- Also via Heyman, Eduardo Nunez is seeing his market “heat up” a bit. There are as many as eight teams that have shown interest in Nunez of late, including the Mets, Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Giants, Braves, Brewers and Royals. (Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area recently suggested that a reunion with San Francisco wasn’t likely, implying that Nunez can receive superior offers elsewhere.) Heyman joins others that have recently reported that Nunez is on the Mets’ radar as a second base option. The Yankees, Red Sox, Braves and Brewers all make varying degrees of sense as well, though it’s tougher to see a clear fit with the Jays, Giants and Royals for various reasons. Toronto has already added Aledmys Diaz and Yangervis Solarte this winter (with Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis both still on board as well), while the Giants picked up Evan Longoria and are reportedly striving to remain under the luxury tax threshold. Nunez would almost certainly put them over, as they’re within less than $5MM of that point at present. As for the Royals, they could use a versatile infielder, but they’re also gearing up for a rebuild.
- Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area tackled some questions from Giants fans. The outfield remains a key point of focus, of course. With Andrew McCutchen expected to play every day in right, Austin Slater could share time in left with Hunter Pence while also picking up some action in center, says Pavlovic. That doesn’t mean the team is bowing out of the pursuit of another up-the-middle player, of course — or that Slater has locked up a roster spot. (He’ll be competing in camp with Jarrett Parker, Mac Williamson, and Gorkys Hernandez.) There’s one other notable name to consider in the internal mix. But as Pavlovic wrote yesterday, the San Francisco front office seems inclined to take its time with center fielder Steven Duggar. “This is a time of year when you would rather have Duggar in your back pocket and bring in a center fielder that allows us to have more time,” GM Bobby Evans explains. Of course, the club has little wiggle room if it hopes to stay under the luxury tax line; it remains to be seen just how the outfield mix will look when camp opens.
The Giants have acquired infielder Engelb Vielma from the Pirates, John Dreker of Pirates Prospects reports on Twitter. Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review first tweeted that Vielma was on the move; he had been designated for assignment recently.
This’ll be Vielma’s second stop in San Francisco — on paper, at least. He is one of several names that has already bounced from roster to roster via minor trades and the waiver wire this winter, as typically occurs for players that are on the margins of 40-man roster viability. For Vielma, this is the fourth time he has changed hands since September.
Whether the 23-year-old will end up sticking with the Giants organization remains to be seen. The club could still expose him to waivers again in an attempt to stash him as a non-roster player. Even if he makes it into camp on the 40-man, Vielma will no doubt need to show he’s worthy of continuing to occupy a roster spot.
Known as a high-end defender who can handle shortstop, Vielma has not yet demonstrated that he’ll hit much when he ultimately reaches the game’s highest level. He was placed on the Twins’ 40-man to protect him from the Rule 5 draft in advance of the 2017 season, but went on to slash just .229/.273/.280 in 455 total plate appearances split between Double-A and Triple-A.
While Billy Hamilton’s name has been oft-mentioned in trade rumblings this offseason, a deal involving the Reds’ fleet-footed center fielder may not be all that likely, writes Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer. San Francisco’s acquisition of Andrew McCutchen doesn’t have much of an impact on the Giants’ chances of swinging a deal for Hamilton as they look to add a strong defender with their (limited) remaining financial resources. But, Buchanan reports after speaking with multiple sources, a deal was looking “unlikely” anyhow. Talks between the Giants and Reds regarding Hamilton have gone “dormant,” per Buchanan, adding that one source expects Hamilton to be in Cincinnati come Opening Day.
- ESPN’s Keith Law offers his opinion (subscription required and recommended) on the Pirates’ trade for McCutchen, whom he calls a “great” pickup for the Giants, given the putrid output they received from their outfield in 2017 and the low bar that McCutchen has to clear. While neither Kyle Crick nor outfield prospect Bryan Reynolds is an elite young talent, Law opines, Crick offers a potential long-term option in the bullpen and is the type of arm that can “sometimes turn to gold via the alchemy of baseball” despite his history of below-average command (a trait that he did improve in 2017). He calls Reynolds “very interesting,” adding that he considered Reynolds’ to be San Francisco’s second-best prospect at the time of the trade.
