OK, we’ve moved on from the Super Bowl (sort of), and ready to get MoreSplashHits geared up again as the 2013 season approaches.
During the offseason prior to the 2012 season, the Giants traded OF Andres Torres and RP Ramon Ramirez to the Mets for OF Angel Pagan, who proved to be a pivotal player in the Giants’ World Championship run.
Then the Giants re-signed Torres.
On Tuesday, the Giants signed Ramirez to a minor league deal.
Both Torres and Ramirez had so-so seasons with the Mets that were marred by injuries.
Torres hit .230 with 3 HR, 35 RBI, 47 runs and 13 SBs in 132 games for the Mets in 2012. Those numbers were only slightly better than his dismal 2011 numbers for the Giants of .221, 4 HR, 19 RBI, 50 runs and 19 SBs in 112 games.
Torres suffered a calf injury during spring training last year and aggravated it early in the season. The injury sidelined him for most of the first half of the season. The Giants hope Torres’ better numbers as RH batter vs. LH pitching (.286 vs. .195 as LH batter vs. RH pitching) will make him a good platoon option to LH hitting Gregor Blanco.
Ramirez posted a 0.67 ERA in 25 games after being acquired in a trade with the Red Sox in 2010 for the Giants. He followed that up with a career-best 2.62 ERA in 2011. Last season for the Mets, he was 3-4 with 4.24 ERA. Hampered by a midseason hamstring injury, Ramirez posted career highs in WHIP (1.461) ballooned by a career-high walk rate of 4.9.
Ramirez will be battling for the final spot in the Giants bullpen along with Chad Gaudin, Scott Proctor among a bevy of pitchers who will see a lot of action during spring training because a major chunk of the bullpen will be participating in the World Baseball Classic.
Now, if only the Giants could get Zach Wheeler back from the Mets …
The Giants made their second significant move of the offseason Tuesday, acquiring outfielder Angel Pagan for outfielder Andres Torres and reliever Ramon Ramirez.
When comparing Pagan to Torres, the Giants got a clear upgrade offensively. Both players had breakout years in 2010.
Pagan had .290 AVG/.340 OBP/.425 SLG, 37-46 on SBs, 15.3 K pct.
Torres had .268/.343/.479, 26-33 on SBs; 22.5 K pct.
And both suffered drop-offs in 2011.
Pagan .262/.322/.372, 32-39 SBs, 11.7 K pct.
Torres .221/.312/.330, 19-25 SBs, 23.9 K pct.
Torres was clearly the better defender, but Pagan had an outstanding defensive season in 2010, when he ranked in the top 5 in Defensive WAR, Total Zone Runs, Range Factor, putouts and outfield assists. His defensive numbers took a big drop in 2011, most notably because he committed a whopping 10 errors. But has he had committed nine total error in his previous five major league seasons, we have to consider last season an anomaly.
In 2011, Pagan never seemed to get on track and battled through a series of ailments. Most notably, Pagan missed five weeks of the season with a stress fracture in his rib cage after opening the season batting .159. He hit .279 after coming off the DL. So even with his drop-off, Pagan’s season was far superior than Torres’ 2011 campaign. And Pagan is more than three years younger.
Pagan, Torres and Ramirez were all arbitration eligible. With Pagan set to make $5 in 2012, the salary exchange is basically a push.
Torres had essentially worked himself into a role as a reserve outfielder for the Giants in 2012. Pagan can step into a starting role. And with Pagan is a far better option as a leadoff hitter and center fielder than Melky Cabrera, who now moves over left field.
In order to get that upgrade, the Giants had to give something up. And that was Ramirez, who was coming off a season in which he had a 2.62 ERa in 68.2 IP. It was his fourth consecutive season with an ERA of 2.99 or lower. But with one of deepest bullpens in the majors, the Giants dealt from strength. And with organizational depth of relievers (notably Heath Hembree), the Giants felt Ramirez was expendable.
With Pagan, the Giants lineup next season could look like this:
CF Angel Pagan
2B Freddy Sanchez
LF Melky Cabrera
C Buster Posey
3B Pablo Sandoval
1B Aubrey Huff
RF Nate Schierholtz
SS Brandon Crawford
One missing name that was quickly pounced upon by Giants fans was Brandon Belt.
We expect Belt will get at-bats. If he hits and if Huff (or any of the outfielders) struggles, Belt will get starts.
