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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

With Cueto in tow, LF only void

With Johnny Cueto passing his physical last week and officially being introduced  as a San Francisco Giant, the orange and black have shored up their starting rotation. Now, with roughly 8 weeks until players report for spring they can shift all of their focus into the outfield.

Obviously a popular question after the Giants signed Cueto last week was whether or not the Giants had the resources left to upgrade left field. Most assumed that the Giants would pretty much be done, but Bobby Evans actually said he would be surprised if they weren't able to upgrade there. He also said recently that the team would be more than comfortable with Gregor Blanco heading into the year if need be. So the big question is which route is the most realistic way to upgrade left field, if they are indeed able to? All outfielders who were available after Jason Heyward are still available on December 22nd, which is a bit surprising as many thought things would start falling into place after Heyward signed. However, after committing over $200M this winter to Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, it's doubtful the Giants will be in on the top few guys on the free agent market. That likely rules out Justin Upton, Yeonis Cespedes and Alex Gordon. That being said, we're getting close to January, and if the Giants somehow get lucky and bring Yeonis Cespedes or Justin Upton in on something like a 5-year, $80M deal or something like that then who knows? It's doubtful, as both are likely to get north of $100M, but not many expected the Giants to snag Cueto and look where we are now!

So, outside of those top guys we've talked about here before, the Giants are likely focused on the second-tier guys, led by Dexter Fowler. I mean, Fowler is borderline up there with those guys above him, as his defense is superior to all and he's the only one with the natural ability to play center field, which is where he could slide in 2017 after Pagan's deal expires. The question I have about Fowler would be how his bat would fare at AT&T Park. He's coming off a year where he hit 17 jacks but hit only .250 while playing his home games at Wrigley Field. I think the spacious outfield at AT&T would allow for more hits to drop for Fowler, but his power would probably take a nice hit. So when your all said and done, you may be looking at a younger version of Angel Pagan with better defense and will get on base a helluva lot more. Not a bad player at all, but not worth $17M/year if that's what he's seeking. Fowler would be great on a 4-year/$50M deal. I'd even go as high as $60M over four years but I don't think he's worth more than $15M oer year. That's getting to the point where I'd really rather just pay the extra couple million per season and get a legit offensive slugger like Upton (it's not my money after all).

The other free agents worth a look after Fowler would be Denard Span, Gerardo Para, Austin Jackson and Marlon Byrd. Seeing as they have Blanco on the roster already, it doesn't make a ton of sense to go at Span, as the two are similar players. Para is a little more dynamic offensively, and also a defensive stud, but his asking price is likely going to be inflated after his .291/14/51/.780 season and he's really just a notch above Blanco as a glorified platoon corner outfielder. Jackson is a little more intriguing as he to has been a solid center fielder in the past and is just 29 years old. My guess is that if the Giants go the free agent route, a return of Marlon Byrd, who wasn't bad during his stint here last year (39 G .272/4/31/.764), or an Austin Jackson dice-roll would seem very plausible.

As far as trade, it's tough to gauge because there are still a lot of free agents out there and teams aren't quite sure yet how their final rosters are going to look. Too many teams feel like they have an outside shot at contending. Carlos Gonzalez has been the most intriguing name on the rumor mill, but he'd probably cost half the farm system. Matt Kemp is someone who I've been keeping an eye on this winter and is an interesting subject. The Dodgers ate a lot of Kemp's contract upon the his trade to San Diego last December, so the Giants would be on the hook for four years and $60M (not bad in today's market). Kemp is coming off back-to-back solid, healthy seasons. Petco slashed away at his slugging and batting average, but he still hit 23 jacks and drove in 100 runs. Another slugging outfielder who's been rumored to be on the block is Jay Bruce. He, however, is coming off back-to-back dreadful seasons in which he hit .217 and .226, respectively. Still, his 30+ HR/year potential and age, 29, gives him value and the Reds certainly won't part with him unless they're getting back at least two prospects who are pretty sure bets to be good major league players.

The trade route is certainly an option but it would definitely cost them, prospect wise. They could also look at someone like Khris Davis, who would probably come cheaper, but also doesn't have the upside a guy like Bruce does. Again, I really don't think the Giants wanna do another long-term, big money deal this winter and won't go after one of those top outfielders. They may not even wanna pay Dexter Fowler what he's going to get, which is why I really think bringing back Byrd on a one-year $4-5M deal is where they're going to find themselves. He can platoon with Blanco and then if that combo isn't getting it done come June, then they dial up Cincinnati and check on Jay Bruce (if he's still there) or make that big blockbuster splash and bring in Carlos Gonzalez.

