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Saturday, December 30, 2017

Slow moving market may help Giants in the end

Back in October, after the Astros destroyed the Giants' arch nemesis LA Dodgers to win the '17 World Series, I was anticipating the Giants to be active early on in their attempt to upgrade their roster. However that simply has not been the case, not only with the Giants but with all of baseball as 9 of the top-10 ranked free-agents still unemployed as we enter 2018.

Although it's become a bit of a trend in recent years for free agents/GM's and owner to wait things out a little more rather than rushing to sign players right away in November, usually things pick up significantly in December and certainly after the winter meetings and GM meetings pass. This year though, there really isn't a consensus top ranked free agent which usually sets the tone for the rest of the pack.

So it's been a very bizarre offseason to say the least. It started off with all eyes on Giancarlo Stanton, as the reigning NL MVP held the keys as to what team he wanted to be dealt to, which led to him blocking a deal in place that would have sent the slugger to San Francisco while the Cardinals were right there with the Giants in the Stanton sweepstakes. Although not a free agent, Stanton was the biggest name on the market this winter and he thought to be sort of that market setter, or starter once his situation was resolved. The slugger ended up choosing to waive his no-trade to join the New York Yankees, spurning the Giants who were thought to be the favorites to land the slugger. It's now been a month since the trade though, and thins are still moving very slowly on the player movement front. Only five of the top-20 ranked free agents have found themselves homes, signifying that owners are simply not wanting to throw big money at players that aren't superstars just because they happen to be one of the better free agent options this winter. The Giants, for example, would probably have signed Jay Bruce within days of missing out on Stanton in years past, and given him the four-year deal he's still holding out for. This winter, they're in no rush to get anything done and they're not alone.

Only a small percentage of The Sporting News' top 101 free agents for this offseason have found homes thus far. Something will eventually give though, and guys will start to sign, but I'm not quite sure what that thing that gets this offseason going will be. As I said, most people thought it would have been the Stanton trade, but that was resolved weeks ago and things have been as quiet as ever (free-agency wise). Maybe it won't be until J.D. Martinez and Yu Darvish sign but they don't seem close to landing anywhere from what I'm hearing. There have, however, been a few big trades, including the Giants landing Evan Longoria and Cardinals trading for Marcel Ozuna with both players being considered "consolation prizes" in the Stanton sweepstakes. The Giants and Cardinals, from all accounts, were the two teams that the Marlins had deals in line with only to have Stanton decline, instead holding out for New York.

The question Giant's fans, as well as fans from most ball clubs, are now waiting on an answer for now is what happens next? When are we going to see thin another move made and things sort of shake up atop the free agency pool. For the Giants, they need to figure out how many more moves they're in position to make in order to improve the 2018 roster and not go over the luxury tax threshold? I firmly expect them to still bring in two outfielders, whether that's a trade and a signing or two signings. We know about Bruce being linked to the team. We know all about the Billy Hamilton/Jarrod Dyson talk and even the Andrew McCutchen and Jackie Bradley Jr. long shot possibilities, but the latest name to join the mix is someone who I've voiced my opinion on plenty in posts throughout the offseason. That player is former Rockies' outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, who would have been atop the pack of this free agent class had he been coming off virtually any other year of his career.

If the Giants are unable to get Bruce to drop his demand of a 4-year deal down to three (which from what I'm hearing is the hurdle in negotiations), they could turn their efforts to CarGo, who's been a better player than Bruce up until last season. CarGo is 2 years Bruce's senior, which factors into things and, as we already discussed, is coming off a year in which he slashed .262/13/57/.767. It was only the first time in his career with a sub-.800 OPS in a season in which he played over 85 games. In '16 he was an all-star, slashing .298/25/100/.855 and the year prior he won a silver slugger award, knocking out 40 home runs and slugging at a percentage of .540. That slugging percentage is not quite up to Barry Bonds' .600+ slugging percentage in his hey day's in the orange and black, but those are pretty damn impressive seasons from CarGo. I mean, if he's coming off either the '15 or the '16 season he'd easily place within the top-5 of this years free agent class, and again, would at least be my top choice. He just turned 32 in October and is still considered to be in his prime in the baseball sense, although it's certainly the back-end.

This is pure speculation, because I don't know what Bruce is asking for in terms of the dollar amount on his contract, only that he's seeking at least a four year deal and I haven't heard anything in regards to CarGo's preferred numbers. If it came down to CarGo for maybe 2 years and $30-35M or Bruce at around 4 years and $70-80M though, I'd personally roll the dice on CarGo.

We saw what Gonzalez did in a down year last season, and despite it being way below his standards, it was a better OPS, HR and RBI total than any outfielder the Giants trotted out in 2017. Had Hunter Pence been healthy all year things may have been different, but that shows just how poorly their outfield performed last summer. So we sort of saw Gonzalez's floor in '17 (although he did have injury issues he still played in over 135 games), and his ceiling is that of an MVP-caliber left fielder. I just think those are better than what Bruce's respective "floor" and "ceiling" is. Plus, if they signed CarGo to a deal similar to the one I suggested, and traded for a center fielder still under team control in arbitration (like a Bradley or Hamilton), they still could have some money to dangle out there for a potential #4 starter like an Andrew Cashner, Jason Vargas or if they want to spend a bit more, Lance Lynn would look awesome behind Cueto in the #3 starter spot, moving Samardzija down to 4 and allowing the slew of youngsters led by Christ Stratton to battle it out for the fifth spot.

