Home  |  Contact Us  |  GBB Twitter  |  Subscribe to GBB  |  GBB Facebook 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Giants trade for McCutchen, still have $4.4M to spend

*Update added to bottom of post*

With the clock ticking on the MLB offseason, the Giants finally made that big addition to their outfield we've been waiting for by obtaining Andrew McCutchen from Pittsburgh and likely ending their work for the winter. Whether they've done enough to fix the problems that cost the team just shy of 100 losses though remains to be seen.

Early Monday morning, the Giants and Pirates struck the deal that brings the all-star outfielder to the bay area in exchange for Kyle Crick and outfield prospect Bryan Reynolds. Upon hearing this news, I wasn't surprised at all, the Giants have been linked to the outfielder all winter and after losing out on Giancarlo Stanton then Jay Bruce, it became apparent that McCutchen had moved atop the their wish-list. Although I know he's not the ideal, young stud outfielder the Giants can build around into the next decade or so, McCutchen's still an impact player and I really do like this trade. Much more so than the Evan Longoria trade, that's for sure. McCuthen's defense has slipped a little the last couple of seasons, but he's still a halfway decent center fielder. His bat, however, is clearly a strength, as he's coming off a nice rebound season at the plate (.279/.363/.486 with 28 HR, 88 RBI and 11 swipes) and he immediately becomes the teams second most valuable offensive weapon. The only questions that lie ahead for the newest Giant is where exactly in the outfield and in the lineup he'll slot in at.

As of now, he's likely the teams opening day center fielder and leadoff man and with the team so close to the luxury tax penalty line, it's unlikely they'll be able to make any other noteworthy moves unless they somehow unload some more payroll in the process. I would really still like to see them bring in a more defensive minded center fielder, especially now that they appear to have upgraded the offense pretty significantly (as long as everybody doesn't fall off a cliff next season). Carlos Gomez and Jarrod Dyson, among others, still remain on the free agent market, but I don't think either guy will have to settle for a minor league deal and that's pretty much all the Giants are able to offer free agents at this point. I'm most intrigued by Gomez's dynamic abilities at the plate, and think he could be a 20-20 threat but patrolling center may be an issue for him on a day to day basis and the Giants have made it clear they want defense in center. Jarrod Dyson would look pretty good right about now, as he's sort of a Gregor Blanco-type with a little more bat though. Jon Jay is similar to Dyson, with more bat but not the speed or quite the defense but nice splits. Cameron Maybin really seems like the guy who's the most attainable though. Solid defender, but coming off terrible year at the plate.

If the Giants can somehow finagle another starting caliber outfielder onto the roster to play center and leadoff, it would allow the Giants to run out a heart of the order containing McCutchen, Posey, Longoria and Brandon Belt. It's not necessarily the most intimidating middle-of-the-order in the league, but I think they have to be pretty pleased with where they are now compared to what they were trotting out there last summer. I know we all were hoping for Giancarlo Stanton heading into the winter, Longoria and McCutchen are nice fallback additions in the short term. I'm much more intrigued with McCutchen than I would have been with Jay Bruce and the Giants will have some options regarding McCuthen after the year rather than being tied to him for the next three-plus seasons like they would have been had they wound up with Bruce. In fact, with money and/or potential trade pieces taken into account, McCuthen was probably my top remaining choice left on the market. J.D. Martinez and Lorenzo Cain are each going to get long-term deals worth over $100M and while I won't deny that Martinez's bat would have been a tremendous add, he too is no spring chicken and who knows how good a 5-year deal for him will look in a few seasons? As for Cain, yes he's a better defender than McCuthen at this point, but McCutchen is much more dangerous at the plate and more so fits what the Giants' urgent needs are.

Lastly, another thing that made McCuthen and attractive option for the Giants was the fact that they aren't tied to him in the long-term, although if they so choose to be, I'm sure they'd have a helluva shot at retaining him after the season. I mean, if he plays well he'll likely be an integral part of the team winning and they'll likely try and re-sign him. Most players that come over to San Francisco via trade end up wanting to stick around and if not, they'll at least send him a qualifying offer which would net them a high draft choice if he signs elsewhere. Also, if he plays well but the team is still struggling, then they have themselves what could be one of the bigger trade pieces this summer in late July and if he ends up struggling and having a down year, which is unlikely, then the team can just simply let him walk after the season.

