Lots of details were reported in the presser, which is the first I can think of that didn't have Brian Sabean sitting there and talking about the team, it was Baer, Evans, and Bochy. Sabean was felled by an illness, Haft reported. I'm basing the order of these by the series of snippets that CSNBA provided (unfortunately, they don't have a specific link to them, one would have to scroll - forever - to get back to them), then added commentary from the beat writer's reports.
Evans noted that the Giants don't want to match LA, but to pass them. Baer noted that the Giants will look exhaustively through the free agent market, but that it is too early to tell yet how the market will develop. But Evans noted that the boost in payroll will help the Giants to pursue high-end pitching options and that pitching will dominate their priorities right now, not the lineup.
Noted also that the Giants will be open minded, not limited to any particular option right now, as there are lot's of different ways to improve the rotation. And the solution for improving the rotation might not come with one starter, they will have to let the market play out and see what happens. They are looking for the best player, at the best price, for the best time, and that could be a FA, it could be a trade, it could be an international FA, and it could be two starters.
A priority is someone who can get deep into games and someone who will be a good fit. In addition, they are not necessarily looking to solve the rotation for the next seven years in this off-season.
Right now, the rotation has Bumgarner, Peavy, Cain, and Heston. Heston's second half struggles will be examined by the FO and his role evaluated. Also, the Giants are not sure whether they will retain Petit or not, as "it'll be a hard decision to make if we decide not to tender him". And when asked about Vogelsong, Evans noted that he's not in the mode of limiting options right now, he's trying to gather options, and so he's an option. So the Giants have at least one hole in the rotation, which the Giants will try to fill by free agents, trades, or international free agents (apparently some Cubans were named), but the goal is to improve the rotation, and that could mean getting two SP.
He also specifically highlighted Blackburn as "turning a corner" in 2015, and is an option for the rotation at some point in 2016. They were so impressed with how he ended the 2015 season that they took him out of the AFL:
It’s clear the Giants think a lot of Clayton Blackburn, who won the PCL ERA title. “Nobody was better than Clayton Blackburn down the stretch and he’s really turned a corner for us,” Evans said. “His command, his stuff, pitching the way he did at Triple-A in a tough hitter’s league, he’s certainly a guy on the tip of our minds at this point. But there are a number of other guys who could surprise: Beede, Blach, Stratton.”ogc thoughts
The Giants likes to keep some things open when young players are rising, so I had been thinking that the Giants would sign Leake, then leave a spot for Heston and Blackburn to compete over, accounting for the five rotation spots. They have also taken a flyer on a free agent (like in 2010 when they got Wellemeyer to battle with Bumgarner for the #5 spot).
But a lot of fans would like the Giants to pursue a high end free agent in addition to Leake to fill two spots in the rotation. I would characterize this as the common reaction I've seen from Giants fans over the years when the team failed to win a championship (in other words, most years :^), they want the Giants to get the best player to fill whatever particular hole is viewed as the most pressing, and don't care how much it costs because the team has money to spend, with no thought as to whether it actually works with the payroll and current roster structure. They want what they want, damn the consequences.
The way I see it, when Pence was actually in the lineup, the team was mostly healthy and playing, and that configuration was 34-17 even with the rotation we had during that early parts of the season, comprised of Bumgarner, Lincecum, Hudson, Heston, Vogelsong, Peavy and Cain at the two main points where Pence was starting. A rotation of Bumgarner, Leake, Peavy, Heston, Cain, with Blackburn then Beede/Stratton/Blach should be equal to that mix of starters, then if the team improves on Heston with another free agent, all the better.
And if the Giants can sign another guy who would push Heston to long relief (since he seemed to tire out by August) or perhaps use Heston as a "true" 5th starter, as the role was traditionally handled - which was as long relief during early days when there are a lot of days off, and brought into the rotation in May once the season got fully into gear - which would enable Heston to last longer into the season, that would be all the better.
The problem last season appears to me to have been that the Giants had four starters who could be question marks during the season, and eventually all four - Cain, Peavy, Lincecum, Hudson - did go down at some point, for extended periods, and they only had Heston and Vogelsong as backup depth. Adding Leake and Heston/FA should make that only two - Peavy and Cain - with Blackburn, Beede, Stratton, Blach as backup (plus Heston if FA). So while I can see another FA being added in, a high end starter is not necessarily going to happen, based on what I've seen of how the Giants operate (I'll be commenting further below once we get to Baer's quotes).
