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Friday, July 31, 2015

Giants add arm, but not second ace

With moves happening left and right and targets the Giants had on their radar finding new homes (David Price and Cole Hamels in particular), Bobby Evans decided to go with plan B. The Giants and Red agreed to a deal that will send RHP Mike Leake to San Francisco in exchange for bright young right-handed prospect Keury Mella and power hitting pseudo-prospect Adam Duvall.

Fans that were holding out hope that the team would be able to find that true number two starter, and another ace to pair with Madison Bumgarner didn't quite get their wish, but the Giants are bringing in a rock solid starter nonetheless. Leake had posted a 9-5 record with a 3.56 ERA and 1.15 WHIP over 21 starts for the Reds and he's coming off back-to-back sub-4 ERA seasons in which he had double digit wins (14 in '13 and 11 in '14). While he's going to deepen the rotation and will likely slot in behind MadBum in the 2 slot, he wasn't quite the caliber of pitcher I was hoping the Giants could reel in. I mean, they gave up a guy who many considered their top prospect at the moment for a #3/4 starter who's likely going to be around only 2 months. In my mind, they should have just added another prospect or two on and made a real push for that real difference maker like Price or Hamels, but that just may not have been a realistic option. After those two were dealt I shifted my focus to Jeff Samardzija, then even Tyson Ross or Andrew Cashner from their SoCal rival Padres, but knew there were a lot of teams asking about Samardzija and it would be tough to pry to front-end starters like Ross or Cashner from a division rival.

All in all, I felt like the Giants could have done better and there were other options out there, but again, Leake isn't a bum by any stretch. I just feel like there isn't a huge talent gap between Mike Leake and guys they already have like Vogelsong, Cain, Peavy and Heston and the Giants should have tried to shoot for a bigger upgrade. On the plus side, his numbers over the last 3 seasons are second to only MadBum in the rotation and he should see his numbers improve even further now that he's out of the hitters haven that is Great American Ballpark. He's certainly not gonna overpower you though, with a fastball sitting in the high-80's and reaching 91 on occasion, but he has very strong command and can be tough to handle when he's keeping the ball down and has that wicked whip on that breaking ball. When taking into account his peripherals (FIP, BABP, and KK/BB) he's just slighltly above average and that's really what he is. A suitable number 3 or a top-end number 4/5. If they gave up say, Joan Gregorio, Chris Stratton and Adam Duvall or bit of a lesser package of that elk, I would have given it two thumbs up, but I feel like a group headlined by Mella could have gotten them a bit more. For that reason, I give it a C/C+, just cause Leake isn't proven in the postseason.

Now, what do the Giants do between now and the deadline Friday afternoon? Well, they do need to make space for Leake, and they very well may have another deal in the works. They already have a guy in Vogelsong who's out of position in the bullpen and they may need to put another starter out there now. I don't see Boch going with a 6-man rotation, although I guess it is possible. Seems to me like the odd man out at this point would be Yusmiero Petit, but Ryan Vogelsong may not be 100% safe either. The Giants have also been rumored to be in the hunt to bring back Michael Morse, who was just released by the Dodgers after they acquired him from Miami. Morse would be a nice fit as a big power bat off the bench and a guy who can play a little left field and first base, if they can convince him to stay in Sacramento until the rosters expand in September (then if we have our way, he comes off the bench in October and DH's in a possible World Series). They may want Maxwell on the roster over him just because of defense, but Giants have a good defensive outfield this year and don't really need it. Plus they have Blanco coming off the bench to maybe spell Pagan in the playoffs. That's the luxury of having 3 guys who can play right and 3 who can play center, they can afford to carry a thumper who can only play a corner. I think the players would certainly get a kick out of bring the big guy back. Hunter Pence as much as anyone, I'll tell you that much! 

Anyhow, as you can tell, not the most exciting move and I doubt there's going to be a huge rush to pick up Mike Leake jerseys at "The Giants Dugout", but Brian Sabean and co. have shown they know what they're doing (for the most part) over the last 5 years, so lets hope this falls right into that category. Leake has a mid-3 ERA, a 34-25 record since the start of 2013, should only get better with the change of ballparks and, again, he does give them another sort of "safe bet" besides MadBum (being he's not a rookie and hasn't missed a chunk of time the last year with injury). I wanna put Heston in that category too now though but he's still just a rookie and I don't think you want him starting a game two of a NLDS in St. Louis for instance. If the playoffs started tomorrow and the Giants were in the NLDS, my rotation would have to be MadBum-Leake-Heston and go from there. Not the most intimidating 2 and 3, but two guys who're having huge years and are more capable of turning in the big performance than Cain and Peavy. Leake was lit up in his only playoff outing in 2012 against San Francisco but he was 24 at the time and wasn't the same pitcher he's become today.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Deadline Time: What to do?

