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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Vogelsong last piece to 2015 roster?

On Friday, the Giants completed what very well may have been their last major league free-agent signing of the offseason, returning free agent right-handed Ryan Vogelsong to the Bay Area for one more season on a $4M deal.

Now, it was quite a change of events over that 72-hour period last weekend. There were multiple sources that had Vogey just inches from inking in Houston with him making the trip out there and spending significant time with Astros' brass. Instead, the Giants persuaded Vogey back with a base salary of $4M that will keep the 37 year-old in 2015. Right now, however, it's not quite certain as to what the popular right-hander's role on the staff will entail. With questions surrounding 3/5 of the Giants rotation heading into February though, having Vogey around as insurance and possibly someone to stretch the rotation when need be may not be such a bad plan. I could see Vogey and Lincecum in a private battle (to avoid an publicity) for the fifth spot in spring training, but with Yusmiero Petit thriving in that long releive/spot start role, what would happen to the loser of that battle? My guess is the Giants will see how the first half of spring goes, then depending on where players stand, someone may be DL'd with a phantom injury until the best-5 emerge and Bochy can solidify his staff. But, assuming all are healthy coming out of March and everyone, including Lincecum and Petit are pitching well, it would seem the only plausible scenario would be to slide Vogey into the pen to start the year with Hunter Strickland possible starting down in Fresno.

It's still a tad early to speculate but who knows, maybe Tim Lincecum lights it up this spring and regains at least enough trade value to where the Giants maybe find a taker. Even as cliche as it sounds though, you really can never have too much pitching, but with Yusmiero Petit already locked into that long-relief/spot start role, it could force Vogey into a mid-reliever type of role, something which he hasn't done much in his career. Guys might be entering new territory and may need to put their ego in check. Obviously Tim Lincecum makes way more since in short relief and in my opinion would thrive there and possibly give the Giants a closing option should Santiago Casilla falter, but I don't see the Giants giving up on that $17.5M in the rotation (at least until June). It is a contract year, he is just 30 and has apparently tried some new things this offseason, so who knows, maybe he becomes a 15-game winner again with a sub-4 ERA. We can hope right? Heck, a big year, with his Cy Young track record, could land himself a deal in the 5 year/$70M ballpark in this market (see Brandon McCarthy, Francisco Liriano, Ervin Santana), giving him plenty of incentive. A lot would have to go right for his value to reach that staus again but stranger things have happened.

My guess though is that no matter what happens, Vogey will find his way into the rotation for at least 20 starts. The idea of a 6-man rotation, maybe even in the second half, could make since with the age of Huddy and Vogey mixed with Cain heatlth issues and Bumgarner workload concerns, but that is just so rare these days. I' still just really like the idea of making Lineceucm a short-reliever for his last year hear, even though he may hate it unless he was closing. I thing that's where his future is and he can be a solid weapon in that late role going multiple innings.

So, with January flying on by and just a few weeks before pitchers and catchers arrive in Arizona, the Giants' heavy lifting for the offseason appears to be finished, and if that is indeed the case, let's take a look at what exactly transpired:

Lost: Pablo Sandoval 3B (signed w/Boston), Michael Morse LF (signed w/Miami)
Added: Casey McGehee 3B (one-year deal from Miami), Nori Aoki LF(one-year deal from KC)

Now, looking at that Add/Lost list probably doesn't inspire most Orange and Black fans. They replaced 33 big flies (in which both Panda and Morse each had down power years) with a total of 5 between McGehee and Aoki in 2014 (though I would expect that to rise somewhat in 2015). In fairness, the RBI difference and OPS weren't that far off and while Panda has the edge defensively over McGehee at third, Aoki runs circles around Morse in left. But let's face it, the Giants not only lost a ton of power and run production from those two, but the impact those two guys had on opposing manager/pitcher stragiees. The fact of the matter is that unless Casey McGehee parties like it's '09/'10 all over again and Aoki reverts back into 2012 form, it's going to be a noticeable drop off offensively in those spots. Sure, a healthy Pagan and Belt for a full year will help, but this team does have some depth issues (although signing Aoki did help a ton).

