Early Thoughts on the Off-Season

Here’s a simple preview of your 2017 SF Giants (other previews here):
C (2)
Posey
Brown

INF (6)
Belt
Panik
Crawford
Nunez
Gillapsie
Tomlinson

OF (5)
Williamson
Span
Pence
Hernandez
Parker

SP (5)
Bumgarner
Cueto
Moore
Samardzija
Cain

RP (7)
NEW CLOSER
Law
Strickland
Smith
Okert
Kontos
Suarez


Now, let’s analyze that a bit:

  • The Giants are getting rid of $50 million in payroll, but will see current players take $30 million in raises, so the general operating principle is that they will have approximately $20 million to spend. One way to think about next year is as simple as described above: Add a pricey, shiny new closer and call it good.
  • The top 3 closing targets are Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, and Mark Melancon. Who do you want? It seems like Chapman will not be the target, as the Giants don’t like guys with major character issues. That leaves two elite options. The Dodgers will want to keep Jansen, so are you willing to get into a bidding war with LA? At what point do you walk away from that war? That leaves Melancon, who the Giants seemed to have really wanted at the trade deadline. He would be the cheapest (maybe? likely?). I like this option a lot, but I also lived in Boston when he had the worst year of career, so there’s that. But, after those 3 there’s not much else.
  • If the Giants sign Melancon at say, 4 yrs/$64 million (yeeps), what else do you do? I am most interested in seeing the Giants add veterans (ala Conor Gillaspie) to the bench. I could see them improving the backup catcher and infield position. In other words, a couple of the weak links are: Kelby Tomlinson, Ehrie Adrianza, and Trevor Brown. One example (not saying this is the right guy), would be signing Aaron Hill to take the Tomlinson roster spot. Hill doesn’t need to start, doesn’t need ABs, can passably play a few positions, and has some pop from the right side. These are not sexy moves, but they create organizational depth, which is desperately needed.

Well, that was pretty boring, now for some craziness:

  • Listening to John Smoltz this postseason has made me think: is there a potential starting pitcher out there who could transform into an elite closer? The Giants were rumored to be in the trade market for Andrew Cashner at the deadline, and he certainly has the pure stuff to be interesting? Two other names: James Shields, should he opt out, and Clay Bucholz. In no way, should this be a plan A, but if the Giants can’t get a deal done with one of the “Big 3” then they will have to get creative. All three of those guys would seemingly want to remain a starter, and Shields may not even opt out given he sucked so badly this year, and this is a thin starter market, so they may stand to make good cash as starters, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
  • It sure sounded in the postseason press conference like the front office is very intrigued by a Mac Williamson/Jarrett Parker platoon, or one of those guys winning the job outright. I am too, especially if it allows the Giants to spend the money to get one of those good closers. But I would also be open to the team bringing in a veteran to at least push them in spring training. Are you ok with this being plan A? If not, a plan B option: Matt Holiday!
  • I would love to see the Giants bring in Jared Saltalamaccia as Posey’s backup.

2017 Starting Lineup:

  1. Nunez 3B
  2. Panik 2B
  3. Posey C
  4. Belt 1B
  5. Pence RF
  6. Crawford SS
  7. Williamson LF
  8. Span CF (or do the flip here with the pitcher)

What I like about this lineup is the balance: Left, right, left, all the way through, and more power potential as well.


Finally, some thoughts on Matt Cain:

  • No matter what, the Giants are paying the man $20 million next year. As with 2016, you have to think they are going to give him every opportunity to take that 5th starter role. I know people are really excited about Ty Blach, and I am too, but I think the Giants will give each 8-10 starts (in the majors for Cain, in AAA for Blach) before deciding what to do. I think the Giants need to set, before the season starts, what the expectations are, what success means for Cain, and then stick to that: don’t jerk these guys around.
  • During Joe Blanton’s meltdown in Game 1 of the NLCS, I tweeted this:
  •  I got a little bit of heat in return. Here’s what I mean: I don’t have any problem with Matt Cain turning into a serviceable big league reliever. Nothing would make me happier than Matt Cain having a long, successful, final chapter to his career as a starter or reliever. Either way: don’t care. But, I don’t think it’s quite as simple for Cain as: become a reliever/become dominant again. Joe Blanton transformed his career by turning his slider into a devastating pitch. He doesn’t throw hard, he doesn’t have another nasty pitch. It’s all about the slider. Matt Cain’s success has been primarily related to his ability to command his fastball at the top of the strike zone. The weak contact he induced from that pitch was his secret sauce, a deep source of angst for many in the SABR community. Other than that fastball he’s never had a pitch that translates to obvious bullpen success. This is not saying he couldn’t figure it out. But Joe Blanton strikes me as a one trick pony. That trick is pretty good, but when it doesn’t work, there’s no where else to go, and it can get ugly as it did in the 8th inning on Saturday night. Maybe if Cain goes to the bullpen and he can get his velocity in the 93-95 mph range, and that fastball life comes back, then I will look pretty silly. However, Cain doesn’t profile to me as the kind of guy who automatically transitions well to the bullpen.

