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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Still Quiet On the Free Agency Front

With the calendar ready to flip to December, MLB Free Agency has started picking up as expected. B.J. Upton has been the biggest name to switch teams thus far, and his deal may set the market for the rest of the outfielders.

Upton landed a huge, 5 year, $75 million deal with the Atlanta Braves, signaling their moving on from Michael Bourn, and really setting a precedent for outfielders in this free agent market. I mean, Upton is a nice player with some upside who is entering his prime, but $15M/per for a guy who hits .240 and doesn't carry an OPS over .800? Granted, he's a skilled defender in center, and does have 20+ home run power, but he was hitting in a live yard in Tampa and never really developed like everyone expected he would. With Hunter getting $13M a year earlier this month from Detroit, and now Upton getting this deal, it certainly helps out Angel Pagan's status. Maybe he will find that 4 year/$50M deal he's been reportedly seeking after all. He doesn't have the power potential that Upton has, he does everything else as well or better than B.J.With the way things are shaping up, I am getting an even stronger feeling that the Giants will end up signing Shane Victorino. I mean, as far as skill sets, Michael Bourn really isn't that far off from Gregor Blanco, whereas Victorino is a little more potent offensively and still has that speed on the base paths and excellent range in the outfield. Not to mention, he can hit in different spots in the order.

Now, whether it's Bourn, Pagan, Victorino or someone else we've yet to mention, the Giants need a center fielder/leadoff hitter. That's not the only help this team could use in it's outfield though. They have to be looking at corner OF options as well. They essentially need two starting outfielders right now, and with their lack of trading resources, they'll likely have to do it via free agency. That's been the tough spot for Sabean in recent years, dating back to the bad deal he gave Zito. Even if they sign one of those three mentioned to play center, they need they're reigning Champs and need to start improving rather than penny-pinching. There are two really intriguing options out there though in my mind, and those two are Nick Swisher and former Giant, Cody Ross. As far as the non-Giant free agents go, Swisher would probably be my top target if I were Sabean, but as the top corner outfielder on the market, and seeing what the others have gotten thus far, he's going to get a huge deal. I could really see Swish fitting right in with San Francisco though, and thriving here. I mean, how sweet would a Swisher-Pagan/Victorino-Pence outfield be!? Ross makes a lot of sense as well, seeing his history with the Giants and the way he rebounded from his injury-plagued 2011 season.

We're also approaching the Winter Meetings and arbitration deadline, and should start to see other names hit the market, either trade or free agency. One familiar name which already has been non-tendered is former Giant Andres Torres. I'd take Torres back, not as a starter mind you, but he really only makes sense if the Giants have some more right-handed power on the roster. If they went into next year with a Blanco-Torres-Pence starting outfield, they'd be in trouble. However, if they found a very good left fielder (Josh Hamilton anyone?), then I could even live with a Blanco/Torres platoon in center.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Friday, November 23, 2012

Decisions, Decisions

The Giants made a few moves since they won the 'Series last month, but since the Affeldt signing and assuring Pence a contract for 2012, things have been pretty quiet.

Well, you can expect that to change in the coming week as MLB's free agency appears to be picking up, and there has been a lot of talk about the Champion San Francisco Giants. Most of the talk, to nobodies surprise, has been of Angel Pagan, and the chances the Giants have of signing the second-half machine. As I've suspected all along though, I just don't see him coming back, as some other team is destined to overpay for him for what he did from August 3rd-on. Friday, it was leaked that the Giants and Pagan's party seem to be a ways apart on a new deal and both will look towards other avenues in the next few days. I don't know the details of what's holding up negotiations for certain, but it's likely coming down to years. Most likely, the Giants won't go more than 3, and won't pay more than $10M per, and there are going to be teams out there that will exceed that. Pagan was said to be seeking 4 years in the neighborhood of $12M/per, but I don't think he'll get quite that. And if you thought he'd be giving his Giants and the city a "hometown discount", his wife showed their true ambitions this week on Twitter. I could very easily see that if he Braves lose Bourn, or the Yankees panic about Jeter's future and don't return Nick Swischer, than he'll that 4 year deal he's coveting. Even Boston and Philly could throw big dollars in Pagan's direction.

