- Mike Yastrzemski seems likely to get the first crack at the center field job for the Giants, relays Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area. That could give an opportunity for prospect Jaylin Davis, acquired last summer from the Twins, to stake a claim to a corner outfield spot. Yastrzemski was quite good for San Francisco in 2019, slashing .272/.334/.518 (121 wRC+) while serving primarily in the corner outfield, although he did start a pair of games in center. It’s an open question whether he can sustain that level of offensive production, considering he was previously an unheralded 28-year-old rookie. Steven Duggar’s also on hand and is a more natural fit in center defensively, but Pavlovic notes that he’s unlikely to have an everyday role. That’s not surprising, as Duggar owns a woeful .241/.286/.358 line (72 wRC+) over the past two seasons.
Although they’re coming off three straight sub-.500 campaigns, the Giants haven’t made any aggressive offseason moves to improve their chances in 2020. Their biggest additions have been a pair of potential bounce-back starting pitchers in Kevin Gausman and Drew Smyly. Both players, including Smyly on Thursday, joined the club on relatively low-risk one-year contracts.
With Gausman and Smyly in tow, what’s next for president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi, general manager Scott Harris and the Giants? Well, they’re not finished constructing their roster yet, Harris told Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle as a guest on the Giants Splash podcast.
As of now, San Francisco’s “actively working on a few different upgrades,” Harris revealed. Specifically, the Giants are “working really hard to add to our rotation” and “working hard to add some power and balance to our offense, both in the infield and in the outfield.”
Even after picking up their two new starters, questions abound in the Giants’ staff. Neither of those hurlers is a shoo-in to perform at a high level this year, nor is Tommy John surgery returnee Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija or anyone else in their rotation mix. Moreover, the Giants lost their longtime top starter, Madison Bumgarner, to the division-rival Diamondbacks in free agency, though Harris indicated San Francisco did at least attempt to re-sign the franchise icon. With Bumgarner among those off an ever-shrinking free-agent board, there’s little to nothing in the way of strong starters left on the open market.
Trades, whether they improve the Giants’ rotation or other areas, are still in play. Harris told Schulman they’re “talking to every team at least weekly now” about deals. Perhaps something will come together to better the Giants’ offense, which ranked 28th in runs and wRC+ last year and hasn’t gotten any significant help since then. They’re hoping for better things from well-compensated veterans such as Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford and Evan Longoria. When Schulman asked (without naming anyone in specific) if any of the Giants’ expensive vet hitters are part of trade talks with other teams, Harris said “not right now,” adding that the club wants “a healthy mix” of older and younger contributors.
While the Giants want to win as many games as possible in 2020 and could still make more moves in the coming weeks to increase their odds, they won’t do anything to disrupt their long-term chances. Harris’ hope is that the team will “strike the right balance” of contending now and in the future.
The Giants finalized their coaching staff with today’s announcements that Alyssa Nakken and Mark Hallberg have been hired as Major League assistant coaches. Nakken becomes the first woman to ever hold a coaching position on a big league team, after working for the Giants in various organizational roles since 2014. Hallberg, a former Diamondbacks minor leaguer, has coached in the Cape Cod League and spent the last two seasons as a coach and manager with the Giants’ short-season A-ball team.
4:16PM: Baggarly has the full breakdown (Twitter link) of Smyly’s available bonuses, including the note that Smyly can receive his $250K roster bonus if he spends 130 days on the active roster, not only if he makes the Giants’ Opening Day roster. Up to $3MM in incentives are available to Smyly based on the number of starts he makes, with at least 12 starts required to unlock his bonuses. $1MM in bonus money is available to Smyly as a reliever — $250K for 25 games finished and another $250K for 35 games finished, and $125K for reaching the 45-, 50-, 55-, and 60-game thresholds in terms of relief appearances.
2:55PM: Smyly will earn $4MM in guaranteed money, The Athletic’s Andrew Baggarly tweets, and can also receive a $250K roster bonus. More bonus money is available based on the number of starts Smyly makes, and also (intriguingly) the number of games he finishes, though Baggarly notes that the Giants plan to use Smyly as a starting pitcher.
