Welcome to the new business paradigm of Major League Baseball ownership, which was proudly on full display at the 2013 trade deadline.
The rules of that road are simple and easy to understand-- if everything is going extremely well off the field, you really don't have to do much of anything about what's happening on the field. Whether you're winning or losing or standing still.
Just be safe, do nothing, and continue depositing the unending reams of cash coming in simply because you own an MLB team.
No team embodied that philosophy more at the July 31st trade deadline than the San Francisco Giants (although the Philadelphia Phillies finished a close second). What it comes down to is this: business is great so why rock a boat that's full of happy, paying customers.
And for some reason this makes Giants fans happy. Throughout the coherence-challenged world of sports talk radio, and the sometimes endlessly sappy blogosphere, San Francisco fans joyously celebrated that Giants ownership wisely kept its 47-59, last place, 10 games out of 1st place, MLB 6th worse run differential (-59) team intact.
Apparently the fanbase is deliriously that the Giants made no moves at the trade deadline ("What will we do if they trade Javier Lopez?", shrieked a local sports radio host). And Giants ownership can sit back and smile as their plan to wallow in mediocrity gets rave reviews.
Excuse me if I don't open a tall can of PBR (or, in a much more likely scenario, a bottle of Paul Bara Champagne). It's just that it's hard to get excited about 2014 just because Tim Lincecum (15-26, 1.419 WHIP the past two seasons) is likely to be re-signed for two more years.
It's also difficult to comprehend an organization with one of the worst minor league systems in the game not doing anything to improve it. You know, for the future.
But with AT&T Park "sold out" every home game; with TV and radio revenue being deposited in the bank by the truckload; and with tight control of the local media to ensure the positive spin keeps spinning, why would the Giants do anything?
Normally you'd say, "Well, because they want to win more baseball games and get to the post season". But in the economic realpolitik of 2013 baseball there's minimal economic incentive to rebuild a team, or expand payroll, or trade players with whom the fans have inexplicably bonded simply in the name of (maybe) getting better.
The Buster Posey jerseys are selling off the rack, national TV payoffs will only increase with every contract cycle, and people apparently can't put enough ballpark concession food products into their systems.
Two sobering truths: 1) Apparently, there is no Santa Claus. And, 2) the San Francisco Giants economic machine will now continue to grow without being dependent on winning or losing baseball games.
Top 3 Indications The San Francisco Giants Have Kissed Off the 2013 Season
1. Brett Pill was called up for the 6th time over the past three years (79 games, .719 OPS, .246 BA). I know, I know... he got some hits in his first two games back. So all of a sudden, after 8 years in the Giants system, he's become a great hitter. Right?
2. Giants TV broadcasts will now feature triple the number of cute, funny, or weird fan and ball dude camera shots shown per game. And when the team is down by 10 or more runs, expect whole innings to be nothing but extended shots of fans in the stands and various ball dudes with funny commentary.
3. Count the number of times you hear the following on local TV or radio: "Wow, I just can't get used to seeing Brian Wilson in Dodger blue." When you get to 100, feel free to pop open a whole case of PBR and eat your weight in garlic fries.
Enjoying the conversation.
On a tangential, though related topic, regarding the notion that the Giants ownership can continue to back up the Brink's truck to AT&T and shovel in the cash as long as they simply own a ballclub, I believe that will not last forever. The glow from 2010 - 2012 will undoubtedly carry the team through 2013. But by May of 2014, if the team is still scoring one run on 10 hits while giving up 3 runs on 8 hits, fan frustration will finally explode. The consecutive sellout streak will not last until the Allstar break, and at least one out of the trio of Baer, Sabean and Bochy may not survive the 2014 season if it turns out to be a repeat of 2013. Ownership may still be operating in the black, but they will not be feeling the love. Whether or not that matters remains to be seen.
I'm sorry, Richard. You are either misinformed or uneducated......there is simply no meat to your comments.
You simply are unaware of what kind of trade value these players have. Please explain to me what kind of player the Giants could have received for Tim Lincecum? Plenty of teams would have gladly given a AA second baseman with .650 OPS for Lincecum......is that your recipe for a successful future? And remember, Lincecum has a partial no-trade clause. Even if the Giants worked a trade with a team who wanted to use him as a reliever, he could deny it.
