Tuesday, December 22, 2015

I'm taking a break

Unfortunately, my sister passed away this weekend, so I won't be posting for a while.  Not sure how long, as it was quite upsetting as she was so young, maybe my feelings will settle down once I'm done taking care of everything that needs to be taken care of, as I'm taking care of her arrangements.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Thoughts After Cueto Signing Press Conference

With the Cueto press conference introducing him (accounts by Pavlovic and Baggarly), news about the details of his contract came out.  Wow, complicated:
  • 2016:  $15M
  • 2017:  $21M
  • 2017-2021:  $5M bonus, paid $1M annually, but apparently only one if he opts out
  • 2017 Opt-out:  If he exercises it, he gets $5M buyout.  Else...
  • 2018-2021:  $21M
  • 2022:  Team option for $22M, and if not exercised, he gets bought out for $5M
Through all those complications, if he opts out after 2017, he will have received $46M in total:  salaries for 2016-17 of $36M, bonus of $5M, and $5M buyout.   He can be traded, but gets $500K for the first trade, $1M for the second.

According to the press conference, they did an MRI and found nothing wrong, that the flexor problem he had earlier in the year was fully healed.  And obviously he passed his physical.  And while Sabers hate the word, chemistry was also inferred.

The elbow issues limited Cueto’s market, but the Giants aren’t concerned. He missed a start while in Cincinnati last season because of a flexor tendon strain, but an MRI during the season came back clean and Evans said an MRI the Giants took on Thursday came back clean. “His elbow looks great,” Evans said. “It really looked good.” 
The Giants investigated those risks, and deemed them sufficiently minimal. Cueto underwent an MRI exam as part of Wednesday’s physical, and GM Bobby Evans said the right-hander’s elbow “looks great, really good.” 
The missed turn in May that caused him to skip a start and led to so much concern from clubs this winter? A mild flexor strain, said Evans, adding that a contrast dye injection was the only reason Cueto missed one start. The checkered performances following the late-July trade to Kansas City? An inevitable adjustment to a new team and catcher, agent Bryce Dixon said. 
Baer said the front office contacted several of Cueto’s former coaches with the Reds and Royals, and came back with a positive assessment of his personality, passion and clubhouse demeanor. 
So what, exactly, allowed them to move past those ghosts [of Zito Past]? “It’s a fair question,” Baer said. “What we really saw was, if you have five strong (in the rotation), plus (Chris) Heston … we think it just gives us the best chance to win. It changes the bullpen equation. We don’t have to overtax the bullpen, which is one thing that might have happened last year. 
“We did a really thorough war room analysis and everybody said" [Cueto was the free agent to get. (cribbed this from the televised press conference and inserted here)]
“And the other thing, as Cueto’s name was out there, a lot of calls were made and he came through as a huge plus-guy in the clubhouse. A huge plus teammate. Huge plus. That was really important, too.
Also, Haft has some info regarding Cueto's workout regiment, showing how much a competitor he is and how fitness conscious he is:
Based on the testimony of Jeff Brantley, the former Giants right-hander who scrutinized Cueto as a Reds broadcasting commentator, Cueto works ceaselessly to match the achievements of Marichal and other greats. "He's a high-end competitor," Brantley said. 
Don't be fooled by Cueto's thick frame, Brantley advised. "If you take a look behind the scenes and watch his workout regimen, it's about as professsional as you can get," Brantley said. 
"There's not too many starting pitchers out there who run 'stadiums [up and down the aisles of an entire ballpark].' He runs them until he's blue in the face."
Bochy was a noted driver for this move, and how it would work:
“Bochy said get me another 200-inning starter and I’m good,” team president and CEO Larry Baer said. “I’ll figure out left field … It’s our recipe: Pitching, defense and sprinkle in position players where we can.” 
Sounds like LF will not be a high priority either going forward, barring a free agent desperate for something.   Still:
Although the Giants doubled down on pitching this winter, Evans said he remains involved on “all levels” of a free-agent outfield market that remains slow to develop. Evans wouldn’t say how much wiggle room remained in the budget, but the Giants expect their payroll plus benefits to exceed $189 million and thus would pay into the competitive balance tax for the second consecutive year.
But there's a 30% premium now with the next bit of news, which is that Baer noted that the Giants had went pass the payroll threshold and will be paying the tax this season.  At 30% tax, any additional salaries added on would effectively cost the Giants at 130%, or, in other words, for every $10M added, $3M of tax is collected.
Baer noted that the development of homegrown stars like Matt Duffy and Joe Panik made this offseason spending spree possible. Counting the Brandon Crawford extension, the Giants -- resigned to paying the competitive balance tax for a second straight year -- have committed $295 million to three players over the past month. Cueto’s deal is by far the biggest, and it’s a complicated one.
And a word about Lincecum:
Evans acknowledged that filling up the five-man rotation “does put us potentially in a difficult spot” to re-sign Tim Lincecum, who is looking to start again and will showcase himself in January. “But in the meantime, we’re not ready to come to any landing there right now. He’s done a lot for the franchise, he means a lot to the organization and we’ll let that play out over time.”
I interpreted that to mean that the Giants are interested in bringing back Lincecum as the long reliever if he don't sign with someone as a starting pitcher, else they would have just said "adios" like they did with Vogelsong because there are no more spots in the starting rotation.   That would put Heston into AAA to work on whatever it was that they intimated that they would have him work on when discussing the options with him.

