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Sunday, December 15, 2019

MLB Hot Stove heating up as Giants make first impactful additions

The annual MLB Winter Meetings in San Diego came to a close earlier this week and the Giants have to feel pretty decently about what they were able to accomplish while in attendance.

No, there was no Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburgh signing, and Nick Castellanos has not agreed to come aboard (not yet at least), but the Giants and Farhan Zaidi were able to make a couple of moves that will help them both in the upcoming season, and perhaps for many years to come.

In their first notable move of the offseason, the Giants inked free agent starting pitcher Kevin Gausman to a 1-year/$9M deal with incentives added in that could push the deal into the $10M range. We'll talk more about Gausman and what he'll bring to the table in 2020 in a minute but first lets take a look at who they now have locked into their rotation.

The Giants, as of now, only have 3 guys cemented into the 5-man rotation, led by Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija and now Gausman. Cueto, although he looked pretty good in his brief return from Tommy John Surgery in September, can't be penciled in for a 180+ inning workload so they're gonna need starting pitching depth this season more than ever. Farhan has stated his desire to head into the season with at least 7-8 guys capable of holding down a rotation spot so you know he's going to be active searching for more depth in addition to Gausman.

Most likely Logan Webb and Tyler Beede would round out the rotation if the season were to start tomorrow, but I think Zaidi would ideally like to have those guys more of the 6th and 7th options. Or, at the very least, have them battle it out for the fifth spot, with the loser then waiting in the wings when needed. So, if that is indeed the case, the Giants should still be in the market for at least one more starter, and maybe two. The one name that I really like, and someone I would have chosen over Gausman, even if you had to go multiple years and a little more annually than they did with Gausman is Braves free agent right-hander Julio Teheran.

I've always been a big fan of Teheran as I've seen that guy when he's on and he has legit #2 starter capabilities. He, like Gausman, is 28 years old, but has an even better, more consistent track record than the Giants new number-3 starter. In seven full seasons in Atlanta, Teheran has had an ERA over 4.04 just one time and is coming off back-to-back campaigns in which he's combined to put up a 3.84 ERA, 1.27 WHIP and ERA+ of 114. Obviously not earth shattering, but his consistency is about as legit as any other free agent starter on the market. Putting him in Oracle Park for half his starts would probably increase his peripherals as well. The Braves declined his $12M option but only because I believe they're trying to allocate funds to use elsewhere. In my opinion Teheran is well worth $12 million a season and I'd have no issues whatsoever if the Giants offered the right-hander a deal in the $10-12M range for 2 or 3 seasons. Michael Pineda (2/$20M) and Kyle Gibson (3/$28M) would seem to fall around the same ballpark as Teheran's expected AAV and that would be completely fine with me.

In comparing Teheran and Gausman, they're both identical ages, and have pretty similar track records but Teheran has been much more consistent and I believe has more of an ability to dominate when he's on. Like I said, I've seen some starts by him in which he was looking downright unhittable with crazy movement and very good command. I couldn't find a 2019 highlight reel for the right-hander but here's a nice 2018 highlight video that shows you some of his abilities (including being a threat with the bat in his hands.'

Anyway, Gausman is on-board, and the more it's been sitting with me, the more I'm taking to the deal. He leans mostly on 4 pitches and he can command them all very well when he's on, which makes him a tough at-bat. He leans mostly on his mid-90's heater that can touch 99, to go along with a biting splitter, a sinker and a change-up. His swing and miss pitches are his nasty slider and split which both sit in the low-to-mid 80's. Here is a clip from 2018 when he was using all his pitches well and ended up striking out the side on 9 pitches and you can get a good look at that slider, the split and the movement on his heater. If you overlook his brutal '19 season, and if he instead were coming off his '18 or better yet, his '16 season (180 IP, 174 K, 119 ERA+ and a 1.20 WHIP) this guy's probably looking at offers closer to what Zach Wheeler got from Philly (5 years/$118M). In fact in his 2016-18 season's he averaged an ERA of 4.09, 1.34 WHIP, 109 ERA+ with 8.5 ks/9 and a 3/1 K:BB ratio. Basically a smidge better than Jeff Samardzija at half the price and 6 years younger.

When taking everything into consideration with this Gausman deal and his potential coming to this ballpark, I have to give Farhan a solid B for this one. Again, I'd have liked to see Teheran instead if they're only able to get one of the two, but Gausman should be a fine 4 or 5 starter with the potential to be a 3! Sure we all want Madison Bumgarner back to round out the rotation, but keep an eye on Teheran as a consolation. I could totally live with a rotation of Cueto-Teheran-Samardzija-Gausman-Webb/Beede while guys like Dereck Rodriguez, Tyler Anderson and Andrew Suarez provide some of that depth that Farhan desires.

