To this point, the San Francisco Giants have yet to announce the three players who will comprise the team’s outfield on Opening Day. But this being the Giants, it’s not that difficult to imagine how things will end up shaking out.
While their outfield options consist of Brandon Belt, Melky Cabrera, Aubrey Huff, Angel Pagan and Nate Schierholtz, the most likely starters on a Bruce Bochy managed team would be Cabrera in left, Pagan in center and Schierholtz in right. Huff, who has no place in the team’s outfield, is likely to keep Belt in prospect purgatory for yet another year as he gets the majority of innings at first base and collects $10 million in the final year of his contract (plus a $2 million buyout when his option isn’t picked up at the conclusion of the season).
Optimal? Not in the least, but remember that this is the Giants we’re talking about.
Over the last two days, San Francisco has managed to avoid going to arbitration by signing both Cabrera and Pagan for the coming year at a combined price of $10.85 million. In order to acquire these two outfielders this off season, the Giants gave up three players: Jonathan Sanchez was sent to the Kansas City Royals for Cabrera; Ramon Ramirez and Andres Torres were sent to the New York Mets for Pagan.
While Ramirez has avoided arbitration with the Mets for $2.65 million, Torres and Sanchez will most likely be exchanging arbitration figures with their respective new teams today, with the deadline to do so fast approaching. MLB Trade Rumors projects that Torres will earn $2.5 million from the Mets, while Sanchez earns $5.2 million from the Royals. So, we can safely say that if the Giants hadn’t made these trades this off season, they’d be on the hook for a similar amount of money to what they’re paying their two new outfielders.
And if they’d considered non-tendering them or making trades that brought back a return of talent not quite ready for the Major Leagues, they could have saved that amount.
Of course, not making those trades or making different trades would have left the Giants outfield looking rather bare or worse, forced their hand to make an ill advised signing of Michael Cuddyer or Josh Willingham or Jason Kubel for multiple years. However, there’s another option that has to be considered: bringing back Carlos Beltran.
The new Cardinals outfielder recently revealed that San Francisco was one of three teams that were vying for his services right before he settled on signing with St. Louis. Given the mostly positive reaction to the team friendly two year contract worth $26 million, Giants fans can be forgiven for asking why the team would consider saving $3 million to go with Cabrera and Pagan instead of Belt and Beltran.
Yes, the team would be without a center fielder under that scenario, and with up to $3 million more already spent on its payroll, there would be questions as to how they could afford a stop gap there.
However, if money is indeed the issue that it’s been made out to be this off season in San Francisco, we can go even further back and shake our collective heads at picking up lefty reliever Jeremy Affeldt’s $5 million option or extending Javier Lopez for $8.5 million over the next two years, all while laying the 2010/2011 off season missteps to bed.
Now, obviously the counter argument to this tsk tsking of the Giants front office is that hindsight is always 20/20, but let’s be realistic about what San Francisco knew about what they were getting in Pagan and Cabrera. As we discussed yesterday, there’s an awful lot of foresight available when it comes to arbitration cases, and while Brian Sabean’s choices this off season might be questionable, I doubt very much he was ignorant as to the cost of inking his two outfield additions this winter.
There’s no escaping that it was a conscious decision on the Giants’ part to fill their outfield with Cabrera, Pagan and Schierholtz over Belt, Beltran and an additional cost. Whether that was a good decision or not remains to be seen.
What doesn’t go unseen for now is the number of questions that the outfield as it stands has attached to it: Was last year’s career year for Cabrera representative of his true talent, or merely an outlier? Can Pagan bounce back from last year’s struggles? Is Schierholtz really an every day player? Will Brandon Belt ever be allowed to play on this team?
A better handling of resources from the outset of the off season would’ve not only provided answers for these questions, but eliminated them all together.