My first act as the Giants' general manager for a day is to thank a higher power that I have Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, and Madison Bumgarner in my starting rotation. With those four pitchers in tow, anything is possible, even a World Series championship with an otherwise ordinary roster, as the underdog Giants proved in beating the Braves, Phillies, and Rangers in the recently-completed postseason.
I won't get a World Series ring out of San Francisco's success in riding those four starters to the title two weeks ago, but my task during my day as Brian Sabean's understudy is to try to put the franchise in position to win another championship next year. After all, the Giants are allowed to be greedy after being in San Francisco for 54 years before finally winning a World Series.
The Giants have six players who are now free agents, and eight more eligible for arbitration. Thus, there is work to do, especially because the payroll isn't likely to rise much more than 10 percent over the $98 million it was on Opening Day last season.
The six free agents are right-handed reliever Guillermo Mota, first baseman Aubrey Huff, shortstop Edgar Renteria, infielder Juan Uribe, left fielder Pat Burrell, and outfielder Jose Guillen. Of those six, there is only one I feel is essential to retain, and it might not be the one many people might suspect.
The guy I would re-sign is Uribe, both because he has some pop, and because he can play second base, third base, and shortstop. Uribe's True Average was a lackluster .266 last season, but his 24 home runs ranked second on the team to Huff's 26. Because we need to have at least one player who can hit the ball out of the park, it's going to be Uribe because the other four free-agent hitters can be replaced internally.
The first-base hole that would be vacated by Huff could be filled one in one of two ways, either by making Travis Ishikawa the starter, or by shifting rotund third baseman Pablo Sandoval across the diamond while plugging Mark DeRosa—who lost most of 2010 to elbow surgery—-in at the hot corner. While it would be tough to say goodbye to Huff following a season in which he had a .316 TAv and 6.1 WARP, both were career highs, and it's hard to imagine him replicating that feat as a 34-year-old in 2011.
Uribe would become the everyday shortstop in Renteria's stead, rather than playing the super-utility role. Though Renteria provided the winning hit in the World Series, he is clearly at the end of the line, and it is time to cut ties after he was already overpaid at $18 million over the last two seasons.
Finally, Aaron Rowand would be reinstated to the starting lineup in left field to take Burrell's spot, while Andres Torres, who replaced Rowand last season, would remain in center. Why dump Burrell after he had a .304 TAv in 341 plate appearances following his release by the Rays in May? Stay tuned.
Meanwhile, I'd bid farewell to the easily-replaced Mota and Guillen, who is ensnared in a performance-enhancing drug scandal for the second time in his career after providing just a .254 TAv and a replacement-level 0.0 WARP in 139 plate appearances following his arrival in a trade from the Royals last season.
While nine arbitration-eligible players is a lot, the only one I would not tender a contract is infielder Mike Fontenot. His inability to play shortstop means that he can't replace Uribe as the primary back-up infielder, and I'll instead cast my lot either in-house with Emmanuel Burriss, or outside the organization with a low-level free agent.
Tendering Sanchez, Torres and right fielder Cody "The New Mr. October" Ross are easy decisions. I will also take a low-level gamble and retain all four arbitration-eligible relievers—left-hander Javier Lopez and right-handers Santiago Casilla, Ramon Ramirez, and Chris Ray—in an attempt to keep the bridge between the starters and closer Brian Wilson as sturdy as possible.
So, we've gotten through the free agents and arbitration-eligibles and what we've primarily achieved is subtracting three players who were regulars in the postseason. At this point, you have every right to wonder exactly what I'm trying to do.
Well, what I've done is set the stage for a big strike, one that might surprise a few people around baseball. I'm going to take some of the money we made by playing 15 post-season games, and some of the cash we saved by bidding adieu to Huff, Renteria and Burrell, and go to owner Bill Neukom's office.
First, I'm going to ask Neukom what the secret is to having such a full head of hair at his age. Then I'm going to hit him up for some extra funds so I can pursue a special player that would greatly help our chances of remaining a championship-level club.
After using the power of persuasion to get Neukom to agree, I'm going to put a full-court press on free-agent left fielder Carl Crawford. I'm going to sell him on the virtues of coming to a franchise that is coming off a World Series victory. I'm going to convince him that he possesses the bat, speed, and defensive ability that would allow us to leverage that young pitching into having a great opportunity to win multiple championships while playing in front of a great fan base in a crown jewel of a ballpark in one of the world's greatest cities.
Perhaps it's a pipe dream, but I don't think so. In fact, I believe it wouldn't be all that difficult to lure Crawford to San Francisco after spending his whole career playing in front of empty seats at Tropicana Field.
Adding Crawford to the lineup in left field would also provide depth, as Rowand or Torres could go back to the bench. It would give the Giants a lineup that looks like this:
No, it's not the modern-day version of Murderer's Row, and it may not even be league-average. However, it is good enough to support a great pitching staff and continue to give the Giants a good chance to play deep into October.
So when Crawford leads the Giants to a second consecutive title next fall, I'll be patiently waiting at the mailbox every day for my first World Series ring to arrive. It might only be made of cubic zirconia, but I won't complain, having spent just 24 hours on the job.