Friday, November 10, 2017

Your 2017 Giants: First Post-Season Presser

Ah, just like old times, when the Giants hold their first press conference after the end of their season, and the team is off a horrible season.  For a long while, Tim Kawakami had been posting the transcript and making it easy for anyone to see what exactly was said, saving me from having to listen/rewind the whole press conference to capture everything.  But he's off doing new things behind new paywalls (so maybe he did provide), and I don't feel like capturing EVERY word exactly anymore :) so like I have since my blog started, I will go over all the questions and answers said, and provide my own commentary (or snarkiness, as the case may be :).

Giants Press Conference

The title above has a link to the YouTube video, thank you to CBS Bay Area for making it available there.  I took the liberty to get rid of the early talk and set up the video to play with the first question.  It turned out that the YouTube video had a transcript mode, not the best transcription but good enough, so I used that (still took a lot of work to get it separated into Q&A, but you know me, I like completeness), though I edited as necessary (especially all the "you know;s", for comprehension, though I mostly left things as is, so the text will be choppy:

Q: gentlemen now last year you open the press conference with news of some coaching changes do you have any information for us on what's going to happen to the coaching staff

Evans: not today I mean we're going through evaluations and you know we'll be making determinations you know in the near future but that's not the purpose of today

ogc:  As we saw, the axe came down hard, with only one major coach keeping the job he had in 2017, and only one coach getting a promotion.

Q: I know the drafts a long way away but obviously you guys have some needs but when it comes to the draft and guys there what you're looking at may be coming out three or four years and down the road you look for the best player or do you look for it needs that you have right now

Evans: well when you're picking as high as we are you have the ability to look at high ceiling and guys that more are more immediate help to the club but we have to see the strengths of the draft which will we've already you know started getting a pretty good idea of where where guys line up but it's way too early to tell at this point you know sometimes you know guys are there that you know could help you much faster and that can be very attractive especially if they're you know you're picking up as high as you are as we are you might have the best of both worlds in the sense of high ceiling in and quick turnaround at the same time it's just too early to say

ogc:  Yeah, throwaway question that probably yields a "it depends" answer, but sometimes you got to ask it and hope.  But in this case, not so much, it is way too early to ask this question, as you never know who suddenly flies high and who takes a deep dive.

For this, I would note the two examples I've recently threw out, Longoria going from ranked 10th in the winter to #3 in draft, and Crawford being Top 10 in the winter, and falling to us much later, in the fourth round.

A current prospect question would have been much better, like throwing out a name we don't normally see, nobody new was named in this year's presser, unfortunately, though interesting names later, like Moronta, which I guess is new enough.

Q: last year at this time it was pretty clear that the need of the team was relief particularly ninth inning relief what stands out to you, is the one or two or even three areas that are most in need of being addressed this offseason, for whoever would like to handle it

Evans: we still need team relief but some of that's just front office relief but but defenses is something that we're very concerned about is it's one of the ways that help support our pitching and it's important that we support our pitching with excellent defense and we struggled in that area this year. We've seen the trends of the game as its moved towards more and more power so we've got to do everything we can to fight against that from our pitching staff and I'd note that our pitching overall give up the third least number of home runs that still felt like we gave up way too many and we've got to find a way to to counteract the power that is in the game so that we provide our own power so that'll be an area that we'd like to address we've got to find ways to you know thirdly make the most of our prospects in the system to help keep our club club young and fresh and a new blood coming in to help support the veterans in the core that's here

ogc:  Areas to address:  defense, pitching, power.   Support the core veterans.  Standard stuff to list, the key point of all this is that the Giants are not rebuilding, they are reloading with their core players and looking to win it all again in 2018.

Q:  [Garbled question:  apparently from Jane, asking Bochy on where the team wants to improve]

Bochy:  jeanny that one well I think Bobby touched on that mean we I think we're gonna look at all areas all facets of the game you know the numbers you know where there's defense you know or hitting or pitching you know we're looking and proving in all areas you know we're not looking at one specific area we had some issues everywhere so you know we're gonna roll up our sleeves and talk about this all winter in fact we've already had discussions on where we need to improve we've met with players you know could be some some position changes so you know we we've done a good job of being creative and doing these type things and that's what we need to do now

ogc:  Basically Bochy's take on our needs, and it's a non-answer, as he noted "we're looking to improve in all areas."  Nothing really specific from this answer, making it a poorly worded question, whatever it was.

