Winter (Meetings) Are Coming…

The Winter Meeting promise to be a busy time where we will really be able to gauge what our new Giants’ overlord Farhan is up to. For now, though, today’s post will be an interaction with Andrew Baggarly tweets.

1.

Not much to add to here, but this sort of sets up the rest of the post so here we go…

2.

One of the hot rumors, or at least as close to hot as we’ve gotten so far, was that the Giants would non-tender Joe Panik and dip into what is a fairly deep free agent pool at the second base position. However, they kept sweet Joe in the fold, signing him to a one-year, $3.8 million contract.

I love Joe Panik, but he has not materialized as an everyday player the way it once appeared back in 2014-2015 when he burst on the scene and helped the Giants win a World Series. He followed that up with an All-Star appearance and a Gold Glove, but has had a hard time staying on the field.

In particular, it seems like he hasn’t been the same since getting hit in the head back in 2016, which totally makes sense but is incredibly sad.

Baggs suggest that keeping Panik may set up a future trade. Once all the FAs are off the board, someone with a need may come calling. I wonder, though, if the Giants will try to find a platoon parter (hello Jonathan Schoop) and limit Panik’s usage, or even try him out at some other positions and use him as a super utility player.

3.

The other big non-tender news comes here. First, Gorkys damn near led the team in home runs last year, which says way more about the Giants than about Gorkys. You can seemingly pick 15-homer-a-year outfielders off of trees these days, so he is the definition of expendable.

Second, the big story is moving on (finally) from Hunter Strickland. On the surface this is an odd move: he was a decent closer in the first half of 2018, and one of the few Giants’ pitchers with good velocity.

BUT, he was a hot head, caused all sorts of chaos, and never turned that velocity into the type of dominance that deserved investment. He was the ultimate tease, and I’m glad he will be someone else’s problem.

4.

Yeah, not happening.

5.

Finally, here’s a bit of front office news. J.P Ricciardi is someone I respect, even though he tried to fleece Brian Sabean for Tim Lincecum at one point (also, Tim Kawakami gets a lot of stuff right, but he really blew this one).

I don’t know that I trust J.P. to run a team, but his thinking could be a good foil to Farhan. Ricciardi seems more aggressive and so maybe they bring a nice balance to each other. Anyway, I think it would be a good get for the Giants and another move away from the Bobby Evans era.

Thank you Andrew Baggarly for being awesome, and next week’s post should have some interesting stuff to chew on as the meetings get started!

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What Happens Now…

With a new regime and leadership taking over the club, the 2018-2019 off-season is the most exciting off-season for the SF Giants in the last 20 years.

Unless, of course, it isn’t.

On the one hand, it definitely is. Again, this is the first time in two decades the Giants have moved in a definitive direction (baseball-wise) and so all bets are off. We won’t know what a “typical” Giants move is again for a little while.

And yet, there’s the distinct possibility that this will be an extremely boring 4-5 months.

Why? Because no one really knows how Farhan Zaidi is going to play this. From where I sit there are three possibilities:

  1. Total Rebuild. We’ll know this is the plan if Madison Bumgarner and at least one other “franchise” player gets traded (like one of the Brandon’s) for prospects. It is totally within the purview of Zaidi to make this call, and one could argue it is also the most logical move to make. The hard-core fans are actually calling for this, and yeah the casual fan will be lost to the Warriors for a couple of seasons, but Zaidi, at least on paper and from the track record of the teams he’s been with, will see this as a very viable option.
  2. A Retooling. We’ll know this is the plan if Madison Bumgarner is traded for major league ready players and if Zaidi works to get rid of bad contracts in order to sign new players. Maybe Zaidi remembers that the Giants were only 5 games out of first place on August 6th, and maybe he thinks some of the Giants young players are not that far away, and maybe he really likes Marwin Gonzalez, and Jed Lowrie, and some pitcher and is more interested in turning this roster over in chunks over the course of the next three years while still trying to win.
  3. A Punt. We’ll know this is the plan if Madison Bumgarner is on the team to start the season and if the Giants are relatively quiet this offseason. This is so boring, but also has a certain logic to it. The Giants are buried under long-term contracts. Maybe you use the season to see what you have with some guys (everyone from Joe Panik to Derek Rodriguez to Steven Duggar to Shaun Anderson), and maybe you see if Bumgarner’s value skyrockets by the trade deadline (or maybe you decide to keep him, Clayton Kershaw-style), and maybe you play the year out so it is just a little bit easier to get rid of the Samardzija/Melancon/Belt/Longoria/etc money.

