Elbo: Keeping the home fries burning 

While Lefty paddles his new bride around the land of Phar Lap and The Clean, he's left me the keys to the kingdom. Unless something drastic happens in the next week or so, I'm going to save my opinions of Dave Roberts and David Weathers until he returns.

But just to keep things fresh, I'd like to pass along this link to the personal Web site of your new third-base coach, Tim Flannery.

I see that he is encouraging redistribution of his music by twice requesting that you "burn one for a friend." And the first time he windmills home a slow-footed backup catcher on a base hit to left, I'm going to wonder whether he's been burning one in the clubhouse. The cover art of his Secret World album gives pause, too. Can it be long before he's invited onstage with the Flying Other Brothers?

You won't have to wonder how Tim feels about baseball, agents, Felipe Alou and Pete Rose once you hear "The Baseball Song," though. (Third album down, free download.)

He does seem to like some good people: Gram Parsons, Gillian Welch, Rodney Crowell. (Hey, that's "Judas Kiss" by the great Roscoe Ambel!) And he's a reporter too. I think Lefty and Tim are going to like each other....



Singing Songs About the Southland 

This could be my last post for a while -- I'm off to certain down under parts for a couple weeks and don't expect to spend much time blogging in Internet cafes. As usual while I'm gone, I expect big things to happen. Or in the Giants' case, not to happen, which wouldn't be a bad thing.

As I wrote yesterday, Brian Sabean's best move when it comes to some of the free agents out there could be simply sitting on his hands. The best news for the Giants so far: the Dodgers have signed native Alabamian Juan Pierre to a 5-year, $45 million contract. That is fall-off-your-bar-stool laughable. Pierre can be good when he's getting on base, but otherwise he has no skills. No power (who cares, you say, he's a leadoff hitter; but if outfielders play closer in because he has no power, they take away some of his line-drive hits to the outfield); no arm; even though he steals a lot of bases he's right at the 3/4 threshold of success. No matter how good a base-stealer he is, the skill is marginalized by his diminishing on-base percentage (.326 and .330 the last two years). No on-base, no stolen base. Capische?

And a five-year contract? Maybe he'll be perfectly healthy until he's 35, but if he suffers leg injuries in his 30s, his one and only skill is curtailed. What's more, if he has to move to a corner OF spot, the Dodgers would be forced to find power in less traditional places.

The Dodgers have also signed Nomar Garciaparra to a two-year extension. Before you gripe that the Giants should have gone after Nomar, remember that last year was his big comeback, his best and healthiest year since 2003, and it was indeed a nice year, but he only played in 122 games and could barely get on the field in the playoffs. He could continue to get healthier, what with all that fresh L.A. air and Mia's home cooking, but what are the chances? No doubt the Dodgers will be happy with 120 games and 450 at-bats again.

The Pierre signing increases the chance that the Giants lunge for Dave Roberts, who is very Juan Pierre-ish plus five years older and more injury prone. Last year he posted a career high in at-bats with 499. With Roberts over Pierre, there are two brighter sides: Roberts seems to have improved his on-base skills in his thirties, tallying OBPs of .340, .356 and .360 the last three years. And he likely won't require a five-year contract. Reports this morning say he rejected the White Sox because they only offered two years. Perhaps the Bochy factor will persuade Roberts to sign for two years plus an option.

My wish list for the next two weeks:

* Pass on Carlos Lee. Hope the Phillies sign him, which compels them to trade Pat Burrell to the Giants for a fringe minor leaguer.

* Pedro Feliz signs with the Dodgers: 5 years, $40 million.

* The Giants sign Rich Aurilia to a modest two-year deal to be their super-utility guy. (But not as a starter.)

I don't think starting pitchers will sign until the Red Sox/Matsuzaka scenario plays itself out and defines the market. So I don't expect Zito, Schmidt, or even many of the second-tier guys to be signed until I get back.


Small print update: The Giants have added two minor leaguers, Osiris Matos and Eugenio Velez, to the 40-man roster. (Thanks to this guy for pointing it out.)



