Best Moves and Biggest Blunders of Brian Sabean's Career
Everybody has their opinion of what moves have worked and what has earned San Francisco Giants General Manager Brian Sabean his pink slip.
Since he became the general manager during the 1996 offseason, the Giants have finished with a winning record in all but five seasons (2004-2008).
Problem? The Giants have only reached the postseason in four of those seasons (1997, 2000, 2002, 2003).
Furthermore, the Giants advanced passed the first round once. Just once.
Obviously, the players have to do their job once assembled, but how well has Sabean assembled his teams?
We will go over the five best and worst moves in his tenure.
Bad: Jeremy Accardo for Shea Hillenbrand and Vinnie Chulk
Shea Hillenbrand was Ryan Garko before we knew who Garko was.
Worse yet, we traded Jeremy Accardo, who has turned into a pretty good reliever and decent closer.
It was a move that didn't need to happen and shouldn't have happened.
In fact, this picture features one of Hillenbrand's few hits as a Giant.
This rent-a-player went to Anaheim after the season.
Really Bad: Signing Armando Benitez
Periodically, I would watch Mets games and when Armando Benitez would come in and blow a save, I would think to myself, "Man, I'm glad he isn't a Giant."
In 2005, my nightmare became a reality.
Blown save after blown save.
Never before have I heard the Giants faithful turn on one of its own. I thought it was only something that happened on the East Coast.
But I finally understood why they booed.
Unreliable, inconsistent, and overpaid. These three words (plus many others) describe Benitez's time in San Francisco.
Really, Really Bad: Signing Barry Zito
This is one of the more common blunders mentioned only because his contract will pay him $126 million over six years.
That is a big deal but if this was a guy making $6 million with the same production, we wouldn't be having this conversation.
Did Brian Sabean overpay for Zito? Absoultely.
Zito's first couple of years did not endear him to the San Francisco natives. In fact, if it weren't for the emergence of Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum, even more fans would be harping over Zito's lack of production.
Horrible: Signing Aaron Rowand
The Giants signed Aaron Rowand because they had already struck out on Torii Hunter, Gary Matthews, Jr., and Andruw Jones.
All three signed in Southern California and all that was left was, well, Rowand.
He had won a World Series in Chicago and was living off the hype of running into the wall in Philadelphia.
Rowand had one really good year in a hitter-friendly park.
Five years, $60 million.
Worst: J. Nathan, F. Liriano and B. Bonser for A.J. Pierzynsk
Sabean's biggest blunder is probably this.
A.J. Pierzynski for Joe Nathan, Boof Bonser and Francisco Liriano.
Joe Nathan has been an All-Star closer seemingly every year since he got to Minnesota.
Liriano has one of the better arms in the game.
Bonser was a serviceable starter for a couple of years.
Pierzynski was a double play waiting to happen in a Giants uniform. Abrasive and emotional are qualities you want in a catcher, sometimes.
In his case, it did not fit with the Giants.
Since we traded Nathan, the Giants have tried Tim Worrell, Matt Herges, Armando Benitez and Brian Wilson as the closer.
Having Nathan would have saved quite a few ninth inning headaches.
Solid: 2003 Amatuer Transactions
Two guys in particular came from this offseason.
The Giants chose Brian Wilson in the 24th round of the MLB Draft. They also signed 16-year old Pablo Sandoval.
San Francisco has built the team around these two along with Lincecum, Cain and Posey.
Wilson is the Giants best closer since Robb Nen and may be the greatest closer in team history. Only time will tell on that one.
Sandoval, despite having a huge sophomore slump, has been one of the Giants more consistent hitters the past three seasons. He also brought an excitement back to San Francisco not seen since No. 25 last wore his jersey.
Good: MLB Draft (2006-present)
The draft classes Sabean has brought in the past four years have already started to provide dividends to the big league club.
Tim Lincecum and Emmanuel Burriss were drafted in 2006.
Tim Alderson was drafted in 2007, who was then traded for Freddy Sanchez last season.
Buster Posey followed in 2008.
Madison Bumgarner was drafted in 2009.
For the first time since the 1980s, the Giants are being built from the farm system. Finally, they are doing it the right way.
Really Good: A. Rios and R. Vogelsong for J. Schmidt and J. Vander Wal
This was the equivalent of trading a 20-year old Pinto for a brand new Corvette.
Jason Schmidt was one of the better Giants starting pitchers in the past 20 years.
All the Giants gave up were Armando Rios and a farm hand named Ryan Vogelsong.
He had his best seasons with the Giants and when it came time for his big payday, we let him walk for $15 million per year.
He pitched three injury-plagued seasons in Los Angeles.
All in all, great deal.
Amazing: Three minor leaguers for Robb Nen
From 1998 to 2002, the ninth, or "Nenth" inning as some began to call it, was time for Deep Purple's Smoke on the Water to blare from the speakers.
It wasn't quite Hell's Bells in San Diego but it meant the same thing: Game over.
After Rod Beck bolted for Chicago, Brian Sabean quickly went looking for the Giants new closer.
What made this convenient was the Marlins dismantling their World Series championship team.
Nen was ready for the taking.
He is the Giants all-time leader in saves.
That for three minor leaguers? Pretty good.
Best: Matt Williams for J. Kent, J. Vizcaino, J. Tavarez and J. Roa
When this trade happened, every Giants fan wanted Sabean's head on a platter.
I was among them.
How do you trade the fan favorite in Matt Williams?
Sabean obviously knew what he was doing.
He, quite possibly, received the greatest hitting second baseman of all-time in return for an aging star.
As a Giant, Jeff Kent has six consecutive seasons of 100 or more RBI and won a MVP award in 2000.
If there is an argument to be made here, I'd love to hear it.
Sabean has never been one to make the correct big splash.
Rowand, Zito, Benitez, Dave Roberts (he would have made the list but Benitez played when I'd rather he didn't), Edgardo Alfonzo, and Sidney Ponson all come to mind as blunders go.
Ryan Garko, anybody?
Sabean's smaller moves have meant much more to this team.
Ellis Burks, Joe Carter, Wilson Alvarez, Danny Darwin, David Bell, Omar Vizquel all helped the cause.
His successes in the past couple of years can also not be overlooked.
Where would the Giants be without Juan Uribe, Andres Torres, and Aubrey Huff? Wallowing in the dungeon with the Diamondbacks, I'd assume.
Making the right move doesn't always mean spending on a free agent.
Some call it luck but you always have to be a little lucky.
Although, as I am sure most of you noticed, all of the "bad" moves have happened in the past five years.