If I were a betting man, I’d bet on option 2. I don’t see Zaidi being content with a punt, and I don’t see the ownership group being ok with a total rebuild. I do expect a lot of roster churn to happen. Some of it is already happening, none of it major though.

The other intriguing factor is the news that Zaidi is not hiring a General Manager. For the time being he will be the GM. Unfortunately, this clarifies nothing! Is this so he can be directly involved in the rebuild? Is this to give him time to punt and find the right guy? Is there someone he’s waiting for in the meantime?

No one knows, and that is why this is so exciting. It may not look like much on the surface, but a sea change is taking place, and it’s going to be fascinating to watch.

Even if it’s boring.

Regime Change

The Giants officially announced and introduced their new MAN: Farhan Zaidi. You can read all about it here and here and here.

I have a couple of thoughts:

  1. Time will tell whether this was a successful decision or not, but in my opinion this is one of the most significant hirings in recent Bay Area sports history. It’s up there with the Bob Myers/Steve Kerr partnership and the Jim Harbaugh arrival in Ninerland. This is a bold, definitive, franchise altering move, and not in a flashy way, but in a very, very substantive and smart way. Again, the Giants may not win a World Series during Zaidi’s tenure, because it’s a really hard thing to do, but if they fail, they will fail by trying to be smarter and better than the other 29 teams, not because they are stubborn and nostalgic. I LOVE Brian Sabean and will defend him to the end. He led this team well for 20 years, but it was time for a change (and when it’s time for a change, think Speedy Oil Change…I miss baseball). Anyway, this was the kind of change they needed desperately.
  2. Because the Giants have had so much front office stability for the last two decades it’s been fairly easy to predict and/or understand the moves the team has made. All bets are off now, we are in 100% new territory, and part of the fun of this offseason will be learning what Zaidi cares about, how he makes decisions, and what kind of team he will try to build. The last regime was about as polar opposite to Zaidi’s wheelhouse as you can get, so don’t expect this offseason to answer all of our questions. We will get glimpses, though, and I, for one, am ecstatic to have a fresh perspective watching over our beloved franchise.
  3. For the past year I’ve been assuming that the Giants were going to (a) Go hard after Bryce Harper, and (b) Extend Madison Bumgarner, which would (c) lead to another era of trying to build around 1-2 star players (see, the Barry Bonds era). Now, who knows?! It’s sounding like the Giants won’t pursue Harper to any great degree and that Bumgarner will be a major trade chip, probably at the July 2019 deadline. Get used to this kind of thing, as it will probably be the new norm. The team we’ve seen for a while will look radically different, probably sooner than later.

Enjoy the ride, this should be fun!

Home Runs

Part one of our post-2018 autopsy of the Giants will involve an overly simplistic view of the offense. We all know the lineup lacked punch, but when you compare it to the playoff teams, using two simple measures, things look even more bleak.

Consider: Team Leaders in Home Runs, and
Number of Players Equaling Giants’ Team Leader in Home Runs.
Here we go:

Giants Team Leader in HRs: Evan Longoria, 16

  • Red Sox: JD Martinez, 43; # of players with 16+ HRS=5
  • Indians: Jose Ramirez, 39; # of players w/ 16+=7
  • Astros: Alex Bregman, 31; # w/ 16+=5
  • Yankees: Giancarlo Stanton, 38: # w/ 16+=(Yanks had 6 different guys hit at least 24+!!!)
  • A’s: Khris Davis, 48; # w/ 16+=5
  • Braves: Ronald Acuna, 26; # w/ 16+=4
  • Cubs: Javy Baez, 34; # w/ 16+=3
  • Rockies: Nolan Arenado, 38; # w/ 16+=6
  • Dodgers: Max Muncy 35; # w/ 16+=8 (This actually jumps to an astonishing 10, if you consider that Manny Machado and Brian Dozier both hit more than 16 when you take into account their pre-trade numbers)
  • Brewers: Christian Yelich, 36; # w/ 16+=5

Again, this is a very simplistic model, and we all know the Giants need to hit more home runs, but this is a startling view of reality. Not only do the Giants not have anywhere near the top end power that most good teams have (remember no Giant has hit 30+ home runs since Barry Bonds), but they also lack the depth (the Cubs, the closest team to the Giants in this measure, had a guy named Kris Bryant only hit 15 home runs in a season shortened by injury…he’s capable of 40+ any normal year).