I'm gonna save the Zach Cozart/Will Wilson trade talk for either Sunday or Monday's post as we're running low on time and I don't wanna take too much of your guys' in one article. I can say, however, that I'm a fan of both of the moves Farhan has made since letting Kevin Pillar walk, and this shows me that he had a plan of some sort by making that decision with Pillar.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Thursday, November 28, 2019

The future should be now at first base and catcher

The Giants' most pivotal offseason in over a decade is in full force and with the departure of closer Will Smith, who inked a 4-year pact in Atlanta, marking the first big loss for the ballclub.

The second departure from the '19 roster took place Tuesday after backup catcher, and a guy who really took well to this clubhouse and this fan base, Stephen Vogt, decided to take his talents to Arizona. In AZ, he'll be asked to backup and help mentor impressive young backstop Carson Kelly. Now don't get me wrong, the Vogt departure isn't anywhere near as impacting as losing ace closer Will Smith, but as painful and strange as this is to say, Vogt was the teams best catcher in 2019 so he too isn't someone Farhan and Scott Harris can easily replace. I mean, on a roster with a former MVP backstop and someone still relatively in their prime, Vogt was the more productive of the two, and by a good amount. The 32 year-old Vogt slashed a solid .263/.314/.490 over 255 at-bats. Posey. on the other hand struggled as he was trying to get his surgically repaired hip back into form, only able to muster a career-low .257/.320/.368 line in over 400 at-bats. Posey left the yard just 7 times and drove in 38 runs while taking most of his at-bats right in the middle of the lineup. Vogt left earth 10 times with 40 driven in with almost 200 less at-bats than Posey.

That doesn't tell the whole store though, as Posey has had an ongoing struggle with his hip the last couple of seasons and had surgery to repair it last winter. I obviously effected his play in 2019 but the Giants are hoping now a full, health offseason where he can divulge focus on refining his game rather than just trying to get himself healthy.

Thus, the catching position will be very interesting to keep an eye on moving forward. The plan is for Posey to revert back to full health and in-turn, hopefully his numbers climb back up as a result. However, Buster will be 33 heading into next offseason and while I'm definitely expecting a much more respectable offensive showing, counting on someone who's caught a lot of ballgames over the last decade to all of the sudden revert back to his 27 year-old form would be foolish. He, in my opinion is probably the most pivotal and impactful player in that lineup this year. If he can get back to his pre-2018 drop-off, that that would provide such an amazing boost for this offense. Not saying they need him to be a 20 HR/year guy again, but it's not like he forgot how to hit, Buster at .285/.335/.450 are numbers well within his reach if he's physically able to play up to his capabilities.

This, like for may other players on the team, will be a crucial year for Buster. If he struggles with injury and ineffectiveness yet again, it should signal the end of his days as the Giants primary backstop. And seeing how he's making north of $20M/year for another couple of seasons too would be all sorts of bad. Best case scenario, at least in my opinion, is if he can bounce back offensively and maybe start his transfer over the first base this year. Not only would that open up a spot for the team's top prospect Joey Bart, who I expect to see this year and hopefully plenty of him, but it may in turn improve his offense all together as his legs won't be taking the same beating which could work wonders on his foundation at the pate.

On top of all of that, I feel like Brandon Belt is one of the more trade-able pieces the Giants have on their roster now is the time to find a taker for the 31 year-old power/on-base style hitter. The Giants may need to eat a portion of Belts large contract in order to open up first base, but I think it could end up being a win-win for whoever he potentially would get moved to along with the Giants. It's no secret that Oracle Park has been about as hard on Belt as any other Giants lefty since he arrived. Still very much in his prime as a first-basemen, I could easily see Belt landing in a more hitter friendly confine and finally reaching his 25+ home run potential. He plays solid defense and gets on base at a high clip so the Giants shouldn't have too much trouble finding a taker for him. The Brewers are a team that immediately comes to mind who could use a first basemen like Belt and that's exactly the type of yard that could elevate Belt's offense big time. Another team I think could use Belt are the reigning World Champion Nationals. They lost Ryan Zimmerman to retirement and Belt would be a huge upgrade defensively or Zimmerman while, again, most likely providing offensive numbers north of his career average.

I just feel like it's time for a change at first base, and I think putting Buster there would help his offense out a lot while opening a spot for Joey Bart, who may come in like Posey did in 2010 and immediately become the team's best hitter. Those are the type of aggressive moves that push the envelope and maybe remove some guys who've been staples here over the last 8-10 years and I'm pretty confident they have the guy in Farhan Zaidi who won't be afraid to make those tough decisions.