A couple of other potential moves: The Giants were reported to be working on a trade to send 2B Jeff Keppinger (another arbitration eligible player) to an unnamed AL team. Given the team’s financial constraints, it appears the next offseason splash won’t cause much of a ripple. The Giants want a right-handed infielder to support Crawford. They may have luck after next week’s non-tender date.
With the vacancy left by Ramirez, the Giants are talking about bringing Guillermo Mota back.
Giants fans can be a fickle bunch.
They’ll cry out over a lack of activity in offseason moves, then will whine about bad contracts that the team has signed.
The Giants’ recent track record on free-agent hitters signed prior to New Year’s Day has not been good — Aaron Rowand (Dec. 12, 2007), Edgar Renteria (Dec. 4, 2008), Mark DeRosa (Dec. 28, 2009), Miguel Tejada (Dec. 2, 2010) and Aubrey Huff (Nov. 23, 2010).
But when the Giants have waited and signed players to one-year deals in January, they have had better success: Juan Uribe (Jan. 29, 2009 and Jan. 4, 2010) and Aubrey Huff (Jan. 10, 2010).
So the Giants clearly are seeking offensive help, but they are not going to outbid teams for players in their 30s or with injury issues. That’s why they lost out on players like Grady Sizemore (re-signed with Indians), Willie Bloomquist (re-signed with Diamondbacks) and Jerry Hairston Jr. (signed with Dodgers), three players that Giants have been linked to this offseason.
So here’s what we’ve heard about players linked to the Giants:
Carlos Beltran, of: Giants GM Brian Sabaen classified it as a “long shot” for the Giants to re-sign Beltran. The reason? Sabean says an AL team may be in a better situation to give Beltran a longer deal he seeks, because he could moved to a DH at the end of that contract. But the market has been quiet on Beltran so far. And it’s interesting to see if Beltran will accept the possibility of being a DH in exchange for a longer deal. He did limit his trade options to NL teams last summer.
Alex Gonzalez, ss: Ugh, these reports are discouraging on many levels. Gonzalez has been described as a SS with some pop. But what I see is a guy with .241 AVG, .270 OBP and a .642 OPS with a whopping 126 strikeouts. Miguel Tejada, who the Giants cut last season, went .239/.270/.596. Gonzalez is just Tejada-plus (better fielder, more pop, younger). He’ll be 35 on opening day. The Giants need more hitters who can get on base more, make more contact and have speed. Gonzalez is not a fit. Also, the Giants have said they’d be willing to give Brandon Crawford a shot at shortstop if they can improve the offense elsewhere. If they are in on a player like Gonzalez, it indicates they aren’t confident of improving the team elsewhere.
Ryan Ludwick, of: There was a report that the Giants were talking to Ludwick, who has been on steady decline since the Cardinals traded him to the Padres during the 2010 season. Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury-News labeled it more “tire kicking.” Let’s hope so. Ludwick went .237/.310/.674 with 124 whiffs last season between San Diego and Pittsburgh. Yuck.
Jeff Keppinger, inf., and Andres Torres, of: The Giants are rumored to be seeking a trade for both this week. Next Monday is the date for teams to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players. It’s a signal that the Giants are considering non-tendering both players. It’s because of salary. Both would be backups for the Giants, and made $2.3 million and $2.2 million respectively last season. There’s nothing that precludes the Giants from non-tendering a player, then re-signing them at a cheaper rate as a free agent. There’s more reason to keep Torres with his speed and glove. Keppinger is not an option at SS. He hasn’t played for than 12 games at SS in a season since 2008.
Ramon Ramirez, rp: Ramirez also has been mentioned in trade rumors, like Keppinger and Torres. But unlike those players, there would actually be a market for Ramirez, who made $1.65 million in 2010 and is arbitration-eligible. We can actually see the Giants tender Ramirez next week, then still seek a trade before his case goes to arbitration.
Cody Ross, of: Ross opened the offseason looking for a three-year deal. Yeah, right. Now he’s looking for a two-year deal. Good luck with that. The Giants would be interested in bringing him back for a cheap, one-year deal. But Ross has said if he has to settle for a one-year deal, he wants to go to a hitter-friendly environment (i.e. not AT&T Park). Note to Cody: You hit .242/.336/.735 at home last season, .237/.315/.726 on the road.
