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.


  1. Ugh. $90M for a huge question mark. Free agency is crazy!

    I was trying to recall: when was the last time the Giants made a good call in expensive free agency (I'm leaving out the cheap no-risk FAs like Burrel et al)?

    Obviously, there was Bonds... and after him... ? I couldn't come up anyone that they signed to big long-term money as a FA that worked out. Mostly, they've avoided that route, which has been fortunate since their picks have been Zito and (ugh I hate typing this name) Rowand.

    Nen, Kent and Pence were all trades, which ignoring (ugh, another name I hate typing) AJ Perzynski, the Giants have done very well at.

    Basically, I'm saying I shouldn't have been hoping they'd sign Grienke at all, but rather trade for someone and hide from all the landmine FAs out there. :)

    Now it looks like they're going to pay Grienke-sized money split between two quarters and hope they can turn them into a dollar.

    1. Free agency is crazy! But in baseball, if you want to compete, you have to play the free agency game.

      However, the history of free agency is a stacked deck against teams, research has shown that most players allowed to go into free agency (i.e. their teams did not offer enough to keep them with the team) were allowed because the team determined that the free agent was not worth keeping at market prices, showing loss of value on average for contracts given. However, not all free agents are necessarily not worth keeping, some guys truly wanted to test the free agency waters. And in this case, Samardzija had his eye on the Giants as his target (or the top target among the ones who gave him a bid), so being a free agent does not necessarily make him a probably for a poor performance per the study.

      Plus, when you need a boost in talent to the team, the only way to reliably get it is via free agency, even if you have to overpay some to get them. It hurts but that's the price of trying to stay a contender.

      That's where having a lot of cheap but producing players on the payroll, like Bumgarner, Crawford, Belt, Panik, Duffy, pays off.

      I would add Schmidt to the list of trade/contracts that worked out great. Nen I would probably not include, because we ended up eating $9M per season for three seasons, which basically killed our bullpen production during those years.

      Yeah, trading was the best way to avoid the landmine FAs out there, but the problem was that all of them were asking for Panik and/or Duffy, which was not going to happen.

      And I think that is ultimately the path to the next SP they acquire. Samardzija gives them a nice base. It is not like he was useless last season, there was just a lot of bad luck/bad defense hurting his numbers, per his peripherals (FG) he was still worth 2.7 WAR. As I will try to show in my next post, that provides a nice floor to his production expectations, and perhaps he can be that big home run free agency signing we've been waiting for.

      And with this base, the Giants can now wait out the teams with young pitchers looking to trade, and as the top free agent choices leave the marketplace, and we get closer to spring training, the price for some of these young SP could start to go down in terms of asking for proven players like Panik and Duffy to prospects like Arroyo, Williamson, Blach, Mejia.

      I don't expect to see any of our top position prospects to be traded, though. Lots of speculation that with our infield full, Arroyo is an obvious trade chip, but I would note that Arroyo could look good playing 3B, and that with Duffy's speed and good baseball mind, playing corner OF for him should be a snap. And with that speed he showed scoring from 2B, maybe even take over CF.

      For years, the talk was about moving Durham, another speedy middle infielder, to CF, never happened though. But Duffy is still young, and a strong mindset, so if anyone can make the transition and succeed (look at what he did at 3B with little to no pro experience there before, becoming very good defensively there).

      I expect Mejia to headline any pitching deal we make, with Blach and a couple more lower minors pitching prospects to be thrown together to get a young SP from another team.

      And not necessarily one who is proven yet, but one who would compete with Heston (and perhaps Lincecum) for the last rotation spot.

      And as I try to show with my next post, Samardzija has a lot of upside that could easily make this a great deal for the Giants, if you believe in the magic of the Giants pitching gurus.

    2. And as well as Greinke pitched in 2015, his peripherals were not as good (though still great!).

      Using FG's numbers, his WAR over the past five years has varied from 3.4 to 5.9, and averaged 4.5 WAR per season. For that the D-backs are paying $34.3M AAV. He'll need to average 4.3 WAR to make that deal pay off.