Other possibilities include a lower level FA who would eat innings. Ian Kennedy is available and has been mostly a horse during his career and is only 31 YO next season. Given his poor season, the Giants probably can get him for anywhere from 1-3 seasons at $10-12M per, which is relatively cheap and doesn't lock out any of our SP prospects for very long.
Right now, the focus is on his rehab and getting him healthy. He's learning that the rehab is stiff, and learning how to deal with it. Hopefully, once there is progress, then the team will assess him. But until he regains his health, no decision will be made.
The Giants are taking the sensible route here (as is their usual routine). Major surgery can bring major complications at some point. First get Lincecum ready to the point where he's clearly capable of returning to the pro ranks, then they can start thinking about where he fits in.
There is some onus to replace with free agents. They expect leadership out of any free agent who joins the team. In any case, still have good veteran presence today: Peavy, Casilla, Lopez, Posey. No focus on retaining Byrd or De Aza yet, though they acknowledge how much Byrd helped the Giants, as they will on this later focus later. Pitching, specifically SP but Bochy also noted that the bullpen could use a boost as well.
The Giants have noted an interest in bringing back Byrd, but not at the $8M that his option was for. I'll discuss later as this relates to Aoki questioning. De Aza is probably gone.
The plan is for Posey to catch, with occasional 1B, just like before.
The Giants has been steadfast on saying that this is all up to Posey. Posey has been steadfast as saying that he wants to be the starting C but that if it serves the team better for him to be elsewhere, he will move. The data has been steadfast in showing that Posey, when playing 1B, is refreshed enough that he's hitting at his MVP standard level, and that when playing C most of the season, he is reduced to a lower powered singles hitter (though still plus offensively overall) by the end of the season. However, he is so good at framing and defense that the Giants wants him back there, and that appears to be where the tipping point is.
Once Posey's defensive value as C diminishes, the Giants will want to move him to another position (looking like 1B now, especially with his improvement last season to stronger positive defensive value) permanently. The study I saw about framing found that catchers typically lose their positive ability to frame as they head into their 30's. Posey will be 29 next season.
In addition, the Giants will need to have catchers who can either hit or defend well, ideally one of each to replace Buster, and if we are lucky, one could do both. Right now, none of the catchers who played at least 10 games in the majors last season had a positive defensive value in 2015, per Baseball-Reference.com: Brown, Susac, Sanchez.
However, Susac's catching defensive value was very good in 2014, so perhaps his problems this season relates to his issues with his wrist that had bothered him all season-long, as it was there in spring training, and which eventually required surgery that put him out for the rest of the MLB season. Plus his hitting has been good overall in his pro career. He is most probably Posey's replacement as starting catcher once he is ready to take the starting position.
Susac and Sanchez will battle for the backup spot for 2016, with the caveat that Sanchez has no more options left, so the Giants might decide to keep Susac in AAA in 2016 to give him regular starts as catcher in order to improve his defense, which enables them to keep Sanchez one more season. But the Giants in recent seasons have been pushing players, like Belt and Duffy, to the majors, even if it costs them a potentially useful player, like Ishikawa, Adrianza, and McGehee. Thus, most likely Susac will be the backup catcher and Sanchez will most likely be traded sometime during spring training, or perhaps sooner, in the off-season, given the positive reviews of Brown at the end of the season.
Brown might have gotten some good reviews while he was starting in the majors, but it didn't show up in the defensive numbers (albeit, catcher's defensive stats are still in the 20th Century, though it should catch up within the next 5 seasons, I think, as the metrics are there, but the body of data is not yet there). He's actually been OK in making contact in the minors, plus get a fair amount of walks, and combining that with him being young for the league at every step of the ladder up the minors, I think he has some viable chance of figuring out his hitting enough to be a backup catcher in the majors, as he is only 23 YO and yet already spent a full season in AAA. Catcher's offense typically comes later because of all their time spent working on their defense to get them ready for the majors, so he could continue to develop both offensively and defensively. However, BA didn't even list him on their depth chart from the 2015 Annual, listing Susac, Garcia, then three others. In fact, BA noted that Susac could be starting for other teams right now.
Aramis Garcia should start making noise in the upper minors starting next season, but he's mostly known as an offensive catcher as well. And he did really well offensively last season, so there is that. He and Brown will probably be competing for the backup spot when the Giants are ready to move Posey to 1B and start Susac as C.
