Monday, December 22, 2014

Your 2015 Giants: Romo Anvil AnVil and Scutaro Probably Peavyed

As reported by various outlets (Mercury's Pavlovic reports on Romo and Scutaro), Romo's return meant the Giants needed to clear a spot on the 40-man, and the one getting the axe was Angel Villalona, who was outrighted to the minors.  Not sure of the consequences (seems to imply he was sent to minors with no recourse, nor danger of being claimed; tried to research, could not work out legalese) regarding Giants control of AnVil.

In addition, Scutaro finally got the surgery to fuse his spine, which will make life more comfortable for him going forward, but unfortunately, his career is now in severe doubt, as fusion generally has meant the end of an athletes career, from what I remember about the news report speculating on this mid-season.  With a 4-6 month recovery period, at which point they can then start to evaluate whether he can even return to baseball, and the past prior record, it does seem like the end of Scutaro's baseball career.

ogc thoughts

As I noted in my other post, I'm happy to have Romo back.  I had thought (wrongly) that his family might have pressured him to sign up with LA (OK, maybe not wrongly, but not as strongly as I had speculated), but he said the right things in the press conference today about returning to his gang of four (Affeldt, Casilla, Lopez), his band of brothers, and that he can't imagine not working with them or this organization that gave him his big break.  He noted that he got other offers, including possibility of closing, but noted that the way he views it, anytime he's coming in, he's closing anyway, it's pressure time.   Of course, we'll never know exactly what went down exactly, but he did note disappointment of not getting a third year, but is happy to make money that will take care of his family.

I was surprised that AnVil was outrighted, though not totally.  He had a poor year in the upper minors and that is usually a deathknell to a prospect's career as he gets up there in experience, but I still thought that Heston and Parker would have been lower on the totem pole.   I have a feeling once I learn more about the technical aspects of what it meant to outright him will help explain why him and not others.  I still have hope for him, but right now it is looking like Duffy will start at 3B in AAA and Duvall start at 1B, so AnVil will probably be in Richmond again.

Thanks for the Rain Dance Marco

Looks like Scutaro's career, at minimum with the Giants but most probably his career, is over, so I would like to once again thank him for his contributions to the 2012 Championship.  You can't say this all the time, but truly, without him being "Blockbuster" (his nickname with his teammates at the time, denoting how he was the blockbuster trade for the Giants given how well he hit for them), we don't win that championship.  Invaluable component.

Some people like to point out that his contract was a waste (much like Huff's), but, really, there were no better alternatives at that time who looked like better replacements, but players notice when teams take care of their own or if they screw them in the back at the first chance (cough, Miami), and a team with a reputation of dumping their players (as the Niners got) will find it harder to keep their players, I think, or attract other players.

It's funny, but in our country, Wall Street is excoriated for being all about money and maximizing by dehumanizing the regular population, but I find that a lot of fans are like that as well.  As well, they don't think about the consequences.

Sure, the Giants could have counted their lucky stars that Huff played up to his potential for us in 2010, and kicked him to the curb once we got that great production from him without paying him much.   But he produced 5.6 rWAR for us, roughly around $23M per metrics, and that is exactly what we paid him, which is a great return on any free agent because the sad fact is that most do not even break even, most fall very short.  And had he been dumped, who would the Giants have signed instead who could even dream of producing 5-6 WAR in 2011 without asking for a Brinks Truck to back up to their house?   Fans would have been mad at the Giants.

Same with Scutaro.  He produced 4.1 rWAR, or roughly $21M and that is roughly what we paid him during his time with us.  And it was not like it was a massive overpay over the market, the Cards reportedly offered him roughly the same money, but the Giants went to three years with a little more money.   And Scutaro produced a lot while playing for us in 2012, had his health held up, he would have been in the 2.5-3.0 WAR range.  

If he had produced 2+ WAR in 2014 and 2015, his contract would have been considered one of the better free agent signings by the Giants, as he would have been paid under half of what he produced.  As it was, the team roughly broke even, overall, and we ended up with a championship because of his contributions.

People can be very hard-nosed sometimes, I don't see why they would begrudge him his contract, given what he produced, and in this case, it was not his fault that his body broke down (I would point my finger at Holliday's slide starting the bad process in the spine).  Or that Huff's mind broke down from the pressure of his contract.

So thanks Marco, and I hope you have as healthy and comfortable a life as you can, and thanks again for the contributions, especially towards winning the championship.