I don't see the latter part happening though, as McCuthen has been a mark of consistency throughout his impressive career and only once over his 9 years at the big league level has he finished a season with a sub-.800 OPS and has hit 21 or more home runs in each of his last 7 seasons. The Giants need power and production at the plate, plain and simple, and McCutchen will most likely provide just that. Some people may be worried that coming to AT&T Park will hamper McCuthen's numbers as it does with most hitters that join the Giants from other ball clubs, but 'Cutch has played his career in a ballpark very similar to AT&T in terms of favoring the pitcher slightly more than the hitter. This is what has me confident that his power will not take a hit at all. I fully expect him to be right around .280/25/85/.850 again next season and if he comes within range of those numbers then this trade will turn out just fine for the Giants.

Bryan Reynolds has gotten a lot of attention the last couple of seasons and looks like he could have some sort of future in the big leagues, and Kyle Crick was once the teams top prospect, is still relatively young and still has that live arm but unlike with Christian Arroyo, I don't see either of these guys coming back to haunt the Giants a few years down the line. That coupled with the fact that I have little doubt that McCuthen is going to come in and produce like an all-star for the Giants is what has me much more sure minded about this one than giving up Arroyo for Longoria last month. Like with all deals made in the offseason though, only time will tell how both these deals ultimately effect the team.

At least very least, this offseason has gone better than last years. This winter they identified their needs early and although it took some time to get the deals complete, they chose a plan of attack and a blueprint they wanted to follow and they stuck to it. I know they didn't necessarily get the guys who were at the top of their wish-list, they had backup plans in place and acted on them. Whether or not those plans were good ones and will work out in the long run remains to be seen of course, but at the very least, they tried, and we can't say they didn't. Now the offseason is not quite yet over, and they do still have some questions remaining and we'll see if they can pull anything else off and miraculously avoid reaching the CBT. If not though, McCuthen and Longoria look so much better penciled into the lineup than Denard Span and Pablo Sandoval would have been, that's for sure.

In my opinion, the pressure is now really on the Giants' returnees who are coming off down and/or injury-plagued seasons to get on track (like Mark Melancon, Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Brandon Belt and Hunter Pence) and if those guys are at their career norms in 2018 then things should definitely be looking up....Anyway, after the most recent addition, this is how the Giants lineup looks to be shaping up:

RF McCutchen
2B Panik
3B Longoria
C Posey
1B Belt
RF Pence
SS Crawford
CF Slater/Duggar

See where another leadoff hitting outfielder would really round things out, but this is a much stronger bunch then what they entered 2017 with at least!

UPDATE: The Giants announced in a conference call Tuesday regarding the McCutchen deal that they will indeed play him in right field, move Pence to left and still have just shy of $5M left to pursue that defense first center fielder they're seeking. According to MLB trade rumors, the three guys they're targeting are Jarrod Dyson, Cam Maybin and Jon Jay, supposedly in that order and I have to say I'm a little disappointed that Carlos Gomez isn't on that list, as he's the best offensive/defensive mixture out of the other three, in my opinion, but may be priced out of their range.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Giants ink all arb. players, full focus now on OF

On Friday, one day after it was announced that Jay Bruce, the outfielder seemingly destined for San Francisco instead wound up back with the Mets on a three-year deal, the team made progress in a different way, as they came to terms with all their arbitration eligible players. 

While that is a nice step for the team, avoiding any nasty arbitration hearings and getting all five guys taken care of well before spring training, it still leaves them with a couple of gaping holes in their outfield, as well as lesser needs in other areas. On Thursday though, it was announced that the one free agent outfielder most closely linked to the club and the one who's agent said "he'd be thrilled to join the Giants" actually inked with the New York Mets, taking away one of the Giants limited options for their corner outfield vacancy. Jay Bruce was considered the most likely of the free agent outfielders to join the Giants after his agent said those things about the Giants and after Bruce apparently realized he was going to have to settle for the three year deal rather than his preferred four-year pact. However, The Giants must have been offering him much less than the Mets were if he decided to take their 3 yr./$39M deal instead of joining the team that was supposedly at the top of his wish list heading into the winter. I gotta say, I was a bit surprised at the number Bruce got and it makes me wonder what the Giants were offering because if you would have told me the Giants could have gotten Bruce for three years for a total of less than $40M I probably would have gone forward with that move. My guess is the Giants' offer was closer to the $10-12/year range as Bruce's agent said that the Mets offered the slugger more money than any other potential suitor.

