Giants have work to do in 2008
Corner infield spots, bullpen unsettled going into new year
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants will begin 2008 with plenty of unfinished business left over from 2007.With the exception of the addition of Aaron Rowand, they've made no moves to strengthen the offense, which ranked at or near the bottom of most significant statistical categories -- even with all-time home run leader Barry Bonds, who's a free agent and won't be re-signed.
They also have yet to bolster the bullpen which led the National League with 33 losses and bore substantial responsibility for the club's 39-55 record in one- and two-run decisions.So expect Giants general manager Brian Sabean to remain busy throughout January. Strictly in terms of bodies on the diamond, the Giants don't need anybody. Dan Ortmeier has been groomed for first base; Rich Aurilia and Kevin Frandsen, who's also a leading candidate to play second base, can handle third. But if Sabean is going to upgrade the offense, the infield corners are the likeliest places where a helpful hitter can be plugged in. A similar situation exists in the bullpen, which has no shortage of candidates: right-handers Vinnie Chulk, Brad Hennessey, Randy Messenger, Tyler Walker and Brian Wilson (the likely closer), and left-handers Steve Kline, Jack Taschner and Erick Threets.
But Kline and Taschner struggled against left-handed batters in 2007, allowing averages of .318 and .316, respectively. And the Giants lost 24 games when leading or tied after seven innings and posted a 14-27 record in games decided in the final at-bat, reflecting the bullpen's overall ineffectiveness.The Giants could dip into their starting rotation or outfield to fill their needs. Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum finally have been declared as fixtures in the rotation, but the Giants will listen to offers for left-handers Noah Lowry and Jonathan Sanchez.
Among the outfielders, Dave Roberts would appear to be the most vulnerable to being traded, since relative youngsters Fred Lewis, Rajai Davis and Nate Schierholtz lack the track record to prompt serious interest.Having already tapped the free-agent market to obtain Rowand, who signed a five-year, $60 million deal, the Giants might again dip into this pool for hitting and pitching help.
Season in Preview
A lot can change by Opening Day, but as 2007 becomes 2008, this is who is projected to take the field for the Giants:
"My sense is there will be players available in the free-agent market for a long time to double back on," Sabean said.Re-signing third baseman Pedro Feliz, who became a free agent after spending his entire career with the Giants, remains a possibility, since he hasn't yet obtained the three-year contract he seeks. The Giants have indicated that they'd be willing to settle on a one- or two-year deal with Feliz. Grading on a curve: On a scale of one to 10 for this offseason, the Giants deserve no higher than 5 at this point.
They've maintained the strength of their team, which is their starting pitching, but they haven't fully addressed their needs at the infield corners and in the bullpen, where depth is lacking. Signing center fielder Aaron Rowand should help the team, not only on the field but also in the clubhouse. Keeping shortstop Omar Vizquel also was a positive move, but he was unlikely to go elsewhere anyway.Arrivals: CF Rowand. Departures: LF Bonds, 1B-OF Ryan Klesko, RHP Scott Munter. The road ahead: The Giants will continue to search for a third baseman and might even bring back Feliz. Although first base is a lesser priority, don't be surprised if the Giants obtain somebody to push Ortmeier.
Lowry or Sanchez still could disappear in a trade, but that seems less likely with each passing day. The bullpen could remain a sore spot through Opening Day unless additions are made or existing relievers significantly improve.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.