Home  |  Contact Us  |  @GiantsBlogger Twitter  |  Giants Blog Instagram  |  GBB Facebook 

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Giants off to nice start in Cactus League

After the way things have gone the last season and a half, it's seemed like an eternity since the Giants been playing games with as much interest that's surrounded the first weekend of Spring Training. After adding Andrew McCutchen, Evan Longoria, Austin Jackson concocted with optimism that the core of their ballclub will stay on the field this year, and you have the recipe for an enthusiastic fan base.

It's strange how time can both seem drag on during some periods and to fly during others. It was a slow start to an offseason with a lot of question marks for the Giants, like waiting out the Giancarlo Stanton saga and dealing with the slowest moving and quietest free agency period in recent memory (maybe ever). Then they added 'Longo' and there was still some question as to what else they would do. After the McCutchen trade and their lone free agent acquisition in Austin Jackson, which felt like last week, time has flown and I think it's because a lot of people (or maybe I'm just speaking for myself) were very stoked for the spring to start. Now all of the sudden the squad is three games deep into Cactus League play and we have actual baseball to talk about. For the most part, that talk is all good, as we've seen a few things this team can feel encouraged by. 

Now unfortunately for game analysis sake, I was out of town and unable to listen to the games this weekend on the radio, but you can bet that I was scouring the web for everything Giants related while not out and about in Southern California the last few days. Again, I only got to hear a little bit of the end of Sunday's game, the wrap up and Marty Laurie's postgame show, and pretty much everyone around the club is excited about what's going on in Scottsdale. First off, I want to start in center field, and while the newest Giant and expected opening day starting centefielder, Austin Jackson, has yet to make his spring debut, the prospect that was probably discussed most this offseason has certainly been the center of attention. Stephen Duggar led off the first game of spring, and ended up going 1-3, that hit being a 2-out, 2-run double. The 24 year-old didn't play in Saturday's game against the Dodgers but was right back out there Sunday coming in after Gorkys Hernandez drew the start, and ended up launching a 2-run jack in the 9th inning. The guy who was going to be the centerfielder before the Jackson signing is showing early on that even though the Giants did bring in the veteran Jackson, Duggar still very much wants to be in the running for a roster spot as well as still being an integral part in center field.

He wasn't the only young Giants' outfielder who's had an impact in the teams first few games. Mac WIlliamson, at 27 years-old and still pretty young, isn't quite considered a prospect at this point of his career, yet whether it's been injury or the inability to find a spot to play, he's not been the player that many were hoping and expecting him to be. He's gotten himself off to a pretty nice start in exhibition play though, as he's in the running for one of the Giants expected 2 outfield bench spots. Assuming Duggar stays healthy and proves his first couple of games have not been a fluke, you'd have to imagine him locking down one of the roles. He's looked better than his biggest competitor, Gorkys Hernandez, plus has more upside than Hernadez as well as the left-handed bat to counteract Jackson, but of course we have 4 weeks of baseball between now and opening day. Because of their ability to play center field, it's likely that either Duggar, Blacno or Hernandez get will get a spot, so that would leave only one spot open for two of those three in addition to Williamson, Jarrett Parker and Austin Slater. So far, again, in the infant stages of spring training, Williamson has been the second most impactful of the bunch aside from Duggar, as he too has gone 2 for 5 with has a jack along with 3 RBI in his two games.

Perhaps the second most talked about prospect this offseason and one of the ones most teams were requesting in trades aside from top prospect Heliot Ramos was 24 year-old slugger Chris Shaw. However, with him being the teams biggest power prospect, who some consider in over a decade, will be getting a long look this spring too, but the Giants won't even think about stunting his growing potential to play once a week as a backup behind Hunter Pence or Andrew McCutchen. The only real way he makes the team is if something happens to Pence/Cutch, which would open up a spot for him to have more of a regular role which is not the way anyone wants this kid to make his big league debut. 

There have been other positives as well, like Buster Posey shaking off a tweaked ankle and starting off his spring nicely with a few RBI's and a double on Sunday as well as the Giants' biggest offseason acquisition, Andrew McCutchen, getting on the board with an RBI and a run scored in Sunday's game as well. Other newcomers Evan Longoria is still searching for his first hit after a couple of games and Austin Jackson won't play until early March with Boch intending on delaying his start to ensure his legs are well rested and not overworked this spring. 