Anyone would tell you they'd gladly take the Panda/Morse combo over the new regime, but it's not like you can really fault them for losing Panda and Morse. Pablo wanted out obviously wanted out and Morse, while entertaining and good for some homers and big hits while fitting perfectly into his role, certainly isn't a long term guy in the outfield. I'm just more so concerned with the inability to bring in a little bit more adequate replacements. If you've read us this winter, you know my push for Justin Upton well, then Allen Craig , but I must say I didn't dislike the Aoki signing, I would have liked it had they gone out entertained some of the more impacting third basemen to replace Pablo than McGehee, but it may not have been a realistic option without giving up Crick, Panik and Sussac. There were a ton of names from Pedro Alvarez to Will Middlebrooks, but the three I was most interested in were David Freese, Brett Lawrie and Lonnie Chisenhall.

Oh well, sometimes things don't work out exactly as hoped. The offseason isn't officially done, so I'm not ready to shell out grades quite yet. Who knows, they could surprise us with a late splash for a right handed left-fielder with some thump or someone else who can put balls in the seats, but I think they're going to enter the year with this team. See which of their needs becomes most pressing and go from there, which Sabean seems so well versed at doing.

Extras: The Giants officially cut-ties with Marco Scutaro earlier this week. Letting the 2012 pennant race/postseason stud go with just one year left on his deal and his future very much in doubt. They did so in order to make room for Nori Aoki on the 40-man... Speaking of 40-man, it's about that time of year where the yearly prospect lists for teams start hitting the wires and we here are the Giants Baseball Blog will present out top-10 along with 5 guys not in the mix to keep an eye on in 2015 and beyond and we hope to have that up by Friday, so do check back!
The Giants Baseball Blog

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Aoki signing a solid low-risk move

Well, with the free agent market dwindling and the Giants trying to avoid going the trade route to fill their left field void, there weren't a plethora of options for Brian Sabean to choose from. That being said, the decision to bring in Norichika Aoki on a one-year deal at $4M doesn't look too shabby at all.
Giants introduce Aoki Tuesday

No, it wasn't a big splash for Justin Upton, Yasmany Tomas or Ben Zobrist (who were all linked to the Giants at some point this offseason) but the Giants got themselves a player who's skill-set should translate well at AT&T Park. He may homer just a handful of times in 2015, but with his speed and contact ability, a 20-triple season may not be out of the question. He gets on base at an above-average clip, puts the ball in play with frequency and is lightening quick on the base-paths. He'll bring some versatility to the lineup as well, as can hit both atop the order or at the bottom. He gives Bochy a legit leadoff option on days Angel Pagan can't go and would be a fine 2-hole hitter if Joe Panik has some sophomore slumping in 2015. I kind of like the idea of having the speedsters 1-2 in the order but that stuff will all play itself out through spring training and the beginning of the year. He does have a higher OBP than Pagan the last few years too so he may end up in the leadoff spot with Pagan maybe moving down to third. Then there's the defensive flexibility with Aoki as well in the outfield where he's more than adequate at all three spots and provides a plus throwing arm.

So yes, the Aoki addition does improve the team. Ideally, the Giants would have found that big right-handed thumper to help fill the power void left by Sandoval and Morse but that's not part of Aoki's game. Heck, Blanco may have a little more pop than Aoki, but Aoki makes contact and drives the ball more regularly. Some are worried that Aoki and Blanco are too close to being the same type of player to make Aoki and big upgrade, but let's take a look at that real quickly. He surpasses Gregor in every aspect offensively and on the base-paths and they're close to a wash defensively, with Blanco getting an edge in range and Aoki maybe in the arm category. They are both somewhat light-hitting outfielders with great speed and good defense, but Aoki is clearly the better player. Plus, judging by Tuesday's press conference, I'm thinking he's going to fit right into the wide array of personalities that always seem to gel in the Giants clubhouse. I also thought it was cool how he wore his jersey when he appeared on CSN later in the evening with Brody Brazil to do an interview.