The Serenity to Accept the Things I Cannot Change 

As the free-agent follies parade by his ascetic's lookout, Brian Sabean must feel like a recovering alcoholic who has to dig a septic tank in an industrial park outside Miami while his friends party at South Beach during Super Bowl week.

Brian, loosen up, pal! Just a few extra million and you can have Mark De Rosa. Put down the shovel, take a long hot shower and meet us poolside at the Fountainbleu. No? Maybe? Sorry, you snooze you lose.

The latest temptation to stray from the righteous path, Alfonso Soriano, is reportedly signing with the Cubs for $135 million over eight years. And they don't even know where he's going to play. Carlos Lee, who in three years could easily resemble Jerome Bettis, will likely get $15 million per year.

Don't do it, Brian. We got your back. We'll buy our season tickets and watch a lineup with Todd Linden batting fifth if it means not having to watch Juan Pierre earn $10 million in 2009 for barely clearing a .300 OBP. I'm already preparing myself for next year's marketing slogan: All-Star Game! Hey, Don't Look Over There, Look Over Here: All-Star Game!

It's either that or The Record No One Wants Broken!

Either one is preferable to watching the Giants promote sales of loyal employee Pedro Feliz's memoir, Confessions of a Dirty Slop-Hacker, complete with a forward by Rich Draper.


Monday morning update: The Chronicle is reporting that the Giants made a serious bid for Soriano, but the Cubs' offer was so knockout the Giants and others never had a chance to counter it. Also, here's a sign that Sabean is indeed sticking to principle this winter: "Stanton, reportedly seeking about $2.5 million a year, said he picked the Reds over the Giants because Cincinnati was willing to guarantee the 39-year-old left-hander a second year and San Francisco was not."




Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports this afternoon that the Mets are "discussing" a two-year contract with Moises Alou.

If any National League team signs Big Mo to a two-year contract, it will be the surest sign this winter of the coming apocalypse. One year, OK, but two? For a 40-year-old guy who couldn't save his creaky legs and back by DH'ing?

Rosenthal writes: The Indians believed they were close to signing Alou, according to a major-league source, until the Blue Jays awarded free-agent designated hitter Frank Thomas a two-year, $18 million contract with an option, reshaping the market. The Padres also have shown interest in Alou, as have the Giants.

That last bit, the Giants showing interest, is perhaps the best indication that Rosenthal's passing faulty intelligence up the stovepipe.

I would be shocked if Alou stays in the National League. This report sounds like Mo's agent is furiously recalibrating his pitch. I can just imagine Alou saw the Big Hurt contract and called his agent to ask why the $%#^#$^ he was about to have him sign with Cleveland for $4 million.

"Hey, Mo, baby, bubby, calm down. I'm on it. We're on it. We got you covered. Relax!"

"Relax? Pendejo, I almost go to Cleveland for Rich Aurilia money, and you want me to relax? How about I fire you, and then I relax?"

"Mo, hey, amigo, let me make a few calls and get back to you."



Le Vent Souffle en Arizona 

We head into the first full weekend of free agency with the GM meetings behind us, and already there are several moves that shake things up in the NL West. My top five:

J.D. Drew opts out

Drew decided he'll get more than 3 years and $33 million -- what remained on his Dodger contract -- on the free agent market, thanks to an opt-out clause the previous Dodger management let him have. This blows a big hole in the Dodger lineup. L.A. will have Jeff Kent and Nomar Garciaparra back (reports say Nomar is about to re-sign for multiple years), but with both of them injury question marks, the Dodger lineup could have a power vacuum next year unless youngsters Russell Martin, Andre Ethier and James Loney (who will be blocked by Garciaparra at first base) come through.

Frank Thomas flies north

No, it's not the N.L. West, but it has carryover effect. Thomas's move to Toronto (2 years, $18 M) leaves the A's DH-less and turns their attention to Barry Bonds. I don't think the A's are serious, and I still think Barry will sign with the Giants, but the more interested parties come calling, the higher his price tag. And the higher his price tag, the less the Giants will spend on other necessary parts.

Jesse Josh Barfield packs his bags

[Ed. note: Jesse Barfield? How old are you, anyway? Shee-it.]

