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Friday, July 29, 2016

What Eduardo Nunez trade means

As we've been discussing over much of the last month-plus, the Giants primary focus heading into the trade deadline would be pitching, pitching, and more pitching. Whether it be another capable starter as insurance to the bipolar production from Matt Cain and Jake Peavy, or a couple of late relievers to help a bullpen in need. Alas, it was neither, at least of yet, as the Giants dealt for breakout infielder Eduardo Nunez on Thursday night.

We'll first talk about the guy coming to the Giants, and that is Nunez, a career utility infielder up until this season where he's really broken out at the plate and earned himself an everyday job in Minnesota. Now, Target Field is no hitters paradise so for the 29 year-old Nunez to take off with his best offensive year playing half his games in that yard tells you how hot he's been. With the Twins in 86 games, he slashed a respectable .296/12/46/.764 with 27 stolen bases. Transfer those numbers over to the Giants and he'd be leading the team in hitting and big flies (tied with Posey) and by far leading in stolen bases. So yes, it's easy to see why the Giants viewed Nunez as a guy who can potentially come in and fill in all over the infield and even left field in a pinch. I see the logic with both Joe Panik (who made his return Thursday) and Matt Duffy battling nagging injuries and both uncertain on how much playing time and how much production they'll be able to provide these final two months of the regular season and into October. So yes, this deal does make a ton of sense because both Nunez's production and versatility as well as the question marks (health wise) the Giants have at third, second and even left field with the fragile Angel Pagan.

That being said, Matt Duffy is starting his rehab assignment next week, and Joe Panik/Angel Pagan seemingly hit the DL every other month with some sort of injury, so the depth will be nice. As I said at the top of the post, Nunez's numbers are equal or better than any other guy on the Giants current roster so it's hard to sideline him even if Duffy does come back strong. I mean, Duffy, while I have full confidence in him eventually figuring out his swing and approach at the plate again, is having an underwhelming season at the plate this year (terrible by third basemen standards), to say the least, and Nunez, based on numbers alone, should have the job over him. Panik has put up some better stats when he's been on the field but he too has been missing a lot of games these last couple of seasons due to random injury. So again, it's not a bad idea to have a guy like Nunez around especially considering the current circumstances and the Giants rough offensive showing since the All-Star break.

Now, all that said, there are some negatives to this deal as well. The Giants had to part with their top left-handed pitching prospect in the deal, giving away Adalberto Mejia, who just may well go on to become the next Francisco Liriano for the Twins (I'm sure that was in the back of their minds when they decided to pull the trigger) for a guy who before this year would have to battle to make a 25-man roster. Also, Nunez's defense leaves a lot to be desired. He's not going to be Brandon Crawford when he plays short, not even close, and he's not as steady as Duffy is at the hot corner either, so you are sacrificing some defense for some offense in this case. It's really going to come down to the health of three players. If Duffy, Panik or Pagan get hurt again and/or miss significant time down the stretch then this deal should pan out well for the Giants. If those guys come back strong, and Nunez ends up on the bench more than he's on the field then the Giants will have parted with a valuable trade chip for a guy who may become a very expensive utility outfielder for them in 2016. He's arbitration eligible and after this year and because of he's a middle infielder, he could get over $5M in arbitration next winter. However, the other way to look at it is, if he is indeed capable in left and the Giants feel confident in him as an everyday guy there, he could take over that spot in 2017 as Pagan is in the last year of his deal.

So there are a lot of different angles to this one. As long as Mejia doesn't turn out to be a solid number three or four starter in a couple years then no sweat off the Giants back. However, if Nunez continues to slump (he's been having a rough month in Minny) and becomes a middling utility guy in SF and Mejia continues growing and is a key cog in the Twins rotation in 2018 then the Giants will look pretty silly for this one.

All in all, I like it in the sense of "go for it this year and next year mode" (especially with so many injuries biting the Giants infield right now), but I feel like Mejia probably could have been packaged with another player or two to get someone to come in and really make in impact in that bullpen or starting rotation. Like with all deals, only time will tell, but with this one I'm pretty indifferent on this one right now. I don't love absolutely it but I certainly don't hate it and I definitely see the logic in Bobby Evans' thinking when pulling the trigger on this one.

It also means that, with Pagan a free-agent to be, the Giants realistically fill out an everyday lineup card without having to make a move for a starting positional player. They may wanna upgrade LF over by letting Pagan walk, then have Nunez as a back-up plan if they can't add anyone. Or, if they do get someone (Jay Bruce for example) then Nunez becomes one of the best utility options in the league for them, albeit a potential pricey one.

