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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Giants' possible targets through free agency

With only Madison Bumgarner, Jake Peavy and an uncertain Matt Cain under contact for 2016, it's obvious where the majority of the Giants' attention should be early on in the offseason. Luckily for them, there are set to be more than a few options in the free-agent market.

Last winter, the Giants were in heavy pursuit of one of the top arms on the market in Jon Lester, narrowly missing out to the Chicago Cubs. They also strongly considered James Shields too, but wound up spending significantly less by re-signing Jake Peavy and I think they did so with an eye towards this offseason. Here is the list of the upper-tier arms that are set to hit the open market after the World Series: RHP Johnny Cueto, RHP Zach Grienke, LHP Scott Kazmir, LHP David Price, RHP Jordan Zimmerman. Any of those guys, some more than others obviously, would look nice slotted behind MadBum in the Giants rotaion. The problem is, the Giants need more than just a single, top of the rotation arm, so that may enable them from going after a top guy like Price or Grienke. They need to add at least two starters, and also will need to address left field as well as shoring up the bullpen. With that in mind, their goal should be to add at least one arm from the group mentioned above, and maybe one from the second-tier of free agent starters which also isn't too shabby. That list includes RHP Jeff Samardzija, RHP Yovanni Gallardo, LHP Brett Anderson, RHP Marco Estrada, RHP Matt Latos, RHP Mike Leake and RHP Ian Kennedy. I would be all for bringing in Cueto/Zimmerman as well as a guy like Kennedy, Samardzija or even re-signing Mike Leake. A MadBum-Cueto/Zimmerman-Leake-Peavy-Cain/Heston rotation would be the strongest the Giants have entered a season with since 2012.

Obviously I'd love to see them land Grienke and give them that 1-2 punch the Dodgers have had the last few seasons. It would weaken the Dodgers, as there really is no equivalent to Grienke out there for the Dodgers to replace him with (Price is close, but not quite up to Grienke's level), and would make the Giants rotation a strength again even if that was their only upgrade there this offseason and both Cain and Heston wound up on the opening day staff. However, if it's a difference of $40-60M or more on a deal for Cueto or Zimmerman rather than Grienke, it could make quite a difference in ability to make another impact-upgrade.

Again, as they stand now, it's not quite clear what they'll do in terms of their starting left-fielder job and their returning center fielder is coming back in final year of his deal and has seen his play drastically decline ever since the end of 2012. Luckily for them, some in-house candidates did emerge at the end of the 2015 season, and there's always Gregor Blanco you can fall back on, but they may be in the market for two outfielders this winter just to really shore things up out there. As far as some of the outfielders go, the Giants will have the option at retaining Nori Aoki or letting him become a free agent by not tendering him a deal, so the ball is in their court with him. Seeing as he'll still be relatively cheap and was a highly productive player when healthy last season, retaining him may not be a bad idea if they want to slot most of their free dollars into the rotation. However, if they want to venture outside of Aoki, they could look at minimal upgrades like Dexter Fowler or Austin Jackson, or go into the next tiere and look at Jayson Heyward, Justin Upton or Yeonis Cespedes. After watching Aoki succeed in the leadoff spot last season, and seeing that he'll probably make around $7M compared to a guy like Fowler, who is virtually Aoki with more pop and less average and will likely land a multi-year deal worth over $12M annually, I like him more and more. However, if the Giants do want to upgrade, Cespedes would seem to be the ideal guy. Solid defender, great athlete and home run-champion type power that really came to light after moving over to the NL this summer.

The infield looks rock-solid with Kelby Tomlinson likely to become the utility guy in 2016 and all positions solidified with above-average guys at each position. They could use another veteran infielder who can play shortstop and take free agent Joaquin Arias' old role. Macier Izturis, Mike Aviles and Juan Uribe are the three guys who I would make immediate inquires about. An Uribe reunion would be pretty sweet, as he'd provide plenty of pop from the right side off the bench, as well as multi-position versatility. Izturis would give them another speed guy with good defense and contact, sort of a Blanco for the infield and Aviles is a solid all-around player, although he may hold out for a gig that promises more playing time.