With Aoki's arrival, the big question I have now is what happens to Travis Ishikawa? The Giants just gave him over a $1M to return next year, but now with left-handed Nori Aoki starting in left and Blanco now sliding back into the fourth outfield role, they need a right-hander for that fifth spot. Juan Perez is penciled in there but Sabes could still go out and get a guy like Jonny Gomes to give them some pop off the bench and someone to spell Aoki against tough left-handed throwers. That said, there has been no indication made by the team that they're further pursuing outfielders.

Although they may be done adding to the positional part of the roster before spring, they still may still be pursuing starting pitching depth. It surfaced early Tuesday morning that Ryan Vogelsong reportedly close to a one-year deal with the Houston Astros (which apparently hit a snag cause it failed to happen). James Sheilds is still floating out there, someone the Giants apparently do like a lot, but have also let go as a possibility (especially after Scherzer just raked in over $200M.)...At this point, I think the Giants heavy lifting for the offseason is done.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Giants still searching for OF and rotation depth

With a little over a month now until pitchers and catchers file into Scottsdale, the Giants reported that Tim Hudson will undergo surgery to remove bone spurs from his right heel. He is expected to be out at least 8 weeks but the Giants are expecting him back in time to start the season.

Anyhow, it has sort of enhanced their search for rotation depth again. I mean with Huddy pushing 40 and the workload his small frame has endured the last 16 seasons, it's probably not a bad idea to look into adding some rotation depth. This guy was pitching for the A's when the Giants were still playing at Candlestick Park after all. Add that to the fact that Tim Lineceum couldn't get anybody out in the second half of last season and the Giants have major question marks surrounding at least 2 of their 5 starters heading into spring. They do have Yusmiero Petit as a fallback, but the Bochy prefers being able to use him in different roles and would rather not tie him into a rotation spot if they can avoid it (at least early on in the season). There were reports early on this week that the Giants had inquired about Dan Haren, who was just traded to Miami earlier this winter. Haren is coming off a decent year in LA and wouldn't be a bad option to replace Lincecum if Timmy struggles out of the gate as well. Ryan Vogelsong is also still dangling out there. I'll tell you one thing, with this news about Hudson and the Giants inability to get close with any other prominent free agent starter, it's sure making the return of Jake Peavy look better and better.

Now, as for their continuing search for a potential left fielder, I know I wasn't the only one that had to shake their head after the A's were able to land the guy many Giants fans were pinning for for. The A's picked up Ben Zobrist from Tampa Bay, along with Yunel Escobar, in exchange for 3 minor league players. Zobrist is hardly a superstar, but is a solid player that would have fit well with the Giants both in the clubhouse and in the middle of that batting order. I for one would have viewed an acquisition of Zobrist (granted the Giants didn't part with too much) as a potential savior in an otherwise bland offseason, and I wasn't the only one. Instead, the Giants are again left searching for a plan B, like they did at third base after missing Sandoval and like they did in the rotation after missing Lester. Last post, I mentioned Allen Craig as the other guy besides Zobrist as a reasonable bat to target in a trade, and now he's probably now taken over as the number one target I'd like to see them go after. Not far behind him would be Houston's Dexter Fowler who I think would be a tremendous fit in this yard both offensively and defensively almost like Melky was in '12.

At this point though, if they are unable to bring in an upgrade like Craig or Fowler, I'd be open to signing a guy like Nori Aoki and making Blanco strictly the 4th outfielder again and bringing some stability to the everyday lineup. He'd be an upgrade over Blanco and significantly so if he could re-discover his sneaky power that evaporated last season. He just does everything a little better than Gregor. Colby Rasmus is the kind of talent and situation I'd ideally like to roll the dice on a one-year deal with but I highly doubt  the Giants will take a chance on him with his reputation as a clubhouse cancer (although if there is a clubhouse that can change someone like that, it would be San Francisco's). Better yet, they could sign the combo of Aoki and Gomes and really add some depth out there, but in all likelihood the guy your going to be seeing the most of in left field this summer is Gregor Blanco.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Remaining options for Giants' roster

January 2015 is here and that means we're only about 6 weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting to Scottsdale and the Giants begin their quest to repeat but they still have some work to do before then.