We may not post again until after the holidays, unless there is a move that is made. We'll try to get one more in before the calendar flips to 2016 (hopefully bringing some even year success with it) but just in case we don't we wish all our readers a very happy and safe holiday week. I truly appreciate everyone who stumbles across this site and a true thank you to anyone who's taken the time to read and comment on posts. I appreciate all feedback, good and bad, and look forward to expanding out website in the new year with possibly a new domain and updated graphics. So stay tuned!

The Giants Baseball Blog

Monday, December 14, 2015

Elbow checks out, Giants sign Johnny Cueto

Well, if you remember earlier this offseason when the top-three free agent starting pitchers came off the board so quickly, it left Johnny Cueto as the cream of the crop pretty early on. I also posted shortly after the Zach Grienke signing that it was Johnny Cueto or bust for SF. Needless to say, the team did not "bust"!

The Giants were reportedly in on Johnny Cueto sort of all along, but were never considered favorites after signing Jeff Samrdzija to that big deal earlier this month. However, the Giants still needed a starter, probably compared the money they'd give to Cueto to the money they'd have to pay a guy like Mike Leake and decided it better to take that last "potential ace" off the market, signing him to a 6-year, $130M contract. I don't blame them one bit. I mean, Mike Leake, who's about the same age as Cueto, has nowhere near Cueto's ability to dominate when he's on. I mean, just look at game two of the World Series last year. If there were any doubts about his right-elbow entering the offseason and free agency, they were pretty much cleared up with that dominant, two-hit complete game shutout of the Mets. That was apparently the big worry about Cueto, as it has been for much of his career, the health. However, he's made all his starts the last two seasons and has only had one year since 2008 in which he started less than 24 games.

The thing about Cueto that probably made him so appealing to the Giants though, is how he performs when he is out there on the mound, which can reach MadBum levels. This guy has been really good for about 6-7 years now and will be just entering his age-30 season. Since the start of the 2012 season, he's gone 55-33 with a 2.78 ERA and 1.01 WHIP while striking out about 8 hitters per nine innings and walking just over 2. He's one of the tougher pitchers in baseball to hit and what makes this resume even more impressive is the fact that half of his starts over that time span have come in the hitter friendly Great American Ballpark (The Coors Field of the mid-west). He was runner up in the Cy Young voting last year after going 20-9 with a 2.22 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 243 K's while hurling 246 innings in 2014. So I'm sure you get it, and I'm sure you've picked up on it the last half decade or so when he's gone up against San Francisco: Johnny Cueto is a damn good pitcher..... When he's healthy.

So, what's the deal look like? It's actually not that bad at all, after considering what the two guys ahead of him got (David Price $217M, Zack Grienke $207M). When free-agency first started, I kinda was looking at Jordan Zimmerman as the bargain, as I thought his price tag would be the cheapest of the premiere arms, and he could be nearly as effective as the others at a discount rate. However, guys who've undergone TJ Surgery haven't historically done well deep into their career's after the surgery, so giving him a long term deal taking him into his mid-later 30's wasn't ideal. Now Cueto seems like a bargain. The dread-locked ace will receive $130M over 6 seasons, granted he does have an opt-out option after 2 years and $46M, which almost view as a positive. One thing I like about the opt-out clause as it does give Cueto extra incentive to keep healthy and sharp at the beginning of the deal. I mean, wouldn't signing Cueto to a 2-year $46M deal be reasonable anyway? The contract also includes a team option for a 7th-year which could take the deal over $150M. So when you look at it, the Giants nearly ended up getting both Jeff Samrdzija and Johnny Cueto for not much more than they would have had to pay just one of David Price or Zack Grienke. I'm much happier with the Cueto/Samardzija duo than a prospective Grienke/Heston duo, that's for sure.

Just look at the rotation now:

LHP Madison Bumgarner
RHP Johnny Cueto
RHP Jeff Samardzija
RHP Jake Peavy
RHP Matt Cain

Wow! I mean, if the Giants get any kind of rebound out of Matt Cain and Peavy can stay on the field, this could again be among the better rotations in the game. Bumgarner and Cueto now give them a 1-2 punch that equals any in baseball, period, and the last time Samardzija was in the NL, he looked like a top-end rotation guy himself. This staff has a lot of interesting things going on with it now. If their two new signings can dominate in the NL West like they were able the NL Central then things should be great for the Giants. The move pushes Chris Heston into the long-relief role previously held by Yusmiero Petit and allows Bochy to slot Petit in for Cain if need be or Peavy if/when he makes his token DL appearance(s) this season. It gives the Giants so much more depth, and makes them so much more quality, I can't help but give Bobby Evans and Brian Sabean two thumbs up for this one. If they aren't able to find a starting left fielder, it's a question of would you rather have had Dexter Fowler or Johnny Cueto? I think you take a potential ace over a slightly above-average outfielder any day of the week. That said, the Giants are still expected to find an everyday solution in left, as Bobby Evans said on KNBR Monday, so things could be getting even better really soon.

