Inbox: Could Giants improve from within?

Inbox: Could Giants improve from within?

Do you think the Giants could improve their offense with internal choices? Would having Freddy Sanchez for an entire year, a healthy Edgar Renteria and a much-improved Eugenio Velez be enough to get this team into the playoffs? How would Bengie Molina fit into this idea? Some experts believe the only way to drastically improve the offense is to trade a quality pitcher, such as Matt Cain, and I do not want to see that happen. Since this team was only four games out of the playoffs, it seems a drastic move is not necessary.
-- Zach P., Petaluma, Calif.

In any competitive realm, if you're standing still, you're falling behind. The Giants must acquire at least one accomplished hitter -- besides re-signing Sanchez and possibly Molina -- to have a chance at seriously contending again next year. Consider the rest of the National League West: Los Angeles has reached two League Championship Series in a row; Colorado has almost as much talent as the Dodgers; Arizona will get a big boost if Brandon Webb returns healthy; and though San Diego's late surge seems illusory, we won't know that for sure until next season. I don't advocate trading Cain, either, and I'm sure the Giants will keep him. Nevertheless, they need to stock up, not stand pat.

The Giants need four things this offseason: a corner outfielder, a corner infielder, a leadoff man and a middle-of-the-order hitter who can supply power. Carl Crawford and Prince Fielder can provide all four of those between the two of them. Imagine this lineup: Crawford, LF; Sanchez, 2B; Pablo Sandoval, 3B; Fielder, 1B; Aaron Rowand, CF; Renteria, SS; John Bowker, RF; and Buster Posey, C. Mixing in Juan Uribe, Velez or Nate Schierholtz can give us an intriguing lineup. Can the Giants look into this scenario, or have they?
-- Xavier Ryan B., Orange Park, Fla.

You left out the pitching staff. It probably wouldn't include Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner if the Giants somehow traded for Crawford and Fielder. Thus, your proposal will remain a fantasy. Tampa Bay has a $10 million option for 2010 on Crawford, who hopes to sign a contract extension. Milwaukee would want multiple pitchers in exchange for Fielder. Again, the Giants must add a hitter or two, but not while sacrificing the asset which separates them from almost every other team, which is their pitching.

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Three suggestions in need of your feedback: 1. Would an offer of Jonathan Sanchez, Travis Ishikawa and Kevin Pucetas be enough to bring us Adrian Gonzalez? 2. Would an offer of Brian Wilson, Joe Martinez, Fred Lewis and Bowker be enough to bring us Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero? 3. General manager Brian Sabean was at his best when he had Ned Coletti as his assistant, so why not hire Kevin Towers in the same capacity, given his nose for talent and ability to trade?
-- Stuart G., Ventura, Calif.

1. No way; 2. Absolutely no way; 3. An excellent idea. But Towers might position himself more favorably to grab another GM job by taking a lesser post, such as advance scout, that gives him a wider view of the big leagues.

The Giants have a wealth of pitching. Why not trade Bumgarner for some banger stud? He has potential and he's highly touted but not really proven. Trading him will bring a nice bat, and I think save money ultimately. How much pitching do they need?
-- Andy M., New York

Andy obviously hasn't heard the baseball cliche that goes, "You never have enough pitching." An injury here, a slump there, and all of a sudden, your outstanding pitching staff looks ordinary. Trading Bumgarner would be reckless, especially in the wake of fellow prospect Tim Alderson's departure in the Sanchez trade.

It is obvious to me that ownership is not serious about improving the team by retaining Sabean. He just doesn't have a plan except to sign veterans on the downside of their careers, instead of going after the one or two free agents that could have an impact. The first thing he always says about potential free agents is the high price they will demand. And with trades, he has been a disaster. It seems he gets taken every time. Why do you continue to support this guy? Is it a requirement that you suck up to management to write about the team? Will they deny you access if you don't?
-- Greg M., Redwood City, Calif.

This was among several anti-Sabean and anti-Bruce Bochy e-mails that swelled the Inbox since the pair received their contract extensions last week. Critics should keep a few things in mind:

Sabean makes relatively few decisions unilaterally. So if you must rip him, you had better rip the rest of the baseball operations staff, as well as team president Larry Baer, former managing general partner Peter Magowan and Bill Neukom, his successor.

Sabean and Bochy got two-year deals, which really aren't that long. One-year deals would have screamed "lame duck" and created turmoil within the organization. Yet Neukom obviously wasn't willing to offer each man the relative permanence of a three-year deal. Even while maintaining the status quo, Neukom clearly sent a "win-or-else" message.

I've indeed supported Sabean more often than not. I believe he has performed admirably overall. Check the record. Some of his trades and free-agent signings haven't helped the Giants much. This could be said about any GM who stays on the job as long as Sabean has.

Aware of the Web site, I sometimes feel compelled to censor myself. But nobody in the Giants' hierarchy ever has done that for me. I have two obligations: get the facts right and be fair. I routinely accomplish both without "sucking up" to management. And with my Baseball Writers' Association of America gold card, buddy, I don't ever worry about "access."

Observation: Where are Sabean's detractors when he speaks at FanFest? I never hear booing or challenging questions. Are they standing in line for Polish sausages when he talks?

I think Sabean did a great job with his Spring Training invitees this year, and that might have been the biggest factor in us having a winning record. Juan Uribe, great player with a lot of pop, not to mention his presence in the clubhouse; Eli Whiteside, great game-caller with a little pop, too; Andres Torres, perfect late-inning defensive substitute with tons of speed; Justin Miller, great middle reliever but unfortunately got injured; and the same for Brandon Medders. Good job, Brian.
-- P. Donati, Foster City, Calif.

Once in a great while, an e-mail like this one arrives.

I'd like to know a bit more about Rafael Rodriguez, the hotshot Dominican outfielder some compare to a younger Vladimir Guerrero. How has he done so far? Where will he be playing next year?
-- Randy S., Redding, Calif.

At 17, Rodriguez still needs plenty of development. He hit .299 in the Arizona Rookie League this year, but hit no home runs in 127 at-bats. Some observers believe that Rodriguez, already 6-foot-5, might grow another two to three inches. So the Giants could have a budding Dave Winfield on their hands. Baseball America ranked Rodriguez, who received a $2.55 million bonus upon signing last year with the Giants, the league's eighth-best prospect after the season ended. The magazine praised his hand-eye coordination and defensive improvement.

Who do you see as the potential fifth starter for 2010?
-- David C., Sacramento, Calif.

Multiple possibilities exist. If the Giants re-sign Brad Penny, Jonathan Sanchez would be the fifth starter. Not too shabby, huh? If Penny isn't re-signed or Sanchez or another starter is traded, Bumgarner could fill the role, though some within the organization believe that he needs more Minor League seasoning. Joe Martinez will be a candidate, and Kevin Pucetas or Ryan Sadowski could get a look if they're invited to Spring Training.

You recommended Texas free agent Marlon Byrd. So you would take yet another hitter like Ryan Garko out of the American League and expect production for the Giants? Fail!
-- Bryant B., San Jose, Calif.

I don't mind that you're disparaging my Byrd suggestion, but you shouldn't automatically dismiss the notion of importing guys from the AL. Raul Ibanez worked out nicely for the Phillies, didn't he? And how about that left fielder who wears No. 99 for the Dodgers?

Chris Haft is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.