With the lineup plating 10 runs on Sunday there were plenty of other guys who've had some impact early on with the bat, but as far as the pitching side of things, things too have been so far, so good. The big questions surrounding the starting rotation are the 4-5 spots, expected to be manned by Chris Stratton and Ty Blach. Blach opened up the Cactus League with 2 scoreless frames, and Chris Stratton followed him up in game two with a couple himself along with 3 punch-outs. Ace Madison Bumgarner made his spring debut Sunday, and it was bittersweet as the left did surrender 3 runs (2 earned) in his 1 2/3 innings of work but recorded all of his outs via the strikeout. The lefty reported to camp in what he said is the best shape of his career, and ready for a big workload early on after missing 3 months last year because of the infamous dirt bike accident then returning and not quite pitching up to his capabilities afterwords. 

On the relief end, the Giants haven't yet used any of the guys who are locks to make the roster out of spring, although hard-throwing lefty Steven Okert put himself on the radar with a nice outing in relief of Stratton on Saturday throwing 2 scoreless frames with 3 K's. Then the Giants second highest rated pitching prospect and a guy who's trying to make a case at knocking Ty Blach out of the fifth spot, Andrew Suarez, relieved the projected fifth starter on Friday with 2 scoreless frames and 3 strikeouts of his own.

It's not surprising that the Giants will take it slow with Mark Melancon and Will Smith as both guys had season ending surgery's last year and are just hopeful to be on the opening day roster with a clean bill of health. However, I am a little surprised we've gone three games without at least a Derek Law, Sam Dyson or Cory Gearin sighting as the Giants' still have roles to be determined as far as who will get the ball from the starting pitchers to their closer, Melancon.

It's great though, live baseball is back, albeit just exhibition wise. All that means is that we're within weeks of opening day, and as long as things keep building off thee first few games here, then the excitement for 2018 in San Francisco should continue to grow moving forward. Of course, the word we always heard during spring, but particularly this one for the Giants, health will be the major objective. Whether it's working guys back like Melancon, and Smith, or keeping guys fresh while still getting them reps, like with Jackson, Crawford, the bullpen and Johnny Cueto, Bochy's focus will be to make sure the core group is ready to go on March 29th in LA. The expectations are going to be big for this team once the seasons starts and they have the ability to meet them, but they'll need all hands on deck in order to do so.

Extras: Due to Brandon Crawford and Austin Jackson both being rested until at least March 1st, it won't be for another few days at least until we get an idea of what lineup Bruce Bochy will consider but he has started toying around with some things. On Sunday, Duggar was followed by McCutchen in the 2 slot, Posey in the 3-hole and Longoria hitting cleanup.

One guy who's spent plenty of springs in Scottsdale, made his return after a few years in the Grapefruit league. Pablo Sandoval hit an absolute bomb on Friday and he really could be a "secret weapon" of sorts for Bruce Bochy with the hope takes to his new role as a super utility of sorts (even perhaps catching some innings). I mean this is a guy who's been an all-star, a World Series MVP and has had a lot of success in this league and in this yard. If he's in shape and earns around 400 at-bats then he's going to have himself some numbers at the of the year.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Giants sign much needed reliever in Tony Watson

Within 24 hours of me posting yesterday’s post, asking the Giants to go out and sign another left-handed reliever like Tony Watson, they did precisely that.

According to ESPN and many other sources, the Giants came to terms with the lefty on a deal which the exact terms are a little unclear at the time of writing this. I've heard anywhere from $9M over the next two seasons with incentives and options in there that could make it bigger. I've also heard it could be as low as a 2-year deal in the $7M range. The incredible thing about this deal though is that the Giants were creatively able to get him signed without going over the luxury tax threshold, which I'm still unclear on how they were able to do so. I just heard the news and haven't investigated the money part of it too deeply, but one thing I know for sure is this is a huge move for the club. As I said just 24 hours ago in yesterday's post, relief pitching, particular of the left-handed variety, was perhaps the biggest question mark on the team. Now with Watson in tow, at least now they have two quality lefties they can throw at you in Smith and Watson. It also will allow them to baby Smith back from TJ surgery and not force him into big innings upon his return which is now expected to be early May. That piece of information makes this an even better move for the Giants, and the fact that they were able to get it done without going into the luxury tax violation had to have taken some creative thinking to say the least.

