2008 NL Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum will need to dominate again in 2009 if the Giants wish to be a contender.Since we're all huge baseball fans here at the Thigh, we've decided to examine each MLB team and where they currently stand. We'll look at how the team did last year, changes that happened or could happen with the team this offseason, and how it looks like the team will do in 2009 as of now. We'll even toss in the hottest thigh associated with each team.
2008 Outcome: 72-90, finished 4th in the NL West, 12 games back of the Dodgers.
What They've Lost: SS Omar Vizquel(Signed With Texas Rangers).
What They've Done: Signed SS Edgar Renteria(2 Years, $18.5 Million), Signed SP Randy Johnson(1 year, $8 Million), Signed P Jeremy Affeldt(2 Years, $8 Million), Signed RP Bob Howry(1 Year, $2.75 Million), Signed IF Juan Uribe To Minor League Deal, Signed 1B Josh Phelps To A Minor League Deal.
Needs: Bats. Their pitching staff is outstanding, but they have to be able to score runs. Run producers are a major need.
The Talk: The Giants are still considered a possibility to land free agent slugger Manny Ramirez. It's a longshot as they won't get into a bidding war with anybody and Manny's rumored to be asking for at least 3 years with $25 million per. If anything, they're doing this drive up to the price and amount of years in the contract for Manny. This is because the team they're chasing, the Dodgers, are the most likely destination for the 36-year-old outfielder. He of course was traded from the Red Sox to the Dodgers at the trade deadline and led the Dodgers to the NL West division crown. The Giants desperately need a run producer in the middle of their lineup, so Manny would be a perfect addition. If Manny's price drops, the Giants would be a bit more interested but it's still likely the Dodgers re-sign him.
A more realistic run-producing possibility would be outfielder Bobby Abreu. Rumors are that the 34-year-old Abreu might end up settling for a one-year deal under $10 million. If I'm general manager Brian Sabean, I'm trying to sign Abreu if that's the case. Abreu's coming off a season with the Yankees where he hit .296, with 20 homers, 100 RBI, an on-base percentage of .371, and a .842 on-base + slugging percentage. He's driven in at least 100 RBI seven times in his career. Abreu would likely go right into the #3 hole in the lineup and play right field.
As you can see in the "What they've done" section, the Giants have made a bunch of moves already this offseason. Many people are criticizing the Giants for choosing to sign these aging veterans rather than go with some younger players already in the system. I understand both sides of that debate.
The Giants think they're getting the pre-2008 Edgar Renteria . The 33-year-old shortstop was acquired by the Tigers by the Braves in the 2008 offseason, and was a major disappointment. Particularly, he was bad in the first half as he hit .254, with a .301 on-base percentage, and .326 slugging percentage. He looked like the Renteria of old in the second half though, hitting .296, with a .343 on-base percentage, and .469 slugging percentage.
Randy Johnson's 45 but still a rock-solid pitcher. The 6'10" lefty will still get an ERA under 4, rack up double-digit wins, and should make 30+ starts. His 3.93 strikeout to walk ratio was third in the NL last year. With all of the youth in their starting rotation, he should be a good guy from the rest of the pitchers to learn from. His chase for 300 wins is one of the main storylines heading into the season, as he's just five away at 295.
Jeremy Affeldt was a nice addition to the bullpen. The left-hander had a 3.51 ERA in 2007 for the Rockies, and a 3.33 ERA in 2008 for the Reds. Since he put up those great numbers in hitters' paradises, he might be able to get an ERA under 3 for the Giants.
Bob Howry was awful for the Cubs in 2008 after being one of the best setup men in baseball from 2004-2007. His fastball was rarely hitting over 90 mph, and he pretty much always throws a fastball so that's not going to work out too well. In past years he'd consistently be 92-96 mph on the fastball. If the 35-year-old can somehow rediscover that velocity, it will look like a great deal for the Giants. If he looks like the 2008 Howry, fans are going to hate him.
There's been whispers that the Giants are open to trading starting pitchers Matt Cain and/or Jonathan Sanchez for a nice bat in return. Cain's a tremendously talented right-hander with a fastball that can reach the upper 90s. The last two seasons he had ERA's of 3.65 and 3.76, but his records in those seasons were 7-16 and 8-14. This speaks volumes of the offensive problems the Giants have. I'd think it would take an overwhelming offer for Sabean to consider dealing this guy.
As for Sanchez, the lefty displayed some nasty stuff in 2008, but absolutely fell apart in the second half. In the first half, he went 8-5 with a 3.97 ERA, 115 strikeouts in 111 innings, and allowed a batting average of just .237. However, in the second half he went 1-7 with a 7.47 ERA, and a .303 batting average allowed. Quite the difference. Still, the Giants are very high on him and he should get a shot to make the rotation again in Spring Training.
Tim Lincecum headlines the impressive rotation and is coming off a remarkable second season where he won the NL Cy Young. Lincecum went 18-5 which is quite eye-opening after seeing how bad Cain's record has been with solid numbers. The 24-year-old led the league in strikeouts with 265 and was second in ERA at 2.62. It's hard to top that season, but the Giants are going to need something close to it to be competitive unless the offense is a major surprise.
Free Agent Signing/Trade Prediction: 3B Joe Crede.
The Giants have been known to be interested in Crede over the last couple years, and he could be signed to likely a minor league deal right now. It's a low risk, high reward situation that the Giants if anybody should be all over. Crede's had some back issues but is apparently looks healthy or close to it right now. He hit just .248 for the White Sox in 2008, but hit 17 homers in 335 at bats. That's more homers than the Giants' team leader had in 2008(Bengie Molina with 16).
Young Player(s) To Make 2009 Impact: Pablo Sandoval and Travis Ishikawa.
The Giants love the 22-year-old Sandoval. He has versatility, displayed by playing 17 games at first base, 12 games at third base, and 11 games at catcher in 2008. Brian Sabean recently said they'd probably have Sandoval as the everyday third baseman right now if the season started. Sandoval put up terrific numbers in 154 plate appearances: .345 AVG, 3 HR, 24 RBI, .847 OPS. He's a good fantasy sleeper in my opinion, especially if he qualifies at catcher in your league.
Ishikawa is likely to get a shot to win the job at first base. The 25-year-old has a good glove and hit .274 with 3 homers, 15 RBI, and a .768 OPS in 95 at bats last season.
2009 Outlook: With their starting rotation they can compete in the NL West, IF they get much better offensive production. I think they're still a couple moves away, or just one if they could somehow sign Manny. With him, I'd pick them to win the division. As it looks right now, I'd predict third place.
There's definitely reasons for optimism though. Renteria could hit like he was before 2008, a full season of Sandoval and Ishikawa could add a lot to the team, the pitching staff is incredibly talented and deeper, etc. Sabean may choose to go with what he has right now and see how the team can do in the first couple months of the season. In a bad NL West, it's likely they'll be hanging around in the race when the trade deadline comes around. The Giants reportedly have a lot of money to work with still, and Sabean could add a big bat then with a better idea of where they really need it.
Hottest Thigh Association: Hilary Duff.
I really struggled with this thigh association. I e-mailed a couple Giants sites, Googled my ass off, etc. Pitcher Noah Lowry apparently has a hot girlfriend but I couldn't find anything of her.
Anyway, I knew Barry Zito's been with some hotties, including Alyssa Milano who we used for the Dodgers' thigh association. I found out the Giants starting pitcher(and arguably biggest bust in free agent history) apparently dated Hilary Duff for a little bit, so here she is.