Talking Giants Baseball: A San Francisco Giants/Baseball Blog: January 2012

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Pablo Sandoval signs 3-year contract with Giants (From

By Troy Nelson

According to a tweet from the San Francisco Giants, the club has avoided arbitration with third baseman Pablo Sandoval and signed him to a three-year contract.

Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News hears that the deal is worth $17.15 million dollars plus incentives.

Baggs says Sandoval will earn $3.2 million dollars in 2012, $5.7 million dollars in 2013, and $8.25 million dollars in 2014, which eliminates all three arbitration years.

The Kung Fu Panda earned a measly $500,000 last year.

Sandoval’s signing accentuates a McFlurry of action by the Giants, who also avoided arbitration with Nate Schierholtz, Santiago Casilla, and Melky Cabrera earlier today. Angel Pagan‘s announcement was made yesterday, leaving just Sergio Romo and Tim Lincecum as the only two arbitration-eligible players left on the Giants’ original list of 11 players.

The Giants got a fantastic deal on Sandoval, who has thrived at the plate and in the field since committing himself to an off-season workout regimen the past two years.

Be sure to check out other great articles at 22Gigantes.

Angel Villalona expected to be in spring training (From

By Troy Nelson

Angel Villalona, the 21-year old phenom who made headlines when he was arrested on murder charges in 2009, will be in camp when the Giants begin preparing for Cactus League action in Scottsdale, Ariz. next month.

According to Bobby Evans, the Giants’ VP of baseball operations, Villalona is still working on getting his U.S. work visa approved but doesn’t anticipate any problems.

Villalona was signed by the Giants for $2.1 million when he was just 16 years old, but fell into trouble in his home land of the Dominican Republic when he was charged with the Sept. 19, 2009 murder of a bar patron in La Romana.

Those charges were dropped when the victim’s family asked the judge to drop the case. (Translation: somebody got bribed.)

Villalona lost over two years of development time because of the legal issues, but the Giants believe he still has the talent to become a major league player someday and placed him on their 40-man roster back in December.

Be sure to check out other great articles at 22Gigantes.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Giants, Schierholtz avoid arbitration; Lincecum submits record bid (From

By Troy Nelson

The Giants’ list of arbitration-eligible players is now down to three.

San Francisco avoided arbitration with right fielder Nate Schierholtz today as the two sides agreed on a one-year, $1.3 million dollar contract that includes a $150,000 performance-incentive bonus, per Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News.

Schierholtz, who turns 28 on Feb. 15, batted .278/.326/.430 (0.756 OPS) with 9 HR and 41 RBI in 362 plate appearances last season for the G-men. He earned $433,000 in 2011.

Tim Lincecum, Pablo Sandoval and Sergio Romo still remain eligible for arbitration after all players and teams submitted their figures today.

According to Jon Heyman at CBS Sports, Lincecum submitted a record arbitration figure (for players with six or fewer years of service) of $21.5 million dollars (besting Derek Jeter‘s 2001 bid of $18.5 million dollars) and the Giants submitted a $17 million dollar contract offer. That makes the midway point $19.25 million, which is where the two sides will start to negotiate.

If an agreement can’t be reached, the case will go to arbitration. Hearings are set to begin Feb. 1st in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Be sure to check out other great articles at 22Gigantes.

Santiago Casilla, Giants agree on new 1-year, $2.2MM contract (

By Troy Nelson

The list of players with whom the San Francisco Giants have avoided arbitration continues to dwindle.

According to ESPN Deporte’s Enrique Rojas, the team has come to an agreement with reliever Santiago Casilla on a one-year, $2.2 million dollar contract that includes incentive bonuses worth $200,000.

Casilla, 31, earned $1.3 million dollars last season.

In 49 games last season, he was 2-2 with a tidy 1.74 ERA and 1.123 WHIP. He struck out 7.8 batters per nine innings and walked 4.4 batters per nine.

The Giants, who also reached agreement with Angel Pagan and Melky Cabrera over the weekend, now have four unsigned arbitration-eligible players: Tim LincecumSergio RomoPablo Sandoval, and Nate Schierholtz.

Today is the day that teams and players exchange arbitration figures.

Be sure to check out other great articles at 22Gigantes.