Now, the only issue with CarGo and the Giants that concerns me and I'm sure has the Giants a little gun-shy as opposed to Bruce is the fact that the former Rockie has been flat out bad at AT&T Park over his career. LIke sub-.700 OPS bad with just 5 home runs and a low batting average during the course of  well over 200 at-bats in the spacious yard. Whereas Bruce has had no such trouble and has actually thrived at AT&T in his career, slashing .293/7/22/.893 over 116 career at-bats which I'm sure is a huge reason why the Giants see him as one of the better options for them.

Whoever they end up signing, the longer it takes for things to unfold, the better it seems to be for the teams trying to get sign players to more "team friendly" deals. A couple  winters back (heck maybe even last offseason), J.D. Martinez would have been signed for 5 years and $125M and Yu Darvish may have been looking at a deal in the $200M range. I mean, at 32 years if age a couple years ago, Zach Grienke got $206M over 6 years from Arizona. That same offseason, Jeff Samardzija coming off a year in which he was one of the most hittable and scored upon pitchers in baseball, landed a deal close to $100M from these Giants based squarely on what he did in a couple seasons with the Cubbies and what the Giants hoped he'd do in their yard.

So free agency seems to be changing a bit in baseball, and we'll still have to see how things shake out, but I'm pretty sure most players will not be getting the deals they ideally would have gotten in previous offseasons.

And with that said this, baring some move that's made over the next 48 hours, will be our last post of 2017, so happy new year to all Giants fans and especially to those that loyally follow us and check in on our site on a regular basis here at The Giants Baseball Blog.

GBB Notes and End of the Year Appreciations: We're going to try and have our best year yet in 2018, as we look to expand a bit and possibly move off of blogspot (though blogger.com has been a great and easy to use platform that is owned and therefor ranked well with Google), but more on that to come .If your on Instagram or Twitter please follow us on Twitter (@GiantsBlogger), where I've been having some pretty cool debates and discussions with fellow fans from around the league, and not only Giants fans. We'd like to get our Twitter presence elevated in 2018 and it would be a dream of mine if we can somehow hit 1,000 followers (I'll be following you guys back as well)... We also recently launched our Giants Baseball Blog Instagram as well, so go follow us there by clicking this link here (although it's not strictly Giants related as out Twitter feed is). So please guys, if your reading this, take the 30 extra seconds to go subscribe to our Twitter and our Instagram feeds. Once we hit a 1,000 followers on either platform, we can start doing regular giveaways like tickets, Giants merch, books and more.

Thanks again for being loyal readers in 2017 though guys. It was one of the toughest years of my life to date, and it's the reason why 2017 was probably our least posted year to date. Yes the team being terrible and just a drag to talk about on a daily basis with the same issues haunting them day in and day out. The big reason why my posting slowed during the season though was do to an illness in the family that ended up occupying a lot of my time rendering the Giants irrelevant for much of the summer to me personally. And all kidding aside, it ended up being a pretty darn good year to sort of fall out of the loop on things. Point is, there was a lot going on in my personal life this last year and it showed with the lack of posting and the lack of unique insight I try and bring to this website... RIP pop, you'll be forever missed and appreciated. You were the reason I fell in love with the game of baseball and became one of the biggest San Francisco Giants fan's on this earth! I can only hope that 2018 has some better luck in store for all of us!
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Friday, December 22, 2017

Evan Longoria joins Giants, but still plenty to do

The Giants finally made their first big splash of the offseason, and while it was a far cry from a Giancarlo Stanton or Manny Machado trade, the move does makes them a better team then they were prior (how much so remains to be seen). The club doesn't appear to be stopping with just Evan Longoria either.

With numerous holes remaining, especially in the outfield, the Giants now appear as if they're ready to go all out in attempt to compete again in 2018 and turn around, in one offseason, a team that was two losses shy of 100 in 2017.

On Tuesday night the attempt officially began with the Giants and Rays striking the deal for Longoria. The trade sent Denard Span and Christian Arroyo as well as lower level minor league pitchers Stephen Woods and Matt Krook to Tampa for the star third basemen. Although still young players with upside, neither pitcher was very highly ranked in the Giants minor league system, so losing those two doesn't sting too badly. Losing Christian Arroyo, however, was a big one as he was one of the organizations most bright young players with a ton of potential and still just 22 years of age. The issue with Arroyo though, is that he;s much more valuable as a shortstop or second basemen at the major league level, and the Giants have those spots covered for years to come. He had more than a cup of coffee with the Giants in '17 and had a decent couple of weeks after his call-up, but his average started to plummet over time and then he got hurt and never really was much of a factor after that. In 124 at-bats, the 22 year-old hit just .192 with 3 jacks, 14 RBI and just 9 runs scored with the big club. Sure it was his first cup of coffee in the show but I just don't think the Giants were confident in him being their third basemen of the future and that made him expendable in a trade. He was one of the teams biggest trade chips so that tells me that a package headlining him wasn't going to fetch a talent higher than Longoria.

