There are 33 players who filed for free agency this offseason who have still not signed with a new team as of March 9.
Five of those unsigned players were employed by the Giants in 2012, more than any other franchise.
And that doesn’t even count Brian Wilson, who became a free agent when the Giants non-tendered him in December.
The Giants started the offseason with 10 free agents. The three they wanted they re-signed: RP Jeremy Affeldt, 2B Marco Scutaro and OF Angel Pagan. The two they didn’t want signed elsewhere: OF Melky Cabrera (Toronto) and OF Xavier Nady (Kansas City).
And then there are the other five.
GUILLERMO MOTA: There is not market for a 39-year-old reliever fresh off a season in which he served a 100-game suspension for a PED second strike. A third strike and he’s done. He may be done already.
FREDDY SANCHEZ: Sanchez hasn’t played a big-league game since separating his shoulder in June 2011. He said last month he’s not ready to retire, adding his “dream situation” would be to re-sign with the Giants. There is not indication of that happening, and he has not joined another club.
RYAN THERIOT: Theriot went into the offseason looking for increased playing time. That is what drew him to the Giants last offseason. He got that, but then lost it when the Giants traded for Marco Scutaro. Theriot was said to be talking with the Indians and Rangers, but that was three weeks ago.
BRAD PENNY: Penny made 31 starts for Detroit in 2011. After giving a Japan a try in early 2012, he signed with the Giants midseason, and served out of their pen in the final months of the season.
AUBREY HUFF: Huff may the most realistic of the bunch, telling the San Francisco Chronicle that he’s “pretty much retired.” He said he’s happy spending time with family instead of getting ready for another season. So the next time we might see Huff is to collect his World Series ring next month, although he said he has not received an invite from the Giants to do so.
And then there’s the erstwhile closer, Brian Wilson.
Back in the December, the Giants were faced with three choices regarding Wilson — offer him a contract of a minimum of $6.8 million, try to negotiate a deal at a much lower rater or non-tender him.
Well, it was obvious they wouldn’t do the first. When Wilson became offended by the Giants’ offer of a incentive-laden deal, they turned to option No. 3: a non-tender.
Then we heard from Wilson camp about the multitude of teams who were interested in his services, with no actual teams named.
Wilson threw for the Mets once in January and again in February, and the Mets determined Wilson wasn’t close to pitching again in the bigs.
Now, it’s March and the last time we saw Wilson came last week when TMZ posted a video of Wilson, looking scruffier than ever, doing some shopping in a ketchup-stained T-shirt. The person taking the video asked Wilson if he would ever shave his now infamous beard to sign with the Yankees, who have a no-facial-hair policy.
Wilson’s answer? “I’m from Boston.”
SATURDAY: Pirates 3, Giants 1 — BOX SCORE
Not much to say about Saturday’s loss in Pittsburgh, other than it’s another quality start for Ryan Vogelsong.
So, with the Giants in Pittsburgh this weekend, it’s seems like the right time to send a big thank you to Freddy Sanchez.
Thanks, Freddy, for the 2010 season and the World Series championship. That’s about all the Giants got for the more than $18 million they spent on Sanchez since aquiring him during the 2009 season. For most of us, that was enough.
In a way, it was like the money we spent on Edgar Renteria, the money we’re still spending on Aubrey Huff. Really expensive lightning in a bottle.
Sanchez’s bid to return to the Giants this season ended Thursday when the team announced the second baseman would require back surgery.
So thus ends the Freddy Sanchez era, in all probability, in San Francisco. He won’t be back this season. Maybe he won’t be back at all, for the Giants or anyone else.
On July 29, 2009, the Giants acquired Sanchez in a trade with the Pirates for pitching prospect Tim Alderson. A couple weeks earlier, Sanchez had been the Pirates’ All-Star representative.
A couple of days after the trade, a friend came up to me and said, with a smile, “we got Freddy Sanchez!”