I suggested last season and still think it would be good option to have Posey and Susac share the starting jobs at C and 1B, playing Posey as much as he likes (or can stand) at catcher. This would put Belt in LF, and leave no starting spot for Aoki in this scenario, so this is more likely in 2017 than 2016. Still, this gives Belt a starting position that he's comfortable with and where he won't get regularly replaced by Posey, while also giving Posey the flexibility to start as many (or as little) games at catcher, while also giving Susac a starting role as well, and not sitting him down so much as a backup.
Panik's back problems is actually not uncommon. He should heal fine and then it is a matter of managing him to keep him healthy. The Giants are open-minded about Tomlinson. He hasn't played much OF so far, but they will be trying him out in instructional league and evaluating. He has an impressive bat, will be a utility player, and spring training will provide answers as to what he will do. But to expect him to be a platoon CF is a lot to ask of him.
The bad back for Panik at such a young age can't be a good sign, no matter how much the Giants pooh-pooh the issue. As we Giants fans are too familiar with, both Franchez and Scutaro were lost to bad backs, ending their careers. Still, he is still young and the Giants, now that they know about this, can try to manage this by giving him more rest, and not allow his back to get this bad.
This is where Tomlinson comes in, both for 2B and SS, and perhaps 3B and/or OF. The thought right now is that his bat is good enough for the majors, and with his athleticism, he can play any of the infield positions, as well as perhaps play in the OF. He is being targeted for the utility position that was envisioned for Duffy for 2015 at the end of the 2014 season, except that he'll be examined for a Zobrist-like role (whom the Giants had tried to trade for before), where Bochy could rest many of his regulars, at minimal cost offensively and defensively. This is similar to the role, as well, that was envisioned for DeRosa, who was superior defensively (+1 WAR seasonal rate) at many positions (2B, 3B, LF, RF, 1B).
If Tomlinson can do this, including handling CF, then he could be a super utility bench player, which would free the Giants to carry a bat who does not have as much defensive flexibility, but whose bat could be more useful than what we have had in recent years beyond Blanco. In addition, he could give extended rest, when needed (like nagging injuries), to Panik at 2B (back issues), Crawford at SS (nagging injury), Duffy at 3B (his second half was down from the first half; stamina or regression?), LF (Aoki or FA or Blanco), CF (Pagan always end up injured in some way, he's another Pistol Pete Reiser, who gets injured from going all out, all the time, so extended rest could be useful), and RF (Pence is not getting younger).
I'm really excited about this development. That allows the Giants to hold onto Adrianza as backup MI, as he's really good defensively, while still developing as a hitter. Plus Blanco as backup OF and Susac as backup C, that would leave one spot for a professional hitter who is not still developing but can deliver, a player like Byrd, if he's willing to play that role now that he's older (probably not though, unless he really wants to get a ring, and he seemed to have been hurt by the fact that the Giants stopped starting him once they were eliminated from the playoffs, costing him his option vesting at $8M, he probably wants similar money for 2016, as he should produce 1-2 WAR).
Lots of ways to play this last bench position. Probably will sign a FA OF who really wants a ring but is old and could use the rest to stay productive. Or perhaps this would allow the Giants to carry two catchers, using Hector Sanchez in the hitter's role. A rookie would not make sense in this role, though, because even veterans have problems with this role, and as 2015 showed, rookies as well, so carrying someone like Mac Williamson would not work.
And Tomlinson could hold such a role for a long while. With Arroyo continuing to hit as he rises up the system, he could reach the majors in 1-3 years, and should the Giants need to replace Panik, Crawford, or Duffy for any reasons, Arroyo could be ready when that need happens. That availability means that the Giants could plan on keeping Tomlinson in such a role indefinitely, unless injuries get really bad.
There are no plans to change any of the coaches.
The Giants have been able to hold onto coaches with little turnover during the Bochy years, and really through the Sabean years. The only possibility is if anyone is hired away as manager, for example, the Nats have asked for permission to speak to Ron Wotus for their managerial opening (he has been interviewed before, but never close to getting the position, that I can recall). Righetti has mentioned his interest as well, now that his daughters are all grown up and moving on, but his name has not come up for any managerial opening that I can recall.
Pagan's right knee was operated on in order to clean it up. He should be healthy in spring training and he will be the starting CF. Despite Pagan's defensive metrics showing him as the least effective CF in the majors this season, there are no plans to move him to LF, though if his health changes, that could change things.
The Giants appear to think of Pagan as only a CF. This could just be a ploy to improve his value in a trade. Baggarly has brought up the topic of perhaps Pagan being traded to make room for Blanco and Tomlinson in CF. He noted that other teams have asked for Pagan in the past, so there is interest in him, and with just one year $10M left on his contract, many teams could take that on by trading back a player with a similar contract size, but filling another position of need for the Giants. They need an improved bench, and if Blanco is starting and Tomlinson will play the super-utility role in IF and OF, they will still need someone to replace Blanco on the bench. Or it could be that professional hitter I noted above. Perhaps this trade can yield such a player.