Peavy Needs a Spot Too

When Peavy is signed soon, he will need a 40-man spot as well.   As I noted, Heston and Parker are probably the next ones to go when a spot is needed, but with the announcement of Scutaro's surgery, they most probably will waiver him instead, knowing that no team will pick up his contract, knowing that he won't be back until mid-season at the earliest, and possibly never again.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Your 2015 Giants: Giants Trade for 3B Casey McGeHee

Pavlovic reported that the Giants traded for 3B Casey McGehee ("mc-gee") for two minor leaguers:
Casey McGehee is headed to the Giants in exchange for minor league right-handers Kendry Flores and Luis Castillo. ...  it’s a pretty low-risk move. After rumors earlier in the day that the Giants were giving up Hunter Strickland or Matt Duffy, they ended up shipping out two pitchers who are not top prospects. 
McGehee was a league-average hitter last year by OPS+ (he was at 99) and he dropped off big time in the second half, but he still finished with a .355 OBP last season, he’ll come relatively cheap ($3.5 million in arbitration is the MLB Trade Rumors estimate) and he has a great nickname (Hits McGehee). 
MLBTR also had a good account at their site.  It noted his journey to Japan in 2013 and his second half falter.

ogc thoughts

I would not have been happy if we lost Strickland or Duffy, not happy at all.  I was a little shocked that Flores got shipped, as I liked him, and he has a high K/9 and great K/BB, but I trust the Brian Trust on the Giants to not ship off players who will turn out to be great (average maybe, but not great).  Still, only 22 YO, 9.5 K/9 and 3.50 K/BB in Advanced A ball.  I guess I have some bias, as I noticed him a couple of years ago while checking the minors.

I like McGeHee, partly because he's a local kid (born in Santa Cruz and went to school at Soquel).  If he can hit like he did in 2014, then he's a good addition, but if anything like 2011-2012, then no so good.  How someone can go from hitting 23 HR in 2010, in a full season, to only 4 HR in 2014 in a full season, I'm not sure.   Of course, he could have peaked early, had his prime season when he was 26-27 YO, it does vary, and some studies suggest that physical peak does come early, not around 28-30 as some other studies suggest.

But he has a good contact rate and a good walk rate, so at minimum, with good peripherals like that, I believe that he's a good hitter who can get on base a lot.  That's valuable almost anywhere in the lineup.  And with his high GDP numbers, maybe he should be batting 8th, where the pitcher can sacrifice him to second, and then the top of the lineup can work to get him in.

It was mentioned in the article that McGehee had a big second half falter.  Looking at his stats, it looks like he had a very high LD% all season long, which helped with his resurgence in the first half, but then apparently the line drives and balls weren't falling in for the second half, leading to a BABIP of .306 from July to September, and a batting line of .265/.332/.328/.660.  Unfortunately, we don't know if the second half was simply a regression to the mean from the first half, or a regression to his prior poor performances.

Still, there are still some positives to see here, a risk/reward type of situation.  At worse, he has opposite platoon numbers, with a better average vs. RHP, so perhaps the Giants are seeing a platoon situation here with Arias taking the LHP AB's.   Defensively, he's not all that good at 3B (he hasn't really played enough at 1B or 2B to judge, but he's been average there), so it could be situation where Arias comes in late games for defensive purposes.  If he can hit like he did last season, then that's a bonus.

Perhaps the Giants think they can "fix" him.  I looked into his stats and the difference between him early in his career and now is that back then, he could hit LHP, which only makes sense, he's right-handed.  Perhaps he needs some tweaking of his mechanics so that he can start taking advantage of his righty-lefty advantage once again.  That's risk reward too.

I would have been happier letting Adrianza and Duffy fight to win the starting role at 3B, but I guess now Ehire's on the bench and Duffy will start in AAA.  And if he can hit close to what he did in 2014, then that is good enough production.  And at worse, he only costs around $3.5M (arb yet to be determined), and then Adrianza and/or Duffy get their chances at starting at 3B, much like Adrianza got a chance at 2B in 2014.  And this is a typical Sabean move, get a vet to see if they can get a bounce-back type of year, but if not, then the young guys get their chance.

Now lets see what they do about LF, if anything.  Appears that the shopping is almost done.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Your 2015 Giants: Peavy Pickup for 2 Years, $24M

It as been reported that Jake Peavy re-signed with the Giants for 2 years, $24M.  No mention of incentives or bonuses.  Breakdown is $4M signing bonus, $7M in 2015, $13M in 2016, so there is some back loading there, plus some accounting stuff with the signing bonus (probably yields some advantage given how the MLB accounts for payroll for the luxury tax, would be my guess).

ogc thoughts

I had been previously not for re-signing Peavy, because of his problems in the post-season and my expectations on what he would be asking for (he was getting $14-15M in last contract and might want 3+ years).

But at $12M AAV and only two years, I can live with his limitations, as you can't make the playoffs without winning during the regular season, and he seems to be good at pitching very well in the regular season.  He had extreme problems pitching on the road for Boston, for whatever reasons, and hopefully it was the NL parks he grew up in as a major leaguer that made him comfortable with us, as well as having his buddy Bochy around as manager, and new buddies Bumgarner and Hudson around.

