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Will Giants be aggressive or stand pat?
The pitching is great. The hitting is not. There is considerable interest in whether Brian Sabean intends to remedy the imbalance.
Yes, it’s summer again in San Francisco.
The major difference between 2010 and 2011, of course, is that Sabean, the Giants’ occasionally outspoken general manager, can mull over his personnel decisions while gazing into the bauble on his World Series ring.
And in that sense, the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline will be a referendum on precisely what sort of organization the Giants intend to be in the happy era that began with Edgar Renteria vs. Cliff Lee.
Do they go all-in to sustain the positive vibes from their first championship since 1954, by swinging a deal for Mets superstar shortstop Jose Reyes? (That was the modus operandi of the rival Phillies in ’08-’09: Win title, make moves.)
We know the Giants will look to buy on this year’s midsummer market. There is no doubt there. Even with Posey lost to his catastrophic ankle injury, San Francisco enters this weekend’s interleague set with Cleveland (4 p.m. ET Saturday, MLB on FOX) trailing Arizona by just a half-game in the National League West. Bruce Bochy’s team is in the pennant race to stay, by virtue of one of the planet’s best pitching staffs.
But we don’t know yet how aggressive Sabean and his front-office lieutenants will be. We know that the franchise is enjoying healthy revenues. Attendance at AT&T Park has increased by more than 4,000 fans per game since last season, to an average of 41,712. That’s the third-highest figure in the majors, behind only the Phillies and Yankees.
Meanwhile, the Giants’ player costs are reasonable by comparison. The Opening Day payroll was $118.2 million, eighth-highest in the majors, according to the USA Today salary database. Keep in mind that the Giants are still servicing the debt on their new ballpark, so they can’t invest all the increased revenue in more expensive players. But it’s fair to ask the question: If the Giants are going to draw like the Phillies and Yankees, should they spend a little more like them, too?
Giants fans have every reason to be satisfied with their team’s management. They are, after all, the defending champions. But the organization can’t be blinded by the afterglow and begin thinking that the current cast (minus Posey) is good enough to win again. It’s not. Upgrades from the outside are necessary if we want to see Steve Perry singing his ballads on the scoreboard in late October.
More than a decade has passed since the Yankees went back-to-back-to-back, and there is a reason for that: The task of winning consecutive championships is exceedingly difficult, and virtually impossible without impactful reinforcements. Consider baseball’s most recent repeat success: The ’00 Yankees acquired slugger David Justice from Cleveland in June. He posted a .977 OPS for them in 78 games.
I’m not suggesting that the Giants trade for David Justice. He is 45 years old and retired. But the Giants could use a similar offensive infusion. They have scored just 257 runs this season, tied with San Diego for the fewest in the majors.
I realize the Giants won with pitching in 2010. Even then, they hit plenty of home runs and averaged 4.3 runs per game. Now, that figure is a meager 3.4. Sure, the pitchers are ruling baseball. I get that. But even with Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain (and Ryan Vogelsong!), the Giants must add offense in order to win the division.
Understand this about Sabean: As a GM, it is hard to have a better season than he did in 2010. He acquired a number of key performers at negligible cost. Pat Burrell. Cody Ross. Javier Lopez. Ramon Ramirez. Santiago Casilla. Guillermo Mota. He made brilliant moves, and he made them on a budget.
Bargains are great, but stars are better. Sabean’s misfit masterpiece wouldn’t have inched past Game 162 without Posey — and he won’t play again until 2012. Burrell isn’t the force he was last year, Pablo Sandoval has struggled to hit for power since returning from the disabled list, and free-agent acquisition Miguel Tejada has been a bust.
The lineup has a yawning need for an impact bat — at catcher, at shortstop, at second base, in the outfield. Just about anywhere, really. The good news for Sabean is that he has a full menu of options to improve his team. And the time to act is drawing near.
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