Enough about the guys the Giants sent away, lets talk about the guy we'll be watching man the hot corner for the club for multiple seasons to come. Since coming into the league in 2008, Evan Longoria has been one of the best, most consistent all-around third basemen in all of baseball. The 32 year-old is a 3-time all-star, former rookie of the year, 3-time gold-glover and has finished within the top-10 of AL MVP voting four times in his 10-year career. That being said, he hasn't made the all-star team since 2010, but that can be attributed in large part to the AL being stocked with a lot of high end third basemen over the last 6-7 years. Looking at his most recent bodies of work though, Longoria has shown he's still got a lot of punch in that bat and his 2017 gold glove award proves he's still at the top of the game on the defensive end. His full season average slash line over his career is a very respectable .270/29/101/.823 with 38 doubles but I believe the defensive aspect of his game is what pushed the Giants over on him. If they signed Todd Frazier, the Giants would have gotten their 20-30 home run threat, but would not be getting the average that Longoria will hopefully provide nor the gold-glove caliber defense.

Now, while the newest Giant has had a remarkably consistent career, some people are worried he's in the middle of his offensive decline, as he's sported an OPS over .800 just once in the last 4 seasons. That season, however, was the 2016 season which he blasted a career-high 36 big flies, drove in 98 and rocked 41 doubles to get to a .840 OPS. He had a pretty pedestrian 2017 by his standards though, with a slash line of .261/20/86/.737. The HR and RBI totals from last season though would still have led the '17 Giants squad, which is a testament to how badly they needed to bring in some consistent power and run production.

My thoughts on the deal after marinating on it over the last couple of days though are mostly positive. I do think he'll keep his 20+ home run potential despite moving into the more pitcher friendly yard and division plus his defense certainly isn't about to fall-off anytime soon. I also don't think they necessarily overpaid to get him, although losing Arroyo could effect what this team looks like when they do start to inevitably move into that younger makeover. By all accounts, he's a tremendous club house presence, and hopefully joining a perennial contender will sort of give him a second life and rejuvinate his bat a little bit and get his power production numbers up a little bit. Even if he repeated his 2017 season in '18 though, I don't think anyone would call this trade a bad deal for the Giants (unless Arroyo goes on to become an all-star with the Rays within the next few seasons). I would love to see him back up around 25+ HR and 100 RBI as well as getting his OPS back up around or above .800. As far as whether or not this deal was a good one or a bad one I'll answer that question like this; if the Giants go on to win another tittle that Longoria plays a big part in or even helps them stay perennial contenders over the next handful of seasons, then this move will be deemed successful. So let's just wait to see what else the Giants have in store and what kind of product they put on the field next year.

So the Giants finally got the ball rolling with their offseason and it's given us an idea as to where this team considers themselves for the next few seasons. They obviously are considering themselves contenders for 2018 and at least a few seasons after that as well and they're not about to take their foot off the gas pedal in terms of looking for additional upgrades for this roster. With the dealing of Span, it now leaves the Giants with Hunter Pence as the only major leaguer with everyday playing experience at this level meaning they're going to need another couple of outfield additions at least, especially with Pence being so injury prone the last few seasons and maybe not even being an everyday player in 2018. As of now, he'd be their starting right fielder, and I do think he'll be in the starting lineup somewhere on opening day. I believe that if the Giants can get enough depth on their outfield roster though, it would allow Boch to use Pence a little more sparingly in '18 which would hopefully result in a fresher, healthier and more effective outfielder.
 
As far as potential partners for Pence in that outfield, one names is becoming more and more close to joining the Giants with each passing day, and that player is Jay Bruce. The agent for Bruce has said the 31 year-old's top choice is San Francisco, by a long shot, and if they Giants can maybe get him to take a little less money then it would cost them to obtain maybe Adam Jones or Andrew McCutchen, then they very well may go that route. I'm not as high on Bruce though as I am the other two guys mentioned as he's a low average, low on-base left handed power guy who sort of relies on 35-40 HR seasons to contribute to his team and not a whole helluva lot else. The worry here is that playing in AT&T would obviously cut down on his power numbers, maybe significantly enough to make him a risky add. Bruce also is seeking a 4-year deal and the Giants have made it clear they'd prefer no more than 3 years. So there are still some hurdles if the Giants are indeed going to sign the slugger, but he certainly seems like he's going to be the big free agent signing for the club at the moment, although we all know how quickly things can change in this game (just look at how the Marlins and Giants had a deal in place for Giancarlo Stanton, only to have the outfielder decline the deal after mulling it over).

Even if they did add Bruce though, it would still leave the Giants with a gaping hole in center field, and the newest name brought into the mix to potentially fill that void is Jacoby Ellsbury. I'm not sure if the Giants have any interest in the aging Yankees center fielder, but he specifically mentioned them as a team he'd prefer a trade to if he is indeed dealt out of New York's crowded outfield. Ellsbury just doesn't make sense for the Giants though, as he's essentially a much more expensive, older version of Denard Span, granted he still does play a decent center field. I'd just assume go with their young in-house option, Steven Duggar, who's a very good center fielder and appears to be showing more offensive prowess over time. If they went that route they could support or supplant Duggar with a cheaper free agent option like Jarrod Dyson. Billy Hamilton has been on their radar as well but Dyson is basically a more refined version of Hamilton with a better plate presence, granted he's not quite the speed demon Hamilton is, he's close.