Of course, we still have some time before free agency kicks off, but it may come sooner than later after the Kansas City Royals have looked like an unstoppable steamroller all postseason long that even the young power arms of the Mets haven't yet been able to tame. Speaking of which, Johnny Cueto may have erased some of the doubts people had about him with his outing in game two. If that's his last start of 2015 then I would feel absolutely fine with the Giants giving him a multi-year deal. I wouldn't give him Jon Lester money, but a 5-year/$100M deal wouldn't be outrageous in my opinion. I'd say he and Zimmerman are pretty darn equal, although Zimmerman has the edge in the durability department and Cueto can be more dominant when he's right. Zimmerman probably is the safe choice and if the money was pretty similar, I'd take him, but I just think Cueto, who didn't have an ERA higher than 2.82 since 2010 before his switching of leagues in July, has the slightest of edges when both are at their best. Another thing against Cueto though is his clubhouse reputation which is less than stellar.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Thursday, October 08, 2015

In-house players could impact 2016 roster

It looked for a second there towards the end of August that the Giants may have a late season push in them after all, however, as the injuries amounted down the stretch, the Giants drifted further and further out of contention as September grew later.

First off, I'd like to thank you for returning to The Giants Baseball Blog, as we've been on a short hiatus for over the last month or so. The Giants falling out of contention coincided with hour changes at work and it enabled me from watching games on a daily basis and prevented me from being able to give genuine thoughts that weren't already being discussed on the web on airwaves. However, the season has ended and everybody has their own opinion on how things went, what can be taken from the 2015 season and of course, what needs to be done to return to success in 2016. During the offseason, we'll certainly be checking in weekly then once spring training rolls back around we should return to multiple posts per week again. So hang in there with us. I'm still trying to figure out scheduling with new job.

So enough boring stuff and back to baseball talk, which after 6 weeks of no posting, I'm itching to get back to. Now, despite another disappointing finish to a post-championship season, the Giants' have to view the emergence of some of their younger players in that final month as the silver lining. With key contributors like Hunter Pence and Joe Panik missing most of the last 6 weeks of the year, it opened the door for Jarrett Parker and Kelby Tomlinson and both showed they're ready to make an impact on the 2016 roster. Those were the two most impacting young position players the Giants brought up in 2015 and I, for one, can't wait to see these guys next spring. Although they didn't get to shine on the big stage like Joe Panik and Matt Duffy did last October, Giants fans have to feel pretty good knowing those guys should be able to lock down roster spots on next years 25-man and cost next to nothing (in terms of baseball money that is). One major issue I had with the 2014 roster coming in, and again, an issue that arouse during the season and bit them in the rear on more than one occasion, was the lack of depth going in. With the way they were able to develop Tomlinson and Parker, along with the impending return of Gregor Blanco and Andrew Sussac, I'd say the Giants bench is almost set and we're not even close to November.

Another bright spot surrounds yet another rookie who played a much more prominent role throughout the 2015 campaign than Parker and Tomlinson did, and that was new third basemen Matt Duffy. Brandon Crawford had a very nice five months offensively and all, but to me the big surprise of the 2015 season had to be the emergence of Matt Duffy, hands down. The guy not only took the the third base gig from Casey McGehee and ran with it, but he ended up outperforming the guy the Giants almost paid $100M to play that very same position (Pablo Sandoval). I can't tell you how good of a non-move that was now. Imagine if the Giants were tied into a long-term Pablo deal on top of the Cain contract? Yeah, things could be a lot worse. Instead, Duffy looks like he's not only going to be a solid performer at third base for the foreseeable future, but this guy quickly has developed into a cornerstone of the franchise. His numbers did fade a bit down the stretch and his average for the year did end up a shade below .300, but his rookie slash-line was none too shabby (.295/12/77/.762). He plays solid defense, and can hit just about anywhere in the order. He's like a more powerful version of Bill Mueller and it wouldn't surprise me in the least to see him up around 20 jacks next year with that same high average and solid defense.