I responded with a little wince. “He’s a good player, when he can stay healthy. I’m just not sure he can stay healthy, and I’m not sure he’s worth giving up Alderson.”
Well, as it turns out, I was right about the first two points, wrong on the final one. Sanchez was worth giving up Alderson, who has barely made it above Double-A since joining the Pirates organization.
In what basically amounted to a little less than two seasons of playing time with the Giants, Sanchez hit .290 with 11 HRs, 78 RBI in 196 games.
Sanchez only played 25 games for the Giants in 2009, spending a stint on the DL with a strained left shoulder.
That offseason, facing a decision on whether or not to pick up Sanchez’s team option in 2010, the Giants signed him to a two-year, $12 million contract.
Later that offseason, Sanchez had surgery on that left shoulder, but hopes were that he’d be ready for the 2010 opener. He did not return until May 19.
But after that, he played in 111 games, hitting .292 with 7 HRs and 47 RBI. After slumping in the NL Division series against the Braves, he hit .320 in the NLCS vs. the Phillies and .273 in the World Series vs. the Rangers. He became the first player to double in his first three World Series at-bats.
Sanchez strained his left shoulder again late in the 2010 season, but played through it. He had another procedure on the shoulder after the 2010 season, but started the 2011 season on time.
During the season-opening series in Los Angeles in 2011, the Giants announced they were extending Sanchez’s contract by one more year for $6 million. It was a puzzling move because it came so early in the season, especially given Sanchez’s history with injuries.
He hit .289 with 3 HRs and 24 RBI in 60 games in 2011 before dislocating his right shoulder while attempting to make a diving stop at second base against the Reds on June 10. He had season-ending surgery two months later.
Sanchez came to spring training this year hoping to be ready to play by the time games started. But a back issue delayed his recovery. After returning to the field, Sanchez was not able to develop the arm strength to start the season with the Giants, and he remained in Arizona for extended spring training.
He began a minor-league rehab stint with the San Jose Giants on April 23, going 4 for 10 in three games. But that ended when his shoulder stiffened up. He returned to Arizona to work on his shoulder strength when his back flared up in mid-May.
Now, the Giants are left to decide what their future is at second base.
Ryan Theriot (.280) has done a solid job after spening 15 days on the DL in late May. Joaquin Arias (.244) and Emmanel Burriss (.210) are the other options.
If there’s a silver lining, Sanchez’s surgery does open up a spot on the Giants’ 40-man roster if they want to see if anyone down on the farm could give the Giants boost at second base.
In the minors, they have:
- Brock Bond (age 26) — 1 HR, 19 RBI, .332 AVG, .406 OBP in 56 games with Triple-A Fresno. Bats right.
- Nick Noonan (age 23) — 3 HR, 38 RBI, .297 AVG, .357 OBP in 78 games with Triple-A Fresno. Bats left. Playing SS for Grizzlies.
- Charlie Culberson (age 23) — 7 HR, 46 RBI, .251 AVG, .292 OBP in 74 games with Triple-A Fresno. Bats right. Had a brief stint with Giants earlier this year, going 3 for 22 (.136) in six games. On 40-man roster.
- Ryan Cavan (age 25) — 8 HR, 28 RBI, .234 AVG, .305 OBP in 81 games with Double-A Richmond. Bats right
- Bobby Haney (age 23) — 0 HR, 10 RBI, .322 AVG, .359 OBP in 35 games with Class-A San Jose. Bats left.
- Joe Panik (age 21) — 4 HR, 44 RBI, .263 AVG, .339 OBP in 82 games with Class-A San Jose. Bats left. First-round pick in 2011. Playing SS in San Jose.
Among potential free-agent second baseman this offseason includes Orlando Hudson (White Sox), Maicer Izturis (Angels), Jeff Keppinger (Rays), Marco Scutaro (Rockies), Placido Polanco (Phillies), Kelly Johnson (Blue Jays) and Skip Schumaker (Cardinals).
So let’s take a look at the players the Giants have tried at second base this season.