If there were any questions as to where Andrew McCutchen would play with his new team in 2018, the Giants decisively answered them in a conference call with reporters today (link via Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle). Manager Bruce Bochy flatly told the media that McCutchen will be his right fielder in 2018, with Hunter Pence shifting across the outfield and playing left field for the first time in his MLB career (excluding a brief appearance there during the 2011 All-Star Game).
That, of course, leaves the Giants with a noted gap in center field, but GM Bobby Evans said today that he’s still exploring both the trade and free-agent market for center fielders. San Francisco will be hard-pressed to sign a notable free agent to play there, though, if the team is to stick to its goal of remaining beneath the luxury tax threshold of $197MM. Per Cot’s Contracts, the Giants are currently $4.8MM shy of that barrier, even when including the cash the team picked up from the Pirates and Rays as part of the McCutchen and Evan Longoria acquisitions.
Notably, Schulman adds that ownership has not mandated that the Giants stay under the luxury threshold, so it remains conceivable that the team could simply change course if it feels that to be the best path back to contention an increasingly competitive NL West division.
Obviously, there’s no real way to fit the free-agent market’s top center fielder, Lorenzo Cain, onto the Giants’ books without further trades to subtract payroll. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports (via Twitter) that the Giants’ non-Cain wishlist is topped by Jarrod Dyson. He’s followed by Jon Jay and Cameron Maybin, in that order, according to Crasnick. While no deal is close, Crasnick adds that the Giants have reached out to Dyson’s camp to express interest, but the fleet-footed free agent, who is still talking with multiple teams.
Dyson, 33, is one of the game’s fastest players, with an average sprint speed of 28.8 ft/sec, per Statcast. Those wheels have led to consistently excellent defensive marks across all three outfield spots, though the majority of Dyson’s career has been spent in center. At the plate, he’s a career .258/.325/.352 hitter — including a .264/.331/.367 slash across the past two seasons. Dyson has also averaged 31 stolen bases per season since beginning to accumulate regular semi-regular playing time with the Royals back in 2012.
As is the case with almost any player, Dyson brings some noted shortcomings to the table. He’s never hit more than five home runs in a season, and moving to the cavernous AT&T Park at age 33 wouldn’t figure to help him in that regard. He’s also looked more or less inept against left-handed pitching in his career, hitting just .215/.293/.259 against same-handed opponents. Neither the Royals nor the Mariners saw fit to give Dyson much time against lefties, as he’s accumulated just 341 career plate appearances against them.
Jay and Maybin, who’ll turn 33 and 31, respectively, this spring, would bring different skills to San Francisco. Neither can match Dyson’s defensive excellence, but Jay has virtually no platoon split to speak of and has been a consistent source of solid batting averages and OBP marks in his career (.288/.355/.383). Maybin is the youngest of the bunch and also has the most power and best walk rate of the bunch. But, he’s been injury-prone and didn’t enjoy an especially strong 2017 season at the plate (.228/.318/.365). The free-agent market also features cost-effective veterans like Peter Bourjos and old friend Rajai Davis, among other unsigned center field candidates (MLBTR Free Agent Tracker link).
The trade market could present its fair share of options as the Giants seek center fielders. San Francisco has been linked to Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton (another defensive star) on and off throughout the offseason, though Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reported just today that talks between the two sides are “dormant.” Buchanan adds that one source feels it’s likely that Hamilton will remain with the Reds for the 2018 campaign.
Meanwhile Brewers speedster Keon Broxton has also been linked to San Francisco at times this winter, though there’s been little such talk as of late. Yankees fans will assuredly attempt to conjure up ways in which New York could jettison Jacoby Ellsbury’s contract in a trade with the Giants, though San Francisco’s proximity to the luxury tax and Ellsbury’s decline in recent years make that quite unlikely.
