San Francisco Giants – MLB Trade Rumors 2018-03-24T12:10:47Z Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Madison Bumgarner Diagnosed With Fractured Finger]]> 2018-03-24T04:04:47Z 2018-03-23T23:10:58Z 6:33pm: Bumgarner has a displaced fracture in his fifth metacarpal (that is, his pinky), Baggarly reports (Twitter links). He’ll have surgery tomorow to place pins that will remain in place for four to six weeks. Once his finger is back in working order, of course, Bumgarner will need to build back up to a starter’s workload.

The hope at this point is that Bumgarner will be be able to return before the All-Star break, per Baggarly, who notes that there is a worthwhile comp to consider. Former Giants righty Ryan Volgelsong missed about 11 weeks with a similar injury back in 2013.

6:10pm: Giants ace Madison Bumgarner has been diagnosed with a fractured left hand after being struck on the hand by a batted ball today, the club announced and Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic was among those to report on Twitter. Details on his anticipated absence are not known, but this is clearly a devastating injury for a player and team that were hoping for a major rebound from a disappointing 2018 season.

The 28-year-old Bumgarner has been one of the game’s preeminent workhorses ever since he took to the big league mound. Between 2011 and 2016, he never made less than 31 starts, threw fewer than 201 1/3 innings, or finished a season with an earned run average above 3.37. Over the past three seasons of that run, he took the ball 99 times and racked up 662 1/3 frames of 2.88 ERA ball. And that’s all before taking into account his legendary postseason efforts.

That all changed early last year, when Bumgarner was injured in a dirt bike accident. But he still made it back in time to finish the year with 111 innings of 3.32 ERA pitching on his ledger. And it seems fair to say that he has looked himself this spring. In his first five Cactus League starts, Bumgarner racked up 27 strikeouts against just three walks while allowing six earned over 19 frames.

In the aggregate, it seemed that the lost first half of the 2017 campaign might end up as little more than a blip on the radar for MadBum, a burly lefty who has long been a paragon of strength on the mound. While his shoulder does not appear to be a significant cause of concern moving forward, though, he’ll now have to work back from another injury.

As noted above, it’s impossible to say at this point how long the Giants will go without Bumgarner. The specifics of the injury, along with the course of treatment, could presumably result in a variety of scenarios. And he’ll clearly need to rebuild his pitch count before going full-bore at the game’s highest level. Position players frequently are able to return from this general sort of injury without terribly lengthy absences — less than six weeks in some cases — but perhaps it could take somewhat longer than usual for a hurler who suffered a fracture to his pitching hand. Regardless, we’ll need to await further word before any kind of timeline is available.

The news comes on the heels of the loss of another key starter, Jeff Samardzija, to open the season. Skipper Bruce Bochy said today that Samardzija is likely to miss something on the order of three to four weeks, as Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets. That knocks out two of the team’s top three starters on the cusp of Opening Day.

As things stand, San Francisco is going to trot out a roster that features Johnny Cueto at the top of the rotation, followed by non-roster invitee Derek Holland and relatively unproven hurlers Chris Stratton and Ty Blach. There are some intriguing young talents that could conceivably take the fifth starter’s spot, once it’s needed, but the club will no doubt be on the look for outside additions. Of course, the luxury tax tightrope walk that the Giants have attempted this winter — which is why they shipped out a notable depth piece in Matt Moore — is going to make it hard to find any kind of impactful arm.

Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Giants Release Andres Blanco]]> 2018-03-23T19:27:11Z 2018-03-23T19:19:21Z The Giants have released infielder Andres Blanco, as Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Twitter links). He had been in camp on a minor-league deal.

With that decision, it seems the Giants have narrowed their utility infield competition down to two finalists among the in-house options. Kelby Tommlinson, who can still be optioned, is still under consideration along with non-roster invitee Josh Rutledge.

Blanco, a 33-year-old switch-hitter, only ended up taking 22 plate appearances this spring owing to injury. While he sported a .409 OBP in his limited action, he never really got into the competition.

Though he’s not likely to find a team willing to open an active roster spot for the start of the season, Blanco certainly ought to draw interest on minor-league arrangements. He has experience all over the infield and has had his moments at the plate. Though he had a poor season with the stick last year, Blanco posted a .274/.337/.457 slash over 523 plate appearances between 2014 and 2016.

Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Jeff Samardzija Suffers Pec Injury, Will Begin Season On DL]]> 2018-03-23T11:58:16Z 2018-03-23T11:58:34Z TODAY: Samardzija’s MRI revealed only a strained pectoral muscle, Andrew Baggarly writes in an updated piece.  The right-hander will be rested for 10 days, according to Giants skipper Bruce Bochy, so a DL stint still looks imminent.

YESTERDAY: The Giants are concerned that right-hander Jeff Samardzija may have a shoulder injury according to reports. Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle was among the first to tweet the news. There’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding the situation, but “Shark” had an MRI today and is undergoing further examination on his throwing shoulder. Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic tweets that it’s “pretty clear he will begin the season on the DL.”

We’re still awaiting further news on the subject (including the actual results of the MRI itself), but the absence of Samardzija for any significant portion of the season would prove a huge blow to a Giants club that was expected to contend this season following an offseason overhaul of a roster that lost 98 games in 2017. Baggarly tweets that left-handed non-roster invite Derek Holland is an option to replace him in the rotation. Baggarly also adds that the team is unlikely to pursue any free agents at this point, as Bruce Bochy says the team is looking at internal options.

That would leave just Holland, Ty Blach and Chris Stratton as the club’s feasible options behind mainstays Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto. It’s also worth noting that the club has Tyler Beede (ranked the organization’s fourth-best prospect) set to begin the season at Triple-A. If the club were to explore free agents, they’d be parsing through a thin crop of remaining starters that includes Scott Feldman and Ubaldo Jimenez among the top remaining options.

The Giants were likely expecting another workhorse performance from the 33-year-old Samardzija, who’s one of just two pitchers in all of major league baseball to have thrown at least 200 innings in each of the past five seasons (the other being Max Scherzer). During that span, he’s put up a 4.10 ERA, and his 3.68 xFIP actually indicates that he’s pitched quite a bit better than that. He’s also struck out 8.09 batters per nine innings while limiting walks to just 2.18 per nine.

Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Giants' Chris Shaw Settling Into Left Field]]> 2018-03-19T05:02:35Z 2018-03-19T02:12:27Z On a day when the Arenado brothers (Nolan and Jonah) were on opposite sites of a Rockies/Giants Spring Training tilt, here are some items from around the NL West…

  • A year after a surprising position switch, Chris Shaw is hoping to eventually crack the majors as a left fielder, Kerry Crowley of the Bay Area News Group writes.  The Giants already had Brandon Belt at first base, so with Shaw’s natural position blocked, the club began to deploy Shaw in left field as a way of finding a place in the lineup for his intriguing power bat.  Shaw was San Francisco’s first-round pick (31st overall) in the 2015 draft and is ranked as the second-best prospect in the team’s farm system by both and Baseball America, making him a key part of the Giants’ future.  It wouldn’t be surprising to see Shaw make his Major League debut sometime in 2018, with a potential starting job awaiting him in 2019 if Hunter Pence isn’t re-signed.
Steve Adams <![CDATA[Giants Notes: Suarez, Cabrera Retirement]]> 2018-03-15T14:25:31Z 2018-03-15T14:21:47Z Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic breaks down the race for some open spots in the Diamondbacks’ bullpen, noting that minor league signee Fernando Salas has outperformed the rest of the competition in terms of pure results. The eight-year veteran has tossed 6 2/3 shutout frames with a 6-to-1 K/BB ratio this spring, though competitors Neftali Feliz, Michael Blazek and Rule 5 pickup Albert Suarez (from the Giants) have all pitched well. Piecoro notes that there appear to be two or three spots up for grabs due to the fact that right-hander Randall Delgado is likely ticketed for the disabled list to open the year because of a left oblique injury. Piecoro also checks in on injured righty Shelby Miller, who had positive reports following a bullpen session and could return from Tommy John surgery in June or July.

One more item of note from Piecoro is that because Suarez has been previously outrighted off a 40-man roster in his career, the D-backs wouldn’t have to offer him back to the Giants if he clears waivers; he could instead elect free agency.

  • Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic reports that Giants outfield prospect Gustavo Cabrera has elected to retire (Twitter links). As Baggarly chronicled in a harrowing story for the San Jose Mercury News in March 2016, Cabrera could have lost his right hand at 17. Then a vaunted prospect who had received a $1.3MM signing bonus a year prior, Cabrera was simply bracing his hand on a glass table as he bent to pick up a spilled glass of water, but he slipped on the wet floor and sent his arm crashing through the table, severing nerves and causing catastrophic damage. Baggarly details the frantic process of saving Cabrera’s limb and his ultimate return to the baseball field in a must-read story. As for Cabrera’s decision to retire, Baggarly notes that the physical challenges simply became too much for his reconstructed wrist/hand. He adds that while the Giants do have a recourse to claim a portion of that $1.3MM bonus due to Cabrera’s early retirement, the organization has no plans to do so. Best wishes to Cabrera in his post-playing days.
Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Offseason In Review: San Francisco Giants]]> 2018-03-23T18:27:38Z 2018-03-12T13:41:41Z This is the latest entry in MLBTR’s 2017-18 Offseason In Review series.  Click here to read the other completed reviews from around the league.

It may take some time for baseball fans to adjust to Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen in different uniforms, but the Giants are hoping that these two veteran stars can help erase the memory of an ugly 2017 campaign at AT&T Park.

Major League Signings

  • Tony Watson, RP: Two years, $9MM (includes a $2.5MM player option for 2020 that has a $500K buyout)
  • Austin Jackson, OF: Two years, $6MM
  • Nick Hundley, C: One year, $2.5MM
  • Total spend: $17.5MM

Trades And Claims

Notable Minor League Signings

Notable Losses

Giants 25-Man Roster & Minor League Depth Chart; Giants Payroll Overview

Needs Addressed

No team received less from its outfielders (to the tune of a cumulative 0.8 fWAR and -2.5 bWAR) in 2017 than the Giants, so it was no surprise that San Francisco was connected in rumors to just about every outfielder available in free agency or trade talks.  The major prize ended up being McCutchen, as the longtime Pirates icon was acquired for a pair of notable-but-not-elite prospects (Kyle Crick and Bryan Reynolds), $500K in international bonus pool money and the Giants’ willingness to absorb $12.25MM of McCutchen’s $14.75MM salary in 2018.