1:12PM: The Giants have signed left-hander Drew Smyly, as per an announcement on the team’s Twitter feed. Smyly, a Frontline client, has been signed to a one-year contract. Righty Trevor Oaks has been designated for assignment to create space on San Francisco’s roster.
Smyly becomes the second veteran pitching addition of the winter for the Giants, who also inked Kevin Gausman to a one-year deal back in December. The Giants’ rotation mix now consists of Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija and Gausman as the top three, with Smyly, Tyler Anderson, and younger arms such as Logan Webb, Dereck Rodriguez, Tyler Beede, and Shaun Anderson all vying for starts.
Smyly is the most experienced of the latter bunch with 684 1/3 Major League innings to his name, though the 30-year-old spent 2019 just trying to shake off the rust after missing all of the 2017-18 seasons due to Tommy John surgery. The southpaw posted an 8.42 ERA over 51 1/3 innings with the Rangers before being released, and then briefly caught on with the Brewers and Phillies on minor league contracts.
It was in Philadelphia that Smyly again appeared on a big league mound and somewhat stabilized his performance, posting a 4.45 ERA, 9.8 K/9, and 3.24 K/BB rate over 62 2/3 innings (over 12 starts). Smyly drastically reduced his walks and homers over the course of the season, though his 1.9 HR/9 as a Phillie was still troublingly high, if an improvement over his ungainly 3.2 HR/9 in Texas. To say nothing of possible changes to the baseball for the 2020 season, a move to a more pitcher-friendly environment like Oracle Park should help Smyly keep his home run issues in check.
Now more than two and a half years removed from his Tommy John procedure, Smyly will be looking to get what was once a quite promising career back on track. Smyly posted a 3.24 ERA over his first 395 MLB innings from 2012-15 with the Tigers and Rays, and was a major part of the trade package sent to Tampa Bay for David Price in the summer of 2014. After a somewhat shaky 2016 campaign, however, Smyly was traded from the Rays to the Mariners in the 2016-17 offseason, and ended up never throwing a pitch in a Seattle uniform due to injury.
The Giants’ offseason has been a pretty quiet one, as the team continues to straddle the line between a rebuild and a full push towards contention. The Smyly signing fits the pattern of short-term, fairly inexpensive signings that president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has focused on (as well as a blizzard of waiver claims) since taking over San Francisco’s front office last winter. A bounce-back year from Smyly could make him a candidate to be flipped elsewhere at the trade deadline.
Oaks (who turns 27 in March) was claimed off waivers from the Royals in November. The groundball specialist made his MLB debut with 13 2/3 innings for Kansas City in 2018, though hip surgery sidelined him for the entire 2019 season. Oaks has a 3.26 ERA, 6.1 K/9, and 3.12 K/BB rate over 532 1/3 career minor league innings, starting 88 of 102 games.
Cozart never seemed particularly likely to see the field with the Giants, who have veterans Evan Longoria and Brandon Crawford locked in on the left side of the diamond and promising young Mauricio Dubon likely ticketed for regular reps at second base. San Francisco’s acquisition of the veteran Cozart, rather, was a pure means of buying 2019 first-round pick Will Wilson from the Angels. The Halos, eager to move the remaining $12.167MM on Cozart’s three-year contract, sent Wilson to the Giants as the Giants picked up the remaining tab on Cozart.
Cozart’s 2016-17 run with the Reds was excellent, albeit injury shortened, but his health troubles have escalated to new heights since signing with the Angels on a three-year, $38MM deal. While some missed time was always going to be likely given his track record, there was little reason to predict that he’d be limited to just 96 games over the first two seasons of the deal. Moreover, the .190/.261/.296 slash he posted in 360 plate appearances with the Halos registers as a shock, given his prior productivity in Cincinnati. Injuries have surely sapped some of his ability at the dish, but a decline of this magnitude was nonetheless difficult to foresee.