On the mound, the Giants really had one guy really step up out of nowhere and really help anchor the starting rotation. Chris Heston was one of the best stories of the Giants for the first couple months of the season, as the rookie right-hander kept the rotation from completely falling apart when Jake Peavy, Matt Cain and Tim Hudson all missed time early on and Ryan Vogelsong just couldn't get hitters out. The thing with Heston is he really seemed to hit a wall once the calendar flipped to August, which is really to be expected for a young pitcher going through his first big league season. The 27 year-old's second half numbers (66 IP, 65 H, 34 BB, 55 K, 4.91 ERA, 1.50 WHIP) paled in comparison to his first half line (111 IP, 104 H, 35 BB, 89 K, 3.39 ERA, 1.20 WHIP).

Nevertheless, he showed the ability to lock down a rotation spot for the 2016 season, where hopefully the Giants find enough depth to have him in the 5 slot. Heston as a number five is pretty darn good. Heston as your number three as he was for much of the 2015 season though, leaves a lot to be desired. We know Madison Bumgarner's gonna be there atop the rotation for 2016, but after that things become a little muddied. Jake Peavy will also be in there somewhere after his strong finish to 2015, but the Giants are likely hoping it's as a 3rd or 4th guy rather than their number two behind MadBum. But that's offseason stuff we'll get to eventually.

Down in the bullpen, the Giants also had some fresh faces come through and provide a huge shot in the arm, especially in the second half of the year. Hunter Strickland and Josh Osich were two guys that didn't come close to making the roster out of spring and George Kontos made is as the 13th arm if I'm not mistaking, so none of these three had huge expectations coming in. However, when all was said and done, those three had prominent, late-inning roles with the club and likely locked in their spots for the 2016 bunch. With Jeremy Affeldt set to retire, it opens up a left-handed role that Osich immediately takes the drivers seat for. The Giants may look to find another veteran in free agency, but have to feel confident with their in-house replacement as a fall-back.

I know Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo aren't going anywhere and will likely again be your 8th and 9th inning guys in 2016 (at least to start) but the Kontos/Strickland combo is right on their heels. Many Giants fans even voiced their desire for Boch to give Strickland a chance at closing those last couple weeks of the season but the Giants late-inning releif situation was hardly the reason why they aren't playing in October, and Boch is a huge believer in the old saying "if it ain't broke, don't fix it".

There are all kinds of  2015 season reviews on the Giants out there with the season just coming to an end Sunday, and Instead of going through all the good and bad happenings of this season today, I really wanted to kind of focus on the positives and the new faces that burst onto the scene and look like they're here for good. Next week we'll start breaking down the veteran guys who will be back, as well as some of the areas the Giants should be looking to upgrade when free agency does open for business.

All in all, it's a major disappointment that this team once again failed to reach the postseason after winning it all just the year prior and it's the reason why most pundits hesitate to call the Giants string of championships a "dynasty". Sure, the Giants have been the best postseason team in baseball over the last half-decade, but they've been far from the best regular season team and Brian Sabean needs to figure out a way to improve that. Again, I bring up the depth issue, as that seemed to be the problem in 2011, 2013 and again in 2015. Hopefully the breakthrough of some of their younger players alleviates their depth concerns for next year but Sabean and Bobby Evans need to do a better job at planning for the unexpected like injuries or veterans maybe not performing like they have in years past.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Answer to Pence/Pagan Injuries: Marlon Byrd

For the most part over the last few years, when the Giants have stayed healthy as a team, they've found themselves atop the baseball world. However, in 2011 (Buster Posey the big one) and 2013 (Pagan, Scutaro missed significant time) they struggled mightily and failed to even reach October.

Here we are In 2015, and as we hit the stretch drive, the injury bug has reared it's ugly head in SF once again. Hunter Pence has been a stud when he's been been able to stay on the field this year, but the right fielder missed two months to start the year and now has re-landed on the DL at one of the worst possible times with a strained oblique. This could be tricky because, while best-case scenario has the Giants' star right fielder will be back in uniform for the first week of September, obliques are far from predictable. It's kept some players out up to a month at a time and one has to wonder with Pence's violent plate approach if it may take him a little longer than average. Also, joining Pence for yet another stint in what has been an injury plagued tenure (and a dreadful 2015) since he inked his 4-year/$40 million, is Angel Pagan. However, that may end up being a blessing in disguise for the Giants. It helped prompt them to add Marlon Byrd and it also opens up center for a guy who's playing at a much higher level than Pagan this year.

