Andrew McCutchen Trade and Roster Implications

Update: the Giants have traded Kyle Crick and Bryan Reynolds for Andrew McCutchen.

The good news: the Giants still have Tyler Beede, Andrew Suarez, Heliot Ramos, Steven Duggar, and Chris Shaw in their system. For all the talk of the lack of quality in the Giants farm system four of those guys may be positive contributors as soon as this year. Ramos could be a stud, or a center piece in yet another trade (hello, Jackie Bradley Jr.).

The bad news: Kyle Crick had the potential to be a major weapon in this bullpen, and Bryan Reynolds was pretty good in San Jose last year:

That being said, unless McCutchen has a terrible injury this is a solid trade for the Giants. It’s actually kind of hard to believe they made these two moves and held on to those 5 guys.


Opening Day Lineup:

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

Bench:

  • Hundley C
  • Hernandez OF
  • Parker OF
  • Panda INF
  • Tomlinson INF

Starters:

  • Bumgarner
  • Cueto
  • Samardzija
  • Stratton
  • Blach/Beede/Suarez

Bullpen:

  • Melancon CL
  • Dyson
  • Smith
  • Strickland
  • Gearrin
  • Blach??
  • Law/Okert/Someone

I don’t know how they do it, but there is still work to be done to add depth pretty much everywhere. Still, this is better than where we were in September.

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Giants Aquire Another 2013 MVP Candidate

The headline is a bit sarcastic, but in making trades this offseason for Evan Longoria and now Andrew McCutchen the Giants have acquired two players who have served as their prior team’s “Buster Posey” for the better part of a decade (I wrote before the 2014 WC game that this was an ideal matchup for MLB because of McCutchen/Posey and Bumgarner/Cole…of course Clint Hurdle blew it and did not start Gerrit Cole and now both Pirates on different teams). While the Giants are at it, they should see if they can get David Wright and Joe Mauer.

A couple of thoughts on this trade:

  • First, we do not know yet who is going back to Pittsburg in this deal although it sounds like no Tyler Beede, Chris Shaw, or Heliot Ramos. If that is true, this is going to be a steal. The lower price has to be due to McCutchen only have one season left before free agency. I also have no idea what the Pirates are doing, as it appears that they have been swindled twice in a week. (Sounds like Kyle Crick is in the deal…I would have liked to see Crick be part of the ‘pen in 2018, but if he’s the center piece of this deal, go on yah Bobby Evans).
  • Second, the Giants got a solid, if declining pro, whose value is going to be determined by how he used and if he can stay on the field. (More on this in a moment). He’s also a ton of fun and will make what has become a boring team much more interesting.
  • Third, the arrival of McCutchen addresses a long-standing concern for me. Since the “retirement” of Barry Bonds the Giants, a franchise boasting one of the most diverse sets of legends in the game, has grown increasingly white. There are many reasons for this, and I do not have time to explore them all here, but in the most diverse part of the country to trot out 8 dudes from Texas (or Georgia) seems a bit off. This is a great addition from that standpoint.
  • Fourth, this is another chapter to the “robbing the Pirates” narrative. It all started with Barry Lamar, but this also includes Jason Schmidt, Freddy Sanchez, and Javy Lopez. (You can sort of add Ryan Vogelsong to this list as well). Those are some impactful Giants, to say the least.
  • Fifth, back to actual baseball things: this move is a VAST improvement if the Giants play McCutchen in either left or right field, and add a solid defensive CF. I don’t know how this affects my Jackie Bradley Jr dream, but let me just throw this out there:
    • Panik 2B
    • McCutchen RF
    • Posey C
    • Belt 1B
    • Longoria 3B
    • Crawford SS
    • Pence LF
    • Bradley Jr. CF
  • That’s actually a damn good lineup

Some people will deride this trade as “the Giants continue to get older”, “continue to seek past glory from decline stars”, etc. And to a certain extent those assessments are true.

However, something I’ve been thinking about lately is the idea that maybe reclaiming past glory is a sometimes undervalued attribute in baseball.