Now onto some of the other names besides Pagan, who could be trolling one of the outfield spots at AT&T next season. The Giants have been on record as showing interest in two guys already, B.J. Upton as well as Michael Bourn, but I'm not sure either will end up fitting into San Francisco's plans this winter. Upton, at 28 years of age and a career .757 OPS performer does have outstanding upside still, with 30-30 potential and the ability to carry a .400 on-base, but he also has the ugly side, which are the strikeouts and the low contact rate issue. As per defense, he's second to few, and is gold-glove caliber in center, but at his age and with his raw skill, it'll be interesting to see what he fetches out there in a thin OF market. We already saw Torii Hunter get 2 years and $26 million from Detroit, so a 4 year, $50M deal for Upton wouldn't be out of this world and could very well happen. I like the player, and wouldn't mind him at say, 2 plus an option for $10M plus incentives, but this isn't a perfect world. As per Bourn though, I have a strange feeling the Giants could overpay for him should they lose Pagan, and I sorely hope I'm mistaken. Bourn is younger than Pagan and has a better track record, which means for all intents and purposes, he should be the one looking for Aaron Rowand money this winter, not Pagan. I see Bourn waiting out Pagan's deal and using that as a threshold for him, which again, doesn't bode so well for San Francisco.

Then there's another leadoff hitting, center fielder that I've been pondering over the days, and that is Shane Victorino. I know he's got a a less-than-stellar rep here with San Fran fans, but seems like a terrific clubhouse guy who'd fit in well with this bunch. Much like the 'love 'em if you got 'em, hate 'em if you face 'em' type player. Two things about Victorino though were his steady decline last year and less-than-ideal splits vs. righties. He simply did not hit them well in 2012, and that's been the case for him more than once in his career. In 2011, he managed a .283 average off righties, which is fine, but he'd be a bit of a gamble. On the other side, he's every bit the defender Pagan is and, prior to 2012, would have been every team's choice between the two. He's also Pagan's junior by a year. I haven't heard any numbers thrown out yet as to what Victorino is seeking, but a 3 year/30M deal (they'd love Pagan to take) may be in the ballpark. Victorino is also coming off his worst season as a big leaguer (especially ugly in LA), so take that as you will. There are so many factors to take in with all these free agent outfielders because chances are, you may have to overpay to get one of them and you better pick the right one. Not to mention, the Giants really need two starting-caliber outfielders this winter, but that's a conversation for next time. 

None of these guys are going to sell tickets like a Josh Hamilton signing, but that's just not going to happen. These are the top center fielders out on the market who also hit atop the batting order, although Upton and Victorino have some versatility in that department. There are many other outfielders that should be on the Giants radar though this winter, as they have only Blanco and Pence under control for 2013, which means we're looking at the likely addition of two new starters in the outfield if Pagan bolts (which unfortunately, seems like the logical thinking at this time).
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Friday, November 16, 2012

2012 Minor League Report

I know free agency is starting to heat up, but with Buster Posey winning the NL MVP Thursday, I wanted to take a quick look back down on the farm and see who the next big stars are that will be heading our way.

We'll be right back into the free agent frenzy this weekend, by which time it wouldn't surprise me if the Giants make another move, but until then, I wanted to look at some of the standouts from the minors this year.

