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12.12.2006

Eric Gagne is Not My Padre 

And not my Giant, either. Whew. Another bullet dodged. No pun intended.

Before we go farther into unintended punland, I'd like to mention that BP writer Nate Silver says this year's free-agent market is running at a 47% inflation rate over last year. The best three FA deals so far, according to Silver, are Adam Kennedy/STL, Dave Roberts/SF, and Craig Counsell/MIL. The three worst: Carlos Lee/HOU, Gil Meche/KC, and Adam Eaton/PHI. The Giants have actually saved $9.4 million over market rate.


Which brings me to this note from a disgruntled reader who chides me for being too gruntled:


El Lefty can't be happy about the state of the Giants either...Your post seems to be politically correct to me - Time to slam 'em! It's a disaster over there on King Street...Throw a bunch of dough at Zito.

Politically correct? I compared the Feliz signing to the Darfur genocide. Is monumental bad taste no longer enough?

[Ed. note: the new Blogger beta is wreaking havoc with my fonts. Please bear with me.]

Beyond Feliz, though, I can't really slam the Giants for any one particular move. Randy Winn is not a leadoff hitter; they needed a leadoff hitter. Roberts, as noted above, was a relative bargain. Mike Matheny is probably a permanent KO, so they needed a catcher pronto.

And complaints that the Giants have broken their promise of a new non-Bondscentric direction are premature. Let's parse:

The Giants never said 2007 would be Bonds-free. Just less Bonds-focused. His reported contract seems to belie that, but in this market, $16 million base (with reportedly much deferred) for one year of a premier slugger -- yes, he still is -- is not unreasonable. If we're to believe today's news, the deferred money will help make another acquisition.

No pitching prospects have been traded. So far.

No really stupid long-term FA contracts. Feliz hurts. But his contract won't cripple the team.

The only tack away from the New Direction is the apparent reassignment of Linden and Frandsen to the National Thumb-Twiddlers League. Not insignificant, but come on, the Giants aren't exactly forcing, say, David Wright and Rocco Baldelli to ride the end of the pine.

So, we turn to moves not (yet) made. I don't know anyone who will protest the Giants sitting on the sidelines as the Gil Meches and Adam Eatons of the world bellyflop, Scrooge McDuck-like, into swimming pools of lucre. Speak now, Ted Lilly fans, or forever hold your peace.

Jason Schmidt, however... No, sorry, I'm not going to slam the Giants here, either. This deal not done is a moot point: Schmidt wasn't going to sign with S.F. Period. That's certainly how it seems. The L.A. contract has been praised in certain circles as a wise overspend -- throw in a few more zlotys for a shorter time span. It's a decision the Giants probably never had to contemplate.

Now that the Giants haven't spent $47 million on a guy who wasn't going to take their money anyway, the big question is this: Would signing -- or trying to sign -- Barry Zito hew to the New Direction or move away from it? It would mean a swap of an older ace (Schmidt) for a younger, less dominating ace. It would mean overspending on a player whose decline in strikeouts is a bad sign. It would mean committing many, many years to a pitcher -- a very foolish proposition.

Though the initial splash would be cool, the idea of a nine-digit deal for Zito summons to mind Martin Landau playing Bela Lugosi in the movie Ed Wood: "Take care! Beware!" Or if you like, "This is the most uncomfortable coffin I've ever been in."

It was the former quote that kept me awake last night. I couldn't sleep between 1 and 3 a.m. because of it -- not to mention the sound of the rain pounding my bedroom window.

Also keeping me up: why a team would spend $24 million on Adam Eaton instead of $2 million on Jamey Wright with $22 million left over for really good relief pitching, to help on the days Wright exits by the fifth inning. I don't know.

The same could apply to Barry Zito. Why spend $17 million a year on one guy when you could use that money on, say, two hitters who will help outslug the opposition on the days Brad Hennessey and Jonathan Sanchez toss beanbags to happy batters?

I'll leave you with a quote from Omar Vizquel, in reaction to the Bonds contract: "I don't think it's a stupid contract,'' Vizquel said. "They didn't sign somebody for six years and $100 million. They'll have the chance to do more things later.''

As noted yesterday, we thought the Mark Sweeney deal last year was a sign that the Giants would do more things later. Those things never happened, unless you consider Shea Hillenbrand a thing.

***

EVENING UPDATE: After all this money talk, the following quote from Gabe Kapler, who just retired at 31 to take a minor-league manager job, is a breath of fresh air:

"I didn't want finances to play into it," he said. "I made that mistake already once when I went to Japan. ... Helping other people and being a part of other peoples' lives is much more rewarding than finances."


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