Tag: Giants

Luis Valbuena for Andrew Susac?

There are rumors floating around that one good way for the Giants to fill the hole at third left by the departure of Pablo Sandoval would be to trade catcher Andrew Susac to the Cubs for their third-sacker, Luis Valbuena. That’s a trade I could definitely see happening.

Susac is destined to play behind Buster Posey forever in SF and he’s too good a player to leave him stranded there. As a right-handed power hitter, Susac would appeal more to the Cubs’ front office than most other teams that might be tempted to take a look at him as trade bait. And Valbuena is a very attractive candidate to the Giants because he:

  • has an above-average glove
  • is really inexpensive (set to earn $3.1 million via arbitration in 2015 and has a fourth arb year in 2016)
  • has great plate discipline and puts the ball in play (OBP of .341, OPS of .776)
  • shows decent power (.249/16/51)

There have not been any reports of actual trade talks going on between the two clubs but this is a trade that sounds like it could be advantageous for both teams.

 

Maybe Jon Lester Will Cross the Bay to Join Giants’ Rotation

It would seem that the Giants’ management has decided their most pressing current need for roster completion is finding a left-handed starter. And Jon Lester, who helped the Oakland A’s down the stretch in 2014 and has solid numbers, is a prime candidate to fill that need.

Jon Lester - Lefty ace SF-bound?

Jon Lester – Lefty ace SF-bound?

Lester, 31, and the Giants are set to meet soon to discuss contract possibilities according to ESPN.com. If they add him to the roster, the starting rotation probably looks like this: Bumgarner, Lester, Lincecum and Hudson. That gives the G-Men two lefties and two right-handed starters, which would be a help to a rotation and pen that were heavily righty in 2014.

Interest in Lester is pretty high. The Red Sox, who traded him to Oakland mid-season last year, are hopeful they can lure him back and the Cubs are also reportedly greatly interested. According to NBC Sports, the Cubs have offered him a six-year deal at something north of $135 million. But of course the Cubs have a hard time recruiting top talent with their long history of missing the playoffs. Having shed Sandoval’s paycheck, the Giants could be in a position to give Lester a fairly lucrative deal and he’d be an ace with a perennial contender, so career-wise it would be a smart move. The question may come down to his motivation: money or prestige.

 

Who’s on Third for 2015?

With yesterday’s signing by the Red Sox of the Giants’ staple at third for the past few years, Pablo “Panda” Sandoval, a big hole opens up at the corner and, perhaps more importantly, in the lineup. Frankly, the options for filling his spot are pretty thin.

Despite the fact that there are 10 or so third basemen in the free agent pool, only two of them seem worth any serious attention by the Giants. And in their farm system’s top prospects, they have only one third sacker and he needs a bit more seasoning before he’s ready to step up. I suspect the G-Men will go with an existing player — Joaquin Arias — at third to start the 2015 season.

Arias isn’t a great choice but he does show some promise. He’s hitting .269 over seven seasons with the Rangers and the Giants. Last season he hit only .254 while striking out 23 times in 193 at bats. Defensively, he’s not brilliant but he is day-to-day solid, carrying a .980+ record at third.

Last season, he made appearances at all four infield positions and spent almost half his time somewhere other than third. But he’s a natural at that position and if given the chance to play there every day, he could develop into an above-average defensive player.

In the Giants’ farm system, only one third-baseman shows up among the top 20 prospects (14 of whom are pitchers) and that’s Ryder Jones. He has only two years of minor league experience and hasn’t played above Class A, so he’s far from ready. And he’s got to learn to hit; his stats so far are yawners.

Which leaves the free agent market where there are two decent prospects available if the Giants want to give Arias more seasoning time or just don’t have any confidence in him.

Casey McGehee of Miami may be a great acquisition for the long haul. He’s got a decent stick (.287 in 2014, .264 career, with 4HR and 76 RBI last season) and fields his position well. He’s coming off a season in which he earned only $1.1 million so he should be pretty affordable. At 32, he’s no spring chicken but he probably has a few good years left in him. He was the 2014 MLB Comeback Player of the Year, so he has drive and desire. He could be a real steal.

The other candidate is a more obvious choice: the Yankees’ Chase Headley. He’s been a day-to-day front-line player after starting the year at Class A and being traded mid-season by the Padres.