- Ryan Theriot
- Emmanuel Burriss
- Joaquin Arias
- Aubrey Huff
- and now Charlie Culberson
All of that has added up to 0 HR, 6 RBI, .208 AVG, .259 OBP, .216 SLG. In case you haven’t figured it out, that’s the worst for any position other than pitcher on the team.
Even Giants shortstops are hitting .240.
In fact, Giants pitchers have delivered two more doubles than second basemen.
With that as a backdrop, we share news Monday that Freddy Sanchez had ANOTHER setback on his recovery from shoulder surgery.
Except this time, it was his back that flared up.
Manager Bruce Bochy called it a “minor setback.” But no setback for Sanchez can be consider “minor” at this point. Plus, Sanchez battled a sore back when he started spring training in Arizona.
Bochy said Sanchez’s back was bothering him for a few days, but has now become so bad that “he can’t do anything.”
Bochy said earlier this month that there was 50-50 chance of Sanchez returning to the Giants by the end of the month. Those odds went WAY down after Monday’s news. In fact, if you had “September 1 to never” in your office pool on Sanchez’s return date, you’re looking good right now.
So where do the Giants’ go from here?
Well, in the short term, they’ll turn to Charlie Culberson.
Culberson went 1 for 5 in his big-league debut Sunday after getting a late call Saturday for a promotion. 3B Conor Gillaspie was sent down.
Culberson is a 23-year-old who was a sandwich pick out of high school in 2007.
The Giants started him out as a shortstop. But after committing 35 errors in 79 games at Class A Augusta in 2008, they moved him the third base. But he maded 40 errrors in 132 games there for Augusta in 2009.
That led to a move to second base, where he found success. Coincidentally (or not), once Culberson found a defensive position, his offensive numbers improved. After hitting .234 in 2008 and .246 in 2009, he hit .290 with 16 HR, 71 RBI for Class A San Jose in 2010.
He followed that up with 10 HR, 56 RBI and .259 at Double-A Richmond in a league that usually challenges hitters.
He was hitting .284 with 5 HR and 24 RBI, plus 11 doubles for Fresno. It’s that show of power that led the Giants to call on Culberson over the more experienced Brock Bond, who was hitting .380 with a .450 OBP for Fresno. But the 26-year-old Bond had 1 HR and 11 RBI.
But we’ve seen players who were hitting at Fresno come to San Francisco and failed to get the job done. That was the case with Gillaspie, who was sent down as much for his defense as his offense.
So we’ll see what Culberson can do.
After anguishing through an inning of watching Aubrey Huff play second base, Giants fans got some good news on Sunday.
Freddy Sanchez will make his 2012 debut by starting a minor-league rehab assignment with the Class A San Jose Giants on Monday.
The last we saw Sanchez he was taking infield practice during the season-opening series in Arizona, by all accounts, looking better than he has all spring.
We had hoped that would lead to a rehab assignment. But it didn’t, and that was two weeks ago.
Then we heard the Giants wanted to start his rehab outing last Tuesday. But that got delayed to Thursday.
When that didn’t happen, manager Bruce Bochy said he didn’t when Sanchez would be playing games.
Finally, the news came Sunday that Sanchez was headed to San Jose.
He’ll play a couple games as a designated hitter before taking to the field by Wednesday. Or at least that’s the plan.
By rule, Sanchez can spend no more than 20 days on the assignment, meaning the Giants must activate him no later than May 13.
Bochy said the Giants have Sanchez mapped out to spend 18 days in the rehab assignment, but he could return soon.
If stays on the 18-day plan, it would mean he’s scheduled to make his 2012 on May 11 at Arizona.
Well, it was hardly breaking news, but in Tuesday’s ESPN2 broadcast of the Angels-Giants game Giants manager Bruce Bochy announced that second baseman Freddy Sanchez would open the season on the disabled list.