Once Cozart clears release waivers (a 48-hour process), he’ll become a free agent who can sign with any club for the prorated league minimum for any time spent in the big leagues. That sum would be subtracted from the $12.167MM the Giants are paying him next year, but the San Francisco organization will remain on the hook for the vast majority of Cozart’s contract.
The Giants have named former major league outfielder Pat Burrell as the hitting coach for their High-A affiliate in San Jose, the organization announced.
This is the latest in a growing line of roles with the Giants for the 43-year-old Burrell. He wrapped up his long playing career with the team from 2010-11, helping the Giants to a World Series title in the first of those seasons. Burrell eventually became a scout for the Giants, and “a well-regarded” one at that, Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area notes.
Before he finished his career as a member of the Giants, Burrell – the No. 1 pick in the 1998 draft – spent time with the Phillies and Rays. Although he struggled in Tampa Bay, where he played parts of two seasons, Burrell was a threat at the plate for the majority of his career. Pat the Bat will now pass on his hitting expertise to some of the young talent in the San Francisco organization.
The Giants announced Monday that they’ve claimed right-hander Jake Jewell off waivers from the Angels and designated infielder Zack Cozart for assignment to clear roster space. San Francisco acquired Cozart from the Angels earlier this winter, though it was obvious at the time that the trade was effectively a means of purchasing a prospect; the Giants took on the remainder of Cozart’s $12.167MM salary in order to land 2019 first-rounder Will Wilson from the Halos in that swap.
Jewell, 26, has yet to find big league success, as he’s served up 20 runs on 28 hits and eight walks with 23 strikeouts in 28 1/3 innings over parts of two seasons with the Angels. Control has been a persistent problem for the 6’3″, 200-pound righty, but scouting reports on him have praised him as possessing a plus fastball and slider. He’ll need to curb the walks and do a better job limiting long balls, but there’s some potential for him to emerge as a viable two-pitch reliever.
Cozart’s days in San Francisco were numbered from the start. The Giants have a full infield with Evan Longoria, Brandon Crawford, Mauricio Dubon and Brandon Belt all first in line for playing time around the diamond. Cozart’s 2016-17 run with the Reds was excellent, albeit injury shortened, but his health troubles have escalated to new heights since signing with the Angels on a three-year, $38MM deal. While some missed time was always going to be likely given his track record, there was little reason to predict that he’d be limited to just 96 games over the first two seasons of the deal.
Injuries haven’t helped Cozart’s productivity any, but the .190/.261/.296 slash he posted in 360 plate appearances with the Halos still registers as a shock, given his prior productivity in Cincinnati. He’ll surely be released within the week, at which point he’ll be free to sign with any club for nothing more than the league minimum (or, more likely, a minor league contract). The Giants will remain on the hook for the aforementioned $12.167MM he’s owed — minus the prorated league minimum for any time he spends in the big leagues with another team.
If you can believe it, sub-.500 teams comprised the majors’ five lowest-scoring offenses in 2019. With the offseason a couple months old and with most of the top free agents off the board, those teams have all had time to improve at the plate. But have they? Let’s take a look…
Detroit Tigers (582 runs, 77 wRC+)
- Among Tigers regulars, only outfielder Nicholas Castellanos (whom they traded to the Cubs in July) and fellow outfielder Victor Reyes posted league average or better numbers last season. But the non-contending club has at least made an effort to upgrade its offense this winter. The Tigers have signed first baseman C.J. Cron and second baseman Jonathan Schoop, who were members of the division-rival Twins last year, as well as ex-Yankees catcher Austin Romine. None of those players will strike fear in the hearts of the opposition, but they’re respectable contributors who should be vast improvements over the hitters the Tigers ran out in those spots in 2019.
Miami Marlins (615 runs, 79 wRC+)
- Like the Tigers, the Marlins have made a legitimate effort to get better this offseason. They’ve remade a good portion of their infield, where first baseman Jesus Aguilar and Jonathan Villar (who could play a super-utility role in 2020) are now aboard. Miami has also grabbed outfielder Corey Dickerson, who was the most productive offensive player of the trio last season. And former Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli, who was highly valuable in 2018 before concussions helped stall his career in 2019, is in the mix as a backup to Jorge Alfaro. The Marlins should still be a sub-.500 club in the upcoming season, but at least they’ve put in some work to step up on offense.
