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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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Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Rumors: Giants looking into Jason Heyward, Josh Harrison

Immediately upon posting our last post a couple days ago, we finally got word of a significant trade rumor regarding the Giants. Finally something to ponder aside from whether or not Troy Tulowitzki wants to come here to be a super utility guy.

The talk out of Chicago according to the popular 'Fansided' baseball page, Call to the Pen, the Giants and Cubs have had discussions surrounding Jason Heyward, Will Smith and Mark Melancon. The thing with this one is I really don't get this move from the Giants prospective. From the Cubs prospective it makes all the sense in the world. They would get rid of arguably their biggest blunder of the last half decade while shedding some payroll and opening an outfield spot for a potential Bryce Harper signing. They also would really reinforce their bullpen with two plus relievers, both of which have closing experience and are coming off seasons in which they've proven their health. For the Cubs this deal has win-win-win potential but I don't see as many pluses on the Giants side.

Sure, parting with Melancon certainly makes some sense. He's approaching his mid-30's and is coming off a couple of injury-riddles campaigns but threw very well upon his return to action in 2018, and most importantly, stayed on the mound and avoided any further DL stints. The thing with him, however, is that if he is inserted back into the closer's role and has success, the Giants could bring in much heftier of a ransom at the deadline in July than anything they could potentially bring in this winter. A proven, healthy closer with an ERA down in the low-2's to high 1's is not easy to come by but Melancon has that ability. As far as Smith is concerned, that would be a tough one to part with after his incredible comeback season in 2018. He's only 29 years old and looks to have a bright future ahead of him still,so I would definitely be open to extending him if I were running the Giants. Sure he faded a bit in the end of the year, but he was the most consistent reliever on the team upon his return in May.

These are two, proven late-inning relievers and I think a package containing them could bring in some nice prospects. A soon-to-be 30 year-old Jason Heyward does not fit that bill. Heyward, despite his defensive prowess and incredible arm, has been one of the worst unproductive outfielders in baseball. Playing the last three years in a hitters paradise that is Wrigley Field, Heyward has put numbers akin to a defensive minding second basemen, or catcher, let alone a corner outfielder. It's scary to think what his numbers could shrink to if he's forced to play half his games in AT&T Park. With the same token though, watching him patrol right-center field would likely be very interesting as he could easily win a gold glove out there. The contract just doesn't make him appealing. This guy is owed over $20M through 2023. That's not a nice looking contract to be looming over a team likely headed for at least a few years of rebuilding.

One other name that has been linked to the Giants who very much fits along the lines of Tulo is former Pirate infielder Josh Harrison. He's a guy Mike Krukow is really pulling for the Giants to get as well. The 31 year-old is coming off a rough campaign in '18 as he slashed just .250/.293/.363 (.656 OPS) with eight jacks, 13 doubles and 37 RBI in 97 games. The 2-time NL all-star left a lot to be desired although injuries effected him and cut his season nearly in hafl. However, the year before, in 2017, the dynamic infielder was healthy and he was raking the baseball. Dude hit a respectable .272 while setting his career high for long balls with 16 HR, drove in 47 RBI, swiped a dozen bases and put up a very decent .773 OPS. In 2014 he finished 9th in the NL MVP voting by hitting .315 with an .837 OPS and 13 HR, 55 RBI and 19 swipes. The guy is a high energy player and I think he would bring much needed enthusiasm and grit to the Giants. I doubt the'd bring both Tulo and Harrison in but I would certainly be open to that. In fact, Harrison, IMO, is a better player than Joe Panik, so it's definitely something to eye here after the new year and see if the Giants indeed move forward with shaking some things up.

Extra: In a Giants mailbag questioning posted the today, there really wasn't anything earth shattering discussed. However, one name that I have kinda been sleeping on and had forgotten about is Japanese left-hander Yusei Kikuchi (pictured). The 27 year-old lefty has thrown eight quality seasons in the Japanese league for the Seibu Lions and has compiled an impressive 74-48 W/L record, to go along with a nice 2.81 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and and nice 8K/2.5BB per 9 inning ratio. His career year was in 2017 when he posted a 1.77 ERA, a 16-6 record to go along with a 0.91 WHIP and 217 punch-outs while allowing just 122 hits over 187 innings pitched. That's ridiculously dominant and with the success a lot of these Japanese pitchers have had in the 'Bigs, this would make a lot of sense. The fact he's just entering his prime and should continue to prosper for the next half decade or so makes him that much more intriguing... Now will the Giants sign him? Not likely, but he's the type of guy they should be pursuing if they indeed are planning on trying to add some talent before March.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Sunday, December 23, 2018

Giants staying quiet through hollidays

I thought we'd see some sort of movement from the Giants by the end of the winter meetings. Something that would help indicate what direction they'll be headed in 2019, but now on the doorstep of the Christmas/New Years period in which nothing significant is likely to happen (though you never know), it could be at least a few more weeks until we get that answer.