So two thumbs up to Evans and Sabes for getting that done. I still would love to see them round things out with another veteran starting pitcher to throw into the 4th/5th starters battle this spring, however, but that's really the last thing they really need heading in. Our next post will be our 2018 Giants preview, and it's gonna be so nice to be able to type Watson's name into the relief pitching roster and not need to count on both Josh Osich and Stephen Okert out of the gate. Big move for the Giants to say the least as Watson was money down the stretch for LA, has pitched well in the playoffs and should immediately become one of the top 3 or 4 arms in that bullpen. So long as Derek Law and Mark Melancon rebound after treacherous seasons a year ago and, again, Smith gets back into the swing of things early on in the season (hopefully not in mid-June), this bullpen has the arms and the talent to be a strong group. Assuming Smith is healthy for opening day, it looks like your 7 relievers are pretty much set now as follows:

CL Melancon
SU Strickland/Dyson
SU Smith/Watson
RH Strickland/Dyson
LH Smith/Watson
RH Derek Law
RH Corey Gearin

*Either LH P's Josh Osich or Derek Holland are likely candidate to take Smith's spot until he returns, which is expected to be by May 1st.

Again though, the key to this squad will be all about health, because if they're healthy, they're going to be just fine!

The Giants Baseball Blog

Friday, February 16, 2018

After active offseason, Giants report to Scottsdale

They're baaaack! After a strange, slow start to the offseason, The Giants were arguably the most busy team in baseball this winter, making three significant moves that they hope will help turn their fortunes around in 2018 after a dismal '17 season.

 The Giants have been lacking thump in their lineup really every since Pablo Sandoval left and Busey Posey and Hunter Pence (for different reasons) both have seen their power numbers plummet over the last few seasons. This winter, they were able to tune up their offense in a big way, bringing in former all-stars and MVP candidates in Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria, while also finding themselves a capable defensive and productive offensive centerfielder in Austin Jackson. Now all three additions are 30+ years of age so the Giants clear goal is to really go all out for another ring over the next year or two.  And while they were able to fix up their offense while also improving their all-around defense, the one area the team did not add to, in fact they subtracted from, was their pitching staff. Both their starting rotation and bullpen where issues last season and were contributors to the near 100-loss season, maybe not quite as much as the potent-less offense, but certainly an area of concern heading into the offseason.

Fast forward to this week when pitchers and catchers reported to Scottsdale to get the 2018 season's beginning stages underway, and they still have not been able to really find any sure fire upgrades to either the bullpen or the starting rotation. They, in fact, lost a starter who wasn't very good in 2017, but still has the potential to be solid #3 starter when he's on in Matt Moore, but giving up more was essential in clearing cap space for 'Cutch and 'Longo. By giving up their expected fourth starter though, it's created somewhat of a void in their rotation. Granted, based off last years numbers, Ty Blach, the guy expected to take Moore's rotation spot, was a little better than Moore was, but Moore has the ability to be much better than Blach. To me, Blach is best suited at doing what's needed out of the bullpen while bringing the ability to spot start rather than being penned into the rotation with 30+ starts in mind. Chris Stratton's performance down the stretch last season has basically positioned himself into the fourth starters spot, unless he absolutely tanks this spring. It's entirely possible that both Blach and Stratton struggle this spring as both are still pretty unproven at the big league level.

The Giants did bring in Derek Holland for extra support but he's a guy who's coming off the worst season of his career which made Blach look like Clayton Kershaw in comparison. So it's doubtful, unless Holland's down year was due to an injury that's all of the sudden behind him and he's back in 2013 form, that this guy really has any sort of role for the Giants, at least out of the gate. The team is also said to be looking at Tim Lincecum, who impressed onlookers with his recent workout this week. Although 33 years of age now, Timmy has pretty much had the last 2 seasons off, so he should be pretty fresh and his velocity, which sat between 90-93 MPH, was his best posting since 2013 if I'm not mistaken. I think it was 2014 when his velocity dipped below 90 on average though he was still touching 90-91, but if he is indeed back to above 90 MPH with the heater and he's got command of it and still has his secondary pitches, then he would be well worth a roll of the dice in my opinion. He's a guy who could join the battle for the final 2 rotation spots as well as present an option for long/mid-relief for Bochy. Nobody knows Timmy like the Giants do though, so if they see something in him that they believe will yield some results, you can bet that they'll do what they can to bring him back.