      If the Giants can get Shark back to what he produced in 2014, he produced 4.1 WAR that season. If the Giants can work their magic with him like they did with Schmidt, that could get us in 6+ WAR range, which is where Schmidt ended up. At roughly half the price. So I would not characterize it in such a down tone as trying to make a dollar out of two quarters. Because Samardzija only needs to produce 2.25 WAR per season to pay off his contract, and per FG, he has averaged 3.1 WAR the past four seasons as a starter, and excluding his best year in 2014, he has had exactly 2.7 WAR produced in each of the other seasons, including 2015, based on his peripherals (obviously, actual production in 2015 was not so good, basically replacement level).

      And studies have shown that the most reliable age range for pitchers are 29-34. With Shark, we get years 31-35, with Greinke, D-backs get years 33-38. So not only is he more likely to produce a positive return than Greinke is, just on an overall basis, by age, he is much more likely to produce as projected for much of his contract, whereas there is a potential black hole for the D-backs in the middle of Greinke's contract. Maybe he's Greg Maddux and produce into his late 30's, but probably he's not.

      Now, that's a lot of hype I'm presenting for Samardzija and we don't know if all that greatness (per Schmidt comparisons) is possible, really.

      But I view 4.1 WAR as possible because he did it before, so it is just a matter of figuring out how to get it to happen again. And that year, he had a good defensive catcher with Cubs, in Wellington Castillo, and a so-so catcher with A's in Derek Norris. Whereas now he has a gold glove caliber catcher in Posey, who is a genius and a leader in catcher framing for gaining strikes for his pitcher.

      And even if that don't happen, he has consistently produced 2.7 WAR over the past four seasons, with no healthy problems in his history to suggest any potential road bumps (whereas, for instance, we had known about Cain's elbow chip problem for years, plus his tender elbow issue in his first pro year, so that was a ticking bomb that finally went off). That alone makes his deal look pretty good.

    3. Yeah, I'm not totally down on Samrdzija. He at least has some upside, where the Giants' question marks last year (Vogey, Lincecum, Hudson, Cain) had near-zero chance of being happy surprises.

      And at least they didn't sign Price or Zimmerman, who got two insane deals. Samardzija is getting Hudson's money essentially, and he'll very likely be an upgrade.

      Evans/Sabean really needs to stage a late-inning rally, though. Otherwise, they're losing this offseason. If they don't find a significant upgrade to Aoki, letting him go will have been a really dumb move. And if they don't find a legit starter, letting Pettite go will look pretty dumb, and their rotation will be a mess before the season even begins.

      So I guess my current mood is... wary. :)

    4. Well, you are right to be wary, most free agent contracts don't work out. As I'll try to show in my next post, coming out soon, there is a lot of margin for error with Samardzija that I was not aware of before, and I'm totally on board with getting him now.

      He's actually getting Lincecum's money essentially at $18M AAV, though I suppose you are referring to his actual payroll impact of $12M in 2016.

      I did not view Vogelsong, Lincecum, Hudson, or Cain as near-zero chance of happy surprises. And that is where I went wrong with my analysis. Vogelsong was actually pretty good as a starter once he was placed in the rotation, his problem was he couldn't handle the spot starts well and he tired out, again, late in the season, as he had in previous seasons. Lincecum was our best pitcher for the first 6-8 weeks, until his hip went out for good. But he was delivering good ERA into late July in 2014, over 18 starts, so I thought there was some chance, not near-zero, of him delivering. Hudson had such a good start to 2014 that I was totally surprised that he was struggling. Part of it was his ankle surgery, that had a lot more affect on his performance than the Giants let on. And Cain had a lot more issues with coming back than I had thought, I mean Hudson came back from a busted ankle that was operated on later in the season than Cain's elbow, and came back strong, and Cain was younger and nothing was busted per se, just too many chips to allow proper movement of his arm. I thought maybe some problems to start, but not the amount Cain had. Plus he missed most of the first half due to some other muscle ailment.

    5. I don't view them losing the off-season. The team is in pretty great shape, very good lineup, very good defense, very good bullpen, with the major thing lacking is some horses in the rotation. We got one in Samardzija.

      Luckily, he wanted to be with the Giants, and waited out the Greinke negotiations, like Peavy did last season with Lester, in order to be available should the Giants have the money.

      For the rest of the rotation, Peavy will always be a question mark, but Cain said that his last start was the first one where he didn't feel anything different, where he was just using muscle memory and just pitching. So I'm very encouraged by that. Heston I'm not as sure about, but we have Blackburn, Stratton, and Blach in the minors, ready for an audition, plus Beede and Mejia could be ready by mid-season.