Part of what is worrisome about the Giants entering 2019 is not that they lack top-end power and can go get it in the form of Bryce Harper, nice though that may be, they simply don’t have the depth of power to compare to other good teams. In other words, they could use a power upgrade at nearly every position on the field, and that’s probably not going to change dramatically any time soon.

It’s Over…Now What?

It’s over. I’m not just talking about the season, I’m talking about this era of Giants baseball. You’ll need a subscription, but Tim Kawakami says as much in this article.

What do you think? Is there a version of the Posey/Bumgarner/Belt/Crawford Giants that is truly competitive again?

On the one hand the clear answer is: No. In 2016, the Giants reloaded, they brought in Cueto and Samardzija and they made some big moves at the trade deadline, and they did nearly take down the eventual World Champion Cubs. But, the reality is the Giants are 155-194 since the All-Star break in 2016.

On the other hand, the less clear answer is: Perhaps.

Why, perhaps? Well, for one, the Giants have not been able to stay healthy. And that’s not just an aging roster thing. Joe Panik gets hurt, a lot. Brandon Belt get hurt, a lot. Mac Williamson runs into a wall and loses another season. Everyone breaks their pinky. Madison Bumgarner falls off a dirt bike.

That stuff has to drive Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans absolutely nuts. How do you really evaluate this team and this organization. Here are a few conclusions:

  1. The Giants’ front office does not get enough credit for how well it has done developing players. They have not all panned out, but no one has all their guys pan out. That’s baseball. And it does seem like there is hope around the bend: Shuan Anderson, Heliot Ramos, Joey Bart, and several others provide a lot of excitement about the next wave. So, don’t let the failure of Panik/Belt/Williamson sucker you into thinking the Giants can’t develop players.
  2. The Giants have a knack for making great under the radar signings. There are so many to point out, but in just the last year I could point you to everyone from Todd Hundley to Pablo Sandoval to Alen Hanson to Reyes Moronta to Derek Rodriguez to Derek Holland. Expect more of that in the future.
  3. Now to the crux of things: the Giants need to plan for a team that is not built around Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner. This is where it gets hard. Do you trade Madison Bumgarner? Do you try to sign him to a team friendly deal, and potentially tick him off? Do you let him go in free agency, pointing out that this is what the team should have done with Matt Cain, et al? Hard questions. And then the Buster Posey conundrum. He’s still a great catcher, but he probably needs to move to first base to preserve his body. So, do you trade Brandon Belt? Probably. And then, will he ever hit with power again? Right now, he’s basically Freddy Sanchez/Marco Scutaro, and while both of those guys are near and dear to our hearts, they are not middle of the order/franchise cornerstones. Is Buster Posey even worth it as a first baseman?
  4. The Giants need to find a cornerstone. Here’s where it gets tricky again. The formula for 2010/2012/2014 was (a) pitching, (b) bullpen, which is to say more pitching, (c) defense, which is to say pitching, and (d) an offense built around an interstellar force of a Catcher. Buster Posey was so valuable to the Giants because he provided first base/left field/middle of the order awesomeness but as a catcher. That meant that the Giants could get away with Aubrey Huff/Pat Burrell/Brandon Belt/Melky Cabrera/Brandon Belt/Travis Ishikawa at 1B and LF. I am extremely tempted by Bryce Harper, because I think the Giants need that kind of presence. But, the Giants themselves just retired Barry Bonds number recently and while that was a nice bit of nostalgia it was also a reminder that they never won a championship with that model of team building. Which leads to the final point…
  5. The real big problem, in my humble opinion, is that the Giants pitching has fallen way, way off from the glory days. I get that trying to recreate the golden has gotten them in trouble, but I continue to believe that pitching wins.

Whatever happens next, let’s not forget how incredible this era has been. What we witnessed from 2009-2016 was amazing and rare, and most of the other fan bases would kill for that era.

But, going back to the well again and again is tired. That well is empty. Time for something fresh. Will the Giants do it?