Q: Jane:  Friday night we saw the team capitalize on so many two out chances and and sort of show there were times when the offense looked looked great in an opportunistic how difficult was it to see maybe the inconsistent season and so not as many guys having big years as you expected when you came out of spring training

Sabean: well some of which was as the result of our core players being in and out of the lineup as you know everybody there was an opening day starter went on the deal at some point during the season so their virtue was no continuity then as things went you know we actually had attrition along the way with more injuries with our second line of defense a lot of games you know were tough to watch from an offensive standpoint cuz you were going into a game with literally three or four perhaps established major league hitters the answer the question I guess though homeruns aside and lord knows everybody wants power and I know Bobby and his staff is desperate to figure out how we can add that there's a huge emphasis put on past and present timely hitting that's how we've done things here so we'll see how that evolves but not only that but you lost your number-one starting number to starter in the
closer so it became a recipe for disaster from the pitching standpoint Q: some things when the season is over and they have a record like you guys have you know some words like reconstruction remodeling overhaul comes to mind to those things sometimes they think well this is like a three four years thing do you believe that you have the nucleus to be competitive next year and then you just need to put in some pieces in there or you believe that you really need to move on a lot of pieces

Evans: yeah we want to we want to strengthen our core I mean we're coming off three you know three consecutive winning seasons including the World Series back in 14 15 and 16 16 being a playoff team so yeah we believe we have the core to build around but you know we we also feel that you know there's there's needs that have to get addressed and so we can't come back next season with the same roster and expect different results we've got to provide you know more we've got an infusion of talent an infusion of production that will help you know get us to back to where we need to be in terms of competing in our division and playing better baseball

ogc:  This is what I noted in my post mortem of the season, which I'll posted soon.  We lost a lot of key and good/great players, for significant parts of the season, few teams recover from that.   But this team has been successful not that long ago, we can get back to that success.  Sabes note the Giants vs MLB view of hitting:  timely/contact hitting vs. all or nothing power hitting.

Again, saying that they are not rebuilding, but acknowledging that some things have to change, which is the PR way of handling the horrible season when it's a bad season.  As I analyzed in my post mortem, which will be out soon, we have the players to win 85-90 games, as long as they perform as they did previously.

But as we saw in 2017, not everyone did.  Thus, short of a rebuild, you have to go with who you got and hope for the best, while fixing areas that clearly need fixing, like defense, power, and finding a good loogy.  And per the latest press conference, held to announce new coaches, the Giants are focused on defensive CF, starting 3B, and strengthening the bullpen.

Q: how do you add power how do you catch up with other teams in the power game we've seen the prospects maybe they're not the answer or the current group last in the majors and home runs to get it is it free agency as a trades is it

Evans: is it both it may be more at-bats for Bumgarner but but we but we will we'll explore you know internally I mean some guys that maybe aren't ready defensively but could come up and provide power but we don't want to get too far away from our game and maybe ultimately we're pitching a defense team and so if we if we compromise too much in the area of power and give up too much defensively that can that can hurt us as much as the benefit of adding the power so it's always a balance but some of that'll be you know opportunities in trade some of it'll be the approach at the play some of it'll be using our system and again I think Boch mentioned just being creative creators he could be part of the answer but it's not necessarily the core answer no

ogc:  A non-answer, other than noting that they are not planning on a big swing of the bat by bringing up that code word "creative"  (i.e. no Stanton type move envisioned/hinted at).   Giants always has been about the creative in the Sabean era, starting with his big trade of Matt Williams for Jeff Kent and others.  They also try not to over promise what they are going to do, so you expect this kind of answer to such a question, but a question you got to ask anyway.