I remember when Pablo Sandoval hit three home runs in Game 1 of the 2012 World Series. It was chalked up to the “good luck” that the Giants enjoyed that season. There’s no doubt they were very fortunate that Pablo had one of his greatest games on the biggest stage. But, was that luck?

My contention is no. Pablo was a talented player, at the height of his powers, and he got to hit that game from the left side, his better side. He has the kind of talent to hit three home runs in a game.

Now, Gregor Blanco (who started in LF), if he hit three home runs (including two off of Justin Verlander), then yeah, that’s incredibly lucky. But those are two very different kinds of players.

My point here is this: it is entirely possible, and maybe even more likely that Longoria and McCutchen are done and have terrible seasons. But, it is not out of the realm of possibility, at all, that they could produce at their career averages in 2018.

Another great example of this: in 2010 no Giant’s fan thought “hey we just signed Aubrey Huff, we’re off to the World Series.” Some look at Huff’s performance that year and think “Giant’s got lucky.” Well, again, yes and no. Yes, they were fortunate to cash in on Huff’s last really good season, but he was always the kind of player capable of that season. It wasn’t out of the realm of question for him to perform at level.

What will be really interesting, long-term, is if McCutchen has a good-to-great year, if the Giants fall in love and sign him long term (which might not be a great move at all).

I’ll probably post more about all this once we know the full terms, but the bottom line is the 2018 just got better, more interesting, and much more fun to watch.

A Wish List

In honor Christmas, here’s my wish list for the rest of the Giants offseason:

  1. Jackie Bradley Jr. Really, #1 on my wish list is a great defensive center fielder, but there is a massive gap between Jackie Bradley and the rest of the field. Yes, Jerrod Dyson is out there as a free agent. Yes, the Giants could be foolish and sign Lorenzo Cain (giving up precious picks). Yes, there’s the Billy Hamilton rumors. But, go big or go home. It’s obvious even to Sox fans that he is the most movable asset for the Boston as they try chasing the Yankees. I have no idea if/how the Giants could get this done, but I would send them anyone except Andrew Suarez to make this happen. (What about Heliot Ramons, Chris Shaw, and an arm?) One of the quickest paths to success for the Giants in 2018 is for some rebounds from underperforming, or injured, players (see Posey, Crawford, Belt, Bumgarner, and Cueto). But the other way is to improve the three gaping holes in the roster: a 3B who can hit (check), a CF who can get to the ball, and a competent fourth starter (more in a moment). Again, while there are some other options out there at CF Bradley Jr. would be a quantum step forward.
  2. Another starting pitcher. The Giants do not have the funds to make a major improvement here. Matt Moore, who I still would love to have seen rebound in 2018, was one of the worst starting pitchers in MLB last year, and all they need to get from Chris Stratton is some league averageness to make up significant ground. That being said, the rotation, which for so long has been the backbone of this franchise, for the first time since 2008, feels full of question marks and lacks signficant depth. Stratton and Ty Blach could hold it down and be fine. Tyler Beede and/or Andrew Suarez could come up and be awesome. But, I would like to see someone brought in to at least push those guys and maybe even take the first 10-12 starts before turning to a Beede/Suarez/Blach. My short list: Trevor Cahill, Clay Bucholz, Chris Tillman, Jaime Garcia.
  3. One more source of power. This is what seems to be at the top of the list for the Giants at the moment. All eyes are on Jay Bruce. IF the market for Jay Bruce collapses a bit and comes down to, say, 3 years and $36-42 mil, I’d be for it. What I’m hearing rumored now is longer and higher than that (yikes). But there are other options. What about a one year deal for Jose Bautista? What about someone like Colby Rasmus or Michael Saunders? They could be Jay Bruce imitations without breaking the bank, and they could be easily moved along for the Austin Slater and Chris Shaws of the world if need be.
  4. Take a gamble on the bullpen. It seems like the market for relievers is a little out of control. The top guys are now getting what middle of the rotation starters used to get. But there are still a ton of names available and I’d be into a lot of them if the price were right. Here’s where I’d love to see the Giants be patient and then grab a few guys in February and see how they perform in the spring. On this list: John Axford, Jason Grilli (welcome back!), Bud Norris, Trevor Rosenthal, Drew Storen, Glen Perkins, Zack Duke.
  5. Strengthen the Bench. I know what you are thinking. How are the Giants going to do all these moves? They can’t get all the things I have on my list and spend big league money. They do not want to go into the tax for Zack Duke in other words. But, there are a lot of teams in the same position as the Giants and the market has moved slow and I think it will stay that way and I hope the team can be patient enough to luck into some deals. And I think one area this will happen in is with solid bench options. Right now, the Giants are looking at Pablo Sandoval, Gorkys Hernandez, Jarrett Parker, and Kelby Tomlinson as key reserves. I think they can do way better. They’ve already made some moves for guys they can take a look at this spring. These are great moves, not because these players are the answer to anything, but, you never know. Remember: Juan Uribe and Andres Torres were non-roster invitees to spring training who ended up heroes. On my list here: Howie Kendrick, Austin Jackson, Danny Espinoza, and Darwin Barney.