I'll tell you one thing, I'm much more optimistic about the Giants heading into the 2016 season right now than I was in even their championship seasons (although I did like 2014's team a lot coming in). I still would love to see them upgrade left field significantly, but this signing takes some pressure off that and if Bobby Evans says he intends on finding an everyday guy I won't doubt him. Especially not after inking one of the most effective right-handed starters of the last half-decade! As long as he stays healthy.......
The Giants Baseball Blog

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

A look at the top of the outfield market

There has been so much talk all over the airwaves and throughout internet media sources about Major League Baseball free agency and most of the talk has centered on the free-agent starting pitching market.

It does make some since though as there were really only two true, legit aces on the market in David Price and Zack Greinke. That's no knock on Johnny Cueto or Jordan Zimmerman (who are aces on plenty of squads out there) but the former two are the top guys on whatever staff they join, baring maybe a few exceptions. So, it makes since why so much attention has centered around the starting pitching market, but with Johnny Cueto the only real intriguing arm yet to find a home (and my guess is that should be coming sooner than later), let's just hope it's not the Dodgers. As for the next wave of arms (Samardzija, Mike Leake, Wie Yen-Chen, Hisashi Iwakuma, Kenta Maeda), Jeff Samardzija, considered by many the next best thing after the front-four, landed with the Giants. Although you know here that I was a strong advocate of going after Johnny Cueto but since the Giants didn't feel that same affection, what can you do as a lowly blogger and fan after all?

Anyway, away from the mound for a moment and into the outfield, where yes, they still have a major hole to fill, and it's a little more important than many people are making it out to be. I hear the "We have Jarrett Parker now, we have Blanco yadayada" but if the Giants fail to address their outfield depth AGAIN and role into next season without some legit options out there, I may just protest outside AT&T Park on opening day (if I weren't so damn lazy).

The one name we've been hearing most about filling Nori Aoki's void in left field was Ben Zobrist, but it came out Monday that the 34 year-old super-utility All-Star would prefer to play second base on a daily basis. That pretty much rules out the Giants unless they overpay or have some trade in the works involving Joe Panic and some outfielder, but that's so doubtful. So, with Zobrist slipping further off their radar, the Giants need to decide whether they go the next-tier up and spend a little more for the Alex Gordon's, Jayson Heyward's or Justin Upton's?

Yeonis Cespedes showed last summer he's a superstar who's only gotten better but the Giants haven't been linked to him, much like with Jordan Zimmerman. I don't think the Giants like something about him or how he'll develop over the next couple of years. But wow, look what dude did in just two months in the spacious Citi Field: 230 AB, 39 R, 17 HR, 44 RBI, .287, .337,.934) shredding NL pitching and he wasn't much worse in that huge Detroit yard before the deal. He did, however, disappear significantly in the playoffs. I wouldn't give him the $150M deal he's looking for, but I would give him 5-years in the $100M range, I mean, he's proven healthy and durable with the ability to hit 30+ a year with a nice average and a dependable left fielder who can play center in a pinch. So long as they feel he could fit in here. He's been the model of consistency since coming over and has even improved each year. At 30, he still has plenty of high-level play and the ability to carry an offense when he's on, left in him.

As for the others, I feel like Cespedes just slightly behind the top-men Justin Upton and Jason Heyward and then Gordon is the clear fourth option (Note I'm not including Chris Davis in this because he won't be playing outfield where he signs). I think Heyward's game would translate well at AT&T as he hits those home runs down the right field line a lot and that 309 foot porch could be conducive to that. Plus he's fast with gap power and could hit them out to triples alley and run for days. It's just too bad he can't play center for when Angel Pagan moves on after this season (assuming he does) or else he'd be so much more valuable. Heyward does a little bit of everything well though. Almost like a left-handed version of Hunter Pence and who wouldn't take another one of those guys on the team? However, your going to have to pay for his services, because not only is Heyward valuable now, he's 26 and hasn't even hit his prime yet, meaning his agent will be telling people he's only a shade of what he'll be in  four years. That's something that I think will shy many people away besides the notorious rich teams like Boston, New York, St. Louis, Chicago and Washington.

