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What's the Worst That Could Happen?

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When one of your team's biggest homegrown stars is entering the final year of his contract, it's understandable that you begin to worry just a smidgen. While he hasn't been the flashiest of superstars - quite the opposite, in fact, living mostly under the radar despite great statistics - he has certainly been the quiet leader of the team. You know at this point that I'm speaking of Matt Cain, and after recent news broke that he sold his house, people are already running around like chickens with their heads cut off. As much as we love Cain wearing the orange and black (and cream), and as much as he has iterated the same, you almost can't blame the guy for wanting to see if the grass may be greener on the other side. (It should be noted that if people would worry about watering their OWN damn grass, that which is on the other side would be irrelevant.) Remember that one year Cain lost 16 games? What a loser! What? His ERA+ was 123 that year? Oh, never mind then. I'd be pissed, too.

 

ANYWAY... this topic isn't all about Matt Cain. I like to call this exercise "Optimistic Pessimism" (I should copyright that). Basically, let's assume Cain's attitude of "I love this place" is all a fa├žade, and one more 1-0 loss is all it's going to take for him to go all Larry Krueger and declare Angel Pagan and Melky Cabrera a couple of brain-dead Caribbean hitters. By my count, after the 2012 season the Giants will have 8 potential free agents: Cain, Jeremy Affeldt, Cabrera, Pagan, Aubrey Huff, Guillermo Mota, Ryan Theriot, and Freddy Sanchez. Last year about this time I did a similar post where we looked forward to what would be in store for the next season (which, if you look back, was hardly close in any regard as I had mistakenly given Aaron Rowand way more credit than he deserved. Bum.) That's basically what this will be... we're all geared up for 2012, but it sometimes helps if you have an eye on the next season also... after all, you can't just look 5 feet in front of the car driving down the freeway, lest you not see the huge cliff a half mile down the road.

 

We will again assume that all above-mentioned free-agents-to-be will not be retained, as this is supposed to be a worst-case scenario. In reality, I could see them keeping Freddy or Theriot around since middle infield is already a question mark as is, but this is a theoretical situation here. If everyone runs for the hills at the first opportunity, here's what we will have in 2013:

 

CF Gary Brown

RF Nate Schierholtz

3B Pablo Sandoval

C Buster Posey

1B Brandon Belt

LF Brett Pill

SS Brandon Crawford

2B Emmanuel Burriss

 

Assuming Brown has a decent enough year, and also considering there's absolutely no other options in the outfield outside of free agents or some other prospect coming up before Brown, this seems like the most realistic fallback option. Like last year, I'm also not going to dabble in free-agent predictions (though someone like Brandon Phillips might be nice if the price is right). The cupboards will be left pretty bare, as evidenced by just sticking Pill in left (or Belt, I guess they could be interchangeable) and especially in the middle-infield, because if making Emmanuel Burriss your opening-day second baseman doesn't scream "God help us" then I don't know what does (maybe Deivi Cruz?) . Regardless, there are your starting 8 if the rest of the Giants world completely collapses. Not setting the world on fire but hey, neither is what they have now, and it doesn't look too dreadfully crappy either. Now for the other side:

 

RHP Tim Lincecum

LHP Madison Bumgarner

RHP Ryan Vogelsong

LHP Barry Zito

LHP Eric Surkamp

 

Looks like a lot of the usual suspects, except for the huge void created by the departure of Matt Cain. Surkamp could possibly be switched out for some random veteran they have laying around in Fresno or Clay Hensley if he has a decent 2012. Depending on which versions of Vogelsong and Zito show up, and given the assumption that the 5 starter will be mediocre at best , this rotation could either surprise some people and maintain its reputation as one of the best... or it could be a huge weakness. We'll see.

 

RHP Brian Wilson (CL)

RHP Sergio Romo

LHP Dan Runzler

LHP Javier Lopez

RHP Clay Hensley

RHP Santiago Casilla

RHP Heath Hembree

 

Like the rest, the bullpen keeps a lot of familiar faces, which seems like a rarity in baseball for one team to have least 4 guys in the same bullpen for parts of 4 different seasons. I have Runzler coming in to replace Affeldt, and newly added Hembree replacing Mota. I'm assuming Hensley may be with the team for a good part of 2012 as it is, and as I noted above he could be a rotation candidate if he's decent and everything else goes terribly wrong. Assuming normal performance from this group (or even a minor decline) the bullpen still looks decent.

 

IF Mike Fontenot

IF Connor Gillaspie

OF Roger Kieschnick

OF Francisco Peguero

C Hector Sanchez

 

This is usually the hardest part to guess as I could be 100% wrong on everyone... but I think next year Gillaspie will be out of options, and as mentioned before there are zero other internal outfield options right now... Fontenot could be non-tendered and replaced with whatever Jeff Keppinger/Bill Hall/Orlando Cabrera scrub they acquire this season, but I'm not taking any guesses with that.

 

But there you have it, your 2013 San Francisco Giants. It should be noted (I did a whole piece on this in an earlier post) that the 8 free agents identified above will free up over $50 million in payroll space, plus the $12 million for Rowand coming off the books gives the Giants $60 million extra dollars to spend on complementing what you see above. I hope a good chunk of it goes to Matt Cain, one of Pagan/Cabrera, and one of Freddy/Theriot, but if not... well, what's the worst that could happen?


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