Game On! #sfgiants #weekinreview

Holy smokes a lot happened this week with our beloved baseball club. Let’s recap:

  • After a heart warming sweep of the first place Diamondbacks, the Giants road-woes came right up and slapped them across the face. They dropped 3 games in Colorado, managing to score a grand total of 3 runs in those 3 games. That’s basically getting shut out for 3 straight games in any other park. Then, they had a somewhat frustrating split against the Cardinals, frustrating because the series marked the return of two pitchers who were supposed to help (more on this later).
  • Joe Panik got hurt and is on the DL, probably for a while. This makes us all sad, but it also forces us to face the harsh reality that Joe Panik is not having a good season, and it may be in the Giants best interest to let Alen Hanson play everyday. Hanson has been far superior with the bat, and I think he makes them a better, more dangerous team for now. Nonetheless, get well Joe!
  • The Giants welcomed back Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija. My pre-season naming of Cueto as the MOST IMPORTANT player this season, still stands in many ways. If he can be good from here on out, the Giants have a puncher’s chance. He was not very good in his start on Thursday, however, and there will be a dance the rest of the season around when to pull the plug. If he continues to stink (and the Giants fall out of contention), he’ll go back on the DL and the Giants will hope he can heal up for 2019. If they stay in the race and Cueto can give them anything positive, he’ll hang in the rotation as long as they need him. Meanwhile, Samardzija showed signs of life in his return, but he still hasn’t looked better than some of the other options available to the team.
  • Speaking of that, the Giants went ahead and kept both Andrew Suarez and Derek Rodriguez in the rotation and that sure looks like a good idea. Chris Stratton was sent back to Sacramento to keep pitching every 5th day and try to get some consistency back in his curveball and location. I hate to say it, but he has not been the same since becoming a dad.
  • The Giants sent Derek Holland to the bullpen, even though he had been one of the most consistent starters recently, and they continue to carry 13 pitchers on the roster. Some of this is due to having a high number of pitchers who require baby gloves at this point. The Giants don’t want Cueto or Samardzija throwing 100+ pitches right now, so that means it is wise to have Holland and Blach in the bullpen. But also, Will Smith and Mark Melancon (and now Ray Black) need to be managed in how often they are used, since they are still building up strength coming off injuries. I can’t remember a staff that had so many issues like this.
  • Speaking of Will Smith he is finally the closer and he’s been nasty so far and DANG IT BOCHY WHY WASN’T HE THE CLOSER IN 2016.
  • And then (I told you it was quite the week) the Giants made a trade yesterday. They FINALLY got rid of Cody Gearrin (hallelujah), and shipped out the suddenly redundant and underused OF Austin Jackson. In order to do this, the Giants sweetened the pot by including pitcher Jason Bahr. Bahr is a guy who created some buzz this season, and seems like a nice prospect, but the Giants have traded away a lot of buzzy prospects who were never heard from again. This move is a win, in my mind, because it creates “cap” space, gets rid of two guys who were no longer useful and created space for the Giants to see what they have with Gorkys Hernandez, Austin Slater, Steven Duggar, Ray Black, and maybe another bullpen arm or two before this is all said and done.
  • You read that right: Steven Duggar is here! Sounds like the Giants will use him and Hernandez interchangeably in CF, but then Gorkys just pulled a muscle, so we may get a good stretch from Duggar, which is excellent news.
  • That was a lot! Somehow, in the midst of all this roster churn and losing (2-5 on the week), the Giants are still only 3.5 games out of first in the NL West.

Which brings us to the question: what does this all mean? The Giants are still very much in this thing in 2018. They are finally at “full strength” in their starting rotation, the bullpen is pretty good, and they should (in theory) be able to score enough to be competitive.

One could look at the trade as a step towards more moves to strengthen the squad for the stretch run.

Or, are the Giants coming to grips with the reality that they are a bit lucky to be 47-45 (with that ugly -27 =/-), and it’s time to get ready for next year?

It feels more like the latter. Here’s my take:

  1. The Giants brass realize this is a down year in the NL West and so are willing to give the Cueto’s of the world an opportunity to make a run. Who knows maybe they get hot and sneak into the playoffs this season. So, they are not going to blow the whole thing up, but they are going to want to see and invest time in the guys who might be around next year.
  2. They’ve made one trade to make sure they stay beneath the tax threshold (the “cap”) so that they can be sure to reset and go into the offseason with a clean slate. This will allow them to extend Bumgarner, pursue Bryce Harper, or do whatever it is they want to do with their “extra” money to get younger and better.
  3. Now, to the big rumor: there are more moves probably coming. Word is the only Giants’ who are off-limits this July are Posey and Crawford. That means Bumgarner, Belt, your favorite prospect, whoever, is on the table!
  4. I don’t think the Giants are going to trade Belt/Bum/etc, unless someone fills AT&T park with gold and prospects. What this means, though, is that Giants will listen. They want to get a good sense of what a different future could look like, and shopping will allow them to do this.