Then there's still my personal favorite, Justin Upton, who along with Heyward, Gordon and Cespedes, are the last of the real impact-able corner outfielders left on the market and Upton is a guy who always seems to pop-up on the Giants' radar. Problem is, if I remember correctly, he voiced worry about possibly joining the Giants and having to hit in their home ballpark each night, but who knows how serious that was, or whether his tune has changed. I do know he does strike out his fair share, but he also does get on base and is a shoe in for 25+ long balls and 85+ RBI and typically a .270+ average (minus last year). He's the guy that was looking like he was gonna take off and become one of baseball's elite in 2011 with that huge bat speed and ability to run and and get on base. However, ever since that year, he's either gone down or stayed the same, which is odd for a player in his mid-20's with that skill-set.

As much as I like him, Upton isn't coming to San Francisco though, and I doubt the Giants are even pursuing him. One guy they are pursuing, however, is Alex Gordon, and of all the upper-echelon free agent outfielders, I see him as the most likely option for the Giants. He probably won't break the bank, but should get five years in the $100M range. But I do think he'd be worth it, in this market. He's been Kansas City's Buster Posey the last five years and he's been about as steady as they come. He'd really be a good fit in the clubhouse, is a terrific defensive left-fielder and would probably see his numbers return closer to 2011 (.303/23/87/.879) hitting in front of Buster Posey and Hunter Pence. He's very similar to Ben Zobrist, who was clearly the Giants number one option, but I think Gordon is better because he's better suited for everyday left field duties and I think he's got more offensive potential than the elder Zobrist.

The things that drew them to Zobrist was switch-hitting bat and the defensive versatility, both of which make him a WAR monster (at such a reasonable price too!). Zobrist just does everything pretty well, but Gordon plays a better left field and is a more dangerous hitter than Zobrist. He's also three years younger than Zobrist which is a pretty big deal when your talking four and five year contracts.

The intriguing things with Upton and Heyward is their age under-30 age. Upton is curious at age 28, as that's when Barry Bonds came to San Francisco really went to the next level (Not in any way comparing the two, just saying Upton has similar skill-set and still has breakout potential). Because he's two years younger, I'd lean toward J-Up over Cespedes just because his ability to get on base when he's not hitting. Plus Upton's still so young to where he may take a 2 or 3 year deal to prove himself and become a free agent again at 30 and really cash in. But all in all, like I said, if it's a free agent, most all signs point right to Alex Gordon. He's the safe bet, will come cheaper than  the aforementioned options and still give you that middle-of-the-order threat.

I mean, there are more outfielders out there to and probably they're the ones the Giants will be going after. The likes of Dexter Fowler and Gerrado Para but the outfield class is slim pickings this year in terms of free agency. Teams know that too so if you try and trade for one your gonna have to overpay as well.

Speaking of trade, Bobby Evans made it clear the Giants aren't ruling out the trade route in their search for outfield help and even kept open the possibility of trading for an infielder with the ability to make that switch to left field. Heck, Michael Morse/Travis Ishikawa and Pat Burrell were the starting left fielders on a couple of those championship team after all. Far from defensive wizards in the outfield.

*Updated Giants' Free-Agent Wish List (The Giants Baseball Blog Edition)* 
1. SP Zach Greinke (Signed w/D-Backs 6 yr/$206M)
2. SP David Price (Signed w/Red Sox 7 yr/$217M)
3. SP Johnny Cueto
4. OF Jason Heyward (Signed w/Cubs, 8 yr/$184M)
5. OF Justin Upton
6. OF Yeonis Cespedes
7. OF Alex Gordon
8, SP Jeff Samrdzija (signed w/Giants, 5 yr/$90M)
9. UT Ben Zobrist (signed w/Cubs, 4 yr/$54M)
10. SP Mike Leake
The Giants Baseball Blog

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Giants settle for Samardzija: 5 years/$90M

For a team that was heavy in the running for the two top arms on the free agent market, David Price and Zack Greinke, the Giants had to settle for a consolation prize on Saturday.

The Giants came to terms with free agent right-hander Jeff Samradzija on a 5-year, $90 million deal in order to slot hard-thrower into the number 2 spot in their rotation behind Madison Bumgarner. Even when the Giants won their last tittle in 2014, they didn't really have a starting pitcher (or many relief arms for that matter) that Bruce Bochy felt comfortable using and Jeff Samardzija will give them just that.

