Few People in New Zealand Know of Barry Bonds 

I'm back from New Zealand, where the South Island landscapes are rivaled in my limited and humble experience only by the Canadian Rockies and the U.S. southwest desert.

It's better to be late than to be never, so I weigh in on the Giants' off-season moves to date:

The Big Picture: The "new direction" of the team applies squarely to the pitching staff, though I guess going from 41-year-old Steve Finley to the 34-year-old Dave Roberts in CF counts for a youth movement of sorts. You can chalk up as pure bunkum the idea of the offense not revolving around Barry Bonds. Unless the Giants sign or trade for a big bopping first baseman, the '07 lineup will rely even more heavily on El Barrio than it did last year.

Big Picture 1a: So much for Todd Linden and/or Kevin Frandsen and/or Freddie Lewis getting a full year of hacks to see what he and/or they can do. Unless Randy Winn is trade bait -- and in the current climate, he's cheap cheap cheap -- Linden is relegated to replacing Bonds on day-after-night games and playing RF when Winn slides over to center. And Frandsen looks less like a utility guy than injury insurance.

Yet Another Big Picture: the Giants stayed away from contract grotesqueries. In any other year, three years, $18 million for Roberts would make me snort coffee out my nose, but hello, Juan Pierre, and ladies and gentlemen, now batting, Gary Matthews Jr. In the shadow of those two horrible, terrible deals, the Roberts contract reminds me of the time Charlize Theron was totally psyched to go on a first date to my favorite little taqueria with the $1.50 Dos Equis and two-for-one tacos. My first choice was Scarlett Johansson, but guess what: Charlize turned out to be a better actor. Look, I just flew 13 hours direct. Give my metaphors time to settle.

With that, I'll make quick comments on each development:

Barry Bonds, one year, $16 million. The final numbers aren't official. Reportedly Barry can earn incentives up to $20 mil. The money is more than we expected, but that applies to every new contract this winter except Sean Casey. If Barry plays like he did last year and as much as he did last year, and puts butts in seats, and doesn't poison the clubhouse, he's worth it. Question: what happens to the $5 million in deferred salary the Giants owe Barry in '07?

Dave Roberts. Contract detes, see above. Don't play him against lefties. Bruce Bochy should know this, as Roberts played for Boch the last two years and had a total 130 ABs against LHP.

Ray Durham, 2 years, $14.5 M. The contract is contingent on Ray-Ray having hamstring-transplant surgery, right? Right? If he stays healthy and approximates last year's numbers, he's a bargain.

Pedro Feliz, 1 year, $5.1 million. As reasonable a contract as you can expect this day and age, yet it sucks. Why not let Frandsen do this job? It's not quite genocide in Darfur, but it still makes you ask if the universe has any intrinsic moral order. To keep from poking myself in the eye with an icepick, I say this: at least it's only a year.

Rich Aurilia, 2 years, $8 M. If Richie plays utility infield, fine. He probably won't hit 20+ home runs again, but he'll have more power than most UIs. Big fat caveat (in Latin, caveat magnus gravis, or something): if he's on board "to be the starting first baseman," as the Chronicle mentioned recently, stamp a big WTF on my forehead. I'll assume for now that report was a sloppy on-deadline mistake, but last year at this time, we thought the Mark Sweeney news was a prelude to a bigger 1B signing, too.

Bengie Molina, 3 years, $16 M. In this year's frenzy, this contract looks perfectly reasonable. For a guy whose game is reportedly falling apart, Molina sure hit a lot of home runs last year (19). He had the help of hitter-friendly SkyDome, but any way you slice it, he's not much more expensive than Matheny and a much better hitter. We'll see about his defense, which used to be highly-reputed. Notgardo was a nice story in '06 but still screams "Backup." Good move.

Steve Kline, 2 years, $3.5 M. Kline wasn't that good in '06, though the low HR total was a bright spot. He's cheap, which makes him tradeable, and he gives the Giants another lefty in case Taschner was a two-month wonder and Sanchez remains in the rotation.

And a quick stab at the lineup if there were no further positional moves:

against RHP:

CF Roberts
SS Vizquel
RF Winn
LF Bonds
2B Durham
1B Sweeney
C Molina
3B Feliz

against LHP:

CF Winn
SS Vizquel
1B Aurilia
LF Bonds
2B Durham
RF Linden
C Molina
3B Feliz

Tomorrow: The Moves Not Made (Yet).


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