There are a lot more names than those mentioned in this piece out there who the Giants are looking at, have looked at or will look at. Right now the name ringing the most bells since the Longoria add and the team finally showed their intentions for 2018 is Jay Bruce. So don't be surprised if we're back here before Christmas talking about a newly inked left-handed slugger. If they do add Bruce, which the baseball world sure feels will come to fruition, then you'd then be looking at a lineup like the one below. A starting eight that would still has big question marks in left and center, but not a terrible looking bunch on paper, especially the top-6 hitters (although ideally they could find a leadoff hitting outfielder, drop Panik to second and move Belt down into the bottom third):

2B Joe Panik (L)
1B Brandon Belt (L)
3B Evan Longoria (R)
C Buster Posey (R)
RF Jay Bruce (L)
SS Brandon Crawford (L)
LF Hunter Pence(R)
CF Steven Duggar (L)
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Saturday, December 16, 2017

What's next for SF after Matt Moore trade?

The Giants dealt away their projected number 4 starter to the Texas Rangers on Friday afternoon for a couple of prospects that probably won't ever see the light of day on a major league roster. However, according to many sources throughout the league, this deal was primarily about clearing payroll for what many are speculating could be bigger move on the horizon for the club.

The fact that they got some pretty pedestrian prospects in return tell me that this wasn't necessarily a move that suggests they're leaning toward rebuilding this offseason. Instead, the consensus is that the Giants made this move to clear some payroll, as we know they were approaching the luxury tax limit and another high-priced free agent, such as J.D. Martinez, would put them over the threshold and cost them a nice chunk of money in fines as a result. By dealing Moore, they do free up roughly $7M for 2018 and if I remember correctly from what was said on KNBR Friday, that leaves the Giants roughly $25M below the luxury tax threshold, meaning they could have wiggle room to sign someone like Martinez as well as another piece if they so choose. Aside from Martinez, the upper-echelon free-agents they've looked at are outfielders Jay Bruce and Lorenzo Cain as well as third basemen Mike Moustakas.

The trade does take away a guy who, aside from a dreadful 2017 season which many are writing off as an aberration than the start of a decline for the 29 year-old lefty who was nails down the stretch and in the playoffs for the Giants after acquiring him the previous summer. I do think Moore will bounce back and return to the pitcher we saw in '16 rather than the guy we saw throughout 2017, so I'm hoping the Giants have a good plan in motion as a result of the deal aside from the acquisition of two mediocre-at-best pitching prospects. (Although one of the pitchers the Giants got, Israel Cruz, is still just 20 years old and has a lively arm, the kid was rocked in the majority of his 9 outings in the Arizona League leading to an ERA less than a tenth of a point below 6)

The reason why this deal will hopefully lead to a bigger addition for the Giants is because of the timing. Moore is coming off his worst year in the big leagues and his trade value is at an all-time low. If the intention was to deal him in order to get the most value for him, they would have been better off waiting until the season started and allowed Moore some starts to show last season was a fluke. So essentially, if the Giants don't make another move this winter to counteract this trade, I would mark this one down as a big L for the organization just because trade values are higher in season and there would most certainly have been a desperate contender that maybe suffered an injury or realized they were an arm short and would have offered up significantly more than two "throw in" type of prospects. I guess


So, with that being said, this move certainly will now pose a question for the Giants management aside from what to do with the saved $9M and that is who will take Moore's spot in the rotation. Now Chris Stratton had a very solid finish to 2017 and appears to have the upper hand in terms of the fifth spot in the rotation, but now the Giants need to fill another slot in their five-man starting staff. They do have some internal options but all of them come with question marks. Ty Blach would appear to be the lead candidate at the moment, but after an impressive showing down the stretch in 2016, he was just about as bad as Moore was in '17 going 8-12 with a 4.79 ERA, 1.36 WHIP and a 74:43 strikeout/walk ratio over 34 games (24 starts) and 163 innings. Now those aren't absolutely dreadful numbers as far as a fifth starter would be concerned, but if he is in the rotation with Stratton, it would essentially give the Giants two number five starters at the back-end of their rotation. Stratton may actually become the number four if that were the case, and while he was pretty impressive in his 10 starts after joining the rotation, his one area of weakness was base-runners allowed with about 1.5 per inning. He did an excellent job at limiting the damage and finished the year with a sub-4 ERA and nearly a strikeout per inning over 57 frames. I would gladly take Stratton as the fifth guy with Blach, Tyler Beede and Andrew Suarez waiting in the wings should he falter, but the rotation is now much less deep than it was before the Moore trade.

The Giants will likely scour the bottom half of the free agent pool for some starting pitching depth though and there are some decent names down there that could intrigue the team. Jeremy Hellickson, Jaime Garcia, R.A. Dickey and perhaps the most intriguing option if healthy, Chris Tillman. Tillman is coming off a terrible, injury shortened season in which he went 1-7 with an ERA just shy of 8 but was the Orioles ace heading into the season. He's just 29 years old and in '16 he went 16-6 with a 3.78 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 144 K's in 172 innings giving him a quality 114 ERA+ on the campaign. If he's healthy, he could be a great buy low bargain on a one-year deal in which he could pitch in the spacious AT&T Park rather than the rough NL East to possibly build his value for a big, long-term deal next offseason. Whether it's one of these guys or someone else, I do expect the Giants to bring in another veteran starter to at least compete for one of the rotation spots.