Wow, thanks, Kevin Towers! One of the division's most promising young players is sent over the hills and far far away. Barfield wasn't a star, but he had an extremely solid year at 23. Instead the Pads got Kevin Kouzmanoff, a defensively challenged veteran minor leaguer with great offensive numbers, and a fungible RH reliever. Kouzmanoff may be their answer at third base, but with him and someone like Todd Walker to plug the now-gaping hole at 2B, S.D. may be throwing some defensive slop on the infield next year. Plus Kouzmanoff's great offensive numbers are strictly minor-league. He hasn't proved himself at all in the bigs. Weirdest trade of the winter so far.

Theo Epstein shaves his pubes

No, no, but what did happen made for just as shocking a headline: the Red Sox paid $51 million for the right to negotiate a contract with Daisuke Matsuzaka and Scott Boras. Just a guess: Jason Schmidt, who will be heavily courted by the teams that didn't win the Matsuzaka bid, is now officially out of the Giants' reach, and crappy second-tier starters may be, too. This could be a blessing in disguise, forcing the Giants to lean even more heavily on their homegrown hurlers, where the team can make the most effective use of the least number of dollars.

Aramis Ramirez stays put

In terms of how it affects the Giants, Ramirez's decision to stay with the Cubs is less about the Giants not signing him -- a huge longshot -- and more about the Dodgers, who were rumored to be among the suitors, not signing him. I wonder how interested the Dodgers really were, as they have Andy LaRoche, a superb third-base prospect in AAA who will likely be ready for prime time in '08, if not earlier. But Ramirez not going to L.A., piled atop the Drew defection, and slathered with the speculation that Alfonso Soriano wants to stay on the East Coast, makes the Dodgers that much more desperate for offense.

Not as desperate as the Giants, but we have to take solace somewhere.



Shea Ya! 

News today: Sean Casey is going back to Detroit, leaving the Giants one less option at first base. A good thing, I say. I like it when other teams move the sharp implements out of Brian Sabean's way before he slices off a thumb.

Next wish: someone else please sign Shea Hillenbrand. Hey, maybe the Blue Jays will take him back. Ha, ha, you say? Who in their right mind would suggest that?

How about this Toronto writer, who argues that the Jays' imminent signing of Frank Thomas could really....take a guess....yessiree, "hurt" the team.

You are buckled over from the cleverness, no?

Here's the kicker:

The Jays would have been better off going after a healthier right-handed hitter with extra-base power who could also play the corner infield spots and has a sense of baserunning that makes up for a lack of pure speed.

Someone like, hmm, Shea Hillenbrand.

Coming soon to a theater near you: A Sense of Baserunning, starring Shea Hillenbrand. It's the sequel to Relaxes With Animals.

(Thanks for the tip goes to FJM, which said Griffin's article was nearly the dumbest piece of baseball writing this year, but it's hard to be number-one when Bill Plaschke has access to a keyboard.)



And The MSP Goes To... 

As if Hot Stove news isn't exciting enough, we're all on the edge of our seats waiting to hear who wins the Most Shovel Player award. Congratulations to Armando Benitez, the Giants' nominee.



Sub Rosa 

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports:

"[Mark] DeRosa will be the Cubs' regular at second and occasionally fill in at other positions; he turned down a chance to be the Giants' starting third baseman to sign with the Cubs, according to a source with knowledge of his offers."

Good sign: The Giants were prepared to offer someone else besides Pedro Feliz a chance to be their everyday 3B.

Bad sign: Three years, $13 million for a utility guy with one good year. Wow.

And this morning, Hank Schulman of the Chron says the Giants were "taken aback" at the dollars and years Feliz's agent has proposed. Rich Aurilia is a prime candidate to replace him and maybe play a little first base. This would be nice and nostalgic, but don't expect too much out of Richie's bat at Mays Field. With his experience and versatility, however, Aurilia should be able to match DeRosa's contract, if not in length then in average dollars-per-year.

The Chron also reports that the Giants are hot and heavy after Juan Pierre to lead off and play CF. Pierre would provide lead-off patina, but scratch that surface and things don't look quite as fabulous. His career on-base percentage, the first and foremost measuring stick for a leadoff guy, is .350. Decent but not in the top echelon.