Q: Hank: a couple of things I think Bobby I think you said it plural about some position position changes Bruce has already addressed the fact that span might be playing left field next year not first of all are there others that that we haven't been talked about yet

Bochy: no Henry we did talk to all the players before they left you know we are gonna see how this winter plays out and as we go into spring training well we'll have a better idea where we're at and and what we need to do and really you're talking you're talking about the position changes him you're talking about the outfield more than anywhere and you know and Denard's all in on you know playing left field now as we go into the offseason we we don't know what's going to happen it could be something in left field now I thought the nards center field play really picked up you know the last month or so and he took it upon himself to to make him to make himself a better centerfielder and now and so you know you're gonna keep your options open is my answer now but you know as far as like a hundred pence it could be a right fielder he could be one so anyway you want to keep your flexibility now you're not gonna do a lot in the infield so they're gonna be you know at their positions

ogc:  Hints at discussions management has had, that is, they will be flexible as to who they pick up in the off-season, whether LF, CF, RF, so Span could end up back in CF or he might find himself in LF, it all depends.  But Sabean in a recent call to announce coaching hires, noted that the Giants are looking for a defensive CF, a starting 3B, and bolstering the bullpen.

Q: Hank: and in the second question is where do you guys stand on the third base I mean Pablo had a great I would say last two weeks of the season but in terms of decision making for whether you need to address third base by a trade free agency versus maybe going with Pablo and you know hoping Arroyo is on the come I don't wants to address that but what you're thinking on that at the moment

Evans: well we have to see where the opportunities are rather than that's trade a free agency or or internal options I mean ryder-jones Christian Arroyo Pablo Sandoval are all internal options but we need to look externally as well and be creative and so I think it's hard to answer right now but I think that we'll be open minded to try to be strong there as we can and yeah we're pleased with the options that we have but we also want to look beyond that

ogc:  There is that word again:  creative.  Winner winner, chicken dinner, that seems to be the code word for this off-season for the Giants off-season plans, as I noted above.  That, to me, basically means that they are probably not going after any 3B free agents, at least not premiere ones like Moustakas.  Especially after Cueto did not opt out, and so we got him at $84M for the next 4 seasons, and there is not a lot of money under the threshold left after the guys already on contract, plus the guys who are non-arb and those who are arbitration eligible.

It could mean re-signing Nunez, who MLBTR has pegged at 2 years, $14M, which is reasonable and creative for the Giants, and gives the Giants options in the infield, particularly at 3B, as well as speed on the team, which is sorely lacking (and another way to boost run production without power, by, there you go, being creative).   And/or making a trade for an arb eligible player who is getting more than their team wants to spend, like Billy Hamilton.  

Q: Larry what's your feeling about attendance I mean it went it would dropped a little bit but you still do 3.3 million there's no evidence that people are giving up there's a little bit of a drop up is there any concern there at all

Baer: yeah you know look you always have a 90 plus loss season you you you it's obviously you gotta go hard but on the goodwill in the bank and we don't take it for granted is really you know we were kind of blown away by the fan response you know every game thirty nine forty thousand still and the early signs just going to have to season ticket-holders at they're very positive I mean the kind of the response is hey look we get it you know you're gonna have a occasionally you have these kinds of years we're with you we know that these folks are the ones that brought us through World Series championships as well as many the players so you could come back in 2018 and so I'd say there's there's you know pretty massive goodwill in the bank we don't take it for granted and we're working really hard by that we think we're gonna be fine attendance wise and therefore revenue will be we'll be fine though it's probably too early to tell

ogc:  Giants management is always worried about attendance, but always like to put up a good face.  The mortgage on the stadium has been paid off, early even, so that's not hanging over their head anymore, but now they have the loan for the Mission Bay development that is the next part of their plan to ensure the Giants franchise stay in San Francisco indefinitely, but building other streams of revenues that will help support the team in down times.  There is probably also some benefits from reducing revenue sharing, plus the tax breaks from depreciation, which benefits cash flow, while reducing profits.

Q: what can you realistically expect from Chris Shaw next year next spring

Evans: well the nice thing is we'll get to see them in the Arizona Fall League which again you're seeing premier pitching against you know premier hitters in that league and it's hard because they've they've had a month away from baseball now they're they're coming back into it and so you sometimes see guys you know paced themselves and yeah I think Chris Shaw is hungry you know he did play outfield in college we think that's probably the biggest thing that separates him from being ready you know to make a major league debut that said though you know he's made strides in progress and he'll have the benefit of Cody Ross you know working with him throughout the Arizona Fall League along with Steven Duggar who will be in centerfield in the Fall League as well but those at-bats are important and there's no pressure that he has to come in and make this club but when he forces the issue I think will benefit from that and whether that's opening day or whether that's in May or June

ogc:  Basically, non-answer, noting that they will be evaluating him in AFL, but that he needs to work on this defense (we all already knew that) and he most likely won't make the team unless he forces the issues (which we also already knew).  What I didn't know was that Ross was working with him, that means that the Giants are very serious about making him into a LF (perhaps after seeing Duvall blossom).