Taking a glance at the free agent options out there, there aren't a whole lot of options that really excite anyone. Farhan has always preferred to house a backup catcher who can play multiple positions but with Posey likely slated for less and less time there in 2020, it would make sense to just try and get the best available. My top two choices would be Wellington Castillo and Martin Maldonado. Those two could start in a pinch and tide things over until Bart arrives, maybe sometime in June. Castillo is particularly intriguing as he can really hit when he's right and had a WAR over 2 in two of his last four seasons. Even if they do plan on having Buster back there more games than not, having a solid backup like one of these two would still serve them well.

Now, regardless of whether or not the Giants do take my advice and ship Belt off to open first for Posey, Vogt's departure leaves an open catchers spot on the 25 man roster and that spot will not go to Bart unless he'll be playing more often than not.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Sunday, November 24, 2019

Giants' possible first order of business?

Here we are, a month into the MLB offseason and movement is starting to slowly pick up in the hot stove arena and although things will slow down through the Thanksgiving weekend, you can bet things will heat back up early next week as the Winter Meetings are just a few weeks away.

As I've stated many times here, probably as recently as our last post below, this is one of my favorite times of the year on the MLB front by far because this is the time when teams get a blank slate (or as close to one as they can have) and have multiple avenues they can take to improve their respective rosters.

Today, since Will Smith was the first to depart from the club and open up a glaring hole at the end of games in the Giants' bullpen, I thought I'd delve a bit into what the Giants have coming back in 2020 while including some of the better options who are out there on the market, both trade and free agency.

Before we delve into the more exciting potential positional players the Giants may go after, or the possibility of them landing a upper-end rotational starter to replace Bumgarner, I wanted to first touch on some of the relief options who could make some sense to bring in this winter. The Giants pen was up and down in 2019 but all in all it performed well as a group and I have a feeling that without a ton of impact relief arms out there this year, that could be the first area the Giants attach in the coming weeks.

So far, the only prominent player from the Giants' 2019 team who surely won't be returning is closer Will Smith, who inked his 3-year deal with Atlanta earlier this month. We already talked a bit about that in our previous post so no need to harp on that any further, however, one topic to discuss now is who will slot into the ninth inning role for the Giants for the 2020 season? First off all they'll fully assess a few of the in-house options who've shown glimpses of ability to become the end of game stopper for this club. San Francisco does have some intriguing up-and-coming arms in their bullpen that will make strong cases for prominent roles in 2020.

Tyler Rogers (14 G, 0.63 ERA, 0.89 WHIP in September) should be penciled into a middle relief role. Right-handers Trevor Gott, Jamdel Gustave and Sam Coonrod will also have tentative spots reserved for based on their 2019 showings; at least as the roster stands now. With Smith gone, the lead left-hander will be the veteran of the group, Tony Watson, who's coming off a bit of a down year but is still one of the more reliable relievers in the game.

There are a handful of other guys who will head into camp hoping to make a roster push, from the likes of Shaun Anderson, Andrew Suarez and Wandy Peralta, but the one guy in house at this moment and the only one capable of possibly shouldering that 9th inning role is right-hander Reyes Moronta. The 26 year-old right hander has about as filthy of stuff as anyone on the Giants pitching staff and has the ideal arsenal of weapons you'd look for in a closer. He throws hard, has big time movement, seems to handle pressure very well and has no problem getting the strikeout when needed. The only slight area the youngster needs work on is cutting down his free passes by about 30%. He really reminds me a bit of a harder-throwing Sergio Romo. Not quite the frisbee-slider but the low 3/4 release and a nice biting bender in the upper-80's to go with a fastball that can rise and sits in the upper 90's. It's no surprised opponents hit under .200 against him in his career.

Now, would I just anoint Moronta closer this winter based on their lack of options coupled with his success the last couple of years? Ideally that would not be the case, even if they don't find another guy they'd feel more comfortable with in free agency or trade. That being said, as of November 23rd, Reyes Moronta looks like your closer if the season were to start on December 1st. Watson would probably be the set-up man with either Coonrod, Gott or Rogers also in the mix for 8th inning work.

So that's where they sit now, entering free agent season and there really isn't a sure-fire closing option out there that I'm sure Farhan would feel good about shelling out Will Smith-type money too in order to replace the lefty. Daniel Hudson is the top name on that list, but he'll have plenty of leverage because he knows it. Despite having a terrific run for Washington last summer, he's going to be 33 next season and I would not offer him a package that Smith got, but I would maybe give him two years at that AAV. However, I think perhaps the most intriguing, roll-the-dice option out there is former Rockie and Royal closer, Greg Holland. He'll be 34 and is coming off a couple of less than stellar seasons but he's had some injuries he's dealt with constant changing of roles while pitching in some live yards. After seeing Smith set the marker for relievers, maybe Holland on a 2-year/$10M deal with incentives to double the AAV if he takes the closer gig full time, wouldn't be such a terrible scenario.

