Saturday, December 12, 2009

Some Possible Non-Tender Candidates and What about Uggla in Left?

This weekend is the final opportunity for teams around MLB to offer players under control contracts.  Non-tendered players are released from control and may hit the FA market.  This has particular meaning for the Giants.  First, current Giant Ryan Garko has not yet been offered a contract.  In all honestly, he probably will not be offered a contract.  The Giants simply do not have room for the first baseman.  The Giants essentially have one spot in the in-field.  One likely scenario signing Adam LaRoche or Nick Johnson at first base, while keeping Sandoval at third, Renteria at short, and Sanchez at second.  Another ever more likely scenario is getting Dan Uggla for second, moving Sanchez to third and Sandoval to first, while keeping Renteria at short.  I think it possible the Giants will trade for Dan Uggla as well as sign someone at first, which I will address later.  Regardless, the Giants are looking at options that do not have a spot for Ryan Garko.  Thus, I doubt the Giants will keep Garko on the team, which I do believe is a shame.  I think one wise option would be to trade for Uggla, keep Garko at first, and spend the money we would have spent on Johnson or LaRoche on getting a stud in the outfield (here's looking at you Xavier Nady).  There is little indication, however, that the Giants intend to do this.

Another significant result of this weekend is the class of free agents who will hit the market after this weekend.  Anyone who has followed the Giants during the past weeks know the Giants are looking for a catcher to hold down the fort while Posey continues to develop.  The Giants intended to sign the likes of Pudge Rodriguez, Olvio, or Ausmus.  Unfortunately, for the Giants, the catcher market was screwed up when the Washington Nationals agreed to sign Pudge for a two-year deal, something few clubs were willing to do with aged veterans past their prime (were the Giants willing to go multiple years on catchers they probably would have just re-signed Bengie Molina, much to my dismay).  Now, every catcher similar to Pudge (Olvio and Ausmus) are also looking at similar deals.  This effectively forced the Giants to go back to the drawing board, even to consider just starting Posey instead of signing someone else.

This weekend, however, brings the chance that new catchers will hit the market.  Catcher who has less value than Pudge, Olvio, and Ausmus, who probably will not be able to command the two-year deal that the older catchers can.  Two such men are Dioner Navarro and John Buck.

Navarro currently is the catcher for the Tampa Bay Rays.  Something interesting of note: Navarro came up through the Dodgers system alongside current Dodger Russell Martin.  Navarro was originally given the starter job with the Dodgers ahead of Martin, while Russell was sent to develop further in the Dodgers' farm system.  After a lackluster year at the bigs, Navarro was demoted and Martin was brought up.  Eventually Navarro found his way onto the Rays, where he is today.

The good thing about Navarro is he would come very cheap.  The bad thing: there is a reason why he would come very cheap.  Throughout his career Navarro has continued to show weakness both offensively and defensively.  In 2007, Navarro had more errors than any other catcher in the bigs and batted with a .227 avg.  Navarro improved greatly in 2008: he hit with a .330 wOBA and .295 avg.  However, in 2009 he regressed again: .218 avg and .258 wOBA.  It now looks like the Rays are through with Navarro, as the media speculates he will be non-tendered.

The other candidate, John Buck, came up through the Astros and Royals systems.  In 2003, he was considered the 21st best prospect in MLB.  Buck is known as a catcher with almost no offensive ability, but with a strong defensive ability.  In his career, Buck has never hit above a .250 avg.  However, in 2009 he did post an above average .332 wOBA.  Perhaps Buck is beginning to turn things around, however the Giants should not count on that.

Ultimately, Buck is currently the more valuable catcher, with a 0.9 WAR in 2009 compared to Navarro's -0.1 WAR.  If these catchers hit the market, they probably will not be able to have much leverage to command more than a one year deal.  Their low value makes them fairly good candidates for the Giants to pick up for the interim, in order to give Posey enough time to get called up.  Of the two, Buck is clearly the better choice.  The Giants want a catcher who can show Posey the ropes and hold down the fort defensively.  Buck has shown better discipline behind the dish, while Navarro appears to be error prone.  Either catacher, however, would be decent for the short term.  The Giants will probably be looking into signing one of these guys should they hit the market.