San Francisco also has some internal options, led by prospect Steven Duggar, who impressed the organization with a .262/.365/.445 slash across multiple minor league levels this past season. Duggar, though, has only played 13 games in Double-A, so while Evans said he expects the 24-year-old to be in the mix for the job in Spring Training, it may be asking a lot to expect the 2015 sixth-rounder to reach the Majors early in the season. In that sense, a short-term addition in center field could serve as a stopgap for Duggar, although there’s room for a longer-term adition as well, with both Pence and McCutchen slated to hit free agency next winter.
Looking elsewhere on the roster, the addition of McCutchen and the continued pursuit of a center fielder muddies the long-term picture for outfielders Jarrett Parker, Mac Williamson and Austin Slater, each of whom has seen time on the Giants’ big league roster in recent years. Parker is out of minor league options, so he’ll need to make the 2018 roster out of Spring Training or else be exposed to waivers. Williamson has an option remaining, while Slater has all three option years left after sticking in the Majors following a June promotion.
5:34pm: Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic tweets that the Pirates are covering $2.5MM of McCutchen’s $14.75MM salary.
5:25pm: It became all the more clear on Monday that Pirates fans are looking at the end of an era, as the team announced that face of the franchise Andrew McCutchen has been traded to the Giants (along with cash considerations) in exchange for young right-hander Kyle Crick, outfield prospect Bryan Reynolds and $500K worth of international bonus pool space.
Outfield help has been a priority for the Giants all offseason after last year’s collective unit combined to bat .253/.311/.374 in more than 2000 plate appearances. Inserting McCutchen into that mix should provide a significant boost on the offensive side of the equation, as the 31-year-old turned in a very strong rebound campaign at the plate in 2017, hitting .279/.363/.486 with 28 homers (his highest total since hitting 31 back in 2012).
Of course, questions about McCutchen’s glovework persisted in 2017 — and it should be noted that the Giants’ outfield defense was the worst in baseball last year. San Francisco outfielders combined to post an MLB-worst -45 mark in Defensive Runs Saved, and they ranked just 28th with a -11.4 Ultimate Zone Rating. The since-traded Denard Span played no small role in those shortcomings, but McCutchen’s marks of -14 and -4.5 in those respective stats don’t exactly stand out as an indicator that an extensive amount of help is on the defensive horizon.
If the Giants were to play McCutchen in an outfield corner, perhaps he could post more meaningful contributions in that regard. At present, he figures to line up in center field, though the Giants could yet play McCutchen in left field and acquire a cost-effective center field option with a stronger defensive reputation (someone in the mold of Jarrod Dyson, speaking from a speculative standpoint).
However, it’s important to note that there may not be room for the Giants to make much of an addition. San Francisco will add more than $9MM to its luxury tax ledger by picking up the final year of McCutchen’s deal, which should place them roughly $7MM from the threshold. San Francisco has reportedly been aiming to remain under the tax cap in order to reset its penalty level.
For the Giants, McCutchen is the second notable veteran bat the team has landed via trade this offseason. San Francisco also picked up Evan Longoria in a trade that sent Christian Arroyo, Span (plus the remaining year of his contract) and a pair of minor league pitchers to the Rays. Depending on their willingness to either shed additional payroll or pivot and exceed the luxury tax for a fifth consecutive season, those two big-name acquisitions could prove to be the Giants’ primary offseason acquisitions.
The McCutchen agreement comes just days after the Pirates shipped right-hander Gerrit Cole to the reigning World Champion Astros, further signaling a transitional period in Pittsburgh, though the pair of trades does not necessarily indicate that a full-scale tear-down is on the horizon for the Bucs. Both Cole (controlled through 2019) and McCutchen (a free agent next winter) were short-term and relatively high-priced assets — especially for a Pirates team that operates on a notoriously thin budget.