The only other name I think that's still out there that could make sense in the battle for a rotation spot is R.A. Dickey. We've talked about him at length already in previous posts so I won't keep beating a dead horse on this topic, but to me, he's the one other free agent out there who may take that minor league deal if the Giants guarantee him a rotation spot, while giving him a shot at a ring. Unless the Dodgers, Nats, Yankees, Red Sox, Indians or Cubs offer him a deal, then the Giants are probably as good a bet as any other squad to reach the postseason with their history and the moves they made this winter. I considered Lackey in the same arena as Dickey, but Lackey I think is too much of a hot-head and may not fit well into this clubhouse.

As for some relievers, there really isn't much left as all teams pitchers and catchers have reported to their teams camps. Kojie Uehara is probably the biggest name still out there but there's no way he's taking a minor league deal although he would be a nice add to the late innings of this bullpen. One name who may be able to come in and help out the pen though on a lesser contract like a minor league deal or a MLB minimum and someone who was linked to the Giants a few days back is left-hander Tony Watson (he actually just signed with the club and more about that below). With Will Smith coming back from Tommy John surgery and likely going to be monitored over the first weeks of the season (assuming he's ready by opening day, which the Giants are hopeful he'll be), and the left-handed options after him very un-inspiring, Watson makes a ton of sense. He's coming off a strong year for the Pirates and Dodgers, actually posting a 2.70 ERA for the Dodgers after coming over in a trade from the Pirates in July. The 33 year-old lefty has regularly posted ERA's in the low 3's throughout his career, never once reaching 4, and sports a 1.08 lifetime WHIP. So you can see why the Giants would be interested in him when you consider their in house options to be Stephen Okert and Josh Osich, both guys who've posted ERA's of 5+ throughout their brief careers in the bigs.

Anyhow, with spring training officially underway, the offseason (despite the majority of the top-100 free-agents still without homes) is officially over. And with the offseason coming to an end, it's only fitting we give the Giants an offseason grade.

They were a team that was banking heavily on trying to get Giancarlo Stanton and believed themselves to be the front-runners in those sweepstakes. However, when he declined the trade to San Francisco, if prompted Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans into action on their backup plans. Considering they basically turned the Stanton spurning into Jackson, Longoria and McCutchen, I'd say they actually came out better than they would have had they just landed Stanton and done nothing else. Not only for the future of the team but for 2018 as well. So I give them a solid A for doing all they could to upgrade their lineup with the resources they had even though I hated the fact they had to give up Christian Arroyo. However, again, they didn't do much of anything to help their pitching staff out as a hole. I don't think it was for lack of effort, I think they just prioritized offense early and got mixed up in the Stanton sweepstakes which took up a lot of their focus as a lot of the relievers found homes early on in the offseaosn. Then after obtaining Cutch and Longo, they didn't have the money to make a play for any significant starting pitcher. Now they are hoping a lot of their guys who under-performed in 2017 (either due to injury or whatever reason) rebound, but even so, they should have made a couple moves to improve their staff.

So, because of the lack of ability to get any pitching reinforcements whatsoever (I know it's easier said then done, the pen has been an issue for 2 seasons now), I rate their overall offseason any higher than a B. Now, if they somehow land Watson and Dickey in the next week or two, then that grade gets bumped up to at least a B+, but we'll have to wait and see. An offseason grade of a B isn't bad though, and if their guys rebound like they're expected to, then this team will be right in the wild card race.

One thing I can tell you though is that I'm extremely excited for opening day and to see this new look lineup in action. McCutchen still has MVP abilities, I think, and Longo's still going to hit 20+ jacks with 80+ RBI and play gold glove third base at the very least (as long as he's out there for 145+ ballgames). Jackson too should be a welcome addition in center, and provide much more range than Span had the last two seasons while also providing a bat with .300 potential, some sneaky pop and the ability to swipe a base from time to time. Those guys are what really have most of this fan base at least somewhat optimistic that this team will flip their fortunes around after a horrendous 2017, but all we can do is speculate until March 29th roles around!
The Giants Baseball Blog

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Giants ink Derek Holland for SP depth

The Giants, in their search for pitching help for the low, aka the bargain basement of the free agent pool, found their first arm they've inked all season long, signing former Ranger's LHP Derek Holland to a minor league deal on Friday. Far from the level of guys I was hoping they'd be able to lure in on a minor league deal or Major League minimum, Holland will come in and join the competition for the two remaining rotation spots that are up for grabs.