If you remember one of the areas I really wanted this team to look at upgrading before the trade deadline was getting another 4th-type outfielder that could handle starting for a stretch if need be. Pagan, again, has been so up and down and always is an injury risk, then Pence has had one of his worst years in terms of injury, and Aoki has even ran into some issues. I knew this team would likely need a little more depth there down the stretch but alas, it was not the case. Well, on Thursday, they finally got their guy, as they obtained Marlon Byrd from from Cincinnati to help keep them afloat until the shit gets right. In fact, Byrd's year in Cinci hasn't been too shabby, sans the .237 average, and he could have a chance to audition to be a regular even when Pence does return if he can out-play Angel Pagan down the stretch (if Pagan even makes it back). Pagan has been dealing with nagging back injuries for much of the year and his play has declined steadily because of it. Byrd obviously has plenty of power, which he displayed in his first at-bat as a Giant on Friday night in Pittsburgh, launching a 2-run jack into left-center to help give Madison Bumgarner a 3-0 lead before he even toed the rubber, and that's going to be a huge addition.

The newest Giant proceeded to go 3-5 in his debut with his new squad, as his home run was his 20th of the season, which now makes him the Giants team leader at the moment. It just goes to show there is absolutely no reason to dislike this move whatsoever. I mean, as I said, if he gets hot he could make Pagan irrelevant and shift Aoki to center, especially on days they face left-handed pitching. If not, he becomes a vital weapon off the bench and a legit DH option should the Giants somehow claw their way back into a World Series. I know Hunter Pence is injured and that is cause for concern, but he should be back for the majority of that last month of the regular season, but with Byrd now in tow, it makes that loss deal-able. Also, with the rise of the youngsters in that bullpen like, George Kontos, Hunter Strickland and Josh Osich along with the improvements lately from Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo have alleviated any need for an extra reliever. However, the one area I'm growing increasingly concerned with each day MadBum doesn't start is that rotation.

Mike Leake hasn't gotten back on the field after his impressive debut start with the Giants August 2nd, but he's slated to return to the rotation for a big start Saturday vs. the NL's top-ranked Wild Card, Pittsburgh Pirates. After he and Bumgarner though, the pickings are slim. Cain has been dreadful, and Heston has now been optioned back to Sacramento. Peavy was pretty decent for his first handful of starts after coming off the DL, but has been raked pretty well the last two outings, to the tune of 16 hits, 9 ER and 2 HR over 11.2 innings. Hopefully he can get right next time out but even if he does, this team could desperately take another starter should one of any value hit the waiver wire in the next 9 days... But I wouldn't hold my breath.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Friday, September 04, 2015

Peavy passes Cain in rotation depth chart

After seeing a 6-0 lead evaporate in Atlanta on Monday night behind Matt Cain, the Giants were determined to not let another winnable game slip away Tuesday. Fortunately this time they got a strong outing out of Jake Peavy, as well as a huge Hunter Pence 3-run blast to avoid another late letdown.

For fans who were wondering why the Giants were so adamant about adding a starting pitcher before the deadline, they got their answer on Monday night. With the amount of time he's missed and questions still surrounding that flexor-tendon in his right forearm, Matt Cain has sort of become the big question mark in the Giants rotation. Tim Lincecum is shelved for the foreseeable future and Tim Hudson was ousted from the rotation after the Mike Leake acquisition so Cain has all the sudden been put under a microscope. He's made 6 starts now since his return, so we have a pretty good idea of what he's going to present down the stretch. He's rocking a 2-2 record with a 4.91 ERA, a 1.45 WHIP and a .303 BAA. Those aren't very Cain-like numbers at all, as he's always been a guy to post respectable peripheral numbers despite his win totals throughout his career. However, his stamina just doesn't seem to be there, as he's yet to go more than 6 innings in a start, and is coming off back-to-back starts in which he's allowed 18 hits and 8 ER over just 11 innings of work. Before the Leake trade I just don't think they have the confidence in Cain to throw him out there in a playoff scenario, and now they don't necessarily have to.