Speaking of Vogelsong, he just signed with the Pirates, $2M contract with $3M in incentives.  Don't know details, but basically he's signed to a cheap deal where he'll probably have a role like he had with the Giants last season, and if he ends up starting a lot of games, get his incentives, I would bet.  Good luck to him, he's been a great Giant and we'll always remember everything he's done for us.

Lastly, interesting news to come out (via Pavlovic) was that apparently the team Greinke was close to selecting was the Giants, not the Dodgers as most (including me) assumed.  Apparently the Giants brass got the impression from meeting him that he was leaning towards the Giants.  Greinke impressed by asking about prospects that not everyone in attendance was aware of.  In their meeting, he blew everyone away with his knowledge of the Giants.

This could tie in with the information I read about how upset he was about Puig in the clubhouse.  This could have been akin to the Kent-Bonds situation for the Giants after 2002, where the free agent was not returning to the former team for any price because of a tense situation he has with another star on the team.  Given how Greinke is clearly a GATE student type (smart, but socially a bit awkward, and in his case, bordering on insensitive), it would not surprise me if he just wanted to get away from the LA situation, as Puig is apparently not going anywhere.  

Monday, December 14, 2015

Start Spreading the News: Giants Sign Johnny Cueto to 6 years, $130M

Getting news off Twitter:

  • Cueto has agreed to deal, now pending physical, as usual.
  • $130M over 6 years, so more than D-backs offer ($21.67M AAV for threshold purposes)
  • Opt-out after two years, team option for 7th
  • $23M for first two years, $21M over final four