The Giants have popped up in news recently though, and they did make an addition to their bullpen in a very interesting fashion. San Francisco added switch-pitching reliever, Pat Venditte to the mix on a one-year deal worth just north of the league minimum at $585K. I haven't seen a dollar amount that the Giants will be guaranteeing the 33 year-old, but from everything I seen I do like the addition. It's going to be fun to watch him flip that glove around and throw from both sides next year, but also to see this guy continue to grow despite being in his 30's. Zaidi knows this guy well, as he had him in both Oakland and Los Angeles. Venditte has battled some injury issues since his debut in 2015 with Oakland, but looked well in his stint in LA last season. The ambidextrous reliever threw 14 innings over 15 appearances, allowing 11 hits, 4 runs and only 1 big fly while striking out 9 and giving up 3 free passes. These numbers all ironed out to a 2.57 ERA and a 1.000 WHIP, both of which are very impressive, despite the limited workload. If the Giants get the same guy who showed up in LA last summer, then this move will look brilliant. And if not, they're out only half a million.

The other piece of news involves the only free agent the Giants have really been publicly linked to thus far. Both Farhan Zaidi and Bruce Bochy made the trip to Southern California to watch the 5x all-star shortstop hold an open workout to reassure interested teams that he's healthy and his foot woes are behind him. The 34 year-old played a couple months in 2017 then had his 2018 completely wiped out due to heel/ankle injuries. The last season in which he was healthy enough to play significantly was 2016 when he appeared in 130 games and put up some decent numbers. He slashed .254/.318/.443 (.761 OPS) with 24 long balls and 79 RBI over 492 at-bats.

Tulo is certainly interesting, especially since the Blue Jays are on the hook for his salary in 2019 so it will cost any team that signs him only the league minimum for next season. That, along with his right-handed pop and likely ability to play multiple positions all add up to make him a potential low-risk/high-reward type player. If the Giants were closer to being competitive then this would really be a no-brainer, but the question for them regarding Tulo now would be whether or not to give that potential spot to a younger player. Regardless of whether they plan to be competitive in 2019 or not though, I think nabbing Tulowitzki would be wise. If worse comes to worse and he doesn't do anything for them and is injured or just ineffective then they're only on the hook for the minimum and could move on without hesitation or consequences. However, if he is indeed healthy and in his usual form, then the Giants would have themselves a mighty fine bargaining chip come trade deadline time. An experienced middle infielder who can hit with power is tough to find and if Tulo is healthy and hitting, then there would be plenty teams inquiring for his services come July!

So far this winter, aside from the signing of Venditte and the team's apparent interest in Tulowitzki, the Giants have been as quiet as any team in baseball. On the contrary, their Southern California rivals just made a huge trade as what many are saying may be an attempt to open up room for a potential Bryce Harper addition. The Dodgers sent Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp and Alex Wood to Cincinnati in exchange for Homer Bailey's contract and a couple solid young prospects. Teenage infielder Jeter Downs especially, also right-hander Josiah Gray both look like they could have some bright futures ahead of them. The real incentive behind this deal for LA though was to clear payroll for a run at Bryce Harper which just got every team in the NL West's attention.

Extras: Happy Holidays to everyone out there! It's hard to believe 2018 is already over, but hopefully the Giants have some positive things in store for 2019. We'll be back after the new year, hopefully at which time the Giants will have made some sort of move that will impact their lineup on a daily basis. If not, then at least they maybe we'll get an idea of who they're interested in aside from the only name I've heard the last few weeks in Troy Tulowitzki... Speaking of Tulo, it's quite obvious the Giants will be more in a rebuilding type mode this winter, but the interest in these veterans has me unclear on what exactly Zaidi's plan is. That's what makes this such an interesting offseason for the Giants however.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Thursday, December 06, 2018

Winter Meetings should be crucial for the Giants

The MLB offseason has really started gaining some steam the last week or so, as the top starter has been taken on the market and a blockbuster trade shook up the NL West. I expect the Giants to get into the action by the time the winter meetings wind up.