Peavy: 6 IP, 1 ER, 8 K's vs. ATL
Bruce Bochy, Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans are really banking on at least one of the Cain/Peavy duo to contribute something in the second half, and so far it seems like Jake Peavy is going to be that guy. He turned in one of his better outings of the 2015 season, going 6 strong, limiting the Braves to just 1 run on 5 hits and struck out a season-high 8 batters while walking just 1. Unfortunately, thanks to rare lead cough-up by George Kontos, Peavy wasn't able to factor into the decision but did lower his season ERA and WHIP to 3.75 and  1.19, respectively. I think he's clearly placed himself ahead of Cain in the rotation and probably would get a playoff start if the Giants are indeed able to reach October and prevail beyond a possible Wild Card bout. Obviously you have MadBum as the ace and now Leake as your number two, then after that they'd probably go Peavy in game three then either MadBum again in game 4 if it's win or go home or rookie, Chris Heston, if it isn't. First of all, the Giants need to make the playoffs though and plenty can change down the stretch as there are still 8 solid weeks of baseball left, but the former "Horse" of this staff would be appear to be the odd man out come October.

Now, switching gears to the offensive side of things, aside from that pitching meltdown on Monday in Atlanta, the Giants have continued their solid play since the All-Star break and a big reason because of it has been the offense. I mean, this Giants' offense has become one of my favorite bunches of all time just because of their ability to beat you in multiple ways, the home-grown core and the power potential each guy carries after Aoki in that lineup... The two guys, in my mind, that have set this lineup apart from others though have been Brandon Crawford (and his power surge), and the emergence of Matt Duffy. I feel like we're getting what we expected to out of Posey, Belt, Pence and maybe a little more than expected out of Aoki and Panik. Crawford and Duffy, however, have fully surpassed everybody's expectations, even their own.

Crawford leads SF with 18 HR
BCraw has always had sneaky power in that bat but this year it's shown up with consistency, and was huge in a lineup that was void of Hunter Pence for about 2 months of the season. And of course, Duffy saved the day after the Casey McGehee fiasco didn't work out and has turned out to be even better at the hot corner than even his predecessor of years before in Pablo Sandoval. I mean, remember when we all were sort of panicking on who was going to be the Giants third basemen if Pablo left them high and dry, then it actually happened? 8 months later and I don't think the Giants could have asked for a better scenario. Not only are they not on the hook for the overweight, underachieving Sandoval for the next handful of years at $18M per, but they've replaced him with a guy who's already a better all-around player right now and it probably won't even be close in another 3 years. Now, Pablo was a postseaon machine and who knows if Duffy has that same ability one the big stage, but the Giants' brass should be thanking their lucky stars that "Fat Panda" chose the "greener pastures" in Boston!
The Giants Baseball Blog

Friday, July 31, 2015

Giants add arm, but not second ace

With moves happening left and right and targets the Giants had on their radar finding new homes (David Price and Cole Hamels in particular), Bobby Evans decided to go with plan B. The Giants and Red agreed to a deal that will send RHP Mike Leake to San Francisco in exchange for bright young right-handed prospect Keury Mella and power hitting pseudo-prospect Adam Duvall.

Fans that were holding out hope that the team would be able to find that true number two starter, and another ace to pair with Madison Bumgarner didn't quite get their wish, but the Giants are bringing in a rock solid starter nonetheless. Leake had posted a 9-5 record with a 3.56 ERA and 1.15 WHIP over 21 starts for the Reds and he's coming off back-to-back sub-4 ERA seasons in which he had double digit wins (14 in '13 and 11 in '14). While he's going to deepen the rotation and will likely slot in behind MadBum in the 2 slot, he wasn't quite the caliber of pitcher I was hoping the Giants could reel in. I mean, they gave up a guy who many considered their top prospect at the moment for a #3/4 starter who's likely going to be around only 2 months. In my mind, they should have just added another prospect or two on and made a real push for that real difference maker like Price or Hamels, but that just may not have been a realistic option. After those two were dealt I shifted my focus to Jeff Samardzija, then even Tyson Ross or Andrew Cashner from their SoCal rival Padres, but knew there were a lot of teams asking about Samardzija and it would be tough to pry to front-end starters like Ross or Cashner from a division rival.