Thursday, December 10, 2015

2016 Giants: Samardzija Deal Official

The deal for Jeff Samardzija is official:
Here are the highlights that I can see, which I compiled across the accounts of the signing:
  • Bruce Bochy described Samardzija as “high energy,” and multiple Giants people have said this week that Samardzija’s desire to pitch in San Francisco was a boost. 
  • “He's got the equipment. Jeff's always had great stuff,” Bochy said. “He’s really had a nice career. Last year had his hiccups, but, you know, we certainly like what we're working with, and we look at him as a guy that's starting to come into his own. He's young, he's got a young arm. He's got velocity, sink. He's got all the pitches that can make him successful. 
  • “Hopefully we can do our part and help out, but I think he's primed to come into his own. That's how we felt and that's why we signed him, and we're excited to have him. He's a guy that can carry some innings for us, get us deep in the game, something that our pitching staff could use.” 
  • “You know, it plays a little part. We do look at that,” Bochy said of the ballpark switch. “We’re into analytics and we are in a pitcher-friendly park that does benefit a guy … He does sink the ball and he can get ground balls. There's a little bit of a margin of error when you pitch in our ballpark. 
  • “But, regardless, this is a guy that was on our radar, and we wanted him.” 
  • The sense here in Nashville is that Samardzija will be a good fit in San Francisco. I’ve talked to a lot of people who are familiar with his good times (2.99 ERA in 2014) and down times (4.96 ERA, 29 homers allowed in 2015). The word out of Chicago is that Samardzija didn’t always see eye-to-eye with pitching coach Don Cooper last season, and Bochy noted Tuesday that he believes he’s got the best in the game in Dave Righetti. Samardzija also goes from the worst defense in the American League to the best in the National League. And he’s moving to a pitcher’s park. 
  • The Giants trusted their scouting reports while paying for stuff over stats. They see someone who could thrive in their ballpark, throwing pitches with more conviction knowing he has some additional margin for error. The Giants fielded one of the best defensive teams last season; the White Sox were one of the AL’s most porous. And Buster Posey is pretty okay at calling a game and maximizing a pitcher’s strengths. 
  • Mostly, though, there is Samardzija’s 94.1 mph fastball, an average that ranked alongside Matt Harvey’s for 12th best among major league pitchers last season. They see a pitcher like Jason Schmidt, who can carry that fastball into the late innings. They see a pitcher whose stuff does not match his track record, but could – and soon. 
  • Bochy's interview on getting Samardzija, which is quoted on by beats above, seems some parts got edited out (see video up top of this article), I edited to get his points in more logical order:  Samardzija has the equipment, great stuff, young, young arm, got velocity and sink, all the pitches one needs to be successful.  He's had a nice career, with hiccup in 2015, but view him as prime to come into his own, plus he carries a lot of innings, going deep, that's valuable too.  
  • Also noted that the Giants has a balanced lineup, good roster makeup, so now they are flexible in getting any player that they think would improve them, keeping options open for all possibilities.  
  • From interview with Sabean (see video in middle of article):  Giants saw something about his arm angle - "it strayed last season" - that their pitching brain trust will work on with him.   Loved that he was still throwing 94 MPH in his last start.   They believe that they have the answers for why he didn't do well last season.  Noted small sample of 2015 vs. abilities to go 210+ IP in his career.  And he really wanted to come to SF.  [ogc:  Interesting point:  they saw all of his starts last season, which means that they were already targeting him for trade or free agency.]  
  • Also noted that the Giants wanted to move fast because they didn't want to get in a "negative leverage" situation (I've been noting this since Beck tried to leverage Sabean, so he traded for Nen, and when Baker tried to leverage Sabean, and he brought in Felipe Alou to replace him).  Now they got a full roster, and focused on improving themselves, ideally with another SP, good #3 starter.   He also noted that the Giants were unwilling to go six years for Greinke, that 5 years is their max for free agent pitchers.
Interesting enough to include separately, the White Sox pitching coach taking the blame for Samardzija's problems in 2015:
  • Helping along that narrative is this, from Samardzija’s last big league pitching coach: “Man, I failed.” 
  • Samardzija was supposed to be a prime piece of the White Sox’s splashy offseason last winter. Instead, he was one of many things to go wrong – and there was no fixing it, especially after he wasn’t traded at the July 31 deadline. Disappointment might have crept into his performance as he went 1-8 with a 9.24 ERA over his next nine starts. 
  • “It didn’t work out the way any of us would have wanted,” Cooper told Padilla. 
  • “That’s not to say anything negative about Jeff. He’s a quality pitcher and has many great assets, and I wish him the best. 
  • “I never wish poorly on anybody because I feel if you do that something’s going to come back and bite you in the ass. It just didn’t work, and that’s one as I sit home [I think about] when I do get around to thinking baseball.” 
  • Those around the White Sox say that Samardzija and Cooper had a breakdown of communication. The Giants have hinted at dysfunction as well, saying that pitching for his third team in two seasons might have impacted Samardzija’s performance. 
  • White Sox GM Rick Hahn told Padilla that Cooper shouldn’t be so quick to impale himself. “There was communication on a daily basis, and an open and honest communication on a regular basis,” Hahn said. “There might not have been full agreement on what was going to be the remedy, but that’s not totally atypical, especially when you have a veteran guy who’s had success and sort of feels like he knows, and he does know more than anybody how he feels and what he’s doing and what he thinks are his keys to success.” [ogc:  classic CYA]

Monday, December 07, 2015

How Samardzija Was This Signing?

The Giants signed Samardzija (pending physical on Tuesday, which is expected to be fine) and so how good a deal is it?  There were some negatives that led me to not want to sign him, but now that I've seen more information, I'm actually pretty excited about it.  Plus, it gives us more Shark marketability, with Gregor Blanco (White Shark) and Samardzija (Shark).

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Giants Sign The Shark: Samardzija for Pence Deal

As the beats have been reporting, Giants signed Jeff Samardzija to a 5 year, $90M deal.  The deal details per Pavlovic, who first reported the deal:
Samardzija got the same five-year, $90 million deal Hunter Pence signed in 2013. The deal includes a $9 million signing bonus, with $3 million paid upfront and the rest spread out. Essentially, he’ll make $12 million in 2016 and $19.5 million each of the next four seasons. Samardzija also got a limited no-trade clause that allows him to pick eight teams each season that he can be traded to.
The Giants lose their #19 draft pick with this signing, as Baggarly noted.   Apparently the Giants think a lot more about the Shark (it's going to take a while for me to learn to type his last name without errors :^) than they do Leake, because the reports are that while they remain interested in Leake, they will not be willing to give him the same deal and with all the deals done already and teams interested in Leake, it appears that market demand will push him up to that size of a deal.  And signing him would not cost the Giants another draft pick, so not only did they pay more in contract, they gave up on a draft pick.

In any case, reportedly, Samardzija preferred to sign with the Giants over other teams.  And that was probably key to this deal being closed so fast after Greinke signed with the D-backs (you know the story, so I won't repeat that), as his agent reportedly said that he had a $100M deal on the table a few days ago (though, for what it's worth, all the reporting I saw after that was that this was what they were asking for, not that he was offered that).