Q: Brian how would you assess the overall strength of your farm system right now and do you feel you have the pieces there that would allow you to swing a trade for a top-tier established major leaguer if that were your plan

Sabean: well let's a latter part first because Bobby and the meetings we had in and around the trade deadline I think we took his deeper dive into everybody's farm systems and also the first thing you do is you look at your own I think most farm systems like ours are a work in progress and at times your lower end your lower tier players may have more upside now having said that we were still stolen from the opportunity to you know truly evaluate Slater, or Arroyo and even Beede had the freaky warm up injury, and he'll be in the Fall League, so I think on balance there are some choices, but you know, in reality the art form is you've got to figure out who's suspect the news prospect, who's a can't-miss and who's tradable. to answer your question I think there's a lot of kids in our organization they're covered by other people and we have to acknowledge that but it's a work in progress and it's going to take us really looking through the Fall League and in the instructional league to kind of drill down on what we think is a group to put our own internal list together.

ogc:  Ah, I miss Sabes vernacular:  "it's an art form".  Evans is so bland and PR driven, though at least he does try to liven things up with humor, which is probably part of the reason he's now the GM and Sabean was bumped upstairs.  Also, it's an answer that doesn't convey much, he never really answered the question, though I suppose he sort of did, when stating that Giants prospects are still WIP.  But nothing about the ability to trade.

Q: Bobby your bruiser or Brian you mentioned talking to all the players, has Johnny Cueto formally let you know that he plans to be back and also maybe you could assess the state of your rotation going into next year you have some some depth there

Evans: well Boch can speak on the rotation I'll mention just in terms of there's no formal response expected from a player with the pending player option until following the world series so there's no there's no formal response I mean he you know he's you know indicated his passion for being here but ultimately you know he has to make a business decision to along with his agent which will come after the World Series as expected so

Bochy: yeah as far as our rotation you I mean we have I think the makings of one of the best rotations in baseball still we took a pretty big hit with losing our one-two guys and I look at them at both of them is number one guys and Bumgarner who we all know what happened there and Johnny dealing with the blister blister issue and I guess if you look at the silver lining through all that their workload was a lot lighter so you know hopefully that will freshen them up but at the same time you know these guys have a lot of pride so you know I really expect those two to come back you know with the vengeance and and and be the pitchers that they are now Moore, again we do have to get on track and and I was very excited about his progress at the end his last six seven starts now his last start he had to hiccup and I can tell you this he wanted to start the last game in the worst way he was begging Johnny to let him have that start because he did not want to go out that way but if you looked at this previous starts the command and off-speed pitches you know he had better feel what what he was doing so we have confidence that he's going to bounce back Samardzija he was the horse so yeah win loss record a that's not indicative of how he threw the ball and you gotta have somebody to eat up lot of innings and he does that for you we know about his numbers of ball strike ratio and in strikeouts the walk so yeah I think he's just getting better and better and you look how he maintained his stuff really at the end of the year he's still throwing 96 I mean this this is a young arm because of his youth you know playing football and pitched a lot so forget his age he's still showing how strong he is and now and then you look at what Stratton did the last seven starts really impressive a job by this kid you know the numbers but more so you know the stuff that he showed up here he's throwing 93 with command on both sides he's got a put away curveball a slider changeup and so to have him and Blach, who really stepped in when bum went down they just did a terrific job well you know we have some depth there and that's what you need and something I think we were missing everywhere this year that you know we've been talking about but now these guys have got more experience up here and that so this rotation I are fully expected to be back to who they are and and there are strengths and I still believe that

ogc:  As we know, Cueto opted to stay with the team, so that question is moot.   Basically he said what he felt, and decided it was better business to stay.  Given that Tanaka opted to stay with the Yankees already, that was a sign that there was not a lot of market beyond the $67M and 3 years that Tanaka has with the Yankees, for a pitcher on the older side with a strong injury history and a poor season performance.   That is roughly what Cueto has with the Giants, 4 years at $89M (4 years @ $21M plus $5M buyout of $22M option year).  This section I mostly copied to my post on the announcement of options, so you can skip if you read that already.