Extras: As I said earlier, Joe Panik finally made his long-awaited return Thursday and went 0-4 while hitting out of the third spot in the lineup... Also, the Giants aren't nearly done on the trade front as they've been closely linked to Pirates closer Mark Melancon and I'd be very surprised if they didint bring in another left-handed reliever at some point, though that may come through waivers if Javy Lopez doesn't figure it out in the next few weeks. I do think the Giants are absolutely out on adding another starting pitching though now, and will really be relying heavily on Matt Cain being serviceable as a fifth man and Jake Peavy continuing his improvement over his horrendous first two months of the season.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Giants looking for 'relief' before Aug. 1st deadline

We're almost there guys, and although the Giants have stayed quiet on the trade front up till now, I believe strongly they will get involved at some point in the next week as they try and upgrade at least their bullpen before the new August 1st trade deadline.

First off, the Giants have been a bit of a mess since resuming play after the All-Star break, still seeking their first victory after being swept in San Diego by the Padres, which hopefully is not a foresight of things to come in the second half because that was a brutal three-game set. They then took it on the chin in Boston for two and lost the first couple at Yankee Stadium this weekend. All those injuries before the break, of which the Giants were doing a miraculous job finding in-house options to step up, are starting to catch up with team. They're hoping Hunter Pence and Joe Panik aren't too far off, as Pence has started his rehab in Sacramento with the River Cats, but still doesn't have a set return date (my guess would be next weekend assuming he doesn't suffer any set-back). Panik's situation is a bit more tricky as he really has been expected to appear in a River Cats game by now and still just hasn't fully shaken the concussion symptoms quite yet. He's the one you worry about just because that can be an issue that can come back later too and bite him. Just remember all the problems it gave Belt back in 2014. Finally, the third injured Giants' starting position player, Matt Duffy, who's been out since mid-June with an Achilles tendon injury is scheduled to get his rehab started within the next week.

Position players haven't really been on the Giants' radar because they are expecting those three key missing cogs back in the next couple weeks. Also, quite frankly, guys who've stepped in for them have done an awesome job and have not only kept the team afloat but gave it some more energy and kept it as strong a powerhouse as it's been all season. However, things have definitely changed since the All-Star break as the bats have really cooled off. They've scored 21 runs in 7 games since the break, but 13 of those runs came in two games. So essentially they had six games since the break where they've scored a total of 8 runs. I don't care if you have MadBum and Cueto going for you, if your scoring a run a game your not gonna win a lot of ballgames.

The replacements have been admirable, especially Ramiro Pena, Mac Williamson (for his D and his timely big fly's), Jarrett Parker and even getting a few big hits from Conor Gillaspie. However, the Giants need their A-players back and they need Duffy in particular to come back in 2015 form. It makes me wonder though whether the Giants should be looking at 3rd/2nd basemen. I mean, Pena has been nice, but do you really want him at third base if Matt Duffy is hitting .245 and slugging .300 come September? Or if Panik's concussion symptoms pop up again down the stretch? I don't think they need to look into dealing for an infielder before August 1st, but if they end up needing one for one of the reasons stated above, then I think that's some thing we could see happen through waivers.

With the positional players and bench seemingly worked out and hopefully will be coming together and at full strength in the next couple of weeks, the pitching staff in a whole other issue. I think everyone is pretty comfortable with the front-3, even though Jeff Samrdzija goes a little Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde on occasion, but come a 7-game playoff series, ideally you'd like to have 4 startable arms and I'm not sure the Giants have that reliable 4th option. Right now it would be Jake Peavy and the guy has an ERA over 5 and has been one of the most hittable starters in 2016. However, Peavy has been better the last couple months too. Take away his terrible April and his numbers wouldn't be nearly as bad: 4-6, 4.21 ERA, 1.18 WHIP 61:23 K/BB ratio in  76 innings. Plus his ERA has been sub-4 the last two months. So he is getting slightly better and I think his improvement has allowed them to ease off a little on the SP hunt, however, they do view adding another starter higher up than adding a third basemen or utility infielder/outfielder.

So, that brings us to the bullpen, which is obviously far and away priority 1 and 1A. They need a good late reliever, at least. They really could use two, one lefty and one right-hander who can shut the door in the 9th if Casilla loses it down the stretch. There are a ton of names being thrown around out there from closers/set-up guys like Milwaukee's Jeremy Jeffres. NY's Aroldis Chapman, Oakland's Ryan Madson, AZ's Tyler Clippard and Tampa's Alex Colome. There are also late-lefties like Will Smith, Boone Logan and the perhaps the arm most linked to them over the last several weeks, Andrew Miller. I mean, of that group, the only closer I see as a clear upgrade over Casilla would be Chapman and Miller. Colome is also right there but this is his first year as a full-time closer and I don't know if he's ready to take the ball in a game 7 with it on the line. His numbers are even better than Chapman's though with that 1.59 ERA and 21/23 in save opps. Those both are better than Casilla and Colome is a guy who could be someone who could take on that role for years to come at age 28. However, Tampa knows this too and he's going to cost a pretty penny to obtain.

It's gonna be interesting to see what transpires in the next few days though. I'm still waiting for that one big move which will kind of get the dominoes rolling. If I had to bet on the Giants obtaining one of the guys linked to them, my  money would be on someone along the lines of a Will Smith and/or Tyler Clippard. I think they'd be OK with using Romo in closing situations if Casilla losses it down the stretch and I think they really just want some more quality depth in that pen anyway they can get it and Smith/Clippard will come cheaper than Miller/Colome.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Giants a darkhorse in SP market?

