Saturday, December 16, 2006

Whither Ichiro in 2008?

Ken Rosenthal at wonders, "Is Ichiro San Fran-bound in 2008?" (second item). Rosenthal cites San Francisco's Japanese community and Ichiro and Giants manager Bruce Bochy sharing the same agent as possible attractants.

But unless Giants general manager Brian Sabean changes his approach to doing business, here's why Ichiro won't end up in San Francisco:

Uninspiring quotes from Sabean like "Same old, same old. It's been slower than I expected" and "We're going to find out [about Barry Zito], I guess" (from the Rich Aurilia/Dave Roberts article posted earlier) betray a frustration with negotiations that shouldn't be made public. West coast teams are often at a disadvantage with east coast-leaning free agents; why compound that handicap?

More significant is the disadvantage that can be expressed in numbers, namely 76 (wins) and 85 (losses). The Giants are coming off another losing season, making them an unattractive to free agents such as Alfonso Soriano, Juan Pierre and Gary Mathews Jr. Overcoming that negative perception costs money. (In the Cubs' case, $136 million for Soriano.)

The Dodgers were in a similar position a year ago after finishing 20 games under .500, but rookie GM Ned Colletti made a statement with Rafael Furcal's contract for $39 million over three years—considered overpaying at the time.

But the deal established Colletti's credibility and he was subsequently able to sign Sandy Alomar Jr., Bill Mueller, Nomar Garciaparra, Kenny Lofton and Brett Tomko, players whose contributions helped the Dodgers improve by 17 wins this past season.