Andrew McCutchen

McCutchen’s declining defensive numbers as a center fielder won’t be an issue, as the Giants have already announced that the former NL MVP will be the everyday right fielder.  (Pittsburgh also intended to deploy McCutchen in right field last season before Starling Marte’s suspension forced McCutchen back into regular center field duty.)  The position change should better suit McCutchen’s defensive skillset at this stage of his career, and his bat already made a nice rebound in 2017 after a very disappointing 2016 season.  McCutchen is also scheduled to hit free agency next winter, so while the Giants gave up a significant amount for just one year of his services, the club also has the freedom to pursue a longer-term solution if it so chooses after the season.

The outfield depth chart received another boost in the form of Austin Jackson, coming off an outstanding (though quite possibly BABIP-fueled) 318 plate appearances for the Indians last season.  Jackson is currently penciled in for the bulk of time in center field, though he could shift into a general fourth outfielder role if rookie Steven Duggar wins himself a roster spot in Spring Training. Denard Span, the Giants’ regular center fielder for the past two seasons, is no longer an option after being dealt to Tampa Bay (in a salary offset situation) as part of San Francisco’s other blockbuster deal of the offseason.

Longoria will look to stabilize a third base position that has become another problem area for the Giants, with former third baseman-of-the-future Christian Arroyo serving as the prospect centerpiece of the deal with the Rays.  There are certainly some questions surrounding the Longoria trade, as we’ll cover later. The Giants will no doubt be happy if the veteran can at least replicate his 2017 performance (2.5 fWAR, 3.6 bWAR).

Of course, all of that took place against the backdrop of a tough balancing effort of making hefty roster upgrades while staying below the $197MM luxury tax threshold.  With Longoria and McCutchen’s hefty salaries joining the ledger, the Giants found payroll space by unloading Span to the Rays, and also by trading Matt Moore and his $9.75MM to the Rangers.

Some more payroll creativity was required to sign southpaw Tony Watson, whose two-year deal only officially guarantees $9MM over three years (if he exercises a player option for the 2020 season) but also allows him to earn more than twice that number by reaching various incentive clauses.  Watson is coming off a bit of a down year by his standards, though given the size of other reliever contracts on the open market this year, he may prove to be a nice bargain for the Giants.  Ultimately, like many teams this offseason, the Giants weren’t too active in free agency, only making modest agreements with Watson, Jackson, and backup catcher Nick Hundley.

Notable moves also took place off the field in San Francisco.  President of baseball operations Brian Sabean is again taking more of a hands-on role in the front office’s day-to-day moves, while several long-time coaches were shifted either to new coaching duties or into front office roles.

Questions Remaining

Of all the outfielders linked to the Giants, the most notable was Giancarlo Stanton, and the Giants were deep in talks with the Marlins about a trade that would’ve seen the Giants reportedly covering some or all of the $295MM on Stanton’s contract.  While both the Giants and Cardinals submitted offers to Miami’s liking, however, Stanton wasn’t willing to waive his no-trade protection to join either team, eventually approving a deal to the Yankees.

Needless to say, adding Stanton would’ve completely changed the Giants’ plans.  The club would’ve had less salary flexibility and might well have abandoned its plan to get under the competitive balance tax entirely.  While one can certainly argue that McCutchen and Longoria at two positions make for more of a help than Stanton at one position, a Giants team with Stanton in right field plus some prospects (Arroyo, Crick, etc.) still bolstering an already-thin farm system and a willingness to exceed the luxury tax threshold might’ve been better positioned to address remaining needs.  Rather than add Longoria for the long term and McCutchen for the short term, would the Giants have been better off with Stanton as the long-term asset and a third baseman like Todd Frazier (who only found a two-year deal with the Mets) as a shorter-term answer? That was certainly the team’s preference, but it wasn’t able to convince the superstar to come to San Francisco.

On the other hand, that aforementioned lack of prospect depth could’ve also been the reason why the Giants weren’t able to swing deals for other notable outfielders on the market, like Christian Yelich or Marcell Ozuna.  The Giants also weren’t keen on the idea of giving up a draft pick as compensation for signing a free agent who rejected a qualifying offer, such as Lorenzo Cain (who could’ve solved the center field hole), given the organization’s strong placement in the 2018 draft.  Given both of these factors, the McCutchen trade looks like a solid move for San Francisco, assuming that 2016 truly was just an aberration for McCutchen.

Evan LongoriaLongoria’s situation, though, is a bit more complicated. His 2017 season, which ended with a .261/.313/.424 slash line, represented the first campaign in which he graded a below-average run creator (96) in Fangraphs’ wRC+ metric.  He also hit more grounders and fewer fly balls than any other season in his ten-year career.  While still a durable player and a good defender, Longoria could very well be on the decline as he enters his age-32 season.  Though the Rays added some money in the trade, the Giants still owe Longoria $73.5MM over the next five seasons, making him yet another high-priced veteran on the San Francisco roster who is looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2017.  He is something of an odd fit on a team that entered the winter looking to theoretically get younger and cheaper, though the Giants have traditionally been open to adding experienced players and, if anything, feel veteran players may be underrated in the current baseball marketplace.

Though outfield defense was a priority for the team, the planned alignment of McCutchen in right field, Jackson in center and Hunter Pence in left represents only a moderate improvement; while McCutchen should help in right, Jackson’s defensive metrics as a center fielder have been at best mixed for several years.  Duggar is widely regarded as a strong defender and he has some strong hitting and on-base numbers in the minors, though he hasn’t had much Triple-A (or even Double-A) playing time.  A jump to the big leagues might be a reach unless the Giants are willing to accept Duggar as strictly a glove-only player in the early going.  Gorkys Hernandez, Austin Slater, or minor league signing Gregor Blanco could also see time in center field, though none are optimal options. Presumably, McCutchen could get the occasional start in a pinch.

Moore suffered through a very rough 2017 season, so the Giants may have felt the $9.75MM ticketed for the left-hander was better utilized elsewhere rather than hoping that Moore could rebound.  His departure, however, leaves the team with a lot of inexperienced pitchers battling for two rotation spots rather than one.  Ty Blach and Chris Stratton are the favorites to be the fourth and fifth starters, with rookies Tyler Beede, Andrew Suarez, Tyler Herb, Joan Gregorio also in the mix, and veterans Derek Holland and Chris Heston in camp on minor league contracts.

Were the Giants not already so close to the $197MM tax threshold, another veteran starter (even a mid-tier name, not of the Jake Arrieta/Lance Lynn/Alex Cobb class) would be a big help, though a price fit simply doesn’t seem possible unless the Giants could move salary elsewhere.  With this payroll crunch in mind, the Giants were surely disappointed to fall short in their pursuit of Shohei Ohtani, as San Francisco was one of seven finalists for the Japanese two-way star before he eventually signed with the Angels.

Watson ended up being the only significant addition to a bullpen that struggled overall last year, though a healthy Mark Melancon would go a long way towards improving matters.  The plethora of young starters that miss out on the rotation battle could also provide some further depth behind Melancon, Watson, Sam Dyson, Hunter Strickland, Cory Gearrin, and Steven Okert.  Rule 5 draft pick Julian Fernandez is also in the mix but a total wild card, as he has never pitched above the A-ball level.  Veteran lefty Will Smith is targeted to return in May or June after undergoing Tommy John surgery almost a year ago.


While the Giants are clearly planning to contend in 2018, this season could also serve as something of a bridge year for the franchise.  Come next winter, the Giants will have McCutchen and Pence off the books, be free of a recurring luxury tax penalty, and be positioned exceed the threshold in pursuit of expensive free agents (such as Bryce Harper?) or trade chips.  By then, the club should also have more of an idea of what it has in younger talents like Blach, Stratton, and Duggar, or even more-established players like Joe Panik.  The Giants may also have advanced further in extension talks with ace Madison Bumgarner. A total rebuild doesn’t seem likely even in the event of another 98-loss season, though the Giants would surely look to move some veterans at the trade deadline.

Despite this uncertainty, San Francisco still went ahead to further bolster its veteran core, and Longoria and McCutchen should provide quite a bit more value than Span and Moore did last season (or are likely to provide this season).  The Giants have left themselves with very little luxury tax room to maneuver for upgrades at the trade deadline, though the team still has its upper crust of prospects — Heliot Ramos, Beede, Chris Shaw — to offer if a big acquisition is required.

Rather than the start of a decline period for a veteran team, 2017 could potentially be seen as simply a perfect storm of fluke injuries (especially Bumgarner’s) and subpar performances — if, at least, the team’s veterans can return to their 2016 form.  Between McCutchen, Longoria, and the low-cost free agent signings, the Giants might have filled all the holes they need to fill, provided some of their younger players can step up.

What’s your take on the Giants’ winter?  (Link for app users.)

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

Jeff Todd <![CDATA[NL West Notes: Samardzija, Padres, Rockies]]> 2018-03-03T07:28:45Z 2018-03-03T07:28:45Z Giants righty Jeff Samardzija held an interesting chat with’s Jon Morosi. In large part, it’s a lengthy discussion of Samardzija’s multi-sport background and decision to pursue baseball professionally — which, he says, was driven more by interest than any considerations of the health implications of playing in the NFL. The San Francisco hurler likens the game of baseball to a “big painting you put together” and hints he could still have some masterpieces in his brush. He also suggests he’s not yet thinking about the end: “Where’s the end of the wick? Who knows? Let’s find out. That’s the fun of it all.”