The big signing thus far has been Patrick Corbin heading east to the Nationals on a 6-year, $140M deal, which is a huge sum for a guy who really is a #2 or #3 starting pitcher on a good staff. This has significance for the Giants because of the Madison Bumgarner rumblings and what this deal does to a possible asking price the Giants would seek in a potential Bumgarner deal. Coming into the offseason I wasn't completely opposed to dealing Bumgarner, but I thought the best time to do so, if they were to go that route, would be at the deadline next season. That's when teams that think they're that one big starter away from a World Series run will pay the extra player or two in order to obtain a player of Bumgarner's talent and postseason history. However, if middle rotation pitchers are going to be getting close to $25M a year this winter, then Bumgarner's value may be at an all time high at this very moment.

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate and admire what Bumgarner's done for this club as much as anybody. In a perfect world, the Giants would be closer to being competitive than they currently and this really wouldn't be a topic, but the fact is the team is at a crossroads. Bumgarner is only 29 years old, but he's had a lot of wear and tear on that left arm and has had a couple of bad injuries. Who knows how well he'll hold up into his mid-30's which is where his next deal will take him. Plus, if he can help them fill a few of their many needs with some above average talent and/or potential, they have to consider it. The Phillies are said to be interested and would seem like a good fit with their young pitching and outfield depth. If the Giants could finagle a package of Odubel Herrera, Nick Williams and Nick Pivetta from Philly and send back Bumgarner, I'd pull the trigger in a second. That would be two solid starting outfielders with some experience but not even near their prime yet, and a young arm with strikeout stuff who showed some signs of putting it together last year. The Phillies are going to spend money this winter so they could easily sign another outfielder or two to take those guys' place and Bumgarner along with Aaron Nola would give Philly a 1-2 punch that would rival any in the league.

Anyway, even with Corbin getting that huge deal, I would be surprised if the Giants dealt Bumgarner this winter unless the Giants are blown out of the water with an offer like I suggested above.

Other than the Bumgarner rumors, some actual player movement has taken place for the Giants as they surprisingly let go of a couple of players in Hunter Strickland and Gorkys Hernandez while retaining Sam Dyson and Joe Panik. I didn't expect Strickland to be back with the Giants next year but I'm a little surprised they didn't offer him a contract and then deal. As far as Hernandez, he was the Giants most consistent outfielder in 2018, which really says more about the lack of talent they had there rather than Hernadez's mediocre season, but he still makes sense as at least a 5th outfielder.

Those marked the first actual moves of the Zaidi Farhan and obviously this guy has a plan. It should be very interesting to see how it unfolds in the coming weeks.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Monday, November 12, 2018

Back at it for the offseason, and plenty to talk about

What's up Giants fans! It's been a while since I've posted here at the Giants Baseball Blog, taking the most time away from posting that I ever have since I started this website back in high school over 10 years ago. I needed a break for various personal reasons and figured since the season was going in the same direction as 2017 and the talking points were becoming redundant, it was a good time to put down the keyboard for a few months.

However, now with the season done and the offseason is upon us and ready to start picking up in the coming weeks, it was definitely time to get back at it. Plus, the fact that the Giants just hired Farhan Zaidi to run their baseball operations in what will be the most pivotal offseason, in my opinion, that they've entered in quite some time (probably since the last front office overhaul when Brian Sabean came in and traded away Matt Williams prior to the 1997 season). I think Zaidi was a great hire for this club at this time in this era for multiple reasons.

Yes, the Giants are at a crossroads, with their front office and the team not getting the job done for multiple years now. I mean, take away a few months to start the 2016 season, the Giants have been extremely tough to watch since they last dawned their World Series banner in 2014. It was obviously time for a change and the Giants ended up snagging one of the most sought after and impressive baseball minds who has a very good grasp of the modern era of the game. Zaidi was hired earlier in the week to become the new president of baseball operations and really the ultimate decision maker with everything regarding how the team is ran. He was extremely successful as the Dodgers GM over the past 4 years, as LA reached the playoffs in each of the four seasons he was there, including a couple of World Series appearances, the last 2 seasons. Obviously this guy knows what he's doing and knows what it takes to win in this particular era of sabremetrics and advanced scouting tools.