McCutchen is slated to earn $14.75MM in the final season of his contract, whereas Cole had settled at $6.75MM in order to avoid arbitration. The Pirates, then, will be saving a combined $21.5MM with this pair of swaps — money that could, in theory, be reinvested into the 2018 roster. The Pirates have, after all, opened each of the past three season with payrolls in excess of $90MM but now project for a payroll of roughly $82MM in 2018. The Bucs could further reduce that 2018 commitment if the team ultimately finds a trade partner for infielder/outfielder Josh Harrison; the versatile veteran is slated to earn $10MM this season and, like Cole and McCutchen before him, has been an oft-mentioned trade candidate this offseason.
The 25-year-old Crick was the 49th overall pick in the 2011 draft and ranked among baseball’s top 100 prospects from 2013-15, per various reports. While his rise through the minors was slowed by control issues, he had a strong year in 2017 after converting to the bullpen on a full-time basis.
In 29 1/3 innings of relief in Triple-A, he posted a 2.76 ERA with 12.0 K/9, 4.0 BB/9 and a 44.3 percent ground-ball rate. That strong run led to Crick’s big league debut with the Giants; in 32 1/3 innings in the Majors, he logged a 3.06 ERA with 7.8 K/9, 4.7 BB/9 and a 37.9 percent ground-ball rate. Crick’s 95.5 mph average fastball velocity and 11 percent swinging-strike rate both pointed to the potential for his big league strikeout rate to catch up to the more impressive level he flashed in Triple-A.
Crick is controllable through the 2023 season, so he’ll join a lengthy list of controllable assets the Bucs received in the Cole trade as a potential long-term piece that can step directly onto the roster.
“Kyle Crick is a physical, Major League-ready right-handed reliever who brings a high-velocity, live fastball complimented by a quality slider to potentially pitch in a late inning role for the Pirates,” said Pirates GM Neal Huntington. “Kyle’s power arsenal has resulted in a high strikeout rate complimented by inducing a lot of weak contact. After his first exposure to the Major League level last season, Kyle appears ready to take the next steps in what should be a productive career as a high leverage Major League relief pitcher.”
Reynolds, 23 later this month, was the Giants’ second-round pick in 2016 and just wrapped up a strong season in Class-A Advanced, where he hit .312/.364/.462 with 10 homers, 26 doubles and nine triples in 540 trips to the plate. Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com had him fourth among Giants prospects, while Baseball America ranked him fifth among San Francisco farmhands just a few weeks ago (before the Arroyo trade, meaning he’d now rank fourth on their list as well).
“Bryan is an effective offensive player that also plays quality defense,” said Huntington. “We look forward to working with Bryan to maximize his tools and help him become a quality well-rounded Major League player who can impact a game in many ways beyond his quality bat.”
As for the Pirates’ immediate future in the outfield, it’s not yet entirely clear how they’ll fill the void. Starling Marte seems likely to slide over from the corner outfield to center field, which should be a defensive upgrade over the life of a full season. Top prospect Austin Meadows showed in 2017 that he’s likely not yet ready for the Majors — Meadows hit just .250/.311/.359 in Triple-A — so the Bucs could turn to a platoon of 26-year-old Adam Frazier and veteran utility man Sean Rodriguez in left field for the time being.
Alternatively, Pittsburgh could wait out the free agent market and see if any veterans become available on bargain deals. The corner outfield market has no shortage of experienced options (MLBTR Free Agent Tracker link), and some of those names will undoubtedly have to settle for one-year deals later this winter.
Robert Murray and Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports first reported that talks between the two sides were picking up (Twitter link). Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported that the two sides had reached an agreement (Twitter link). Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area tweeted that Crick was in the deal. Yahoo’s Jeff Passan tweeted that Reynolds was likely to be a part of the deal, and The Athletic’s Andrew Baggarly confirmed as much. MLB.com’s Jon Morosi reported that the Pirates would pay some of McCutchen’s salary.
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Giants and Pirates are engaged in “serious talks” regarding outfielder Andrew McCutchen, according to Robert Murray and Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (Twitter link). At the same time, San Francisco is said to have “gotten more serious” in discussions with free agent Lorenzo Cain, in the words of Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (via Twitter), though he also cautions the sides aren’t close to an agreement.
It has long seemed possible that the Giants could end up landing either of these two veteran players. Certainly, the connections aren’t new. That reports have emerged on both in near proximity could be interpreted in various ways.