More from the NL West:

  • As the Padres consider roster options, the club is looking to squeeze some added utility out of certain players. Infielder Christian Villanueva, in particular, will be tried out as a backup option at short, per’s AJ Cassavell (via Twitter). The 26-year-old, who’s out of options, has played all of 14 innings at short as a professional. But after he posted a .296/.369/.528 slash at Triple-A last year, the Pads seem to be looking for ways to hang onto Villanueva.
  • In other Padres news, the organization is seeing promising signs from injured hurlers Robbie Erlin and Colin Rea, per Cassavell. The Tommy John recoverees are certainly interesting players to watch this spring, as both have shown their talent at times in the past. Erlin, it’s worth noting, is well ahead of Rea in the rehab process, though both are well over a year removed from their procedures. Both are part of a long list of pitching possibilities in Padres camp, as reflected in the current organizational depth chart over at Roster Resource.
  • It seems one area of focus this spring for the Rockies is finding a way to swipe a few more bags. As Nick Groke of the Denver Post reports, the club is particularly interested to see whether the fleet-footed Raimel Tapia can learn to translate his speed into stolen bases. Just as interesting as the efforts on the bases, it seems there’s at least some hope that Tapia could hold down a spot at the top of the lineup. That seems a bit of a questionable fit, as the young outfielder doesn’t walk much and is therefore quite reliant upon maintaining a lofty batting average on balls in play to get on base. While lineup construction is hardly the most consequential issue facing the Rox, it seems worth noting that second baseman DJ LeMahieu has led the club in OBP in each of the past two seasons and would seem to be a sensible fit in the leadoff spot.
Steve Adams <![CDATA[Williamson Working With Revamped Swing]]> 2018-03-01T04:43:41Z 2018-03-01T04:43:41Z
  • Giants outfielder Mac Williamson spent the offseason working with private hitting instructor Doug Latta, whose most prominent success story is Justin Turner, writes Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area. Williamson spoke with Pavlovic about the changes he’s made to his swing, including the lowering of his hands and incorporation of a larger leg kick. Giants staff members have tried to get Williamson to lift the ball with more regularity in the past, Pavlovic notes, but he’s still posted an ugly 56.6 percent ground-ball rate in his career despite owning a fair bit of raw power. Pavlovic adds that Williamson is likely ticketed for Triple-A, which isn’t a huge surprise given the presence of Andrew McCutchen, Hunter Pence, Austin Jackson and two out-of-options teammates in Jarrett Parker and Gorkys Hernandez.
  • ]]>
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Crasnick On Giants' Offseason Strategy]]> 2018-02-24T04:51:46Z 2018-02-24T04:43:25Z
  •’s Jerry Crasnick checks in on Giants camp, discussing the veteran-heavy unit that will try to engineer a dramatic turnaround following a moribund 2017 effort. Executive VP of baseball operations Brian Sabean discussed in broad terms the fact that the team’s offseason strategy involved bringing in established players whose best days are likely in the past. He suggests that many supremely talented players ought to be able to thrive even as they move out of their prime years. “I don’t think the industry gives itself enough credit with the initiatives we’ve taken with sports science, rest and recovery, nutrition, offseason conditioning, in-season conditioning, the new off days built into the schedule and the new ways to travel that are more elite and more first class,” explains Sabean. While moves for Andrew McCutchen, Evan Longoria, and others were surely made in part because they allowed the club to add proven performers while staying below the luxury tax line, it does seem the San Francisco organization believes that some of its competitors may be a bit too fixated on age. Some of the newly added and preexisting veterans echo that sentiment; there’s plenty more of interest to unpack in the article.
  • ]]>
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Giants Outright Joan Gregorio]]> 2018-02-23T03:53:01Z 2018-02-23T03:50:41Z
  • Righty Joan Gregorio has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A by the Giants, per Kerry Crowley of the Bay Area News Group (via Twitter). The 26-year-old was once regarded as a quality prospect but needs to regain his trajectory after a 2017 season marred by a PED suspension. He did work to a 3.04 ERA in 74 Triple-A innings over 13 starts, but managed only 7.4 K/9 against 4.3 BB/9 on the year.
  • ]]>
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Giants, Bumgarner Have Mutual Interest In Extension; No Talks Yet]]> 2018-02-22T05:47:00Z 2018-02-22T05:47:00Z
  • The Giants and Madison Bumgarner have mutual interest in working out an extension eventually, GM Bobby Evans told MLB Network’s Jon Morosi on SiriusXM radio (Twitter link). However, Evans also noted that the two sides aren’t presently in active negotiations on a new deal, nor is there a timeline to begin those talks. Spring Training is typically the prime time for teams to discuss long-term pacts and extensions with their players, though, so it stands to reason that the Giants will be in touch with Bumgarner’s reps at the Legacy Agency over the next few weeks. San Francisco doesn’t necessarily need to feel a rush to extend the 28-year-old Bumgarner, who can be controlled through 2019 as it is, but working out a long-term deal next spring when he’s just a year from the open market could prove difficult. Bumgarner is earning $12MM in 2018, and the Giants have a $12MM club option on his 2019 season as well.
  • ]]>
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Minor MLB Transactions: 2/21/18]]> 2018-02-21T20:36:57Z 2018-02-21T20:36:57Z We’ll track the day’s minor moves in this post:

    • The Braves outrighted right-hander Mauricio Cabrera, who has cleared waivers, per David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (via Twitter). Atlanta will surely be glad to hold onto the fireballing reliever, who could be an intriguing piece of the late-inning unit if he’s able to get a hold of his arsenal. Cabrera’s control evaporated in 2017 but he did carry a 2.82 ERA in 38 1/3 MLB innings in the prior season.
    • Lefty Manny Parra is joining the Giants on a minors deal, per SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (Twitter link). The 35-year-old struggled quite a bit in limited action last year at Triple-A with the Cubs and sat out for all of 2016. Still, he was a useful reliever as recently as 2015, when he threw 32 1/3 innings of 3.90 ERA ball. Once a starter with the Brewers, Parra’s best years came as a pen piece for the Reds — including a strong 2013 campaign in which he worked to a 3.33 ERA with 11.0 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9.
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[West Notes: Rockies, Giants, Lewis]]> 2018-02-20T16:01:47Z 2018-02-20T16:01:47Z After making several bullpen moves and addressing their catching situation, the Rockies have had a quiet run-up to camp. It has long been wondered, though, whether the organization might yet add another player, particularly given the ongoing lack of clarity at first base. Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post reports on the state of affairs as camp opens. Ian Desmond says he has been left with the impression he’s “mostly” going to be utilized in left field, seemingly leaving youngster Ryan McMahon with the inside track to commanding regular time at first. But the market still includes quite a few other possibilities, so it certainly seems premature to count the club out from another move. Saunders notes that the Rox have not had recent discussions with Mark Reynolds, it’s worth noting. Perhaps it is also still possible to imagine the addition of an outfielder, with Desmond then being asked to slide back to first, though it’s all still guesswork at this point.

    Here are some more links from the western divisions:

    • With so much trade chatter surrounding the Giants over the winter, several players now in camp with the organization saw their names circulated in rumors over the winter. Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle discusses the winter of uncertainty with second baseman Joe Panik and a few other players. As for Panik, a phone call from GM Bobby Evans in the midst of the Giancarlo Stanton saga helped put his mind to ease, though he also notes that he and his wife would have been devastated to leave San Francisco and the Giants organization.
    • Mariners prospect Kyle Lewis recently underwent an unexpected second knee surgery, as Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reports. The hope is that the 22-year-old, who was taken 11th in the 2016 draft, will be ready to begin preparing for the season in earnest before the end of April. GM Jerry Dipoto emphasized that this particular surgery is only a clean-up, expressed some hope that it’ll be “the final step to getting him healthy,” and credited Lewis for his hard work. Of course, it’s also the latest in a long line of problems with the joint, as Divish documents in a post that’s essential reading for fans of the Seattle organization.
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Giants Sign Tony Watson]]> 2018-02-19T23:59:01Z 2018-02-19T23:55:55Z FEBRUARY 19: Watson is officially a member of the Giants. He will earn $3MM in 2018 and $3.5MM in 2019 before considering a $2.5MM player option ($500K buyout) for 2020, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today (Twitter link).

    FEBRUARY 17: The Giants have reportedly agreed to a two-year deal with free-agent lefty Tony Watson that includes a player option for a third season. Watson is represented by the Boras Corporation.

    Watson receives a $9MM guarantee, but it’s far from certain that he’ll end up earning precisely that amount. His total earnings could increase to $14MM over two years or $21MM for three years, depending on escalators and performance bonuses. Of course, Watson could also elect to return to the open market and leave some of the guaranteed money on the table.


    [RELATED: Updated Giants Depth Chart]

    The complicated structure will allow the Giants to stay shy of the luxury line, at least for the time being. Despite having had only limited availability at this stage of the winter, the San Francisco organization was able to fit another veteran piece as they seek to engineer a dramatic turnaround from a ghastly 2017 performance.

    Watson.Tony (5)

    Watson, who’ll turn 33 at the end of May, has long been a productive late-inning reliever, though he has also long outperformed his peripherals. It seemed he was fading a bit during a less-than-stellar first half of the 2017 season with the Pirates. But Watson finished strong after being dealt to the Dodgers and ended 2017 with a 3.38 ERA over 66 2/3 frames.

    Rather remarkably, that quality run prevention effort matched the worst full-season earned run average of Watson’s career. Over his seven campaigns and 453 innings in the majors, Watson carries an excellent 2.68 ERA with 7.9 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9. He also has ample late-inning experience, including thirty saves.

    Watson got much better results after changing uniforms, though it’s not crystal clear just what changed. He tweaked his horizontal release point, shifted toward his two-seamer and away from his slider, and started working higher in the zone with his fastballs. The bottom line remains that he brings 94 mph and a ~12% swinging-strike rate from the left side.

    Regardless, the main question probably remains whether skipper Bruce Bochy will deploy Watson more as a general setup man in front of former Pittsburgh teammate Mark Melancon, or whether instead he’ll use the southpaw in a more targeted fashion against opposing lefties. Righties tagged Watson for a .271/.348/.460 slash last year and have long found greater success against him than their left-handed-hitting counterparts.

    Jon Heyman and Robert Murray Fan Rag reported the signing (Twitter link). Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic tweeted the structure, while Jerry Crasnick of had the guarantee (via Twitter). 

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Giants Designate Joan Gregorio For Assignment]]> 2018-02-19T21:49:47Z 2018-02-19T21:49:47Z The Giants have designated right-hander Joan Gregorio for assignment to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Tony Watson, whose contract with San Francisco is now official (Twitter link via Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area).

    Gregorio, 26, has yet to reach the Majors and missed the second half of the 2017 season in Triple-A due to a PED suspension. Prior to that, he’d pitched to a 3.04 ERA with 7.4 K/9, 4.3 BB/9 and a 32.5 percent ground-ball rate in 74 innings of work there. Overall, Gregorio has a 4.37 ERA in 181 1/3 innings at the Triple-A level. Gregorio was, at one point, a mainstay on Giants’ prospect rankings, topping out at No. 7 among their farmhands in the 2016-17 offseason, per Baseball America. BA noted that he had an average fastball and slider with an improving changeup but questionable command, pointing to a potential shift to the ’pen.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Tim Lincecum Reportedly Has Guaranteed Contract Offer]]> 2018-02-19T19:34:59Z 2018-02-19T19:34:59Z Around two thirds of the league reportedly had at least one scout on hand at Tim Lincecum’s showcase last week, and SB Nation’s Grant Brisbee reports that one club came away with a favorable enough impression to offer Lincecum a guaranteed, Major League deal. That team is not the Giants, Brisbee adds, noting that the presence of a big league contract offer for Lincecum likely eliminates the chances of a reunion with his original team.