There are some concerns about the season Samardzija is coming off of with the ChiSox where he struggled throughout and posted an 11-13 record to go with a 4.96 ERA. It's not like it was a fluke ERA either as he was hit hard, giving up a league-high 229 hits coupled with 29 big flies. Now of course the Giants are hoping a return to the NL will mean a return to his pre-2015 numbers but to tell you the truth, the big righty has only had three full seasons since 2008 in which he's performed like a front-end pitcher. Since becoming a full-time starter in 2012 he's posted ERA's of 3.81, 4.34, 2.99 and 4.96. So, your looking at an average ERA in the low-mid 4's as a starter and that just doesn't have me elated about the Giants new number two. Not that I dislike the move necessarily, I just felt there was a better one to be made.

Now, I know the general theme of my response to the move so far has been somewhat negative, but that being said, of the arms out there in free agency not named Johnny Cueto, I do think Samardzija was probably the best choice. I mean, if he was coming into free agency after his 2014 season, he probably would have been easily the third choice after Greinke and Price and would have likely got himself a deal well into the $100 millions. So, on that front, if the Giants convinced themselves 2015 was more of an aberration rather than the start of a downward trend, I can see why Samardzija did attract them. I do like him much more than Mike Leake and would have been livid had they given Leake that deal instead. Another positive is that they didn't have to shell out $150M or whatever some of these top-flight starters are getting this winter and now have an extra chunk of change that they can use to really upgrade left field rather than throw another one-year stop-gap out there. They also still should have some dough left to solidify the back end of that rotation too. One intriguing guy I'm keeping tabs on is Scott Kazmir, who may be inclined to take another one-year deal after his terrible second half in Houston. I doubt he'll settle for 4th or 5th starter money though and shouldn't have trouble finding more.

With Samardzija signed sealed and delivered though, it does leave me to question why the Giants weren't more active in pursuit of Johnny Cueto. I mean, he's a guy who's an ace when he's right, is just 29-30 years old and absolutely shreds the NL. There are only two reasons I can really think of which may have scared them away. One is they just don't feel like he's going to age well into his contract and only has another couple of seasons tops, as an elite arm. His second half of last year after his huge 2014 workload may have signaled him hitting some sort of career wall.

The other area, and probably the one which was ultimately the deciding factor, is the health issues but looking at his track record, he's started 30+ games in all but 2 seasons since 2008. He also sports a nice 90-72 record with a 3.30 ERA and 1.18 WHIP during that span while throwing in the NL Central which is something like a 2.50 ERA and 1.03 WHIP translated over into the NL West. So yeah, I wanted to see what that guy could have done in this big spacious yard but alas it wasn't meant to be and it's gonna be big 6'7" Jeff Samardzija taking the ball in game two of the 2016 season for your San Francisco Giants!

For anyone who didn't know much of Samardzija outside of his sub-par 2015 run with the South-siders, here's a little 2 minute video "The Shark" shutting down Toronto, and you can easily see how he put up that 2.99 ERA and 1.06 WHIP (regardless of the 7-13 W-L record) in '14!

The Giants don't appear to be finished yet either. They reportedly have intentions on meeting with or have already met with Ben Zobrist Saturday and he's been a guy they've been eyeing since they had a void at second base in 2014 (before Joe Panik came and saved the day). Now the Giants are looking to him as a possible replacement for Nori Aoki in left field and I kind of have that feeling that their going to get something done with him. They also are still looking at back-end options for their starting rotation as well as other outfielders. It wouldn't surprise me to see them get all their work done soon either, so stay tuned cause this is the time of year when things start happening in the blink of an eye!

In closing, not a bad deal by any stretch, just not quite the one I wanted, but hey, they got the best of the second-tier, I'll give them that. Positives: Great health history, in his prime at 30-31 and has had a light enough workload over his career, being a reliever for much of it, that he should have plenty left in the tank. He's got the high-powered fastball that hits the upper-90's which will be fun to see and that fall off the table breaking ball. A great three, a solid two. I grade the contract/addition a solid "B".
The Giants Baseball Blog

Friday, December 04, 2015

It's Cueto or bust for SF with Greinke signed

Now, bear with us for this post as the Greinke post broke just hours after we originally posted this article and didn't fell it necessary to redo the whole thing with another post coming Sunday. As you've probably heard by now, Zack Greinke will not be coming to San Franciso and inked a deal with the Diamondbacks instead. 

In this article we broke down the similarities between Greinke and other top free agent right-hander Johnny Cueto. So, read the article by all means, just now that Greinke is no longer an option In fact, we here at The Giants Baseball Blog are kinda glad Greinke went elswhere besides LA as we'd be perfectly content with Johnny Cueto and here's why:

Just last post we gave a lay of the land in the free agent starting pitching department, and with things moving so quickly over the last few days, we may not be able to get many more opinions out before it's too late and every body's been signed.