Well, we can at least say this about the 2011 Giants: They know how to make a 9-2 thumping exciting.
The Giants dropped a second straight game to the Phillies on Friday in San Francisco, but the real story was the dust-up in the sixth inning after Giants reliever Ramon Ramirez hit Shane Victorino with a pitch.
With the Phillies leading 8-2 with two on and two out in the sixth, Ramirez hit Victorino square in the back with his first pitch.
Victorino took a couple of steps toward the mound, but stopped. Giants catcher Eli Whiteside popped up to put himself between Victorino and Ramirez, who was walking toward Victorino after tossing aside his glove.
The situation seemed about ready to cool down, but after Whiteside put himself between Victorino and Ramirez, he was hopping around like Cassius Clay vs. Sonny Liston, his head on a swivel, looking for any Phillie who might come at Ramirez. When Placido Polanco, who was on first base, got within a 10-foot radius of Ramirez, Whiteside tackled him, and the scrum was on.
There was some pushing and shoving, but nothing too serious, until Victorino, who was being held away from the scrum, got away and dove back into the pile.
Ramirez, Whiteside and Victorino were all ejected.
But the big question is: Why was Ramirez throwing at Victorino?
Whiteside said he wasn’t.
“I called for a fast ball inside, and it was a little too far inside,” Whiteside said.
Well, actually, it got a lot inside.
“I have no comment on the fight. … I played a little quarterback in high school,” Whiteside added.
Apparently, he wasn’t a very good quarterback, because his tackling form was textbook perfect.
Victorino thought he was being thrown at. That’s why he stepped toward Ramirez, to get an answer as to why.
Well, here are some possible explanations.
THE STOLEN BASE: Ah, yes, those unspoken rules. After Jimmy Rollins scored two with a two-out single, making it 8-2, the Phillies shortstop stolen second on Ramirez’s first pitch to Polanco. If Ramirez was upset about this, he didn’t show it. He paid no attention to Rollins at first (maybe because it was 8-2), and Rollins stole second without a throw. And if the Giants were upset, at what point did they get upset? Ramirez threw five more pitches to Polanco before he reached on a swinging bunt. Then came the pitch to Victorino. Carlos Beltran insinuated that Rollins’ breach of etiquette could have been a contributing factor. “I would not have done it,” Beltran said of the stolen base with a six-run lead. Of course, who was the last Giant to join the scrum? Carlos Beltran.
FRUSTRATION: Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said frustration by Ramirez led to the confrontation. “I think he was getting hit and he got mad and he was going to plunk somebody,” Manuel said. Maybe a better explanation. It was a frustrating inning for Ramirez. After getting the first out, he walked Raul Ibanez and gave up a single to John Mayberry. That was followed by an RBI single by catcher Brian Schneider, who was hitting .170. Pitcher Vance Worley was out on a nice catch by Whiteside on a bunt attempt. But then Ramirez helped the Phillies by throwing a wild pitch. Then came Rollins’ single and it was suddenly a three-run inning.
UTLEY FACTOR: It also could be the Ramirez wanted to throw at Chase Utley, who was a central figure in the scrum at last season’s NLCS. Utley normally bats third in the lineup. But Friday, with Ryan Howard sitting out, Utley was batting cleanup and Victorino was batting third. So maybe Ramirez just got confused. It’s as good a reason as any.
Regardless of the reason, it provided a little drama to a blowout at AT&T Park.
Woohoo! Finally, some news from the Giants to report.
- Outfielder Cody Ross signed for $6.3 million, a raise over his $4.45 million 2010 salary. The NLCS MVP was acquired in a waiver claim from the Marlins on Aug. 22. He hits 14 home runs with 65 RBI and hit .269 last season.
- Starting pitcher Jonathan Sanchez signed for $4.8 million after earning $2.1 million in 2010. Sanchez was 13-9 with 3.07 ERA in 33 starts last season.
- Relief pitcher Ramon Ramirez agreed to a $1.65 million, after earning $1.155 million last year. Ramirez was acquired in a trade with the Red Sox last season. He went 1-0 with 0.67 ERA in 25 outings with the Giants.
- Also, relief pitcher Santiago Casilla reportedly agreed to a one-year deal for $1.3 million. Casilla made $400,000 in 2010, when he went 7-2 with a 1.95 ERA in 55 innings last season.