Now this brings me to the second question that this deal poses, what, if anything, do the Giants do with the money freed in the trade? The other big name linked to the Giants since they missed out on Giancarlo Stanton and someone the Giants apparently have made a trade offer for is Baltimore third basemen Manny Machado. However, Machado isn't owed a ton of money in '18 and becomes a free agent after the year when the likes of Hunter Pence and Denard Span will come off the books so it's not as if they had to deal Moore in order to obtain Machado and potentially sign the 25 year-old star to an extension. It doesn't seem like the Giants and Orioles are very close to a deal though unlike they were with the Marlins for Stanton, plus Machado has voiced a desire to play shortstop everyday, something the Giants would not offer him the ability to do with gold-glover Brandon Crawford in place for the next half-decade. White Sox outfielder Avasail Garcia is someone else the Giants have reached out about, but apparently they weren't able to get a deal done for him at the Winter Meetings. Like with Machado though, it seems unlikely they complete anything in the future for the all-star right fielder who had a breakout 2017 season that included a .330 average, 18 jacks and 80 RBI in 136 games.

What's surprising to me is that, aside from Manny Machado and some light whispers about bringing back Eduardo Nunez, the Giants haven't been seriously linked to any third basemen of note, which would be a problem if they aren't able to upgrade. Pablo Sandoval and/or Ryder Jones and Christian Arroyo would be forced into huge playing time by default and that's not something that a contending team should aim for unless they somehow got two studs in the outfield. Because of their need for multiple outfielders is probably the reason we're hearing every name from Billy Hamilton to J.D Martinez, Avasail Garcia, Domingo Santana and many more.

With Pence and Span under contract they could theoretically bring in just one outfielder and possibly get by, but I don't think they want both Pence and Span to be forced into everyday roles in '18 and would rather have those guys possibly platoon in right and maybe one separates himself from the other and takes the everyday role. Again though, that would mean two outfielders and ideally a third basemen would still have to be brought in, and with all the trouble they seem to be having trying to acquire just one of those pieces, acquiring three may be an impossible task this winter.

What the Moore deal does at least is finally get the ball rolling for the Giants offseason. I think Moore will pitch better than he did in 2017 but he's hardly a guy I'm broken up about losing as he was just so bad in 2017 and especially if this move does lead to something bigger. If, however, it doesn't lead to something bigger and was just an attempt to clear payroll for the sake of clearing payroll then I think the move would then turn out to be a bad one for reasons I listed above. At least I have a little bit of an idea of what I think the Giants are now wanting to do this offseason (spend big to acquire an outfielder or possibly Machado), It's still any body's guess as to what this roster will look like when the team reports for spring training in under two months from now.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Monday, December 11, 2017

Giants hit winter meetings eager and open to deal

After missing out on the trade that would have shook up San Francisco, and injected new life into the Giants lineup for years to come in the form of Giancarlo Stanton, the Giants will now shift focus to the free agent market, with four players supposedly atop their meetings' wish list.

Those four players, as reported by the Boston Globe and NBC Sports Bay Area, are third basemen Todd Frazier and Mike Moustakas as well as outfielders J.D. Martinez and Lorenzo Cain. The one guy not listed who they did inquire about earlier in the offseason is Jay Bruce. It they;re wanting to get the best guys at each position they will somehow try to land both Martinez and Moustakas, though Moustakas rejected a qualifying offer, meaning in order for the Giants to sign either him, they'll have to forfeit some pretty valuable draft positioning. That being said, the Giants may be open to taking that risk if they could indeed get Moustakas on terms that they feel is fair and without having to overpay. Both Martinez and Moustakas are All-Star caliber ballplayers still very much in their prime whereas Frazier isn't quite the all-around talent Moustakas is and while Cain is a terrific center fielder and a solid .300 bat with a little punch, I don't think that is what the Giants really need at this point. They need a guy who they can pencil in to hit around .300 with 35+ HR's and 100 or so RBI's for the entirety of his contract, health permitting, and Martinez is the only outfielder that could provide that

The disappointment of missing out on Stanton has pretty much passed, and I'm more than ready for these winter meetings to kick off and for the Giants to make some move finally that will show what direction they're panning on going in 2018 (and beyond). Again, if they leave Florida at the end of the week without any new additions or having made any significant progress on some players, then it could signify 2018 as possibly a pseudo-rebuilding year in which they'll still have the pitching and some of the core guys like Posey, Crawford, Pence and Panik on the roster. All of those guys are coming off less than stellar seasons and not offensive campaigns any of them are really happy with, so the Giants could just hope those guys rebound. If not, they'll start playing the young guys, and plot for next winter's offseason which could potentially feature baseball's top-3 all-around player.

The Giants have a decent amount of money coming off the books next season and they most likely will be looking into joining the Bryce Harper sweepstakes (unless he re-signs in DC). With the Giants showing they would have been perfectly willing to take on Giancarlo Stanton's contract, we can only imagine what the Giants would be willing to offer Harper. Pence and Span coming off the books alone frees up roughly $30M/year, which I;m sure the Giants would be more than happy to offer Harper, but as the case with Stanton showed, the big question would be "would Harper want to come here anyway?". The Giants have been a bottom-3 team in baseball the last year and a half (despite making the playoffs in '16), so they're in a spot right now in which they aren't necessarily the top choice to come to for star players so they better get this thing back on track quickly if they want to be able to woo free agents into coming aboard and players with no-trade clauses more than willing to waive them to join SF. Just remember how happy Hunter Pence was when he joined the team! (which was amazingly 6 1/2 years ago now.. wow how the time has flied since the early stages of that Giants run...)