This would solve a number of issues for the Giants. Pagan's frequent trips to the DL hurts the lineup, and his poor defense in CF hurts the defense. Aoki was great for the Giants as leadoff, and he would only cost $5.5M to pick up (with $700K buyout, that's an extra $4.8M spending to retain him), which with Blanco in CF ($3.9M), would be much less than what the Giants are paying Pagan in 2016. Tomlinson would get to acclimate himself to playing CF during the season - plus the corner OF positions - and, if he continues to hit well, prepare himself for taking over a starting OF position in 2017 potentially if he shows any skill for the position.
The main question is what would the cost to the Giants be? If they give up a good enough prospect, the other team could be enticed to take his salary, while giving up a relatively minor prospect (I don't think the Giants would give up a good prospect just to get rid of Pagan). They could also take on a counter-balancing salary while perhaps providing a prospect who is not as good (not all teams will necessarily need a prospect to take on Pagan's contract). This could be a way to get a professional hitter for the bench.
The Giants got until after the World Series to decide on what to do with Aoki's team option, it will be a close call and the team is not ready to decide right now. They will look at the offensive lineup and roles, as Blanco had his best offensive year. Aoki is kind of in the same position as Lincecum, where the team wants to see encouraging reports on his health, in which case, it would make it more likely that he will rejoin the Giants.
The Giants appear to be evaluating whether Blanco is ready to make the leap to a starting role. Looking at his numbers, particularly his peripherals, he might be ready. However, he'll be 32 YO next season, and that's when age related declines start to kick in for some players. If they determine that he's ready, he would save the team money by starting in LF, leading to letting Aoki go, or by starting in CF, which would allow the Giants to trade away Pagan.
The problem is that in the last two seasons, Blanco was not as good as the average CF. So while Pagan has been pretty bad defensively in CF, it is not like Blanco has been all that great here either. Thus, it is more likely that the Giants are evaluating Blanco vs. Aoki, and if they decide he would be better, then they will not pick up Aoki's option, else, they keep Aoki and keep Blanco in his very useful backup role.
Baggarly has noted that Dexter Fowler is available. While Fowler has been an excellent leadoff hitter, his defense in CF has very rarely been average, let alone good. I really don't see that happening. And as I get into the payroll, just below, there is not a lot of money to throw around, so Fowler might not be affordable depending on what happens with the starting pitching, though if they could trade Pagan for a prospect, that would effectively shift their payroll money from Pagan to Fowler (or whichever CF they pick up).
The payroll will rise, so there may be a high end option, but not solely. They plan on the payroll going up some each year, incrementally, and thus it will be higher in 2016 vs. 2015's $170M. How much will yet to be determined, and payroll not the only way to improve, there are different ways to get better. The Giants ended up paying the tax in 2015, because of the additions of Leake and Byrd, and do not plan on paying the tax in 2016.
The Giants, per many calculations I've seen in discussion, has gobs and gobs of money left over, assuming that the payrool is at the $189M penalty threshold. I calculate $148.2M, which involves the AAV of each deal being added together, which leaves $40.8M that could be spent.
However, what people are failing to recognize is that the payroll is the limiting factor, not just the penalty threshold, and that they are calculated differently, as well has having different limits. While the penalty mark is $189M, which the Giants passed in 2015, the Giants payroll was $170M (per reports, but last season and the Giants has been raising it up slightly each season. A raise up to $175M would make slightly below $29M available for free agents (unless Aoki and Petit are let go, which would add roughly $7M, pushing to $36M; keeping Susac and DFAing Hanchez would add another $1M). Raising the payroll to $180M would add another $5M.
That's roughly $30-40M that the Giants could spend on FA. There is no way the Giants can afford a high-end starter along with Leake in such a deal unless the first year is much discounted, resulting in a very back-loaded contract. It basically becomes an either/or situation, with the possibility of getting two Leake level starters. In addition, the total amounts above already covers 24 players, so only one more could be added: one SP, which presumably is Leake.
Then they could add another starter, like Ian Kennedy, who could fit along with Leake payroll-wise, to stay around $175M. That could push Heston to the long-relief role, which then frees $2.4M since the Giants would then need to DFA Petit (or trade him), that they could spend on Leake-Kennedy. If they need more money to get a better pitcher over Kennedy (or singly better than Leake), the Giants could let Aoki go and/or push the payroll budget to $180M, either would add roughly $5M to the payroll.
