QUIET WINTER EXPECTED IN SF
The Giants are not known for making big noise during the winter meetings, and so far it looks like this winter will be no different.
Manager Bruce Bochy is on record saying he's happy with the team "as-is," while general manager Brian Sabean has said he won't be making any "big splash" signings. The Giants GM also said "the window could be closing on a lot of [free agent] opportunities," including outfielders Carlos Beltran and Cody Ross.
TRADE WINDS A-BLOWIN'
While Sabean may still sign one or two smaller-name free agents, the likelihood of a big Giants move would probably come via trade.
First and foremost on the trade front, Sabean has said that he will not consider trading Tim Lincecum, as many had speculated, even if the Giants are unable to sign the dynamic right-hander to a long-term deal this off-season.
Several names have come up as possible trade bait, however. Danny Knobler of CBS Sports says via Twitter that the Giants are currently shopping Jeff Keppinger, Andres Torres and Ramon Ramirez on the trade market.
There has been talk, however, that Torres could yet play for the Giants in 2012. Torres is arbitration eligible, and could prove to be very useful as a defensive replacement, pinch runner and occasional pinch hitter. However, given the tight budget, it's not too difficult to imagine a player like Justin Christian or Tyler Graham filling that role quite capably, and at a substantial discount.
While there isn’t much news in terms of new acquisitions, Bochy did shed some light on the current plans for the existing Giants roster.
Who's on first?
Bochy says he informed Aubrey Huff that he needs to be ready to play predominantly in left field come 2012. As for Brandon Belt, Bochy said, "Our plan is to put him at first base." However, the Giants manager also made yet another reference to Belt's limited experience in the minors, which suggests that there is still hesitation to hand over the keys outright to the Baby Giraffe.
Another factor to consider at first base is, of course, Buster Posey.
It is still not known how much the 24-year-old will be able to catch this season. Returning from the season-ending ankle injury in 2011, Posey may not be able to play much more than 120 games behind the dish. Bochy said that the talented young player will be moved to first base when not catching, so as to keep his gifted bat in the lineup.
Given the logjam at first, it’s hard to imagine too large a role for Brett Pill in 2012. Our guess is Pill will be used occasionally against left-handed pitching and will also provide a nice right-handed bat off of the bench in pinch-hitting situations.
An opportunity for Hector
The possibility of Posey spending time at first shines a bright spotlight on the backup catcher role. Normally backup catchers in the big leagues do not play very often, but it is clear that the Giants will need a capable backup in 2012.
Bochy mentioned that the Giants organization has taken notice of what Hector Sanchez is doing in Venezuela. If you've been reading our roundups, you know the 22-year-old has been absolutely demolishing VWL pitching all winter at a clip of .376 (47-for-125). If Sanchez continues to flourish, he could be a very welcome addition to the lineup on days when Posey plays first.
The shortstop problem
Bochy also mentioned the slick-fielding Brandon Crawford -- saying that he'd be "happy" with the local boy and fan favorite as his starting shortstop.
But given Brandon's struggles against left-handed pitching, we fully expect the Giants to bring in a veteran right-handed-hitting infielder, both to mentor Crawford and to spell him when the Giants face southpaws.
Sabean did, however, crush reports that the Giants had placed a bid on Japanese infielder Hiroyuki Nakajima, saying, "We did not bid on the Japanese shortstop, 'Not.' N-O-T. Enough said."
Nate Schierholtz is also considered the front-runner for the right field job, according to Bochy. The 27-year-old is a phenomenal defender and also made strides offensively in 2011, hitting .278 with nine homers and 41 RBI in just 335 at-bats.
The Scout.com team is bringing you tons of live coverage from the 2011 Winter Meetings. We'll also be bringing you the latest Giants news throughout the week.