Worse, his OBP the past two years has been .326 and .330. It could be that teams have learned how to defend against him. He has almost no power, so they can squeeze the outfielders; bring in the third baseman to take away the bunt. His stolen bases -- a career 73% success rate -- are a nice addition, but it's hard to steal bases when you don't get on base very often. Last but not least, he is fast and gets to a lot of flyballs, but he has a terrible arm in CF. Presumably Pierre in center would push Winn to a corner, which would give them two terrible outfield arms. Make it three if Bonds re-signs. If Pierre were a stop-gap measure, OK, but he's likely to get three or four years at $8 million per.

Schulman says one source downplays the Giants' interest in Pierre. Let's hope that's accurate. But for the sake of pulling a lineup out of our behinds, let's also pretend Aurilia and Pierre sign. The lineup could look like this:

Pierre CF
Vizquel SS
Winn RF
Bonds LF
Aurilia 3B
Sweeney/Niekro 1B
Frandsen 2B
Alfonzo C

Two glaringly obvious points:

Aurilia cannot hit behind Bonds. No no no no no. Maybe against LHP, but otherwise no no no no no. But no one else in this lineup is even remotely qualified.

Second, a Sweeney/Niekro first-base combo still might happen if the Giants refuse to pay Getty-ransom money for Sean Casey's ear or some other mediocre option, or if they can't pull the trigger on a blockbuster trade for a Mark Teixiera type.

Wait, a third thing: Winn in the third slot. Terrible.

And where's the love for Todd Linden? He hasn't exactly earned it, but we could learn to love him over time -- sort of like a mail-order bride. In the Pierre-as-Giant universe, Linden becomes a fourth OF. With rumors pegging the Giants somewhere between very needy and embarrassingly desperate for a leadoff/CF type (Matthews Jr., Pierre, Roberts), Linden is all but assured fourth-OF status this year.

Assuming Bonds comes back, that is. And if he doesn't, folks, this team's offense is really in trouble.



For Make Benefit Glorious Wallet of Scott Boras 

Peter Gammons of ESPN reports today that the Boston Red Sox have submitted a $42 million winning bid in the Daisuke Matsuzaka posting. If you don't following the Japanese-league posting process, this means the Sox have won the right to negotiate exclusively with Matsuzaka and his agent Scott Boras. The $42 million goes to the Seibu Lions, Matsuzaka's team, only if they sign a contract. If they can't agree on a contract, Boston keeps its $42 million, and Matsuzaka -- whom many observers feel is the best starting pitcher on the free agent market -- goes back to Japan for at least another year.

Forty-two million clammeroos, just for the right to negotiate what could be a contract in the $50 million range? Wah-wah-wee-wah!

Even if Gammo's reportage is off, and the winning bid (to be announced officially tomorrow) is in the $30 million range, the import of this Japanese import is clear. The insane market for starting pitching will not abate. If Matt Morris were a free agent this year, he might get an annual average of $10 million.

More fallout: If the Sox win the Daisuke lottery, it leaves the Yankees even hungrier for free-agent starters. Their own rotation is dwindling, as they just traded backbencher Jaret Wright to Baltimore. That leaves them with Chien-Ming Wang, an aging but still good Mike Mussina (expected to sign a contract extension), and a verrrrrry creaky Randy Johnson as their rotation. Carl Pavano is a complete unknown, and double-A phenom Phil Hughes is...a double-A phenom. Now that Gary Sheffield's $13 million is off the books, the Yankees will have no compunction overspending for starting pitching.

What does this mean for the Giants? Unless they can wrangle a loyalty discount from Jason Schmidt, he's as good as gone. The price tag for the top-tier starters will be out of their range. About two weeks ago I predicted Schmidt would sign somewhere for 3 years, $40 mil plus an option. My new prediction: 3 years, $44 million, with a lucrative fourth-year option that can be triggered by durability.

Speaking of which, Aramis Ramirez has re-signed with the Cubbies for 5 years, $75 mil, which reportedly was a bit of a comfort-zone discount. The contract has effectively set a floor for the other top sluggers on the market. Look for Alfonso Soriano to get an annual average of as much as $20 mil a year. Carlos Lee and J.D. Drew easily could command an average of $15 mil.