The Giants are open minded about the pace. They haven't pinned their plans to one player yet. There is mutual interest, though the timing might not be to each liking.
The Giants and Leake appears to be made for each other. Both openly noted their interest in each other, Leake stated that he wouldn't mind signing early in the free agent process. The Giants did that with Pence. Leake has a long history with Bochy and enjoyed his time with the Giants, plus was good friends with Brett Bochy growing up. And the Giants spend spring training in AZ, which is Leake's off-season home (which is why the D-backs would be interesting to him).
I suspect that Leake is asking for a lot more than what the Giants want to offer, perhaps because of his AZ connection (asking for a "buy now" premium), so the Giants are going to head into free agency and kick some tires, see what shakes out. They would be hoping that the market is as they think it is, and negotiate with Leake from there.
I think something in the 5 years range to be fair for Leake, that would take him to his 32 YO season and make him a free agent for his 33 YO season. Maybe add a team option 6th year which vests under certain IP or games started level. Based on deals that Liriano, McCarthy, Peavy, and Santana got last season, I think $14-15M per season is fair market price, and could push to $16M if there is an ardent bidder or two. The total contract total would then range from $70-80M, plus whatever the buy-out for an option year.
Baer was proud of the team's determination, it was as high as it was in any of the championship seasons. The effort was "incredible", as the team fought through adversity to stay in the playoff race.
Standard "rah-rah" stuff you normally hear from the CEO.
There is not a lot to do. We got our core guys, Pence, Panik, and Cain, and Cain's last outing is encouraging. The only problem was that "we just missed them most of the season." It was a tough year but nobody used it as an excuse, these guys hung in there all year, giving their best efforts. Found out about new players, very encouraged by them. Will need to tweak a few things, but there are many things to be encouraged about.
He also noted the bullpen. The young guys in the bullpen were encouraging. He said that Osich becomes the new Affeldt, and Strickland will be in the mix for the 7th inning as well. He also pointed out Kontos' having a huge year for the team. However, Pavlovic noted that it was interesting that Bochy also noted that the bullpen needed some help, and that Petit wasn't used much in the last month. Pavlovic also noted that Cody Hall might be an option there as well, over Petit, as Bochy noted that he did a good job there.
Bochy also does the "rah-rah" stuff too.
And it is very interesting what Bochy noted about the bullpen. Currently we have Casilla, Romo, Lopez, Strickland, Oscich, Kontos, and Petit holding all seven bullpen spots. The only person among this group who had a clearly down season is Petit, whose strikeout rate went down precipitously, and thus must be the area that needs help.
As I noted above, they could get two SP, which would push Heston to long relief and then the Giants will need to DFA Petit via trade or waivers. Presumably that would help the bullpen, as presumably the rest of the bullpen is considered to be OK. Another way to go could be to replace Petit with Hall, which was mentioned in one of the presser rundowns linked above. Many different ways the Giants can go here.
Bur reading between the lines, it appears that the Giants feel the need to upgrade over Petit. I had thought that the Giants were saving him for other roles when they went with Vogelsong as the replacement starter, but they used him less and less as the season went on, and then not so much that last month or so. Now they say that they are not sure about whether to tender him or not.
Other News and Thoughts
There were other news and thoughts that I'll share.
It was just announced that the Giants outrighted Jackson Williams, Nick Noonan, and Brett Bochy. Not too surprising, none of them probably would have even been placed on the MLB roster if it were not for injuries, and especially if the Giants had been closely battling for the NL West title, though Bochy still might have, since his Dad is manager.
Also, the MLB has decided that since the Cubs have a signed agreement with the Cuban prospect Eddy Julio Martinez, and the Giants don't, even though they had an agreement first with his legal representative in the U.S., the Cubs get the prospect. Clearly his other reps used the leaked Giants deal and amount to get the Cubs to tamper and come to an agreement with EJM for a higher amount. And since he wants more money than less, he quickly signed the later agreement, and Frank Viola, it was a "legal" deal and nothing skeevy according to the MLB.
The new Commish fell down on this deal to allow a player to circumvent business agreements like this so easily. How they could not see this, I have no idea. It is almost like the Commissioner doesn't have any type of business background, nor any lawyers advising him who have any business background. Opens the door for others to run multiple agents around, then leveraging the first deal into other, more lucrative, deals. This will come back to haunt the MLB.