History Repeating?

As most of you probably know by now, the Cardinals yesterday signed Carlos Beltran to a 2 year $26 Million contract. That contract is very reasonable and one that the Giants could have fit into their payroll, had they made re-signing him the top priority. They did not though, and that has angered a lot of Giants fans, myself included. Why didn’t the Giants make Beltran the top priority though? Hank Schulman of the SF Chronicle has some answers

Sabean always has believed that it makes little sense to have one or two big players if the supporting cast is weak. He would rather own a room full of toys than one Xbox 360. He was ripped for that philosophy in 1996, ripped for it again after the 2003 season when he didn’t make a move for Vlad Guerrero and is being ripped for it today. But he is not budging

The 2003 example is interesting compared to the current situation. Barry Bonds was the greatest player in baseball, but was aging and transitioning from a guy with an OPS in the mid 1000′s to a guy with an OPS in the low 1000′s. He was starting to go into the twilight of his career which, while still incredibly good did make him look closer to mortal. The Giants had also lost the Robin to Bonds’ superman after 2002 when Jeff Kent went to Houston. So the Giants had a fantastic slugger but their core was aging and could use an infusion of talent. Which brought up RF Vladimir Guerrero who was a 28 year old free agent coming off a huge year, hitting .330/.426/.586 with more walks than strikeouts. So did the Giants make an effort to sign him?

Q: Did you ever make an offer for Vladimir Guerrero?

Sabean: In a word: No. If we had signed Guerrero or [Gary] Sheffield, we would have been without [Jim] Brower, [Scott] Eyre, [Matt] Herges, [Dustin] Hermanson, [Brett] Tomko, [A.J.] Pierzynski, [Pedro] Feliz, [J.T.] Snow, [Jeffrey] Hammonds, [Dustan] Mohr and [Michael] Tucker–obviously not being able to field a competitive team, especially from an experience standpoint, given our level of spending.


Now this may come across as overly cynical-and I truly don’t mean it to be. But I just see some similarities to the 2003 team and this team. I think given the rising salaries of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and even Madison Bumgarner combined with the rate of attrition for pitchers the Giants window of opportunity could be shorter than most think. I do think that the Giants are in better shape for the future than they were in 2003. But I do think that given Arizona and San Diego’s strong farm systems, Los Angeles’ forthcoming ownership improvement, and Colorado’s solid balance, the time for the Giants to strike was now, but instead Sabean is again seeing a window close and not changing his methods to help extend the Giants window of opportunity.


6 thoughts on “History Repeating?

  1. 1. There is really no comparison between Vlad Guerrero of 2003 and Carlos Beltran of 2011. The same people who are in a rage over the Giants failing to sign Beltran are much the same people who would be raging when he blew out his knee in mid-May saying Sabean should have known better than to sign a guy with glass knees. Wanna know why I say that? All the howling about Franchez and his injuries!

    2. The Giants have won a World Series since they didn’t sign Vlad Guerrero. How many have the Angels won in that time? Time to move on, people!

    3. There is no comparison to the state of the Giants farm system now and in 2003. It may not be ranked as one of the top systems this year but it’s really deep with a lot of young talent that has a chance to bust out. Besides, Panik and Brown are not exactly chopped liver. Also, it would look a whole lot better with Belt included. He’s technically graduated, but for all practical purposes is still a prospect.

    4. The Giants have stated that their priority is to keep the pitching intact. They have conserved their resources to enable them to do just that. I believe they will get it done until proven otherwise.

    5. There is no “window” that is about to close due to #3 and #4 above.

  2. Well, if they had signed Vlad they would have made more money by making the playoffs more often, meaning they could raise the budget and keep better players. LAA did with him, and are trying to get back to the Guerrero year revenue streams with Pujols. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, so having strong prospects is fine but that doesn’t mean Lincecum and Cain will be replaceable any time soon. With how things are I don’t see either pitcher in a SF uniform in 2013.

  3. I do agree with 1 and 3 and should have made it a better point to go over how bad the farm system was in 03 compared to now.

    I think the main difference in our view points is that a): you think the team will re-sign Lincecum and Cain and B): you think that Lincecum and Cain will perform to the level of those contracts.
    I don’t necessarily think either would be substantial risks but like Jeff Sullivan noted on Jered Weaver’s extension- pitchers with long term deals usually don’t end up as great investments


    • When it comes down to it, I don’t think it’s going to take an 8 year deal to extend Timmy and I’m even more sure it won’t take that to extend Cainer.