I’d also like to make a Do Not Wish list:

  1. Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. John Lackey
  3. Jason Werth
  4. Jorge de la Rosa

Merry Christmas!

Eeeeeevvaaaaaaa!!!!!!!

When I lived in Boston I won two Opening Day tickets to the Red Sox 2009 season. They did a lottery thing, and we lucked out and opening day at Fenway was as adorable and awesome as you might imagine. It was also really cold.

Anyway, the Sox opened that year at home against the Tampa Bay Rays. The Red Sox had won the World Series in 2007, and the Rays had knocked them out of the postseason in epic fashion in 2008 (on their way to losing to the Pat Burrell led Phillies in the World Series. Isn’t baseball amazing).

This was a showdown game on opening day.
James Shields versus Josh Beckett.
Dustin Pedroia hit a home run and Beckett struck out 10
and Jonathan Papelbon saved the game.

Also, a second year stud named Evan Longoria hit a 2-run double.

And every time he came to the plate this buzzed dude that sat near us screamed at the top of his lungs, in a sing-song voice: “Eeeeevvvvaaaaaa….Eeeeevvvaaaaaaa.” (Which is funny because of Eva Longoria who is super famous and a woman).

I can never think about Evan Longoria and not think about that drunk dude at that opening day game.

Fast-forward to today and Eeeeevvvaaaaa is coming to your San Francisco Giants.

Evan Longoria, overall, is a stud.
He’s been one of the best players in baseball,
an MVP candidate,
the first of the wave of modern, awesome third basemen,
and now he’s a Giant.

But he’s also old, and expensive, and that creates all kinds of questions and riskiness for the future of the Giants.

Do we like this trade?

Let’s start here with the positives:

  • He plays 3B, an area of tremendous need. The Giants used NINE third basemen last year who collectively tallied a .216/.268/.300 slash line. That is horrid. I think Madison Bumgarner could have bested that if they let him play 3B for the whole year.
  • Longoria’s won 3 gold gloves and the Giants have the potential to win a gold glove at every infield position in 2018 (yes, this will be hard to do with Nolan Arrenado being alive, but you get my point).
  • He hits right-handed. Hey, this is cool! An actual, legit right-handed hitter. What an idea!
  • He hits home runs too!
  • He doesn’t get hurt much and has played as many games as any player in MLB over the past 5 seasons. For a team that used the DL more often than I tell my son to lower the volume of his voice (this is a lot), a durable player is a true gift.
  • This trade allowed the Giants to get rid of Denard Span and his contract, which, among other things, creates some space to get another player or two.

Now for the negatives:

  • The Giants had a legit young, cheap alternative at 3B and not only does this move block him, he actually was part of the trade. I was in to the idea of Christian Arroyo being a big part of the 2018 Giants, but it was not to be.
  • The Giants do have a potentially great infield defense on paper, but they really needed to get better with the gloves in the outfield, especially since most of their pitchers are flyball/strikeout type guys. This infield would be awesome for a staff of sinkerballers, and maybe Ty Blach and Chris Stratton and Tyler Beede move the team in that direction. But it’s hard to see how infield defense really helps Bumgarner, Cueto, and especially Samardzija.
  • He does hit righthanded, but the bar here is really low as Todd Hundley was the only right-handed hitter on the team to hit more than 3 home runs at AT&T.
  • About those home runs. Longoria only hit 20 last year in a hitters division and league. Now he comes to a pitchers division and league and a tough home ballpark. Yikes. The good news is he hit 36 in 2016, so it wasn’t that long ago that he set a career high, but his power drop-off strangely mirrors the team he is joining.
  • Not getting hurt is a good thing and there isn’t any cavalry coming behind him, so the Giants need him to be in the lineup, but he is 32 and most iron mans start becoming less irony (haha) around this age (see: Pence, Hunter).
  • The good news here is that Longoria’s contract situation and the ability to shed Span are actually very helpful for 2018, the catch though is that Longoria’s contract is bad from 2019 until 2023. Gulp.

This trade perfectly captures the essence of the conundrum the Giants find themselves in. They purposefully and strategically went young and created the core of a team that won 3 championships. It was a master class in roster building in some ways.

But that success led to reward and commitment, a commitment that now threatens to strangle the franchise for years. There’s no getting away from the fact that Giants are all in on the Posey/Crawford/Belt/Bumgarner core (you could add Matt Cain to this list). That has led to long-term commitments to Cueto/Samardzija/Pence/Melancon.

In poker terms, the Giants are pot committed, and so it isn’t that big of a deal to add a Longoria.

But, oh does it smack of the opposite direction that led this team to the top in the first place.


2018 Opening Day Lineup as of right now:

  • Steven Duggar CF
  • Joe Panik 2B
  • Buster Posey C
  • Evan Longoria 3B
  • Brandon Belt 1B
  • Hunter Pence LF
  • Brandon Crawford SS
  • Austin Slater???? RF

I throw this in here to show how the outfield is still a mess. The hot rumor now is that Jay Bruce is next. I would be for creatively packaging Pence for Andrew McCutchen in addition to Bruce. Imagine this:

  • Panik 2B
  • Posey C
  • McCutchen LF
  • Bruce RF
  • Longoria 3B
  • Belt 1B
  • Crawford SS
  • Duggar CF

While that is mildly exciting, it does seem like the Giants are going to have gamble at least one OF position on a young guy. Maybe its Duggar time. Maybe it’s Austin Slater. Maybe it’s Chris Shaw. I don’t know, I just don’t see another way around it.

One other thought here. I know the Giants like to act fast, but this market is going very slowly. I would love to see them lay low for a bit, and maybe catch some deals in the new year.


Our final topic for the day: could the Giants actually be good in 2018?

This has been the question floating around in response to today’s trade. Most writers and commentators seem to think it is totally out of the question for the Giants to think they could be good next year, and so this is a stupid move.

In a sense I agree. 2017 was about as all-encompassing a systematic failure as a franchise can have. I can’t think of a good comparison.

By all accounts the Giants were a decent bullpen, maybe even a decent closer away from beating the Cubs in 2016. They went from that to the second worst team in baseball in a year (and only because of a walk-off home run by Pablo Sandoval on the last day of the season. Again, what a world.)

A realist, I suppose, looks at all this and says there’s no way this team is anywhere close to contending.

But, I point to the pot commitment I mentioned in the last section, and to the, perhaps foolish, belief that last year was a kind of fluke.

Grant Brisbee breaks down this question in this article (I’d recommend looking at the WAR charts as a shortcut).

I do not think that what he proposes there is totally out of the realm of possibility (in terms of the improvement).

There is a long list of “well, if”s that need to happen.

Well, if: Belt stay healthy…Bumgarner bounces back…Cueto is good again…the defense improves…the bullpen gets sorted out…several players have a bounce-back year…etc, etc etc.

But, there’s also a ludicrously long list of things that had to go wrong last year to produce a 98 loss season. And THEY ALL HAPPENED.

The Giants still have moves to make, and we’re still months away from really getting to into predictions for 2018, but at least things got a little more interesting today.

That’s all I’m asking for at this point.

So Long Matt Moore…

we hardly knew you!

Count me among those who liked trading Matt Duffy for Matt Moore. Or at least understood it.

I will never forget Moore nearly no-hitting the Dodgers. And I will never forget him beating the Cubs in Game 4 of the NLDS (if you only count the 8 inning he actually pitched).