The Giants previously had a more "old fashioned" approach to player personnel decisions looking more for players who were proven and would fit in and neglecting to really look at guys that had upside and a real chance to grow with some alterations or time. For example, they never really were the type to really go hard at any international free agents like a Yeonis Cespedes (who Zaidi is actually responsible for bringing to Oakland), or ever make trades for younger players who haven't quite hit their peak. Although it worked quite well for them upon opening AT&T Park in the early 2000's when they had solid, winning seasons for the first hand full of years in the new ballpark. Then, of course, it ended up working well during that 2010-2014 run in which they brought home 3 tittles in that 5-season span by adding veterans who were still good enough to do their part to go along with their impressive young players they brought up through their system like Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford. Craw and Belt were more pivotal for the '12/'14 tittle runs but the other guys really helped out for all three of them.

Now the vets who they acquired during that span are all gone and many of the main core players who led those championship teams are no longer 20-something studs in the prime of their careers. Brandon Belt is still looking for that breakout year that we all know he's capable of, and Brandon Crawford's still as steady as they come at shortstop heading into his age-32 season. However, we've seen Buster Posey take huge steps back the last couple of seasons, basically becoming stripped of most his home run power and has now become essentially a .300  hitter with some gap-to-gap power that will hit you 10-15 HR's and drive in maybe 70-80 runs if he can stay out there for the full season. Not bad at all for a catcher and still one of the best in the game, but no longer the perennial MVP-candidate and guy you could count to be that hitter that carries a lineup like he did seemingly every year he was out there before his 30th birthday. Catchers take the most wear and tear of any positional player and it's no surprise that Posey has seen a reduction in power, but the vast pace of it is a bit alarming. All we can really do is hope that the last couple of years have been aberrations and/or injury-riddled seasons. He's still such a good catcher though, and with Belt tied in at 1B for the long-term, Buster's likely ticketed to continue behind the plate for at least another season or two.

These, among a ton of other things, not all of which we'll be able to cover in this post, but stuff we'll continue to talk about over the course of the offseason, will all be issues Zaidi will face now that he's clocked in as the main man in the front office.

The two most pressing issues for the Giants heading into 2019 with the idea of being competitive in mind is the outfield and really the pitching staff as a whole. However, it's not quite clear yet whether the Giants are going to go into rebuild mode and possibly deal off some guys like a Brandon Belt or if those whispers of a possible Madison Bumgarner trade come to fruition.

In this post, we'll assume that Bumgarner and the core all stay put, and the Giants look for a way to stay competitive next season.

 Is Duggar the guy they want in center field on a daily basis starting in 2019? I would have no problem with that if they surrounded him with some thumpers on the corners. Obviously Bryce Harper's name will surface, and I'm sure the Giants will at least inquire on him, but I highly doubt Harper would want to come hit at AT&T Park for the next 8-10 years, which will ultimately define his legacy as a ballplayer. However, if he views them as a place where he could come in and compete for a tittle on a yearly basis, he may overlook the few home runs AT&T would take away from him and jump at a Giants offer but I just don't see it happening. Plus, the outfield market is extremely thin on the free agent front this season with Adam Jones the next in line after Harper and he's 33 years old and doesn't fit the mold of Zaidi's plan to get "younger and more athletic". Manny Machado is the second biggest name on the market, and that guy's so talented I'm sure he could move out to left field without much issue and I'm actually more interested in that scenario, assuming Machado would agree to the switch.

As far as the free agent starting pitching options, it's not much more exciting than the positional players, and doesn't have anyone near Machado or Harper's caliber. Patrick Corbin and Dallas Keuchel head up a thin pitching class, and although both would be great additions to the Giants' rotation, the team already has 40+ million dollars tied up in two pitchers who may not give them anything next season. Johnny Cueto's expected to miss most, if not all the year as he recovers from Tommy John surgery and Jeff Samardzija has all the sudden fell off the face of the earth, whether it was injuries or just pure ineffectiveness, after a really promising 2017 season. The Giants do have a couple slots filled already with MadBum and the youngsters, Andrew Suarez and Derrick Rodriguez, but after that things are very unclear. Plug in Keuchel and Corbin and your looking at a very nice staff, but also one that would be too unrealistic, salary cap wise, to make happen as long as both Cueto and Shark are still on the roster.

