December 2010

Ex-Giant Winn among available free-agent outfielders

Tuesday, Dec. 7

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Randy Winn’s not returning to the Giants, but he intends to play somewhere.

Winn, who spent 2005-09 with San Francisco, is spending the winter in his Tampa-area home and training diligently while waiting to command interest from a team that needs a handy free-agent outfielder.

Winn’s agent, Craig Landis, acknowledged Tuesday at the Winter Meetings that his 36-year-old client probably will have to wait until late in the offseason to receive a deal.

“A lot of teams are focusing on the more expensive guys,” Landis said. “I don’t have a good feel yet on how the market’s going to be. But he definitely wants to play. He’s going to play somewhere.”

Winn’s career figures include a .284 batting average, a .343 on-base percentage and a .416 slugging percentage to go with 110 homers, 215 stolen bases and 662 RBIs. But his .239 average in 116 games last year with the Yankees and Cardinals was his worst for any of his 13 seasons, and his .307 on-base percentage equaled a personal low.

Winn also has the unlucky distinction of appearing in 1,717 games without performing in the postseason, most among active players.

“We’re going to have to try to find the right fit for him, where people can appreciate his switch-hitting ability, his ability to play three outfield spots and his ability to run the bases and steal a base every once in a while,” Landis said. “At this stage, he’s a smaller cog in the process. But the fit [with a team] is more important.”

Chris Haft

Shortstop search and more from Sabean, Bochy

Monday, Dec. 6

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — General manager Brian Sabean reiterated that “mutual interest” exists regarding Edgar Renteria’s possible return to the Giants.

“But I would say where we’re going to get bogged down is the [Pat] Burrell precedent,” Sabean said.

In short, Renteria probably would have to accept $1 million or thereabouts, as Burrell did last week, to return to the Giants as a backup shortstop and utility infielder.

Sabean tried to sound encouraging about retaining the 35-year-old World Series Most Valuable Player. “Neither side has ruled anything out,” Sabean said.

But Sabean warned that Renteria will be out of luck if the Giants sign another potential backup shortstop before him.

On another subject, Sabean wasn’t surprised by Boston’s acquisition of San Diego first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who was either the best or second-best player in the National League West — depending on your opinion of Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki.

But Sabean indicated that San Diego could remain a threat in the division. “It’s a pitching-centric division,” Sabean said. “… Like us, they didn’t have a prototypical set lineup and had to make some changes at the deadline. They were unfortunate to have their [10-game] losing streak when they did.”

*****

Manager Bruce Bochy addressed numerous topics during his half-hour session with the media, including:

– Pablo Sandoval’s physical conditioning. Bochy noted that Sandoval already has lost more than 10 pounds. “He seems determined to get back to where he was [in 2009],” Bochy said. But, Bochy added, “He’s got a little ways to go. I don’t want to put a number [on it], but he’s still got probably 15 or so.”

– The care and feeding of the club’s valuable pitchers. Keeping the staff injury-free will loom as a chief concern given the shortened offseason and the starters’ workload. Including the postseason, each starter exceeded 200 innings — except for Barry Zito, who finished with 199 1/3.

Bochy also will watch closer Brian Wilson carefully. “Whether I bring him in as much in the eighth inning this coming year, I don’t know,” Bochy said of Wilson, who led the Major Leagues with 10 saves of 1 1/3 innings or longer this year.

Nevertheless, Bochy said that he’s saddled with fewer roster issues than he ever has faced in his 17-year managerial career, largely due to the pitching staff’s stabiity.

– The wish for a left-handed batter to balance the lineup. Bochy said that this yet-to-be-obtained individual doesn’t necessarily have to be a power hitter. This prompted speculation that the Giants could again be eyeing Scott Podsednik, who they pursued previously. At 34, Podsednik might not be an ideal acquisition. But he has accented his .279 career batting average with 301 stolen bases in 10 seasons, which would meet the Giants’ goal of becoming more “athletic.”

– Existing outfield personnel. Bochy said that he might inform Aaron Rowand, who has spent most of his career in center field, that he’ll might have to fill in at the outfield corners occasionally. Bochy added that speedster Darren Ford, who needs to gain more consistency at the plate, almost surely will open the season at Triple-A Fresno.

– A friendly parting with shortstop Juan Uribe, who signed a three-year, $21 million contract with the Dodgers last week. Bochy said that Uribe called to thank him. “And I said the same to him,” Bochy said. “You understand. It’s part of the business. He was a free agent, and you’re not going to sign them all. … We’re champions partly because of what he did for us.”

– His contract status. Bochy is signed for 2011 with a club option for 2012. Asked whether he’d prefer to have a contract extension before next season opens, Bochy replied, “Not to skirt it, but it’s not even on my mind right now.”

Chris Haft

Berth in Cooperstown eludes Vida Blue

Monday, Dec. 6

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — For certain periods throughout his 17-year Major League career, Vida Blue looked like a legitimate Hall of Fame candidate. But Blue’s overall performance failed to impress enough members of the HOF’s Expansion Era committee, who bypassed him for enshrinement.

Pat Gillick, the highly successful general manager with Toronto, Baltimore, Seattle and Philadelphia, was the only one of the 12 candidates to receive the necessary 12 votes from the 16-member committee to gain election.

Any Giants fan who watched Blue pitch in 1978 might have considered the left-hander bound for Cooperstown. He led that year’s revival of the Giants, who contended for most of the season and finished 89-73 after four consecutive sub-.500 seasons, by finishing 18-10 with a 2.79 ERA. That was Blue’s first of six seasons (in two stints) with the Giants, who sent Oakland seven players and $300,000 to obtain him. The cost was well worth it.

Blue’s career totals were 209-161 with a 3.27 ERA and 37 shutouts. He met or came close to meeting plenty of Hall of Fame standards, but ultimately not enough of them. It matters little to longtime Giants fans, most of whom still regard Blue as a favorite.

– Chris Haft  

Ups, downs of signing Tejada

Tuesday, Nov. 30

Looking strictly at intangibles, the Giants couldn’t have signed a better replacement for Juan Uribe than Miguel Tejada.

Tejada is renowned for his effervescent attitude. He’s said to be ceaselessly positive — which must be genuine, considering all those years he spent playing for the downtrodden Orioles after repeatedly experiencing the postseason rush with the A’s. He’ll fit nicely with the Giants. They’ll miss Uribe — the White Sox did after he left that club — but they’ll adjust.

If I were a member of the Giants’ front office, I’d be more concerned with Tejada’s 74-point drop in slugging percentage from 2009 to this year’s .381. Having spent 14 years in the big leagues at age 36, Tejada’s unlikely to rebound. This increases the importance of Pablo Sandoval’s return to form and Brandon Belt’s ability to contribute. They can do much to compensate for the loss of Uribe’s 24 home runs and 85 RBIs. Because it’s doubtful that Tejada can accomplish this on his own. 

Yet don’t blame the Giants for balking at giving Uribe the same three-year deal that he received from L.A. If he stays healthy and productive for the duration of the contract, I’ll be pleasantly surprised. As spry as he was, he performed through numerous aches and pains with the Giants. Such nagging injuries often become worse as players grow older.

Uribe’s a heck of a clutch performer, as he proved constantly for San Francisco throughout the regular-season and postseason. That’s what the Giants might miss most from him in the long run. Let’s see how many big opportunities he receives as a Dodger.

– Chris Haft 

 

 

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