      Ideally, the Giants pick up another starter, but a short term deal (unless we can get Leake in the $14-16M range, but doubtful now, per reports, with St. Louis desperate for someone, plus Arizona is still interested, reportedly, though I'm wondering that is more for show, and LA still probably wants another starter). Given all the smoke, Fister looks like a possible one year deal (particularly important since we have so many minor leaguers potentially ready in the next year or two). Even Vogelsong would be fine with me, as he'll be much cheaper as well as a one year deal. And I'm personally OK with Lincecum as the one year deal guy, at the right price, because I think there some chance he can be good again.

      At worse, I think Blackburn is ready for his closeup, so if someone falters, I'm pretty confident that he can do well in the majors. And I think the guys we have, particularly Heston, can get us to the All-Star game, at which point, Evans could look to trade to get an upgrade, if necessary, like he has done the past two years.

      But I understand why others are leery of such a setup. I just think that there is a lot of upside with little downside if we give Lincecum a chance to fight for a starter's spot.

      But I'm OK with taking some risks, whereas I find that a lot of people insist that every starter on the team has to be good or else the team sucks. For example, a lot of people anxiously want one of the premier LF out there. While I liked Aoki, we still had a pretty potent lineup when we had Posey, Pence, Belt, Panik, Duffy, Crawford in the lineup, a good lineup does not need good hitters in each and every spot, and I'm confident that having those six in there, atop our lineup, will produce a lot of runs. Add to it a perhaps healthy Pagan in CF or even just Blanco, with a prospect like Parker or Williamson in LF, we would still have a pretty good lineup, particularly since a number of our pitchers also hit well.

      We have a good rotation with Bumgarner, Samardzija, Peavy, Heston, Cain. Every team has question marks in the #5, and Cain fulfills that. Heston was one of our best pitchers until hitting the wall late in the season. At that point, Blackburn, Stratton, Blach, Beede, Mejia should be ready for audition or they could trade one of them for an upgrade. Same with Peavy, who seems to go down with some physical ailment at some point, but again, we have a lot of prospects to try out.

      Even with the poor pitching we got overall last season, when Pence was in the lineup, we went 34-17. Drop a little for losing Aoki, and we should still be OK, the offense is pretty super charged as is.

    6. My "no happy surprises" phrasing was just a clumsy way to avoid discussing each guy separately. :) W/ Cain, we just knew there very quickly there was no way he'd be worth his salary last year (unlikely this year as well, but we can hope).

      The issue w/ LF is that if SF doesn't sign a good-to great LF, then why let Aoki go? He was pretty good and cheap. If he ends up being replaced by someone who isn't an upgrade, I'm figuring a tactical blunder was made.

      Similar w/ Pettite. Letting him go makes perfect sense if Heston is sliding into that #6 starter spot. But if Heston ends up in the rotation and someone not as good as (or more expensive than) Pettite takes his place, that's a blunder.

      And every team does have question marks at #5... but that's why it's so important to not also have question marks at #4... and #3... and #2. :)

    7. Josh, if life was a certainty, then one can make the right decision all the time. Unfortunately, the Giants can't know ahead of time which free agent they can sign to a contract that the team thinks is fair. They could upgrade in LF or they could upgrade in SP, but most probably not in both.

      Look at the big picture: the Giants got money burning a hole in their pocket, and if they kept Aoki and Petit, they would then look stupid if they ended up finding a good value free agent to sign, right? There is no way to cover every possibility, you have to take some risks sometimes in order to improve yourself. But at least the Giants are reaching to improve themselves.

      Think of it this way, the Giants are planning on the upgrade in either LF or SP to be greater than the value of Aoki and Petit. If they get a much better hitter than Aoki, that would make up for the loss of Petit Likewise, if they get a much better pitcher than Petit, that would make up for the loss of Aoki. Does that help?

      The thing that is also missing from your worries is maybe the Giants think that Williamson and maybe Parker are ready to produce as well as Aoki did in 2015, and Blackburn and maybe Blach or Stratton are ready to produce as well as Petit did in 2015. Williamson did amazingly well in AFL this season, and Blackburn did really well in AAA this season.