Beside the catching market, there is also the issue of what to do with Dan Uggla.  It is no secret that the Giants are looking at acquire Uggla, and it also appears that the Giants have extended offers to sign Adam LaRoche and Nick Johnson.  The Giants only have one spot in the infield open for a new player.  So what would happen if the Giants were able to get Uggla through a good trade and Adam LaRoche was willing to sign?  One idea that has been floated is moving Uggla to left field.  Indeed, the Boston Red Sox have considered Uggla as a replacement should both Jason Bay and Matt Holliday not decide to go to Fenway for 2010.

Uggla would probably lose considerable value moving to left field.  Uggla is already a below average second baseman.  A move to left might bring his value down even further.  On the other hand, Jason Bay is a terrible left fielder as well.  If Uggla could continue to put up the offensive numbers he has in the past, which he probably could do at AT&T, since he is a righty with pull, it might work out for the Giants to plunk Uggla in LF and put Adam LaRoche at 1B.

Here's to hoping.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Jason Bay Five Year Deal?

One thing we have heard from Brian Sabean this offseason is how dedicated he is to signing second-tier players, and not looking at this year's premier free agents: Matt Holliday and Jason Bay.  If you have been reading my posts, you know that I pretty much agree with Sabean here.  The Giants do not need to needless throw money at Jason Bay or Matt Holliday.  We can put together a playoff calibre team much more cheaply (and perhaps more effectively) by signing the Adam LaRoche and trading for Dan Uggla, rather than dumping all our resources into Matt Holliday or Jason Bay.

So what has been going on with Jason Bay this offseason?  The media has speculated there are three places he could end up: San Francisco, Boston, or with the Mets in New York.  I highly doubt the media's belief that Bay could end up here in San Francisco: sure we need a player like Bay but I don't think they realize how strapped for cash we are.

Today, Peter Gammons, a big time Red Sox fan and huge homer, mentioned that the Giants in fact have made a five year offer to Jason Bay.  Well, that's not true.  He said that he knows the Giants would make a five year offer to Jason Bay.  I have no idea how or where he got this information.  Perhaps he is clairvoyant.  However, there has been no indication whatsoever that the Giants would go that long with Jason Bay.  However, in addition to this mysterious five year deal, apparently Jason Bay does not want to play in San Francisco!  How does Gammons know this?  Well, naturally, he gives no sources and gives no reason.  He just knows.  Jason Bay does not want to play in San Francisco.  Really?

This article stinks.  I am not sure what Gammons is talking about and how much we can really trust it.  However, it does make one wonder: are the Giants out on Jason Bay?  Or are they secretly in on the slugger?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Don't Count Out Dan Uggla?

Andrew Baggarly reports that the Giants are not out on Dan Uggla, and are probably just trying get the Marlins to come down on their price for the second baseman.

What about Ryan Garko?

The Giants acquired Ryan Garko after the All-star break in the 2009 season in order to bring in a bat that would help the Giants in their playoff push.  In acquiring Garko from the Cleveland Indians, the Gmen gave up pitching prospect Scott Barnes for Garko's services.

The 28-year old first baseman was suppose to be the offensive power that the Giants needed to get into the playoffs.  In the 2008 season, Garko put up good numbers: a .333 wOBA and a .346 OBP.  The guy could get on base better than most players in the MLB, which was excellent for the Giants, who had one of the league's most anemic offenses.  

Sadly, Garko was poorly misused in San Francisco.  He started for about 10 games until Bruce Bochey essentially sidelined Garko for Travis Ishikawa.  Ishikawa better with the glove, but was weaker offensively.  By the end of the season, Garko was rarely seen, even as a pinch hitter.  

What happened?  The Giants barely gave the guy a chance.  Moreover, he is exactly the type of player this team needs: a guy who can consistently get on base.  Granted, Garko's first several games in San Francisco did not go well for him.  He hit with a .235 avg, .289 wOBA, and .307 OBP.  It was probably for these, misguided, reasons that the Giants decided to drop Garko so prematurely.  

However, it shocks me that the Giants management would make a judgment on Garko's offensive ability in so few games.  Garko was never given an honest and true chance to show he could hit and to adjust to the National League (Garko had spent his entire professional career with the Indians in the American League).  

Little has been said about Garko for the 2010 season.  When asked about the status of Garko, Brian Sabean said he was "on the bubble."  I suspect the Giants are looking to trade Garko for one of the big bats they need.  Considering one of the premier free agents the Giants are pursuing is Nick Johnson, who plays first base, it would make sense if the Giants could trade Garko to another team for a bat (I know the Giants have been hot and cold on Dan Uggla, although I don't know how and if Garko could help out that team).  Barring any great deals to trade away Garko for a better bat, however, I think the Giants should retain him and give him another chance for 2010.  