      Think about it. The Giants are believed to be seeking 4 years deals for both. Let’s say they offer to extend the current 1 year $15 M contract by 3 years at an average of $20 M plus an option for a 4’th year at 22 M with an $8 M buyout, full no trade. That’s $68 M of guaranteed money over and above the $15 M he’s getting this year. Cainer has demonstrated a conservative nature that prefers long term security to the risking that security for bigger future gain, but how much more is he really going to get at the end of that one year anyway? I say Cainer takes the Giants offer knowing he’s set for life if his arm falls of in his first start of 2012.

      Timmy is a little harder to get a read on, but again, there are no guarantees after this year if he just signs a 1 year deal through arbitration. If the Giants put an offer of 4 years/80 M with 5’th year option of 22 M and the same $8M buyout, full no trade of course, I say there’s at least a 50% chance he doesn’t walk away from that.

  4. I’m going to re-post what I belatedly posted on the previous entry on this site, since it’s a different take from Schulman’s, with his complacent assurance about the Giants’ finances. I believe that the team just now suffers from certain financial uncertainty. At such time as the A’s take San Jose from us we will have an unstable, probably reduced revenue stream. Whatever compensation the Giants get, at whatever rate they get it, isn’t known, but what is known is that keeping the players they want to keep will be very expensive. The Giants’ response to this situation has been extremely prudent, in maintaining what Baer calls a rainy day fund. If they had won their extremely reasonable gamble in getting Beltran when they were well ahead in their division, the extra revenue from the post-season would have let them add his bat as well as maintain their superb pitching. But the gamble didn’t work; and faced with the uncertainty they have surely known about for some time (unlike the grumbling fans), they have let Sabean improve the offense within affordable limits, while not eroding the defense, including the level of pitching. Their cautious budget cap has kept them very solvent no matter what the timetable or short-to-medium-term repercussions of the A’s depriving them of a lucrative body of fans.

    Perhaps because I haven’t searched sufficiently, I haven’t seen this matter seriously addressed, but I suggest that till the situation is better resolved, it will–and it should–stall the Giants from taking the more dramatic actions that disappointed fans might prefer. However, instead of assuming that the milk has been spilt and soured for 2012, let’s see what they do when the situation resolves itself better, as to the A’s’ move and immediate contract negotiations.

  5. History repeating? Let’s look at top 5 prospects: In Dec 2003, here is BA’s top 5 for Los Gigantes: Merkin Valdez, Matt Cain, David Aardsma, Dan Ortmeier and Todd Linden. The Giants famously punted their pick by signing Michael Tucker before the deadline that year instead of signing Vladdy the Impaler. Here are their top 5 draft picks for 2004: Eduardo Martinez-Esteve in the 2nd, John Bowker 3rd, Clay Timpner, Garrett Broshuis and Justin Hendrick. Vlad was 28, the perfect signing at the perfect junction for the club, and the Giants screwed the pooch famously, completely and royally.

    Now let’s look at today. BA top 5 prospects: Gary Brown, Tommy Joseph, Heath Hembree, Joe Panik and Francisco Peguero. Our top 5 picks: Panik, Kyle Crick, Andrew Susak, Ricky Oropesa, Bryce Bandilla and because the next 2 have a good chance to be complete steals: Chris Marlowe and Josh Osich. Carlos Beltran is a very nice bat, but he is 35 years old, he has shaky injury history with his knees. Angel Pagan and Melky Cabrera field better, run the bases better, and steal bases much better. And then there is Brandon Belt, who has extremely similar projections to Beltran except for a slightly lower BA.

    I would say history is repeating itself as far as Giants fan freakouts, but its an empty freakout this time. That Vlad quote was an absolute classic, and inspired the term “The Lunatic Fringe”, deservedly so. The Giants are in a different place today. Better farm system, better options to put on the field, and much better draft picks. Amazingly better draft picks. The players who helped win us a world series, as well as the recent trade additions, do not deserve to be substituted in to that quote with the mediocre players originally listed. And while Beltran is a very nice player, at this point in his career he is nothing like Vladdy in his prime. I wish Giant fans would ease off that quote.

    Window of opportunity? Time will tell. Obviously keeping the aces (and the 3 of Timmy, Cain and Madbum were in the top 12 of the majors in FIP/150 innings pitched last year for crying out loud) is very important. But the background of the farm system as well as the approach to the draft is amazingly different. I am impressed that Brian Sabean traded for a 27 and 30 year old and avoided a 35 year old injury risk. And if chips fall, might be playing a home grown 24 year old. I may be in the minority, but I love the moves and I really enjoy cheering for homegrown players as they are being cranked out. The path to long term success lies in the draft and the investment in the minor league system. We’ll just have to let the lockup with Timmy and Cain play out. Nothing is ever set in stone.

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