So you can see where Zaidi will have his work cut out for him, and how this may take a few seasons to really turn around, making a rebuild in 2019 completely logical. There will likely be some trade options out there but the Giants don't have a ton of high-end chips to work with in their farm system so that doesn't seem like a plausible route to take. I think it's going to become pretty clear what route they'll be headed in after they make a move or two, so we'll just have to wait and see. My guess is that they don't add any really big names this offseason, and head into 2019 with the same core as they had in 2018/ Then if they're a losing club, which is the likely scenario if they can't bring in a bunch of reinforcements, they could wind up dealing away some of those core guys like Belt or MadBum. Evan Longoria could also be dealt but he'd need to be having a solid season and the Giants would likely still need to pick up a nice portion of the money he's owed through the 2022 season.

What do I think happens this off-season? Like I said, the first move will dictate the whole course of the plan, not just for this year but also the years to follow. And since the free agent market is so thin and players will be way overpaid,  mixed with the fact they don't have a ton of money to spend and they don't have the necessary resources at the minor league level to obtain a couple of impact players, I just don't see them able to make all the upgrades they really need to turn things around. Also throw in the fact that Ziati said he wanted the team to get younger and more athletic really has all the earmarks of entering a possible rebuild. Hopefully not of the 4-5 year variety, but maybe 2 or 3.

I definitely want the team to try and compete every year, without a doubt, but it's just really tough seeing a scenario of that once again in 2019, hopefully I'm wrong and the the first move is Bryce  Harper signed to a 7-year, $280M which back-loads until Cueto and Samardzija are off the books or however they could swing it. Then somehow sign or trade for at least a starter and maybe a reliever or two as well as one more outfielder. Hey, it's certainly not likely, and Harper, being a lefty especially, likely wouldn't want to sign in San Francisco anyway, but that's best case scenario for the offseason. Hope for that it, but don't expect it.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Thursday, July 26, 2018

Constant injuries too much for SF to overcome

It's been a very tough year, injury wise, for the San Francisco Giants in 2018, probably more so than any other season in recent memory. Still, they've managed to stay relatively in the mix in the NL West but with just over a month left and the waiver trade deadline approaching, they once again have some decisions to make as they look towards 2019.

While they've played .500 baseball for most of the year, they've done it without ever really having the 25-man roster they envisioned having when they arrived in Scottsdale in February. Starting off the year without Madison Bumgarner, Jeff Samardzija, Will Smith and Mark Melancon, to then losing Brandon Belt, Johnny Cueto (multiple times), Joe Panik, Hunter Strickland and Evan Longoria, all for significant amounts of time in-season never allowed them to really come together as a full unit. When they would start to get momentum and start getting guys back from injury, someone else would go down. The biggest losses, obviously, were Bumgarner for the first 2+ months and then Cueto. If Bum starts the season healthy, the Giants would have been in a much better positioning through the season's first 2 months and maybe would have had a cushion to help overcome the nagging injuries that followed. Cueto, who started out April looking like he was in for another 2016-type campaign. However, after making multiple stints to the DL after that hot start, the Giants number 2 starter went down for good with a blown out right elbow that required Tommy John surgery. That was a gut punch to not only this years chances but will also hurt the team next season as well as the Giants probably won't be counting on anything from Cueto in 2019 and certainly not before, possibly, the very end of the season.

Then, there were the next two being the loss of Brandon Belt and third basemen Evan Longoria. Now I know Belt only ended up missing a few weeks, but what really hurt is that before the injury, Belt was clearly having his best season of his career and was looking like he was finally in for that 30+ HR season that we've been waiting for, as well as a very solid OPS and a .300 average. Unfortunately though, after his comeback, he hasn't quite been that same impact bat that he was prior to the injury. As far as Longoria, he wasn't having the best of seasons before fracturing his hand being hit by a pitch, but he was an anchor in the middle of the Giants lineup and was producing runs despite a less than stellar average in the .240's. Had Belt and Longo not hit the DL this season, I think that would have certainly impacted where the team currently sits. Now, add that scenario to the one in which Bum and Cueto didn't get hurt and miss months of baseball, then I'd be willing to bet that the Giants would be right up there with the Dodgers and D-Backs, possibly even above them.