Of course there are a whole other plethora of options out there that could be available via trade, but there are two that really give me optimism as far as possibly not costing an arm and a leg. In fact, in this bare relief marker, I'd be ecstatic if the Giants could somehow swindle one of the following closers from their respective clubs. Problem is, these are the type of guys who may require the likes of Yaz, Beede and/or Moronta in return. Two names who come to mind off the top of my head are Alex Colome and Ken Giles who are exactly the types the Giants could use; whether they're available or not is another story. Assuming they could be had in trade though, Colome is one of the most underrated stoppers in the game because he plays for the White Sox but is as about as steady as they come after just turning 30. Giles has had some past injuries but when the 29 year-old is on he's electric as they come and would give the Giants their most electrifying closer since Robb Nen.

If they want to go bargain basement and are looking to add a possible closer to tide them over for the 2020 season only, one possible bargain name to consider would be Ian Kennedy from Kansas City. He's reinvented himself as a late-inning reliever and has likely prolonged his career because of it. He'd fit more as a set-up man/second closer in a win-now situation with a team like the Yankees or Dodgers though. Ideally, the Giants can find someone who could anchor a late-inning relief spot for the next half-decade.

I'm sure the Farhan, Harris and Kapler will be scouring for more mid-relief options as well, but focusing on the late innings will be a priority. They'll also be pursuing at least one starting pitcher to help come in and eat up some of Bumgarner's lost innings, Johnny Cueto, who's still only a few games into his post TJS career, and Jeff Samardzija are the anchors of the staff at the moment. If the season started tomorrow they'd be forced to roll with Beede, Webb and likely Rodriguez or Suarez if they wanted to get a lefty in there.

Next post though, we'll start our evaluation of the returning roster spots and where they stand now, what they can do to improve realistically, and some players I think they should go after in order to better their offense. It may include cutting loose some long-tenured Giants and making some positional moves around the diamond but I don't wanna get into that tonight. It's just good to finally have some leadership atop the organization again and I'm cautiously optimistic this bunch will get a thing or two done this winter!

Which big first move do you think Farhan, Harris Co. make to kick off the Giants offseason? Pass on your thoughts in the comment section!

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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Sunday, November 17, 2019

With Kapler and Harris aboard, Giants shift focus to roster

First off, welcome back to The Giants Baseball Blog!

I took a bit of an extended hiatus and I'll talk a little more on that later, but I figured now would be an ideal time to return as the Giants enter arguably their most pivotal offseason in over a decade. It's one that's seeing them change the brass of the team, including bringing in a new general manager and new field general after the huge acquisition of Farhan Zaidi to take over baseball operations last fall. Finally, after what seemed like a very long search for their GM and manager, the Giants were able to fill both those spots within a couple of days of each other, and now the new hires will join Farhan as they try shift all the focus on getting the Giants back to being a perennial contender.

Last week they plucked 32 year-old Scott Harris from the Cubs front office, where he had been a prominent part of their research and development and built a reputation for spotting young talent. Working under Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer in Chicago, Harris got to learn from the best during his time there. He was an instrumental part of the Cubs changing their fortune and winning their first World Series tittle in more than 100 years back in 2016. The move fits right in line with the Giants and Farhan Zaidi's philosophy of moving toward the future of analytics and player development department. WIth the Giants in the midst of rebuilding and trying to put together some pieces they can build around into the next decade, Harris' abilities should be put to use immediately. Farhan will still have the ultimate say-so in regards to player movement at the big league level but Harris will likely be tasked in forming and hopefully stockpiling the minor league system.
A few days after bringing Harris aboard, the Giants found their replacement for Bruce Bochy, who had managed the club since the 2007 season and led them to three World Series tittles during his tenure here. Gabe Kapler will take over as the field general for the Giants, just their fourth different manager they've had since 1993. Kap had one previous run as manager, leading the Phillies in 2018-19, accumulating a record of 161-163. Obviously his record, especially last year after the Phillies went out and spent a ton in free agency, came up short of expectations. He did do a great job as coordinator of the Dodgers minor league system before taking over the Phillies, which is when he and Farhan worked together. I think that's the thought in mind the Giants had upon hiring him, that he'll be a guy to help bring along the young players in the minor leagues as the Giants franchise goes through transition the next couple of seasons. 

Obviously it's going to take a while to see if he's going to work out, and there has been mixed reactions amongst the Giants fans across the bay area. Out of the three finalists they had narrowed their search to, I definitely think they made the right choice. I always think a former player like Kapler who played with success in the big leagues not too long ago has an advantage when it comes to managing. He automatically gets the players respect cause he's done it before, plus I think he's very much in tune with the way the game is being played today and should bring a little bit more modern and experimental strategies to the Giants style of play.