So yes, this is going to be a telling week and one of the most influential winter meetings the Giants have been at in quite some time. And, if I were to guess at who, if any of these guys will end up Giants by the end of the week, my guess would be Lorenzo Cain and/or a lesser free agent like a bench option or mid-reliever.I just get a bad feeling on Cain, and I really don't want him. Same with Moustakas, especially with the draft pick. While Cain brings strong defense to center and brings some average and speed but not a ton of big power. Cainer will still give you 12-15 jacks per year, but I honestly don't see him doing much more offensively at AT&T than Denard Span did in 2017, but he'd be a much better defender. Worth giving up the high draft choice to obtain him though? I really don't think so.

Moustakas too has some strong qualities and attributes, but your looking at a left-handed bat coming off a career power year and has never been a big power guy before that, so chances are, his left-handed pop doesn't translate at AT&T as expected and he becomes another version of Brandon Belt. I say that jokingly, but only halfway. Moustakas would probably still carry some decent numbers and is a helluva a third basemen, but again, too lose a high draft pick when you really have to rebuild your system, on a guy coming off a career year and has been largely average aside from that may not be the best move.

Anyway, keep checking back here over the next few days as we'll be here to post any happenings from the meetings. Even if nothing significant happens, we'll have the recap at the end of the week, and I'm sure you can guess what that will be talking about. I mean, we're hitting mid-December and the team has yet to make a single move. Granted, they certainly have tried there best on a couple of guys and it has been a strangely slow offseason all-around, not just with the Giants. The Stanton trade though, is expected to get things going... Lets sure hope so!

Extras: I did want to mention that, although there are four names the Giants seem to only be interested in and linked to publicly, that doesn't mean they won't be inquiring about other players too while in Florida, players we may not even be expecting or thinking of in the slightest. For example, I know they've expressed interest in Milwaukee slugger, Domingo Santana (OF) who's just turned 25, and I didn't know anything about that nor did that name even cross my mind when assessing potential trade options for the Giants (as he's a young stud who hasn't even realized his potential yet and is under team control for years to come). Travis Shaw may not be available but he's a guy from the Brewers I have though about who'd be a great fit at third base coming off a career, 30+ HR season.. Santana is mighty intriguing though and after looking more into him it's no surprise the Giants inquired about him. He possess a lot of similar skill-sets as Giancarlo Stanton and even better in a lot of ways outside of the ridiculous pop Stanton has. Although he won't hit quite as many jacks, Santana hit for an equal or even higher average, steal more bases and has more versatility in the outfield. Plus Santana is just 25 years of age and hits right-handed as well, making AT&T Park less likely to cut into his power numbers... So keep your eyes and ears open as many more names could trickle though the rumor mill over the next 72 hours.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Friday, December 08, 2017

Giants moving forward without Stanton, Ohtani

A week ago it looked like there was at least a halfway decent shot at the Giants potentially landing both Giancarlo Stanton and Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani. Had they gotten both, or even one, it would have rejuvinated the city and certainly the roster, but unfortunately GM Bobby Evans reported Friday that they are indeed out of the running for both player's services.

I can't say I'm shocked at either piece of news, even though the Giants were considered one of a handful of finalists for each player. With Stanton, they had the huge contract as a hurdle, but ultimately it was Stanton's unwillingness to waive his no-trade clause to head to Northern California, holding out hope a trade to one of his preferred teams. He's made no secret that the Dodgers would be his first choice, which would be icing on the cake to the Giants missing out on him. On Friday, the Marlins released a list of four teams he would accept a trade to. Aside from LA, he would be open to joining the Cubs, Yankees and reigning world champion Houston Astros, but none of those teams have been heavily in on Stanton this offseason, at least publicly. A trade to any of them before the 2018 season would seem unlikely though unless one of these teams decide to take advantage of their leverage. That list has certainly tied the Marlins hands and put the ball squarely in one of those four teams court.

Right now, all of Stanton's preferred destinations are pretty set in their respective outfields. Even though he's one of the best pure power hitters in the game, none of the four teams will be desperate to add him (as the Giants and Cardinals so clearly were).

Stanton wasn't the only player targeted by the Giants this winter who essentially told the Giants they wouldn't be joining them for the 2018 season as pitcher/outfielder Shohei Ohtani chose the Los Angeles Angles as the team he'll be joining in the United States. Now this one is a little bit easier to swallow than the Stanton spurning. Ohtani, as with any player coming for another county, is not yet a proven big leaguer and is essentially a super-prospect at this time. Chances are that he'll end up a quality major leaguer and may pioneer a new way of using pitchers that can also hit at the big league level, but he wasn't going to be that impact bat in a lineup that Stanton could have been and although the Giants starting rotation sputtered in 2017 (mostly due to injuries and a bizarre off-year from Matt Moore), that's still the one area that management feels most confident in with this squad. I didn't discuss Ohtani much here this winter because I really never thought the Giants would land him whereas I at least thought that had halfway decent odds at prying Stanton away from Miami.

With all the latest news coming out, it makes me wonder if Stanton was stringing the Giants and Cardinals along the whole time with no interest in either team but to get the Cubs and Dodgers into the mix as those four teams are fierce division rivals with one another (Cubs/Cards in NL Central and Giants/Dodgers in the West). Regardless though, moral of the story is that neither intriguing option will be in the orange and black next spring, which now poses a huge question to Giants management; where do they go from here?