So, hang on tight Giants fans, the next 3+ weeks are going to be very interesting.

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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.

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.

What to Look For Over the Next 3 Weeks #sfgiants

June is not trending in the right direction (at all). My hope was that the Giants could get to .500 by July 1, and as of right now, they will need to go 15-2 to get there. Probably not happening.

Here’s the rundown of the next 3 weeks and what it would take to turn this around:

  • Sweep the Royals (28-39)
  • Take 3 of 4 in Colorado (31-40)
  • Sweep the Braves (35-40)
  • Take 2 of 3 from the Mets (37-41)
  • Sweep the Rockies (40-41)
  • Beat the Pirates (41-41)

No problem, right? =)


The Giants exploded for 13 runs yesterday (finally) behind an unusual lineup, but here is what I would like to see for the next 3 weeks (at least):

  • Nunez 3B (let the man lead off!)
  • Panik 2B (Joe is someone to watch closely the rest of the season…who is the real Joe Panik and what can the Giants expect from him moving forward?)
  • Posey C (should be hitting in the 3 hole from now until the skills really fade, years down the road)
  • Belt 1B (his all or nothing approach plays best in the cleanup spot)
  • Pence RF (looks like he might be getting it going which means this is right where you’d want him)
  • Crawford SS (I know he’s been one of the most reliable bats of the last 2+years, but any lineup where he’s hitting above the 6 spot is going to struggle over the long haul)
  • Slater LF (let the dude play…if not Mac, let it be Austin, and let it be for a while)
  • Span CF (my hope is that he gets shipped out in July)

MLBTradeRumors put out some interesting info on the Giants yesterday. Here are some thoughts:

There are essentially two kinds of trades the Giants can/should make. One is trading veteran guys away to open up spots for younger players to get time. A classic example of this would be trading Eduardo Nunez so that Christian Arroyo and/or Jae-gyun Hwang can play the last two months at the major league level to show what they got.

The other trade is cashing in whatever valuable assets the Giants may have to restock the shelves. There’s not a lot of options here, outside of a blockbuster involving players named Buster or Brandon (not going to happen).

The two that are most interesting to me: Mark Melancon and Jeff Samardzija. Now, both have 3 years to go on hefty contracts, and both have trade clauses (Melancon has a full no-trade clause), but these are the two options that could fetch something interesting in return.

Melancon, in particular, would have to give thought to waiving that clause to go back to Washington, right? That team is a closer away from being the most dominant team in the game (yes, even more than the Cubs and Astros), so you know they are going to be willing to pay.

Wouldn’t the Cubs prefer Samardzija to John Lackey? The Indians would take him over a few their own guys I’m sure.

We’re starting to get to the point where these things need to be considered.


A small silver lining: MadBum might return sooner than later!

Whoa There Giants…(aka Week [17] In Review) #sfgiants #tradedeadline

What a roller coaster of emotions the past week, days, hours, even minutes have been.

Let’s try to recap, even as news is still unfolding:

  • Some thought the bottom of the Giants tailspin was a 1-8 post all-star break  start, culminating in a dud of an AL East road trip. No the bottom it turns out was coming home and immediately losing 4 of 5, including 2 to the lame-o Reds.
  • In the middle of that the Giants made a move. Finally. They bolstered the hapless lineup, acquiring jack of all-trade 2016 All-Star, Eduardo Nunez from the Twins (we’ll get to what the Giants gave up in a moment). A nice move. Not splashy, but helpful, and it’s already paid dividends (the Giants lineup just feels better with him in the lead off spot).
  • Then the Giants turned it around a bit, winning on Saturday and Sunday. They got middling efforts from their 4th and 5th starters (Peavy and Cain), and GREAT efforts from the bullpen. They scored just enough runs to win, and win they did, to regain a bit of life, hope, momentum, and most-importantly another game back on their lead over the Dodgers.
  • Now, to today: the infamous trade deadline. Word came in on the way home from Costco that the Giants acquired Will Smith (so many Will Smith jokes), for…well, again, we’ll get to that in a minute. Anyways, Smith helps the bullpen for sure, and will be around for a couple of years (also true of Nunez, a fact that might be important here in a few moments).
  • Currently word is coming in that the Giants have probably, hopefully, indeed acquired Matt Moore from the Rays for a couple more…WE’RE GOING TO GET THAT IN A MINUTE OK.

