Monday, March 21, 2011

Spring Training Spotlight: San Francisco

“The San Francisco Giants are World Champions.”  The world heard this statement uttered for the first time in 2010, as the Giants won their first title since moving from New York to the West Coast in 1958.  They won on the strength of their pitching, with Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain leading a staff that wasn’t unhittable in the playoffs – but it was a notch better than the competition every step of the way.  Since that first day in November, when Matt Cain hoisted the circle-of-flags above his head in Arlington (see left), the Giants have not been complacent with the make-up of their team.  General Manager Brian Sabean has made a bunch of moves to bring the Giants from unlikely contenders a year ago to possible favorites to repeat in 2011.  Hit the jump to find out how.

The Giants wisely left the core of their team intact; however, they will move forward in 2011 without last year’s “glue guy,” Edgar Renteria.  Though the Giants’ decision to keep him was panned before the 2010 season, Renteria had a phenomenal post season last year, and he earned the World Series MVP by hitting .412 with 7 RBIs against the Rangers.  However, the Giants let him go after the season; they replaced Renteria (and Juan Uribe, who signed with the Dodgers) with soon-to-be-37-year-old Miguel Tejada.  About 5-7 years ago, when Tejada was a regular All-Star for the A’s and the Orioles, this would have been a blockbuster move for the Giants.  However, given Tejada’s mediocre stats in recent years, it makes me doubt whether it was worth upsetting last year’s chemistry to bring in a declining superstar like Miggy.  In 2004, Tejada registered 223 Runs Created (Runs Scored + RBIs – HRs) for the putrid Orioles.  In 2009, however, Tejada created only 155 runs in hitter-friendly Minute Maid Park.  Last year, his numbers declined even more, with 137 Runs Created in over 600 At-Bats at age 36.  While Tejada continues to hit 15 Home Runs per year – and that would make for some nice pop off the bench – his overall run production has declined substantially, making him suspect as an everyday player.

On the bright side for the defending champs, though, Sabean re-signed crucial slugger Aubrey Huff (right) to a two-year deal to keep him in San Francisco for the rest of his prime.  Huff was an integral cog in the Giants’ 2010 title drive, with a .294 Batting Average and 6 Runs Created in 5 World Series games.  His regular season numbers weren’t too shabby either: .290-26-86, with solid defense at first base and both corner outfield spots.  Almost as important for a veteran player like Huff  is his clubhouse presence, and he has received rave reviews for keeping the clubhouse light while also mentoring young players.  Huff wanted to stay in San Francisco, and the Giants locked his bat, his glove, and his leadership up for 2 years plus a team option.  That’s the picture of a team that has a good model for consistency and building off of its past success.  The Renteria-for-Tejada move, though, is another story.

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