The Only Solution to the Giants Bullpen Question

Ha ha, there is no answer to this question fool.

Possible answers, though, include:

  • This is the perfect even year destruction, created by the baseball gods for all the even year shenanigans the Giants have enjoyed.
  • This is all Taylor Swift’s fault for not releasing an album this year.
  • This is the biggest SF Giants troll of all time, and we’ll really be laughing about this at the end of October while watching another parade.

Jokes aside, there is no rational explanation for the 9th inning curse, and therefore no rational solution. These are 9th inning meltdowns turned into performance art. A theater of the absurd.

Last night, no one on the Dodgers did anything that amazing. Cory Seager had a good at bat against Javy Lopez, but hit a double play ball to no man’s land. Most of the meltdown is a strange combination of unfortunate luck and timing.

And yet, no one recorded an out in the 9th inning of last evening’s ball game. Which is to say: there was bad pitching involved.

But don’t try to understand it, don’t try to figure it out. Doing so will only send you to the brink.

Since there’s nothing rational about any of this, there’s only one possible solution and that solution is Joe Nathan.

Rationally, he would be my 5th or 6th choice to close games for this Giants team, but desperate times, man, desperate times.

Joe Nathan will forever represent one of the worst decision in Giants history. Joe Nathan’s absence (and subsequent ascent to top-5 closer) coincided with the last dark moment in Giants’ closer history. There’s a symmetry involved here.

Joe Nathan is the perfect reclamation story, taking the mantle up from Ryan Vogelsong and Travis Ishikawa.

Joe Nathan is the perfect, no-one-saw-that-coming, answer to the question that has no answer.

It’s poetic and beautiful and makes no sense, and therefore is the only thing makes sense.

Joe Nathan for closer, 2016.*

 

 

 

 

*or maybe Matt Cain.**

 

 

 

 

 

**or maybe…

Week in Review (4/9-4/15)

Results:

4-2 (4-5, 4.5 GB in NL West)

7-0 W @ Col; 17-8 L @ Col; 4-2 W @ Col; 5-0 W vs. Pit; 4-3 W vs. Pit; 4-1 L vs. Pit

Well, what a week huh? Two series victories. Two Zito gems. Matt cain was nearly perfect. MadBum bounced back. Timmy sucked again. Nate took over the right field job. Melky kept hitting. The Giants were the only team to score at least 4 runs in each of their first 8 games. Oh, and something about Brian Wilson. Dang. This guy is probably going to be our closer.

Here are my thoughts on the closer situation. Several people are already talking about what to do with Wilson next year. It’s an interesting convo, but not one I want to have right now.

Here’s what I would do: go closer by committee until someone establishes themself (I agree with Baggs, I think, ultimately, Affeldt is best suited to do this if he can get himself together). I would not make a trade! The Giants also have a potential wild-card/secret weapon in the minors right now in Heath Hembree. I don’t think he should come up and close but he could be a K-Rod type addition to the bullpen late in the season.

Here’s what I think the Giants will do. Go with a closer by committee until someone establishes themself (probably Casilla) and then make a trade at the deadline for an “experienced” closer. Top targets will be Joel Hanrahan, Carlos Marmol, and Brandon League. The way closers are going down this year those guys are going to be in high demand. Which means they will be costly. Which means the Giants will burn somebody worthwhile (Belt? Panik?) for them. A classic Panik move. Ha ha. On to the honors!

Hitter of the Week:

4 Giants hit over .300 this last week. Those hitters are: Melky Cabrera, Emmanuel Burris, Brandon Crawford, and Nate Schierholtz. How about that. Having pointed that out I’m going with my new favorite Giant: Hector Sanchez. I can see why the Giants dumped Whiteside and sent Stewart down. In a year when they are not sure what kind of offense they might get out of second base and short stop, they could not afford to have another black hole in the line up when Posey sits (which he needs to do). The kid can hit and he can play D too. Love it!

Pitcher of the Week:

How do you not go with Matt Cain. Dude goes the distance, only giving up 1 hit (to the pitcher), strikes out 11, and yet he’s not the POW. Barry Zito, well done sir! This might be the only time he gets in here, so let’s point out that he Giants are 2-0 when Zito starts. That’s 50% of their wins. He shut out the Rockies in Denver to stop the bleeding, and then he backed it up with a very quality start at home. Who knows how long this lasts, but its worth honoring this week.

Looking Ahead:

3 at home against the Phillies. This will be an interesting series. The Phillies are a diminished team right now, but the Giants will have to beat Halladay and Lee. Let’s hope Timmy bounces back and we get 3 pitching duels. After that, it’s off to the East Coast for 3 against the Mets.

Stay tuned for some thoughts from Nick later today.

(-SB)