Plenty of fans mistake youth for talent. The team is doing bad?........just bring up the young guys from the minors and all will be well. Also, lets trade our veterans for some more young guys, because remember - youth = good. Everyone remembers Wheeler for Beltran and assumes the everyone the Giants trade will bring back a similar prospect......its simply not the case.
simple fact is that there are only a handful of Giants players who
would bring back anything significant in a trade. Posey and Bumgarner
for sure. Romo probably has decent trade value - and probably Cain.
Everyone else is spotty. Think about Pence. We didn't give up much to
get him last year and that's when we had control over him for a year and
two months. What is someone going to give up for only two months?
If you follow MLB Trade Rumors (a pretty good site for these issues), you'll find that the Giants were dangling Lopez and Pence (and maybe Lincecum). But they had a high price and no one met the price.
Your article fails to mention a key piece of information - the new free agent rules regarding draft pick compensation. Teams with free agents can make these players what is called a "qualifying offer". That is a one year contract at a pre-determined price. In 2014 it is estimated to be approx. $14 million. The Giants plan to make a qualifying offer to both Pence and Lincecum. In Pence's case, I'm sure they will try and sign him to a muli-year contract at roughly the same rate (say 3 years/$40M+ or 4 years $55M - something like that). If he declines, they may just get him at the one year for $14M which is OK. If he signs with another team, the Giants get a sandwich pick - a pick between the first and second rounds of the draft, likely a top 50 pick. So in dangling Pence at the trade deadline, the other team's offer has to be better than what the Giants estimate is the value of one of the top 50 players available in next year's draft.
The same goes with Lincecum. The Giants will make a qualifying offer. However, I don't expect the Giants to make a multi-year offer and I don't expect another team to make Lincecum a multi-year offer that beats $14M a year - especially if they lose a draft pick in doing so. That means the Giants will have Lincecum for one year at $14M and are clearly hoping he uses it as a "contract/walk year" and increases his performance in order to get a big contract the next year.
The way they handled Pence and Lincecum at the trade deadline I think was the smartest way to go about.
Besides, if they trade Pence now and don't resign him next year, who plays the outfield? Its a thin free agent market next year and the Giants don't have anyone ready to step into that role, nor would they have received a major league ready outfielder in such a trade.
1. Thanks for your response to the blog. I actually appreciate people reading my posts and then being moved enough to take the time to respond in writing.
2. You made a number of incorrect statements and assumptions about what I wrote (see my original post). You also made several factual errors. All are corrected below.
3. Quote from your comment: "You are either misinformed or uneducated......there is simply no meat to your comments."
This is why blogs (and responses to blogs) are not taken seriously by the real sports writing world or reasonable people interested in Major League Baseball.
It's not enough to simply offer another opinion or to disagree with something another person has written. No, the person you disagree with also has to be "stupid", or you have to tell them they just don't know as much as you do about Major League Baseball. For some reason, that's important.
That way, I guess, your opinion seems more right and correct, while the other person is either "misinformed" or "uneducated". How wonderful.
So, as to #2 above:
Several things you said I said, but I actually did not say include:
1. “Just bring up the young guys from the minors and all will be well.”
Never said that, never implied that.
As I wrote in this post (and in any number of previous posts the past year), the San Francisco Giants have a minor league talent pool rated at about 25 of 30 MLB teams (see BaseballAmerica.com).
They can’t “Just bring up the young guys...” because they have no talented young guys to bring up. What they need to do (again, see the post above) is to start stocking their minor league system with A and B prospects brought in through trades to try and upgrade their terrible minor league system.
So, had the Giants pulled the trigger on a Tim Lincecum trade after he threw his no hitter, they would have gotten several B+ rated minor league talents in return. Exactly what they desperately need in Single A and Double A. You know, for the future.
And, yes, not only do I follow MLBTradeRumors.com, but they frequently publish “The Giants Cove” in their Friday “Baseball Blogs Weigh In” feature. Including the above post.
As far as Hunter Pence and Javier Lopez , those were guys the Giants should have seriously tried to trade. Again, they would have gotten several of the B or B+ prospects they desperately need in their minor league system.