And assuming Bumgarner's arm is OK and ready for another run, Cain's body is as healthy as reported and ready to return to prior goodness, and Lincecum will get the mechanical guidance from his father that will keep him from going off the reservation too often and returning him back to the straight and narrow faster when he does, one could expect the final playoff rotation spot to be a battle between Hudson and Peavy  (or probably Lincecum, Hudson, Peavy battling for two spots, as I'm only hoping that Lincecum can deliver a season much like Hudson regularly delivers, a mid-to-high 3 ERA season).

Peavy is Fine as Mid to Back of Rotation Guy

For me, Peavy is fine as a mid to back of playoff rotation starter, better than having Dirty as our 4th in 2010, better than having Zito as our 4th in 2012 (though Zito pitched much much better than a 4th, so good for him and for us).  He's never had a DOM start in the playoffs, but have put together some decent starts, willing his way to OK results on occasion.

Plus, maybe he'll finally put it together for us in the playoffs by being our #4 instead of #2, as he was in this year's playoffs, less pressure and all that.  Plus, players can get better, Hudson actually had a spotty playoff record until this season, but whereas before he was the ace of the staff, for us he was back of rotation.   Playoff pressure is a much higher level of difficulty for major leaguers to get over and adjusted to.

The key things for me was his great DOM% and low DIS% (PQS metrics) during the last few years, and those were why I wanted him back in the first place.  His poor ERAs in spite of the good DOM% and low DIS% suggest that he suffered from a lot of bad luck in recent seasons, relative to his peripherals.  People point out the good luck with the Giants, but that could be regression to the mean relative to before.  He has averaged roughly 70% DOM (which is an elite level) and 11% DIS (which is very good), which should lead to really good seasons for any pitcher, and if he can do that for the Giants, I would be very happy.

Of course, there are (just like for FIP and other advanced metrics) who despite showing the best peripherals, don't get the results expected.  And maybe he is one of those.   But still, his 2012 season and his 2014 season with the Giants give me a lot of hope and expectation that he can still pitch at an elite enough level for us.  Again, got to win enough games during the regular season before we can worry about the playoff rotation.

Vogie Gone?

No word on what this does to Vogelsong, but my gut tells me that this is good-bye to a good Giant.   We don't have any space in our rotation or bullpen currently.

Evans did say in an interview that the Giants are still open to signing another starting pitcher, even though technically they have a full rotation with Bumgarner, Cain, Hudson, Lincecum, and now Peavy.  Most speculation seems to revolve around getting Shields, but I don't really see any chance of the Giants signing any good starting pitchers to the rotation, but they might pick up someone whom nobody else wants (Vogie?) for a low price as SP insurance (much like how LA has been doing it the past few seasons), though there is no space in the bullpen for such a tactic right now, unless they move Machi or Kontos.

If he has pitched his last, and it appears to strongly be so, then I want to thank him for all the great performances and for making the effort to return home and do well for us, I think all Giants fans will always be grateful for his loyalty to the team and for entertaining us with his great starts over the past few years.  I wish him all the best (except against the Giants, natch :).

Me Likey Rotation

If this is our set rotation, I like it.  There is some risk with all of the starters, but really, to my mind, nothing more than any other rotation.  TINSTAAPP rules the day, mostly, pitchers are fragile.
  • Bumgarner I think should be better in 2015 than 2014, for as good as his 2014 was, he actually started the season struggling, perhaps because he was trying to be the ace (his PQS was great in 2013, but his peripherals were even better in 2014).  
  • Cain has not been Cainer since his Perfecto in 2013.  And it turns out that he's been compensating for the chips in his elbow and ache in his ankle for years now.  With both healthy now, I don't see why he can't return to his prior goodness of 2011-2012, if not better at some point.
  • Hudson had a Hudson type of year.  Look at his career, look at his season by season numbers, he is like a machine.  I don't care how old he is, he does not rely on velocity to strike out guys, as long as he is healthy, he's going to get MLB batters out.   And with Petit around, if his hip is achy again, hopefully the Giants just DL him to get him healthy faster (plus less stress on his body), put Petit in the rotation for 2-3 starts so that he can prepare well for each start and do well.  
  • Lincecum is the biggest question mark but here is what I see.  Every year he struggles, but every year he has a period where he's as good as he's ever been.  You don't do that if your velocity is that low and bad now (as some speculates), your velocity can't suddenly be good after being bad during a season, without mechanical changes, and the record shows, in any case, his velocity to be steadily dropping and thus is not the reason he is suddenly good again.   You don't strike out around 9 per 9 innings without having your stuff still.  Last year he had a hiccup early, but ended it relatively quickly, and was one of our best starters throughout much of the middle of the season.  He had a good 3.65 ERA when he sacrificed his routine to save that long extra-inning game, and given that he was crappy afterward, he did something bad to his mechanics by doing that save appearance.  So I expect his Dad's major contributions to be two fold:  helping him to keep his mechanics in good shape so that he pitches well (he has reportedly stated that listening to Tim's starts enables him to know what Tim is doing wrong with his mechanics), and helping him to get out of his longer funks sooner than later.
  • Peavy, in spite of the shortened seasons on his record (injuries generally do hell to your PQS and DOM%/DIS% before you are finally DLed), probably has the best DOM% of the rotation over the past 6 seasons, and he continued that while he was with the Giants.  This is why I wanted him so badly for the rotation until I learned about his poor record in the playoffs then he continued to do poorly, which drove me to not want him anymore.   I'll admit to over reaction during the playoffs, in the heat of the battle.  Now, especially with the Lincecum revelation of him not working with his Dad since the 2009 season, I feel good enough about the rest of the rotation that I welcome Peavy back into the Giants fold.  
Then, there is Petit as backup.  I see a lot of people dissing Petit as a SP, but as I've noted here a number of times, his poor starts were when he was suddenly the emergency starter with no time to prepare much before the game.  When he has been actually placed into the rotation and allowed to act like a regular starting pitcher, his PQS has been very good, more than good enough for the Giants rotation, good enough to be the ace for many a team, and any team would be happy to have a SP with his DOM% pitching for them:  in 13 starts between 2013 and 2014 where he was placed in the rotation, 8 DOM and 2 DIS = 62% DOM/15% DIS.