Plus, Pavs noted these factors that the Giants took into account:
“Even in tough times (last year) he still put 200-plus innings on the board,” Evans said. “You look at his track record, you look at his presence that he brings on the mound, you look at back-to-back-to-back 200-plus (inning) seasons, and you realize this guy is a force to be reckoned with. There’s a reason why we targeted him and a reason why we focused on him as one of our top priorities. 
“You’ve got a guy who has made the conversion from reliever to starter and has done that well. There are a lot of innings left in that arm.” 
The Giants believe Samardzija’s 2015 numbers may have been partially skewed by the fact that he was pitching for his third team in two seasons, and they have identified mechanical adjustments they can make to a guy who has the tools to be an ace. Samardzija, a former football star at Notre Dame, is listed at 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds, throwing a fastball that averaged 94.3 mph last season and topped out at 97.9. The Giants believe they can harness that kind of electric stuff, and they have one of the best pitching coaches in the game in Dave Righetti.
ogc thoughts

You're a Rich One, Mr. Greinke

This was the title I was going to use for the blog post when it was reported that we signed Samardzija (yea, typed with no mistake, though I did slow down near the end!) so I wanted to use it somewhere.  His signing to the largest AAV contract, as well as nearly as big as Price's, at 6 years, $206.5M (though some of it was deferred, making the contract worth more like $190M in present value; though I would note that, strictly speaking, I take any discussion of "present value" with regards to baseball contracts with a grain of salt because if one is going to calculate net present value, the whole contract has be netted, not just the deferred payments) was apparently the domino that needed to fall in order for the Giants to sign the Shark.

This move should make the D-backs into close to being a contender, as they were around .500 last season and have some good pieces in Goldschmidt and Pollock, plus stated that they are still in search of another starter and are pursuing, among others, Mike Leake.  I had been hoping that their pursuit of Cueto would kill their interest in Leake, and here they sign Greinke to about $14.3M more per season than Cueto and they are still pursuing him.

Giants Next Moves

Surprisingly, per the accounts from the beats (Baggarly and Pavs above, here's Schulman), it sounds like the Giants will probably not get Leake.  The feeling is that with Samardzija's deal, Leake will be wanting 5 years, $90M ($18M AAV) as well, and, basically, that's too rich for the Giants blood, which I've been noting had been the problem area between the two sides.

Rumors currently have the Giants looking at Iwakuma right now.  And that makes some sense.  One because the Giants might not want to commit to another pitcher for 5 years now that they have Blackburn, Beede, Blach, Stratton, Meija, Bickford, Johnson, and Coonrod waiting and rising up the minors.  Two, the Giants already lost their first round pick, so now they would only lose their second round pick.

So why did the Giants give up on their draft pick?  Evans did say that they would prefer to keep the pick.  Yet the guys they went hardest after (per media coverage, Greinke and Samardzija, plus they brought in Zimmerman, as well as Samardzija, and Zobrist will be visiting soon).  Perhaps they view next year's draft depth to be not worth keeping the pick?  Or perhaps that is why the Giants went hard for Fox and a number of other IFA's this time, knowing that they anticipated losing the first pick due to a QO.

The Giants are also looking at Zobrist as well.  We need a LF and his versatility around the infield would give Bochy a lot of options for mixing and matching.  As well, given that Panik is one of the most asked for players in trade, the Giants could decide to make the trade, say for a pitcher (Indians reportedly asked for both Panik and Duffy for Carrasco), and use Zobrist at 2B.  However, part of the reason being given that the Giants can spend big now is that having young producing assets like Panik and Duffy gives the Giants the ability to sign large deals like the Shark, and pursue another big free agent.

My calculations come out with $24.2M left to spend before reaching the luxury tax threshold, $29.2M left to spend, depending on where exactly they want to target their annual payroll at.   As noted in my prior post, enough to get a mid-range signing like an Iwakuma or Fister, plus a nice bullpen addition like Soria.

I wanted to get this out now, I'll look at my thoughts about Samardzija in another post.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Love Me Tender: Arbitration Offers for Belt and Kontos; Sanchez and Petit non-tendered

As reported by the beats, Belt and Kontos were given arbitration offers and thus are being retained by the Giants.  The bigger news, though anticlimatic since the beats have been foreshadowing this for a long while now, was that Hector Sanchez and Yusmiero Petit were non-tendered.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

2015 Hot Stove: Setting the Table

There has been some recent deals that I think provides some market parameters for Leake and Lincecum.  In addition, I provide some free agent contract projections from:
And that's what I get for taking so long to finish this up, Price just signed.  I'll update some of the text to account for this and hopefully get it out before Greinke signs (rumors say it's LA vs. SF, 5-6 years, that he wants more than Price's AAV; plus Magic Johnson said that Greinke is their #1 priority; Greinke's camp says the decision will be made within the week, perhaps as soon as in the next few days).


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