For now, let’s say this: the Giants improved everything. A decent hitter who can play multiple positions and who works off the bench or in the starting lineup, and who will be around for another year? Win.

A good, young bullpen arm who gets out left handers and misses bats at an elite level, and who will be under team control for another 3 years? Win.

A good, young starting pitcher who is left-handed (we see you Dodgers), and who is a VAST improvement over the current version of Matt Cain and Jake Peavy, and who will also be under team control for the next 3 years? Big Win.

…Except…

Oh, what price did the Giants just pay?

  • For Nunez: Adalberto Mejia, who seemed to project as a mid/back-end rotation piece (think more Samardzija than Cueto), but, most importantly, was the closest guy in the Giants system to helping at the big league level. Not the most painful price, but it means the Giants have some confidence in Cain and Suarez being able to hold down the 5th spot for the foreseeable future.
  • For Smith: now we’re getting pricey…the Giants gave up last years #1 pick, Phil Bickford, a strikeout maven and Andrew Susac (remember him!). Giving up a number one pick for a relief pitcher seems insane, but these days this is how it goes. What was most disappointing for me, hearing the news in the car, was the thought that Bickford could have brought a bigger catch. Could he have helped the Giants acquire Chris Sale? Andrew Miller? Or what about Matt Moore?
  • Which brings us to Matt Moore: the deal is not completely finalized, so I’m writing commentary that is still based on speculation. But it looks like Moore for 1B Chris Shaw (best power bat in the system, expendable given the extension of Brandon Belt), Lucious Fox (not a guy I was in love with, but after years of the Giants finishing second on international players, here was one we actually got!), and wait for it…………………………Matt Duffy. Gulp.

There are two ways to skin this cat:

  • You are super ticked. I get it. You love Matt Duffy (the Duffman), you love his fat cat, you love his goatee, and he seems to embody all the best qualities we’ve seen in the Giants over the past 6 seasons. He was the final piece of the golden era infield puzzle!
  • Phil Bickford, you don’t care too much about, but damn, how do you trade a top pick/prospect for a relief pitcher?
  • A power bat (Chris Shaw)! The Giants actually have one of those?! Come on.**
  • And then, Mejia, we’ve been hearing about him for a while now, how come he never got a shot? How could he be worse than Peavy/Cain?
  • Conclusion: this was too much…way too much.

Counter point:

  •  Matt Duffy came out of no where. Remember, we are not that far removed from a Pablo Sandoval extension, which was then the Casey McGehee era. Two years ago, Matt Duffy was Kelby Tomlinson. Turning him into Matt Moore is a golden move.
  • Plus, there’s the not-so-small issue of Duffy’s achilles. The Giants have been taking it slow with him because they feared a Kevin Frandsen redux moment. Blowing out the achilles can be a career ender. Before the Moore deal, Nunez was here, in part, as Duffy insurance.
  • All the other pieces traded were prospects, and prospects are prospects. Meaning, you don’t know. We all lamented the Zach Wheeler for Carlos Beltran deal, but Wheeler, who could still be quite good, has struggled with injuries, including Tommy John. He hasn’t done much since 2011 (?!). You don’t know how those guys will turn out…it’s all projections.
  • Also, the Giants did all this without moving the two pieces that I most covet and look forward to seeing on the big league club someday: Pitcher, Tyler Beede, and INF Christian Arroyo. Arroyo has always been the real answer to the golden infield question***, and Beede was the first round strikeout maven before Bickford was drafted. The cupboard is not bare, and to improve every facet of the team in the meanwhile is kind of amazing.

My official take: wow, that was expensive. But it was bold. The biggest development in the Giants front-office since Bobby Evans took over is the boldness. This team went hard after Zack Grienke. Then it got Cueto AND Samardzija. Now all these trades.

This is a boldness that is about cashing in on the prime years of Posey, Belt, Crawford, and Bumgarner. The Giants have arguably the best starting pitcher, catcher, shortstop, and first basemen in the NL (Arguably, calm down people). There is no need to wait for the “window” to open. It’s wide open.