One thing that alarms me is how wedded the Giants management is to the idea of starting Eugenio Velez next year in LF.  Let me be brutally honest: Eugenio Velez sucks.  I don't want to hear about how he went on that impressive hot streak in 2009.  Batters can be hot and cold, however to truly and accurately judge a player's talent you need to look at a larger sample size.  Offensively, Velez is a joke.  He hit with a .301 wOBA in 2009.  That is awful, especially considering Garko generally hits far above and beyond that.  Yet, for some reason the Giants are dedicated to giving Velez another shot at the starting job.  It is probably because the Giants have this old-fashioned belief that your lead-off hitter needs to be a speedy guy.  Let me make this clear to the Giants management: A leadoff hitter needs to be good at getting on base, not being fast.  Eugenio Velez cannot get on base enough for his speed to even matter.  At best, Eugenio Velez should be a pitch hitter/runner and a fourth outfielder.  

So what should the Giants do with Garko?  Almost no matter what the Giants do to upgrade their infield, someone else will be playing at first.  If they sign Nick Johnson of Andy LaRoche, then those players will be a first.  If they sign Adrian Beltre, then he will play third and Pablo will move to first.  If they trade for Dan Uggla, then Freddy Sanchez will move to third, while Pablo will move to first.  So almost no matter what we do, someone else will be at first.  That means, if we are to give Garko a starting job, then he will have to move elsewhere.  

The outfield is the only spot that makes sense.  Garko has played a few games out there.  Admittedly, he is not a good defensively player.  This is where Velez has the advantage over Garko.  In 2009, Garko played 20 games in the outfield.  He racked up a -2.4 UZR.  Velez, on the other hand, played 59 games in the outfield and had a 3.5 UZR.  First of all, we are dealing with small sample sizes, so there is not much weight that we can put into these numbers.  However, from we do have, we can make an unscientific, educated guess that Velez will be the better defender.  However, Garko's offensive numbers will hopefully make up for his lack of defense ability in LF.  To contract, Jason Bay had a -13.0 UZR with the Red Sox last season (although Bay's offense is much better than Garko's).  

If we put Ryan Garko in the outfield and signed Nick Johnson we could have a lineup like the following: 

(1) N. Johnson (1B)
(2) F. Sanchez (2B)
(3) R. Garko (LF)
(4) P. Sandoval (3B)
(5) N. Schierhotlz (RF)
(6) A. Rowand (CF)
(7) B. Posey (C)
(8) E. Renteria (SS)
(9) Pitcher

Not bad, I'd say.  If Renteria's injury last season really was the force that was causing him to underperform then we might see a bounce back next year.  If so, he could hit higher up in the line-up.  It is something to think about.  Ryan Garko could be a solution to our offensive woes, and it is a solution that we already have in our dugout. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Indianapolis Updates

Andrew Baggarly has reported some interesting tidbits on the Giants' front.  First of all, the Giants are effectively out of running for Dan Uggla.  Due to Uggla's nearing free agency and his weak glove, the Giants essentially lost interest in the Marlins's infielder.  Bengie Molina is certain not to return.  Brian Sabean spoke of Moline: "That ship has sailed."  Baggarly also reports it is possible that Uribe will revisit the Giants' offer (whatever that means).

Some good news though: Baggs has reported that the Giants are interested in Orlando Hudson.  If the Giants sign Hudson, they will move Freddy Sanchez to 3B.  That would be a wonderful pickup.  Hudson is a great player who fits nicely with the Giants' needs.  Hudson has a career .340 wOBA, which would contribute nicely to the Giants meager offense.  In all seriousness, we should have signed Hudson instead of Renteria last year.  That was a huge blunder on Sabean's behalf.

The Giants are still interested in Mark DeRosa, however. 

One interested piece of information reported by Baggs is that the Giants could possibly make a run for Jason Bay.  If we are only going to sign one bat, then Jason Bay would be a great option, obviously.