Joel Sherman of the New York Post recently wrote of Headley:

Sandoval’s deal means Headley gets at least three years, and no one should be surprised if he reaches four years in the $60 million range. Keep in mind: There are perhaps 15 to 18 decent third basemen to go around for 30 teams. Yes, Headley has fallen from his near-MVP 2012 to a combined .725 OPS for the last two seasons. But Sandoval had just a .748 in the same period. Headley is a good defender and switch-hitter, just like Sandoval. Both played mainly in oversized NL West parks. In his brief time with the Yankees – in a more favorable stadium and a better lineup than with the Padres – Headley had a .768 OPS, better than each of Sandoval’s last two seas

The problem the Giants will face in trying to sign Headley is that he probably is going to attract something in that $60 million range over four years, which would effectively marginalize Arias. Then there’s the problem that Headley’s output is down recently and toss in a questionable back problem and it would be hard to justify that money. However, and this is a big one, as Sherman accurately points out, third basemen are a rare commodity.

Arias is signed for one more year at just over $1.3 million. I think the smart move for the Giants is to sign McGehee for something similar, let the two fight it out, and keep an eye on the trade board as the season progresses if they find themselves in the thick of things. They can then use some of the remaining room on the salary scene to land a great left-handed reliever without breaking the bank.

I like Headley but I think he’s too risky at the price point he can command. If they had no other options, I’d swallow hard and suggest the Giants sign him. But with two other good alternatives for far less money, I’m going to go with the conservative approach here. We’re stocking up for 2016 anyway, right?

 

Adios, Pablo

Pablo Sandoval is a Boston Red Sock. Or Sox. Or whatever the singular is.

Word came this morning that the ex-Giant third baseman has reached an agreement with the Bosox on a 5-year, $100 million deal.

Good for him.

And good for the Giants. They can now get on with the business of building a 2015 team that will carry them into their next World Series appearance. In 2016.

Ex-Giant Pablo Sandoval Signs With Bosox

Ex-Giant Pablo Sandoval Signs With Bosox

As I recently said, Sandoval’s departure makes the near-term future for the G-Men more exciting and filled with more possibilities than if they’d been saddled with his outsized salary (and I’m not going to make a cheap joke here about his outsized body).

One of the things that makes the Giants a successful team is that it is a team of multiple excellent players with no superstar. Pablo was on the verge of claiming superstar status. To do that, he needed a bigger-market team where he could get the national media attention he craves. His brother and co-agent recently said that Pablo was primarily interested in “respect” in his next contract and a lot of analysts said they thought that just meant “lots of money.” But it seems clear now that he also had in mind media respect, a commodity that’s in short supply for West Coast stars who play half their games after New York is asleep. Or partying.

I wish him well but I don’t see Sandoval having the tools it will take to play big on the huge Boston stage in the shadow of New York. If he starts 2015 with the same kind of horrendous slump with which he launched the 2014 season in SF, he’ll find the Boston fans are far less forgiving and welcoming than those in the SF Bay Area. Faced with booing, catcalls, media criticism and calls to bench his butt, it will be interesting to see now he reacts. My guess? It’s not going to be pretty.

In my next piece, I’ll take a new look at third base in the post-Pablo era and check in with how his disappearance might affect other places on the roster.

Isn’t this fun?

 

Who Might Fill Giants’ Holes in Off-Season?

This is my second Hot Stove League post of the post-2014 season. Like my first one, it focuses on my team, the San Francisco Giants.

When I ended that post, I summarized the situation as follows:

Assume for the moment that the Giants re-sign Panda, replace Romo with Strickland, and lose Peavy. That means we’re still looking for a left fielder and a starting pitcher and probably a southpaw in the pen.

If they don’t re-sign Panda, replace Romo with Strickland, and keep Peavy, they still need a left fielder and a left-hander in the bullpen plus a third baseman.

So let’s look first at left field, then at left-handed relief, both of which will be needed regardless of whether the G-Men keep or lose Sandoval.

Left Field

Probably the top two free agent prospects for the Giants are Alex Rios of Texas and Baltimore’s Nick Markakis. But you’d also have to include Emllio Bonifacio and Naori Aioki on any short list. Free agency is full of decent-to-potentially-great outfielders this season. The question is going to be what the Giants can afford under the cap.

Alex Rios, Texas free agent outfielder

Alex Rios, Texas free agent outfielder

Rios was a relative standout for the Texas Rangers in 2014 until he bruised his thumb. But the club bought out his option and let him try free agency with a .280 average, which is just about exactly his career number. He was due to be paid $14 million, so the decision wasn’t unexpected, particularly for a club with an embarrassment of outfield riches, though much of it is untried.