 I mean, I get the deal in the sense that the Giants need some pitching depth that has major league experience and Holland will provide that and be there in case Chris Stratton, Ty Blach or Tyler Beede don't pan out this spring. However, that being said, I really was hoping the team would be able to get someone with a little more success in recent seasons. Now, the good part of this deal is that it's a minor league deal and won't preclude them from adding another starter with a better chance at making their rotation as we get closer to the season. With the amount of pitchers still looking for work, they may just get lucky and land someone on a minimum deal they could add incentives to. Holland, though, cannot be counted on for very much as he hasn't put together a full successful big league campaign since 2013. He's also coming off the worst season of his career last summer with the White Sox, in which he posted a 6.20 ERA and 1.71 WHIP over 26 starts. Granted, he may not have been 100% healthy, he's been trending down for a few seasons now and he's 31 years old. Unless the Giants found themselves a Ryan Vogelsong part 2, another player who re-invents their career after multiple down or injury-plagued seasons, then he probably will reside in AAA for most of 2018.

As I mentioned before though, there are still names out there like R.A. Dickey, Jeremy Hellickson, Jaime Garcia and John Lackey, that may have to settle for a much lesser deal than I think all of them were anticipating. Hellickson and Garcia should almost certainly get deals out of the Giants price range, but it's been a weird offseason and if they're still looking for work in March, they may have to take what they can get. SF could provide a place to boost their value for next winter while playing for a team with hopes of contention. As for Lackey and Dickey, they could be appealing because both of those guys are coming off of decent seasons and at their age they've earned plenty and may be seeking a team that will give them a chance to win. Lackey, in my opinion, should be the number one target. He's pitched so well in a hitters yard and division for the Cubs the last few seasons and heading into his age 39 season, Baseball Reference has him projected to throw 165 innings with a 4.09 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and nearly a K per inning. Those are good numbers for anyone, let alone a guy on doorstep of his 40th birthday. Dickey too would be an interesting option and I'm sure he wants a shot at a ring before he hangs em up. He's 43 years old, but his knuckle ball and pitching style allow him to stay successful as he hasn't posted an ERA above 4.46 since '09. If you put either Lackey or Dickey on this team last year, they'd have been the teams second best, most consistent starter after Samardzija.

Those are the two I'm looking at mostly because their age won't require any long-term, high salaried contract, and they showed last season they still have some strong innings left in those right arms. I know the Giants seem to be prioritizing more bullpen help at this point, but as I've said in recent posts after they seemed to have shored up their lineup, they cannot neglect their rotation. Yes, their front-3, barring a return to health by Cueto and Bum, are as strong as most in the league, but after that it's really a crap shoot. Stratten looked the part last September but those were in low pressure starts on a team that lost nearly 100 games.

I know the pen can't be overlooked either, and that's the area that has repeatedly unable to get fixed via outside help so they're once again going to bank on their own guys magically turning it around and providing better performances than they have the last 3 seasons. Granted, with a healthy Melancon and hopefully Smith, it will give them two weapons they never really had a season ago.. They have their closer and a couple of set-up options in Dyson and Strickland as well as the return Will Smith, who will be their top left-handed set-up option at the end of the bullpen. Their mid-relief has shown glimpses of being very good (first half of 2016 and the second half of 2017) but have been largely inconsistent over the last two seasons which needs to improve. Derek Law really needs to rebound and they need another guy to step up and be that second lefty (fingers crossed that Smith is healthy enough to be the primary late-inning lefty out of the gate as hoped). I'd love it to be Blach but it looks like he'll be forced into the rotation no matter what he does this spring, unless. on the very off chance. Derek Holland has a lights out March and thoroughly outperforms Blach.