Dog Days… #sfgiants

I really thought this weekend’s series against the Diamondbacks was make or break for the Giants. They needed to take 3 of 4 at a minimum, gain some ground, or else they were screwed.

Somehow, they went 2-2 and are no worse off. The rest of the NL West was very on brand, no one did much this weekend and so the situation stands at this:

  • Arizona 62-51    —
  • Dodgers 62-51   —
  • Colorado 59-52  2
  • Giants     57-56   5

Don’t get me wrong a sweep would have been awesome. In that scenario, the Giants would be three out of first place and hot on the heels of both Colorado and Arizona. It was a missed opportunity, just not as devastating as it could have been.

My only significant thought of the day is this: if the Giants are going to make any move upwards, it must come on the backs of McCutchen, Posey, and Longoria. Somewhere, somehow, those dudes need to rediscover the glory days of 2012-2013 for just 2 months.

Well, in the last week here’s what those three have been up to:

  • McCutchen .440/.517/.720 (2 home runs)
  • Posey           .467/.529/.533
  • Longoria     .393/.414/.750 (2 home runs)

The only hope they really have left is for the offense to carry them back to a respectable +/- and hope they can get enough from the beleaguered staff to win a bunch of games.

They have a good test this week with two against the juggernaut Astros and then 4 at home with the Pirate who are really trying to win right now. (After that, they go to LA). Huge 9 games ahead!

Deadline Thoughts

The trade deadline is 3 days away and the rumors continue to fly. By all accounts it seems like the Giants will be (a) Quiet, but also (b) Looking to make moves to improve the 2018 team. That’s wonderful, I do appreciate the desire to be competitive, but it is with a slightly heavy heart that I must disagree.

I’ve seen enough to conclude that the team as presently constructed will not be able to do much better than 84 wins. The entire season has been a major flirt with .500. They’ve be no more than 5 games over or under all season. And this is perfect:

Therefore, it seems prudent to do the follow things this year at the deadline:

  1. Trade Andrew McCutchen: It pains me to write this. Yes, McCutchen hasn’t had an incredible season. But it has been fun to watch him; I have really enjoyed him being on the team. I would love to live in the alternative universe where he had a one year, pre-free agency, bonanza and put up the kind of numbers that would have made us all scream for him to stay. It’s been much more of a steady plod. I’d love it if the Giants could ship him to Cleveland or Houston, get a nice prospect in return and let Andrew have a moment in the postseason. It feels silly to keep him around for this year, and I haven’t seen enough to make me excited about him signing on for the next 3-5 seasons (bring on Bryce!). Plus, moving on would give the Giants two months to see what they have with Austin Slater/Mac Williamson/etc.
  2. Trade one of Tony Watson and Will Smith: I’d prefer they keep Watson because he is very cheaply controlled for the next two seasons, and I think they could get more for Smith, but cash in on one of hese guys! The premium for good lefty relievers (especially ones who can get out right-handed hitters) is crazy. Take advantage!
  3. Trade Sam Dyson: This is a no-brainer. Dyson has been found money from the moment he showed up off the scrap heap. The Giants would get some salary relief and probably something interesting in return.

There are a variety of other possibilities. It doesn’t seem like the Giants are in any way shape or form ready to burn it to the ground and start over. But, there might be creative ways to move on from Evan Longoria, or even Joe Panik/Brandon Belt. There might be ways to sell off other spare parts (Pablo? Gorkys?). Who knows?

I don’t favor the rebuild at this point either, as I think the Giants do still have enough pieces to compete. The emergence of Derek Rodriguez and Andrew Suarez, the young arms in the bullpen, and some studs waiting in the wings (Joey Bart, Heliot Ramos, etc), give me hope for the (immediate) future.

Back to Bryce Harper, I know many fans are in a lather about bringing him over, and while it still feels like a longshot, I do think he is the missing piece.

Yes, the Giants went with the star strategy for 15 years and it got them no rings, but they won 3 World Series with an all-world catcher in the middle of their lineup and a bunch of guys orbiting around that sun. That sun has gone out, and what I am saying is the Giants might have a wave of pitching good enough to get the job done, but they do not have a middle of the order force anymore. The have a bunch of planets, but no sun.

So, trade off the few items of value now, let the young guys play, and then go all in this offseason (which is what the who year has been about, right?)