    Among the teams that were reported to be in attendance at Lincecum’s showcase (in addition to the Giants) were the Rangers, Phillies, Dodgers, Twins, Tigers, Orioles, Yankees, Red Sox, Brewers, Padres, Braves, Mariners and Cardinals. The Mets reportedly did not attend. Texas and San Francisco were said to be impressed by Lincecum’s showing, via Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area and Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. (The Rangers have been stockpiling affordable pitching depth.) The Yankees reportedly thought he looked “fine,” per NJ Advance Media’s Brendan Kuty.

    An NL scout told the Seattle Times’ Ryan Divish that Lincecum’s breaking ball had a better shape than in recent years but questioned whether he had a true out pitch. Lincecum’s fastball velocity was widely reported be sitting in the 90-92 mph range, which would be a marked improvement from the 87 mph he averaged with his fastball in an ill-fated run with the Angels during his 2016 comeback bid.

    At this point, it’s been more than a half decade since Lincecum was an above-average big league contributor, when he logged a pristine 2.74 ERA in more than 200 innings for the 2011 Giants. Since that time, he’s mustered just a 4.94 ERA in 654 Major League frames, battling through injuries, diminished velocity and diminished control as his home-run rate spiked.

    Given those struggles and his absence from baseball entirely in 2017, it’s a bit surprising that someone would offer a 40-man roster spot and the promise of a guaranteed salary. The now-33-year-old certainly isn’t devoid of any upside, especially relative to the cost of acquisition, but a return as an upper-echelon pitcher is a decisive long shot.

    Lincecum does have some name value with fans, though, and perhaps he could ultimately come back as a mid-rotation piece or an interesting reliever if he can sustain the low-90s velocity he reportedly displayed at last week’s workout. (He had some success pitching with similar velocity earlier this decade.) Any big league deal he signs would presumably contain a minimal guarantee and significant incentives based on his number of appearances (either games started or relief appearances, dependent on his role) and innings totals.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Mark Melancon Helped Giants Reel In Tony Watson]]> 2018-02-18T20:49:45Z 2018-02-18T20:49:45Z
  • The friendship relievers Mark Melancon and Tony Watson forged during their time together in Pittsburgh from 2013-16 helped the Giants land Watson, Kerry Crowley of the Mercury News writes. Melancon explained Saturday that he had been trying to recruit Watson since last fall, saying: “I think I did, I’ve been pitching at him for the entire offseason and even prior to that. When he was in LA, I was like, ‘We need you over here now.’ So since September of last year I think.” Now that he’s teammates again with Watson, Melancon “couldn’t be more ecstatic.”
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Giants Impressed With Tim Lincecum's Showcase]]> 2018-02-27T20:56:07Z 2018-02-17T19:07:03Z Both the Giants and Rangers came away impressed after watching free agent right-hander Tim Lincecum’s showcase on Thursday, per reports from Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area and Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Unsurprisingly, Giants brass has a fondness for Lincecum stemming from his mostly incredible run with the franchise from 2007-15. On whether they’ll try to reunite with Lincecum, general manager Bobby Evans said: “It’s up to the competition of what clubs are bidding on him, and I can’t speak to that yet. It’s early. We obviously are all rooting for Timmy. Selfishly, anything he does, we would love for it to be in a Giants uniform, but sometimes opportunities on the business side dictate otherwise. But we’re always rooting for him.” The Rangers, meanwhile, are likely to continue pursuing the 33-year-old, according to Grant.

    • The Rockies have shown some interest in re-signing first baseman Mark Reynolds since last season ended, yet the 34-year-old remains on the open market. Reynolds told Bill Ladson of that he doesn’t know why he’s still unsigned, but he’s continuing to hope for a return to the Rockies after playing with them from 2016-17. “It would be my first choice. It was a great situation. I was good there the last two years,” said Reynolds, who combined to hit .274/.354/.471 during those seasons. “It’s something that I felt was a great fit. But I can’t control what they are thinking. I played there to prove that I’m very capable of playing at that level. … But the Rockies are a good fit, and they are a playoff team and that’s something I’m factoring in my decision as well.” The Reynolds-less Rockies do have in-house first base options on hand in prospect Ryan McMahon and utilityman Ian Desmond.
    • Rangers infielder Jurickson Profar hasn’t developed as hoped since his days as a top prospect, and now that he’s out of minor league options, he could be in another uniform soon. Profar hopes that’s not the case. “I know this team loves me a lot, and I love them,” the 24-year-old said (via Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram). “I’m ready to help them win. I just want to play and help the team win. I know I can do it.” Profar was a non-factor last season in Texas, where he hit .172/.294/.207 over a small sample of 70 plate appearances. Left field was Profar’s main position with the Rangers in 2017, but they’re only planning to use him in the infield this spring, per Wilson. He’ll have difficulty carving out a regular role, though, with Joey Gallo (first base), Rougned Odor (second), Elvis Andrus (short) and Adrian Beltre (third) entrenched as starters.
    • Rockies outfielder Gerardo Parra underwent surgery on the broken hamate bone in his right hand last Friday and could miss four to six weeks, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post reports. While Parra is “going to be fine,” according to manager Bud Black, Saunders notes that his injury could open the door for David Dahl to steal a starting spot in right field. Dahl came on the scene in impressive fashion as a rookie in 2016, but a rib cage injury kept him from the majors last season and limited him to 82 minor league PAs. Parra, on the other hand, hit a Coors Field-inflated .309/.341/.452 in 425 trips to the plate.
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Brian Sabean “Will Be More Involved” In Running Giants In 2018]]> 2018-02-16T05:21:21Z 2018-02-16T05:21:21Z Brian Sabean, the long-time top baseball operations executive for the Giants, tells Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic (subscription link) that he “will be more involved” at the major-league level during the coming season. There’s no substitute for reading the piece in its entirety, but we’ll cover some of the broad strokes of the story here as well.

    Sabean, the organization’s president of baseball operations, had largely turned over regular management of MLB affairs to GM Bobby Evans when both received new titles at the start of the 2015 campaign. While that first campaign ended with a title, the ensuing years — and, in particular, the past season and a half — have fallen well shy of expectations.

    According to the report, the new direction was established by the upper echelons of the organization’s leadership. In his comments to Baggarly, Sabean largely seems to confirm what had become apparent to an extent with his increasingly visible role over the offseason: the architect of the Giants’ three World Series rosters is back in the control room. That said, Evans is going to continue in his GM role while “retain[ing] wide authority,” as Baggarly puts it.

    Notably, Sabean emphasized collective decisionmaking in his comments. And he seemed to suggest that he’ll be focused in large part on working with manager Bruce Bochy and reestablishing a winning culture that seemed to wane in 2017. Just how things will work out in practicality remains to be seen, but Sabean says he anticipates a smooth transition and certainly has plenty of experience working regularly with this familiar leadership group.

    Still, he also left little doubt as to his marching orders:

    “I’ll pay respect to how [Evans has] operated the last three years, but my experience has been called upon and ownership and [CEO Larry Baer] want this as an initiative starting with me and we’re going to carry it out as best we can on an everyday basis.”

    It will be difficult, no doubt, to suss out the practical impact of the Giants’ tinkering. Still, there’s no denying that the organization has sought a variety of avenues this winter to turn things around after losing 98 games in 2017.

    True, the major names remain the same at all levels. Along with Sabean’s move back downstairs, though, the coaching staff underwent a broad overhaul. And the MLB roster now features two notable, highly-respected veterans in Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria who will surely be expected not only to contribute on the field but also to bring some gravitas to the clubhouse.

    As he has previously, Sabean expressed satisfaction with the moves the club was able to make while still staying shy of the luxury tax line. Thus far, the organization has also steered clear of denting its ability to put together a compelling draft class this summer, when it holds second overall position as a consolation prize for the dreadful 2017 season.

    Whether the team’s bets from this winter work out remain to be seen, of course. McCutchen and Longoria have shown signs of being past their primes. Giving up young talent such as Christian Arroyo could sting. There are benefits to staying beneath the luxury line and maximizing the draft resources, but prioritizing those factors surely also carries the risk of not doing quite enough — particularly with strong competition in the rest of the NL West.

    It does seem clear that the team has positioned itself to win if things break right and has done so without fully mortgaging the future. But tough questions could still arise with a tepid start (is a sell-off warranted?) or a solid one (should the team add and go over the luxury tax line?). No matter how it unfolds, Sabean will again have a primary role in the everyday process.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Giants Negotiating With Tony Watson; Phillies & Red Sox Also In Mix]]> 2018-02-13T17:34:54Z 2018-02-13T17:33:52Z 11:33am: San Francisco isn’t the only team in the mix, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag, who tweets that the Phillies, Red Sox, and unstated other teams are also still involved.

    10:20am: The Giants are engaged in “serious contract talks” with southpaw reliever Tony Watson, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports (via Twitter). It is not clear at this time what sort of contractual terms the sides are contemplating, but Watson is clearly the best lefty pen piece still unsigned at this stage.

    This is certainly an interesting bit of news, due largely to San Francisco’s closely watched effort to improve while staying shy of the competitive balance tax line. Recent tabulations have suggested the team is only $2MM or so beneath the $197MM threshold at present, leaving little room for a player of Watson’s anticipated price.

    If the Giants were to accept the luxury tax for the 2018 season, it’s at least fair to wonder whether they’d plan to go further over the line to add other players. On the other hand, part of the team’s strategy could be to engineer a mid-season sell-off to get back below the line if things don’t go quite as hoped.

    As things stand, the Giants’ depth chart features Steven Okert as the top southpaw on hand. Josh Osich and D.J. Snelten also represent 40-man options, with recent minor-league signee Derek Holland perhaps also factoring in the mix if he cannot earn a rotation slot. San Francisco will ultimately hope for a bounce back from Will Smith, who is looking to return from a Tommy John procedure that was performed just before the start of the 2017 season, but clearly there’s some room for improvement.