Although the Giants got the as close to the power/defenisve upgrades added to this lineup as they could without going over the luxury tax, they still have some things to figure out within their pitching staff and whether or not they'll be adding more names to the mix in the coming days before they report to Scottsdale for their first P and C workout on the 14th. They also, apparently, are still open to adding some more outfield depth if they can find the right situation. Again though, due to them being less than $2M from the CBT, they really don't have much money to throw around and any move they make will likely have to be a minor league deal or they may have one major league minimum offer that they'd be able to make.

In summation, the Holland deal doesn't make me feel one way or another. I guess I'd lean toward supporting it just because its not costing them major league money while providing depth at Sac if nothing else but I just don't see this guy coming in and making the Giants rotation, otherwise they may be in worse shape there than even I was worried about.... Still time to lure in another arm or two. Bring me Lackey or if not him then bring Liriano, or if he passes his physical, Chris Tillman could be a huge steal if they could get him on the cheap. Scott Feldman is another guy in that class, who at the minimum could make a lot of sense. He is 35 years old, but didn't pitch too bad at all for the abysmal Reds last summer, as he made 21 starts and rocked a 4.77 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. The 3 years prior to last, Feldman posted ERA's below 4 in each season and is equally well versed at starting and relieving so although he's a little older, he could have some major value to a team looking for pitching depth in both the bullpen and rotation.

Granted, Feldy and Liriano's '17 numbers weren't much better than Ty Blach's in most areas, one area they clearly dominated him in was the strikeout column. Also, something just seemed to happen to Blach down the stretch that really made me lose confidence in him as the league seemed to figure him out in a big way. I know strikeouts aren't his bread and butter but when a ML starter K's less than half a batter per inning, it tells you that their stuff isn't the type of stuff that will miss bats regularly. So unless you've got uncanny command and can place the ball where you want when you want (something Blach did not do last season), then your asking for trouble.

Giants Fan Fest 2018: I'm sure that if your a big enough Giants fan then you're well aware that the annual pre-spring Fan Fest is taking place this Saturday afternoon (2/10) at AT&T Park, and it should be quite a different fan fast than in years past. The Giants have some new players they've  added to their core and it will be all three, Andrew McCutchen, Evan Longoria and Austin Jackson making their first appearance as Giants reps and I';m looking forward as to what these guys will be saying and the optimism surrounding the team. I read that the team is "Euphoric" about the upcoming season and cannot wait to get things kicked off this weekend at Fan Fest before catching their flight out to Arizona to get his comeback attempt officially underway. Usually it's the younger squads that are overly amplified for their upcoming season and not veteran teams coming off a 100'ish loss season so when you got a bunch of vets who, half the squad about has already won a ring this excited and Euphoric about the upcoming campaign it's always a very good sign. I don't remember anything close to this kind of optimism heading into last spring. They also know that if they play well enough to be in the hunt come mid-season and are missing a piece or two then management is essentially showing that they'll do anything possible inside their budget to get this team the players they need. 

Extras: So with the Giants' heavy lifting done for the offseason and Spring Training officially kicking off in 5 days, out next post will be our 2018 San Francisco Giants Preview. In that post, we'll break down the projected 25-man roster as we see it at the time of posting it. Of course plenty can happen over the long month of spring training baseball, and things could change but as we enter spring, we wanted to give you an idea in terms of the Giants full roster, projected lineup/rotation/bench/bullpen as well as some names to keep an eye on during spring training who could have outside chances at making the big leagues out the gate. Those are always one of my funner posts as I get to lay out the Giants 40-man roster and sort of asses it heading into the season. Granted I won't be writing about all 40 guys on the roster, I will project the 25 man as well as 3-5 guys who are right on the bubble and should be watched closely this spring and during the early season.

Of course eventually we'll break off  and start our division-by-division previews, which is another one of my favorite posting topics as we get to become familiar with the National League in its entirety and get an idea of how the Giants match up with the rest of the league. During those stretch of posts we'll, of course, stay tapped in with the Giants happenings and news as well so don't worry, we'll still be covering the team like we regularly would. Time permitting we'll try and do something similar for the American League but depending on what's happening in Giants camp, I may or may not be able to get a full American League division-by-division preview but I will give my thoughts on each division regardless.