Rios’ biggest downside is his age (34) but he was one of the fleetest baserunners in the AL in 2013 and it’s hard to see how a bum thumb can slow that down. On the other hand, the Giants seem to have an allergy to stealing, so maybe that’s not a consideration.

My guess is he’ll get a 2-3 year deal in the $8-10 million range, based principally on longevity concerns. At that price, he might be a good interim pickup.

Markakis is a little more interesting. He has just about the same amount of MLB experience as Rios (eight years) and his BA is almost identical. But he’s three years younger plus he’s a two-time Gold Glover.

The problem us that Markakis is going to be slightly more expensive than Rios. He probably commands something in the $45-50 million range over four seasons.

Bonifacio has a bit of a weak stick (career average .262, 2014 average .259), he’s 30 years old and he’s bounced around a bit. On the other hand, he earned under $1 million in 2014 and if Giants Manager Bruce Bochy sees him as a good chemical fit for the team, a friendly clubhouse and supportive coaching could bring this guy out of the shadows. If he can be had for under $2 million on a short-term deal, he may be worth the risk.

Aoki is a steady .287 career hitter with a reputation for putting the ball in play. He’s not a power hitter but he has great range and a decent arm. He was a defensive key to the Royals’ 2014 World Series run. Reports are that he’s interested in a three-year deal, which makes sense for a 32-year-old. He made $2 million in 2014 and is looking for $8 million per year in his next deal. That’s probably not outrageous but may be a bit steep for the Giants.

I like Gary Brown, a Giants farm system product, as well as any of these guys, frankly. He’s a bit of a light hitter (he hit .265 at Fresno last season) but he’s pretty solid defensively and the age of 26 has a long future. He’s a hot enough prospect that when the Giants were negotiating for Hunter Pence two years ago, the Phillies were keen to make him part of the package. For 2015, he wouldn’t be as much immediate help as either Rios or Markakis, but since the Giants will probably flounder a bit next season anyway before taking it all again in 2016, giving the youngster a year of seasoning might make some sense.

Left-Handed Reliever

Free agent pickings for southpaw bullpen guys are really slim. Particularly in the Giants’ price range. I’ve scoured the wire and the only possible candidate I can come up with is Andrew Miller. But before I could even get this column online, he had multiple three-year offers that would reportedly make him the highest-paid reliever in the game who is not a closer and doesn’t have closer experience. (That’s not too big a deal; that number currently stands at $6 million.) The Giants would be crazy to spend over $7 million on the guy and with 22 teams expressing interest, the bidding is likely to get silly before anyone acquires him.

Which leaves the farm system which, fortunately, has two good prospects at a minimum. Unfortuantely, one of those just shot himself in the foot with a PED (performance-enhancing drugs) suspension of 50 games.

Adalberto Mejia is the guy with the drug issue. The 21-year-old spent last season in AA ball where he compiled a career-high and disappointing 4.67 ERA. He features a low-90’s fastball and a quality circle change but he can also throw a devastating slider that’s his go-to strikeout pitch. He has excellent control (though apparently not self control) and is viewed as a top-5 Giants prospect. He probably did himself in for 2015 with his suspension, though.

Michael Kickham, Giants left-handed relief prospect

Michael Kickham, Giants left-handed relief prospect

The other minor league prospect for the Giants in the left-handed reliever category is Michael Kickham. At 25, his control needs work (he gave up 75 walks in 150 innings of work last year) but he has great quality stuff and he doesn’t have to be in the strike zone to get guys out. In 2014, he looked like this: 3.05 ERA, 1.29 WHIP with 137 strikeouts across those 150 innings. At one point last season in Fresno, he put up 4 consecutive quality starts in which he struck out 25 and walked only six, so he’s definitely capable. While he might benefit from another year in the minors, he could benefit greatly from some Righetti coaching and some Bochy nurturing.

Conclusions

It might not be the best they could do in a different scenario, but given the relative paucity of relievers this year and the overall team picture, I think the Giants should give Rios a shot if they can get him for two years at under $20 mill and start with the idea of promoting Kickham to the Big Show bullpen for a quick look-see.

Giants in World Series Again But So Are the Once-Hapless Royals

An incredibly busy week has kept me from posting anything this week. That’s the first time that’s happened in a long time. Did you miss me? Didn’t think so.