Regarding McCutchen, the Pirates and Giants have reportedly discussed him in the past, though obviously nothing has come together to this point. Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area looked at the connection today as well, including the fact that the San Francisco front office has hoped the Gerrit Cole trade might free up chatter on McCutchen, who is owed $14.5MM in his final season of contract control. Per Pavlovic, the Bucs’ demands to this point have been too rich for the Giants.
It’s possible to view the offseason developments to date from both organizations as a lead-up to a deal involving McCutchen. The Giants, who’d rather not part with draft picks as compensation for signing a qualifying-offer-bound free agent, have already traded for Evan Longoria, so there’s little question they are pushing to return to contention in 2018. And the Pirates’ recent trade of Cole clearly indicates the organization is willing to move on from highly-paid stars. McCutchen has long seemed a more obvious trade piece than was Cole.
At the same time, it’s too soon to rule out Cain. Both players could certainly fit on the same roster; at present, only Hunter Pence — himself a question mark after a shaky 2017 season — is firmly in place in the outfield. (Our sister site, Roster Resource, currently places Steven Duggar and Jarrett Parker atop the Giants depth chart in center and left.) Of course, doing so would mean ponying up significant cash as well as prospect assets. Even if the Giants were able to secure a nice price for Cain, they’d almost surely end up flying past the luxury line and he’d unquestionably require draft compensation. Getting Cutch, too, will require only a one-year commitment but will mean parting with at least some young assets.
The Giants aren’t dead set against signing a free agent who rejected a qualifying offer, general manager Bobby Evans said this week (via Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle, on Twitter). Ideally, Evans would rather not sign a player attached to draft pick compensation, though he “all but said” that the Giants are “talking to” center fielder and QO recipient Lorenzo Cain, Schulman reports. In adding Cain, who’s likely to ink one of this winter’s biggest contracts, the Giants would lose two 2018 draft picks (their second- and fifth-highest selections) and $1MM of international bonus pool space.
The competitive balance tax has been a significant offseason storyline, most notably in regards to big-market teams like the Yankees, Dodgers, and Giants are all looking to stay under the threshold this winter in order to reset their tax costs and further position them for bigger spending next offseason and beyond. While much has been made about the value of avoiding the tax, MASNsports.com’s Mark Zuckerman notes that the actual financial cost is pretty minimal for teams (like the Nationals) who barely exceed the threshold. For instance, the Nats’ current $199.2MM payroll puts them $2.2MM over the tax line, putting D.C. in line for a 30% tax on the overage since this would be the club’s second straight year over the threshold. Since only the overage is taxed, however, the Nationals would only be paying an extra $660K. Zuckerman figures that a contending team like Washington shouldn’t have any issue in paying a bit extra tax money in order to acquire a pricey trade addition during the season, especially if that player ends up helping the Nats finally enjoy some postseason success.
- In his latest Insider-only piece, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney opines that the Giants’ desire to avoid giving up draft picks to sign qualifying offer-rejecting free agents may be short-sighted. San Francisco’s veteran-heavy roster is built to win now, and signing the likes of a Lorenzo Cain would do wonders for the troubled Giants outfield, adding more immediate help than the theoretical value of the second-round pick the club would have be surrendering in order to sign Cain.
- Evan Longoria shared some interesting details about his trade to the Giants in an appearance on the MLB Network on Friday (as detailed by MLB.com’s Daniel Kramer). Though Longoria didn’t have any leverage in the form of no-trade protection or 10-and-5 rights, he said he “kind of gave them [the Rays] a short list of teams that I thought would be a good fit for me,” specifically teams that “were going to be committed to winning, year-in and year-out.” It isn’t known how much, if at all, Longoria’s list factored into Tampa’s decision-making, though the Giants were one of the teams included. The Cardinals, another club linked to Longoria in trade rumors, were also on the third baseman’s list. Longoria said he felt a trade was coming after a talk with Rays GM Erik Neander two weeks before the Giants deal was completed.