Most teams would be happy to have a #3 starter with those stats.  We have one as our long reliever.  Now THAT is depth, nothing like the Dodgers, who had a lot of starting pitchers lined up, but guys like Maholm who are at best back of rotation starters.

I think a lot of people don't understand the concept of depth.  Just having a pitcher ready to step in is not depth to me.  Depth is being able to bring in someone and the rotation does not skip much of a beat with the change.  Teams rarely have that, but we had it with Bumgarner in 2010, Vogelsong in 2011, and now Petit the past couple of seasons.  Maholm allowed the Dodgers to limp along in the rotation, but he was no depth when Kershaw or Ryu were out, not even close.  And when the Giants needed a replacement starter, they were able to trade for one in Peavy, who was much better replacement starter than Maholm.  That's not always possible to pull off, but, again, having a Maholm stashed away don't make it a good thing either.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Your 2015 Giants: Romo Rolling Home, Signs with Giants

Per MLBTR, where I linked to their photo above (just seems appropriate for this post), he signed for 2 years, $15M, with some incentives, up to $1M based on games finished (in case he becomes closer again, I assume).

ogc thoughts

Wow, did not see that coming.  Thought for sure that he was going down to LA, which I assume his family - still die-hard Bridegroom fans - has been getting on him to do.  Plus there was the Colletti-Giants connection, though that part died the moment Sheriff Ned got bounced upstairs.  That's why I've not mentioned him much, other than that the Giants still professed interest.

Honestly, I thought that he was gone.  Giants typically get their guys signed quickly, and when not, the players are usually pretty open about wanting to return but wanting to test out the free agent waters.  Romo didn't say anything about wanting to return, that I saw.  Plus, being a closer was something I knew that was important to him, and thus I also assumed that he wanted to get a closer's job somewhere than be a set-up guy here.  Or at least get closer-like money.

And perhaps he did, but after all this time and the Winter Meetings over, perhaps there weren't any interested in him being their closer or at closer money, and if he's going to be a set-up guy anywhere, why not return to where he's loved, respected, and comfortable?  And the Giants typically pay well to boot, and they did, going above what they had paid to Casilla and Affeldt previously.

Feeling Good

Overall, I'm happy.  It probably means Strickland will be pitching in AAA in 2015 - I assume Kontos, barring a horrible spring, got the Gutierrez (and last) spot in the bullpen - and I was kind of looking forward to how he does.  But it really makes our bullpen strong in that there are a lot of good to great duplicate pieces in Casilla, Affeldt, and Romo, each with their own skills and strong points, and gives Bochy the luxury of going to another one quickly if one should happen to have a bad appearance.   Plus as healthy as Romo has been in his career, his elbow has always been achy and could breaky at some point.

Plus, now Strickland can be in reserve in AAA in case anything happens to the Big Three of Casilla, Affeldt, Romo, particularly since they are all on the bad side of 30 and getting older, as our bullpen is getting on the old side.  He would also get more experience as the closer in Sacramento.  And perhaps upgrade our bullpen should we make the playoffs again, taking over for Machi perhaps or the 5th starter, as the case goes.

Now the bullpen is Casilla, Affeldt, Romo, Lopez, Machi, Petit, and probably Kontos, though perhaps Strickland (Kontos has no more options and would be lost, though, if he were not on our 25-man, and he's been good enough that I don't think the Giants would do that, trade him).

I'm also happy because I think that Romo is a good guy with a good head on his shoulder.  I can still remember the interview he gave to CSNBA the year he came up, he earned a fan for life at that point (unless, of course, he ends up being a Bridegroom).   And the Giants bullpen has been deadly in the playoffs with them.