Giants avoid arbitration, sign Melky Cabrera to 1-year, $6MM deal (

By Troy Nelson

According to a tweet by ESPN Deporte’s Enrique Rojas, the Giants have signed outfielder Melky Cabrera to a one-year, $6 million dollar contract to avoid arbitration.

The switch-hitting Cabrera, 27, batted .305/.339/.470 (.809 OPS) with 18 HR, 44 doubles, 87 RBI, 201 hits, 102 runs, and 20 steals in a breakout season with the Royals last year.

Acquired in the trade that sent Jonathan Sanchez to Kansas City on Nov. 7, the Melk Man earned $1.25 million dollars last season. He is eligible to become a free agent after the 2012 season.

The Giants, who also reached agreement with Angel Pagan yesterday, now have five unsigned arbitration-eligible players: Santiago CasillaTim LincecumSergio RomoPablo Sandoval, and Nate Schierholtz.

Today is the day in which teams and players exchange arbitration figures.

Be sure to check out other great articles at 22Gigantes.

Brian Wilson is making progress (but I’m still worried) (From

By Troy Nelson

Forget about his beard.

What Giants fans really need to be concerned about is Brian Wilson‘s elbow.

San Francisco’s closer was limited to two relief appearances over the final six weeks of the 2011 season due to a strained right elbow.

The good news is—according to Henry Schulman at the San Francisco Chronicle—Wilson has begun playing hard catch from a distance of 90 feet and is right on schedule for the start of spring training.

Schulman says that once Cactus League action begins next month (check out our handy countdown clock in the sidebar to the right, by the way), the Giants may decide to have Wilson throw a couple of bullpen sessions versus pitching in live games until they are sure his elbow is in tip-top condition. (You may remember Wilson got off to a slow start last spring, too, when he started experiencing back spasms shortly after he arrived to Scottsdale.)

2011 wasn’t exactly a watershed season for Wilson, who had Tommy John surgery on his elbow in 2003 while at LSU.

He started off roughly, posting a 6.97 ERA in 11 April games. He was his bad-ass self in May (0.66 ERA) and June (1.29 ERA), before he started getting lit up again in July (3.75 ERA) and August (7.36 ERA).

Overall, Wilson went 6-4 with a 3.11 ERA, 1.473 WHIP, 36 saves, 54 strikeouts and 31 walks (none intentional) in 55 innings last year.

While the ERA was very good, the innings total was his lowest since 2007.  Despite 36 saves (which was good enough for 8th place in the NL and 11th-best in all of baseball), he also blew five saves and allowed opposing hitters to bat .400 against him when he was pitching with the bases loaded.

His 5.1 BB/9 rate was his highest since his rookie year of 2006 (6.3), and his SO/9 rate of 8.8 was his lowest since he posted a 6.8 SO/9 rate in 2007.

All of these figures point to a massive red flag to me.

While it’s very uncommon for a pitcher to have ulnar collateral ligament damage in the same spot after having Tommy John surgery once before, it’s not impossible.

Doug BrocailAl ReyesMatt Riley, and Darren Dreifort are all major league pitchers who have had the procedure performed twice. Former Cincinnati Reds flamethrower Jose Rijo had five Tommy John surgeries!

Wilson, who turns 30 on March 16, had his elbow MRI’d back in August after it had become inflamed and he was ordered to shut it down for a few days.

Fortunately, the exam did not reveal any structural damage to his UCL.

But as someone who’s followed the game for over 40 years, I’ve seen this scene played out before, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about 2012.

Be sure to check out other great articles at 22Gigantes.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Former Giants outfielder John Bowker to play in Japan (From

By Troy Nelson

Just saw this on the Philadelphia Phillies website:
The Phillies have released outfielder John Bowker to allow him to pursue an opportunity with a professional team in Japan, the club announced today. 
In a combined 31 major league games between the Phillies and Pittsburgh Pirates last season, Bowker, 28, batted .133 with two RBI.  He spent the majority of the 2011 season at triple-A Indianapolis in the Pirates minor league system, where he hit .306 with 15 home runs and 76 RBI in 106 games.
For his major league career, Bowker has hit .232 with 17 home runs and 73 RBI in 240 games between the San Francisco Giants (2008-10), Pirates (2010-11) and Phillies (2011).  Bowker was originally a third round selection of the Giants in the June 2004 draft.
Seems like only yesterday when all the Brian Sabean haters were clamoring for Bowker to play every day. Looks like he’ll get his chance now in Japan.