I'm sure you take a look at the Giants front-three in their rotation alone and think they're set. Two all-stars in Bum in Cueto then a strong #3 in "The Shark". With those three setting the tone for a deep lineup and strong defense, you'd almost think the Giants are ready for the stretch drive as is. Well, think again!

While the Giants' front-three starters are solid, they still don't have the most ideal pitching staff come postseason where they'll really need four reliable starters (I know we're getting ahead of ourselves here but anyway...). Now, they do have three startable arms in Cueto, Bumgarner and Samardzija, but after that it's a little unclear what Bochy would do in the fourth spot. Matt Cain is currently rehabbing with the River Cats and is coming off an extremely tough outing numbers-wise, but his velocity was there and he says he' feels like he's ready to rejoin the Giants rotation. He's the real question mark at this point as Jake Peavy has really turned things around on his end and has completely locked down that fifth spot, If he continues to improve like he has since early May down the stretch then he very well may be that fourth starter in the playoffs, but I still think the Giants will keep their options open. They're really gonna want to see Cainer throw at the big league level before the deadline if possible which, again, should be the case in the next week or so, before making any decisions regarding the staff, but I still think another starter would be a helluva smart move if they have the rescources and find a reasonable deal.

I mean, there are going to be more and more names tossed abuot over the next couple weeks but the guy I'd really like to get into the Giants rotation if at any way possible is Julio Teheran. I've mentioned the young Braves right-hander here a few different times this season as he's been one of my favorite arms in the NL and knows how to use a spacious ballpark to his advantage. Plus, he's pitching for a mediocre defensive squad and one of the worst hitting teams in all of baseball so he'd probably get an immediate boost mentally just by coming over to an elite team like the Giants. A couple other guys out there who could give that Giants that insurance starter without them having to break the bank could be Oakland's Rich Hill, Chi Sox lefty Jose Quintana, Milwaukee's Jimmy Nelson and Philly's right-hander Jeremy Hellickson, just to name a few.

Of course, their search for help won't just stop in the rotation. As a matter of fact, they're gonna also be looking into relief help which, luckily for them, tend to be the easiest to obtain this time of year due to the sheer volume of options. Still, they need quality here, so they probably have just a small handful of guys they are strongly considering. I've always been a strong Andrew Miller advocate as the Giants need that lights-out left-handed late man and also a guy who can take over for Santaigo Casilla when he runs into his occasional hiccups. Whether its Miller or someone else though, they need another proven lefty and I'd like to see them get another proven right-hander too just to take some pressure off of Romo. Strickland's close but I just don't fully trust him in the 8th inning of a 1-run game with a runner on and facing a guy like a Kris Bryant or Nolan Arrenado in some intensely crucial game down the stretch in September (due to his history of surrendering the big home run late in games).

Other than a reliable late man or two, and then possibly another capable starter who could push/replace Peavy or Cain, I think the Giants are pretty well armed for the stretch drive. I mean, with guys in their system popping up left and right and legitimately contributing, they aren't at all having their hand forced in terms of needing to make a deal. From Grant Green, Ramiro Pena and Ruben Tejada to Albert Suarez and closer-in-the-making, Derek Law. These guys are probably guys (outside of maybe Law if you follow the minor league system closely) who many fans may not have heard of and/or expected much out of but each have played roles in Giants' victories while guys like Joe Panik, Matt Duffy and Sergio Romo have been sidelined. Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker have each made the impact of Hunter Pence's DL stint tolerable and alleviated the need for outside help which has been huge. I know you hear it all the time and it's somewhat cliche, but It really has been a collective effort from guys not only on the ML roster but the minor leagues as well coming up and contributing in any possible way! It really has been fun to watch.

Injury Updates: Hunter Pence was forced from his rehab game on Saturday, which is a bit worrisome, although the Giants are playing it off as no big deal at the moment. Pence re-aggravated the right hamstring in a AAA rehab game with Sacramento and will be held out until further inspection. Hopefully it's all precautionary and Pence is back on track for a pre-August return, but hammy's can be tricky and Hunter is about as "balls-to-the-wall" as they come which means it's tough for him to turn it down a notch in recovery, but he's gotta be smart here and ensure he's 100% for the final 2 months.

As far as Joe Panik's situation, the news is a little more clear as he's been cleared to get back on field after passing the concussion protocols and the Giants expect him back with the team by next weekend. Matt Duffy's situation is a bit more cloudy though as Bochy does not have a timetable for him to resume baseball activity and in two weeks if they still don't have a timetable they could be looking to obtain a third basemen as well... Needless to say, it's going to be an interesting few weeks leading up to August 1st non waiver-deadline and I expect the Giants to pull off at least one deal for a relief pitcher.
The Giants Baseball Blog