Anyway, this one is going to be pretty short and sweet. I hear all these demands of Zack Greinke or bust if your a Giants fan, but I just simply don't see that as the case. I also don't get why Johnny Cueto isn't getting showered with attention because as I've said before, besides Greinke, it doesn't get harder to hit from the right handed batters box than Johnny Cueto. I mean, let's just do a little comparison between the two and see just how close these guys really are:

Johnny Cueto RHP  Age: 29
Full-Season Career Avg. (8 seasons) : 34 S, 14-11, 3.30 ERA, 214 IP, 176 K, 1.18 WHIP, 3.9 FIP

Zack Greinke RHP, Age 32
Career Full-Season (11 seasons): 32 S, 14-9, 3.35 ERA, 207 IP, 195 K, WHIP 1.18, 3.3 FIP

So, there you have it. I mean, Greinke's numbers would look a helluva lot better had he not had that brutal early career learning curve in Kansas City but that just goes to show how nails he's been the last half-decade to get his numbers that low. Cueto, on the other hand, really has been a rock of consistency since really coming onto the scene back in 2009. Where Cueto also has a bit of an upper hand on Greinke too is the fact that he was pitching in the NL Central and at home at Great American Ballpark (biggest offensive yard in baseball) and still put up filthy numbers. Greinke lucked out with the last few years in Dodgers stadium, one of baseball's top-5 most pitching friendly yards. Greinke is coming off the 19-3, 1.66 ERA/0.844 WHIP, 200 K line in 2015 so that's why he's obviously the apple of many GM's eye. But I'm telling you, take away last season's brilliant run by Greinke and you basically have Cueto's recent track record for what I'm guessing will be 2/3 the price. I would much rather give Cueto $125M over 5 or 6 than Greinke $250M over 7+. Again, I was the guy who really though Zimmerman and an upper 2nd-tiere guy like Samardzija would have been the ideal situation. That would have given them a Bum-ZMan-Samardzija-Peavy-Heston/Cain starting rotation and then they wouldn't have to spend money on left field and could get away with a Jarrett Parker/Gregor Blanco.

I also keep reading, and this is the one thing I really do fear, is the Giants going to two mid-tiere guys instead of one strong second ace or number two. I hear Samardzija and Mike Leake are the two they'd prefer in that scenario but I still think they would improve so much more if they landed themselves Cueto if not Greinke. I mean, I like Leake and Samadzija as 3rd guys and they could do a lot worse than those two, but I just think Cueto/Greinke takes them to that next level. Leake is slightly above average and Samardzija has shown more the abilites of a 3rd at best but probably a 4 on a good staff. Niether are exactly #2's which again, points to how key Cueto and Greinke are to them unless they end up going the trade route. If they go that route, they'll probably lose all their good trade chips before the season starts and have little to no ammo to work with should they need it in July.

So, who would you prefer? The flashy, more expensive and slightly older Greinke who very well may go 20-2 with a 1.55 ERA for the Giants in 2016 but have pay him an arm and a leg, handicapping the rest of your winter spending. Or, do you go with the little bit younger electric arm (yet with some injury history) coming off a sub-par year but who's track record and peripherals suggest he should again be an 18-20 game winner for years to come but has had some elbow/back issues in the past which has caused him to miss some pretty key ballgames in recent seasons? Like I've been saying, it's not my money and since Greinke is by far the best guy out there, he's obviously my 1A choice, but if they're unable to land him, I don't think Cueto is a bad second option at all and will probably cost more than $50M-$75M less total.

It;s just going to be interesting to see what they do and if they try and structure the deal somehow that gives them maybe a mutual out mid-way through. After Barry Zito's fiasco and now Matt Cain's developing headache I'm sure Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans will be on their toes as far as handing out multi-year deals to starting pitchers.

Note: We'll most likely be back Sunday or Monday with our next post and it which time maybe some names may be off the market. Anyway, we'll start taking a look at some guys who may be available via trade if the Giants are indeed unable to obtain rotation help via free agency.... And also, we can't forget about left field, and overall depth on the bench and bullpen, which the Giants seem to always prioritize the least. We'll start taking a look at some of those options in our next post and I'm sure we'll continue some pitching talk and have some new updates.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Hot Stove Heating Up: Starters a Premiuim

With the first two big offseason signings in the books and the Winter Meetings just around the corner, things are about to really start heating up on the baseball hot stove front.