We're about 72 hours from the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline and although their isn't one particularly glaring area of concern on the Giants' roster right now, it hasn't kept Bobby Evans and Brian Sabean from scouring the market for potential upgrades.

The Giants have been on of the better teams in baseball since the All-Star break, and now with the return of Nori Aoki Monday night, they are finally working with a full deck. Surprisingly, the Giants have cruised to their 55-44 record without having their projected opening day roster in-tact together much at all. They were without Cain, Peavy and Pence for much of the first couple months, then Aoki and Affeldt hit the shelve, but the gang is back in full force and in plenty of time for the stretch run. Now, with all the key cogs healthy, you get an idea of how good this team can be, and it's no surprise they've gone 9-1 since break but that doesn't necessarily mean this team is flawless and is a sure fire bet to return to the postseason and break their odd-season curse. I said at the top of the post that their isn't particularly a single glaring area of need on the roster, but there's always room for improvement. I don't really think they need to do a thing with their everyday lineup and I'm the type of guy that is always looking for possible offensive upgrades. I just don't see where they can slide a big bat though if they were to find one, and with Matt Duffy, Joe Panic and Brandon Crawford's 2015 offensive surge, they don't really need one.

That said, outside of Gregor Blanco and their deep catching unit, the Giants don't have the strongest bench in the league. Angel Pagan has had a bit of a rough go of it offensively after a hot start, and he may need more time off down the stretch, but Blanco has shown the ability to step in when needed as he's having a career year offensively. I like Justin Maxwell and think he's a good presence on the team and in the clubhouse, but if they can find a more consistent bat for that fifth outfield spot, I'd be all for it. Also another utility infielder with some experience certainly wouldn't hurt. Ehire Adrianza has had a huge year in Sacramento but he's never been able to have any sort of success in his limited big league exposure.


So, that leaves the pitching staff as the most likely area to be added to, if the Giants indeed decide there is a move that can help the club now. Plenty of big name pitchers have been linked to the Giants in the last 48 hours, from James Shields to Cole Hamels and David Price. In fact, a fake Ken Rosenthal Twitter account actually stirred up a bit of a rise Tuesday morning by reporting that the Giants had sent Tyler Beede and 3 other prospects to Philly for Cole Hamels. Alas, it was not to be, but the Giants have fresh in their memory last postseason in which Madison Bumgarner was sort of a one-man army amongst the starters and they certainly don't want a repeat performance from the guys behind him this time around. While Cain and Peavy have each shown glimpses of their old selves, I don't think either is a great option as a number two behind MadBum in a playoff scenario. The Giants rotation, as is, is set up nicely for the regular season, and they very well could make it into the playoffs with their rotation as is, but it sure would be nice to have another ace-like option to alleviate some of the pressure off Bumgarner. Plus with roughly $50+ million coming off the books at the end of the year, they're in a position where they could take on a contract like Hamels' and not have it handicap them for the upcoming offseason.

I've said it before and I still think Hamels makes the most since out of all the big names linked to the Giants. Jeff Samardjiza is another very intriguing option but Hamels is such a smart pitcher and has had success for so long that I would trust him in that big "must win" game over Samardjiza and some of the other guys who just haven't performed and/or succeeded on the big stage. The only thing it will come down to is how many prospects the Phillies are going to want in return. I've been hearing that the Phills haven't been enamored with any of the Giants' offers yet but there's still some time for negotiation.

Anyway, moves have been happening left and right and it should be an interesting couple of days as we inch towards theFriday's 1 PM PT non-waiver trade deadline, and although I'm not expecting a big splash on the Giants part, I also wouldn't be surprised to see them grab another ace to pair with MadBum.

Roster Notes: The Giants were unable to hang onto Jean Machi, who was DFA'd after running out of options with San Francisco and was promply swooped up by the Boston Red Sox, were he'll join his former teammate and fellow countrymen, Pablo Sandoval. Machi was struggling for most of 2015 but shouldn't be forgotten as he was a key member of the 2014 Championship 'bully. He simply had been passed on the depth chart by George Kontos and Hunter Strickland and there wasn't room to carry him. With Machi now out of the mix, the only guy who seemingly could be replaced if the Giants can find an upgrade in the pen would be Yusmiero Petit (especially with Vogey now in the pen).
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Saturday, July 11, 2015

Giants' offense comes alive vs. Phillies

The Giants have been struggling mightily since the calendar flipped from June to July, and a big reason for those struggles has been the play of the offense. They've had multiple guys go through slumps at the same time in recent weeks but all that came to a halt on Friday night at AT&T as the Giants had a historic night at the plate.