Sanchez has been idle since receiving a cortisone shot in his troublesome shoulder on Sunday. The Giants hope Sanchez can resume light throwing by mid-week. He was getting at-bats as a DH in a minor-league game on Wednesday.
But until he can show he can make all throws necessary to play second base, he won’t be playing for the Giants.
Bochy said Tuesday that he’s hoping Sanchez can be ready to play for the Giants “sometime in April.” But at this point, we’re not really sure he’ll return at all.
The Giants have said Sanchez’s rehab from shoulder surgery last year has hit a plateau. They hope the cortisone shots will be the spark that will Sanchez to push through this plateau and get back on the road to recovery.
In the meantime, it looks as if Emmanuel Burriss is the front-runner to win the start at 2B on April 6. Mike Fontenot and Ryan Theriot are also in the mix.
The Giants face a Thursday deadline to guarantee deals for Fontenot and Theriot. It looks as if they will do just that.
Theriot was hit on the nose with a pickoff throw on Monday. Yet, he is starting at 3B against the Dodgers on Wednesday. If the Giants were thinking of releasing Theriot on Thursday, it would figure they wouldn’t bother playing him Wednesday.
What can he show them in two days that they haven’t seen already.
But given the uncertainty of Sanchez, the veteran presence of Theriot (plus his right-handed bat) is something the Giants aren’t likely ready to part with.
VOGELSONG TO START FOR THE GRIZZLIES
This isn’t the start he was looking for, but it looks as if Ryan Vogelsong will make his second opening-day start for the Fresno Grizzlies.
After making his spring debut with a 39-pitch outing against the Royals on Monday, Vogelsong will pitch in a minor-league game Saturday so that the Giants can start the clock on his 15 days on the disabled list to open the season.
The plan is for Vogelsong to be ready to open the season on April 15 against the Pirates.
To get there, Vogelsong will start the season opener for Triple-A Fresno at Tucson on April 5. His next start for the Grizzlies would come on April 10 at Las Vegas.
SNAKES IN A ROW
Arizona manager Kirk Gibson announced his starting rotation for the 2012 season. It means we can lineup the opening series between the Diamondbacks and Giants
Friday, April 6: Tim Lincecum vs. Ian Kennedy, 4 p.m. ESPN2
Saturday, April 7: Madison Bumgarner vs. Daniel Hudson, 1 p.m. FOX
Sunday, April 8: Matt Cain vs. Josh Collmenter, 1 p.m.
Those are three right-handers for Arizona. Good news for Giants, who figure to open with a lineup that will include four switch hitters (Angel Pagan, Melky Cabrera, Pablo Sandoval and Emmanuel Burriss) and three left-handers (Brandon Crawford, Aubrey Huff or Brandon Belt, and Nate Schierholtz or Gregor Blanco).
Stop me if you’ve heard this before.
The Giants hope that Freddy Sanchez will play his first game in the field on Friday.
Sanchez is slated to take infield practice on Thursday. If he shows manager Bruce Bochy what he wants to see, then Sanchez will play at second base Friday. If not, then he won’t.
And if he doesn’t play in the field Friday, it’s time to really start thinking about Sanchez missing opening day.
Sanchez even admitted Monday that it’s “getting late here.”
“The big thing is double plays,” Sanchez said. “I’m not getting as much on my throws as I should.”
RYAN VOGELSONG: The news was better on Vogelsong. He is scheduled to make his spring training debut on Saturday, when he’ll pitch one inning in the home split-squad game against the Rockies.
Bochy said the plan is to get Vogelsong up to five innings and 70 pitches by the end of spring training. But it’s a narrow window.
If Saturday is his first start, he would get two more starts before the start of the season on normal rest: March 29 vs. the Rangers and April 3 vs. the Athletics in Oakland. That would align him to make his first regular-season start on April 9 at Colorado.
Bochy said that Vogelsong will throw only one inning in the game because “he’ll be amped and we don’t want any setbacks.”
Translation: He’ll likely throw more in the bullpen after his one inning Saturday. He threw 40 pitches in a live BP session on Tuesday.