One area in which I think Bochy was sort of stuck in his old school ways and I'm hoping Kapler will change is the constant use of hitters in certain spots of the batting order, regardless of how they were performing at the time. For example, Buster Posey has been great during his career and I'm hoping a year removed from hip surgery and a full, healthy offseason will lead to a bounce back in 2020, but he's been bad at the plate the last two seasons and has no business continuously hitting in the middle of the Giants order until he proves again that he can produce there. I also expect to see veterans who aren't performing well take a seat at times to give other younger players an opportunity, regardless of what their salary is. If Brandon Crawford is hitting .220 and is his defense continues to slide, he should no longer be viewed as an everyday shortstop.

We'll tackle more of the player and lineup issues throughout the offseason, this is post is more just to get back into the swing of things and provide a little perspective on the two new hirings that took place over the week. Again, I do think Kapler was the best choice out of the three finalists. Were there better managerial options available out there? Probably, but Farhan obviously targeted these guys for a reason and so far he hasn't done anything yet to hurt this franchise, so I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt until then. Also if you look at the two teams in the World Series this year, both managed by former players (A.J. Hinch and Dave Martinez) who played a lengthy career and had success in the league. Then there's Dave Roberts in LA who's been one of the best managers in the game aside from some decisions later in the playoffs, but you can tell that these guys know how to get the most out of their players and I look forward to that translating with Kapler in San Francisco.

As for what's next, right after the Kapler presser, Zaidi and Harris immediately shifted their focus to free agency as the Giants have already lost one huge piece from last year. Closer Will Smith inked a 3-year/$40M deal with Atlanta after declining the Giants' qualifying offer, which will in turn net the Giants an compensatory pick in next Junes draft. Now all eyes will be on Madison Bumgarner, as he expectedly declined his QO as well earlier this week. The Braves and Yankees are said to be favorites to land the left-handed postseason ace, and I ultimately see the Yanks offering him the most money as they'll likely be thinking of October if they ink him. The Giants still have a chance at retaining him, but I just don't see his return as a likely scenario.

I'm very much looking forward to getting back into my regular posting schedule and we should have a lot to talk about in the coming weeks as the hot stove picks up. There are three parts of a baseball calendar year that really stand out for me and that is obviously opening day and the beginning of the season, the postseason (especially when the Giants are involved) and the beginning of the offseason. Especially in an offseason like this for the Giants in which they could go a number of different ways and have shown with their pursuit of Bryce Harper last winter, they will go all out for a player if they want him bad enough. 

I don't have an exact posting schedule but typically in the offseason we'll do at least one post a week, with more coming at times there is breaking news or intriguing rumors to discuss. It's great to be back though, and I appreciate all you guys who have come back to this site over the years. I hope to gain new readers as well and strive to make 2020 our best, most productive year on this blog. Hopefully the Giants make it easy to do so and can put together an exciting product to field next season. Much like the 2019 season, I don't think there is anything the Giants can do this winter to put themselves in position to be legit contenders in 2020, but they have to continue to progress.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Thursday, March 28, 2019

Familiar issues plague Giants in '19 opener

The 2019 baseball season officially kicked off it's full slate of games on Thursday, including the Giants opener in San Diego. However, despite the fresh new start, the Giants ran into the same problem that's been at the heart of the team's failures the last few seasons as they once again just couldn't muster much of anything offensively.

While the starter the Giants went up against is certainly a quality major league arm, Eric Lauer was easily one of the more underwhelming MLB starters to get the call Thursday, which makes the Giants' five total hits with zero going for extra-bases especially tough to swallow. On a day when great left-handed starters kicked off their respective squad's seasons, Laurer had arguably the best showing of any of them, thanks in large part to the Giants lack of ability to do anything at the plate. They not only had a tough time finding holes in the Padres defense and getting hits to fall, but they simply didn't swing the bat well and for the most part weren't making good consistent contact. The only guy that looked inspiring Thursday afternoon, and someone who I'm expecting to have a huge bounce back season is third basemen Evan Longoria. The veteran third basemen was the only Giant hitter to have a multi-hit game, and was one of only 3 position players to get a hit off Padres pitching in the opener, as one of the team's five hits and perhaps one of the hardest hit balls by the team all day came off the bat of Madison Bumgarner.

The Giants had some opportunities getting guys on with the heart of the order coming up but they were never able to cash in. Again, this is an area which has been a concern for this team for multiple seasons now, and despite them not doing anything over the winter to upgrade, they did draw up some optimism with a pretty loud spring at the dish. As well all know though, spring training means literally nothing in terms of production once the games start counting for real, and if Thursday was any indication, it's going to be another long season by the bay unless the team can figure out some way to get some offense going outside of the thin air in Arizona.