First off, we'll start down in Low-A Augusta, where the name of the game down their for the Giants was their starting pitching, particularly in the form of their two brightest young arms in Kyle Crick and Clayton Blackburn. The 19 year-olds each had their way with the the SAL's hitters, as Blackburn piled up an 8-4 record, 2.54 ERA and an astounding 143:18 K/BB ratio over 133 innings of work. Crick was equally impressive, firing off a 7-6 record, 2.51 ERA and 128 K's in 111 IP. He didn't show the command Blackburn did, but got stronger as the season wore on. Before the season, it was Crick who was considered the premiere of the two arms, but in the 2013 Giants' prospect edition, Blackburn should overtake that role. Starter Edwin Escobar (7-8, 2.98 ERA) and outfielder Shawn Payne (.309 AVG, 57 SB's) also stood out for the Green Jackets.

San Jose had a few bright young players come through this season as well, and contrary to how the Augusta team was set-up, the SJ Giants were stocked with hitting. Whether he'll end up at shortstop in the future (doubtful with the way Crawford has come on) or second, Joe Panik is the Giants top young infield prospect and he had a solid finish to an otherwise mediocre season. The 22 year-old did hit .297, but didn't quite show the power the Giants had hoped for, with just 38 extra-base hits in over 500 at-bats in a notorious hitters league. Fellow infielders Adam Duvall and Ricky Oropesa had no such problem in the power department. The 24 year-old Duvall led everyone in the Giants' organization with 30 homers, and drove in 100 runs, but hit only .258. The Giants may hike him up to AAA Fresno next year and see if they can't get that average to rise. 22 year-old Ricky Oropesa belted out 16 homers and had 30 doubles, but the Giants hope the .263 average and 150 K's improve in '13. The disappointment from San Jose this year, Jarrett Parker (.247, 175 K's in 409 at-bats), though he did manage 15 long balls and an .366 OBP.

Up in AA Richmond, the Giants had a few guys who we may be seeing next September in San Francisco. Although he didn't quite have the season he was hoping for, Giants top prospect Gary Brown turned it on in time to hit .279 with 7 HR and 33 SB's in one of the tougher leagues to hit in. The part they want to see improve next year in Fresno is that OBP and his caught stealing rate (nearly %39). On that pitching staff, the Squirrels had a pair of good years out of Brett Bochy and Chris Heston. Bochy sported a 2.53 ERA with 69 K's and 14 saves in 53 innings of work. Heston led Giants minor leaguers with a 2.24 ERA to go with his 9-8 record and 135 K's in 25 starts. I'd look for all three of the aforementioned players to be in Fresno in 2013 and on a short list of possible early season call-ups should the need arise.

And finally, we end up in Fresno, where there were really just three guys considered bright prospects getting a lot of time. One made it up to the big league level, Francisco Peguero, so we all know about him and the slightly above-average season he was having in Fresno. However, it probably wouldn't have been Peguero to get the call had Roger Kieschnick been healthy when the Giants lost Melky Cabrera. Kieschnick was hitting .306 with a team-high 15 HR and 40 RBI before going down with a season ending injury in July. The 25 year-old is certainly someone to keep an eye on come Spring of 2013 as he could battle for a backup outfield spot, depending on how the cards play out this winter (only Pence and Blanco are assured to return). The other prospect in Fresno this year was Heath Hembree, who had somewhat of a wasted season in the sense that he was just never that healthy. The Giants expected closer-of-the-future has looked much better in the AFL and finished off the year nicely with the Grizzlies after his return, but a 4.74 ERA is hardly what the Giants had in mind for their young fire-baller.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Let the Offseason Begin

Fresh off their 2nd World Series tittle in 3 seasons, Brian Sabean has gotten right back to work and has already made multiple roster decisions regarding the 2013 team. After declaring that the Giants will be tendering Hunter Pence arbitration last week, the Giants have apparently agreed on a new three-year deal with Jeremy Affeldt.

