Springtime Storylines: Is there a snowball's chance that the Giants' offense will improve?

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Between now and Opening Day, HBT will take a look at each of
the 30
teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally
breaking down their chances for the 2010 season.  Next up: Los Gigantes


The
big question: Is there a snowball’s chance that the Giants’ offense will improve?

The Giants had the worst offense in the National League last year, yet they won 88 games on the power of some excellent pitching.  You’d think that based on that performance, and on the Dodgers’ curious decision to stand pat, Brian Sabean would have gone out and done something about the offense. And I suppose in his own special way he did. Unfortunately, Sabean’s own special way is to ignore anyone on the good side of 30.

The big additions: Aubrey Huff and Mark DeRosa, neither of whom figure to have the bats to carry the positions for which they were hired (1B and LF). Oh, and Bengie Molina was re-signed too, which has now officially occasioned Buster Posey’s demotion to Fresno despite the fact that there is every reason to believe that, if given the chance, Posey would rank higher than Molina on every list short of “years left before social security eligibility.”  Service time games are fun and everything, but when you have Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain firing bullets every time out you’d think that you’d want to give them a little damn support.

The Giants are going to give off the appearance of being competitive as long as Lincecum and friends continue to do what they’ve been doing the past couple of years. But without upgrading the offense in any appreciable way, they’re not going to be competitive. Not in a division with the Dodgers and Rockies.

So
what
else is
going on?

  • The one place where the Giants do appear poised to go with the younger player is the wrong place to do it, and that’s in picking Nate Schierholtz to start in right over Fred Lewis. Neither are superstars, but at least Lewis is capable of taking a walk once in a while.  But hey, the local press likes the move so it’s not like Sabean is alone in his ignorance of what helps teams score runs.
  • No offense? Fine, it’s pitching and defense. Except the defense really isn’t there. Freddy Sanchez won’t be back for a while, but once he returns he and Edgar Renteria should help form one of the lease effective double play combinations in the game. Renteria because he’s just bad anymore, Sanchez because you have to figure that his range and arm and everything has been impacted by his multiple offseason surgeries.  Aaron Rowand is famous for crashing into walls but his defense is not what it used to be. Pablo Sandoval, well, he hits real good.

  • But of course, at the end of the day, this team is all about the pitching. And it is good. Lincecum and Cain need no introduction. Neither does Barry Zito who, contract aside, is a dependable guy who will give the Giants a lot of league average innings and maybe a bit better. Jonathan Sanchez has flashed brilliantly on occasion but has yet to put it together. If he does, look out.  The fifth starter’s slot will begin with Todd Wellemeyer, but top prospect Madison Bumgarner will no doubt get starts at some point this year.  
  • The
    pen is pretty decent too. The Giants had one of the better bullpens in baseball last year.  Brian Wilson anchors things. Jeremy Affeldt and Brandon Medders are excellent as well. Lincecum’s offense and defense will let him down a lot this year, but his pen won’t.

So
how
are they gonna do?

The Giants’ offseason moves didn’t do much to improve the team. Betting on DeRosa and Huff to cure the team’s offensive ills was foolish, as is giving money to Bengie Molina when Buster Posey is more than ready to take over.  It will be very tough to score runs on the Giants this year, but it will be no tick whatsoever to keep them off the board. I see no way for them to make up the ground that separated them from the Dodgers and Rockies last year.

Prediction: Third place in the NL West. Less than 700 runs scored.

Blue Jays will have a closer competition this spring

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Roberto Osuna became the youngest pitcher to ever play for the Blue Jays last season at age 20 and he rose to the challenge with a 2.58 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 75/16 K/BB ratio in 69 2/3 frames. Osuna eventually took over as Toronto’s closer, earning 20 regular-season saves and one in the American League Division Series — a five-out effort in Game 5 to close out the visiting Rangers.

But the Jays upgraded the back end of their bullpen this winter, acquiring Drew Storen from the Nationals in early January for speedy outfielder Ben Revere. Jesse Chavez was also brought to Toronto in a trade with the A’s.

Storen has more experience at closer than Osuna, and Storen struggled when the Nationals tried to put him in a setup role. Storen, in his final year of salary arbitration, also gets paid much more. He’s probably going to enter spring training as the favorite for the Jays’ ninth-inning gig, but there will be a competition …

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca on Wednesday that he doesn’t expect the team to choose between Osuna or Storen until midway through spring training, if not later.

There’s been talk of making Osuna a starter, so add that wrinkle.

Storen, 28, boasts 95 career major league saves.

Orioles plotting late-offseason push? Gallardo, Fowler, Alvarez, Bruce in consideration

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Baltimore’s front office appears to be lining up a run of potential roster additions leading into the beginning of spring training.

We’ve already passed along the reports suggesting they are close to a three-year deal with free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, but now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler could be next on the Orioles’ target list. It they get those two deals done, the O’s could then chase free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez.

Rosenthal says the Orioles are even eyeing Jay Bruce of the Reds, though the FOX reporter hears the O’s might not have the prospects to pull off that kind of trade.

The focus for the Orioles out of the gate this winter was re-signing Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Wieters accepted his one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in November and Davis was locked up to a seven-year, $161 million contract in mid-January.

Now the O’s are spending a little leftover cash on late-offseason additions to improve their position in what should be a tight 2016 American League East race.

Brandon Belt signs $6.2 million deal, avoiding arbitration with Giants

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In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.

Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.

He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.

Orioles sign ex-Padres reliever Dale Thayer

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Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.

Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.

At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.