They'll likely delve back into the free agent market and revisit the top hitters on that list such as Jay Bruce, J.D. Martinez, and possibly even former Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez (although Gonzalez has not been mentioned by or linked to the team in any way). Reports had the Giants linked to both Bruce and Martinez earlier in the offseason before the Stanton situation really started heating up over the last few weeks, but let's face it, neither of those guys would bring anywhere near the impact as the reigning NL MVP and Home Run king. Martinez would probably be choice number one of the two, because he's a better all-around hitter and his right-handed bat would be more conducive to his power staying prevalent while playing 81 games per summer in the pitching friendly confines of AT&T Park. That being said, I do think that Bruce has the power to succeed at AT&T Park, but some of those cheap home runs he's had over the years in Cinci and New York may wind up being two-baggers instead of round-trippers. Martinez would still have a shot at 40+ HR per year, in my opinion.

I am surprised CarGo hasn't gotten more attention. I know he's coming off a down year and has been injury prone in the past, but two of his previous three seasons were all-star level years and if this guy's healthy, he's a 30+ HR, 100+ RBI threat with a .288 career average and .857 career OPS. I'm not saying he should be their prized target, but if they could get the 32 year-old on a one-year, "prove yourself" deal along with someone like Martinez, that would really add some depth to this lineup. Although it would mean Denard Span would be the primary center fielder again in 2018 which I think the team is trying to avoid if at all possible.

If it came down to the Giants insisting on bringing in either Bruce or Martinez, obviously I would much prefer Martinez, even if he's going to command more money than Bruce. Again, he's not the impact bat Stanton would have been, but he's the closest thing to the Marlins masher than any other free agent/trade option and if the Giants indeed continue their pursuit of improving their 2018 roster, the 30-year old outfielder should be at the top of their list. However, with the latest turn of events, the Giants could do decide to stand pat and make 2018 a "show me what you got" season for their young in-house players. They could maybe add a couple second-tiere outfielders to help deepen what was one of the worst units in baseball in 2017, in attempt to just stay relevant and then try again next offseason. I know every Giants fan is certainly hoping that doesn't become the case, but if J.D. Martinez, who's now arguably the biggest position player available via trade or free agency and has leverage, is demanding a ridiculously high price in the neighborhood of $20-25M per season for 5 years, I doubt the Giants would go that high on a guy who's hit over 23 home runs in just 2 of his 7 seasons in the bigs'. Granted, he does sorta has that Jose Bautista-type vibe going for him in that he looks like he's getting better with age and certainly his power seems to be inclining the last few years, but betting on that continuing to happen well into his mid-thirties as it did with Bautista is a risky wager.

So again, as we stand now, on December 18th 2017, I repeat for probably the fourth or fifth time on this blog since the season ended and that is the fact that I still have no idea what this Giants team is going to look like come March? Will they stay quiet and make some under-the-radar moves just to add depth to their roster and hope guys like Hunter Pence, Denard Span and Pablo Sandoval all revert to the players they were 3-5 years ago, or will they take a plan B approach and full on pursue one of these free-agent outfielders? Or they could potentially revisit another trade scenario, perhaps for a guy like Andrew McCuthchen who has been discussed on a number of Giants' media outlets from KNBR and NBC Sports Bay Area to online sources like McCovey Chronicles and even our site last month when we first got wind of the chatter.

I've always been a big McCutchen fan, but like with any other bat not named Stanton, I just don't see he alone being the answer to the offensive woes. He's now on the wrong side of thirty, and his speed has deteriorated some, resulting in a drop of his batting average and defensive prowess in the outfield, though he did slash a strong .279/28/88/.859 with 11 swipes in 2017 after a major down year in 2016. On the pro's side, he'd be an upgrade over any Giants outfielder they currently have though, even if Pence has a big bounce back in 2018 like he's plotting. Also, PNC Park plays somewhat similar to AT&T Park in terms of being a little more friendly to pitchers than hitters, yet McCutchen has put up MVP caliber season after season playing in that yard which means his offense shouldn't suffer if he did come over to play at AT&T. Finally he could also allow Bochy the flexibility to move Span into a corner outfield role and possibly platoon him him with Hunter Pence in right or Austin Slater in left (if they don't bring in an additional corner outfielder).

So yeah, I'd take McCutchen for 2018, but the question is would he be worth parting with a couple of high-end prospects for just one guaranteed year of his services (free agent after '18 season)? The Giants may not think so and I'm not so sure I'd blame them. If he could be had for a couple of prospects outside of Tyler Beede, Heliot Ramos or Chris Shaw though, I think I'd pull that trigger.

I could go on forever about possibilities, and the negatives and positives each possibility consists of, but I'm going to cut the post here because I do expect the Giants to do one of two things over the next week or so, and certainly before Christmas and the new year rolls in. They're either going to go hard at another free agent or two and/or re-visit other potential trade options, or they're going to stay completely quiet, and wait until January to kind of go through the scrap heap and find any players that may be able to help them in 2018.

If they don't find any options they feel are suitable upgrades to their outfield and possibly third base, then we'd be looking at perhaps the first full-on rebuilding season in San Francisco in close to a decade as players like Austin Slater, Chris Arroyo, Ryder Jones and Chris Shaw etc. will be forced into ample playing time and be given plenty of chances to show what they got. Reports coming out about the teams interest in re-visiting Martinez and Bruce suggest they're still going forward with full attempts to upgrade the roster, but it's going to take more than slotting one of those guys into left field to turn this 98-loss team around and the Giants' brass has to know that.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Friday, December 01, 2017

Giants still in on Stanton, though hurdles remain

The Giants are still widely considered to be the front-runners to land the big right-handed outfielder if he is indeed dealt out of Miami. However, there are still obstacles that lay ahead, including Stanton's no-trade clause, the Marlins asking price and Stanton's huge remaining salary.