The internet was buzzing Tuesday with news that the Giants and reliever Jeremy Affeldt were enclosing on a new three-year that would pay the lefty upwards of 18 million dollars during it's span. It's now become official, and that goes to show you the market for quality left-handed mid-relievers, cause that's a pretty large deal for one about to hit his mid-30's. Now, don't get me wrong, Affeldt has been huge for the Giants since he put on their uniform, but you hardly see relief pitchers that aren't closers or elite set-up men get three-plus years in a contract. That being said Affeldt is one of the best left-handed relievers in the game and has the unique ability to get both lefties and righties out. With this deal becoming official, it would appear the Giants will again be carrying three left-handers in their pen again next year and it would pretty much put a bow on things as far as the bullpen is concerned. They'll tender their arbitration guys like Romo, Casilla and Mijares, then have Javy Lopez and George Kontos both returning as well. Then there are guys like Jean Machi and Heath Hembree, amongst others, who could be in the mix next spring.

The big question mark is still Brian Wilson, but again, even if he's tendered, the Giants probably can't expect him to start the season. My guess is they'll look at some right-handed guys like Brett Myers and Francisco Rodriguez (though not sure they'd want him in their clubhouse) as options to improve on Guillermo Mota and help Casilla in the 7th and 8th (assuming Romo's closing). Even a guy like Jason Grilli, the former Giants' farmhand could be an option if Sabes is seeking another swing-and-miss rightie for late inning situations.

In other Giants news surfacing in recent days, they've also declared that both they and Marco Scutaro have had dialogue about returning next year and Sabean apparently feels quite optimistic about those chances. Scutaro was as key as any Giant down the stretch and in October, but he's a tricky subject because of his advanced age. With the way he played with San Francisco, he could be looking for something like a 2-3 year deal that pays him $7-8 million per year, and he may get that on the open market. I'd have no problem giving him 2 years in the $15 million, but not sure about paying Scutaro upwards of $8M in 2015 when he's approaching his 40th birthday. My guess is they'll definitely get something done with Marco, especially since managements gone on record with their optimism, I just hope they don't start overpaying everyone to ensure they get their 2012 team back in 2013. They made some mistakes to that effect after 2010, so hopefully Sabes is a little more savvy this time around. Not saying Scutaro shouldn't get paid, cause he should, just hoping Sabes doesn't go all Aubrey Huff with him or give Pagan an Aaron Rowand type deal.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Pence to Return, Undecided on Wilson

Well, we were going to use today's post to go back and review what went on down on the farm in the Giants' organization, but the Giants are already making some moves towards shaping their 2013 roster.

Brian Sabean announced Thursday something that every Giants fan was expecting, stating that they will offer arbitration to right fielder Hunter Pence, ensuring he'll be in the orange and black for the 2013 season. There was never really any doubt as to whether or not Pence would be back after he helped spark the team's incredible run in October, but the Giants are hoping his personal production improves next season. Pence hit just .219 with a .671 OPS to go along with 7 HR's and 45 RBI in his 59 games with San Francisco, and struggled even more in the postseason. However, even though he wasn't as prudent with the stick as he'd have liked, he was one of the Giants most clutch hitters with runners in scoring position as evident by his high RBI total, and he also handled right field at AT&T Park exceptionally well. Perhaps the biggest attribute Pence provided though was his stability in the clubhouse. Not necessarily just the 'rah-rah' speeches he gave before those games in Cincinnati, but the example he set on the field with his hustle and all out play. If you look at the back of his baseball card, you see a guy who averages around .285, will hit 20+ homers and drive in 90+ runs, and I absolutely expect a bounce back to that effect out of Pence in '13.

Next up on the Giants arbitration to-do list is mercurial closer Brian Wilson, and this one could pose a much tougher decision than Pence. Wilson has been a face of this team for the last few seasons and was epic in their World Series run in 2010. Although he doesn't always do it it dominant fashion, he does sport one of the better save percentages in all of baseball. But there are two things that come into play with this one. First of all, Willy just went through his 2nd Tommy John procedure in less than a decade, and although he states he's starting to feel as strong as ever, it's really any ones guess as to what kind of shape he'll show up in next spring and when exactly he'd be able to take the ball again in a major league game. The other factor here is the way that Sergio Romo just took the bull by the horns and really staked his claim to the 9th inning down the stretch. Health aside, many close to the Giants believe Romo could have a leg up on Wilson at this point just because Romo seems to get through the 9th without as much drama as Wilson. The only issue with Romo is he doesn't really have that hard fastball he can rely on to blow by hitters on nights his slider isn't working right or when he's got a bunch of lefties lined up against him.