Duffy relevant in ROY chase
Facing what appears to be one of the most sought after commodities of this trade season, Cole Hamels, the Giants surprisingly put forth their best offensive performance of the season, scoring 15 runs, but also set a San Francisco Giants record with 22 hits in the game. 3 different players had four-hit games, and all three of them really needed it. None perhaps more than Justin Maxwell, who's roster spot may be in jeopardy as the trade deadline approaches and the Giants' apparently searching for outfield depth, needed the breakout and he definitely got it. He went 4-5 with 3 doubles, helping distance his batting average from the dreaded "Mendoza Line". Also, one of the younger guys in the lineup who had run into a big of a fun lately, Matt Duffy, came into the game hitting .172 this month so seeing him bust out was also a welcome sight. Even Angel Pagan, who arguably has been this team's biggest weak link offensively in recent weeks as he battles multiple nagging injuries, got it going with a 3-hit, 3-run, 2-RBI evening himself. Hunter Pence's grand slam and Joe Panic's two-run blast into the water (on multiple bounces have you) were the two big flies of the night. Coincidentally, Barry Bonds was hanging around the team talking batting during BP today.

So far, so good for Cain
So, after the huge offensive outburst, what does that change as we approach the All-Star break and with the trade deadline looming just a few short weeks away? Absolutely nothing. Sure, pretty much everything clicked for them against a top-line starting pitcher and it's easy to ride that high into thinking the Giants are invincible but let's not forget, the team was just 1-7 this month before Friday's game, and even though it was spectacular, it was just one game. With Matt Cain and Jake Peavy each coming back in recent weeks and each throwing pretty well in the process, it has eliminated a little bit of the starting pitching needs. However, these two are very fragile right now and after both missed all of or most of the first half, it's tough to gauge exactly what they'll give them down the stretch. They could thrive because they're fresh and healthy but you never know. Right now, even with Lincecum and Hudson shelved, the need in the rotation isn't urgent, but getting another capable arm (not necessarily a front-line guy) would provide insurance.

They've got MadBum, Heston, Vogey, Cain and Peavy. That's a stud, a rookie, a 37 year-old who was on his last legs up until about 6 weeks ago and two guys who haven't thrown much at all this year. Of course there are still the two Tim's on the shelf but neither of those guys were exactly dealing before going down and the Giants may decide to use Lincecum in relief for the stretch run. In other words, after MadBum, if the Giants did make it into a playoffs series scenario, I have no idea who Bochy would use or in what order. Probably Heston and Vogey if the season ended now, but Cain and Peavy have plenty of time to work themselves into that discussion as well.

Despite their July struggles (up until Friday night that is), there's no one area that this team absolutely NEEDS to upgrade, but at just one game over .500 and 6 games back of the Dodgers in the West, they could certainly use a shot in the arm, or two. Nori Aoki is expected back later this month and at which time the Giants hope to be working with a full deck offensively. They haven't played many games with all their starters in their, especially since Matt Duffy took over at third, but once everyone is out there,they don't have many places to put a possible offensive addition. Therefore I don't think they'll be looking for a huge splash, rather maybe another 4th outfield type. Pagan has some injury issues and has been largely unproductive over the last 6 weeks and he very well could need a DL stint just to alleviate some of his nagging issues at some point. Gregor Blanco has been a stud in the 4th outfield role, having perhaps his best season so far, but after him, it's Justin Maxwell, and the Giants may feel they can upgrade there. Also, in the infield, I feel like there are plenty of options out there that would pose significant upgrades to Joaquin Arias, who has steadily forgotten how to hit.

SF Could Use Papelbon
Also, this bullpen isn't exactly dominant right now and with the way this pitching staff can't seem to go more than 5-6 innings per start consistently, they need quality depth. Hopefully Jeremy Affeldt comes back strong soon cause right now, the Giants are using a lot of Kontos and Hunter Strickland and those guys are going to wear down. Sergio Romo has hit a rut recently (4 runs allowed in last 2.2 innings) and it's caused Bochy to use him just a couple times over the last two weeks. They really need him to be that sub-3.00 ERA version of himself in order to help lock that 8th inning down. I know Strickland and Kontos have been solid, but I think Bochy will feel a lot more confident using someone with a little more experience in that set-up role down the stretch and hopefully into October. If Romo can't become that guy, they could certainly be in the market for a right-handed late reliever. One option could be a guy who's in town now, Philly closer Jonathan Papelbon. Imagine having the ability to use Casilla wherever, and letting Papelbon hold down the ninth?
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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