We'll start with the list of prospects the Marlins would like in return from the Giants if the two come to an agreement, and it's the Giants top pitching prospect as well as three others in the organization's top-5. RHP Chris Stratton (3), OF Heliot Ramos (1), OF/1B Chris Shaw (2) and Brian Reynolds (5) are the group of prospects the Marlins are reportedly seeking, which would essentially wipe out the Giants top end of their farm system, but if the Marlins are indeed willing to eat 20% of Stanton's deal, then it may make it worth the price. Stanton is one of a handful of hitters throughout baseball that could come in and immediately make an impact on this lineup by making everyone else better and giving the Giants a power bat with early 2000's Barry Bonds-type impact power hitter. Now, if the Giants have to part with their top four prospects and take on that crazy 290+ million dollar deal that Stanton is under, then it becomes a bit too big of a pill to swallow in my opinion. I mean, if they could talk the Marlins out of Beede (which would be highly unlikely) it would make it a little more tolerable.

Young Giants bats tend to do better after they're dealt than they ever would with the Giants anyway, as they haven't developed any decent everyday players since Joe Panik and Brandon Crawford, and all the guys they tried out in 2017 just didn't look like able big league hitters, aside from maybe Austin Slater for a brief glimpse. Over the last decade plus, the Giants have clearly been better at developing pitching than they have at developing hitters, especially guys with power, so giving up three bats that could end up being something for a guy who's a top-5 impact bat in baseball, then I'd be all for it.

This conversation could be moot ultimately though if Stanton doesn't drop his no-trade clause for the Giants. Now, consensus is that he would, although he's made it clear that his primary destination lies in Los Angeles with the Dodgers, who play their home games within an hour of where Stanton grew up and went to high school. He really just wants to win though, apparently, and the Giants should be considered as a team with a decent shot at doing so if they did indeed land the slugger. They do have a couple of other small holes that they also need to address (third base, center field and maybe some bullpen depth and another veteran starting pitcher to add to the mix), but if they brought in Stanton to play left or right, it would allow them to go more defensively minded at third and center, which tend to be cheaper, more attainable style players.

So yes, as we enter December, the Giants are still very much in the Giancarlo Stanton mix, and although I don't expect anything to happen immediately on this subject, I do expect a resolution on the Stanton situation in Miami to resolve itself before Christmas. It wouldn't surprise me if the Marlins held onto him if they don't receive the exact offer they want, and may re-visit this situation in July before the trade deadline. However, with Stanton coming off an MVP season, he's got an all-time sell-high moment right now and with his injury history, a couple minor injuries early in the season could do major damage to his trade value by mid-summer and of course, he'll have to have another season in the same ballpark of his 2017 campaign in order for his trade value to be where it is now, so now is really the most sensible and safest time to make a deal.

We've talked about some outfielders who could be on the Giants radar if they don't land Stanton, mainly J.D. Martinez, Billy Hamilton and Jackie Bradley Jr., however, another name to apparently add to that mix is Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen. Now I do like McCutchen, although he's not the same player now as he was 3-5  years back in his prime. He's still a solid professional hitter with plus power and decent speed and range in the outfield though and is coming off a nice rebound season in 2017 after arguably his worst full season in his career in 2016. He's a few years older than Stanton and obviously not the impactful power bat Stanton is, but is under contract through next year and is entering his age 31 season, meaning he should still have another couple of years of decent baseball left, at least. The thing with him is, I don't think he alone would turn this Giants lineup into a true contender like Stanton would. They'd probably need to go out and get a third basemen that could hit as well in order to help one the NL's worst lineup from 2017. I mean, if Stanton isn't coming to town, I wouldn't be opposed to Andrew McCutchen as the consolation, although I'd expect them to upgrade third base in the process as well as solidify left field (leaving Hunter Pence and Denard Span as a platoon in RF),

There are still a lot of ways this offseason could go, and if they don't land Stanton, they could go a completely different route in general and maybe go with the young squad and start a semi-rebuild. I highly doubt that a full on rebuild will come to fruition with Buster Posey, Crawford, Brandon Belt, MadBum, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Mark Melancon and the likes still under contract for multiple seasons to come, although all it takes is a few trades and that core could be broken up and turned into young prospects with an eye on 2020 and beyond. Again, I doubt that's the route the Giants will choose, but here we are on December 1st, and the team has still yet to make a single move that will have any impact on the 2018 roster... I really hope that by my post next Friday, we'll have some answers.

Extras: I'm going to try to get another post in tomorrow regarding some of the other guys out there besides Stanton and McCutchen who the Giants should be looking at. The arbitration season is upon us now, and some guys could become free agents that aren't at the moment, although the likely of anyone of significance being non-tendered this day in age is very rare. Usually they are just dealt away before it comes to that if a team thinks their current player will cost too much in the process and decide to actually get something for him rather than non-tendering him and getting no compensation from the next team he signs with. So hopefully, with this part of the offseason here, some things will start to fall into place and moves will finally start happening.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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