Still, it seems extremely tight. It would make more sense to use the April 10 off day to skip Vogey’s turn and have him open season on April 15 at home vs. Pirates.
BRIAN WILSON: The Giants said they are taking the foot off the accelerator on Wilson’s pitching schedule after The Beard reported mild arm soreness.
Wilson last pitched Saturday and had been throwing every three days. The Giants have pushed him back to Thursday.
He played catch Wednesday and looked fine, according to CSNBayArea.com’s Andrew Baggarly. Bochy said if it had been the regular season, Wilson would have pitched.
Wilson has hit 96 mph on the gun this spring, and Bochy called this normal spring soreness.
OK. But, still, hmmm.
BUSTER POSEY: Posey caught a spring-high six innings Tuesday and looked good when he pounced on a bunt attempt and threw out the batter at first.
“Buster looks fine,” Bochy said. “We’ll start cranking it up a little bit here.”
The next step is catching back-to-back games, which could come soon. Posey was in the lineup Wednesday as a DH.
Many fans and media members have commented that opening day is two weeks away and Posey is only catching six innings.
It’s not that he CAN’T catch a full game. It’s that the Giants are taking it conservatively, trying not to push things, waiting to see how Posey reacts.
So far, Posey has responded well to every step he has taken this spring.
First, we heard it was going to be last Wednesday.
Then, no, it was Friday.
Then possibly on Saturday.
And now it’s Monday, the Giants have a day off, and we still don’t know when second baseman Freddy Sanchez will play his first game in the field.
It won’t be Tuesday. Wednesday?
Bochy said Sanchez was still throwing tentatively during his last full-speed infield drill last week, and the manager wants to see him game-ready in practice before putting him into a game.
“Once he takes a good infield and feels like he can play in a game, we’ll put him out there,” Bochy said. “But not until then.”
Sanchez could take infield practice on Tuesday or Wednesday, then take a day off, and could be ready to play the next day. But the uncertainty has led Bochy to admit that his second baseman could open the season on the DL.
“We’re down to two weeks, and he hasn’t gotten out there yet,” Bochy said. “We’re still optimistic that we’ll get him out there, but each day that goes by the possibility grows a little bit that he’s not going to be ready.”
Mike Fontenot, Ryan Theriot and Emmanuel Burriss are battling for backup infield jobs. It figures that only two will make the team. Henry Schulman of the SF Chronicle said Theriot has not looked good in the field or at the plate this spring. Theriot is hitting .200 (6 for 30).
The Giants covet Theriot for his experience, his right-hand bat and his ability to hit lefties. But they have also starting give shortstop Brandon Crawford more opportunities this spring against lefties. Crawford hit his first spring home run off a lefty, the Mariners’ Hong-Chih Kuo.
“Any home run feels good,” Crawford said. “That is came off a lefty, it probably feels better.”
Burriss went 2 for 2 with a triple and a walk Sunday, raising his spring average to .441 (15 for 34). He also has five steals.
If Sanchez opens on the DL, all three infielders should make the team. Another option is to put Ryan Vogelsong on the DL to open the season, activating him on April 15 when the Giants first need a No. 5 starter.
Then, the Giants could open the season with 11 pitchers, allowing them to keep an additional position player on the roster at least for the first nine days of the season.
- Brandon Belt had a double in three at-bats, leaving his spring average as .368 as Aubrey Huff sat out with a sore back.
- Madison Bumgarner looked ready for the season, giving up four hits and no walks in five scoreless innings. He wanted to pitch into the six, but Sunday’s less-than-ideal conditions led Bochy to have MadBum finish his day with 20 pitches in the bullpen.
- Clay Hensley gave up three rusn on three hits in one inning, although two runs were unearned.
The Giants will keep their rotation intact by having Matt Cain throw a minor-league game Monday. Barry Zito will get the start Tuesday against the Diamondbacks at 1:10 p.m.