    Entering the winter, Watson was tabbed as the 44th-best free agent in MLBTR’s ranking of the top 50 open-market players. We guessed the 32-year-old could command $12MM in total guaranteed money over two years. While he has plenty of general late-inning experience, our assessment was that he’d be pursued (and paid) more as a quality lefty specialist. Watson, after all, has long been much more effective against opposing lefties.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Giants Notes: Pence, Hernandez]]> 2018-02-11T03:54:40Z 2018-02-11T03:54:40Z
  • The Giants’ Hunter Pence has taken his switch from right to left field in stride, which the team’s management appreciates, per John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle. The soon-to-be 35-year-old Pence has never played left during his 1,489-game career as an outfielder, but he’ll head there this year as a result of the Giants’ acquisition of Andrew McCutchen. Pence is embracing the move, which Shea notes was difficult for ex-Giant Angel Pagan when they had him shift from center to left two years ago. “I think it’s going to be a lot of fun to have a whole new perspective,” Pence said. “It’s kind of refreshing on the mind. It’s an exciting challenge that I anticipate.”
  • Gorkys Hernandez, one of Pence’s outfield mates, underwent surgery on a broken hamate bone in his left hand after last season, broadcaster Marvin Benard revealed Saturday (Twitter link via Shea). Hernandez played with the injury for at least some of 2017, when he batted a meek .255/.327/.326 with no home runs and a .071 ISO over 348 PAs. The out-of-options 30-year-old will compete to retain his spot on the Giants this spring.
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    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[West Notes: A’s, Rangers, Bumgarner]]> 2018-02-10T15:09:06Z 2018-02-10T15:09:06Z While it’s been somewhat of a surprise to see some large market teams not spending the way they usually do, this offseason isn’t different from any other for small-market teams like the Athletics. As Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle writes, low payrolls have long been “modus operandi” for the A’s, and now much of baseball is under fire for following suit. “I can’t speak for other teams, but I know for us, this scenario is not much different than it’s been for a number of years as we push for a new stadium,” Oakland Vice President of Baseball Operations Billy Beane said. He added that the scenario is individual for each team, but for the A’s it comes down to simply not having the resources. While some are accusing MLB clubs of a “race to the bottom,” Slusser notes that youth-centric rebuilds with focus on prospects and the draft helped lead the Royals, Cubs and Astros to World Series titles in the past three seasons. Indeed, Beane said, “I’m sure that’s part of it. Sports is very copycat: Whatever succeeds, people will try.” The Athletics signed Yusmiero Petit to a two-year, $10MM contract this offseason, and also made offers to Brian Duensing and Austin Jackson before they ultimately signed with other clubs. Now, says Slusser, the A’s offseason spending is “essentially done.”

    Other notes from teams near the country’s Pacific coast…

    • Evan Grant of SportsDay dives into the questions that the Rangers will need to answer if they choose to implement a six-man rotation this season (or as manager Jeff Banister calls it, a “five-plus-one” rotation). The basic structure: have five starters who pitch regularly, and utilize a sixth pitcher as a swingman to pitch only when necessary to ensure that each pitcher gets five days off between starts. The ultimate hope is that such a configuration will keep all Rangers pitchers fresh and reduce late-season fatigue. “The schedule makes it challenging. Construction of your roster makes it challenging,” said Banister. “There is enough data that tells us there are pitchers who definitely benefit from an extra day’s rest or the routine of being on that five-day rest period or six-day rest period. You can point to ERAs. You can point to velocity. You can point to walk rates go down, strike out rates go up.” There are significant challenges in bringing this idea into reality, however. First, it’s a pretty radical change from what MLB pitchers are used to doing, and what they’ve been trained to do during their entire careers. Second, they’d need to find enough pitchers to make it a viable strategy, and the Rangers’ starting staff has more questions than answers at the moment.
    • Giants GM Bobby Evans says that there haven’t been any contract talks between the club and postseason titan Madison Bumgarner, according to a tweet from John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle. Bumgarner has long been the ace of the Giants’ pitching staff. He was drafted by the organization and has never played for another. MadBum’s posted a 3.01 ERA (3.34 xFIP) over the course of his eight-year MLB career with 8.84 K/9 against just 2.04 BB/9. The Giants own a 2019 club option over the towering lefty for a mere $12MM, so they’ll be able to control him through his age-29 campaign before he hits the open market during the 2019-2020 offseason (barring an extension).
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Giants Looking At Opportunities For Minor-League Free Agents]]> 2018-02-10T06:34:17Z 2018-02-10T03:07:35Z
  • While the Giants have little spending space if they are to remain beneath the luxury line, that makes minor-league signings all the more important for the organization. Per John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle (via Twitter), the club will put eyes on former ace Tim Lincecum when he holds a planned showcase. Likewise, the San Francisco front office will scout the anticipated free agent spring camp in search of some useful assets.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Giants Sign Derek Holland To Minor League Deal]]> 2018-02-13T17:05:45Z 2018-02-09T18:27:42Z 12:27pm: Giants GM Bobby Evans confirmed the deal to reporters, adding that Holland has already passed his physical (Twitter link via Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area). Holland will be given a chance to earn a spot in the rotation or in the bullpen.

    The deal includes a $1.5MM potential base salary with as much as $2.5MM in possible incentives, per SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (via Twitter).

    11:47am: The Giants are in agreement with left-hander Derek Holland on a minor league contract, reports Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News (via Twitter). Presumably, he’ll compete for a roster spot in big league camp this spring.

    Holland, 31, spent the bulk of the 2017 season with the White Sox, getting off to a hot start but fading as the season wore on before ultimately being released. The longtime Rangers lefty 2.37 ERA with a 52-to-24 K/BB ratio in 60 2/3 innings through the first two months of the 2017 season, looking the part of a bargain for the ChiSox at the time.

    ERA alternatives like xFIP (4.95) and SIERA (4.77) never fully bought into that success, though, and Holland’s production cratered in the months to come as his control worsened. Over his final 74 1/3 innings, he allowed 77 runs on 105 hits and 51 walks, causing his season ERA to balloon from 2.37 to 6.20.

    Holland at one point looked like a promising young building block in Texas, pitching to a 3.83 ERA and a 3.89 FIP over 623 1/3 innings from 2011-14. Knee surgery cut short his 2014 season, though, and his 2015 and 2016 seasons were marred by shoulder injuries. The 93-94 miles per hour that Holland averaged on his fastball during those peak young seasons was replaced in 2017 by a more pedestrian average of 91.1 mph.

    It’s not entirely clear how the Giants plan to use Holland, though their rotation has no shortage of uncertainty. Beyond Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija (each of whom will be looking to rebound in 2018, to varying degrees), the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation are currently set to be filled by lefty Ty Blach and righty Chris Stratton. Blach had baseball’s lowest K/9 and K% marks in 2017, and his 6.2 percent swinging-strike rate was the game’s second-lowest. Stratton, meanwhile, is entering his age-27 season and has just 68 2/3 innings to his credit in the Majors, during which time he’s averaged 7.5 K/9 against 4.3 BB/9 with below-average ground-ball tendencies.

    San Francisco could also look at utilizing Holland in a bullpen role, even though he has never spent much time as a reliever. Lefties have batted just .246/.310/.349 against him in his career, and while those splits are hardly dominating, he could yet find some improvement if his velocity ticks up when pitching in shorter stints.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Giants Seeking Bullpen Help, Made Offer To Oh]]> 2018-02-09T05:35:11Z 2018-02-09T05:23:24Z
  • FanRag’s Robert Murray reports that the Giants are still looking for bullpen help and made an offer to Seung-hwan Oh before the righty ultimately signed with the Rangers. San Francisco is only about $2.1MM from the $197MM luxury tax threshold, so they don’t have much to spend while remaining under the tax line. Murray suggests a match with Huston Street as a possibility, though his characterization of Street as one of the top remaining options on the relief market seems rather overstated. Now 34 years old, Street was one of the game’s top relievers for the better part of a decade, but he’s pitched just 26 1/3 innings with a 5.47 ERA and a 17-to-13 K/BB ratio in the past two seasons as he’s dealt with oblique, knee, lat and groin injuries in that brief two-year span. That said, he certainly seems like someone that could fit into a limited budget, perhaps even on a minor league deal.
  • ]]>
    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[The Giants' Pros & Cons Of A Madison Bumgarner Extension]]> 2018-02-02T04:46:45Z 2018-02-02T04:41:32Z
  • Should the Giants sign Madison Bumgarner to an extension?  The Athletic’s Andrew Baggarly (subscription required) looks at the factors that the team will face in making that decision, such as other future salary commitments, whether the Giants will remain competitive in the coming years, and whether they’ll be wary about another long-term deal for a pitcher going into his 30s when other such recent contracts (i.e. Barry Zito, Matt Cain) didn’t work out.  San Francisco isn’t in any immediate rush to decide on the matter, however, as Bumgarner is controlled through 2019 via a $12MM club option.  This gives the Giants time to determine if they can extend their window of contention or perhaps if Bumgarner himself is still in his old form after his injury-marred 2017 campaign.
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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Giants Were Willing To Take All Of Giancarlo Stanton's Contract]]> 2018-02-01T23:02:56Z 2018-02-01T23:02:56Z
  • Earlier reports indicated that the Giants were willing to pay up to $230MM of the $295MM owed on Giancarlo Stanton’s contract, though Heyman writes that San Francisco was actually willing to absorb all $295MM.  Some “not upper-tier” prospects also would’ve gone to the Marlins.  Since Stanton wasn’t willing to waive his no-trade clause to join the Giants, of course, it ended up being a moot point.  The Cardinals were willing to take on roughly $265MM of Stanton’s deal and offered the best trade package in terms of prospects, according to a source who had seen the proposals Miami received from the Cards, Giants, and Yankees.
  • Jarrod Dyson’s asking price was in the area of a two-year, $14MM deal, though the speedy outfielder has been receiving one-year offers “for less than a third” of his hoped-for dollar figure.  The Blue Jays, Giants, Mariners, and Orioles have been linked to Dyson at various times this winter, though the first three of those teams have since addressed their outfield needs with other players.

  • ]]>
    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Giants Sign Andres Blanco To Minor League Contract]]> 2018-01-30T23:44:39Z 2018-01-30T23:24:55Z The Giants have signed infielder Andres Blanco to a minor league contract, Jon Heyman of FanRag tweets. Blanco’s deal includes an invitation to big league camp. He’ll receive a $1.1MM salary and $400K-plus in incentives if he makes the Giants’ roster. Otherwise, the contract will allow Blanco to pursue opportunities in Asia should they arise.

    This is the second straight day in which the Giants have added a Blanco, as they reunited with outfielder Gregor Blanco on a minors pact Monday. While Andres Blanco has also played some outfield in the majors, nearly all of his work has come in the infield since he debuted with the Royals in 2004. The soon-to-be 34-year-old brings at least 95 games’ experience at second base, shortstop and third. The hot corner was Blanco’s primary spot with his previous team, the Phillies, from 2014-17, though he hasn’t graded out particularly well there during his career (minus-10 DRS, minus-6.1 UZR).

    Offensively, the switch-hitting Blanco has been a below-average producer across 1,321 plate appearances (.256/.310/.378), and he’s coming off a miserable year in which he hit .192/.257/.292 in 144 PAs. He wasn’t able to find a major league deal as a result, but it was a different story a year ago. Then fresh off parts of three consecutive solid seasons at the plate (.274/.337/.457 in 523 PAs), Blanco tested free agency before ultimately re-signing with the Phillies for $3MM.

