Friday, December 26, 2008

Dear GOD, San Francisco Brings in the Big Unit

Uh oh. This one could go sideways in a big way. In a six-foot, 10-inch way. In a 45-year-old package. According to Ken Rosenthal, the San Francisco Giants are in the process of inking Randy Johnson to a one-year deal. The details are, as yet, unknown.

But the man has been in Major League Baseball for about 20 years. And he's a first-ballot Hall of Famer. I'm guessing the contract isn't too cheap. OK, the details just became known and the contract is based at $8 million for one year and can go as high as $13 million if stretch performs well.

That's actually a smaller base than I expected, but we'll see what Johnson has to do to trigger those incentives.

At first glance, this move makes very little sense in terms of bringing the team closer to contention. At second glance, it makes even less.

That's because Randy Johnson is only five games shy of his 300th career victory. That's right San Francisco, get ready for another record chase! And by a local boy to boot! That should sure put bottoms in seats at Pac Bell.


I thought management was serious about contending. I thought Bill Neukom was turning over a new leaf from Peter McGowan. I thought the days of putting together a really pretty paper picture were over, traded in for days of serious franchise-building.

I know, I know. It's only a one-year deal. But it's just a public relations stunt, pure and simple.

Along with the record chase, now management can point to the sparkling trio of Cy Young winners that the SF rotation boasts. Of course, only Tim Lincecum has a snowball's chance in hell of seeing that trophy again.

I'm praying for Barry Zito to become an above-average starter again. Forget about Cy Young.

And Randy is 45.

OK, that's out of my system. So what's the upside?

Well, the rotation does look terrifying if guys pitch to their potential. It features three lefties and the two weakest links are both southpaws. That usually softens the blow, but we'll see. It means SF can open with the Franchise, follow with either Zito (whose soft toss might work better in juxtaposition to Lincecum's gas) or Johnson, then trot out the Kid (Matt Cain), throw out whoever's left of Zito/Johnson, and then close with Jonathan Sanchez.

That could be a formidable five.

The problem is that Randy Johnson, who actually pitched to a respectable sub-4.00 earned run average while throwing 184 innings in 30 starts, only managed to win 11 games for a much better team than the Giants. Sure, the Orange and Black has improved this offseason, but they still can't rival the 2008 Arizona Diamondbacks for offensive production.

The problem is that Jonathan Sanchez could very well regress or plateau.

The problem is that Matt Cain could buckle under the weight of a slightly less anemic offense.

The problem is that Barry Zito is still Barry Zito, even if he keeps improving.

Most of all, the problem is STILL the offense. If ownership were serious about contending next year, they would have gone after a bat. Maybe not a huge one, but at least somebody with 15-20 homer pop. I like what I heard about the courtship of Ty Wigginton.

That still might happen. In fact, maybe the signing of a guy like Johnson - a proven winner with postseason experience - is a harbinger of just such a signing.

One can only hope so. Because, if this is San Francisco's last move before 2009's first pitch, it's gonna be business as usual at Pac Bell.

Emphasis on business.

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