The reason why I think that is because even when they were dropping like flies with injuries, and all that they've had to overcome, they're still a .500 ball club and still have a very, very long shot at making a final 6 week push to try and overcome the 8.5 games that separate them from the top of the NL West.

The one positive that you can take away from all the injuries though, is that the Giant found
themselves some nice talented young pieces that should certainly be huge influences on next years club and are the reason why the Giants feel optimistic that they still won't need a full on makeover this winter. They have solid young pieces in place, most notably on the pitching staff. Dereck Rodriguez has been one of the best rookie pitchers in baseball this year, and has looked like a top end of the rotation starter. Now even he suffered an injury last week when the Giants and Dodgers had an on-field scuffle in a game that D-Rod wasn't even playing in. Luckily for the Giants, Rodriguez will be making his return this week and will have the opportunity to further improve on what's been a terrific rookie season. He's been the most consistent starter on the Giants ever since he joined the rotation and will be a key part of it going forward.

Another couple of guys who've broken through in 2018 are starter Andrew Suarez, reliever Reyes Moronta and utility man, Alen Hanson. Suarez hasn't quite been as impressive as fellow rookie Rodriguez and if you look at his numbers at the moment they don't do him proper justice as to how well he was throwing from late May to late July when he and D-Rod were basically holding the staff down in June and July with Cueto and Samardzija both out and Bumgarner a little rusty upon his return.

In the pen, Moronta has arguably been the Giants best reliever, not named Will Smith, throughout the season. His one and only flaw that once he improves, will make him one of the best set-up men, and possibly future closer in baseball, and that's to cut down a bit on the walks. The guy is extremely tough to hit though. allowing just 27 knocks in 56+ IP (less than a hit per each 2 innings of work), good for a BAA of .136.

Then on the field, Alen Hanson has been the breakout Giants rookie with the stick. While he's cooled off considerably from his first 100 at-bats, he still is second on the team in batting average, third on the team in OPS and 2nd in stolen bases, despite having about half the at-bats of an average starting position player on the team. His solid play and ability to play all over the diamond, including 2nd and 3rd base, shortstop and even LF in a pinch have made him a key player heading into 2019 and beyond. So much so that I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if the Giants shopped Joe Panik this offseason to open up 2nd base for Hanson everyday. That's a long shot though, as the Giants really like Panik, despite his off-year, and probably wouldn't get a whole lot in return for him after what's been a hugely disappointing year. I mean, take away that brilliant first few games of the season where he looked like he was locked in for a huge season, and the 27 year-old is having the worst season of his career to this point.

Hunter Strickland's injury mid-season after punching a wall in anger after a blown save, certainly wasn't a positive, but it didn't hurt the team as much as some anticipated, thanks to Will Smith providing an even better closing option that Strick since then. Mark Melancon is another one who missed a lot of time to start the season and was brought back extremely slowly. However, he's now back and has clearly pitched his best baseball as a Giant since his return. He still hasn't reclaimed the closer spot though, and it should be interesting to see what Boch does in September as he tries to get an idea of what kind of bullpen roles will be penciled in for 2019. Will Melancon take back over as the closer? Will Melancon be dealt and it's going to be Will Smith and potentially Reyes Moronta's job going forward? I think we have to see Melancon get a few save opps before the season's done as I believe it would be best for the team if he can retake that role in 2019. The Giants need to be able to flexibly use Smith as he's their ace left-handed reliever, and the same can be said for Moronta as far as being the main RH set-up man.

While the chances of a Giants playoff push is dim, there is still plenty to watch and assess for next season. Beside from figuring out the bullpen roles, they'll be losing Andrew McCutchen and Hunter Pence from their outfield and will likely be looking at filling both the corner spots somehow. Then of course you have the pitching staff, with Cueto likely missing all of next season and Samardzija's future an unknown at this point. They'll have Bumgarner, Rodriguez and Suarez as the only ones guaranteed rotation spots heading into 2019.