Friday Festival of Fun 

The pool of available outfielders changed dramatically the past couple days. J.D. Drew became a former Dodger by opting out of the final three years of his contract, apparently thinking he can get better than $33 mil over the next three years on the open market.

And the Yankees traded the always charming and cheery Gary Sheffield to the Tigers for three very good pitching prospects. There were mumblings and fumblings about the Giants going after Sheff, but that probably would have cooked their chances at re-signing Barry Bonds. They used to love each other but now, if I may paraphrase the Axl of Evil, want to kill each other. And vice-versa.

As for Drew, blechh.

I prefer to make Separated at Birth jokes. Behold:

Signing J.D. Drew would be preferable to signing the rapidly declining Luis Gonzalez, who says he wants to stay in the N.L. West to take revenge upon the D-Backs by mercilessly heckling their ugly uniforms.

Not so fast, Gonzo!

"The more we researched the subject, got the opinions of fans and others, we became convinced that a color scheme built around a red tone and some of the sun colors made more sense than the purple and teal over the long run," Diamondbacks general partner Jeff Moorad said.

Over the long run, over the short run, anything makes more sense than purple and teal at any time, even if there were a nuclear holocaust, and purple and teal were the last remaining colors on Earth.

I love this part of the story:

Accomplished rap artist and businessman Master P was there along with Romeo and Young MC. "It think it's great colors, a great combination," Master P said. "This will be the uniforms that take them to the World Series."

Please note that the "Master" in "Master P" does not imply a mastery of English grammar.


Small print update: Welcome Chris and his new Giants-related blog, Bay City Ball.


San Francisco Values 

According to research firm ELM Ltd., the Democratic takeover of the Congress is nothing but good news for the San Francisco Giants. A close examination of U.S. electoral history shows that baseball teams based in regions represented by top Congressional leaders have sometimes won the World Series during the leaders' tenure. Can it be more than coincidence?

House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.)
Tenure: 1999-2007
World Series champion: Chicago White Sox, 2005

House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.)
Tenure: 1995-1999
World Series champion: Atlanta Braves, 1995

Senate Maj. Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.)
Tenure: 2003-2007
World Series champion: Florida Marlins, 2003: sort of close to Tennessee, generally speaking

Senate Maj. Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.)
Tenure: 1985-1987
World Series champion: K.C. Royals, 1985: across the river, but let's not quibble

And let's not forget that in 1993 Canadians held national elections. Who won the World Series? That's right, the Toronto Blue Jays.

The people have spoken, the vast e-voting conspiracies have been swept under the rug, and if I may paraphrase Stephen Colbert, tomorrow we're all going to wake up in a brave new world, a world where the Constitution gets trampled by an army of terrorist clones created in a stem-cell research lab run by homosexual doctors who sterilize their instruments over burning American flags, where tax-and-spend Democrats take all your hard earned money and use it to buy electric cars for National Public Radio and teach evolution to illegal immigrants... Oh, and the San Francisco Giants are 2007 World Series champions!


SMALL PRINT UPDATE: Now listening to outtakes from my favorite Rolling Stones album, Exile on Main Street. (Thanks to Elbo for the link.) Sweet Virginia, indeed.



Health is the New OBP 

Will Carroll of BP this morning hands out his annual award for the best MLB medical staff. The winners are the Chicago White Sox. Read more here, but I'll pull one tidbit that I find fascinating.

Carroll cites Chicago's acquisition of three young relievers, Jenks, McDougal and Thornton, and their key role in pitching 148.2 innings, "most...in the highest-leverage relief situations." Price tag: $1.125 M. Compare that to the Blue Jays, who spent $11 M this year on A.J,. Burnett, who threw 135 innings. Carroll then asks, "Is medicine the new arbitrage opportunity in which you can find the most value for your dollar? We've been arguing this point for years, but we're finally starting to see the data to back this up."

It's an excellent question to ponder as the Giants head into the post-Stan Conte era.