It's unlikely the Giants did enough to overtake the West from LA, but they'll likely be in the battle for the wild card spots with the likes of Arizona, Colorado, St. Louis and Milwaukee. If they're healthy, the Mets could be as dangerous as any of those teams with all those power arms and a potentially much improved lineup from top to bottom with the additions of Adrian Gonzalez, the return of Jay Bruce and the bargain 2 yr. deal they signed Todd Frazier to (that's $8M/year to possibly come in and hit 30 jacks and drive in 90 for them over 2 years). Also with Cespedes still in is prime and 2017 breakout performer, before his injury, Michael Conforto, not only will the Mets be able to pitch with anyone in the league, they should be able to score some runs as well! But I'm getting too in depth on that and there will be a time for more team previews in the coming weeks so stay tuned!
The Giants Baseball Blog

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Few questions remain, but offseason has sprung optimism

We're just a couple weeks away from spring training kicking off, and with the Giants fanfest coming up next weekend, things are really starting to heat up and the expectations for this team will be as high as ever. Fans are excited about the makeover the team went through over the winter, and to see the new faces making up 3/8 of the teams starting lineup (including potential all-stars Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria in particular).

While the team wasn't quite able to fill every single one of their needs (or at least haven't yet), they still made three huge additions that have most fans, including myself; optimistic that this team should be right back in the playoff mix in 2018. That said, they'll still need a lot of things to go right, even with their three big adds, in order to overtake the Rockies, D-Backs and/or Dodgers in attempt to birth another postseason appearance. Just getting into the tournament is so important to them because they don't always have the best regular season record, but something about this core, and their leader Bruce Bochy just clicks in October. Look no further as their 3 tittles in 4 postseason appearances since 2010 as evidence!

But I digress back to the areas they weren't quite able to shore up, or at least haven't been able to do so yet. When you consider them on the doorstep of the CBT which they don't want to go over though, it's really left them with limited options in terms of trying to add depth to their pitching staff. Ideally, they could use a serviceable veteran starter who could take the 5th starter spot and allow Blach to slide back into a role I think he's most comfortable in and that's doing a little bit of everything out of the pen, from coming in to pitch 3-4 innings in mop-up duty, coming in to get a tough situational lefty out and also filling in as a spot starter as needed throughout the year. I just don't like him starting every fifth day because I don't think he has to stuff to really fool lineups on a regular basis more than maybe one-time around. However, due to their financial standing, the only way the Giants would be able to bring in another veteran arm to add to the mix would most likely be via a minor league deal (much like the one they inked with Gregor Blanco a few days ago), and I just don't know what pitchers would be willing to take that.

If I'm Bobby Evans/Brian Sabean and Co., I'd be convincing guys like R.A. Dickey, Hector Santiago, Francisco Liriano and John Lackey to come aboard a potential contender at a discounted price with possible incentives. Any of those would all be welcome additions in my mind but the savvy vet Lackey probably has another decent season and I'd rate him atop the third-tiere starting pitchers. Francisco Liriano still has that nasty stuff that can win him 12-15 games while he strikes out a batter an inning but showed last season that he's just as likely to go wild and have a down season (5.66 ERA, 1.64 WHIP in just under 100 IP) but he obviously wasn't 100%. Only question with him is whether or not he can stay in the zone consistently. I'm just still not super keen on the idea of rolling into 2018 with two relatively big question marks filling out 2/5 of the rotation on a team that just made drastic attempts to their everyday bunch in order to get back to contending. I'd hate to see them treat the rotation/bullpen this year like they treated the outfield last year and just hoped and prayed that someone would step up and take left field, which obviously never happened.

So, Liriano and Lackey would be my two top choices because they've been the most consistent in previous years and Lackey knows how to win and has a tittle under his belt. Sure, he's about 47 years-old (I'm exaggerating of course, but only slightly).  I'd have Santiago right there too but he has major health concerns that cost him half his 2017 season and has left his future a little uncertain. Dickey is probably going to command too much money but if they could get him on the minimum then he and Lackey would be 1A and 1B options. Jaime Garcia and Jeremy Hellickson aren't as intriguing to me but if we're talking getting rotation depth for the low,  then I'd welcome either of those two as well.

With time running out in the offseason though, one of more of these options will likely be forced to take a minor league deal if they want a guaranteed job for this upcoming summer in this bizarre, slow moving offseason.

