Dickey: Giants need position players in draft

Changes in the front office could mean a brighter future for the Giants — if general manager Brian Sabean doesn’t put too much importance on the limited success the team has had this season by playing veterans.

Sabean was very successful early in his Giants career, only to be submerged by bad decisions later. What happened? One probable reason was that the situation was too chummy in the Giants’ front office, with congeniality valued more than good judgment.

One change came before the 2006 season, when assistant GM Ned Colletti left to become general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Colletti inherited an L.A. team rich in prospects, but undermined that by signing veterans to big contracts. Juan Pierre, whose only asset is speed, was signed to a five-year, $44 million contract. Because of that contract, Pierre has had to play, though the Dodgers had a potential star in Matt Kemp. Jason Schmidt was signed to a three-year, $47 million contract and has spent most of his time with the Dodgers on the disabled list. Andruw Jones had the worst year of his career going into his free-agency year, which should have been a huge red flag, but Colletti signed him for two years at $36.2 million. Jones was hitting .165 before he had knee surgery last week.

Losing Colletti was probably the best thing that could have happened to the Giants. The hiring of John Barr to make decisions on the draft, pushing aside Dick Tidrow, could have a similar beneficial effect.

For years, Tidrow’s philosophy was to draft as many pitchers as possible. That worked well for a time as Sabean was often able to trade young pitching prospects for veterans who could help immediately, as he did when he got Schmidt in perhaps his best trade.

That philosophy started to turn sour with the infamous Joe NathanFrancisco LirianoBoof Bonser trade for A.J. Pierzynski. About that time, teams decided not to trade position players off their roster for unproven pitchers. They would trade only prospects, and the Giants wouldn’t trade for anybody who couldn’t play in the majors immediately.

The Giants’ drafting philosophy started to change last year and that will be accelerated now. Barr, who has worked the draft for the Dodgers, Baltimore Orioles and New York Mets, is ready to draft position players, starting with the No. 5 overall pick in Thursday’s first round.

Meanwhile, Giants manager Bruce Bochy has been playing veterans Rich Aurilia and Ray Durham to scratch out a few more wins and Sabean has talked of the possibility that the Giants could make the postseason.

Let’s put this in perspective. The Giants are playing in the worst division in baseball, a whopping 34 games under .500 collectively entering Monday’s action. The Giants have the fourth-worst record in the NL — and three are in the West.

The latest spin is that the Giants are showcasing some veteran players as trade material, but does anybody think that other teams would trade for either Durham or Aurilia? Right fielder Randy Winn is the only Giants veteran who would interest other clubs.

The future of the Giants is in their younger players, those who are already here, in the minors or about to be drafted. That’s where the focus should be, not on the illusion of the postseason this year.

Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. E-mail him at glenndickey@hotmail.com.

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