UPDATE: ESPN's Jerry Crasnick writes today about Pat Burrell. Most of the article is about the fallout of a no-trade clause, but there's one brief passage about the rumors of Burrell being traded to the Giants:

The Phillies were caught off guard last week by reports that Burrell might consider waiving his no-trade provision to go to San Francisco. Don't count on him winding up there. If the Giants re-sign Barry Bonds, Burrell would be out of luck in left field. And although there were rumblings that San Francisco might play Burrell at first base, the Phillies tried him there earlier in his career and he didn't exactly warm to the position.

Finally, the Phillies have received no indication that the Giants are interested. One club official said the clubs have had "zero" discussions about Burrell.

Burrell's agent, Greg Genske, didn't return calls seeking comment. But it's not difficult to envision places for which Burrell might be willing to waive his no-trade clause. Arizona, the California teams, Boston and the two New York clubs are about it. That's a finite universe of suitors.



Back in the Sadler Again 

With all the fuss about the Giants young pitching the past six months -- the emergence of Matt Cain, the promise of Jonathan Sanchez, the unholy buzz over Tim Lincecum -- one player slipped quietly into a September call-up with little fanfare: Billy Sadler.

The prospect hounds are now taking notice as Sadler mows down the competition in the Arizona Fall League. Here's what BP's Kevin Goldstein has to say in this morning's column:

I realize I've been bringing up Sadler quite a bit lately, but what can I say–-I like a bandwagon. Last Friday was just a usual Sadler outing, as he struck out the side. In 10.1 innings over nine appearances so far, the 25-year-old former sixth-round pick has limited opposing batters to a 4-for-35 (.114) mark with three walks and 17 strikeouts. In a league where the composite ERA is 5.25, this is an especially dominating performance. I'm still not convinced that he's a closer, but there is little doubt that he can pitch high-leverage bullpen innings in the big leagues right now.

I love the smell of "especially dominating" in the morning when it modifies the noun "Giant."

If you blinked, you missed Sadler's big-league debut in September. He pitched four innings over five games and generally didn't fare well. I saw a couple outings; what struck me other than the wildness up in the strike zone (a sign of overthrowing and nerves, most likely) was his excruciatingly slow delivery. Major leaguers will run with abandon when he's on the mound, so I'm not sure Goldstein's glowing assessment is true.

However, we certainly have to keep his name at hand when doing our '07 mock roster construction and when discussing winter trades. Don't be surprised if it takes a Sadler, not a Benitez or Brian Anderson, to snag someone like Gary Sheffield or Pat Burrell.

If Sadler is in the '07 bullpen mix, the possibilities look like this so far:



The name on this list that inspires the most confidence is Kevin Correia, which tells you a lot about the state of the Giants relief options right now. They're either old and/or injured and/or attitudinally maladjusted (Benitez, Worrell); young and unpredictable (Chulk, Hennessey), young and prone to getting lit up in the majors (Munter, Taschner, sometimes Hennessey), or more or less untested at the big-league level (Wilson, Sadler, Threets, Misch).

Saying it's a safe bet that Sabean will pay for veteran bullpen help this winter is like saying George Allen is kind of a retard. As I've written before, the eighth-inning Tascher-Helton matchup in a tie game at Coors Field does not make Giant fans stand up and thump their chests together in macho anticipation. So don't get all whiny when Sabean peels off a couple mil for a lovin' spoonful of Jamie Walker, Tom Martin, or Ray King.

As for the closer role, no one has any faith in Mando getting his groove back. And Mr. Plan B of yesteryear, Tim Worrell, is four years and a herniated disc or two past the Robb Nen era. There will be agitation for a youngster to take the closer reins, à la Papelbon or Wainwright, and I don't necessarily disagree. But my sage nod and $7.50 will get you a plastic cup of American-brewed piss-water in the Mays Field center field bleachers.

Keep in mind the Giants once tried the game of Anyone Can Be a Closer, and it was called Tyler Walker. And it was, well, not exactly a total failure, but not exactly the kind of grand happy accident that makes a stubborn old-school GM rethink his hard-wired conventional wisdoms.

Couple that with a new field manager who doesn't have the warm fuzzy security blanket named Trevor Hoffman to nuzzle against, and don't expect the Giants to throw young Sadler (or Lincecum, or Wilson) to the ninth-inning wolves without first trying to pry loose someone more proven.