So with the Bruce news, if I'm Bobby Evans and Brian Sabean, I would really try and woo Carlos Gonzalez at this point. He's not going to get as much as Bruce, and I would absolutely take the 32 year-old on a 1 or 2 year deal worth $12M per and I'd even throw in some incentives to make that deal potentially larger. Bruce's signing could end up working in the Giants favor if they are indeed able to pull off a deal like that with CarGo, but my guess is he'll wind up in Houston on a short-term deal where he'll not only have a chance to win, but also hit in a park similar to Coors Field and potentially boost his number from last season for another free agent run next winter. If I'm the Giants though, I'm doing all I can to get Gonzalez to come aboard, as he's the last corner outfielder on the market in their price range who can bring in the power they desperately need.

I've been hearing more and more about Lorenzo Cain, but I just don't see him as a good fit for a number of reasons. First and foremost, he'd cost the team a few high-end draft picks in Junes amateur draft and this is not the winter the Giants want to forfeit draft picks if they can help it. Secondly, Cain is a nice hitter, but he's not great in any one area. In an average 162-game season, he's slashed .290/.342/.421 with 12 HR, 69 RBI and 27 steals over his career. He made the all-star team in 2015 and was third in the AL MVP voting that year, but aside from that one season he's been above average at best. I saw an article today about how "SF should set their sights on Cain" and if they somehow could get for a deal that Bruce just signed then maybe I'd consider giving up the picks, but I personally don't think Cain is the middle of the order bat that this team needs. Best case, he'd be the player Melky Cabrera was with the squad in 2012 (minus the PEDS and probably without the .350 BA), but he does everything pretty well but isn't great in any one particular category like Melky was. Worst case, and one I fear more likely would he being the next Aaron Rowarnd, while maybe not that bad at the plate and certainly better in center, just an overrated guy that signs long-term and never becomes the guy you were banking on.

Now, don't get me wrong, Lorenzo Cain is a very good baseball player and one, draft picks and money aside, I would take on the Giants in a heartbeat. If the Giants were able to bank on Pence to play 150 games and be that 25/100 guy he was a few years ago, Longo to come in and be the offensive stalwart he was with the Rays most recently in '13 and '16 and Brandon Belt to finally play a full year and produce to his potential, then Cain would be a perfect fit for what they'd need. He'd be nice atop the order and although his mediocre power would probably take a hit, he'd still hit  around .300, steal some bags and bring a solid glove to center. However, Pence hasn't played a full, productive season since 2014 and saw his OPS drop to a career low .701 last year, Longo is coming off one of his worst seasons of his career and Brandon Belt is coming off another year in which he underachieved while battling concussion issues at the end of the year. I just think the Giants' big addition this point, if they make one, needs to be more of a middle of a reliable middle of the order type who can hit behind Longo and Posey.

I'm not entirely sure on how Bochy is going to set his lineup, and it still will be determined by what else they do before spring training, but as of now, the only guys that are really middle of the order on the team are Posey and Longoria. However, those two combined for 32 HR and 153 RBI in 2017, so you can see why they need another guy who can at least threaten to hit 20-30+ HR and drive in around 100 runs and to me, that guy is Carlos Gonzalez. One of our readers in a prior post suggested to go the double CarGo route and sign Gonzalez and Gomez, which I would be OK with. Gomez, in a part-time role in 2017 put up some impressive numbers with Texas, slashing .255/.340/.462 with 17 HR, 55 RBI and 13/18 in the stolen base department. Plus he's as good of defender or better than Cain is, with two gold gloves on his mantle for center field and should have no problem roaming the spacious outfield at AT&T. I mean, Cain and Gomez are very similar players, you just get more pop with Gomez and a little more average and stolen bases with Cain. The asking price, however, will be drastically different for both players though, with Gomez likely to be had on a short-term deal that doesn't cost any draft picks and probably cost no more than $5M annually whereas Cain will get a long-term deal and cost closer to $15M

