Free Agents the San Francisco Giants Should Persue at the Winter Meetings: A Fan’s Take

With baseball’s winter meetings starting Monday, the San Francisco Giants should start looking forward to the 2012 season by acquiring 3 players that may have an impact in 2012 and put the Giants back into contention. After looking at the free agent tracker on, I found 3 players that the Giants should persue and possibly sign that may help booster their stagnant offense and stabilize their pitching staff.

Here, in my opinion, are the 3 free agents that the Giants should consider signing along with an opinion of the remaining positions that should be filled by players already in the organization.

Free Agent Acquisitions:

Carlos Beltran (RF)

Though he came to the Giants via a trade in July, 2011 and even though the fault wasn’t all his due to the Giants lack of hitting, he did put up impressive numbers offensively and played a good defensive outfield in right field, which at A.T.&T. Park, is not an easy task. Granted he was put on the DL for a period of time, but with off-season rest, his troublesome wrist should be healed enough for him to play every day and be spelled by Nate Schierholtz from time to time. His presence also helped Pablo Sandoval begin hitting the way he should have been all year (though he too had a stint on the DL) and he did mention one time that he and Beltran brought the best out of each other during Beltran’s playing time with the Giants. Re-signing Beltran would be a good move, but signing him to a long term contact is too much of a high risk. Possibly a 3 year contract should suffice.

Carlos Pena (1B)

Yes, I know that there are 3 other 1st Basemen that the Giants could put out there (Pill, Huff & Belt), but with the lack of major league experience in Belt and the low offensive numbers that Huff put up in 2011, bringing in Pena may bolster the position both offensively and defensively. Even though Huff’s $10M contract is guaranteed for 2012, there is no guarantee that he will put up good numbers as he did in 2010, when he signed a 1 year contract. Even though Pena had a high strike out ratio, he did post a .225 avg, 28 HR & 80 RBI at the plate in 2011 for the Chicago Cubs. If Pena were to become more patient at the plate and take pitches, he should be able to increase his output. During the late innings, he can be spelled by Brandon Belt so he can get more experience on the major league level. As for Huff, I’m sure that there is another team out there that is willing to take either whole or part of his contract if a trade can be reached with other teams. Even though the Giants paying most of his contract, it would be cheaper to trade him than to release him. If they were to release him, then they’ll eat all of contract. That’s a risk the Giants should take.

Brad Penny (SP)

Brad Penny came to the Giants in 2009 after being released by the Boston Red Sox due to low numbers. Since Penny was a National League pitcher at one time, his adjustment back to NL hitters was quick and easy. He posted a 4-1 record and had a 2.59 ERA. Not a bad record, considering he was only with the Giants for a short time. And a better record than what Barry Zito put up that year. Even though he elected free agency after the 2009 season, Penny had a commanding presence on the mound. He would be an excellent #3 or #5 starter the Giants so desperately need, despite the fact that Barry Zito has 2 years left on his 7 year, $126M contract he signed in 2007. Comparing the 2 pitchers in 2009: Brad Penny: 11-9, 4.10 ERA (Boston & SF); Barry Zito: 10-13, 4.03 ERA. Though Penny will turn 34 in 2012, he still has enough in him to help the Giants win games. I’m sure that Penny would welcome a return to San Francisco, provided, of course, the contract is sufficient enough to encourage him wanting to sign.

Now, with the remaining positions still in question, here is my take on who should play where and why.

Catcher: Busty Posey

Even though Eli Whiteside and Chris Stewart did a good job taking over the helm at catcher, Posey should be the starting catcher again in 2012. With his season ending injury behind him, he has begun his rehabilitation to strengthen his legs and is running again. Since he is young, his injury has healed sufficiently enough for him to take back the helm at his catcher position. I see no reason as to why he can’t pick up where he left off. Yes it was a tragic accident that happened to him, but we all know that the catcher position is one of the toughest positions to play. With spring training only 2 ½ months away, expect to see Posey back at his old position taking pitches and doing drills.

2nd Base: Jeff Keppinger

Though Freddy Sanchez’s season was cut short due to a dislocated shoulder and even though it should be healed sufficiently enough for him to take back the helm at 2nd base, Jeff Keppinger should be given the opportunity to win the 2nd basemen starting job. Sanchez’s history of injuries has limited his playing time with the Giants since his arrival in 2009 and the Giants cannot afford to not have an insurance policy just in case he is not ready enough to play on a daily basis. Keppinger gives the Giants stability at 2nd base and his defensive skills are very similar to that of F. Sanchez.

Shortstop: Brandon Crawford

When Brandon Crawford first came up in 2011, he made his presence known with a grand slam against the Milwaukee Brewers in his first game with the Giants. His defensive skills reminded me of another shortstop that once played for the Giants, in the form of Chris Spier. Crawford’s range and defensive skills excelled during his stint with the Giants, though his offensive numbers weren’t impressive enough to keep him on the team. He was sent down to work on his hitting and brought back during the roster expansion on Sept. 1st. Unless I am wrong, there really hasn’t been a good offensive shortstop on the Giants which put up high offensive numbers, but there have been many excellent defensive shortstops that have played for the Giants. The Giants should not look for a free agent signing and should give Crawford the chance to be their everyday shortstop.

Left Field: Bret Pill

Unless there is another Barry Bonds in the wings and with the loss of Pat Burrell to retirement, LF is up for grabs and Brett Pill should be given the opportunity to win the starting job and be spelled by Aubrey Huff. Both players have the experience to play the outfield, though Huff has expressed his preference in staying in the infield, which leaves Pill as the starting left fielder. If a platoon is to be in effect, then Pill and Belt should share playing time. Starting Pill against left-handers and Belt against right-handers, will give the Giants a good 1-2 combination. But I do believe that Pill should be given the bulk of the playing time.

Center Field: Cody Ross

Center field is an open position that is up for grabs. With the struggles of Andres Torres and Aaron Rowand (since released) all season, there is no guarantee that there is a fully experienced CF in the minor leagus that will jump in and take the helm. If the Giants go after a free agents, then Cody Ross could be resigned and given the job. He would be my choice to play center. He still has speed and can adjust playing there. Signing him to a 1 year deal would suffice the needs the Giants have for that position. Unless, of course, Nate Schierholtz is up for the challenge, but then again, since he has always been a corner outfielder, then the need to sign Ross becomes a higher priority.

Starting Pitching

The starting pitching is already set for the 2012 season. With the 4 top starting pitchers returning (Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner & Vogelsong), barring non-tendered arbitration, a fifth starter is still needed to bring balance to the staff. I have mentioned above who should be signed to be the fifth starter. I am sorry to say, but Barry Zito has floundered away his time here in San Francisco and he has become less of a fan favorite. Whether or not he pushed himself to be the pitcher he was expected to be when he signed his contract, his inconsistency buried him along with his erratic control and slow moving fastball that any hitter in a slump would crush. Unfortunately, with his high salary for the next 2 years guaranteed, it would be difficult for the Giants to find a team that they can trade him too and take over the remaining 2 years of his contract. Hmmm, maybe the New York Yankees?

All in all, 2012 should be an interesting season for the Giants. So if they are to contend once again and bring home that World Series Trophy at the end, they definitely need to make some moves at the winter meetings that will help bolster the offense and help the starting pitchers win more games. It only takes one player to make a difference, maybe 3, and they’re out there. Only question is, will the Giants be willing to pull off that deal?

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