Fortunately for the club though, it wasn't all bad news coming out of the 0-1 start. The biggest bright spot was obviously Madison Bugmarner's performance, going 7 strong innings, allowing 2 runs on 5 hits while punching out 9. In what I expect to be MadBum's final year, an maybe final months, in San Francisco, the better he does between now and the trade deadline will only increase his value. Now, hopefully the Giants find some offense to help support some pretty impressive pitching depth and I'm wrong about Bumgarner's eventual exit from San Francisco, but if this team isn't contending by July, you can surely bet that Farhan Zaidi will be entertaining any and all offers for the Giants' ace. And for a guy who many worried was on the downswing after an injury dismantled his 2018 season and turned it into his worst as a big leaguer, it was indeed refreshing to see him look the part of a true Thursday.

I don't think anyone who follows this team or follows the game of baseball with any regularity expects them to be a playoff team or even a .500 team, but all we can hope for is progress and excitement. I want to be able to see things transpire this season that will have me amped for 2020 and beyond. Trotting out the largely veteran lineup day after day, if they continue to perform like this, certainly wouldn't be a move in that direction. I know it's only one game, and nobodies gonna write the book on the season after a day, or even after a month or two, but this pattern of no offense to go with solid pitching and defense is going to get old very quickly for Giants' fans if this is a sign of things to come.

Extras: The Giants ended up traveling to San Diego with a bit of an awkward roster to kick off the 2019 campaign. They have limited bench and outfield options, which prompted them to start two guys in the outfield who probably wouldn't have made many other teams out of spring, and if you ask me, that's an area where they should start rolling the dice with younger players in their system come late May if things are stagnant. For example, Chris Shaw may only hit .220 at the big league level out of the gate and will strike out every a third of the time but I'd rather see a guy who at least has a chance at becoming a future regular then guys who we know don't factor into the future of this team... Another case I'm still a little confused on is the decision to release Mac Williamson when this team lacks potent right-handed bats... As far as the logjam in the bullpen, I think they made the correct decisions in who to open the season with. Trevor Gott and Travis Bergen are two guys I'm especially stoked to see throw this year as I believe he can become a mainstays along with Reyes Moronta moving forward.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Thursday, February 28, 2019

Bryce Harper signs with Phillies, thankfully not LA

The winter long Bryce Harper watch finally came to an end Thursday, as the slugging 26-year old outfielder chose to play in Philadelphia for the next 13 years, agreeing to a deal that will pay him $330M over that span.

Immediately after the deal was announced, it was made public that the Giants were indeed serious on Harper, so much so that they actually offered him a deal that would have paid him slightly more annually than what he got from the Phillies, but it was for 12 years and not 13. The Giants offer was said to for $310M over those 12 years which would have given Harper an overall annual value of $25.5M. The deal he signed is only about 1/2 a million less per year than that, but it does show you that it wasn't just all about the money. I always knew it would have been a long shot for the Giants to ink him, and was very surprised at the offer they did give him, but I was fearful he would land in LA and even with their late push, that luckily did not come to fruition. To tell you the truth, I was fine either way with whether or not the Giants got him. If they did, then he would have been a great young centerpiece to build around into the next decade. However, by missing out on him, it opens up the possibilities for the Giants' future, and doesn't handicap them in terms of pursuing urgent needs as they hopefully improve over the next couple of seasons.

So after the Giants missed out on Harper, they could look to one of the remaining veteran outfielders to come in and shore up one of the open three spots, or they simply could move forward with the group they currently have. There are still a few options out there that could help boost their outfield, such as Carlos Gonzalez and Adam Jones, but more than likely, the bunch they have now is the same bunch that will break north with the club at the end of March and there have been some bright spots early on. The first that jumps out at you after only a handful of games is 2018 first round pick, Joey Bart. The 22 year-old backstop has gotten plenty of opportunity early on, appearing in 4 of the 5 games thus far and is tied for the team lead in hits with four over seven at-bats. Two of those four hits have been for extra bases, including his first big fly of the spring on Thursday. Despite him being relatively inexperienced at the minor league level, he's a kid the Giants could fast track do to his advanced plate approach and his impressive power. When your a team that didn't have a single guy hit 20 home runs for you a season ago, you look to whatever power you can find and Bart has looked early on like he is indeed the real deal.