We'll talk a lot more about that stuff though later on and after the season. Right now, as I said, the Giants aren't mathematically out of the NL West and a good couple of weeks to close out August/open up September, could move them up under 5 games out by early September and we've seen a lot crazier things happen. If they can't gain any ground between now and the August 31st non-waiver deadline, then we could see them try and get something for McCutchen as they aren't about to offer him the qualifying offer of $15M+ with their payroll situation, so they may try and get a prospect or two for him rather than letting him walk in free agency. Granted, if he can finish up halfway decent, I don't think Cutch would take the offer and should still get multi-year offers in the $15M/year range. They could also subject Hunter Strickland to waivers as well as I think a lot of Giants management and players have had enough with his antics.

No, it hasn't been a great season for the Giants, but it's been much better than 2017 was and the development of some young guys and performance from guys who've missed significant time with injury are giving fans some optimism moving forward.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Saturday, July 07, 2018

Big trade deadline decisions looming for Giants

The Giants have essentially been floating around the .500 mark for much of the last month, getting as many as 6 games above at one point but consistently staying above it for much of the last few weeks.
Add that to the fact they're 4 games back of the first place Dodgers in the NL West and 5 games back in the Wild Card race and it's really giving the Giants' brass a lot to mull over between now and the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline, now just a few short weeks away.

Now, I know Giants fans would like to hear that the Giants are going to be active and be buyers at the deadline, swooping up a power hitting left fielder they've needed since Pence, Mac Williamson and everyone else they've put out there this year have collectively provided the league's worst production. Couple that with the fact that they haven't gotten top-end production from center or right field either and you can obviously see where the Giants primary focus will be if they are indeed buyers at the end of the month. Andrew McCutchen is the only outfielder locked into an everyday role right now, and the right fielder's play has been picking up a little bit too.

Over in center, it seems like Gorkys Hernandez has become the primary guy there and has been thrust into practically an everyday role despite Bochy ideally preferring to use him as a the teams fourth outfielder. With their lack of outfield depth and none of young players stepping up and taking the bull by the horns, Hernandez is stuck in a starting position and while he's certainly not a star, he's done a pretty admirable job in comparison to what he's done throughout his career up to this point. Also, despite not playing nearly everyday for much of the season, he still leads all Giants' outfielders in home runs (11), batting average (.276) and OPS (.783).

So, that leaves left field as the most logical place to add a slugger if they find one they feel would be both good enough to push them into the mix for a deep run into October and can be obtained without going over the CBT. Of course, if they feel like a center fielder would more so fit what they're looking for offensive wise, they could go that route and slide Gorkys Hernandez over to left to possibly platoon with Austin Slater/Steven Duggar.

Now, the CBT situation changes things a lot this year, making things very tricky and more complicated than in years past. If they so choose to be buyers this summer, there aren't a whole lot of true difference makers they'd feel compelled going over the luxury tax mark for. So in order for them to land a hitter, unless maybe they can miraculously land Bryce Harper in the Bay or Manny Machado (who'd have to move out to left or possibly even over to second), would be by having the opposing team eat the players contract, which in turn would increase their asking price from SF, prospect/player wise.

Of course I'm not going to name every singe possible outfielder on the trade market, but aside from Machado and Harper, there are a handful of guys that could provide upgrades to this teams current outfield group. There's another big name on the trade market and one of Machado's teammates in Baltimore. Adam Jones would certainly fit the prototype of an offensive tool that could come in and fill into an everyday role in either center or left field. He'd be my first choice amongst the outfield options not named Harper or Machado (assuming the Giants could find a spot for him), as he does have the ability to carry a team on his back when he gets hot. The thing is, he's not having a very good season and has been ice cold lately. He's rocking only a .278/.303/.427 slash line with 10 long balls and 38 RBI. Despite the mediocre line thus far, he's averaged just shy of 30 HR/year since 2011 and he's collected 4 gold gloves over that time period making him a star in center. He's similar offensively to Andrew McCutchen and would provide a marginal upgrade and stability in center on both ends, but not if it meant going over the CBT. So in that case, the O's would have to eat most, if not all of his salary and just take prospects back in return. Seems unlikely but you never know.