BWeez Begone

Brian Wilson was just DFAed by the Bridegrooms, $9.5M thrown away.  I wonder if his crazed historonics with the Giants prevent his return here.  Then again, he'll probably want to live closer to home and perhaps join the up and coming Padres, who can face both the Giants and Dodgers.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Your 2015 Giants: Winter Meetings Review

The Giants did not make many moves during the winter meetings, getting two minor leaguers via the Rule 5 draft, minor league portion.  Just before the meetings, they offered salary arbitration to all their eligibles:  Blanco, Hanchez, Ishikawa, Belt, Crawford, and Petit.

Evans noted that the meetings were productive in that the Giants have determined that their best options for acquiring the players they seek (mentioned previously, in order of priority, SP, 3B, and LF;  though no mention of reliever, they did note their interest in Romo at some point, though in a blanket statement regarding all their free agents) is via free agency, not trades, due to the lack of surplus at the major league level.  Though perhaps something could be done via trading prospects (given the way the statement was made, I think it can be inferred that the Giants see better options via free agency than via trades using prospects, suggesting either that the price via trade is too high or that our prospects were not viewed as highly as some might think.  It could also mean that every time they approach someone for a trade, they ask for one of Panik, Susac, Duffy, or perhaps Adrianza, someone the Giants are unwilling to give up).

So really, nothing much happened...

ogc thoughts

Being Used by Free Agents

Other than they were used by Lester to squeeze the Cubs into giving him the money he was shooting for.  Once he got that, he told the Giants "Thanks, But No Thanks", even though (as in the Sandoval pursuit, and Carlos Lee before), they had indicated that there was still room to go in the negotiations.  They came in third this time (they were told buh-bye a day early, apparently it was Cubs vs. Red Sox, but rumors had it that it was the Cubs all along because of Epstein and Hoyer, and the allure of winning one for Cubs, and reportedly because he was upset by the low-ball offer they made in spring - though some would think something like 4 years and $75-80M is plenty good).

Speaking of butt-hurt players, apparently (per Pavlovic) some in the Giants organization feel that Sandoval had decided against the Giants long ago (including Bochy in this CSNBA interview, but I would note that he took the high road, noting that players have options and he praised Pablo for all that he gave to us).  Given what we know now, his "I got two years to get fit" statement was the first overt sign that he hasn't been happy with the Giants.

I wonder what it could have been.  Perhaps it was the threat to put him in AAA if he didn't get into shape back in 2010?  Or even before, because he was sat in the 2010 World Series, maybe he was embarrassed by that (or his entourage got him to feel that he was dissed by this)?  Perhaps it was how the team treated him when he was accused of rape by a woman back early in his Panda days?   Perhaps he didn't like what the Giants team leaders, like Posey, said to him in the prior offseason?  Perhaps he was upset by the initial contract offer (which, BTW, his agent totally misplayed and then made it all public, shows what a novice and how unskilled a negotiator that his agent is).  Perhaps it wasn't the team, maybe he is still shocked over his mother almost getting incinerated in the San Bruno PG&E pipeline explosion and just wants to get away?  Lots of different possibilities, we'll probably never know why, though with the leak that the Giants kind of knew he wasn't coming back, perhaps his side will stop taking the high road too and leak why he was unhappy (they had been particularly leaky in the spring, and drew first blood by releasing the offer information, so it would not surprise me if they do).

So his decline the past few years might be more related to his discontent, which might lead to his resurgence with the Red Sox (what I would call the Greg Minton Syndrome:  he was very unhappy with his salaries and openly said so, then once he was getting the big money from the Giants, he didn't play as well anymore, so when he left for Angels, I wasn't unhappy, but then the bum started pitching well again...).   Now that he no longer has this weight on his mind, perhaps he will play up to his 2011 potential.  Or play up to his contract, whereas before he played down to it.  Or maybe his buddy David Ortiz will kick his butt in the right way and get him to play up to his abilities.

But what I've seen is an unmotivated player, who even in his free agent walk year, could not will up a great performance (apparently he tried too hard early on to be a superstar, per Miggy, who takes walks; he hit well from, like, mid-May to the rest of the season, but not $20M AAV great, IMO).   What I see is a player who willfully under performs and stays out of shape despite a large contract paying him a lot of money, more money will not necessarily drive him if he feels that he's owed the money due to his magnificence and greatness.   He has never shown the ability to be a leader, nor the ability to be led, he has always marched to his own drum (and, as typical, he's a lefty;  I find that they do think differently), a man-child running loose in the adult world.  Hopefully for his sake, he mans up, grows up, and reach his potential.

Top Priority is SP

The Giants have made their priorities clear:  get a SP first, with the goal of picking up someone significantly upgraded, like Lester and now Shields (reportedly they were talking with Santana as well before he signed).  They have also said that they still think highly of Peavy and Vogelsong, and both are starting to get mentions of pursuit by teams (Peavy by Bridegrooms and by Marlins, Vogie by Twinnies).