Aside from the bright young catcher, Evan Longoria has had a couple of nice games to start things off, as he's 3/4 with a big fly of his own. Longoria is a key part of the Giants offense and if he can stay healthy and rebound after a relatively sub par, injury-riddled season in 2018 then it could be a big boost to the Giants offense. Longo has always been a guy you can pretty much pencil in for 20+ home runs and 80+ RBI, so hopefully he gets back to that threshold in 2019, if for no other reason than to boost his possible trade value come July. Joe Panik and Yangervis Solarte are the other two guys who should be on the opening day roster who have gotten off to a solid start. Both are hitting .500+ with a big fly through the first week of spring.

As far as some of the pitchers we'll be watching closely, Jeff Samardzija gave everyone a breath of fresh air with a great start to his spring, tossing 2 shut-out innings, allowing just a hit while striking out two. He's another guy who could be moved at some point if the Giants feel they can get a decent return for him. The two youngsters who will be in the rotation to start the year (barring injury) have each gotten their springs underway as well. With Andrew Suarez tossing two shut-out innings himself, and Dereck Rodriguez throwing 1.2 innings allowing a run and 4 base runners. The newest addition to the rotation mix, and a guy who I really think will battle Samardzija for that fifth spot in the rotation is lefty Drew Pomeranz. We talked at length about Pomeranz after he signed and how he could wind up being a bigger steal than Derrick Holland was prior to last season, and he showed a glimpse of why in his first start in a Giants uniform. He threw 2 strong innings, surrendering a run on two hits while striking out two.

Extras: As far as the battle for the closers role, it really hasn't gotten going yet, as the two favorites, Will Smith and Mark Melancon, have yet to appear in a Cactus League game yet... Buster Posey has looked and felt well in the first couple weeks of spring, and he's on track to being catching in early March like the team had planned...
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Saturday, February 02, 2019

Giants nab LHP Pomeranz, may look internally for offense?

We're just weeks away from Spring Training reporting dates and 2 months away from the opening of the regular season but the San Francisco Giants, along with plenty of teams, are still quite a ways away from having their 25-man roster in-tact.

Now, obviously Giants' fans weren't expecting a big Bryce Harper or Manny Machado signing, or some huge trade for a Paul Goldschmidt or someone like that. I am, however, a little surprised that they've been as quiet as they have been so far, making a few lower radar additions to their pitching staff and that's about it.

Their first addition of the winter was a nice, under the radar grab in obtaining 34 year-old switch-pitcher, Pat Venditte. This move gained a consensus thumbs up from everyone around the organization, including from us here at The Giants Baseball Blog. Venditte gives Boch the flexibility of essentially having two pitchers in one, slotted into one of the bullpen spots which is extremely valuable if Venditte is getting guys out from both sides of the plate. Farhan Zaidi was brought in to make these exact kind of unorthodox moves that he's had so much success with in rebuilding the Dodgers without tearing the whole thing down and starting from scratch. The Giants are hoping that he can do that to some extent here in San Francisco, although the Dodgers had a much deeper farm system and major league-ready talent on their roster than what the Giants currently have.

The second signing from outside the organization so far was the Giant bringing in LHP Drew Pomeranz on an incentive-laden one-year deal with a team option. This signing actually got me excited because of Pomeranz's ability when he's healthy. Last season in Boston he was not healthy, so let's just put that season aside for a second and take a look at what the 30 year-old gas done in the seasons prior to his injury in 2018. Perhaps his best season as a pro came just the year before in 2017, and I think the Giants' brass looked at that campaign and feel that he'd much more resemble that pitcher than the pitcher he was last summer. During that career best '17 campaign, the lefty dominated in the toughest offensive division in baseball and pitching in one of the toughest parks in baseball on left-handed throwers in Fenway Park. Still, he managed an outstanding 17-6 record supported by a nice 3.32 ERA, 1.32 WHIP to go with 177 K's and spanned out over 176 innings (32 starts) for a very strong ERA+ of 137. Aside from the strong ERA numbers and strikeouts, one of the most impressive stats in my mind was that he allowed just 19 long balls in those 32 outings.

Although his 2016 wasn't quite as strong, he still was right there with 11 wins, 3.32 ERA, 186 K's over 170 innings and a strong 1.18 WHIP splitting his time between San Diego and Boston. Oh, by the way, his numbers the last time he pitched in the NL West, which was that first half of '16 with San Diego: 102 IP, 2.47 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and a 115 strikeout to 41 walk ratio during that span. Now, I know he was hurt last year and it's no guarantee he gets back to his pre-2018 form, but he just turned 30 and still should have at least a handful of solid seasons left in his arm as long as he can keep it healthy.

So yes, the $1.5M guaranteed deal the Giants gave him was a compete victory in my mind. Pomeranz is more talented than Derrick Holland and we all saw how Holland's career re-surged in San Francisco, so imagine what Pomeranz will look like if he makes 30+ healthy starts!