Be sure to check out other great articles at 22Gigantes.

Showtime cameras moving to greener pastures for Season 2 of “The Franchise” (From

By Troy Nelson

The San Francisco Giants are so 2010.

Showtime is moving on to greener pastures after following the World Champs last season in its inaugural cable television docu-series, “The Franchise.”

On Tuesday, the network said that it plans to shoot a second season of its popular series with an announcement on which team will be in the Showtime spotlight coming as early as Thursday.

According to Stuart Levine at, the series will likely focus on a new team in 2012. That means the Showtime cameras won’t be anywhere near Brian Wilson‘s beard, Aubrey Huff‘s credit card, or Freddy Sanchez‘s kitchen-turned-tricycle-track. (Purchase the DVD set if you don’t understand that last sentence, chief.)

“The Franchise” did surprisingly well last summer, drawing about 650,000 viewers a week.

I, for one, enjoyed the series. It was cool to see a lighter side of the players who banded together for a pretty magical run in 2010.

Whether or not “The Franchise” became a distraction for the 2011 team is a topic that’s debatable.

In an interview a few weeks ago, Giants manager Bruce Bochy hinted that he was not sad to see the Showtime crew pack it up last fall.

One good thing about the series moving on to a different team is that we won’t have to hear KNBR talk show host Brian Murphy’s whiny voice anymore. Now that was a distraction.

Be sure to check out other great articles at 22Gigantes.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

SF Giants: 5 Things GM Brian Sabean Should Have Done Differently This Offseason So Far

General Manager Brian Sabean will most likely be busy this offseason, as his team will try to reach the playoffs in 2012.
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
San Francisco Giants general manager Brian Sabean appeared to be a baseball ring leader in 2010, after arranging his band of misfits to a World Series title. But 2011 was not as melodic for the longest-tenured GM in baseball.
For at least one season, Giants fans seemed to forget the A.J. Pierzynski for Francisco Liriano deal or the Aaron Rowand debacle. Not to mention his failure to land a big bat, as he tried with "due diligence" to land some pop in San Francisco.
At least in 2010, Sabean's choice to see what players had left instead of what players had actually paid dividends that magical year. Sabean and the Giants decided to bring back many of the 2010 players this past year, but it had produced a torturous 2011—and not the sweet torture of 2010.
If the Giants want 2012 to replicate 2010, Sabean must go back to the drawing board to bolster their struggling offense, which ranks last in the National League in runs scored with 483. Now that Sabean appears to be done making any more moves to improve the club, it appears not much will be done to enhance the club offensively in the next three months.
Here are 10 things Sabean should have done differently this offseason if the Giants wanted to make a serious run in 2012.
1. Get an Adequate Major League Shortstop
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
The Giants hoped to catch lightening in a bottle in replacing Juan Uribe by signing the over-the-hill veteran and former superstar Miguel Tejada.
The Giants expected Tejada, 36 at the time, to be their starting shortstop, but it did not pan out the way the Giants hoped. In 2011, Tejada played in just 91 games due to poor performance and injury, hitting just .239 with an on-base percentage of .270.
Tejada was the least of their problems offensively at shortstop.
San Francisco tried to compensate Tejada's disappointing season by trying other options. Rookie Brandon Crawford, along with the signing of Orlando Cabrera, were attempts to patch up the position. But the lone bright spot would be Crawford's defense—but still not a lot of offense.
Giants shortstops ended 2011 by hitting .210, with seven home runs and 57 RBIs, the least offensively productive team in the National League. If the Giants want to retake the NL West Crown, and eventually win the World Series, they will need to address this position both offensively and defensively.
On the defensive, Giants shortstops were sub-par compared to last year's championship team. In 2010, Giants shortstops committed just 11 errors—first in the National League—while the 2011 team committed 25 errors.
The Giants will need to get an adequate shortstop to complement Freddy Sanchez up the middle. Free agents Jose Reyes, 2010 NL batting champion, and Jimmy Rollins were certainly viable options, but at what price?
According to, it was a price that was obviously too high for the Giants, who have said they have maximized their $130 million payroll and are done making significant moves this offseason.
2. Sign a Potent Backup Catcher