      I like that the Giants are taking this risk to improve a starting position, whether SP or LF. Right now, I'm betting SP, but you never know how the market can shift.

      And now that they ripped the bandage off and lost the first round draft pick, they can wait out the market and see who is still available in January.

      Remember how people bemoaned not signing Beltran after 2011? He got that little because Boras makes his clients wait until then. The QO has a similar effect. Shields last season had Boras and QO, ended up signing a contract that was less than what the Giants had offered. There were other vets stuck in free agency because of their QO, and forced to take a cheaper contract.

      I think that is the ultimate backup plan of the Giants, thinking through all this got me to realize that just like we picked up Aoki on the cheap last season, the Giants can wait around and see who is available on the cheap in January. There are a lot of pitchers who are similar in value, really, but a lot of position players end up stuck without a team too, and the Giants, should they not be able to get the player they want for a fair contract, could get a deal on a vet just before spring training.

    8. You see question marks across most of the rotation. I mostly agree, but see only two major ones: Peavy and Cain.

      The only reason Samardzija is viewed as a question mark is because of his really bad 2015. But as some of the analysis showed, he had some bad luck, then also changed some of the way he pitched, which let to other problems.

      One thing I've not seen anyone mention is that perhaps Samardzija fiddled with the way he pitched because the White Sox's park gives up a lot of homers. And got into bad patterns and mechanics because of his experimentation. Presumably the Giants can help him readjust and get back to his form in 2012-2014.

      For he was good from 2012-2014, 3.70 ERA overall, and that is one thing I like about the Giants with Barr in there, they don't just look at what the guy did in the prior year, they consider what talent he had shown previously, and whether their scouts think he still shows that talent or if the stats just reflects a decline. It don't make sense that his velocity is just as good as it was before, and yet he struck out so many less? That just screams that he just needs a mental adjustment to how he pitches to get him back on track.

      So I think he's a legit #2, not a co-ace, but that's OK, we more need a SP who can gives us a lot of innings so that our bullpen don't get burned out.

      Peavy and Cain are fine as #4 and #5. #5's are iffy, but most teams also have trouble find a steady #4, as well. I think between the two of them, plus our reserves in the minors, can keep that going.

      The problem area, I can see now, is the #3 starter. Heston, if he can pitch like he did for most of 2015, would be a fine #3. But he's a thin guy and he already packed on some muscle in the last off-season, can he do it again? Perhaps long relief is a better role.

      But at minimum, I think he can pitch well for us into mid-season, and if he falters, the Giants could pick up a SP from someone or hopefully promote someone, Heston still has options.

      But if they can pick up another guy who can give us a lot of quality innings, like Leake can, then that's an improvement and not a question mark. And if we don't get such a guy, then we can pick up a vet or two who would be willing to fight for that rotation spot with Heston, and take the long relief role if they lose.

      I like Petit, but he's not irreplaceable. Most people didn't even like Petit when he was brought up, I was one of the few to think that he could add value to the team. And he did better than what I thought he might.

      So, yes, there are question marks, but I don't think that they are onerous ones that would prevent us from getting back into the playoffs. Especially now that the Dodger's lost Greinke. Iwakuma is nice, but he's no 2015 Greinke, heck, even Greinke is not going to do that again in 2016, his FIP was over a run higher. And people like the D-backs, but Greinke is now pitching in a hitter's park, that will also hurt him too.

      We went 34-17 when Pence was in the lineup. That was with the starting pitching we had, that has now been upgraded with Samardzija. So, yeah, there are question marks, and I would like to improve on them, but the big picture is that we have a pretty good team as is, in my view.

    9. I actually agree w/ most of what you wrote. I'll only be upset if this is essentially the opening day roster, because the current roster needs a lot of good luck to be championship-level.

      Of course nothing is certain, but when you go in o a season -needing- good luck or players to improve on their current talent level, you're asking for trouble.

      Most likely, for as many players that show positive progress, there will be just as many that regress or get injured.

      We're in a situation where signing one more starter (a #2-4 tier guy) would make us prohibitive favorites in the NL West. Everyone else would need good luck, and we'd just need to avoid terrible luck. That's the situation I'm hopeful for.

    10. Here is an interview with Bobby Evans discussing his decision to let go of Aoki and Petit:

      The general tone of the article is that flexibility is important to the team, as well as important to the players, as it would allow them a chance to find new employment quicker.