I am disappointed about trading Moore away for a couple of reasons. (1) The Duffy lovers are going to cry “Aha, we knew it,” even though Duffy has done NOTHING since being traded from the Giants. (2) I really, really thought Matt Moore was going to be good.

When the Giants acquired Moore it felt like the kind of move smart teams make. The Giants traded a young overperforming, controllable infielder who was never a top prospect for a young, cheap start pitcher who was always supposed to be a stud. Turning a Matt Duffy super utility guy into a potential Cy Young candidate is what winning teams do.

I went into 2017 fully expecting Moore to have a very good season, potentially pushing himself into the “second best starter on the team” conversation. It didn’t happen.

Which brings me to why I begrudgingly like this trade. A part of me was excited to watch the Matt Moore 2018 resurgence, but the facts support the reality that that wasn’t likely to happen. The Dave Righetti special sauce never really panned out for Moore. It also seems unlikely the Matt Moore resurrgence will happen in Texas (not in the ballpark and not in the division!). We’ll never know if he could have turned it around and that makes me a little sad.

What does not make me sad: creating room to sign a hitter. And creating room in the starting rotation for Chris Stratton. Barring a real surprise/spring training injury, Stratton now projects as the 4th starter.

Chris Stratton is another one of those guys who has the “smart-team” smell on him. The Stratton curveball is a weapon the Astros/Dodgers/Pirates/Rays/Cubs would turn into gold. My hope is the Giants can figure it out for themselves and reap the reward.

And while we don’t know who this magical hitter is just yet, creating more space to sign someone truly helpful is very encouraging!

Unless some other moves come down this weekend, my hope is to get some ideas out about this hitter Monday. Stay tuned.

One More Christmas Wish

Ok, well, at least Giancarlo Stanton is not going to the Dodgers =)

This is a good news, bad news situation for the Giants, and allows for a part 2 to yesterday’s post.

The good news is that Stanton is not going to LA, and, in fact, is leaving the National League all together. Meanwhile the Yankees are creating a juggernaut similar to the one they had in the early to mid-2000’s (a version of Yankees juggernaut that never won a World Series, for the record).

The bad news is that Giants did not get Stanton, and in addition, the stakes for the 2018 offseason just got a bit higher. The Dodgers and the Cubs now become the early leaders for Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.

It is the official position of this website that the Giants should be ALL IN on Manny Machado from this day forth. While Bryce Harper is the only left-handed hitter in the game who would not be intimidated by playing at AT&T, Machado makes more sense for a couple of reasons:

  1. He plays a position of greater need, 3B. We are living in a golden age of third basemen, and somehow the Giants have completely whiffed here. I would argue, positionally, Machado would be more valuable. Plus, he hits right-handed and balances their Panik/Crawford middle infield.
  2. He will be expensive, but not as expensive as Harper.
  3. He has a personality. So does Harper. Both are fiery guys who have rubbed opposing players (and their own teammates) the wrong way. I am totally ok with this. The Giants, long known for a great clubhouse culture, need someone to bring the life and energy and edge back.
  4. He is Latino. San Francisco is one of the most diverse areas in the entire world, and the Giants have a proliferation of guys from Georgia and North Carolina. How do the Giants not have a star level player from outside the US? (My apologies to Johnny Cueto and Pablo Sandoval who are past their star primes at this point). This is the franchise of Willie Mays, Millie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda, Juan Marichal, Kevin Mitchel, Barry Bonds, Dusty Baker, Ellis Burks, the Alous, Omar Vizquel, and so many others, but that stream has dried up recently. Bring me Jackie Bradley Jr and Manny Machado!

I laid out some ideas yesterday that could help improve the team in 2018 and open up the possibility of a run at Harper/Machado next winter, but I want to add one more.

I would love to be surprised. The Giants, especially since 1997 under Brian Sabean, have been known to surprise. The big moment was trading Matt Williams for Jeff Kent. But there have been other surprising moves, trades for guys who we weren’t super excited about but ended up being awesome. A couple of my favorites: Javy Lopes, Freddy Sanchez, and Angel Pagan.