    As he did in Philly, Blanco will attempt to fill a utility role in San Francisco, which has established starters across the infield in first baseman Brandon Belt, second baseman Joe Panik, shortstop Brandon Crawford and third baseman Evan Longoria. Pablo Sandoval and Kelby Tomlinson are the current backup infielders on the Giants’ projected 25-man roster.

    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Giants To Sign Gregor Blanco To Minor-League Deal]]> 2018-01-30T19:43:35Z 2018-01-30T19:43:55Z Jan. 30: FanRag’s Jon Heyman tweets that Blanco would earn $1MM upon making the MLB roster and can pocket another $500K based on plate-appearance incentives.

    Jan. 29: The Giants and Gregor Blanco have agreed to terms on a contract that will bring the outfielder back to San Francisco. Blanco himself announced the reunion on his Instagram account. Chris Cotillo of SB Nation tweets that it’s a minor-league deal.

    Blanco, 34, will return to a Giants team with whom he played from 2012-2016 and won two World Series rings. During his years in San Francisco, he was a roughly league-average hitter, slashing .259/.338/.360 (99 wRC+) across 2,054 plate appearances. A good portion of Blanco’s value came from his outfield defense and base-stealing ability. Though he never hit well during the postseason, he managed to walk 11.9% of the time during October of 2012 and 2014 combined, and crossed the plate a total of 20 times in 33 games.

    Blanco’s tenure with the Giants game to an end following a 2016 season that saw him hit the DL in August with a right shoulder injury. The Diamondbacks elected to scoop him up on a minor-league deal last offseason, and the team ended up selecting his contract on May 5th following the transfer of the injured Shelby Miller to the 60-day DL. Blanco went on to hit .246/.337/.357 across 256 plate appearances while playing a reserve outfielder role.

    Though Blanco is now 34 and his speed isn’t what it once was, he still has a shot to split playing time with the newly-signed Austin Jackson in center field. Indeed; a platoon combination of the two makes a lot of sense; the left-handed-hitting Blanco is a 98 wRC+ hitter against righties for his career, while his mark against lefties is 13 points beneath that. Meanwhile the right-handed-hitting Jackson absolutely demolished lefites last year, to the tune of a .357/.440/.574 batting line.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Alonzo Powell To Undergo Surgery For Prostate Cancer]]> 2018-01-28T20:41:53Z 2018-01-28T20:41:53Z
  • In search of left-handed relief help, the Athletics “made some offers to some guys; we just weren’t able to get them here,” manager Bob Melvin informed Jane Lee of and other reporters Saturday (Twitter link). One offer went to Brian Duensing, who turned down a deal worth $3MM more than the two-year, $7MM pact he took to re-up with the Cubs, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The A’s also attempted to pick up outfielder Austin Jackson on a one-year deal, but the Giants reeled him in with a two-year, $6MM contract. Now, Oakland’s not discussing any “significant free agents,” Slusser writes.
  • Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic has an excellent, free-to-read piece on new Giants hitting coach Alonzo Powell, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer Jan. 2 and will undergo prostate removal surgery on Tuesday. Powell’s support system includes his wife, Jana, as well as both the San Francisco and Houston organizations (he was the Astros’ assistant hitting coach from 2015-17), which Baggarly details. The Giants have been invaluable to Powell, as they took over his medical care after scans showed his cancer had spread to his bones. Had that been accurate, surgery would not have been an option for Powell, who would have instead had to go through a year of chemotherapy and radiation. But the Giants’ chief internist, Dr. Robert Murray, was skeptical of those results, and he had Powell undergo another bone scan that ultimately returned good news. After his surgery, Powell will need “daily radiation treatments for several weeks,” Baggarly writes, but the hope is he’ll be with the Giants when their pitchers and catchers report to spring training Feb. 13. We join those around the game in rooting for Powell to achieve that goal.
  • ]]>
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Orioles Acquire Engelb Vielma]]> 2018-01-26T20:28:07Z 2018-01-26T20:24:58Z The Orioles announced that they’ve acquired infielder Engelb Vielma from the Giants in exchange for a player to be named later or cash. Roch Kubatko of had reported just a minute or so prior that the two sides had completed a minor trade (Twitter link).

    It’s been a busy few months for Vielma, who has gone from the Twins to the Giants to the Phillies to the Pirates and back to the Giants before today’s trade. The switch-hitting infielder doesn’t come with Major League experience, and hasn’t hit much in the minors. However, scouting reports tout his excellent defensive skills, making him a possible option for the Orioles, who are in need of a utility infielder.

    Vielma, 23, has spent the vast majority of his career in the minors playing shortstop, though he also has experience at both second base and third base. He’s a career .256/.316/.302 hitter in the minors and spent the 2017 season between the Twins’ Double-A and Triple-A affiliate, posting a combined .229/.273/.280 batting line in 455 plate appearances.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Giants To Sign Chris Heston]]> 2018-01-24T15:50:33Z 2018-01-24T15:50:33Z The Giants have agreed to a minor-league deal to bring righty Chris Heston back into the fold, according to a report from Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area. Other terms of the contract are not yet known.

    Heston, 29, is a former 12th-round pick who debuted in the majors with the Giants back in 2014. He went on to turn in a strong rookie campaign in the following year, etching his name permanently into organizational lore with a no-hitter.

    Unfortunately, Heston’s career has largely sputtered since. With mounting injuries and marginal output on the hill, he has thrown just 11 MLB frames over the ensuing two seasons. Heston spent time with three organizations last year after San Francisco dealt him to the Mariners in advance of the 2017 campaign.

    While expectations won’t be very high at this point, the move could certainly help bolster the Giants’ pitching depth. The team has parted with a few MLB pitching assets to improve in other areas, so non-roster players could play an important role if needs arise during the course of the season. While it’s hard to imagine Heston earning a roster spot this spring, he’s said to be healthy and could take up a key spot on the Giants depth chart.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Giants Still Monitoring Outfield Market, Don’t Plan To Exceed Luxury Tax Barrier]]> 2018-01-24T05:09:57Z 2018-01-24T02:04:27Z The Giants shored up their outfield mix with yesterday’s addition of Austin Jackson on a two-year, $6MM contract — threading the luxury tax needle by adding a veteran that serves as an upgrade while still squeezing in just south of the $197MM barrier. That doesn’t leave much room for further upgrades, but executive vice president of baseball ops Brian Sabean and GM Bobby Evans tell reporters that the Giants are still open to supplementing their outfield (links via Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area and John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle).

    Notably, Sabean suggests that Jackson was “probably not” signed to be the team’s everyday center fielder. “I don’t know that in his recent history he’s been able to go out there in that fashion,” Sabean says of Jackson. San Francisco is still exploring some low-salary trade options, and prospect Steven Duggar remains a candidate to win the job (if not in Spring Training, certainly later in the season). Duggar, though, has just 232 minor league games under his belt, with only 60 of those coming in Double-A and just 13 in Triple-A.

    San Francisco remains confident in its ability to acquire an additional outfielder via trade, Pavlovic writes. That’ll likely require prying loose a pre-arbitration player making near the league minimum, as the Giants are now within about $2.1MM of the luxury threshold (per Cot’s Contracts). Such assets are the types with which teams are typically loath to part, though the Brewers have reportedly been exploring trade scenarios involving their potential outfield surplus, with names like Keon Broxton and Brett Phillips circulating on the rumor mill.

    The waiver circuit could present another option for the Giants as rosters are shuffled leading up to Spring Training; numerous players with some degree of big league experience figure to become available in coming weeks as teams clear roster space for veteran additions. That was the manner by which the Tigers plucked Mikie Mahtook from the Rays last year, acquiring him for a player to be named later and enjoying a fairly productive year out of the former first-rounder. (Speculatively speaking, Mahtook himself could be an option for the Giants, as the rebuilding Tigers will likely be willing to listen on virtually any player.)

    If the Giants don’t succeed in landing another option to take over in center field, it seems that Jackson, Duggar, Austin Slater and Gorkys Hernandez will vie for time in center field to open the season. At the very least, it wouldn’t come as much of a surprise to the Giants add a left-handed-hitting veteran on a minor league deal. Jackson, Hernandez, Hunter Pence and Andrew McCutchen all swing from the right side of the dish, so adding a lefty to create more matchup flexibility in the event that the left-handed-hitting Duggar opens the season in the minors seems logical.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Giants Sign Austin Jackson]]> 2018-01-24T00:21:11Z 2018-01-23T23:55:20Z Jan. 23: Heyman tweets that Jackson will earn $3MM in each year of the deal. His 2019 base salary can rise by $1MM based on the number of plate appearances he tallies in 2018, and his 2019 salary can rise by $1.5MM based on that season’s plate appearance total.

    Jan. 22: The Giants have announced the signing of outfielder Austin Jackson, as Jon Heyman of Fan Rag first reported (via Twitter). It’s said to be a two-year, $6MM guarantee, but the Octagon client can also escalate his 2019 salary by as much as $2.5MM if he meets certain plate appearance-based targets, as Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic explains on Twitter.


    Jackson, who’ll soon turn 31, turned in a nice bounceback campaign in 2017 after three straight seasons of subpar offensive production. Over 318 plate appearances with the Indians, he posted a .318/.387/.482 batting line with seven home runs and three steals.

    Though there’s obviously some promise in that output, it comes with a few caveats. On offense, Jackson benefited from a .385 batting average on ball in play that isn’t likely to be repeated. And his is wOBA of .378 widely outpaced his Statcast-based xwOBA of .335. (For what it’s worth, too, he mostly succeeded by dominating left-handed pitching. He has typically carried reverse splits, so it’s somewhat unclear how that ought to be interpreted.)

    Importantly, too, Jackson is no longer a top-end asset in the field and on the bases. He has floated in range of average in both areas in recent years, but generally has graded as a slightly below-average fielder for the past several campaigns. It seems reasonable to believe he can still handle center, at least on a part-time basis, but he’ll surely be put to the test at the spacious AT&T Park.

    [RELATED: Updated Giants Depth Chart]

    There’s plenty of reason to wonder whether Jackson will be capable of coming close to repeating his output from 2017. But the contract seems to be a reasonable one for a player who has had success in both the recent and the more distant past. Certainly, the price is right for the Giants. This move dovetails with the team’s reported preference to fill out a roster without going past the luxury line.

    As things stand, Jackson arguably sits atop the San Francisco depth chart in center field. That said, Giants GM Bobby Evans says that Jackson will “provide additional depth at all three outfield positions,” suggesting that the club does not expect to hand him the reins to the regular job in center. (Via John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle, on Twitter).