All in all, I felt like the Giants could have done better and there were other options out there, but again, Leake isn't a bum by any stretch. I just feel like there isn't a huge talent gap between Mike Leake and guys they already have like Vogelsong, Cain, Peavy and Heston and the Giants should have tried to shoot for a bigger upgrade. On the plus side, his numbers over the last 3 seasons are second to only MadBum in the rotation and he should see his numbers improve even further now that he's out of the hitters haven that is Great American Ballpark. He's certainly not gonna overpower you though, with a fastball sitting in the high-80's and reaching 91 on occasion, but he has very strong command and can be tough to handle when he's keeping the ball down and has that wicked whip on that breaking ball. When taking into account his peripherals (FIP, BABP, and KK/BB) he's just slighltly above average and that's really what he is. A suitable number 3 or a top-end number 4/5. If they gave up say, Joan Gregorio, Chris Stratton and Adam Duvall or bit of a lesser package of that elk, I would have given it two thumbs up, but I feel like a group headlined by Mella could have gotten them a bit more. For that reason, I give it a C/C+, just cause Leake isn't proven in the postseason.

Now, what do the Giants do between now and the deadline Friday afternoon? Well, they do need to make space for Leake, and they very well may have another deal in the works. They already have a guy in Vogelsong who's out of position in the bullpen and they may need to put another starter out there now. I don't see Boch going with a 6-man rotation, although I guess it is possible. Seems to me like the odd man out at this point would be Yusmiero Petit, but Ryan Vogelsong may not be 100% safe either. The Giants have also been rumored to be in the hunt to bring back Michael Morse, who was just released by the Dodgers after they acquired him from Miami. Morse would be a nice fit as a big power bat off the bench and a guy who can play a little left field and first base, if they can convince him to stay in Sacramento until the rosters expand in September (then if we have our way, he comes off the bench in October and DH's in a possible World Series). They may want Maxwell on the roster over him just because of defense, but Giants have a good defensive outfield this year and don't really need it. Plus they have Blanco coming off the bench to maybe spell Pagan in the playoffs. That's the luxury of having 3 guys who can play right and 3 who can play center, they can afford to carry a thumper who can only play a corner. I think the players would certainly get a kick out of bring the big guy back. Hunter Pence as much as anyone, I'll tell you that much! 

Anyhow, as you can tell, not the most exciting move and I doubt there's going to be a huge rush to pick up Mike Leake jerseys at "The Giants Dugout", but Brian Sabean and co. have shown they know what they're doing (for the most part) over the last 5 years, so lets hope this falls right into that category. Leake has a mid-3 ERA, a 34-25 record since the start of 2013, should only get better with the change of ballparks and, again, he does give them another sort of "safe bet" besides MadBum (being he's not a rookie and hasn't missed a chunk of time the last year with injury). I wanna put Heston in that category too now though but he's still just a rookie and I don't think you want him starting a game two of a NLDS in St. Louis for instance. If the playoffs started tomorrow and the Giants were in the NLDS, my rotation would have to be MadBum-Leake-Heston and go from there. Not the most intimidating 2 and 3, but two guys who're having huge years and are more capable of turning in the big performance than Cain and Peavy. Leake was lit up in his only playoff outing in 2012 against San Francisco but he was 24 at the time and wasn't the same pitcher he's become today.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Deadline Time: What to do?

We're about 72 hours from the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline and although their isn't one particularly glaring area of concern on the Giants' roster right now, it hasn't kept Bobby Evans and Brian Sabean from scouring the market for potential upgrades.

The Giants have been on of the better teams in baseball since the All-Star break, and now with the return of Nori Aoki Monday night, they are finally working with a full deck. Surprisingly, the Giants have cruised to their 55-44 record without having their projected opening day roster in-tact together much at all. They were without Cain, Peavy and Pence for much of the first couple months, then Aoki and Affeldt hit the shelve, but the gang is back in full force and in plenty of time for the stretch run. Now, with all the key cogs healthy, you get an idea of how good this team can be, and it's no surprise they've gone 9-1 since break but that doesn't necessarily mean this team is flawless and is a sure fire bet to return to the postseason and break their odd-season curse. I said at the top of the post that their isn't particularly a single glaring area of need on the roster, but there's always room for improvement. I don't really think they need to do a thing with their everyday lineup and I'm the type of guy that is always looking for possible offensive upgrades. I just don't see where they can slide a big bat though if they were to find one, and with Matt Duffy, Joe Panic and Brandon Crawford's 2015 offensive surge, they don't really need one.