The San Jose Mercury News has reported that the Giants will probably only sign one bat this off-season.  The article offers no reason for this, and gives no sources.  I am not sure how much I trust this piece of information, but it is certainly disheartened if true.  I had hoped the Giants would sign one bat in the infield and one bat in the outfield.  I had dreamed of Nick Johnson/Andy LaRoche and Xavier Nady.  I really think the Giants need to sign two bats to make us a little more solid up the 3, 4, and 5 spots.

It looks like the Giants' interest in Jermaine Dye and Johnny Damon has waned (good).

Wow.  Some of this news is good, some of it is bad.  Clearly, the Giants need more than one bat, short of returning players really stepping up to the plate.  Edgar Renteria was  a terrible disappointment for the Giants last year, however he was playing through an injury.  I expect Renteria will be better than he was in '09, but I don't think the Giants can count on him being a strong hitter.  He has declined in recent years.  Hopefully, he will have some sort of bounce back year.

Aaron Rowand hit .218 in the second half of the season. That is unacceptable.  Clearly and utterly unacceptable.  Rowand needs to get his bat back.  We are paying him a ridiculous amount of money.

It looks like Andres Torres, Eugenio Velez, and even Emmanuel Burris will be seeing significant playing time next year.  It is utterly absurd that Velez is being given a starting sport, seemingly, even before spring training.  Velez, despite his hot streak last season, cannot hit.  He hit last season with a .301 wOBA.  That is terrible.  If the Giants expect the start Eugenio Velez and still make the playoffs they are dreaming.  This is exactly why I wanted the Giants to sign two bats: one in the outfield and one in the infield.  If that were done, we could start Rowand in CF, Nady in RF, and Lewis in LF.  Or, we could start Rowand in CD, Nady in LF, and Schierholtz/Torres in RF. 

While Fred Lewis is bad on defense, he has decent hitting abilities.  He can get on base right at the league average (which for the 2009 Giants is stellar).  He should certainly be higher on the Giants list than Eugenio Velez . . . it is absurd.  Utterly absurd, that Eugenio Velez might be starting next season.

Can anyone tell how frustrated I am?

The best piece of news from this is the fact that Pudge Rodriguez was signed by the Washington Nationals for a two year deal.  Why is this good?  Because it screwed up the catcher market.  Remember in one of my previous posts when I talked about how the Giants would need to find a catcher who would be willing to take a one year deal?  Well, the market for that catcher no longer exists.  With the nationals setting a precedent like that, no other catcher will be willing to accept anything less than a two-year deal.  Thus, Sabean has admitted it might be time to go back and revisit whether or not starting Buster Posey is an option.

Mr. Sabean: 

If you are only signing one bat, you had better start Buster Posey, since he will be the only other player on our team, other than Pablo and Freddy Sanchez, who can hit.  Make it happen Sabes. 

Monday, December 7, 2009

Talent Compression: Addressing One of Baseball's Chronic Problems

One of the blogs I regularly read is The Dodgerhater: A San Francisco Giants Blog.  The author recently reported on the spat Scott Boras made about revenue sharing, which led to a discussion about how the revenue sharing system is broken in MLB.  This probably does not come to a surprise to most of you, however if you are unfamiliar with the revenue sharing system and why it is broken, here is a quick summary:

Baseball has no salary cap.  In order to encourage competitive balance in MLB (which is good for the health of the sport and to keep fan interest), rich teams must pay into a collective pot which is distributed to poorer teams.  So, the Yankees help pay for the Marlins, Pirates, and Rays, for example.  However, despite collective revenue from this system, there is no guarantee that the teams will spend the revenue-sharing money on their payrolls.  In fact, the Marlins took in the most money in 2009, but still had the lowest payroll in MLB.  This apparently is not uncommon. The Pirates and Rays are both also guilty of hoodwinking their fans and the league in this same manner.

But, how do you fix baseball?  Forests have been felled to make the paper written about this subject.  The bottom line is you are never going to have all teams on a completely equal footing, but that is okay so long as there is some general feeling of league parity.

I do believe in salary caps and salary floors, the latter of which is hinted at by Jason Stark in the aforementioned ESPN article.  However, there is something that I rarely see discussed in mainstream baseball media, and I think this problem has led to chronic unbalance in MLB.

The problem I am talking about is talent compression.  Now what on Earth is talent compression?

Have you ever looked over old baseball records and wondered by so many of them were made in the early days of baseball?  How on Earth did Nap Lajoie hit a .426 avg in a single season?  No one has approached a .400 avg in years.  Hugh Duffy hit .440.  in one season.  Willie Keeler hit 424.  How did these guys hit so well?  They all played in the 1920s or earlier.  Were players better back then?