Extras: As we said at the top of the post, the Giants took care of all their arbitration eligible players in one day, which is no small feat. Joe Panik led the pack by agreeing to a one-year, $3.45M deal and left-handed reliever Will Smith signed for $2.5M for the upcoming campaign. If both players are healthy then those numbers will wind up being more than fair on the Giants end, so good job on both those by Evans and Co. Relievers Sam Dyson, Hunter Strickland and Cory Gearin also locked up their contracts for 2018 although I haven't seen numbers linked to those three, I would assume they're not as much as either Panik or Smith's deals are for.... So with all the little stuff out of the way, the Giants can fully focus on filling out their roster for 2018 and although things are finally setting in motion on the free agent market, they still have some options out there that can help them contend in 2018. And now with Bruce off the table, I would expect this team to narrow it's options down quickly and make a move soon before they miss out on everybody they were negotiating with/for. It's going to be an interesting week guys as I expect a lot to be resolved, not only with the Giants, but with the other top-end FA's like Martinez, Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish. So get ready, a lot should be happening in the next 10 days or so, lets just hope the Giants are on the winning end of things.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Giants' fans still waiting on next move

We're now about a week into the new year and baseball business is beginning to pick up a little bit of steam, at least rumor wise. J.D. Martinez seems destined for Boston, and that should kick things into gear a bit on the free agency front and it appears all of the Giants potential options have now come to the forefront and it shouldn't be much longer before we see the next addition for the 2018 roster.

So far, the names linked to the Giants have included about a half-dozen outfielders, as the team still has two gaping holes in left and center, and they're going to hope like heck they can land two of those 6-8 guys that have been linked to them or have been discussed by the team. The primary names linked to the team have been Jay Bruce, Carlos Gonzalez, Jackie Bradley Jr., Billy Hamilton, Andrew McCutchen, Christian Yellich (although a long shot) and Jarrod Dyson. If I were to bet right this second on the most likely of the six to join the squad, I'd go with either CarGo or Bruce taking over a corner spot and Jarrod Dyson signed to play center. However, if they could somehow figure out a way to land both CarGo/Bruce for left and McCutchen for center, it would completely revamp their lineup and set theme up to be a force in 2018. The thing is, if they indeed brought in a Gonzalez on a new deal and absorbed most of McCutchen's $16M salary for 2018, it would put them well over the luxury tax threshold. So unless they get creative and defer some money, or maybe drop another big contract (which doesn't seem likely unless they found someone to take Belt and felt like Chris Shaw could take over 1B in 2018), they probably are only settling for one bigger budget signing or trade and a much smaller budget signing/trade for their outfield. With whatever may be leftover after that, they could look into pitching depth, but that does not seem high on their priority list.

I really want to be optimistic about 2018, and be able to truly consider the Giants much improved from 2017 and a playoff contender next season, but I just don't see how they're going to be able to make the additions they absolutely need without getting into collective bargaining luxury tax penalty range. I mean, let's say they do finagle a trade for McCuthchen, or sign Bruce/CarGo and Dyson, it would still leave the Giants with question marks in right field, their bench, and the back-end of their rotation. In an ideal world, they could use another reliable late-reliever to throw in the mix, preferably left-handed, but two outfielders and a back-end starter completely outweigh any bullpen needs.

The Giants' pen, if healthy, should be improved significantly in 2018. Mark Melancon should be back in top-end closer form and hopefully Will Smith will be back in his Milwaukee Brewer form after his major surgery last spring. If that's the case, then they'd be set at the back-end of the pen with Melancon closing and Hunter Strickland and Smith being the primary set-up guys. The mid-relief isn't terrible, but they need Derek Law back closer to his 2016 form rather than last years 5.00+ ERA and ridiculous 1.57 WHIP output. Cory Gearin is coming off a solid season and should have his spot locked in either as a  long reliever or in mid-relief and Sam Dyson, who thrived for the most part as the Giants closer in the seasons final two months, should find himself in some sort of role in the '18 pen.

Sam Dyson's situation is tricky to predict though as he could settle in anywhere from being a set-up
man to Melancon to being in middle relief or ending up not earning a job out of spring at all. I mean, he's had such a bizarre couple of seasons after having a very successful run in 2016 as Texas' closer, it looked like that would be his job for the next few years at least, but he was so poor for the Rangers to start the year, that they essentially forgot about his 38-save campaign the season prior and cut him loose. He then came over to the Giants and took over the closers job and did a decent job, posting 14 saves and a 4.03 ERA in two months as the teams closer, although they'd like to see that 1.42 WHIP he posted drop at least a tenth of a point and that ERA drop under 4.00, which he's more than capable of doing seeing as he's sported an ERA in the mid-3's on average throughout his career. Dyson could end up being a centerpiece in this bullpen or completely irrelevant but the Giants need him to be the former if they want this bullpen to have the depth to compete.

