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Giant Moves: A Quick Hot-Stove Review

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Saturday was the first game of spring training, and with the first pitch came the true end of the off-season. Play ball! And though teams can still make trades (adieu, Conor Gillaspie) and offer contracts, the hot stove is shutting down. Baseball winter is over.

With that, then, let's review and rate the Giants' off-season moves. They fall into six categories:

1) The free-agent returnees: Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro and Jeremy Affeldt.

2) The new free agents: Andres Torres.

3) The arbitration cases: Santiago Casilla, Hunter Pence, Buster Posey, Sergio Romo, Gregor Blanco and Joaquin Arias.

4) The NRIs and waiver pick-ups: The typical odd lot, with some fun names. Boof Bonser is back! Scott Proctor refuses to fall behind! Ryan Sadowski really ties the room together! Kensuke Tanaka fought ham for many years!

5) Brian Wilson. In a category all his own, of course.

6) The trade: Conor Gillaspie/Jeff Sosic Soptic. [Oops. Welcome, Jeff.]

Other than the Wilson drama, it's been quiet. Quiet is the new splashy. I'm going to call the Torres contract the best off-season move. Know him, greet him, love him. This is all upside, as the deal geeks say. For $2 M, which amounts to MLB pocket change, the Giants get a motivated, charismatic and useful ballplayer. He doesn't have to reproduce 2010. Something like 2009 would be awesome. (He actually put up better pure numbers in '09 but in only 170 plate appearances. He also crushed left-handed pitching.) Sure, he could pull a hammy Opening Day, spend two-thirds of the year on the DL, and generally look like Andres the Met instead of the guy we love to love, but did I mention pocket change?

Runner-up: The Angel Pagan contract. With BJ Upton getting 5/75 and Shane Victorino getting 3/39, 4/40 for Pagan is neither too long a contract for a team that isn't steeped in high-minor outfield talent, nor too rich for a club poised to reap long-term rewards from its winning ways. 

There's an escape clause to my vote: If any of the NRIs rises up singing this summertime to become this year's Vogelsong or Torres, that player's deal will retroactively become the best off-season move.

With a caveat that "worst" is a relative term, I'm going to call the Casilla and Affeldt contracts the worst off-season moves, with Casilla slightly worse because the Giants already had him under control for 2013. Yet they extended him for a total of three years. Affeldt got three years, too, but was an unrestricted free agent. They're the worst of the Giants' deals, relatively, because spending a lot of money for relievers not named "Mo" is generally money better spent elsewhere.

That said, the Affeldt and Casilla deals in the context of the spending that transpired across baseball weren't the most egregious. It's easy to say relievers are fungible, great ones come out of nowhere every day; but I get the feeling that, other than Heath Hembree, the Giants might not be confident in their upper farm system to supply quality innings the next couple years. Guys like Dan Otero, Steve Edlefsen and Jean Machi have all had their cups of coffee without free refills. And the scrap heap, while ever renewable, isn't always reliable. Clay Hensley helped a little last year; Brad Penny did not. For every Jose Mijares, who has contributed a bit, there's a Denny Bautista or Brandon Medders. If the Giants think the $16 M owed to three bullpenners in 2014 isn't going to crimp the rest of the budget, hey, why not? To paraphrase a former U.S. president, the Giants have World Series capital, and they intend to spend it.



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