That said, outside of Gregor Blanco and their deep catching unit, the Giants don't have the strongest bench in the league. Angel Pagan has had a bit of a rough go of it offensively after a hot start, and he may need more time off down the stretch, but Blanco has shown the ability to step in when needed as he's having a career year offensively. I like Justin Maxwell and think he's a good presence on the team and in the clubhouse, but if they can find a more consistent bat for that fifth outfield spot, I'd be all for it. Also another utility infielder with some experience certainly wouldn't hurt. Ehire Adrianza has had a huge year in Sacramento but he's never been able to have any sort of success in his limited big league exposure.

So, that leaves the pitching staff as the most likely area to be added to, if the Giants indeed decide there is a move that can help the club now. Plenty of big name pitchers have been linked to the Giants in the last 48 hours, from James Shields to Cole Hamels and David Price. In fact, a fake Ken Rosenthal Twitter account actually stirred up a bit of a rise Tuesday morning by reporting that the Giants had sent Tyler Beede and 3 other prospects to Philly for Cole Hamels. Alas, it was not to be, but the Giants have fresh in their memory last postseason in which Madison Bumgarner was sort of a one-man army amongst the starters and they certainly don't want a repeat performance from the guys behind him this time around. While Cain and Peavy have each shown glimpses of their old selves, I don't think either is a great option as a number two behind MadBum in a playoff scenario. The Giants rotation, as is, is set up nicely for the regular season, and they very well could make it into the playoffs with their rotation as is, but it sure would be nice to have another ace-like option to alleviate some of the pressure off Bumgarner. Plus with roughly $50+ million coming off the books at the end of the year, they're in a position where they could take on a contract like Hamels' and not have it handicap them for the upcoming offseason.

I've said it before and I still think Hamels makes the most since out of all the big names linked to the Giants. Jeff Samardjiza is another very intriguing option but Hamels is such a smart pitcher and has had success for so long that I would trust him in that big "must win" game over Samardjiza and some of the other guys who just haven't performed and/or succeeded on the big stage. The only thing it will come down to is how many prospects the Phillies are going to want in return. I've been hearing that the Phills haven't been enamored with any of the Giants' offers yet but there's still some time for negotiation.

Anyway, moves have been happening left and right and it should be an interesting couple of days as we inch towards theFriday's 1 PM PT non-waiver trade deadline, and although I'm not expecting a big splash on the Giants part, I also wouldn't be surprised to see them grab another ace to pair with MadBum.

Roster Notes: The Giants were unable to hang onto Jean Machi, who was DFA'd after running out of options with San Francisco and was promply swooped up by the Boston Red Sox, were he'll join his former teammate and fellow countrymen, Pablo Sandoval. Machi was struggling for most of 2015 but shouldn't be forgotten as he was a key member of the 2014 Championship 'bully. He simply had been passed on the depth chart by George Kontos and Hunter Strickland and there wasn't room to carry him. With Machi now out of the mix, the only guy who seemingly could be replaced if the Giants can find an upgrade in the pen would be Yusmiero Petit (especially with Vogey now in the pen).
The Giants Baseball Blog

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Giants' offense comes alive vs. Phillies

The Giants have been struggling mightily since the calendar flipped from June to July, and a big reason for those struggles has been the play of the offense. They've had multiple guys go through slumps at the same time in recent weeks but all that came to a halt on Friday night at AT&T as the Giants had a historic night at the plate.