Now, with the re-signing of Holland along with the inking of Pomeranz, the Giants appear to have their starting rotation pretty much set for 2019. Obviously, Madison Bumgarner will head things up until if/when he get's dealt in July (which I think will happen if the Giants are well out of it and Bum is thriving and would bring back a "can't miss" package), followed by Dereck Rodriguez, Andrew Suarez and Derek Holland. Then, battling it out for the fifth spot will be a handful of guys including Jeff Samardzija (who would have the upper hand if he's healthy and throwing well in spring), Pomeranz, Chris Stratton, Ty Blach (although I see him more of a long-reliever for them) and the guy who's really seen his stock go from top prospect just a few years ago to barely hanging on by a thread, Tyler Beede. One dark horse candidate too, and a guy who was just granted an invitation to spring who I can't wait to see throw in March is right-hander Shaun Anderson, the centerpiece in the deal that sent Eduardo Nunez to Boston in 2017. The 24 year-old has really impressed at every stop since coming over to the organization midway through 2017 and I've heard Dereck Rodriguez as a comparison when talking about the right-hander.

As far as the two other big names that I'm really looking forward to watching get their feet wet with big league players this spring are the 2018 MLB amateur draft's #3 pick, catcher Joey Bart, as well as one of the team's top-10 prospects, 24 year-old infielder Ryan Howard. Heliot Ramos had been the team's consensus top prospect the last two seasons, but after a rough go of it in 2018, Joey Bart has leapfrogged him and is the clear-cut #1 prospect in the Giants organization and he hasn't even spent a whole summer with the club yet. However, after being drafted in June last summer, he immediately showed his prowess. In 51 games between low-A and rookie ball, the right-handed slugging 22 year-old raked, slashing .295/.364/.588, with 31 extra-base hits (13 of which left the yard). He also drove in 40 runs and scored 39 run himself, all over the course of just 51 games and 205 at-bats. I know, it's only rookie league and low-A ball, but he showed the Giants so much that they feel like he's ready for big league camp, which means he very well could start the year as high as AAA Sacramento, but more likely in AA Richmond. Bart may be the Giants best, most well rounded power hitting prospect they've had in quite some time, and he will be monitored closely early on as I'm sure the Giants would like to fast track him and get that powerful bat into the big league lineup as soon as they possibly can..

The couple issues getting in the way of Joey Bart's advancement are two guys by the name of Buster Posey and Brandon Belt. Despite the hip issues, Posey and the Giants have given no indication that his catching days are becoming numbered, however, as he recovers from major hip surgery from last September, he will be brought along slowly which is why Bart should be given plenty of looks during spring training.

As for Belt, it's been floated out there for the last few season's about the possibility of moving him out into left field to allow Posey to play first base and preserve his legs. Belt is a strong defensive first basemen though, so it's tough to move his glove out of there. He certainly has the arm to play left field though and I would like to see more experimenting with that this spring. The Giants need power and guys who can hit 20+ jacks per year. They had a grand total of ZERO guys hit 20+ HR last year and it really puts pressure on an offense when they don't have the confidence to be able to put up a handful of runs with one swing of the bat. I'm not saying you need a bunch of 20 HR guys to be successful, but you do need some pop and if you aren't hitting long balls, then you need guys who can still find gaps and you need multiple guys who can steal bases and put themselves in scoring position without having to string together a bunch of hits.

I think Zaidi should be, and maybe he is, looking ahead to 2020 with the thought in mind that if Belt can finally break out in 2019 like he's capable of and like we've been waiting for the last 5 years and he takes to left field while Buster does the same thing while probably collecting his most playing time at first base in 2019, then those two could have new positions in 2020. Especially if Bart comes along like we're all hoping he does and becomes that 20-25 home run guy right away and is ready by 2020 to be an everyday big league catcher. I know this is jumping ahead of the rebuilding year of 2019, but imaging a lineup something like this in 2020:

CF Steven Duggar (age 26 in 2020)
2B Joe Panik/Ryan Howard (age 30/26 in '20)
1B Buster Posey (33 in '20)
RF Marwin Gonzalez* (31 in '20)
C Joey Bart (23 in '20)
LF Brandon Belt (32 in '20)
3B Evan Longoria (35 in '20)
SS Brandon Crawford (33 in '20)
(*Gonzalez is just an example as a possible signee. SF is interested though so I figured I'd throw him in. If not him then hopefully another free agent/trade addition as good or better)

NOTE: We originally had this post far too long so we condensed some things and have made sort of a part two to this post that we will be posting at some point on Sunday/Monday so stay tuned as well get more in depth on the Giants direction and what options still lay out there on the free agent market for them.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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