I’ve been spending most of what little unscheduled time I was able to muster this week watching my San Francisco Giants crush the St. Louis Cardinals, thus earning their third trip to the World Series in five years. Well, okay, “crush” is a bit strong. Over the course of the five games, the Giants outscored the Redbirds 24-16, which is an average of 4.8 to 3.2 for an average winning margin of less than 2 runs per game. So “crush”? Maybe not. But out-played? For sure. And, I think, out-toughed is another appropriate description. Last night’s Game 5 was a perfect microcapsule. When the Giants had tied the game, the Cards came to bat in the top of the ninth and had runners on 1st and 2nd with one out, and runners at 2nd and 3rd with two out and failed to score. In the bottom of the inning, the Giants got to runners at 1st and 2nd with one out before Travis Ishikawa hit his magical homer. Just guts.

nlcs_celebrationCardinal third-baseman Matt Carpenter said after the game, “It wasn’t meant to be. Look at the way this game unfolded. We were inches away from taking the lead (again). That’s the way the series has been going. It wasn’t meant to be for us.” And that resignation to fate — the Giants were also inches away from taking the lead again…and they did…– may be as good an explanation as we need of why the Giants are headed to Kansas City and the Cards are headed elsewhere in Missouri.

The Giants out-hit the Cards .253 to .233 and reached base more often (.330 to .298) although the Cards led in Slugging Percentage (.423 to .355) and the highly touted On-Base Plus Slugging Percentage (OPS) by .721 to .685.

On the mound, San Francisco’s team ERA was a respectable 3.20 vs the Cards’ fairly dismal 4.57. Strikeout-to-walk ratios were pretty close (SF 32/13 and StL 27/19) and not very impressive. (Stats courtesy of BaseballReference.com.)

But at the end of the day, the Giants won 80% of the games played. Nuff said.

Interesting Tidbits

In my post-game reading, I stumbled across a couple of interesting items I haven’t seen mentioned in many places.

  • Michael Morse

    Michael Morse

    Barry Bonds was on hand for the playoffs and is still finding ways to help the Giants. Michael Morse gave Bonds partial credit for his game-tying homer in the bottom of the eight. Morse told SF Gate, “Barry came up to me and told me, ‘Get your foot down. You can’t hit if your foot’s in the air. I really thought about it. I went to the cage trying to get my foot down early.” When his pinch-hit opportunity arrived, he was ready. Foot down. Ball over left field wall. Tie game.

  • As far as I can tell, MLB.com was the first news outlet to use the word dynasty to describe the G-Men, who are appearing in their third world series in five years. (Every even-numbered year as if to help take our minds off the numbing run of election news). The article by Anthony DiComo attributed the Giant’s run of success to the ability of the team to keep a core of solid players together when other teams are juggling players and roster spots like an out-of-control clown. At least that was reliefer Jeremy Affeldt’s opinion, which DiComo cited with approval in his piece. Dynasty. I sort of like the ring of that.
  • Cardinals fans and media are second-guessing Manager Mike Matheny’s decision to give the ball to Michael Wacha for that fateful final inning. Wacha hadn’t thrown a pitch in more than a month after an injury but had been asking and asking and asking to get into the post-
    Travis Ishakawa

    Travis Ishakawa

    season. When he did, he looked pretty terrible. He gave up a leadoff single to Pablo “Panda” Sandoval, got Hunter Pence on a routine fly, then walked Brandon Belt. After Belt gave way to pinch-runner Joaquin Arias, Wacha missed the first two pitches to Ishakawa before serving up the inevitable 2-0 fastball. Ishakawa parked it on the arcade high over the right field wall and it was over. Well, it was almost over. Giants pitcher Jake Peavy thought the ball had stayed in the yard, meaning Ishakawa had a walk-off double to score the winning run. So he went out and met the Giants’ outfielder between second and third and almost tackled him. “Move!” Ishakawa said to his stunned teammate, “I hit it out!” LOL

  •  No sooner was the champagne dry in the SF clubhouse than the national “Hate the Royals” bandwagon began to pick up steam. Beats me why. They’re making their first appearance in the World Series in 29 years and only their second in franchise history. It’s not like they’re the Yankees or the Red Sox or the Dodgers — teams everyone loves to hate because they’re “national” and obnoxious. They’ve not been a very good team historically. My money is on the Giants to make them look like the relatively weak team they were most of the season. But, hate? Seems a bit strong. This piece on Medium.com sort of summarized the roiling national feeling; I expect to see a lot more of this. I prefer to be pro-something than anti-anything so I’m just going to settle for a quiet, mild-mannered..

go_giants

Despite Dropsies, Giants Win a Doozy of an Opener

The San Francisco Giants played keep=away with the baseball Monday night in winning their season opener against the Arizona Diamondbacks, 9-8.