Of course, the other side of this prime window could be ugly. We all remember 2006, 2007, 2008. Ugly. But this team is going to be competing for the World Series this year, and next year, and the year after that, and probably the year after that. Enjoy it. Embrace it. This kind of thing doesn’t happen often in the history of a franchise.

My only concern and criticism is that this does feel like a Bonds-era kind of boldness. The Giants have succeeded incredibly well by going in the opposite direction: trusting their own guys, and making smaller, but excellent, moves to bolster areas of need.

And then there’s this:

The Giants have also succeeded mightily with their fabled “chemistry.” Did they just ruin it?

My counter to my own criticism is that the Bonds era was an era of urgency, and so is this one. Now is the time. Chemistry is not an issue in a clubhouse ruled by Bochy and Posey and Pence. So, well done Bobby Evans.

**Note: Chris Shaw is not involved. The Giants still have thier power bat. The other prospect there is Michael Santos, who I know nothing about =)

***

Thoughts on Trades Continued… #sfgiants #trades

Yesterday I wrote about a few potential Giants’ trade partners based on teams who are off to poor starts. There is one more third basemen worth mentioning.

Perhaps the most intriguing possibility at the hot corner for the Giants is Adrian Beltre (btw, Casey McGehee hit into another double play today, giving him a whopping 5 in less than 40 at bats. That’s terrible in case you were wondering. Analysis.).

The upside: Beltre provides the best of all worlds…still good with the glove and the bat he would not just be an upgrade but would become one of the Giants’ best players.

The downside: he is owed a quite a bit of money through 2016, and he probably has a no-trade clause, which may render this whole conversation moot. Also, he is old and not off to a great start (small sample size of course).

The most interesting question is: what would it take to get a Beltre type player? Since the Rangers will still likely be on the hook for about $24 million, the Giants could get away without giving up much in terms of players if they take on all the salary. I’d imagine they’d be amenable to that considering they were willing to pay more than this for the services of Pablo Sandoval.

If the Rangers want major league talent would Hector Sanchez and George Kontos be enough?

If the Rangers want more prospecty prospects who would the Giants have to offer?

I would think the Giants would do this if the price were cheap in terms of talent. They can absorb the salary.

If the price for Beltre (or any other 3B) is Susac or Duffy or Panik, I think the Giants will wash their hands and press on with what they have.

Should the Giants go after Beltre?

-SB

Quick Thoughts About Trades #SFGiants

It’s way to early to get into trade talks, but it seems many Giants’ fans want to go there already. Which is understandable. Eight game losing streaks will cause fans to go seeking for hope in any corner of any room, no matter how dusty and dim.

A quick look around major league baseball reveals that two teams have been bigger disappointments thus far than the Giants: come on down Miami Marlins and Milwaukee Brewers. Plus, there’s another team we all anticipated being bad that is keeping up its end of the bargain: hello Minnesota Twins.

Even thought it is early it does seem likely these teams will be selling sooner than later. The Giants biggest need as of right now is probably at third base, so let’s see what these teams have to offer (for the record BaseballMonk remains firmly in the Pro Matt Duffy camp):

  1. The top 3B any of these teams has to offer is Aramis Ramirez. He’s been rumored to the Giants at least a dozen times since he’s been in the league. No doubt we will continue to hear rumblings as the summer unfolds. Ramirez is off to bad start, but tends to start cold. He’s a free agent at the end of the year so if he wants to play beyond 2015 he should be motivated to get it going. He would offer some power, a little glove, a lot of RBI gamer-toughness that Sabean loves, and he should come fairly cheap.
  2. The Miami Marlins are 3-11 and had hoped to be in some kind of contention this year. However, their best pitcher isn’t back until June and that’s the best case scenario. If things continue to go this way they will sell what they have and reload for 2016. Martin Prado is another guy who fits the Sabean profile to a T. High contact, line drive hitter, who can play multiple positions. He’s also past his prime. He has one more year on his contract, which could drive his price down if the Giants offer salary relief. Nothing would surprise me about his presence on the Giants.
  3. The Minnesota Twins have a fairly bright future with some of the game’s best prospects waiting in the wings. However, their lack of ability to develop anything remotely resembling an above average major league pitcher is alarming. They might be more than willing to take a middling Giants arm for Trevor Plouffe, a guy who has aged out of prospect status and is now a fringe every day player with some pop, who probably shouldn’t be anyone’s everyday third basemen. While he would bring the most home run potential and be the youngest and cheapest of these three gentlemen, he leaves a lot to be desired.

I hope to do this same exercise with pitchers soon. Meanwhile: BEAT LA!

-SB