The starting rotation though is an area, again, I'm very surprised has not gotten more attention this winter. The reason I find that ironic is because, in everyone of their championship runs, they were led with an outstanding rotation and a solid bullpen. Their pen had some questions in some of the tittle runs, but for the most part was reliable and when they weren't they had MadBum fall back on. So I find it ironic that a team who won three tittles this decade on the backs of their starting pitching has totally neglected their starting rotation this winter and hasn't really made much chatter at all about trying to improve upon what was their worst rotation in 9 years last summer. I know their offense was atrocious last year, and they have to do everything they can in attempt to right that ship, but they never needed a top of the line offense when they had their rotation/bullpen clicking on all cylinders. So, unless they landed a flat out difference maker and game  changer like they tried so hard to do with Giancarlo Stanton, as well as a legit center fielder like a Christian Yellich or McCutchen, this lineup wasn't and isn't going to carry this ball club on it's own.

Right now they have Madison Bumgarner, who's a true ace and perfect guy atop the rotation, however he himself is coming off a year in which he missed 3 months and wasn't necessarily the lights-out, tough to hit and score upon pitcher we've seen in years past. Granted, he threw well for the most part after his return, just not quite up to his expectations I'm sure. But he's now had an offseason to recover and the missed time in 2017 may have been a blessing in disguise seeing as the Giants weren't going anywhere even had MadBum stayed on the field all year. Instead, he got some major rest in 2017 and should be the most fresh he's ever been heading into a season this spring. Aside from Bumgarner, Cueto too had injuries he dealt with for most the year, and was pretty darn mediocre when he was on the mound and was no where near the pitcher he was in '16.

Then there's the Samardzija, who despite his 15 losses and 4.42 ERA, was arguably the teams most reliable starter from start to finish. Despite the higher ERA, he posted a very solid 1.13 WHIP, which is right around what MadBum usually posts, plus "Shark" led the team with 205 K's and 207 innings of work. As for the coming season, I think MadBum will be back to his usual form, and I expect improvement from Cueto. Although I don't think we'll get another 2016-level performance from the number 2 starter, 200 innings pitched, a sub-4 ERA and a WHIP at 1.25 or lower would be acceptable compared to last years 4.52 ERA, 1.44 WHIP and only 147 innings pitched. As for projected number-3 Samardzija, I would take a repeat of last years performance, with hopefully a more reliable bullpen and a little more offense could flip-flop his win-loss numbers from a year ago and also see that ERA drop back down below 4.00 as well, where he was in his first year with the club in 2016 (3.81 ERA).

Again though, those are some big questions and a lot of things that need to get back on track for the Giants front-3 starters so they could certainly use some stability at the bottom half of the rotation. As I've said all offseason, I'm completely content with Chris Stratton being the 5th guy, but if it's Blach as the fifth guy and Stratton bumped up to 4th then this rotation just isn't as strong as it's been in years past. It's certainly not a rotation I see competing with the likes of Arizona, Colorado and the other Wild Card contenders, especially on a team with a mediocre offense and without a lights-out, shut down bullpen, or at least not that we've seen thus far.

I get all the attention that's being given to upgrading the outfield/offense, but even if they do accomplish what they want in that area, I don't know that they'll have the pitching depth to to be world series contenders like they want to be next season. Of course, Stratton could become the next big arm to come up through the system and build off his solid 2017 showing and maybe Tyler Beede bursts onto the scene in 2018 in a big way, but you can't bank on that, and the Giants cannot just completely ignore their rotation before spring training. I don't expect anything big, but a Jeremy Hellickson, Jaime Garcia or R.A. Dickey may not be bad, cheap one-year options to throw into the rotation mix. I would prefer to have Blach as the long reliever/spot starter if needed and I don't think Tyler Beede is quite ready, so another veteran with a history of some success could do a lot for this rotation. They simply can't forget about the area of their team that's been the focal point of their success, that being the starting rotation!
The Giants Baseball Blog