I disagree that the outfield position is a “thin free agent market next year”.
2014 free agent outfielders include Jacoby Ellsbury (Red Sox), Curtis Granderson (Yankees), Shin-Soo Cho (Reds), Coco Crisp (Oakland), and Michael Morse (Seattle)-- all either upgrades over Pence or at his level.
The final point is qualifying offers (which, as crazy as this sounds, I am very familiar with).
Signing Tim Lincecum for a $14 million qualifying offer is a waste of money based on his performance the past three years. And even if the Giants did sign him for 2014 and he had a decent year, he’s just going to leave the Giants for a multi-year contract with another team in 2015.
And now there’s a possibility both Lincecum and Pence can play out the year with the Giants, become free agents, then sign with another team. And the Giants get nothing for them.
Getting a “sandwich pick” in the next draft if Pence and/or Lincecum leave is nothing compared to the established minor league players the Giants would have received in trades. Very few draft picks, and damn few “sandwich” picks, ever even get as far as the minor leagues.
All in all, you seem to support old school approach Brian Sabean took at the 2013 trade deadline: the Giants have utterly tanked, they have a number of problems at the Major League level, and they have tons of problems at the minor league level. So do nothing.
Richard, first off my apologies if you read my post as being hostile. I'm 47 years old and while enjoy reading a baseball blog hear and there, I rarely post anything because the level of discourse is typically that of an eleven year old boy trying to make himself feel better by calling everyone else an idiot, asshole, etc., etc. That was not my intent, so if you read it that way, my apologies.
However, I used the terms misinformed/uneducated for two primary reasons;
1. You failed to mention the issue of qualifying offers which is extremely pertinent to the issue, and
2. You are (in my opinion) far off on what certain players have in trade value.
You want the Giants to trade some of these players for B+ prospects, yet dismiss players that will be available in the top 30-50 players drafted next year. That sounds like the potential for B+ or better to me.
But here is where the rubber meets the road. Who are these prospects? Name some names. Who are these B+ prospects and which team has several of them to trade away? Last year the Giants traded an established 4th/5th outfielder (Nate Schierholtz.....and congrats to Nate for making some changes to his swing and improving his output) and a guy who could probably be labeled a B/B+ prospect (Tommy Joseph) for 14 months of Hunter Pence. What is someone going to give up several prospects for two months of Pence.
Also, I don't think the no hitter changed Lincecum's trade value much at all. Everyone in baseball knows what he is capable of - on both the upside and downside. One outing won't change that. Besides, no GM in their right mind would have traded for Lincecum right after the no-hitter if the Giants had jacked the price up exorbitantly. They would have waited to see a couple more outings. And, predictably, he followed the no-hitter with a horrendous outing. And I feel you contradict yourself regarding Lincecum's worth in your response. You seem to think he would bring a great package of young players in a trade, yet would not be worth a 1-year, $14M contract. Considering baseball's current economics, 1-year at $14M would be a steal for a pitcher who can bring a package a several B+ prospects in a trade.
But lets play this out. Pick a team and suggest a trade. Lincecum for 3-4 of some team's top 15 prospects.....throw a few ideas out on the table.
MLB Trade Rumors mentioned that Cleveland was interested in Lopez and that the Giants had a pretty high price tag on him and Cleveland declined.
Speaking of that site, while they are not always 100% accurate, they do seem to be in the ballpark quite often with their updates. That being said, I read that site religiously in July, and there were very few rumblings about Lincecum and Pence. Remember, the Giants don't have to call other teams and let them know certain players are available. Other teams are free to contact the Giants and ask. That's my point....where are the updates showing that teams are hot and heavy for Pence and Lincecum and are offering a great package of players? Plenty of teams would have taken them for a pittance. Obviously no one offered anything that the Giants thought was better than the potential draft pick for losing them as free agents.
Lastly, I disagree with what you think of next year's outfield free agent class. Ellsbury would look great in SF and I would love it, but there is little chance the Giants outbid NYY, BOS, LAA, CHC. Choo would also fit nicely, but I think he will also go to a high bidder. Granderson is a potential buy low guy since he is just coming back from injury and will be 33 when the season starts next year. I don't think Crisp is as good and he's almost four years older than Pence I'm shocked you mentioned Morse. He actually has a negative WAR this year and is known as an atrocious defensive player.