Of course not.  Baseball players were in no way better in the early days than they were now.  In fact, your average baseball player was far worse in the early days of baseball than the average player today.  Why?  Because of something called talent compression.

Take a society.  It can be any imaginary society.  Natural athletic talent falls on a bell curve, where most people fall somewhere in the middle.  However a small elite few land on one end.  This very small number of extremely gifted athletes are the Barry Bonds, the Hank Aarons, and so forth of the world.  Now, the larger amount of people you select from our bell curve means the larger disparity between the great players and your average Joes.  So, Nap Lajoie, for example, played in the early 1900s.  He played during an era when the vast majority of baseball players were white males from the North East.  If we made our bell curve for that "society" (white males from the American North East) we are going to have to select a higher percentage of people on the curve to be in our league, meaning we are going to have a large disparity between the good players and the not-so-good players.  If you are still confused let me put it in mathematical terms:

Imagine we have a society of 100 people.  On our bell curve 10% are too physically weak to even play baseball.  80% of our society is just average.  10% are bonafide athletes.  So, we have 10 people who are just too weak, 80 people who are okay, and 10 people who are good.  Imagine we have a league that need 30 players.  Well, we only have 10 bonafide atheletes in our society.  Assuming we draft them all, we still need 20 spots.  So, because of the way the market is, we need to bring in 20 people who are just average.  So, now we have a full league, but only 10 people in the league are actually good players.

But let's shake things up.  Let's say there are another 100 people who we previously didn't let play, but now we decided to let them play.  The talent distribution would be on the same level.  So now we have 20 people who are too physically weak to play, 160 who are just average, and 20 who are good.  Now our league has 20 good players and just 10 average players.

So what's the lesson here?  The greater the pool of people you have to make into professional athletes the smaller the disparity between good and bad players.  The above formula is exactly what happened in professional baseball.  Before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, MLB was largely made of white males from the North East.  After the color barrier was broken we have a lot more people we can have in our leagues, and thus the talent becomes compressed: we have more talented players in MLB.  Because baseball statistics are generally a measure of relative worth against other players, that is why you don't see batters hitting above .400 these days: pitchers are better than they were in 1900.

So you are probably asking yourself: what's the problem?  We broke down the color barrier, we opened up the game to foreign players, it seems we are allowing more people to play the game than ever before, so shouldn't the talent compression not be an issue?

One problem is that there is a lot of talent out in foreign countries these days, but not all teams can bite at them equally.  Foreign players are not part of the minor league draft.  This means they generally are available to the teams with the most money to burn, because foreign minor-league players have the ability to negotiate their contracts, whereas American players do not.  If you have been following the news lately, that is exactly what is happening with Aroldis Chapman.  It is no surprise that Chapman is being courted almost entirely by rich teams like the Red Sox and the Yankees.  He is example from the minor league draft because he is from Cuba.  Given that, poor teams simply can't afford to throw money at him.  Compare Chapman to Stephen Strasburg.  Before Strasburg signed with the Nationals, he and Chapman were considered the two best pitchers in the world who were not playing in MLB (Yu Darvish is another, however he has expressed no interest in playing in the United States).  Not surprisingly, Strasburg, the best American pitching prospect in a generation, went to the lowly Nationals.  Why?  Because he was able to be drafted.

Thus, the problem is we have opened up the international market, however because international players are exempt from the minor-league draft, we have basically created a system where rich teams can shop around the international market to select the cream of the crop.  Everyone who is not selected by these elite teams loses value and trickles down to the hoi polloi.  Thus, one thing MLB needs to do is require that foreign born players are part of the draft, or create some other system to enforce more parity among teams shopping for foreign born players.

Another problem is there mere fact that baseball must compete with other national sports for talent.  Football, basketball, hockey, and (increasingly) soccer all compete for future athletes.  MLB should do everything within its power to create and encourage little league systems in the inner-city and poor areas of the country to get more kids playing baseball, who might otherwise turn to a sport like soccer which might be more available to them.  Fostering more talent at home would create a better sport with more players of fine talent playing the game.

