Operation Fonzie Removal 

We all know Brian Sabean's biggest offseason challenge this winter won't be the addition of a hulking, fearsome, bonecrushing slugger to play first base and add more power to the Giants lineup.

His most important mission is the removal of Edgardo Alfonzo from the roster. Even though Fonzie has perfected the art of the soft doink that falls into shallow right field, he has little else to recommend him to the $8 million he'll earn next year.

If somehow, ohpleaseGodpleaseGodplease, Sabean can move Fonzie and not have to pay much of his '06 salary, the Giants will add much-needed fiscal and roster flexibility. But it's extremely unlikely, no matter what Fonzie thinks.

If the Giants in total exasperation release him and eat his '06 salary, it'll rank up there with the all-time ingestions of crow performed by a major league front office. (The Detroit Tigers paid Damion Easley $14.3 million in March '03 to let him out of the last two years of his contract; the D-Rays swallowed $9 million owed to Greg Vaughn.)

If the Giants can't move Fonzie, they may refuse to eat the cash and pray he'll regain some semblance of his once formidable gap power. Meanwhile, they'll still need to add payroll by subtracting players. Two other obvious trade candidates are LaTroy Hawkins and Pedro Feliz.

Hawkins is due north of $4 million next year, thanks to complicated incentive clauses. Feliz will also "earn" $4 million-plus in '06, if you call habitually popping up or striking out on sliders in the dirt when there's a man on third with less than two out "earning."

Are they tradeable? Let's look at that word from two different angles. First, are they desirable to someone else? In that sense, they're definitely not tradeable for the Howards, Overbays, and Teixieras of the world. But for middling prospects and/or serious cash relief, perhaps.

Second, are they expendable? The silver lining of this year's stumbles is the prolonged tryouts of Accardo, Taschner and Munter in the bullpen. In '06 they'll no longer be rookies; they've even gotten a taste of a pennant race in September, although the taste is more akin to Keystone Light than Boont Amber. If Eyre returns, it's quite possible the young 'uns, plus Walker, Eyre, Benitez, and Fassero (back as the $500,000 long man), could respectably handle bullpen chores without Hawkins. He's expendable.

And Pedro? My initial, resounding, whole-throated YES is cut short when I realize trading Feliz means keeping Fonzie at third. But I'd argue the Giants could get by with Fonzie's bat and defense if they used the extra cash (from Hawkins and Feliz) to sign a big bopper at first base.

So, like all well-constructed operations, Fonzie Removal has contingencies.

I have another creative financing mechanism up my sleeve, and it concerns Jason Schmidt.

If every dollar counts in '06, why not approach Schmidt about a contract extension that asks both sides to take on some risk? This plan assumes, of course, the brass wants him back next year. It's possible they might decline his $10.25 M option and part ways, but I doubt it.

So: the Giants rip up the option and offer a two-year contract along these lines:

'06: $7 mil
'07: $8 mil
'08: $10 mil option, triggered by reaching incentives

There's a bit of risk for either side. For Schmidt, he gets paid less than he might if he finished '06 in spectacular fashion and hit the free agent market. But he also gets guaranteed money through '07 and a top-shelf salary in '08 -- his age-35 season -- if he performs well in '06-'07.

For the Giants, they save $3.25 million in '06. If Schmidt continues his decline, he's guaranteed only $4.75 million more than the Giants would have paid by picking up the '06 option of $10.25 M. If he pulls through this rough patch, gets healthy, and learns to use all his pitches a la Curt Schilling, he'll be a bargain in '08.

The Giants could even add 1 or 2 million in incentives to sweeten the '06/'07 base salary.

Is this a pipe dream? Would Schmitty go for it? What other creative financing can the Giants do this winter?


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