    The question, then, turns to what other options the Giants have to round out their outfield mix. Internally, right-handed hitters include Gorkys Hernandez, Austin Slater, and Mac Williamson. While the first two of those players are capable of  seeing time in center, they wouldn’t add much functionality beyond what Jackson provides, particularly since the team’s veteran corner outfielders — Hunter Pence and Andrew McCutchen — both hit from the right side. The lefty-swinging, out-of-options Jarrett Parker is another option, up the middle, though his recent output does not inspire much confidence.

    So, what options remain for the Giants? If a golden opportunity arises to add a higher-end player, particularly a left-handed hitter, then perhaps a move past the luxury tax line could still occur. Alternatively, as Baggarly notes on Twitter, the club could chase a pre-arb player while staying just shy of the tax, though that’d presumably mean either taking a risk on a less-than-certain asset or giving up good value in return. Free agents like Ben Revere could still be pursued, but anyone achievable at a bargain rate likely won’t be a good enough performer to bump Jackson into reserve duties. Of course, the team also surely hopes that left-handed-hitting prospect Steven Duggar will prove himself ready for a MLB trial in relatively short order. If the team truly believes in him but also wants a more established player to open the season without bypassing the luxury line, it’ll have to get rather creative.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Minor MLB Transactions: 1/23/18]]> 2018-01-23T20:27:35Z 2018-01-23T18:59:02Z We’ll track the day’s minor moves in this post:

    • Outfielder Jacob May was outrighted by the White Sox after clearing waivers, Baseball America’s Matt Eddy reports. Likewise, Angels lefty Nate Smith is headed for Triple-A via outright. Both were designated for assignment recently.
    • Infielder Ty Kelly is returning to the Mets, per SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (via Twitter). The 29-year-old first reached the bigs in New York and also spent time in the majors last year with the Phillies. He has hit well at times in the upper minors but has yet to translate that to the majors in limited opportunities.
    • The Tigers have purchased the contract of lefty Caleb Thielbar from the St. Paul Saints, per an announcement from the indy ball club. Soon to turn 31, Thielbar hasn’t seen the majors since 2015. In 98 2/3 total innings at the game’s highest level, though, he has pitched to a 2.74 ERA with 7.2 K/9 against 2.7 BB/9. He was released by the Marlins just before the start of the 2017 season after competing for a job in camp.
    • Righty Carlos Frias is re-joining the Indians on a minors pact, the club announced. The 28-year-old, who has not seen substantial MLB time since 2015, stumbled to an 8.05 ERA with an ugly 21:22 K/BB ratio at Triple-A last year with the Cleveland organization.
    • The Angels have re-signed lefty John Lamb, Cotillo tweets. Once a well-regarded prospect, the 27-year-old saw his career derailed by back issues. He did throw 139 innings at Triple-A last year with the Halos organization, though he managed only a 5.44 ERA with 5.2 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9.
    • Reliever Bryan Harper has re-joined the Nationals on a minor-league deal with a spring invite, Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reports on Twitter. Bryce’s older brother has never been seen as a major asset, but he’s an accomplished minor-league reliever. He missed all of 2017 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but has allowed less than three earned runs per nine in over a hundred frames in the upper minors.
    • Outfielder Matt Lipka is joining the Giants organization on a minor-league deal, Cotillo also tweets. A first-round pick in the 2010 draft, Lipka has not yet shown that he can hand the bat in the upper minors. He posted a .754 OPS in 370 plate appearances last year at the High-A level, but limped to a .160/.216/.223 slash over his 102 trips to the plate at Double-A.
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[MLBTR Poll: Grading The Giants’ Offseason To Date]]> 2018-01-23T14:38:33Z 2018-01-23T14:36:40Z The winter isn’t over — far from it, in fact — but a few teams have gone further than others in determining their direction for the coming season. Out in San Francisco, there’s no question that the Giants are pushing in some chips in hopes of rebounding from a miserable 2017 season, while at the same time avoiding a wholesale raid on the farm or major long-term contract entanglements.

    Walking that kind of tightrope is never easy. For an organization with so many major contract commitments already on the books, there was an obvious risk both in going too far and not far enough. Let’s not forget that the Giants initially set out in pursuit of Giancarlo Stanton, too, suggesting both that the team would have blown past the luxury tax line in some circumstances (and perhaps may still) and also that the ultimate series of moves was (at least in part) something of a backup plan.

    Having entered the offseason with glaring holes at several positions, and the above-noted limitations on resources, here’s what the Giants front office has come up with thus far:

    In the aggregate, the organization has parted with some youthful assets and MLB pitching depth while reallocating those resources (including Moore’s $9MM salary) to other areas of need. And the team is still flying just beneath the luxury tax line, with the inclusion of Span in the Longoria swap helping to manage the accounting.

    The results surely aren’t bombproof. Longoria and McCutchen, the two main additions, are no longer the superstars they once were. Meanwhile, the San Francisco pitching staff will need to rely on some unproven youngsters. Even having bypassed several internal options to make Jackson the anticipated fourth outfielder, the team still needs to acquire a center fielder (or choose one from within) to take regular time or platoon with Jackson.

    There’s an optimistic view here, too. While Longo and Cutch aren’t likely to carry the club, they don’t need to do that to justify their additions. Both are still in their early thirties and it would hardly be surprising to find there are still a few more high-quality seasons left, given their undeniable talent levels. The pitching reductions may feel somewhat riskier than they really are, as the Giants do have quite a few arms on the rise. And it seems reasonable to expect that the front office already has a pretty good idea of what its options are in center. The team could still land a bigger asset if the opportunity is right; or, it can stay beneath the luxury tax line while relying on cheaper options. Retaining that flexibility while still making notable gains in roster quality was surely a chief aim.

    Of course, the offseason is still not over. But many if not most or all of the team’s significant moves are in the books; at a minimum, we can see how they’ve set the stage for completing things in the next few weeks. So, we’ll turn it over to the MLBTR readership for a mid-term offseason grade (link for app users):

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Quick Hits: Pace Of Play, Prospects, Orioles, McCutchen]]> 2018-01-22T18:55:54Z 2018-01-22T15:56:26Z In his latest column for The Athletic, Ken Rosenthal chats with five playersMax Scherzer, Daniel Murphy, Paul Goldschmidt, Jerry Blevins and Chris Iannetta — about their concerns over the proposed 20-second pitch clock and their more general thoughts on the league’s pace of play initiatives. All of the players express a willingness to change and acknowledge that they’re in favor of speeding up the game to an extent, though none voiced support of a clock. Iannetta states that the clock “fundamentally changes the way the game is played,” while Goldschmidt shares some concerns he’s heard from Double-A and Triple-A players that have played with the clock but found it to be a headache.

    “In some cases, I heard of ways around the rule,” says Goldschmidt. “You could kind of gimmick it. You could slow down the game. You could step off. It wasn’t like it just forced guys to throw pitches a lot quicker. There was a lot of gray area guys weren’t comfortable with.” Both Scherzer and Blevins, meanwhile, expressed some frustration with the fact that they’re routinely on the mound ready to go but have to wait an additional 20-30 seconds for commercial breaks to end. It’s an interesting read for those who have strong feelings, one way or another, on the newest slate of proposed rule changes to the game.

    A few more notes from around the league…

    • It’s prospect ranking season! Baseball America rolled out their 2018 Top 100 list today, headlined by Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna in the top spot. Of course, the decision was far from easy for them, and the BA staff explained the decision process at length in a separate post for BA subscribers. As JJ Cooper, Ben Badler, Kyle Glaser, Josh Norris and Matt Eddy explain in great detail, there were feelings among the BA staff that any of Acuna, Shohei Ohtani or Vladimir Guerrero Jr. could have been the No. 1 overall prospect this season. Among the factors considered when trying to reach a consensus were the age-old position player vs. pitcher debate as well as Acuna’s proximity to the Majors relative to Guerrero.
    • Meanwhile, over at ESPN, Keith Law published the first half of his Top 100 prospects today. There are several notable players that have been traded in the past year on the back half of the list, including Sandy Alcantara (whom the Marlins received as the headliner in the Marcell Ozuna swap), James Kaprielian (who went to the Athletics as part of last July’s Sonny Gray trade) and Franklin Perez and Daz Cameron (who went to the Tigers in the Justin Verlander blockbuster). Angels fans will be heartened to see four entrants on the list — Jahmai Jones, Chris Rodriguez, Brandon Marsh and Jo Adell — as their once lowly farm system begins to build back up.
    • Dan Connolly of looks at the Orioles’ need for a left-handed-hitting outfielder to balance out the lineup and runs down a list of players that have “intrigued various members of the organization.” That includes Carlos Gonzalez, Melky Cabrera and Nori Aoki, according to Connolly, in addition to other names that have been recently mentioned (e.g. Jarrod Dyson). Trey Mancini and Adam Jones figure to be in the outfield regularly, but the Orioles’ hope is that they can acquire a defensively superior option to Mark Trumbo to slot into right field, thus pushing Trumbo to DH.
    • In a fantastic column for the Players’ Tribune, Andrew McCutchen bids an emotional farewell to the city of Pittsburgh, which he writes “will always be home” and “will always mean everything” to him. McCutchen recounts the overwhelming experience of the standing ovation he received at the Pirates’ final home game of the season last year, as Bucs fans recognized that they may never see him in a Pirates uniform again. He also shares his experience of finding out about the trade, with credit to Neal Huntington for how he handled the process. Fans of the Pirates, Giants and baseball in general will all want to check out the column in its entirety.
    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Should The Giants Make A Play For Darvish?]]> 2018-01-22T00:55:17Z 2018-01-22T00:53:41Z
  • There hasn’t been any connection between Yu Darvish and the Giants this winter, though The Athletic’s Andrew Baggarly (subscription required) opines that San Francisco should offer the free agent hurler a one-year deal in the $30MM range.  Essentially, Baggarly is proposing a very high-priced version of the “pillow contract” strategy, wherein Darvish would build more value in 2018 with an eye towards finally landing a major long-term deal next winter.  Such a contract would put the Giants over the luxury tax threshold for 2018, though they’d avoid another multi-year commitment while landing a star pitcher for a roster clearly designed to win now.
  • ]]>
    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Brewers Reportedly Close To Making Trade]]> 2018-01-22T02:51:01Z 2018-01-21T22:32:56Z There’s “buzz” that the Brewers are closing in on a trade, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN reports. Crasnick doesn’t offer any details about an exact trade partner or players involved, though he notes that the Brewers have been discussing outfielders with multiple teams (Twitter link).

