Liotta: Giants need more bang for buck 

It’s been a tough economy on all of us the last year or so, and nobody needs to maximize available dollars more than you, me or the Giants.

I got to thinking the other day as I tried to stretch my monthly budget to include an extra extravagance or two. Maybe I’ve been looking at this whole Giants situation all wrong.

Maybe they’re not cheap. Maybe things are simply tight in Giants land because they’re just as bad with their budget as I am with mine.

So let’s take a look at what they’ve been spending their money on (using last year’s salaries):

Center fielder Aaron Rowand, $9.6 million.

That’s more than National League RBI champ Prince Fielder ($7M) earned, and the equivilent of three Adrian Gonzalezs ($3.125M), the San Diego Padres’ best hitter and a nice fit if the Giants could make him their first baseman.

Hmmm, not so good a start.

Edgar Renteria, $8 million.

That’s a little less than former MVP and Philadelphia shortstop Jimmy Rollins ($8.5M), but about the same as Cristian Guzman ($8M) of the Nationals. 

For what its worth, Renteria made more than six of the eight National League shortstops who had better years at the plate than he did last year. Only Houston’s Miguel Tejada and Guzman were in Renteria’s price range.

Are we seeing a problem?

Barry Zito, $18.5 million.

That’s more than 19-game winner and World Series ace CC Sabbathia ($15.28 M), Philadelphia’s new ace Roy Halladay ($14.25M), even Atlanta’s 15-game winner Derek Lowe ($15M), and equal to what the Mets paid ace Johan Santana ($20M), baseball’s best pitcher the last five years.

Ouch! Enough said, despite the kudos Zito deserves for his return to respectability the last half of last year.

That’s just under $37 million dollars for three players who are nice enough, but definitely not worth four times their Los Angeles Dodgers counterparts: center fielder Matt Kemp ($467,000), shortstop Rafael Furcal ($7.5M) and starter Chad Billingsley ($475,000).

Now, just about every team in baseball has to admit they’ve overpayed for a free agent or three, but the Giants obviously fill too many holes through this process.

Which means the Giants’ fiscal problems center completely around their inability to produce enough productive position players from their farm system. They pay top dollar for far too many average veteran players.

A perfect example of what the Giants need more of from their farm system is Pablo Sandoval, who rolled up a .330 average with 25 home runs and 90 RBIs for the paltry sum of $400,000 last season.

That’s better than a home run in the baseball budget world. That’s a grand slam.

Add to the good side of the Giants’ ledger Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, and the farm system hasn’t been totally devoid of producing talented players.

Which is all well and good until the Giants try and find a way to fit a luxury item like a bona fide cleanup hitter into their budget.

And I thought squeezing in my extra luxury or two was difficult.

Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail him at tliotta@sfexaminer.com.

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