If I had to venture a guess at this point, I'd say the Giants may be leaning towards not offering Wilson his arbitration, but then possibly try to get him back on a one-year deal with some major incentives tied in. Not sure if Willy would be open to that, but I just have a hard time seeing the Giants guarantee a guy coming off that type of surgery upwards of $10 million for 2013, especially when they have a viable replacement already in house. I'd like to see him back and battling Romo for the ninth, but I can't say I expect it.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Giants Celebrate, Shift Focus to 2013

Although Giants fans all over the world get to relish in this World Series Championship all winter long, it's time for the Giants management to start shifting their focus towards 2013.

Now, before I start putting this season in the rear view mirror, I just wanted to talk a little bit more about this World Series victory and the incredible parade we all got on Wednesday. Again, we'll be doing season reviews in the coming month, rating how each unit of the team did this year, from starting pitching to the bench guys and everyone in between. There just isn't a lot to be said about the 2012 Giants that hasn't been eluded to a number of times. I would be lying if I told you I had the World Series on my mind after this team lost it's star closer and then their top hitter midway through the season while also getting pedestrian numbers out of the guy they were hoping would help carry the offense in Hunter Pence. But that's further testament to how well this team played as a group and how each player picked up the other guy when they had to. Pence's presence showed up more than just in the box score. Blanco made Melky an afterthought in October and we all know the job Romo did.

This season really had three team MVP's if you ask me, and those guys were Sergio Romo, Buster Posey and Marco Scutaro. While the starting pitching wavered some down the stretch and early in October, these guys constantly answered the bell and came up with the clutch hit or the clutch save whenever they were called upon. The starting pitching found it's legs in time for the World Series, and showed us just how dominant they can still be, but what inspired me this year was the way the offense and defense came together when all odds were against them. That wraps up my thoughts on the guys I thought were the real keys to this championship drive, but don't get me wrong, they weren't the only ones. Just about everyone of those 25 guys on that roster for October pitched in somehow and this was the epitome of a team effort on behalf of the Giants, and that's what made this one so sweet.

Now, with 2 tittles in the last 3 seasons, the world Dynasty is starting to get tossed out there, and believe it or not, the Giants are in great position to possibly reel off another couple of these things with their core players just starting to hit their prime. That being said, the Giants already, less than a week after their World Series victory have already begun assessing their roster for the upcoming 2013 campaign, and they have some tough decisions to make. They made the first move of the winter my declining Aubrey Huff's 2013 option, a move that came as a surprise to nobody, but they'll have much more challenging obstacles in the next couple weeks. There are two real key guys on their roster up for free agency, and one wild card. The two keys obviously are Scutaro and Pagan, the team's one-two punch at the top of the lineup that was as good as any in the second half of the season and in October. Then, of course, there's the guy that missed out on all of this and has to be kicking himself right now wherever he is, and that's Melky Cabrera.

Other than that, the Giants don't have any impending free agents that will be priorities to bring back. With Huff off the books, Freddy Sanchez's contract expiring and even that horrendous Aaron Rowand deal finally out the window (not to mention the extra royalties this team reeled in from this postseason run) the Giants will have some money to play with. The only piece of news I've heard regarding team free agents is that Pagan's camp could be looking to cash in after this big 2012, to the tune of 4 years and 12M+ per season. Maybe the Giants could get those numbers down a bit, cause I know Angel would love to stay in this city... Either way, it's a really exciting time to be a Giants fan right now. Fresh off the 'Series win and with some free agent dollars to play with. This team could certainly be on their way to becoming the class of the NL, if not the entire MLB, for years to come.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________