Regarding Lincecum, Sabean, when asked, noted that he's a starter "at the moment" and then Bochy came out almost immediately afterward and, when asked whether Timmy was a starter or reliever, stated clearly that Lincecum is a starter, reminding the reporters that he pitched really well at times last season, and had his no-hitter (he loves to defend his vets).   I think that Lincecum will do much better in 2015 now that his father will be advising him once again on his mechanics (I still can't believe he hasn't helped since 2009).  I wonder if the drama we had with Sandoval this season will be repeated with Lincecum next off-season.  He has said that playing for Seattle would be nice one day.

About Cain, both said that he's been recovering fine, and that they expect him to be ready for spring training, and be back to his old self.  Bochy noted all the crap that came out of Cain's elbow, marveling at the amount.  All the reports say that he's healthy, and if he's healthy and no longer hampered by his elbow and ankle, he's got to do better, right?!?  Though, per Bochy's CSNBA interview, he feels that Cain will need to adjust to having all that "crud", as Bochy called it, not bothering him anymore in his elbow.

About Bumgarner, Bochy noted that the Giants will certainly monitor Bumgarner but that he appears to be in great shape and they don't anticipate having to baby him in any way during the season, though they might be more conservative in taking him out earlier to lessen the load.  But no more so than they normally do, monitoring how the pitchers are doing, adjusting to what their bodies are telling them.

Congrats to Madison for being named SI's Sportsman of the Year.  Great article about him at SI.  Revealed that he once dated a girl named Madison Bumgarner (he checked, not a relative!) and other interesting stuff, it was a great read.  He's one of the youngest to win, and one of the few pitchers to have ever won it.

Next Priority is 3B

About 3B, Headley was the main media rumor until Sabean felt the need to openly say that Lester was the Giants only concern at the moment, and that people should not pay attention to the reports that talk about how enamored the Giants are with Headley.  Sounds pretty much like a public rejection of him, though perhaps that was just Sabean's bluntness coming out to clear the air and not a rebuke.

Still, hard to see the Giants ending up with him, unless that 4 year, $65M rumor was just a lie put out there by his agent (and the rumor is that it is false), and he ends up needing to sign a one year deal in Jan/Feb to earn a better one next off-season.  But apparently he is close to signing with his #1 choice, the Yankees, for a reported 4 years, $50M deal, which is not close to the AAV of the rumor, so unless he's giving up $15M to sign with the Yankees, that was a lie passed along by someone working with his agent.

There has been rumors that the Giants have been talking with the Braves about Justin Upton for LF.  He would cost a lot of prospects, and frankly, I don't think we got the numbers or quality to do it, unless Panik and Susac are part of the deal, and neither is going nowhere.

How does this fix 3B?  To reduce how much the Giants would have to give up to get Upton, the option exists of also accepting Johnson's $15M contract over the next two years, in order to reduce the prospect haul, and he would play 3B.  Unfortunately, he does not play 3B all that well, but then again, neither did Sandoval in 2012-2013.  Still would cost some prospects though, still might not have enough, depends on how badly the Braves want to clear out salary, and I haven't see them rumored after anyone high in salary, so perhaps this rumor is dead already.  And besides, Evans has said that the trade route does not seem to be good enough right now for them to acquire the players they desire.

But Do They Need to Acquire Players?

As noted, the order of priority for the Giants is SP, 3B, and then LF (as noted above, they did not mention reliever, which don't bode well for Romo returning, though it was noted that they were still interested).  For LF they mentioned that they had Blanco, Perez, and even Ishikawa as options there, and thus that position is a lower priority to acquire.  Given their posturing, have to wonder if they will even sign anyone, more probably someone as a cheap pick-up in January/February.

For 3B, they have said that they do not have any internal options.  I think that Arias, Adrianza, and Duffy could be options.  Bochy in the interview with CSNBA spoke about how they can't replace him.  But Arias has been so good defensively there that Panik/Arias could produce as well as 2B/Sandoval did in 2014, overall, given how poorly 2B produced in 2014 and how not above average Sandoval produced in 2014.  And I think Adrianza or Duffy, if given the chance, could be even better than Arias, particularly Adrianza, who was getting hot when he got injured, and has always been a superlative defender.

But I recently realized that for PR purposes, the Giants can't publicly say they have a solution internally.  It would not fly with the fanbase to tell them, don't worry, we'll be fine replacing Sandoval with Arias, Adrianza, and Duffy sharing the load.  They would be crucified in the press and social media.  So they say the right things about how great Sandoval is and how hard it is to replace him, and when they have tried every option, continue to talk about moving on from Sandoval and using what they have internally.

And for SP, an interesting tidbit came out recently:  Giants feel that Ty Blach is underrated, and feel that he could be ready for the back of the rotation at some point during the 2015 season.   Or perhaps they want to prime the pump for trading, I was surprised when Escobar was traded after all the talk about him in the off-season...

In any case, they only need one SP, and while there has been some rumors of other teams' interest in Peavy and Vogie, nothing hot and heavy so far.   So perhaps the Giants are waiting out the market and seeing who is available at a price they are happy with.  They have reportedly been in on most of the top pitchers available, except for Scherzer, including pitchers who would cost us our first round draft pick.