San Francisco Giants (678 runs, 83 wRC+)
- Aside from letting go of center fielder Kevin Pillar and deciding not to re-sign catcher Stephen Vogt or third baseman Pablo Sandoval, this has been a quiet offensive offseason for the Giants. Their projected lineup for 2020 includes nothing but familiar faces from last year. So, unless the likes of Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Evan Longoria and Brandon Crawford channel their younger selves next season, it could be another lean showing for the Giants.
San Diego Padres (682 runs, 88 wRC+)
- As far as spending on hitters goes, the Padres were one of the active teams in the game during the previous two offseasons. They added first baseman Eric Hosmer on an eight-year, $144MM guarantee two winters ago and third baseman Manny Machado on a 10-year, $300MM pact less than a year back. Neither decision has worked out all that well for the team thus far, and now it has taken a more modest approach. But that’s not to say the Padres have been silent. They picked up high-OBP outfielder Tommy Pham from the Rays, young OFer Trent Grisham from the Brewers and second baseman Jurickson Profar from the Athletics in separate trades. Pham’s the lone member of the trio who inspires much confidence at the plate, but the Padres are banking on all three to help them break a long playoff drought in 2020. And if the team has its druthers, it’ll find a taker via trade for outfielder Wil Myers, but his albatross contract (three years, $60MM) could prevent that from happening.
Kansas City Royals (691 runs, 84 wRC+)
- The Royals, who lost 207 games from 2018-19, have done little to nothing at the plate this offseason. Third baseman Maikel Franco, who failed to live up to the hype in Philadelphia, joined KC on an affordable contract. There hasn’t been much otherwise, though, and the Royals continue to await left fielder Alex Gordon’s decision on whether to retire. Even if Gordon sticks around, he hasn’t been a legit threat at the plate since 2015. Maybe catcher Sal Perez will provide an impact bat after sitting out all of 2019 because of Tommy John surgery?
The Giants have announced several of their non-roster invitees for 2020 Spring Training, thus revealing a few as-yet-unknown signings. Outfielder Joey Rickard is back after being non-tendered. He’ll be joined by hurlers Matt Carasiti and Sam Moll on minors deals.
Otherwise, the team’s tweets (pitchers / hitters) revealed a slate of preexisting minor-league signees and prospects. Of particular note is righty Andrew Triggs, who joined the organization late last season in search of a comeback, and recent top draft choices Sean Hjelle and Joey Bart.
Rickard is the best-known of the new additions. The 28-year-old, a former Rule 5 pick who stuck with the Orioles, landed in San Francisco via waiver claim last year. He’s just a .247/.301/.373 hitter in 978 MLB plate appearances, but did knock around Triple-A pitching last year with a .326/.404/.555 slash over 272 plate appearances.
As for the pitchers, both are 28 years of age, got their starts with the Rockies organization, and will be looking to return to the majors after brief prior action. The right-handed Carasiti got a few MLB appearances in 2019 with the Mariners but spent most of the year at Triple-A, working to a 3.53 ERA in 43 1/3 total Triple-A innings. Moll, a southpaw, returns to the San Francisco org after throwing 49 frames of 2.39 ERA ball with 9.9 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9 with the team’s top affiliate.
Now 28 years old, Heineman entered the pro ranks as an eighth-round pick of the Astros in 2012. The part-time magician has since been a part of the Brewers, Marlins and Diamondbacks organizations. Heineman owns a respectable .287/.353/.430 line in 1,004 plate appearances at the Triple-A level, where he has played almost all of the past few seasons and shown an ability to avoid strikeouts. And Heineman did debut in the majors last season with 12 plate trips to the plate in September as a member of the Marlins, but they outrighted him off their 40-man roster in the middle of October.
Heineman will now join a Giants roster whose starting catching job is taken by the venerable Buster Posey. They also have Aramis Garcia on their 40-man, while high-end prospect Joey Bart shouldn’t be too far off from the majors.