all the same: Miami has hired Juan Nieves as their pitching coach.

Nieves replaces Chuck Hernandez who was let go immediately after the season ended. Under Hernandez Marlins pitchers allowed 4.19 runs a game and had an ERA of 4.02, striking out 1152 batters and walking 508 in 1,427 innings. As far as runs per game go, that was around middle of the pack in the National League, just a hair better than league average. The strikeout/walk ratio, however, was third to last in the NL.

Nieves, a former Brewers hurler who once tossed a no-hitter, was most recently the Red Sox’ pitching coach, serving from the beginning of the 2013 season until his dismissal in May of this year.

In baseball, if you lose the World Series you still get a ring

ST. LOUIS - APRIL 3:  Detail view of the St. Louis Cardinals 2006 World Series Ring at Busch Stadium on April 3, 2007 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Scott Rovak/Getty Images)
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“Second place is first loser” — some jerk, probably.

The funny thing about “winning is everything” culture in sports is that it’s revered, primarily, by people with the least amount of skin in the game. Self-proclaimed “Super Fans” and talk radio hosts and guys like that. People who may claim to live and breathe sports but who, for the most part, have other things in their lives. Jobs and families and hobbies and stuff. Winning is everything for them on the weekend at, like, Buffalo Wild Wings or in their man cave.

Athletes — whose actual job is to play sports — like to win too. They’re certainly more focused and committed to winning than Joe Super Fan is, what with it being their actual lives and such. But you see far less “winning is everything” sentiment from them. In interviews they talk about how they hate to lose but, with a little bit of distance, they almost always talk about appreciating efforts in a well-played loss. They rarely talk about big losses — even championship losses — as failures or choke jobs or disgraces of one stripe or another.

All of which makes this story by Tim Rohan in the New York Times fun and interesting. It’s about championship rings for the non-championship winners. The 2014 Royals — winners of the A.L. pennant but losers of the World Series — are featured, and the story of rings for World Series losers is told. Mike Stanton, who played on a ton of pennant and World Series-winning teams with the Yankees and Braves, talks about his various rings and how, even though the Braves lost in the World Series that year, 1991 is his favorite.

Also mentioned: George Steinbrenner’s thoughts about rings for World Series losers. You will likely not be surprised about his sentiments on the matter.

Wait, what is the non-tender deadline again?

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For the next day and a half you’ll hear a lot about the non-tender deadline and/or players being tendered or not tendered a contract. Here, in case you’re unaware, is what that means.

By midnight on Wednesday teams have to decide whether to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players. If they do, the team retains control over the player. Now, to be clear, the team is not simply “tendering” the player the actual contract specifying what he’ll be paid. Think of it as more of a token gesture — a placeholder contract — at that point the team and the player can negotiate salary for 2016 and, if they can’t come to an agreement over that (i.e. an agreement avoiding arbitration) they will proceed to submit proposed salaries to one another and have a salary arbitration early in the spring.

If the team non-tenders a player, however, that player immediately becomes a free agent, eligible to sign anywhere with no strings attached.

Basically, the calculus is whether or not the team thinks the player in question is worth the low end of what he might receive in arbitration. Or, put differently, if the guy isn’t worth what he made in 2015, he’s probably going to be non-tendered.

MLB Trade Rumors has a handy “Non-Tender Tracker” which lists the status of the couple hundred arbitration eligible players and whether or not they’ve been tendered a contract. We’ll, of course, make mention of notable non-tender guys as their status for 2016 becomes known over the next day or two.

Mariners interested in free agent outfielder Nori Aoki

AP Photo/Ben Margot
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New Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto has kept pretty busy in his short time on the job and Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports that free agent outfielder Nori Aoki could be his next target. The club recently pursued a trade for Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna, but the asking price has them looking at alternatives.

Aoki, who turns 34 in January, has hit .287 with a .353 on-base percentage over four seasons since coming over from Japan. He was having a fine season with the Giants this year prior to being shut down in September with lingering concussion symptoms.

The Giants decided against picking up Aoki’s $5.5 million club option for 2016 earlier this month, but he should still do pretty well for himself this winter assuming he’s feeling good.