I just don't see the Giants giving up their draft pick, particularly with other teams giving up their first round and pushing the Giants now to 19th overall (they had started at 22nd) and could move up if any of the remaining ahead of us sign anyone that would cost a draft pick.  Particularly since the remaining pitchers are nothing like Lester, a game changer.  The difference between guys like Shields and Peavy is worth the draft pick it would cost the Giants.

We need to remember that a lot of the "interest" the Giants show in free agents is often part of their thorough process of vetting everyone as to their availability and interest in the Giants, and what the cost could be.  If the guy is willing to come to the Giants for a low enough price, any free agent is interesting to the Giants.  But it appears that a lot of the time, it's a much below market price.  For example, they once reportedly went to Gary Sheffield and asked if he would have been interested in signing with the Giants for $10M, and I believe he signed with the Yankees for 2 years, $26M.

So I think the Giants will stay close enough to both Peavy and Vogie to judge where they are in their decision making and gauge the interest of other teams, and when one of them is close to choosing a team, make a move to acquire the pitcher they feel is the better value.  I have to think that they prefer to get Peavy back than Vogie, but that Peavy wants multiple years at similar money to what he was getting before (around $15M AAV), and thus it is a matter of whether they can get Peavy for something like what they signed Hudson to, or if they will decide to settle with Vogie as their 5th starter.

Rule 5 Draft

During the Rule 5 Draft, the Giants did not lose anyone this year, and they rarely select anyone, but did pick up two players in the minor league portion of the draft:  OF Brett Jackson, former Cal, and Ramon del Orbe, RHP.  They like Jackson's athleticism and Orbe's "solid fastball and decent changeup."  Jackson will probably be in AAA, Orbe in A-ball, per the media talk.

Brett Jackson was actually pretty good in the minors then suddenly lost it soon afterward.  A couple of teams have tried to fix him up, giving him chances due to his high proespect status, but now he's with us.  I see him in the Blanco/Arias/Stewart mode, a prospect who showed some decent plate discipline at some point in their professional career, but for whatever reason, could never really put it together under the weight of being "the prospect", and now perhaps could do it for us, in his last chance (perhaps) to make it in the majors.

He fits right in the mode of players that Barr seems like to pick up, former hot prospects who showed the talent but for whatever reason, failed.  He's been as high as 32nd top prospect for BA, 33rd for, 44th for BP.  Those are pretty high rankings, but from my view, those are the fringe good prospects, who show enough good talent to make the majors, but still have some things to figure out.  Obviously, he never figure those things out.

Looking at his stats, it seems to me that he lost his plate discipline that year he started hitting all those homers, I think it was 2011.  He hasn't been able to stop swinging for the fences since, pushing up his K% and pushing down his BB%, which used to be pretty good BB/K ratio, leading to high OBP.   He actually is a nice basestealer too.

If the Giants can get him to start shooting for line drives and making contact, versus swinging for the fences, they might have the next Blanco in their farm system, someone who can play all three positions, get on-base regularly (when playing within his abilities), steal bases on a regular basis, and he's a lefty to boot.  Plus some power if he can adjust his approach at the plate to the needs of the situation.   Heck, he could even be the new Blanco sometime in 2015-16 if the Giants go through with Blanco being the starting LF, and Perez and Ishikawa as the bench LF.

Arbitration Signings

Speaking of Ishi, they have already reached a contract agreement with him for $1.1M, and with Hanchez for $800K.  While not quite locks to make the 25-man roster (Hanchez still has one more option, if I recall right, while Ishi has none), barring any injury setbacks for Hanchez, he should be the backup catcher in 2015 and Ishi should be the lefty power bat off the bench, who also can get on base at a good rate too, plus plays great defense at 1B, when necessary.

For, as much as the Giants have been making it very clear that Posey is their franchise catcher, he has nominally been the starting catcher, catching around 100-110 games each season.  And I have to think the Giants view Susac as the starting catcher of the future, whenever Posey decides he is done.  Plus, given how dangerous the catcher position is, Susac is a great luxury to have in hand, and would want to prepare and develop him further with a full season catching in AAA in 2015;  but the Giants have pushed the envelope before, placing Hanchez and Belt on the 25-man roster sooner than later, so we'll see.

But I can't see them promoting Susac to the majors without making him a starter, which is why I've been advocating a future sharing of C and 1B between Posey and Susac, and given that eventuality, then it makes sense to move Belt to LF now and get that done and over with.  Plus with Ishi around, he can platoon at 1B with Posey in 2015, as that is really what the Giants need with Posey unable to catch a full season and needing 30-40 starts at 1B to stay fresh.   These tactics makes great use of the talent currently on the roster, with no high priced additions.

Looking Forward

I would be happy if the only move is to sign a free agent starting pitcher to replace Vogelsong's position (whether Vogie, Peavy, or other).   I trust the Giants brain trust to pick up someone interesting for the last rotation spot.  Probably, at this point, someone who has been down but had been good before, and thus some potential for upside.

