The Giants entered the off-season with major holes at four positions: shortstop, third base, first base and one outfield spot. The Giants made it official yesterday: Omar Vizquel is in the bag for one more year and potentially two. We know they'll get good defense (how good is arguable), a winning personality, and offense that could be as bad as last year (a .305 OBP and .621 OPS, his worst since 1993) or as good as 2006 (a .361 OBP and .750 OPS, one of his best years ever). Unlike some of the commenters earlier this week, I'm not ready to write off his bat completely; with a .350 OBP, he would still be a serviceable number-two batter. But we know he won't be a force.
I'll bet my sweet p'toot the Giants next turn their attention to third base. We all dread the announcement: Pedro Feliz, three years and $24 million! (Though yesterday Sabean said the team is not very interested in a multi-year deal.) What are the alternatives?
Internal: Kevin Frandsen. I believe he played third in college, though he hasn't much since turning pro. He doesn't have the ideal bat for third base, especially when your entire outfield is projected to hit negative 7 home runs. No one in the high minors is ready unless you count Justin Leone, a 30-year-old minor league journeyman who had a nice year at Fresno.
External via free agency: A-Rod is the elephant in the room. We can argue endlessly whether the Giants can afford to sign him, what their chances are, and whether it'll break their bank or bring them closer to playoff contention in 2009 or 2010. The other big name, Mike Lowell, seems eager to re-sign with Boston and vice versa.
External via trade: Miguel Cabrera is available for half the Giants pitching depth. According to this columnist, the Giants are a "major player" for him, which makes me kind of excited but kind of scared, like when I was 14 and I had good information that a certain girl I liked from afar wanted to go to the dance with me. I promise that's the only time I will link Brian Sabean and my puberty, metaphorically or otherwise.
Who else? Scott Rolen is probably available, but beat up and expensive. Garrett Atkins and Adrian Beltre are not available. Keith Law of ESPN runs down the list here. Among the veterans, it's not promising. Among other teams' prospects, there are a few blue-chippers who might be available, but not likely for anyone short of Cain or Lincecum. (Tim Lincecum for Alex Gordon? Anyone?) This isn't a novel suggestion, but Edwin Encarnacion of Cincinnati could be the tweener -- not quite a prospect, not quite a star, still quite affordable -- whom the Giants could pry loose without trading their young aces.
My suggestion: Go after a player like Encarnacion who won't require quite as much trade bait. If that doesn't pan out, start the spring with Frandsen at third and see how things transpire. There's no rush. Getting Cabrera would be a bold, risky move, and I don't think my nerves could handle it.