Another potential option, and someone who would likely be much easier to obtain, although he too would still cost a few top-end prospects, is a guy who's playing right across the bay in Oakland. Khris Davis is on pace for another 40 HR season along with 100+ RBI. He won't bring a high batting average, hovering around .230-.240, but with his run production the Giants could easily overlook that one flaw. The one they may not be able to overlook though is Davis' lack of defense in the outfield. Corey Dickerson and Shin-Soo Choo would lead the next level of outfield trade options, but Dickerson has been up and down this year, and if continues down the path he's played at the last month. Choo has been a DH or right fielder for much of his career, playing just 10 games in LF since 2014. Don't get me wrong, if the Giants could nab any of those guys for a reasonable minor league package and the luxury tax wasn't an issue, I'd be much more inclined to jump at one of these guys but really the only two who really would be worth going over the tax, assuming they're don't fall out of it over the next three weeks, would be Harper and maybe Jones.

Now, if they have a dreadful three weeks leading up to the deadline and they find themselves below .500 and possibly 8+ games out of a playoff spot, they need to seriously consider being sellers for the first time time in a decade plus. Yes, it would be unfamiliar waters for Giants fans to see them deal away veteran big name players for prospects that may or may not pan out, but if they aren't going to make a serious run this fall, it would be wise for them to try and free up some payroll for another potential re-tooling next winter when guys I already mentioned, like Bryce Harper, Adam Jones, Manny Machado plus many more will be free agents. It's not really the Giants style to be sellers when they even have an inkling of hope at making a postseason run, so I would bet against them dealing away players come July 31st, but they have some guys who they could deem expendable and other teams may very well want. With the emergence of Andrew Suarez and Dereck Rodriguez, the Giants could listen to offers for Samardzija and maybe even Johnny Cueto, although both players contracts and recent injury issues this season may detour teams from them. Still if Cueto dominates over the next few weeks and/or Shark comes back strong but the Giants still find themselves 8+ games back in the West and multiple teams ahead of them, then a whole slew of teams between them and a wild card spot, then all bets are off.

Extras: Coming out of Friday night's victory, in which Dereck Rodriguez provided another gem and led the Giants to victory over the Cardinals, the Giants got some injury news regarding Joe Panik. The 2nd basemen who was the talk of the town over the first couple of weeks of the season, however has really disappeared ever since, has hit the DL for the second time in the last 6 weeks with a strained groin. The last time Panik went on the DL, Alen Hanson emerged as one of the bright young talents on the Giants and although his play has declined a bit since being moved around and not having an everyday role, he'll be back at second base until Panik is back and hopefully that bat that was hitting .350 when at second base returns as well.

It looks like the Giants closing situation may have finally been settled. Bruce Bochy has rolled with the same closer over the last 3 save situations without playing the "match-up game". Will Smith has been the Giants most lights out reliever really ever since he returned and has been especially tough lately and it looks like he's going to be the guy manning the ninth inning moving forward. That is at least until Mark Melancon is deemed ready to retake his role in that spot or Hunter Strickland comes back and proves healthy and effective enough to retake that role. For the time being though, it's gonna be Smith and while I think Smith is ideal in the "Andrew Miller role", the Giants need someone consistent in the ninth inning and Smith is the guy who makes the most sense. Reyes Moronta was someone I thought would get more of a look but he's too valuable in the 7th/8th innings and the same can be said for Tony Watson and neither of those guys are as dominant as Will Smith is when he's one.

So, there's a lot going on within the Giants roster. Just as we get some clarity with Will Smith being anointed the closer, they also lose another player to injury and detract from the overall depth of the squad.

I've been saying it the last couple of posts and I'll say it once again. These next few weeks are really going to make or break the Giants season and I really have no idea what to expect. It wouldn't surprise me to see them take off with Cueto and Shark back and wind up 10 games over .500 come late June. However, they're just about as likely to see Cueto and Shark struggle in their return and take time to get back into rhythm while the offense continues to try and overcome injuries leaving the team a handful of games below .500 and their playoff hopes dying out as the season's fourth month comes to an end. So stay tuned Giants fans, and really hope for the best. I think this team has enough drive and enough talent to keep themselves in the mix and avoid being sellers come July 31st, but at the same time, unless they really take off between now and the 31st to where management deems them a likely World Series contender, I'd be surprised if the Giants made any noteworthy addition.

So my consensus on July 7th, with 24 days until the deadline is that the Giants will have to figure things out with the players they have on their current roster and in their farm system as I don't see them going over the CBT with hopes it keeps them in the Wild Card or NL West race. Still, it's going to be a fun 3+ weeks to watch as their rotation gets healthy and they have some sort of order in their bullpen. If only they could find that set lineup that could churn out 5+ runs on a consistent basis.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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