I personally feel a little more confident in the pen as is than mos do, as many Giants beat writers would prefer them to beef up their pen with any remaining free agent dollars, but I think those guys should be much better already. I mean, if Mark Melancon is pre-'17 Melancon, Dyson pitches like he did with the Giants in the second half, Derrick Law rebounds, Will Smith is fully recovered and back to his usual self and Hunter Strickland get's his head in the right place and comes with more consistency then this pen could be a very good one as they currently stand. Of course, there's basically a question mark surrounding every one of their guys down there, the upside is definitely there as well and cannot be overlooked. I mean, would a Drew Storen, Fernando Abad, Trevor Cahill or Zach Duke really provide that much upgrade to what they currently have? I don't really think so, at least not as much as Dickey or Lackey would provide to the back of the rotation.

One name that's still laying way down at the bottom of the free agent list and apparently garnering little to no interest publicly is former Giant Sergio Romo, who I would take back in a heartbeat on a minor league deal. Romo was terrible after signing with LA last winter, but was  then was dealt Tampa where he was lights out for the Rays. The 34 year-old posted a 1.47 ERA, 28 k's to 7 bb's over 30 innings while posting a ridiculous .88 Whip, showing he still has plenty left in the tank. Chances are he finds a big league job but he could see the revamped Giants and want to join and be a part of another run, even if it's in the minors to begin the year.

I really don't see the Giants completing any other moves before they get their guys in camp and start to assess what they have and areas they may need to improve on before the season, if possible. There should still be at least a few options out there on the market at that point so they should be in no rush to do anything. Eventually some of these guys are going to have to settle for minor league deals or Major League minimums and the Giants need to be ready when they do.

Blanco Returns to Giants' 4th/5th OF situation: I mentioned it briefly at in the post, but in case you hadn't heard, one the Giants' fan favorites from a couple of their world series teams rejoined the team a couple days ago, as Gregor Blacno agreeing to a minor league deal. He'll of course come to spring to compete with Gorkys Hernandez, Jarrett Parket, Austin Slater, Mac Williamson and Steven Duggar for the expected two outfield bench spots and should have just about as good a shot as any to make the club. And if he doesn't, he'll be a nice option to keep in Sacramento as I'm sure we'll be seeing him a bunch this year even is he doesn't make the squad outta spring (he's always been a Bochy favorite). This guy did play key roles in two of the Giants championships after all and aside from maybe Hernandez, he's the best defensive outfielder to be joining the team in Scottsdale in 2 weeks.

Of course the spring performances by the potential backup outfielders will determine who makes the opening day club, at this moment If I had to put money on two guys they'd be Gorkys and Jarrett Parker. Gorkys because I think Boch likes him and his ability to play center as well as pinch run and he hit over .280 in the second half last. As for Parker, the thing that puts him ahead of Blacno heading in is that he's out of options and unless the Giants figured out a trade scenario for him, I just don't see them letting him hit waivers because somebody will pick him up and this guy has Adam Duvall part 2 written all over him if that did happen. He's got the power that will translate in almost any ballpark if given regular time and he's around the same age as Duvall was when he was let go by the Giants and picked up by the Reds only to go on and have an All-Star season his first full year in Cinci. Therefore, Parker and Hernandez really do make the most sense but Parker needs to be productive in spring. Heck, with Hunter Pence missing the majority of he last 2 seasons, Parker could be in line for big playing time in order to keep Pence's hamstrings as fresh as possible.  ''

Ahh, spring training is approaching quick guys, and I'm extremely stoked. Probably the most excited and intrigued I've been about a Giants squad since the 2012 team with their all-world starting rotation, solid young core that added Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan then traded for Pence and Scutaro in-season to put them over the hump. It's still premature to call what they may need at the deadline this time around but I think the team should be good enough to be right in the thick of things come July and if they need that starter or reliever, or Austin Jackson isn't cutting it as the leadoff man, then maybe they make a couple of deals to put them over the top at that point. I don't think they went through this big offseaosn over-haul only to come up a tad short so if they're within striking distance or just feel like they need a shot in the arm come mid-season, this team has the fortitude to make the necessary move to  help increase their odds.

March 29th cannot arrive quick enough!
The Giants Baseball Blog