By 9:00 PM PST on Wednesday, December 7th, the Giants decided to part ways with J.T. Snow and Brett Tomko. The team’s only remaining free agents were not offered salary arbitration, a move that forfeited the Giants ability to negotiate with them until May 1, 2006.
Snow had been with the Giants since 1997, when Giants General Manager Brian Sabean traded for him from the Anaheim Angels for Allen Watson and Fausto Macey. The trade, overshadowed by Sabean’s infamous acquisition of Jeff Kent for Matt Williams and midseason deals, was part of the G.M.’s transformation of a last place club into division winners and perennial winners for 7 years, a run that resulted in 3 division championships and a World Series appearance. With the release of Kirk Rueter during the 2005 season, Snow had become the 2nd longest tenured Giant behind Barry Bonds.
Tomko’s stay with the Giants was much shorter, having signed a 2 year deal with San Francisco in 2004. Tomko’s stay was marked by both good and bad times. Tomko keyed a 2004 pennant chase as he had a 1.78 ERA in the final month of the year after ace Jason Schmidt was hobbled by an injury. However, he was not able to perform consistently, though the 4.04 ERA he put up in 2004 and the 4.48 ERA he had in 2005 were the two lowest of his career since he put up a 3.43 and 4.44 in 1997 and 1998 respectively, his first two years in the league.
The moves come with overtones of other impending changes. Sabean did not speak to reporters after the deadline, but during the day he had said “If we did offer arbitration, that would probably signal that the stuff we’ve tried to do has fallen through. And obviously if we don’t, we feel we have other viable alternatives.”
The Giants are rumored to be the favorite in the pursuit of former St. Louis Cardinals starter Matt Morris, who was offered arbitration. Reports from the winter meetings indicate that Morris is considering a 2 year, $16 million offer. The San Diego Union-Tribune also reported that the Giants had signed former San Diego Padres first baseman Mark Sweeney to a 2 year, $1.8 million offer, though that report remains unconfirmed.
The moves also guarantee the Giants will not receive compensatory picks for Snow or Tomko. They were both Type B free agents, which would’ve netted the signing team’s top pick after they’d given away picks to Type A or higher ranked Type B free agents. So far this offseason, the Giants have gained a first round compensation pick (which will be between #32-34) and a third round pick, but have given up their 2nd round pick. They cannot lose either of their first round picks.
Snow remained one of the team’s most popular players through recent struggles and injuries. In 2005, he platooned with rookie Lance Niekro. His defense remains one of the best in the majors, but over the years his power has dropped, a lot of which is blamed on SBC Park, which is well known to be tough on most left handed hitters. Snow has been involved in some of the most memorable plays in recent Giants history, both good – hitting a game tying 3 run homer in the bottom of the 9th in Game 2 of the 2000 Divisional Playoffs off of 2005 teammate Armando Benitez – and bad – being thrown out at home for the final out of the 2003 Divisional Playoffs against the Florida Marlins.
Snow, who got his 1,500th career hit in his final San Francisco at-bat last year, has an offer from Pittsburgh. However, he is said to be pondering retirement. Tomko has received interest from several teams, including the Texas Rangers.
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