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
A fitting name for the 2011 Chris Stewart and Eli Whiteside is Mr. Automatic.
No, they are not called Mr. Automatic because they are on-base machines or skilled marksmen at throwing out would-be base stealers. They earned their title from a much-more negative quality—they make automatic outs.
The Giants cannot afford to have another catcher besides Buster Posey hit as poor as the 2011 fill-in catchers did in the absence of Posey. The two primary backups, Stewart and Whiteside, combined to hit .201, with seven home runs, 27 RBI and a .274 on-base percentage.
As Posey recovers from his season-ending injury in late May, there is no guarantee he will be able to play a full season's worth of games. For a team that was last in runs scored in 2011, an automatic out at the catcher's position could prove costly.
Since a backup catcher could take on a bit more prominent role in 2012, the Giants will need to find someone who is not a total loss at the plate. Among some of the free agent backup backstops who could have helped the Giants were Dioner Navarro, Ronny Paulino or Matt Treanor.
The Giants also have catching prospect Hector Sanchez, but it is apparent that he needs a bit more seasoning before catching in the major leagues.
If Sabean wants to avoid offensive embarrassment again in 2012, he might want to look at improving their statistically weakest link on the roster. 
3. Get That Big Bat

Bob Levey/Getty Images
Since the end of the Barry Bonds era, Giants fans have kept asking the same question year after year—when is that big bat coming?
Four years later, no big bat has replaced Bonds' presence in the Giants' mostly sub-par lineups. But they were able to stay competitive through their pitching in three of those years, including a World Series championship.
If the Giants wanted to put themselves over the top and establish themselves as a dynasty, a big bat like Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols could have been the way to do it. Although signing any of these two free agent sluggers was highly unlikely, at least a middle of the order hitter, such as a Carlos Beltran, is a necessity.
The Giants may have gotten away with it with 2010's World Series victory, but San Francisco can make it much easier on themselves, and their pitchers, by putting up more runs on the board. If they cannot establish some fear in their lineup, the Giants will have to catch lightening in a bottle again to win in 2012.
The Giants' window with their extraordinary pitching staff is running thinner and thinner. Without at least an average offense, many more seasons of fabulous pitching could be all for not.

4. Avoid the Leadoff Limbo: Get a Leadoff Hitter

Jeff Curry/Getty Images
The Giants seem to be content with newly acquired Angel Pagan or Melky Cabrera as their leadoff hitter, which probably means more of the same leadoff limbo in 2012.
Last year, San Francisco's No. 1 hitters combined to hit .232 with an on-base percentage of just .292. If the Giants wish to compete without acquiring that big bat, this statistic simply must improve to respectability.
Nor Cabrera or Pagan are big prototypical leadoff on-base hitters, but they both have good speed. Cabrera had an OBP of .339 with 20 stolen bases, and Pagan had an OBP of .322 with 32 stolen bases.
While both are an improvement over Andres Torres' (now a New York Met) .312 OBP, the Giants could have benefited more from someone like Jose Reyes, who had a .384 OBP just a season ago.
Although the Giants slightly improved in the leadoff spot, fans will have to wait and see if the leadoff shuffle will continue, or hopefully, one candidate will solidify their territory in the No. 1-hole like Torres did two seasons ago.
5. Lock Up Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum 

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
The Giants won the World Series in 2010 largely—if not solely—because of their world-class pitching staff, and they would be well served to lock up both their franchise pitchers sooner rather than later.
San Francisco has not had anything but a mediocre offense for almost a decade, and that probably will not change for the foreseeable future. If the Giants expect to win it all again with middle-of-the-road offenses, they need to lead the league in pitching and defense—and that may not even be enough.
Another year of not signing either to long term contracts, combined with another dozen 2-1 losses for each, will probably further their desire to test the free-agent market after their contracts are up. They will likely demand even more money to stay put in San Francisco, and the Giants certainly would fold if the price for either was too high.
Losing two franchise pitchers plus a mediocre offense would brew up a formula for a 100-loss season after both pitchers' contracts expire in a couple of years. The Giants would have to rebuild from scratch or open their wallets—things the Giants do not appear to be very good at. 

This article was featured on The Bleacher Report.
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