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The Buster Blockbuster, and Other Pre-Opening Day Notes

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I go wander in the desert with my tribe for a week -- well, okay, there was also a heated swimming pool and a nearby Trader Joe's involved -- and shit happens.

I'm writing this late Saturday night, and just a few hours earlier the Giant brass decided to take a third catcher, the irrepressibly lifetime-horrible hitter Guilllermo Quiroz, for their Opening Day roster. Hector Sanchez, recovering from a throwing-shoulder strain, is apparently not enough backup catcher. Or, from another angle:

Buster Posey is so awesome, he needs TWO backup catchers.

So instead of a semi-legitimate right-handed hitter who has playable outfield skills (Cole Gillespie, Francisco Peguero), the Giants take a backup to the backup catcher, which means they think their backup catcher has semi-legitimate right-handed hitting skills. Or is more injured than this weekend's reports would have us believe. The sample size, 168 career major-league plate appearances, is almost too silly to note, but I'll give you the numbers anyway: Against lefties, Sanchez has hit .277 / .310 / .371.

My take: This is one of those first-week-of-the-season moves that seems far more significant because, hey, OPENING DAY, but by mid-May we'll have forgotten all about it. (Remember when Mel Hall made the Giants' opening day roster in 1996?) I'm guessing the master plan is to ditch Quiroz ASAP and bring up Gillespie or Pegs as soon as Hector's shoulder proves totally sound. Or something like that. With major league pitching staffs the way they are, bench positions are at a premium. There is no way the Giants are looking forward to a full year with three catchers on board and Bruce Bochy hamstrung in his late-game moves. 

The much bigger news of the past couple days, of course, is the Posey extension. You all know the details by now. I won't rehash them. Nearly $200 million, with the final option year, and Buster could be a Giant until he's 35. You know how many studly awesome mid-20-something catchers were still tearing it up at 35? Grant beat me to that punch, and the answer is not many. So most Giants fans except those who are addicted to teen-vampire serials are aware that Posey will age, perhaps to the point of not making the last few years of his contract worth it.

With that, then, the bigger question becomes: Will this contract, with its annual $21.5 million annual payouts be the thing we all point to when the Giants come in last, once again, in the Nebula West Division of the Inter-Galactic League, as the albatross that doomed the franchise to years of fruitless rebuilding? Will the 2022 Giants, with half the Tethys-9 Triple-A squad playing by the bay all summer, with retreads Grmykllzk Menghtetethdtoppp (first Mercurian in the big leagues) patching things up in left and Windows Vista Service Pack 34.89 at short, be a sorry replay of the 2006-2007 squads, all half-priced in-fill around an aging slugger?

With Bruce Bochy and Brian Sabean still in their chairs at that point -- or it sure seems headed that way, what with the latest contract extensions -- I'll cautiously say no. The Giants have learned that lesson. Since the last-days-of-Magowan debacle, Sabean has built a much better scouting department that should keep feeding the big club with complementary players and the occasional surprise. A delicious run such as Lincecum-Bumgarner-Posey in consecutive draft years might not be reachable as long as the team keeps winning, with the accompanying low draft positions, but there's a certain solid competence that seems to have settled in. What's more, the Giants consistently out-class their division rivals in knowing which farmhands to keep and which to trade or let walk, even though their division rivals have consistently drafted more eventual big-league talent. (I did that research last September.)  I don't fear a Buster-Posey-and-the-Seven-Dwarves scenario.

I do think, however, the Cain + Posey money the next several years will keep the Giants from shelling out other super-mega contracts, which means a big rebound from Tim Lincecum could price him out of the team's reach. A lack of rebound could also mean his Giant time is up. More intriguing will be the middle ground: what happens if Timmy is good enough in 2013 to drum up some free-agent interest, but not enough to garner an elite contract? Do the Giants get involved in the mid-market bidding?

Finally, congratulations to Nick Noonan, who made the Opening Day squad more from being in the right place in the right time than from any spectacular run or breakout performance. Most non-blue-chip players don't have the talent to take advantage of their one big break. It'll be interesting to see how Noonan handles his. 






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