    11. Yes, we mostly agree. Especially about how we would be prohibitive favorites in the NL West if we can pick up another good inning eater middle rotation guy.

  2. Some additional info on Zobrist:

    Don't see how the Giants can sign him. He wants to join a contender nearer his home in Nashville, so if he gets a four year deal from any eastern team at a fair price, he's not joining the Giants.

    1. All the reporting leans towards the Giants being in but not likely to sign him.

  3. Nice post by Baggarly, includes Evans' daily notes:

    First off, I've been reading too much into the statements about getting reliever. Baggarly notes that while the Giants were interested enough, they feel that they have a pretty good bullpen as is, so maybe they might pick up someone cheap later, in spring.

    Well, that's what I thought going into this, but it was Bochy who noted about wanting a reliever, then there was another statement somewhere about relief. I should stick with my gut instincts instead...

    Oh, this is the link with the report on Greinke that I referenced above. Greinke really wants to play 2B, but the Giants need him to play LF.

    Evans basically said that the Giants plan on being flexible enough to consider all options right now, whether free agent or trade. However, their preference is to trade prospects, but other teams want proven major leaguers, so they are mostly engaged in the free agent market so far. Still, even though they could, they are not leaning towards a big buy in the OF, they have mostly been engaged in the starting pitching market. But if the contract demands falls for Cespedes or Upton, they might be interested. Other players of interest: Gerardo Parra and Dexter Fowler, as they are open to upgrading in CF as well as LF.

    Baggarly noted Giants continuing interest in Leake, but the strong interest other teams have in him as well. His strong preference is for a West Coast team, or at least a team who has spring training in Arizona, so the Cards would have to make a big bid in order to sign him.

    Evans confirmed that the reason Petit ended up non-tendered was similar to Aoki's buy out: they didn't want to commit to a long reliever yet, because, if they end up signing two SP, then Heston would become the long relief guy.

    Evans also gave another report on Panik's back and how it not that big a deal, even if it was his back, as Panik's has healed on schedule.

    Belt was also to have a reassuring visit with a concussion specialist, he's also healing fine as well.

    Lastly, the big news of the day became no news as the rumors swirled that the Dodger had pulled off a trade for Chapman, then that it was going to be a multi-team deal, then ended the day as looking like no deal because reports came out that Chapman beat up his girlfriend.

  4. Interesting twist in Leake's free agency:

    Free agent Mike Leake would prefer to play out west, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports notes (Twitter links). In fact, the former Arizona State star would “take less” to go to the Diamondbacks, per Rosenthal. That being said, as has previously been reported, the D’Backs appear to be looking at finishing their rotation out on the trade market rather than double-dipping in free agency.

    So the D-backs are putting the squeeze on Leake, even with him willing to take less to sign with them (further indication that he really wants to be near his home), by indicating that they are now more interested in adding a SP by trade, not free agency.

    Or perhaps Leake's agent overplayed his hand with his demands for contract size. The Giants beat writers have been saying that with the strong interest in him, he could get the same sized contract as Samardzija at 5/$90M, and a rumor like that probably comes from the agent. However, I saw in another source that his contract value is peaking around $75-80M for 5 years right now, or $15-16M AAV, which is where the projections suggested that he might sign at. So his agent might have pushed back too hard against the D-backs bid (or maybe the D-backs finally realized how badly Leake wants to play in Arizona). Either way, looks like he might still be in play for the Giants if both D-backs (now looking trade) and Cards (don't spring in AZ and probably don't want to overpay either) are backing out, leaving Giants and Dodgers still kicking the tires. Dodgers just signed Iwakuma to a similar AAV as projected for both him and Leake, 3 years, $15M AAV, so perhaps that is where Leake ends up.