I think the lineup (Sandoval/2B to Arias/Panik, Morse/Belt to Belt/Ishi-Posey; Belt all season replaces and is better than Sandoval), while not as strong, would be close enough, given the probability of similarity with some improvement in the starting rotation (I expect Bumgarner to not have that stumble he had early on, Cain to be Cain-like, Hudson to be his usual steady self, Lincecum to be steadily OK, and improvement especially if we have Peavy all season) and bullpen (Romo/Gutierrez to Kontos/Strickland, though there still appears to be some chance of Romo returning, and Romo/Kontos would definitely be an improvement).

Of course, it would always be nice to get a strong upgrade like a Lester.   Gilding the lily is always nice.  But at what price?  At what risk?  Plus, Price will be available next season and, at the moment, both Lincecum's and Hudson's salaries ($30M) will come off the budget, a great SP would be especially needed next season with a lot of money coming off (perhaps the #5 starter too, depending on who is signed).  Not that I'm necessarily for throwing the bank at Price, but Lester isn't the only big stud pitcher going on the market in the near-term.

I don't need the Giants to play smash mouth baseball in order for me to enjoy the season.  Three in Five has made me much more mellow about things, though I think I would have felt the same way even had we had lost to KC.   I've never felt the need for the Giants to be overwhelmingly good, probably because I've seen so many teams who look like that fade in the playoffs.  I want a team with good players who I can root for and feel good about, and I do right now.

We have a good enough team to make the playoffs, I think.  I want to keep some spots open for young players to come up and maybe take it over, like Panik did in 2014.  Adrianza and Duffy at 3B.  Maybe Mac in LF by mid-season.   Strickland, Okert, Hall in the bullpen.  Maybe Law by the trade deadline.  And we need them to, our bullpen has gotten pretty old now, we need an infusion of younger, fresher blood.

Plus there are things to watch for on the 25-man roster.  I think Belt and Crawford are ready for their breakout seasons, where they put it all together for a full season.  Pagan's issues have mostly been with his back and he reported being pain free after the operation.   Even Pence had a bit of a down year relative to his career, he could have a bounce up year as well.  We won in 2014 despite a lot of players not performing to their best or even expected levels (including Pablo, we won a lot early on despite his struggles).  Plus we should have Panik all season, hopefully producing, his plate discipline appears to be up to snuff for the majors.  And maybe Blanco can be a steady producer if Pagan can stay healthy and keep Gregor in the bottom part of the lineup, he's great in the 6/7 position.

Starting pitchers too could surprise on the upside.  Cain hopefully will be back to normal now that he has no chips or ankle problems for him to adjust to.  Lincecum could surprise and be back to consistent goodness again, I would take a full season of what he did last season until that save, he had a 3.65 ERA up to then, that's great to get from your back of rotation starter.  Bumgarner stumbled to start 2014, adjusting apparently to his ace status (heavy is the crown), but he was stellar from start to finish in 2013, and I would like to see that in 2015.  And who knows, maybe Petit will get his chance to shine in the rotation at some point, pitchers are a fragile species, who knows who might go down, for example, Hudson probably should have DLed mid-season 2014, his hip problems caused him a lot of performance problems, so maybe now that Petit is a proven performer, he'll go on the DL until ready knowing that Petit will carry the load well for the team.

Posey has been saying that he's been building up his stamina so that he can last longer into the season while catching more.   One might not remember, but originally he was suppose to catch 140+ games in 2014, but Belt's injuries allowed Bochy to start Posey at 1B a lot.   Good thing, look at how bushed he was in the playoffs.  That extra-inning game didn't help, but there were enough off days, I think, for him to recover.  He's never had a stellar season start to finish (including playoffs), perhaps he can pull it off in 2015.

And then there is Bochy.  Up to 2013, he had averaged 4 games above .500 in one-run games.   The team was at 0 in 2013 and -4 in 2014 (though +3 during the playoffs, I never counted them before, but I guess they count too).  He has had around 40% of his seasons with at least a +8 , and I don't think he's ever gone three seasons without one.  That would be a 6 game swing had it happened in 2014, changing it from an 88 win season to a 94 win season.

If I thought the Giants were in bad shape, I would say it, but I don't see it.  They appear to be in good shape, even if there is no great addition to make up for the loss of Sandoval, I would not be surprised if the Giants win more games in 2015 nor if they won the division.  As I noted before, the Giants did most of the winning early in the season (was 43-21 on June 8th) with Pablo slumping a lot (.242/.290/.398/.689 to June 8th).   I think Panik can easily meet and beat that, and I think Arias could meet what we got from Hicks up to that point, .188/.305/.376/.681 minus whatever crud Arias and Adrianza had done at 2B up to then.  And if they can stay healthy enough, I don't see why they can't be really good all season long and compete for the most wins in the majors like they did early in 2014.


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