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

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.

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.

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.

Orioles interested in Denard Span

Denard Span
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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MASN’s Roch Kubatko is reporting that the Orioles have “some level” of interest in free agent outfielder Denard Span. The Nationals did not make a $15.8 million qualifying offer to Span, which means he doesn’t come attached with draft pick compensation unlike other free agents such as Alex Gordon and Dexter Fowler.

Span, who turns 32 in February, hit a solid .301/.365/.431 with five home runs, 22 RBI, 38 runs scored, and 11 stolen bases, but took only 275 plate appearances due to back and hip injuries. He underwent season-ending hip surgery in September but is expected to be ready to participate in spring training.

The Mets and Royals have also reportedly shown interest in Span’s services.

Blue Jays showing interest in Ryan Madson

Ryan Madson
AP Photo/Orlin Wagner
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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the Blue Jays are on the prowl for relievers with closing experience. Ryan Madson is one of the names on their list.

Madson, 35, had a career rebirth with the Royals in 2015. He signed a minor league deal with the club that paid him a salary of $850,000 if he made it back to the majors. Due to a plethora of arm injuries, Madson hadn’t pitched in the majors since Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS against the Cardinals as a member of the Phillies. For the Royals, he wound up becoming a crucial member of the bullpen, finishing with a 2.13 ERA and a 58/14 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.

While Madson allowed five runs in 8 1/3 post-season innings, he pitched well when it mattered most, as he hurled three scoreless frames in three appearances in the World Series against the Mets.

Madson has closing experience, with 55 career saves. 32 of them came in 2011 when he took over the closer’s role from Brad Lidge.

After signing Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ, and trading for Jesse Chavez, the Jays have bolstered their rotation but it was reported on Saturday that interim GM Tony LaCava is still focused on upgrading the pitching staff.

Trevor Cahill considering the Pirates as a potential destination

Trevor Cahill
AP Photo/Paul Beaty

ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that free agent pitcher Trevor Cahill is looking for a one-year, bounce-back deal. The Pirates are one of the potential teams he is considering.

It’s no surprise that the Pirates are on Cahill’s list. Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage has garnered a reputation as a miracle worker after turning around the careers of a handful of pitchers, including Edinson Volquez, Francisco Liriano, and J.A. Happ. Volquez parlayed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Pirates into a two-year, $20 million deal with the Royals last December. Liriano signed with the Pirates on a one-year, $1 million contract and turned that into a three-year, $39 million deal. Happ, dealt to the Pirates from the Mariners at the most recent trade deadline, just signed a three-year, $39 million contract with the Blue Jays.

Cahill, once a highly-regarded pitching prospect, has scuffled over parts of seven seasons in the majors. The 27-year-old owns a career 4.13 ERA with a 754/427 K/BB ratio in 1,083 2/3 innings. Cahill had some brief success after signing with the Cubs as a free agent in mid-August, compiling a 2.12 ERA in 11 appearances out of the bullpen.

Blue Jays narrow GM search to two candidates: Tony LaCava and Ross Atkins

Tony LaCava
AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Blue Jays have narrowed their search for a new general manager down to two candidates: current interim GM Tony LaCava, and Indians vice president of player personnel Ross Atkins. Former Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos resigned last month.

LaCava was promoted to interim GM on November 2 and has already made a handful of moves along with new president Mark Shapiro. The club acquired Jesse Chavez in a trade and signed pitchers Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ to multi-year deals.

Atkins worked under Shapiro in the Indians organization for 15 seasons, so it is no surprise that he is a finalist for the open GM position.