  5. Samard----, is basically a crap shoot. He could be good, and the giants may be able to harness his inner Jason Schmidt, but the guy has been a losing pitcher, whereas Cain has basically been a 500 pitcher, even though prior to 2015 his stats other than wins and losses were amazingly similar to Greinke's. I agree, getting rid of Aoki was a premature move. Unless we get someone better, he was a tough out prior to his injuries. He also made the pitchers work. Often drawing many pitches out of the opposition to lead off the game. That works well with Panik and Duffy to follow. Petite who may make 2.4 million is basically a steal. Once he gets in a groove he can flat out pitch. Always doing mop up work did not help his overall effectiveness. Not sure if Kontos can repeat the year he had last year. I remember Marchi being at three quarter of a season wonder. Unless we upgrade on Aoki and/or Petit by either addition or subtraction, I would see those moves as mistakes. We need a healthy Pagan, because an injured Pagan was similar to Juan Pierre with less speed. When Pagan is healthy however he is a very nice player. Maybe our left field will come from our own prospects, and the same for our pitching staff. Sometimes we have to promote our own guys. They could be better than we think. Look what happened when the finally brought up Panik, Duffy, and Tomlinson. To think we signed McGehee when we had Duffy on the roster already. It should be said that our baseball management people are good, but they are not geniuses.

    1. Losing is a process of both offense as well as pitching, a part of which the pitcher can't affect very well unless you are Babe Ruth. Cain has an ERA+ of 114, which means that over his career, he's been roughly 14% better than the average pitcher during that period.

      For Shark, from 2012-2014, he pitched for Cubs teams that averaged 95 losses, very hard to win in that environment. For example, he had a 2.83 ERA in 2014, ERA+ of 134, 34% better than the average pitcher, and yet went 2-7. That's why it's wrong to complain about a pitcher based on their losses.

      Keeping Aoki would have been a premature move, not letting him go. Petit too. The problem is focusing on each on their own.

      Yes, looking at LF, letting Aoki go was premature. Looking at long relief, letting Petit go was premature. But you are not looking at the big picture.

      The big picture is the Giants have a lot of money to spend. Though, the lie in that statement, which a lot of people repeat, is that the Giants don't have as much money as people have been saying (it is not $50M+) and signing average players take up so much money now that the Giants really can only get two average players in the free agent market, and once you get to three or more, you are dealing with more warts on your free agent.

      They now have one piece, what most agree is the most important piece, a strong SP. Using FG's WAR sort (, we find that Samardzija is 39th in the majors in WAR. That makes him a solid #2 starter, if you assume the top 30 are #1 starters.

      Now the Giants have enough to get someone either a SP or a LF. If they get a SP, then Heston becomes long relief, and now you have to get rid of Petit if the team had kept him, and basically pay another team to take him. If they get a LF, then Aoki would have been very unhappy not to be starting and you would have to basically pay another team to take him. Do you now see why keeping Aoki and Petit would have been premature?

    2. Why do you have a problem believing Kontos can't repeat? He had a 2.47 ERA in 2012, 2.78 ERA in 2014, both right around the 2.33 ERA he had in 2015. 2013 was an anomaly because he partied too hardy after winning 2012 championship. Plus, he was a thrower when the Giants got him, and while he was in the minors, he became a pitcher, utilizing more pitches.

      It is when you get supporting information regarding a player that helps you to understand why a player may or may not produce again. Barring injury - TINSTAAPP - Kontos should be a fine member of the bullpen again, maybe take a step up.

      Machi has nothing to do with how Kontos will do. Every player is different.

    3. Every year is different, players get older, prospects get better. Last year, the Giants had to play Pagan. Pence was injured and thus Blanco had to start in RF, and Maxwell was mostly ineffective, a replacement level player, and no prospect were ready to step up, Perez, the best bet was dealing with some healthy issues, Williamson was still recovering from TJS. Then Aoki was injured, and the Giants had to acquire players.

      No team has the wherewithal to have a ton of depth at every position, injuries can wreak havoc on a team's plans if it hits at the wrong position. Who knew that Pence, the strongman with a history of playing consecutive games would be gone most of the season?

      2016 is different. Pence, again, should be the strongman. To expect otherwise would mean that you are psychic. Pagan may or may not be healthy. But we have Blanco as a good backup there right now. LF is currently an issue, but we have two prospects this season who look ready for their audition, Williamson and Parker. Also, as we did last season when we signed Aoki in January, the Giants could still pick up someone to play LF.

      Likewise for SP, there are still a number of free agents the Giants might go for.

      Where your analysis (and those of many others) goes wrong is the underlying idea that having any weak position is something suggesting our team is not competitive. Newsflash: all teams have weaknesses. The problem is focusing only on weaknesses without taking into account the overall big picture.