Friday Notes: Pattus Battus 

* UPDATE: Here's a fascinating quote from a piece by ESPN.com's Sean McAdam on the waning importance of free agency: "It changes the whole way you look at payroll flexibility," asserted another club executive. "A few years ago, if you walked away from, say, a guy like Cliff Floyd, you could spread that money around. Now, payroll flexibility is much less valuable because there's no one to spend it on. You have to plan for the ability to afford talent, but also for the access to that talent. I keep hearing that Houston and San Francisco are going to have a lot of money to spend this offseason. Well, who are they going to spend it on?"

The Giants have partially answered that question by giving Tim Lincecum and Angel Villalona big signing bonuses, and by hiring a scout for Japan and the Far East.

* After months of my flogging the idea of Pat Burrell as a Giant, the big lug has added S.F. to his yes-trade list. He's expensive, with $27 million due the next two years, but it's fairly short-term and he's a reliable power source. If the Giants can dump Benitez's contract in the process (unlikely), even better.

* Aramis Ramirez told the Associated Press the Cubs are still his first choice. Translation: the fat offers from other teams aren't rolling in fast enough and he wants to light a little fire. Quoth Aramis: "I don't know for how much I'm going to sign [for] because I don't like to discuss figures, but it would have to be more than the $11 million."

* Speaking of numbers, Moises Alou busted out the advanced math with this quote: "I'm almost sure, more than 99.9 percent sure, that I won't return with the San Francisco Giants," Alou told The Associated Press on Thursday. Note how Alou puts great emphasis on the power of small fractions: more than 99.9% sure is still just "almost" sure. There is great uncertainty in the thousandths of a percentile; the slightest difference holds a universe of possibility. I've got one thing to say, Mo: Whoa.

* Jon Heyman of SI.com has this interesting observation: "If multiple teams are ready to trade pieces to take Sheffield for $13 million, Bonds should top that figure." In other words, Gary Sheffield carries nearly as much off-field baggage and is just as deficient on defense as Bonds. Equally healthy, Bonds is a better hitter. No doubt Bonds's agent will keep a close eye on the Sheff situation as a reference point.

* SMALL PRINT UPDATE: I've removed the free agents from the 40-man roster to the right. Currently posted are players under contract, their '07 salaries, and young players under the Giants control.



To Market To Market To Buy a Fat Pig 

I just ate my lunch and heard a radio discussion about investing. According to one of the Motley Fool guys, it turns out women have much more success on the stock market than men. Men invest with their emotions and trade for trade's sake. Women hold. Men think activity equals success.

Which made me think: does the same hold true for baseball? Unfortunately there are no women GMs to use as a reference point, but are certain GMs much less likely to make trades? There's Pat Gillick, so notoriously inactive he earned the nickname "Stand Pat." It's relevant to the Giants, as Brian Sabean has often invoked the "better to do nothing than make a bad trade" defense when the deadline has come and gone without a major move.

Of course, baseball has different parameters than the stock market. For all baseball teams, success is measured in discreet units called seasons. Investor "seasons" can last a day, a month, a quarter, a year, a decade...all defined by the investors' needs. Also, baseball players are free agents, sooner or later. The expiration date of their contracts forces GMs to consider trades differently than an investor wondering how long she should keep Microsoft. Only in very rare cases do investors feel they need to trade a stock or else get nothing for it; that happens in baseball all the time.

There's no grand point to this, as you probably figured out two paragraphs ago, just a few minutes of mid-day musing. I'll bet others have made some interesting parallels between baseball and stock trading; if you know of any, let us know.



You Don't Know Schmidt 

I'm not filing for free agency, but it's a super busy week. Forecast calls for heavy day job with sporadic blogging.

For all of you clamoring for the return of Jason Schmidt, here's another data point that must have agents of starting pitchers drooling: The Mets are discussing a two-year, $25 million extension with Tom Glavine, according to the NY Daily News.

If it's true, start adding years and dollars to figure out what Schmidt will ask for. My latest prediction: 3 years, $40 million, plus an option year.


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