Money Talks, and Off-Season Moves May Surprise

With contract extensions completed for General Manager Brian Sabean and Manager Bruce Bochy through 2013, the San Francisco Giants’ management group is now free to fully concentrate another extension: playing baseball deep into October 2012.

And that brings us to two related areas of interest: the team’s 2012 payroll budget, and what the final 2012 25-man roster might look like.
 
The first thing to understand about the Giants 2012 payroll “budget” is that it has virtually nothing to do with which players should be signed, whether or not more offense is needed, or any other on field consideration. That payroll figure is simply part of the team’s overall projected expenditures for 2012, like purchasing toner for the office copy machines or the cost to keep the turf at AT&T Park in tip top shape. Among other things.

Inbaseball-bat-ball-and-glove-isolated-on-a-field-of-grass October 2011 the Giants announced their 2012 payroll “budget” would be $124 million. In November, the month that follows right after October, soon to be CEO Larry Baer stated the 2012 player payroll would now be $130 million. Nothing better illustrates the semi-arbitrary thin air from which these figures are pulled. 

The San Francisco Giants are a big market team with large amounts of money both in team revenue and in their ownership group. Principal shareholder Charles Johnson, with a personal net worth of $4.4 billion, was recently named the 72nd richest American by Forbes. The team has plans for a massive development project in the pier and parking areas across McCovey Cove from the ballpark.

Despite costs and revenue, management would still like to earn a profit for its ownership group at the end of each year. Forbes.com published the estimated operating costs and revenues for all 30 MLB teams in 2009; that year the Giants made a profit of $23.5 million.

SF Chronicle sports writer Henry Schulman said it best in his October 29, 2011 “Splashcolumn. Giant fans and bloggers should consider the following whenever Giants ownership talks about what they can and can’t afford:
       
“The Giants’ partners have every right to decide how much profit they want to make on their investments and set the player payroll accordingly. But let’s be intellectually honest here. It’s not accurate to say they cannot afford a big-name hitter. They can. It’s just a matter of how much risk they will allow their general manager to take against the potential reward of another parade down Market Street next fall.”

Now all this doesn’t mean that, a) Giants ownership should start spending money like Wall Street bankers; b) the front office should not make a profit (they wouldn’t be doing their jobs if they lost money); or especially, c) the team should take on any more life-sucking high cost-low yield player contracts (see Aaron Rowand and Barry Zito).

Just don’t play the we-don’t-have-the-money card any time in the next 50-100 years. That’s all.

The 2012 roster
Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com reported the Giants are trying to trade either Ramon Ramirez or Jeremy Affeldt to downsize some of the $23.3 million tied up in the team’s bullpen. Affeldt is scheduled to make $5m and Ramirez projects to $2.3m. Quality bullpen arms are always in high demand when the stove is hot, and moving one or both players could allow both a salary dump and some prospect pick-ups.

Given San Francisco’s commitment to contractually wrapping up their starting pitching, it’s hard to see Cody Ross coming back anywhere near his $6.3m 2011 salary. Which means Ross goes unless he gives a home team discount or no one else offers something better.

The shadow of Carlos Beltran looms over possible contracts with Ross and several other termed out players. If Beltran signs, outfield playing time will also become an issue; Beltran in right and Melky Cabrera in center leaves, I believe, only left field open. Hard to believe the Giants won’t give Brandon Belt a shot as the everyday left fielder (or first baseman, if Aubrey Huff can make it back and forth between the dugout and left field between innings).

As I look into my $5.99 Walgreen’s crystal ball (on sale for $1.99), I see two upcoming signings by the Giants: a solid infielder who is able to start at short or second, and one more impact bat (that is, unless Beltran signs somewhere else).

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