    At present, the Brewers have several outfielders who are either established major leaguers or players who are closing in on regular roles. The group includes Ryan Braun, Domingo Santana, Keon Broxton, Brett Phillips and Lewis Brinson. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported earlier this month that the Brewers could move someone from that quintet for much-needed starting pitching and to open up room for free agent center fielder Lorenzo Cain. The 31-year-old Cain was a “frequent topic of conversation” for Milwaukee’s front office, Rosenthal wrote at the time.

    If a deal does happen, it won’t be with San Francisco, according to Crasnick, even though the Giants and Brewers discussed Santana and Broxton earlier this offseason. The White Sox, on the other hand, are a possibility, Crasnick suggests (via Twitter).

    Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel adds (on Twitter) that the Brewers have been shopping Santana since last month’s Winter Meetings, and he notes that they’re also in the market for second base help. Milwaukee received disappointing production at the keystone most of last season from Jonathan Villar, who remains in the fold. Villar’s down season led the Brewers to acquire Neil Walker last August. Although Walker thrived during his month and a half with the Brewers, he’s currently a free agent.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Finding A Center Fielder For The Giants]]> 2018-01-20T17:37:23Z 2018-01-20T06:17:31Z The Giants’ acquisitions of Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria have added a pair of offensive upgrades to their lineup, but the team is still facing a glaring hole in center field. Improving the outfield, both offensively and defensively, has been a long-stated goal of GM Bobby Evans and executive vice president Brian Sabean. However, the Giants are also said to be aiming to remain underneath the luxury tax threshold, which is calculated based on the average annual value of their players’ contracts and is set at $197MM for the 2018 season.

    As presently constructed, the Giants don’t have much flexibility with regard to those self-imposed restrictions. (They’ve exceeded the luxury tax four years running now, so they certainly have the resources to do so if they change course. Various observers have given different indications of the team’s willingness to do so.) The exact amount of wiggle room the Giants have is difficult to pin down, but most projections give them about $4.5MM to spend. Cot’s Contracts, more specifically, gives the Giants $4.462MM before pushing up against that mark. Of course, it’s also important to bear in mind that salary additions and subtractions during the course of the season factor into whether or not a team ultimately enters the luxury tax space.

    The Giants could certainly still trade a veteran player in order to clear some payroll and open up their options a bit more. However, the Giants’ highest-paid players are either core pieces (Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt) or expensive veterans coming off poor seasons that San Francisco would be hard-pressed to trade even if the team is inclined to do so (Hunter Pence, Mark Melancon, Johnny Cueto). The Giants could move a reliever such as Sam Dyson, who’s set to earn $4.425MM in 2018, which would roughly double their current level of spending room. Cory Gearrin ($1.675MM) and Hunter Strickland ($1.55MM) are both movable assets that could create some additional wiggle room, albeit at the cost of major league production.

    Suffice it to say, a pricey addition along the lines of Lorenzo Cain — free agency’s top center fielder — seems decidedly unlikely unless the Giants decide to zip past the luxury tax line. Another open-market center field option, Carlos Gomez, also seems well beyond their current price range. A trade for Jacoby Ellsbury — an oft-suggested scenario from optimistic Yankees fans — certainly doesn’t fit into their budget, even if the Yankees eat half of the remaining money on Ellsbury’s deal. Christian Yelich? Giants fans would love to have him, but their thin farm isn’t going to produce the top offer the Marlins receive for one of the game’s more alluring trade chips.

    The Giants have been connected to second-tier free agents since trading for Andrew McCutchen and announcing that he’ll move to right field, and there are myriad avenues that they could pursue while ever so narrowly sidestepping that $197MM roadblock. A few speculative options to consider, bearing in mind that the goal is to add someone who could conceivably had within a tight budget and can at least play average defense in center…

    Free Agents

    Jarrod Dyson | Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

    Jarrod Dyson: The 33-year-old veteran is tops on the Giants’ list of targets, per ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, and it’s not hard to see why. Giants outfielders, in addition to posting a dismal .253/.311/.374 as a collective unit last season, also turned in a ghastly -32 DRS and -5.3 UZR. Their defensive, on the whole, was dreadful. Enter Dyson. At some point, it’s fair to worry that his speed and defense will decline, but his UZR/150 of 13.8 over the past three seasons (min. 1000 innings in the field) ranks 12th among all Major Leaguers at any position. He’d require a platoon partner given his career .215/.293/.259 slash against lefties (Austin Slater, perhaps).

    It seems unlikely, though, that Dyson could be had for under $5MM annually. Signing him might require the Giants to move a reliever such as Dyson, as previously speculated.

    Jon Jay: Crasnick listed Jay second among the Giants’ center-field targets in free agency, so it’s clear that San Francisco has some degree of interest. Jay would bring more offense to the position than Dyson, having posted roughly league-average (or better) offense in seven of his eight Major League seasons, by measure of OPS+ and wRC+. Jay is a left-handed hitter but has only a minimal platoon split in his career. He’s hit righties at a .289/.354/.392 clip and lefties at a .288/.359/.353 pace.

    Jay, however, doesn’t have anywhere close to Dyson’s defensive skill set. He has rated as an above-average center fielder at times in the past, but he spent more time in the corners than in center with the Cubs last season and had below-average defensive ratings in center in consecutive seasons. Granted, even below-average would be an improvement for the Giants, who saw the since-traded Denard Span struggle considerably there in 2017. Jay, like Dyson, figures to cost more than $5MM annually, so signing him might require a corresponding trade if the Giants want to remain under the tax threshold.

    Cameron Maybin / Rajai Davis: Maybin and Davis are similar in that each hits from the short side of the platoon, provides superlative baserunning skills and can generally be relied on in center field (despite lackluster ratings there in recent years). As the younger of the two, Maybin would be the pricier option, though Crasnick listed him third on the Giants’ list of center field targets in free agency.

    The rest of the market is fairly light on players that could be reasonably expected to hold down a regular role in the outfield. Ben Revere could be a theoretical platoon pairing with Gorkys Hernandez in center, or if the Giants are looking more at reserve types, they could add a defensive-minded veteran like Peter Bourjos to the mix. But, if they’re looking to at a cost-effective center fielder, Dyson is perhaps the best bet. More options would present themselves on the trade market, however. (Although, today’s trade of Randal Grichuk to the Blue Jays eliminated one of the more logical options for San Francisco.)

    Trade Options

    Billy Hamilton, Reds ($4.6MM salary, controlled through 2019): Hamilton is the most frequently linked center field target to the Giants, and he’d fit their needs both in terms of budget and improving the defense. Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer, though, recently reported that talks between the two teams have gone “dormant,” adding that Hamilton may very well open the year in Cincinnati.

    Keon Broxton | Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Keon Broxton (pre-arb, controlled through 2022) / Brett Phillips (pre-arb, controlled through 2023), Brewers: The Brewers have reportedly been shopping some outfielders around, and Broxton’s league minimum salary and power/speed blend would figure to intrigue the Giants. Broxton has 29 homers and 45 steals in just 709 MLB plate appearances, but he’s whiffed in a stunning 37.2 percent of his plate appearances. His defense rated excellently in 2016 but poorly in 2017. Phillips has less big league experience and similar strikeout issues, though he’s not far removed from grading out as one of the game’s best overall prospects. Milwaukee has also reportedly taken offers on Domingo Santana, but he’s more of a corner option and would have a higher asking price on the heels of a 30-homer season.

    Juan Lagares, Mets ($6.5MM in 2018, $9MM in 2019): Lagares’ remaining salaries are part of a four-year, $23MM deal that the Giants could manage to fit into their payroll by shedding one other player with a relatively modest contract (perhaps sending a big leaguer back to the Mets in return). Lagares hasn’t hit much in the past two seasons as he’s been slowed by hand injuries, but he has a sterling defensive reputation; he notched a +15 DRS mark and +10.4 UZR in just 556 innings in center this past season. Lagares has been connected to the Giants already this winter, though New York doesn’t have a great center field alternative (defensively speaking) on its roster. Brandon Nimmo’s name has also come up in trade talks, though the Mets don’t seem keen to move him unless they’re getting an MLB piece back. (Fire away with your Joe Panik speculation, though such a move would open another hole in San Francisco.)

    Tyler Naquin, Indians (pre-arb, controlled through 2022): With Michael Brantley, Bradley Zimmer and Lonnie Chisenhall set to line up in Cleveland’s outfield, there’s no obvious spot for Naquin, who was an odd man out for much of the 2017 campaign as well (40 MLB plate appearances). Naquin hit well (.298/.359/.475) in Triple-A, though, and had a big, albeit BABIP-inflated, rookie season with the Indians in 2016. Both Brantley and Chisenhall are injury-prone and are free agents next winter, however, so perhaps Cleveland isn’t too keen on depleting its infield depth all that much.

    Odubel Herrera ($3.35MM in 2018, owed $28.9MM through 2021, plus two club options) / Aaron Altherr (pre-arb, controlled through 2021) / Nick Williams (pre-arb, controlled through 2023), Phillies: With Rhys Hoskins moving to left field to accommodate Carlos Santana, there are only two spots for these three in Philadelphia. Herrera is the only true center fielder here, though all three have experience there in the minors. The Philadelphia organization may simply share time between those three players while allowing performance to dictate its future decisions. Even if they’re willing to deal from this group, the Phils would likely be on the lookout for MLB-ready rotation help, which makes the Giants a tough match in a deal. (San Fran would also need to shed a bit of cash to fit Herrera’s five-year, $30.5MM deal under the luxury tax bar.) Feel free to dream up three-team trade scenarios accordingly, if you’re so inclined.

    Michael Taylor, Nationals ($2.525MM, controlled through 2020): It’s hard to see the Nats parting with Taylor unless they received some definitive MLB help back in exchange — likely behind the plate or in the form of someone that’s a clear upgrade at the fifth spot in their rotation. The Giants don’t really have either of those things to offer, but the fit otherwise works on paper, especially with top prospect Victor Robles looming after briefly reaching the majors late in 2017.

    Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Market For Eduardo Nunez Reportedly Picking Up]]> 2018-01-19T18:34:56Z 2018-01-19T18:34:56Z
  • 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, BravesBrewers 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.

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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Latest On Giants' Outfield Situation]]> 2018-01-19T06:00:18Z 2018-01-19T04:11:02Z
  • 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.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Giants Acquire Engelb Vielma]]> 2018-01-18T23:51:11Z 2018-01-18T23:51:11Z 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.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Hamilton Talks Between Reds, Giants Are "Dormant"]]> 2018-01-17T23:26:03Z 2018-01-17T23:26:03Z 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.
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Giants Still Pursuing Center Fielders, Will Play McCutchen In Right Field]]> 2018-01-16T23:32:59Z 2018-01-16T22:41:34Z 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.

    [Related: San Francisco Giants depth chart and San Francisco Giants payroll]

    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.