A couple more points. The Giants need another bat with the lineup they have. If they lose Pence they need TWO bats. Granderson in left with Pence in right, Pagan back in center and Blanco off the bench would add significant pop. I just don't see Ellsbury or Choo happening.
Have you ever noticed that the Giants have never really made a significant free agent signing of a position player (Aaron Rowand not withstanding) since they have been at AT&T? Bottom line is hitters don't want to play here. They may like winning but they like their stats and the glory and money that comes with it. If you have a guy like Pence who is a decent producer and wants to play here, I think that's pretty valuable.
Agreed as far as Tim Lincecum. It will be interesting to see if the Giants re-sign him and how he'll do as a Giant in 2014.
You noted eight Giants players drafted since 2006 to demonstrate that the Giants have not been “mediocre” in their first year player drafts.
Actually Sergio Romo was drafted in 2005 and Jonathan Sanchez in 2004.
So in 9 drafts between 2004 and 2012, which is somewhere around 45-50 players a year or about 410 players drafted by the Giants, we have eight good examples to point to?
Well, really seven because not only do I not think Jonathan Sanchez is a player that “a lot of teams would love to have”, the Giants, Kansas City, Colorado and Pittsburgh all agreed with me.
And as much as I love Brandon Belt (and I still think he has a good chance to take over at first base and start pounding the ball), he hasn’t clicked in yet. So really, we’re talking six players
So six players? That’s exactly why BaseballAmerica.com, MinorLeagueball.com, and a host of other respected sites all rank the Giants farm system 25th or 26th out of 30 MLB teams.
I said the Giants drafts were mediocre, they’ve actually been terrible. There are no position players ready to come up. There are no pitchers ready to come up. Eric Surcamp? Minor league lifers like Brett Pill?
I also disagree with your anecdotal evidence about why it’s bad to bid on free agents.
For every Josh Hamilton you name, there many more successes: Miguel Cabrera, C C Sabathia, Adrian Gonzalez, Prince Fielder, Adrian Beltre, and Randy Johnson (just to name a few wildly successful free agents signings in your time frame).
But I will agree signing high-priced free agents can sometimes be a crapshoot— look at Mark Teixeira and Albert Pujols and the problems they’ve had.
Well, we will just have to agree to disagree on Lincecum's value. I think if he had any significant trade value and teams were trying to acquire him, we would have heard about on the trade blogs.
And while you did not say in your original blog that Lincecum could bring in several B+ prospects in a trade, you did say it in your first response. And obviously your post no-hitter blog implies the Giants could get good value for trading him.
I realize its somewhat absurd to make trade recommendations, but its too easy to criticize management for not making trades without suggesting what you think is a viable trade. This is what you hear on talk radio....."The Giants should trade their veterans for a bunch of good young players"...... Its easy to say, and I'm all for it if it can be done.
I also disagree with your assessment with the Giants having "mediocre drafts". Since 2006 the Giants have brought on Lincecum, Posey, Bumgarner, Romo, Wilson, J. Sanchez, Sandoval (Int'l signee), Belt and Crawford. I think a lot of teams would love to have that base of young players. Its that success that has left it a little bit dry right now. They hit some home runs over that period, a couple extra singled and doubles would have been nice so they could have a few more guys in the pipeline. Hopefully Crick, et al are not too far away.
I agree that the Giants have money, and they've been using that money to sign their own players. They may be be bigger spenders in the offseason because they probably had payroll space set aside for a $20M+ a year contract for Lincecum that now won't be put to use (though I do think they will end up with him for the one year at $14M). I do think it is difficult to lure outside players here. Once players are here, they really seem to like it and want to stay (Cody Ross and Pence come to mind), however those are people who came here via trade, not free agent signing. The Giants have money and win, but there are other teams with money who are always in contention also (NYY, BOS PHI, TEX, LAA, LAD...and soon CHC). I just don't think the Giants win those bidding wars no matter how much money. If the money is similar, why not go to a place where you can pad your stats. You think Granderson, Ellsbury and Choo want to trade in their short fences for cold weather and triples alley? The Giants would have to WAY over bid. According to MLB Rumors the Giants made competitive or larger bids to Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Lee back when they signed their big contracts several years ago. They chose the warm weather and short fences of Chicago and Houston. lance Berkman has apparently turned down the Giants twice.
