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Monday, November 01, 2010

Do the Giants need this more?

Let me first emphasize that I don't believe this series is over.  Cliff Lee will take the mound against Tim Lincecum tonight in a rematch of a much-anticipated Game One which turned out to be anything but a pitcher's duel.  Something tells me less than 18 runs will be scored this time around.  Are the Rangers capable of winning three in a row?  Of course they are.  But, at least at this point, they've been absolutely dominated.  The Giants look like they want it more.  And, although I usually abhor observations like that, here's why it might be true.

The Expendables are not going to be around next year.  They are, by nature, expendable.  While the Rangers core, with the notable exception of Cliff Lee, is wrapped up for years to come, the wily veterans on the Giants know their time together is coming to an end.  Aubrey Huff, Pat Burrell, Juan Uribe, Edgar Renteria, Jose Guillen, and nearly all of the productive middle relievers in the Giants bullpen will be free agents this offseason.  Huff, Burrell, and Uribe will all be far more enticing than they were a year ago.  As a result, they will all, presumably, be looking for multiyear deals for significantly more money than they earned from the Giants this season.  In other words, they won't all be back...and perhaps none of them will.

And while Brian Sabean clearly has a lot to be proud of right now, he must know that the offseason, even if it begins with some long-awaited celebrating, is going to be a tough one financially.  The Giants have committed more than $38 Million in 2011 to Barry Zito, Aaron Rowand, and Mark DeRosa.  Zito will be, at best, their fifth starter next season, and wasn't considered good enough by Bruce Bochy to even gain a spot on the playoff roster.  Rowand has become a very expensive fourth outfielder.  And, DeRosa, though a productive player as recently as 2009, is a 36-year-old coming off of major wrist surgery (wrist injuries have a notoriously long rehab process, sometimes years).

So, basically, that's well over a third of San Francisco's payroll that's sunk before the season even begins.  Add to it that they face potentially expensive arbitration hearings for Jonathan Sanchez, Andres Torres, and Cody Ross, as well as the significant and well-deserved raises coming to Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Brian Wilson, and what we have is a franchise that will by nearing their current payroll limit (~$100 Million) before they even attempt to deal with the free agent market.

The Giants do have a few things to hang their hats on.  There's no reason to believe that Lincecum, Cain, and Sanchez won't continue to be one of the most dominant trios of starting pitchers in the game.  Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner had exceptional rookie campaigns and should be under the franchises control for many years to come.  Pablo Sandoval, widely regarded as the Giants best position player when the year began, suffered a season-long slump, but could well be due for a rebound in 2011.  But that observation also begs the question: Can Posey and Bumgarner avoid a similar sophomore slump?  Can Andres Torres prove that he's not a fluke after having a breakout season at the age of 30?  Are Santiago Casilla and Javier Lopez the dominant setup men they were in 2010, or was there due cause for their previous teams to give up on them?

The Rangers have Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Ian Kinsler, and Elvis Andrus.  They've got Colby Lewis, C. J. Wilson, and Neftali Feliz.  They've got one of the deepest and most promising pools of young pitching in the game, with guys like Derek Holland, Martin Perez, Tommy Hunter, Dustin Nippert, and Tanner Scheppers.  And they've still got high-end hitting prospects like Chris Davis and Max Ramirez.  They've got new ownership with deeper pockets and lots of payroll flexibility because they've got no bad contracts currently on the books.  There is really no reason to believe that Texas cannot be right back in the postseason next year and for several years to come, with or without Cliff Lee.

The Giant, on the other hand, are, for better or worse, a patchwork team.  They've got a solid foundation of starting pitching, but all season long Sabean has been getting by with what amounts to duct tape and putty.  If that structure holds together for just a few more days, they Giants will win their first World Series in half a century.  But, this house has not been built to survive the winter, and everybody in the San Francisco clubhouse knows it.  

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