      The big picture is that the Giants, when healthy, is a very good team. They weren't very healthy in 2015: Pence, Pagan, Aoki, (whole starting OF, who can cover that?) Belt, Susac, Peavy, Cain, Lincecum, Hudson. Many were random stuff that happens in baseball, in 2016 Pagan and Peavy are the two clear uncertainties injury wise because of their long history. Some people want to throw Cain under the bus, but he had a very clear issue, his elbow, and he made a mistake adjusting for his new body mechanics, pulling a muscle.

      Even with nobody set at LF and a question mark in CF, we have a good lineup: Posey, Belt, Crawford, Panik, Duffy, Pence. Then Pagan, Blanco, prospects, can fill out the rest of the OF. And Blanco has been good with the Giants, so if he's starting, I'm sure he'll add to the offense. Every team have question marks in at least two lineup positions, this is not a problem to worry about.

      The bullpen is pretty good too, one of the best in the majors. In 2015, it was 7th, and Affeldt and Machi are gone, Broadway probably won't get as long a leash.

      Now we got Bumgarner as a legit ace, Samardzija as a probable #2 but at worse, somebody who can throw a lot of innings at a good performance level, and Heston, even with his problems at the end of the season, would make a nice #4 starter, worse case scenario, and given that was his first season, he should be even more prepared for a longer season with workouts this off-season.

      Peavy had a 3.58 ERA and produced 1.2 WAR in 110 IP. That's a roughly average WAR production, so he should be able to hold onto the #3 spot OK for a while, then either we trade for #3 or promote Blackburn and see how he does. That's why the Giants are still in on Leake and others, this is the most crucial part of the team where they need an upgrade for more certainty. I don't think it's the end of the world if we don't get someone, but ideally we do.

      You are worried about Petit, but there are other pitchers available, a long reliever is not a crucial component to the overall team.

    4. You say that sometimes we have to promote prospects, then list players who worked. You do realize that the Giants probably have more homegrown players in the starting/key positions than most other teams? You don't do that unless you take a chance and give your prospects a chance.

      That's why I like the Giants MO in prior years, when a player is ready, they get a vet to put in there, to give us a minimum floor of expected production (like McGehee last season) and that frees the Giants to let the prospect 1) compete to try to win the position and 2) take the position if he earns it.

      But you used examples where that worked. Neikro, Ellison, Ortmeier, Velez, Lewis, Ishikawa, Schierholtz, and these are the recent guys, all were tried out and failed to keep the starting position.

      What you suggest is a "what the hell, it worked before, let's try it again" plan.

      I like the Giants plan of mitigating risks, where they obtain minimum production vets, and players who can play multiple positions, and when prospects are ready to blossom, keep some open positions so that they can prove themselves in spring training.

      For example, I think the underlying message that I've not seen anyone say explicitly yet is that Aoki being let go is a sign that the Giants were very happy with what they saw in Parker in the majors and Williamson in AFL (and perhaps Arroyo too), enough that they were willing to let him go and see what other cheap vet OF that they can pick up in January, or better, if they can snag a LF upgrade free agent.

      Same with the Petit release. The Giants under the Sabean era do not like to drop assets unless they think they have a potentially better one in place already. Heston is stated as the reason, but should the Giants end up getting a LF instead, they have Blackburn, Blach, and Stratton lined up in the minors.

      And that's where you are going around in circles. You are upset about losing veterans, then touting giving young players a chance, but overlook that maybe the Giants already have young players ready to get a chance.

    5. Lastly, you denigrate the front office by noting the acquisition of McGehee since Duffy developed. Anybody who thought that Duffy was a ROY candidate who would produce among the top 3B in the majors is a liar. Everyone had hopes that Duffy could be that guy, but just as you are worried right now about losing Aoki and Petit without considering that perhaps Williamson and Blackburn/Blach could be that guy, that was the same worry last season and that is why the Giants acquired McGehee, who was a pretty good player in 2014, and a player not that unlike Aoki in terms of what he did in 2014. The only difference is that Aoki delivered for us in 2015, while McGehee fell flat on his face.

      In an alternative universe, it could have been in reverse. McGehee had his devastating injury on the first day of the season, but played with it when he probably should have just DLed. Perhaps he realized at some level how good Duffy is and was worried about getting Wally Pipped. Perhaps he just wanted to play so much for his boyhood team and sucked it up. Aoki, on the other hand, starting off hot, then got injured.