The Giants have unearthed endless gems in many different ways, from Cody Ross to Connor Gillespe, from Jason Schmidt to Ryan Vogelsong.

I’m excited for the new gems. Who might they be?

One final thought. If you are afraid of the Yankees right now there’s good reason to feel that way. But, I would point out that they did this before and the A-Rod era produced one title, and it’s arguable how important A-Rod was to that team.

The Yankees went and spent a ton of money before 2009 and that produced a title, but then the Giants and Cardinals started their runs. The Giants took down the unbeatable Phillies and Rangers and Reds and Nationals and Cardinals and Tigers and Royals. Every era has had some incredible teams.

This era has some really incredible teams, probably some of the best in the last 20 years. The Dodgers, Cubs, Yankees, Astros, Nationals, and Indians are all stacked. The Rockies, Red Sox, Diamondbacks, Cardinals, and Angels are very good too. Look out for the Mariners and the Twins and probably a few other teams that come out of nowhere to be good.

Things look very bleak for the Giants right now. They did 10 years ago too, and we all know how that turned out.

Welcome Mark Melancon!

The Giants got their guy today!

You can read about why he’s a great fit for the Giants here.

You can read about the ridiculous contracts the other big time closers will get here (and take a deep breath of relief).

Let’s talk about why this was a shrewd move for the Giants:

  1. He’s good. Melancon doesn’t fit into the otherworldly echelon of Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman. And that’s just fine, because he’s still very good. For example, his WHIPs the last four seasons: 0.96, 0.87, 0.96, 0.9…that’s less than 1 runner an inning (just to be clear), and those are elite numbers. Brian Wilson, in 2010, had a WHIP of 1.18 which is not bad but it was also EASILY the best # he posted in his career, and it’s well above Melancon’s four-year average. Santiago Casilla’s average WHIP with the Giants was higher than Wilson’s best year, so you get the idea. Much, much fewer baserunners. Melancon’s “low” strikeout rates (for a closer) get some people worried, but it hasn’t been an issue for him to date, and he’s playing in a good ballpark with a good defense for a guy who “struggles” to strikeout guys. (The use of quotes here is to emphasize the fact that he is actually pretty good at striking players out, just not as “good” as Aroldis Chapman, and very few humans in history have been as good as he is).
  2. They did it relatively quickly. A few days ago MLB and the Players Association agreed to a new CBA, and shortly thereafter the Giants made their move. This is classic Giants: strike quick and get on with it. In a market with three elite closers and more than three teams in need of closer the Giants can now patiently work on improving other parts of the team, negotiating contracts with their current players, and designing Mark Melancon bobble-head dolls.
  3. They potentially screwed their competition. There are now 2 elite closers left and 3 NL competitors in need of a 9th inning man: the Dodgers, the Nationals, and the Cubs. The Cubs are working from a position of strength. They probably don’t NEED either Jansen or Chapman, certainly not the way the Giants did, but they might like one of them, especially if that means the Dodgers and/or the Nationals whiff on one of those guys. There is a beautiful scenario where the Yankees and (we’ll go with the Blue Jays) get crazy and go for Chapman and Jansen, and suddenly 3 major NL teams will be looking internally, or on the scrap heap, for a closer. The Giants are now officially out of that mess.
  4. Monetarily, the Giants probably don’t have much flexibility to improve left field, but they do have moves. They can stand pat, go really cheap, or make a trade. They could potentially even dip into the bullpen to make this trade. Remember, the Giants issue in the bullpen is not that they lack options. Their issue last year was that there were too many options, Bochy could never settle on a pecking order, and right when someone started to emerge (i.e. Gearrin/Law) they got hurt. Trading from the bullpen depth could make things simpler for the coaching staff and improve the team over all. The question is who is expendable? My hope is that someone covets Hunter Strickland and is willing to give up a left fielder to see what they can do with him.

I’m all for this move. The money is funny, but that was always going to be the case this offseason and all things being equal, it’s not that bad of a deal in my opinion. Melancon brings order and stability and while he might not be an Andrew Miller super-reliever, he doesn’t need to be. He just needs to get three outs in the ninth inning (IT CAN’T BE THAT HARD RIGHT?!).