The game featured 28 hits, 17 runs, 10 pitchers and way more than the three errors the homer official scorekeeper saw fit to hand out. On at least three occasions, the scorer gave D-backs hits when the Giants should clearly have been charged with an error. And that doesn’t take into account the mental mistakes the Orange-and-Black committed time after time. A nicely slimmed-down Pablo “Panda” Sandoval booted two plays at third that were just awful. On one, he overthrew first-baseman Belt’s head by about 10 feet. On the other, he booted a chopper that he had in his glove, allowing the runner to end up safely at first. On the latter, the locals scorekeeper blew it and gave the hitter a hit rather than charging Panda with a clear miscue.

Perhaps I don’t need to say more than that the Giants had Arizona superstar Paul Goldschmidt in a clear rundown between first and second and let him off the hook when first baseman Brandon Belt made the dumbest in-your-face (literally) toss to shortstop Brandon Crawford as Goldschmidt slid unbelievingly — and safely — into second. One of the dumbest plays I’ve ever seen in major league baseball play and I was around to watch the 1962 Mets!

Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner

Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner

Giants Reliever Jean Machi

Giants Reliever Jean Machi

The SF bullpen was weak, particularly third-year man Yusmeiro Petit, who yielded six hits and three earned runs in two innings of work and looked…well…pathetic. I thought manager Bruce Bochy left starter Madison Bumgarner in too long by at least an inning. (MadBum used up more than 50 pitches through the first three innings as he just didn’t have it.) Winner Jean Machi looked fairly sharp but closer Sergio Romo was not up to snuff as he nearly blew the two-run lead the Giants took into the 9th.

As is so often the case when the Giants win, Buster Posey was the difference as he crushed a two-run homer in the ninth that gave the Giants a 9-7 lead. Belt was the only Giant with more than two hits (3).

Strangely, although Monday was officially Opening Day in Major League Baseball, the Diamondbacks came into the game 0-2, having dropped two weirdly scheduled opening games to the Dodgers in Australia more than a week ago. That was one of the dumbest scheduling decisions I’d ever seen and I’d frankly forgotten about it. I kept wondering why the D-backs hitters’ stats were showing “this season” tags when this was Opening Day. I need to get out more.

The G-Men are in Chase Field for the next three days before skipping through LA on their way to their home opener next week. Last year when the Giants opened with four in Arizona, they got swept. At least that won’t happen. But if their D doesn’t get a lot sharper, this could be a long, long season.

 

Breaking Down Tim Lincecum’s 1st Start

 

Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum

Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum, he of the short hair!

San Francisco Giants: Breaking Down What Tim Lincecum’s 1st Start Means | Bleacher Report.

Gotta say I agree with the B/R guys. The final score made Timmy’s start look way better than it was. Yeah, I know, anything in the “W” column is better than a loss. Still, Lincecum’s first start was such a disappointment. It looked like he picked up right where he left off in 2012: spotty and inefficient. Just over 50% of his pitches found the zone.

More to the point for me, he didn’t even look commanding. Or, for that matter, confident.

Granted it’s the first start of the year. Granted he doesn’t like Dodger Stadium. Still, if we’re going to count on him for upwards of 15 wins this season (which I think we have to get if we’re going to be in the chase), he’s got to step it up. If it hadn’t been for his dismal second half last season, I’d be yawning at this start but given the way he went out, he needed to come in at a higher level. The fact that he didn’t scares me.

 

Sad Tale of Melky Cabrera

The San Francisco Giants, holding to a tenuous lead in the NL West, were dealt a possible death blow by their superstar yesterday. Melky Cabrera, the top offensive performer for the Giants by far and one of the powerhouses of the National League, idiotically flushed his season — and maybe his career — down the toilet along with a bunch of testosterone needles.

As Keith Olbermann used to say, "That man is an idiot!"

Without Cabrera, my guess is the Giants fall to second or third place in the West and stay there. What a greedy, selfish man Cabrera clearly is. I'm sure he had a raft of rationalizations for his clearly illegal behavior but at the end of the day he destroys his teammates and his fans in the name of a tiny bit of additional power and strength that he probably didn't even need.

It's a sad day for the Orange and Black.