After the re-signing of Jake Peavy and the trade for Casey McGehee, the Giants may have put a wrap on their offseason. However, they remain linked to James Shields and continue to scour the market, mainly via trade, for a possible solution in left field.

The Giants obviously still have some money set aside that they were intending on giving to either Pablo Sandoval and/or Jon Lester, but they're not about to give it all away to Max Scherzer so you can give up on that dream. They have, however, stayed relevant in the James Shields sweepstakes, making us all wonder what would possibly happen if the Giants did somehow add the former Royals' ace. Talk of running out a possible 6-man rotation have been brought up, also a possible full-time move of Tim Lincecum to the bullpen would be an option. I think that if the Giants did get Shields though, their best move would be to trade Timmy (if they could) to someone like Seattle and swallow a large portion of his 2015 salary of $17.5M. Sending him to the bullpen may not go over well with him in his contract year and while he's taken his fall from glory the past few years very professionally, the Giants certainly don't want to disrespect a guy who helped elevate this franchise to the place they're at. I think Shields would make this rotation a clear-cut powerhouse again, with the return of a healthy Cain and a full year of Jake Peavy (6-4, 2.17 ERA, 1.04 WHIP in 78 IP after trade). I just don't see it happening though, and I think Shields will wind up in Boston or LA (either Dodgers or Angels).

While they continue to monitor Shields' situation, the Giants have to be mulling over the remaining outfield options out there and although there aren't many great options like Justin Upton was, they should be able to find someone of value if they want. Ben Zobrist's name came up prior to last season's trade deadline as a possibility at 2nd base for the Giants, and now he's been linked to the team again as a possible left field option. Zobrist is a versatile, strong defender with an above-average bat. He'd give Bochy a bunch of flexibility not only defensively but offensively too as Zobrist can hit anywhere in the order. With the Rays' recent acquisition of Asdrubal Cabrera, some are wondering if it's a precursor for a Zobrist deal, but we'll have to wait and see. Another option I'd like besides Zobrist if the Giants indeed go the trade route would be Boston's Allen Craig. The 30 year-old outfielder/first basemen put together three solid years in St. Louis from 2011-13 but then struggled a bit in 2014 before being sent to Boston, where he faded miserably at the end of the year. 2014's downfall plus Boston's gluttony of outfielders may make Craig available and relatively attainable.

Those would be the two guys I'd try and target if I'm Sabean, but I wouldn't hold my breath in hopes of reaching a deal for either one. A much more realistic option for the Giants, as the calender has flipped to January and 2015 has officially begun, will be scraping a bottom of the free agent barrel for a potential right-handed platoon partner for Gregor Blanco. Two guys that immediately come to mind who fit that bill are Ryan Ludwick and Jonny Gomes. Both have traditionally torched left-handed pitching and are coming off down years looking to sign one-year, make good deals. Of the two, I'd lean towards Gomes, who's a Bay Area native and has platooned vs. lefties his whole career. Ludwick may have slightly more upside just because he could get healthy and possibly take over the everyday left fielder job, but he's been next to worthless since 2012. Some other names that have been floating around the market are Cameron Maybin and Will Venable from San Diego, as the Padres now are stacked with 3 all-star caliber outfielders. Danial Nava and Shane Victorino are a couple of lesser desired Boston outfielders should they get desperate. Then there's Delmon Young, who would make Michael Morse look like a gold-glover out there and is also free after a solid 7/30/.302/.777 slash line in just 242 at-bats with Baltimore last season.

While I don't expect them to do anything major between now and the time pitchers and catchers will be reporting to Scottsdale next month, they should at least add another outfielder to the mix if nothing else. I'd give them an outside shot at ending up with Shields but I'd say the chances of it happening are slim to none.

I do want to wish all our readers a very happy new year. I truely appreciate those who read this blog regularly. We had some inconsistencies with our posting in 2014 but want to provide a more stable posting schedule for the upcoming year and get back to at least 1-2 posts per week. Hopefully 2015 is every ones best year yet and the Giants bring another one home in October!
The Giants Baseball Blog