Duffy relevant in ROY chase
Facing what appears to be one of the most sought after commodities of this trade season, Cole Hamels, the Giants surprisingly put forth their best offensive performance of the season, scoring 15 runs, but also set a San Francisco Giants record with 22 hits in the game. 3 different players had four-hit games, and all three of them really needed it. None perhaps more than Justin Maxwell, who's roster spot may be in jeopardy as the trade deadline approaches and the Giants' apparently searching for outfield depth, needed the breakout and he definitely got it. He went 4-5 with 3 doubles, helping distance his batting average from the dreaded "Mendoza Line". Also, one of the younger guys in the lineup who had run into a big of a fun lately, Matt Duffy, came into the game hitting .172 this month so seeing him bust out was also a welcome sight. Even Angel Pagan, who arguably has been this team's biggest weak link offensively in recent weeks as he battles multiple nagging injuries, got it going with a 3-hit, 3-run, 2-RBI evening himself. Hunter Pence's grand slam and Joe Panic's two-run blast into the water (on multiple bounces have you) were the two big flies of the night. Coincidentally, Barry Bonds was hanging around the team talking batting during BP today.

So far, so good for Cain
So, after the huge offensive outburst, what does that change as we approach the All-Star break and with the trade deadline looming just a few short weeks away? Absolutely nothing. Sure, pretty much everything clicked for them against a top-line starting pitcher and it's easy to ride that high into thinking the Giants are invincible but let's not forget, the team was just 1-7 this month before Friday's game, and even though it was spectacular, it was just one game. With Matt Cain and Jake Peavy each coming back in recent weeks and each throwing pretty well in the process, it has eliminated a little bit of the starting pitching needs. However, these two are very fragile right now and after both missed all of or most of the first half, it's tough to gauge exactly what they'll give them down the stretch. They could thrive because they're fresh and healthy but you never know. Right now, even with Lincecum and Hudson shelved, the need in the rotation isn't urgent, but getting another capable arm (not necessarily a front-line guy) would provide insurance.

They've got MadBum, Heston, Vogey, Cain and Peavy. That's a stud, a rookie, a 37 year-old who was on his last legs up until about 6 weeks ago and two guys who haven't thrown much at all this year. Of course there are still the two Tim's on the shelf but neither of those guys were exactly dealing before going down and the Giants may decide to use Lincecum in relief for the stretch run. In other words, after MadBum, if the Giants did make it into a playoffs series scenario, I have no idea who Bochy would use or in what order. Probably Heston and Vogey if the season ended now, but Cain and Peavy have plenty of time to work themselves into that discussion as well.

Despite their July struggles (up until Friday night that is), there's no one area that this team absolutely NEEDS to upgrade, but at just one game over .500 and 6 games back of the Dodgers in the West, they could certainly use a shot in the arm, or two. Nori Aoki is expected back later this month and at which time the Giants hope to be working with a full deck offensively. They haven't played many games with all their starters in their, especially since Matt Duffy took over at third, but once everyone is out there,they don't have many places to put a possible offensive addition. Therefore I don't think they'll be looking for a huge splash, rather maybe another 4th outfield type. Pagan has some injury issues and has been largely unproductive over the last 6 weeks and he very well could need a DL stint just to alleviate some of his nagging issues at some point. Gregor Blanco has been a stud in the 4th outfield role, having perhaps his best season so far, but after him, it's Justin Maxwell, and the Giants may feel they can upgrade there. Also, in the infield, I feel like there are plenty of options out there that would pose significant upgrades to Joaquin Arias, who has steadily forgotten how to hit.

SF Could Use Papelbon
Also, this bullpen isn't exactly dominant right now and with the way this pitching staff can't seem to go more than 5-6 innings per start consistently, they need quality depth. Hopefully Jeremy Affeldt comes back strong soon cause right now, the Giants are using a lot of Kontos and Hunter Strickland and those guys are going to wear down. Sergio Romo has hit a rut recently (4 runs allowed in last 2.2 innings) and it's caused Bochy to use him just a couple times over the last two weeks. They really need him to be that sub-3.00 ERA version of himself in order to help lock that 8th inning down. I know Strickland and Kontos have been solid, but I think Bochy will feel a lot more confident using someone with a little more experience in that set-up role down the stretch and hopefully into October. If Romo can't become that guy, they could certainly be in the market for a right-handed late reliever. One option could be a guy who's in town now, Philly closer Jonathan Papelbon. Imagine having the ability to use Casilla wherever, and letting Papelbon hold down the ninth?
The Giants Baseball Blog