That first big signing of the winter involved a guy the Giants had firmly on their radar, and a guy they sorely could have used to help head their rotation with Madison Bumgarner. Instead of heading out west though, power-righty Jordan Zimmermann choose to ink a five-year deal with the Detroit Tigers as they attempt to fill the void they never were able to after Max Scherzer left. Zimmerman was a guy I really had hoped they'd target because I knew he would be significantly cheaper than David Price and Zach Grienke but not to the extent we're seeing. David Price just inked a ridiculous 7/$217M deal with the Red Sox as they try and right their ship after a very disappointing 2015 campaign. Now I like David Price and lefties like him don't come around too often but he's not even the best left-handed starter in the game and the dude is set to rake in 30+ big ones per summer. Now it should be mighty interesting to see what Zach Grienke, a guy who is as much on the Giants radar as any team in baseball's, ends up fetching in light of the massive Price deal. I was thinking after seeing Zimmerman's deal, Price would maybe max out at 7 year/$175M at highest but I didn't expect to see him crack the $200M mark.

So, the thing most people reading this article are concerned about at this point is what this all means for the Giants and their chances of landing one of those last two "aces" remaining on the free agent market. Well, first off all, as much as I like Grienke and think he'd be brilliant lined up with MadBum atop the Giants rotation, I just don't see the Giants giving the guy over $200 million after they've gone 0-3 with their last multi-year, big dollar deals for starting pitches (Barry Zito, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain) and it hasn't even been close. Now, I'm not saying that I wouldn't be ecstatic to bring Grienke in, it's not my money and I think he alone, even if they didn't make another single significant addition (outside of filling in left) would be enough to make this team World Series contenders heading in. Shoot, he and Clayton Kershaw basically themselves we almost enough to carry the Dodgers all the way the last couple of years but in the end, the Dodgers just find ways to lose big games, but Grienke did more than enough on his end. I see exactly why he's appealing and I'm right with the people that want him in the orange in black. Problem is, every team in baseball wants him on their team and most other teams don't have a Madison Bumgarner and NEED a number one and may very well end up giving Grienke up around $300 million, so I think the Price deal may have priced him out of the Giants range.

So, that being said, while I'm keeping tabs on Grienke, I would also be moving some focus over on a guy who I've always really enjoyed watching throw when he's healthy and while he may not quite be on Grienke's level, he's about as good as they come from the right side when all things are clicking. I'm sure that if your familiar with the free-agent arms out there you already know where I'm going here and that is to Mr. Johnny Cueto. His health issues and past do certainly raise major red flags, however, the 29 year-old has sported a 2.71 ERA over the last 5 seasons while pitching the majority of his games at Great American Ballpark and the bandboxes spread throughout the NL Central. He's the guy who can go on a streak and go 14-2 to start a year and sport a crazy 1.25 ERA or something like that and has the ability to be a true ace when on. If they could maybe get him under a similar deal as the Tigers got Zimmerman (5/$110) I would definitely roll with that. Keep in mind that the Giants have Pagan's $10M  along with Peavy's $12M both coming off next year and also Cainer's deal expiring after the 2017 season which will be a huge reprieve as well. So, while the Giants do and/or will have some big money invested in guys like Posey, Pence, Bum and raises for Belt, Crawford and Duffy on the horizon, they'll still have plenty freeing up as well.

Of course, with Cueto's history of injury, the Giants would have to run all sorts of test on him, maybe even having a few different doctors give him psychical examinations and not just their own team doctors. The one thing that does worry me about Cueto is that I remember a couple years back in the NLDS when he made a start at AT&T and apparently the cold whether caused his back to tighten up which ousted him from the game and allowed the Giants to end up winning a game in which Cueto was nails when he was in there. So, I'm not sure how he'd handle pitching those breezy, chilly nights on the bay but I'd bet that spacious AT&T Park would alleviate any weather concerns. He was kinda Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with KC last year as he really was miserable after the trade (13 S, 4-7, 4.76 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 56 K in 81 IP). However, he turned it on in October, sans one terrible outing vs. Toronto, only to follow it up with a complete game 2-hitter vs. the Mets to really help put the dagger in them.

All in all, I'd definitely take Cueto back in the NL and in a spacious yard like AT&T and I'd even give him a little more than Zimmerman just got. However, I only do that if, like he said, he passes like 5 different doctors physicals and the Giants are assured he's 100% heading into spring. Ideally, I'd try and get him to byte one something in the four-year range but your probably looking close to the 5yr/$125M range if I had to guess. Somewhere in that neighborhood at least. I mean, once Grienke signs, it's gonna be all eyes on Cueto, so if he's smart he's gonna wait for just that. I know it's a long shot, but I'd be thrilled with a MadBum/Cueto 1-2 punch.