      Getting McGehee was genius in my book, though. McGehee provides some veteran minimal production possibilities, while we had Duffy as backup, just in case, or better, if Duffy breaks out. It turns out it was both. That is classic risk mitigation that Sabean has been doing for a long while now.

      You and others worry a lot about uncertainties, but end up chasing your tail. We need a vet, the young guys are no good! Let the young guy play, the vets no good!

      There are uncertainties with all things, varying in the amount of uncertainty, and it is always better to have alternatives that you can go to, hence why Sabean likes players who can play multiple positions, hence why Sabean likes to get a vet starter who is OK, but not good enough that if the prospect IS really good, can't beat the vet out and claim the starting job, hence why Sabean drafts so many more starting pitchers than position players, because they can slide into a multitude of positions on the team roster, hence why Sabean drafts a lot more up the middle players than any other position, as those players can move to other positions as they develop more easily than corner player can.

      Because of those uncertainties, there will always be moves made that don't look all that smart, but the people making that statement don't realize that the uncertainties that existed in the context of the original decision making timeframe, they fail to look at the big picture of what was the true reality facing the team at that moment in time, they look with 20/20 perfect hindsight and think themselves geniuses.

      And still you think you are so smart to denigrate the real geniuses, who has brought us three world championships. I remember you worrying about the Giants and Sabean for a long time now: well guess what, the GM you worried about won three championships doing the things you thought he was doing wrong.

      Before you put down other people, maybe you should examine your own statements made over the years and see what clunkers and misguided worries you have had. I think the Internet would be a lot more civil and understanding if people would just take a look in the mirror and see what misstatements that they have made themselves, and realize that they live in a glass house.

    6. Perhaps if a team has many loss, and a pitcher has a poor record despite his peripheral stats, he may indeed be contributing to that losing record, without being Babe Ruth or Madison (Babe) Bumgarner. Remember a horrible PHILLy TEAM with Steve Carlton. Despite a miserable losing record, Carlton had an excellent Win Loss Percentage.

    7. If you want to denigrate a pitcher because he's not a Hall of Fame pitcher like Steve Carlton, that's your choice, but not one I would make. By that standard, even Bumgarner looked bad (he was only 20-19 but with a sterling 3.10 ERA to start his career, but by your definition, he wasn't all that good because his W/L record was mediocre).

      This is the same bogus argument that was used to denigrate Matt Cain. Since the Giants started winning and until his injury, which appeared to hit it's critical stage in 2013 and culminated in 2014, Cain had a 2.93 ERA with 55-35 record.

      This could have been applied to Jason Schmidt at the time the Giants acquired him, 49-53 record, 4.59 ERA, just short of 100 ERA+, which is average. After the Giants acquired him, he had a 3.35 ERA for us, 78-37 record.

      Not to say that Samardzija will be like Schmidt, which is the storyline the Giants are trying to sell, but that per your "theory", Jason Schmidt was a "loser" when we got him and by your theory, he should have always been a loser, as that is what you are saying about Samardzija.

      This line of thinking probably worked a lot better BACK in the era of Lefty because back then, you had to pitch almost the whole game, and your team won, it was because you were a good pitcher into the late stages of the game, and secured the win in that way.

      The game is much different today, and even back then, this factor was present: relievers are the ones who cover the end of the game. You could be Steve Carlton, but if the reliever came in and gave up runs, or worse, gave up the runners they inherited from you, you would lose the win, and could end up with the loss, but either way, that depresses your W/L record even though you were a "winner" that day by pitching a good game and your team's W/L record.

      If you want to live back in the past, that's your choice, but the game is a very different game today, heck, it's been different for around 30-40 years now, depending on how you want to time the change, as closers were coming to the fore already in the 70's, saving games.

  6. ICYMI: reports are that the Giants and Nats had offered 4 years, $60M offers to Zobrist but he took 4 years, $56M from the Cubs instead. Given that his objective was closeness to Nashville, his home, odd he took Cubs over Nats until I realized that Cubs manager, Maddon, was Zobrist's manager in Tampa Bay.

    Looks like $15M AAV is the Giants price point right now. That's about where Leake could end up, others, since the Giants are free to pursue the QO'ed free agents as well now.



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