And besides, when has a bidding war ever paid off. These mega, over-bid contracts are far more often disastrous than good. Look at LAA with Pujols and Hamilton. Boston turned their club around once they got rid of their huge contracts. I don't think way overbidding for Ellsbury and Choo is the answer.....its spending your money on your own guys like Posey and Cain....which is what the Giants are doing.
And no, Posey is not an idiot. Once guys are here, they love it. Its just getting them here to begin with that is difficult. he was born and raised (baseball wise) in SF, he's a hero here and doesn't want to leave.
I appreciate the follow-up response!
All due respect, it’s absurd to “name the names” of potential minor league players the Giants could have traded for by dealing upcoming free agents Tim Lincecum, Hunter Pence, or Javier Lopez.
There are, what, 250 minor league teams with 6,200 players throughout the Minors. Picking obvious or hidden talent from that data base for a potential trade is, a) a waste of time, and, b) completely misses the point.
I have no idea how thorough or smart the Giants’ assessment of minor league talent is-- they may or may not be smart enough to identify hidden minor league talent beyond the top 20 prospects listed on each MLB team’s official website.
So if you simply want the obvious minor league names we already know about, just go to the other 29 MLB websites and see what’s there.
Brian Sabean is an old school GM whose cloak-and-dagger approach to dealing with other GMs, with the sports media, and with the public is tired and out of date.
I frankly don’t think his style lends itself to making innovative trades or deals in general. And the 2011 Zack Wheeler-for-Beltran trade is the kind of thing that an old school GM doesn’t recover from— they just get even more cautious and unwilling to take chances.
A side note on Nate Schierholtz:
He hasn’t made “changes to his swing” or improved his output at all. What he did was get signed by the Chicago Cubs and any hitter playing half their games in Wrigley Field will see their OPS and BA go up. Even Schierholtz.
At home this season, Schierholtz is hitting .286 with a .878 OPS. But on the road (back in the real world) Schierholtz is hitting .252 and his OPS is almost 100 points lower at .781. Which is much closer to his 7 year career BA of .269 and OPS of .747. So, no, Nate Schierholtz hasn’t magically become a better hitter.
I obviously disagree on the Giants standing frozen after Lincecum’s no hitter. But once again, you attributed something to me that I did not say: “he would bring a great package of young players in a trade”. In this blog I actually didn’t say anything about what compensation the Giants could have gotten for Lincecum.
But four blogs back (“Tim Lincecum’s No-Hitter Gives Giants Management a Rare Opportunity”) I did say this: “The Giants should take the bold step of moving Lincecum very soon, with a specific goal of getting several actual prospects in return.
This is a team that should currently be making a series of organizational needs assessments with an eye toward the 2014 season and beyond.”
This isn’t about a “great package of young players”, this is about getting some potential talent into the lower minor leagues that might be developed for the future, beyond 2014. San Francisco’s years of mediocre player drafts is limiting what they can do, but let’s not be in the same situation in 2015 or 2016.
In talking about what the Giants can do to improve their outfield through free agency, you seem to be stuck in the 1970s mindset that this is a “small market” team without revenue: “There is little chance the Giants outbid the Yankees, Boston, Angels, or Cubs”. That's completely untrue.
The Giants are 6th richest MLB team and in the top 10 in revenue. They have three starters (Cain, Lincecum, Zito) who made a combined $62 million in 2013, and three players with contracts over $125 million—Posey ($167m), Cain ($127.5m), and Zito ($126m).
San Francisco actually can “outbid” any other team in baseball if they chose to but apparently Giants ownership enjoys the profits they get each year by keeping their payroll down (and who can blame them?).
But maybe the biggest myth in your post is that “hitters don’t want to play here [AT&T Park]”. In reality, great hitters sign with the team that pays them the most money. Period.
Otherwise you must think that, a) Buster Posey is an idiot to have signed a 9 year contract with the Giants; and, b) the fact that the Giants won two World Series in three years means absolutely nothing to a free agent player.