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.

Comments (13)

  1. Somebody’s been reading McCovey Chronicles.

  2. The best part about being Sabean is that no matter how badly he manages the roster it’ll probably be enough to compete in their watered down division. Especially with the young arms they have.

  3. Good thing they didn’t give up a top pitching prospect when the traded for Beltran, only to see him walk.

    Oh, wait…

    • Ugh. That’s just depressing. At the same time, I think I could try hard and actually justify the process or thinking with that trade, which is more than I can say for a lot of what Sabean does. Still . . .

  4. I don’t think Schierholtz’s presence will prevent Belt from getting playing time if he shows that he is ready to contribute. However I’m not convinced that Belt is the real deal just yet as I find it is so hard to tell if San Francisco hitting prospects are for real because they all seem to have inflated minor league numbers and then can’t hit a lick in the majors.

    • Except for that Posey kid. Oh yeah, and that Panda kid……

      • Because some prospects have worked out doesn’t change that fact that its hard to tell if the Giants players minor league numbers are believable. We face the same thing in Toronto with our triple A team in Vegas. Just going by the numbers, Eric Thames should project to be a stud, yet expectations for him are all over the map.

  5. Great article, Dustin.

    I’ve heard that the Giants didn’t want to deal for Beltran because of his knee problems. (Remember, they got a first-hand look at his post-game ice pack ritual pret’near every night last summer.) Probably scared them off.

    As for Torres, it was time for some new blood. He’ll always be a fan favorite, but we’ve likely already seen the “Best Of” show from Torres.

    It’s easy to envision Pagan outperforming Torres this year in every offensive category. And don’t be fooled by people who say his defense is suspect. He’s very underrated and his speed will do well in that expansive AT&T Park outfield.

    It was also time to see Jonathan Sanchez go. As much as I liked him, I think the team got tired of waiting for his potential to blossom. That being said, I do hope the Royals get Johnny Be Good.

    If Melky duplicates his 2011 season (and why can’t he?), he’s worth every penny he just got in arbitration. .305/.339/.470 (0.809 OPS)? 121 OPS+? 100+ runs scored? 200+ hits? 44 doubles? 18 HR/87 RBI? That puts him near the top of the Giants leader board in damn near every offensive category last year. I don’t get why Giants fans hate the guy so much. Give him a chance for Christ’s sake.

    I’m torn on the Brandon Belt situation. I hope Bochy is not afraid to put some heat on Huff and give Belt some regular at bats. At least until one of the two lay claim to the job by wielding a mean stick. Huff will be gone next year and it will all be Belt’s anyway (or Posey’s if his knees/ankle ligs can’t handle the squat for 125+ games, but that’s another story).

    The other option is to move Melky to right (if Schierholtz struggles) and put Belt in left. Bochy’s got some options here, I think.

    • RE: Melky repeating his 2011.

      It’s certainly not impossible, he did show flashes of competence with the Yankees, BUT his numbers were a tiny bit BABIP induced in 2011. He had a .332 BABIP last year as compared to a .299 career mark. He also had a 9.8% HR/FB ratio with a career mark of just 6.9%. If both of those numbers regress to expected levels, his numbers will suffer.

      The other factor here is AT&T Park. It ranked last in both runs and home runs according to ESPN’s park factors, by quite a wide margin. Kaufmann Stadium is no bandbox, but it fared much better in that regard.

      Ultimately he’s not as bad as he was when he played for the Braves, but I have a hard time believing he comes very close to his 2011 numbers.

    • I have no problem with seeing any of those three guys go (though I wouldn’t mind keeping Ramirez for another year). I just struggle with the return that they got and how much it’s costing them this year.

  6. They would have been better off trading Cain or Lincecum to clear major salary room for an impact bat. The combined prospects and impact bat would have given them more bang for their buck when all was said and done. If they got Reyes and weighted his contract towards the end years they probably could have squeezed Beltran in as well.

  7. I don’t think an outfield of Belt-Pagan-Cabrera with Schierholtz as a 4th OF is too terrible and is definitely an upgrade on their OF from most of last year. But still…Belt probably isn’t going to get much time and I can see them tossing Cabrera ineffectively into CF. and yea, two good lefty relievers and Cabrera or Beltran and some cheaper relievers, pretty terrible decision-making there.

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