Without any salary caps or floors you are still going to his disparities.  If we are able to create a system that encourage more players with more talent to play in MLB, you are still going to have the best players rising to the richest teams with the lesser players falling to the poorer teams.  The difference is, with the more "good" players you put in the system, the less the difference between rich and poor is.  This is basic market saturation.  The Yankees could still buy a better team, but they couldn't buy a much better team if there are six A-Rods in the league instead of just one.  Moreover, if you saturate the market with big talent, simple economics states that the value of those players will fall.  You aren't going to see the ridiculous contracts given to the likes of Mark Texiera and Alex Rodriguez if there are a lot of those guys in the league.  They simple will not be worth as much.  If the value of players falls, then poorer teams will be able to buy more with the limited funds they have, thus leading to more parity in MLB. 

Saturday, December 5, 2009

What might the Giants do?

The winter meetings are set to begin in Indianapolis.  Giants' GM Brian Sabean noted that they would not be looking to put Buster Posey in the starting position at catcher to start the season.  The Giants brass feels that Posey is just not ready for a starting position, and they want to see him get some more playing time in the minors.  They apparently also do not want to rush Madison Bumgarner, however they are still considering him for a sport in the rotation.  With Bengie Molina almost certainly not coming back (the Giants want to give him a one-year contract; Bengie wants a multiyear contract), it looks like the Gmen are going to be in the market for a catcher.  According to the SF Chronicle, however, the Giants are not keen on older catchers like Brad Ausmus and Pudge Rodriguez. 

The Giants are in a bit of a bind with the catcher position.  They are not keen on the older, aforementioned catchers, however there seems to be few other options.  Yorvit Torrealba, who has been linked to the Giants, is seeking a multi-year deal, like Bengie Molina.  That will probably rule him out, and the only other catacher on the Giants roster is Eli Whiteside, who is considered largely just as a backup.

One option out there is Blue Jays catcher Rod Barajas, who is not the kind of offensive power the Giants need.  While he hit 19 homeruns last season, his wOBA is an abysmal .282.  Still, if the Giants are looking for a cheap solution to keep the position warm until Posey is ready to come up, then Barajas might not be a bad solution.  If the Giants want to sign him for a one year deal, and maybe pull of Posey halfway through the season that could end up being a fairly good deal.

The problem the Giants have with signing a catcher right now is anyone who comes here knows Posey will be taking his spot as catcher whenever the Giants brass feels the young pup is ready.  Given that, I think the Giants only real options for this position are aged-veterans who really don't have the bargaining power to go elsewhere for multi-year contracts.  No, they will not offer the Giants the offensive upgrade they need, but you aren't really going to be getting that from many catchers in MLB.  Not everyone can be Joe Mauer (except Buster Posey).  It will be interesting to see what the Giants decide to do with the position, but I think we are going to see them sign the likes of Barajas or Pudge Rodriguez just to keep the seat warm until Posey is called up, which I hope will be sometime around the all-star break.

Another interesting development is the Giants brass announcing the Pablo Sandoval will likely stay at 3B for the 2010 season.  This essentially rules out signings or trades for the likes of Dan Uggla and Adrian Beltre (both names have been linked at one point or another to the Giants).  What this means is the Giants will pursue a first-baseman, and luckily there are some good options out there.  Nick Johnson, Adam LaRoche, and Mark DeRosa have been thrown out there as possibilities.  Honestly, if the Giants could acquire DeRosa, put him in the outfield, and either Johnson or LaRoche at 1B, then we would have a very competent baseball team.  In fact, if we got something like that I would expect a very good contending team for the NL West.

DeRosa is primarily an infielder, however he has played all over the field.  He could end up being a good solution for the corner outfield, as he can put up some decent offensive numbers.  Bill James has him with an wOBA of .328 in 2010 and hitting 17 HR.  Not bad.

Nick Johnson is an OBP beast, which is what the Giants need.  In 2009 he owned a .426 OBP, .373 wOBA, and .831 OPS.  Really nice.  He would be a fantastic offensive upgrade for the Giants.

If Nick Johnson does not pan out, Adam LaRoche would be a satisfactory backup.  He doesn't have as good OBP as Johnson, but at .355 he was still hitting ahead of the curve.  What LaRoche offers that Johnson does not is pop.  In 2009 LaRoche hit 25 homeruns, while Johnson hit a paltry 8.

Hopefully, if the Giants pull together some of these deals, we will be able to put a team on the field that could make a great playoff run.  2010 is looking good.