Now, of course, even if the Giants did get a Cueto or somehow finagled a Grinke out of the grasps of the Dodgers, Tigers, Cubbies or any other team with big revenues and could make a play at any given time, they still don't have anyone penciled into left field and only have Madison Bumgarner, Jake Peavy and Chris Heston as guys who are locks for the 2016 rotation. In other words, their work would be far from finished even with a big signing like that just cause they have 3 other pressing needs. If they are able to get a big dollar guy like Grienke or Cueto then I would look for that second starter to be a lower-tiere guy to slot into the fifth spot behind Heston. Sabean and the brass all said they were making rebuilding the rotation a priority this season which is why I'm really hoping they can get either Greinke or Cueto but there are still a nice amount of 2nd-tiere arms that would probably fit great towards the back-end of the rotation and wouldn't cost an arm and a leg.

A few of the guys I like and would love in the 3rd, 4th or 5th spot (taking into account a solid number 2 were added as well) are Jeff Samadjiza and Yovani Gallardo. Samardzija has that lights out stuff when on and would be a nice dice roll for on a one-year make good deal, or something along those lines. Gallardo, though, has turned into a little more of a finesse guy these last two seasons and straight dealt in Texas in 2015. He's only 29 himself and based on his history and his durability he's a guy that would appear to be a safe bet, but his K rate has dropped dramatically each of the last 5 seasons and that usually is a sign of a decrease in stuff. Scott Kazmir, Wie-Yen Chen, Ian Kennedy and of course, Mike Leake pretty much round out the group of the 2nd-tiere guys along with some of the highly anticipated imports led by 27 year-old Yu Darvish/Masahiro Tanaka protege, Kenta Maeda. However, the Giants haven't gone big in the international market and if they ever do I believe it will be a hitter they pursue.

Now, of course, we're just hit the very tip of the ice berg in terms of free agent/hot stove discussion. I know the Giants are heavy in the Zach Grienke sweepstakes at the moment and things will probably start picking up and falling into place a lot more once he finds a home, especially on the pitching front. As excited as the idea of Grienke leaving LA for SF, I just wouldn't hold my breath on that happening, but I also wouldn't be surprised. The Giants came into this offseason saying they intended on spending money if the right opportunities presented themselves and that tells me they indeed have some plans on making some splashes. Also, do remember that if Grinke does re-sign with LA tomorrow and Johnny Cueto lands with someone else too like Texas or Toronto and they aren't able to find their number two arm via free agency, they very well could delve into the trade market where they don't necessarily have a ton of ammo to use, but they have some depth in a few areas and have enough to package together quality to get an arm that could help them. James Shields and Andrew Cashner from San Diego, Jose Quintana and Chris Sale from the ChiSox then Carlos Carrasco, just to name a few.Shields and Cashner would proabably be most attainable although they are inner-division guys so that could be tricky.

It's a fun time of year, certainly one of my favorite. Its the building block stages of putting together squads for the upcoming season and things are about to really start heating up. And just to show how trending the starting pitching market it, we've put together a bit of a longer column than we usually post and didn't even touch on any of the positional of bullpen guys the Giants could pursue over the next few weeks. They don't need much on the positional front, but need a left-fielder (and preferably one that plays everyday, none of that platoon stuff, it's for losing team). We'll talk some of those names in our next post probably sometime this weekend at some point, unless of course something big happens and draws me back sooner.

Roster Notes: The Giants did not tender deals for 2016 to couple players who played significant reserve roles with the club the last few years, including one that was instrumental in their World Series victor in 2014. RHP Yusmiero Petit, who went 3-0 in the 2014 postseason when the Giants were struggling to get anything from their starters outside of MadBum, and the Giants have parted ways. Also, C Hector Sanchez were both DFA'd Wednesday which isn't a huge surprise. Andrew Sussac has flown by him on the depth chart and Aramis Garcia is also inching closer toward forcing his way into the mix.

NEW: Also, we're going to add a new little feature to this years offseason posts. In each post, we'll update the remaining free agents/trade targets that we here at The Giants Baseball Blog would target if we were Sabean/Evans and Co., so here's what it will look like and it will always be posted at the end of posts.

*Updated Giants Free-Agent Wish List (The Giants Baseball Blog Edition)* 
1. SP Zach Greinke
2. SP Johnny Cueto
3. OF Justin Upton
4. OF Jayson Heyward
5. OF Yeonis Cespedes
6. SP Jeff Samardzia
7. OF Ben Zobrist
8. SP Scott Kazmir
9. OF Alex Gordon
10. OF Dexter Fowler
The Giants Baseball Blog