Inbox: Is Sanchez the real deal?

Inbox: Is Sanchez the real deal?

Why didn't the Giants go harder after Brad Penny? We have Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Barry Zito (who I defend day in and day out) as staples of the starting rotation; Jonathan Sanchez, who I hope is on the outs; and Madison Bumgarner, who is not quite ready but will soon be. I still see Sanchez as more of a liability. What is your honest thought on Sanchez? I don't want the "Giants beat writer" answer, just an honest opinion on him from a baseball professional.
-- Nathan I., Sarasota, Fla.

I won't quibble with the "baseball professional" and "beat writer" dichotomy. I'll just say this: Sanchez is a keeper. He grew up a lot in 2009. His July 10 no-hitter against San Diego gave him the confidence boost he long needed. With that came a dose of maturity he previously lacked. It speaks volumes that Sanchez was 2-8 with a 5.54 ERA before his no-hitter and 6-4, 3.46 from the night of his gem onward. Consider also that he has struck out 429 batters in 413 1/3 Major League innings. Very few pitchers possess his kind of stuff.

If the Giants wanted to trade Sanchez, the general managers of the 29 other teams would pull muscles by reaching for their cell phones so quickly to call Brian Sabean. Credit manager Bruce Bochy and pitching coach Dave Righetti for remaining patient with Sanchez, who's only 27. They realize that Sanchez has barely scratched the surface of what he could be. You should realize this, too. Even if he never becomes a consistent winner, the Giants need to find out exactly what they have in Sanchez before giving up on him.

Regarding Penny, I would have liked to see the Giants re-sign him, but not to block Sanchez from a spot in the rotation. Sabean indicated that the Giants offered Penny close to what he received from St. Louis, and I never heard from Penny's representatives to confirm this.

I am writing in regards to Garrett Atkins becoming a free agent. Is this not flashing bright red lights in Sabean's eyes? Atkins is such an ideal player for the Giants to pick up. The guy isn't looking to be overpaid and is an exceptional offensive and defensive tool that the Giants could use to fill a huge hole at a corner of the infield. Do you think Sabean is planning to jump on this great potential opportunity to boost this offense? Let's offer this guy a multi-year deal.
-- Zach H., Oakley, Calif.

Let's not and say we did, as we used to chirp in our youth. Atkins' .289 lifetime batting average and .811 career OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) are admirable. Other statistics are ominous. He has hit .327 in home games at Coors Field, compared with .252 on the road. Interestingly, he has homered more times away from home (50) than at Coors (48). But his overall batting average has declined steadily. Since hitting .329 in 2006, Atkins finished at .301 in 2007, .286 in 2008 and .226 last season. Moreover, he has hit .230 (35-for-152) at AT&T Park with a meager .653 OPS.

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Make a cheap run at Chien Ming Wang. It's worth a shot. Also Ben Sheets.
-- Michael W., New York

I like the idea of the Giants' obtaining a veteran, as they did last season with Randy Johnson, to solidify the back end of the rotation. But indications are that neither Wang nor Sheets will accept a cut-rate contract, despite their injury histories. That could change if they remain unemployed by mid-February.

What about signing Pedro Martinez to a one-year deal? Could he help the staff as Randy did last year?
-- Bob S., Novato, Calif.

See above.

What about Marcus Thames as a possible free agent for the Giants? He's relatively cheap and provides power the team needs.
-- Steven O., Livermore, Calif.

What about Marcus Thames as a Hall of Fame nominee with Andre Dawson, Bert Blyleven, Roberto Alomar and the rest? That's overstating the case, of course. But anybody who watched Detroit's Thames belt two homers off Lincecum in a June 16, 2008, Interleague game at AT&T Park had to be impressed. I might not pursue him as an everyday player, but I'd definitely consider him to deepen my right-handed-hitting complement on the bench.

I keep hearing Dan Uggla's name in relation to the Giants. I know he is a great hitter, but if you look at his record against the teams that count in the National League West, he is a no-show. He has hit .188 with 27 strikeouts against the Rockies and .192 with 26 strikeouts against the Dodgers. Do the Giants think this would change if he were to join the team?
-- Justin H., Pocatello, Idaho

Well, yes. The Giants have every reason to believe that the more Uggla faces Colorado and Los Angeles, the more his performance would rise to meet the standards he has maintained against other teams.

John Bowker played in the first two games in the Venezuelan Winter League. He walked and scored in the first inning of the second game, then was removed and hasn't played since. Do you know what happened to him?
-- Pete M., San Francisco

Other fans have asked, too. In case you missed it, Bowker injured a quadriceps muscle, forcing him to return to the U.S.

How can the Giants afford not to seriously pursue the best hitting prospects -- Jason Bay and Matt Holliday -- on the free-agent market? I think it is blatantly obvious that not doing so sends a message to the fans that the organization is not committed to winning. Statistics illustrate that if the Giants could consistently muster more than three measly runs a game, they could become the best team in baseball! The current strategy of bringing in mediocre veterans has produced abysmal results in almost every hitting category. Is the Giants front office really incapable of realizing this simple relationship?
-- Gabe L., San Diego

The Giants can't do a heck of a lot if they woo a player who doesn't want to come to San Francisco. If you believe Peter Gammons, and most of us "baseball professionals" (see opening question) do, the Giants were prepared to give Bay the five-year deal that other teams were reluctant to offer. But Bay apparently has no desire to nestle where little cable cars climb halfway to the stars. And Holliday has given no indication that he wants to be a Giant, though his agent, Scott Boras, is obliged to rouse as much interest as possible.

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