As long time readers may remember, long term deals make me uneasy, usually.  For every great deal like Barry Bonds, you get deals like Benitez, Durham, Alfonzo, Rowand, Zito, Renteria, Huff.  But I liked the Cueto deal when it was signed because odds were that he would have opted out after two years (who knew blisters caused by a new baseball would happen!), but that even if he were to stay, since his effectiveness was not tied to velocity, but to deception, he would be able to sustain his good performances longer than other free agent starting pitchers.  Of course, arm issues can happen at any time (TINSTAAPP), but that's just part of the risk in the game, you can't avoid or mitigate all risk, nor do you want to, as you end up going nowhere.

If anything, this was better than what anyone could have expected at the time of the signing.  He had an outstanding 2016 for us, a return to his norms for production, and given that his decline in 2017 was not talent related, but externally (ball) related, it is reasonable to assume that he is following the typical aging pattern.  The general saber rule on aging is a loss of half a win per season for each year of the contract.

He produced 5.6 WAR in 2016, and if we assume 5.0 expected in 2017 (which he did not meet, but even in his down year, extrapolated to 32 starts, he produced 2.2 WAR, to show how good he was in 2017) and that he continues on his original path (assuming the balls don't affect him going forward), that's 4.5 WAR in 2018, 4.0 in 2019, 3.5 in 2020, and 3.0 in 2021, for a total of 15.0 WAR expected production.  At $21M per seasons, and assuming average of $10.5M per WAR for the period (currently at $8M/WAR and 10% inflation assumption, that's roughly $9M in 2018, $10M in 2019, $11M in 2020, and $12M in 2021, for an average of $10.5M/WAR), the expected production is 2.0 WAR per season, or a total of 8.0 WAR, vs. the expectation of 15.0 WAR produced.

So the expectation is that he should produce twice the WAR that the contract had priced into it, meaning that he would have to have a serious decline in production for him not to pay back the contract value.  In addition, if he can provide just two seasons of normal production (roughly 4.0 WAR) over the next two years, and then zero WAR the following two (one slightly above 0, last below 0), he would still pay off, only front loaded.  The odds greatly favor the Giants that the contract will pay off in some way over the life of the contract, barring another ball fiasco or a sudden turn for the worse in production.

And that is a serious concern, as it would be for any 32 year old starting pitcher with a history of injuries (shortened years in 2011, 2013, 2017) as well as a lot of innings.   The early 30's is a dangerous period for pitchers (see Lincecum and Cain), as well as for hitters.  And Cueto's contract cover his years 32-35, when a pitcher's health reliability (per Baseball Forecaster research) starts to decline.

Still, the good news is that it is the pitchers who rely on high velocity for their ability to disrupt the hitter who tend to fade out faster as they age and lose their velocity.  Guys who are pitchers, who can work hitters with off-speed pitches, or pitch to location with pin-point accuracy, tends to have longer shelf life than high velocity hurlers.  I see Cueto as more as one of these pitchers (like the way he varies how to throws the ball to the plate) than a hurler (though he did have a 95 MPH not that long ago, or so I recall).

Q: Michael (Urban probably): Bruce this is the the first year I think since you've been here that clubhouse cohesion seemed to be something of an issue and while it's easy to say yeah losses pile up clubhouse chemistry's can be affected Brian I don't want to put words in your mouth but you seem to say in a recent interview that you said something was off in spring training as you guys reload is that something you'll be paying attention to or are you assuming that the guys that have are still here you know madbum Posey that they'll be able to kind of rekindle that whatever you had

Bochy: yeah oh no no question is something I'm looking into and you know when when you have season like we did you know it's it's tough on everybody and you know and there were you know a couple comments we took care of this internal internally both players came in apologized about those comments but you know the vibe it's not gonna be the same we're here to win I'm all about winning but you know we want to do things in in the right way and so there are things we're looking at and again we talked to all the core players and you know some things I'm looking for I'm looking for some leadership from our core guys to help out in this Clubhouse he'll you know maybe help things not be so flat as was mentioned but you know I want to see a little bit more fire in the belly you know just more grit and that can come from in there through leadership and now every club it's different and and you know one size doesn't fit one you know and and I'm asking myself you know what what can I do you know to help inspire these guys to get this culture back in this you know it's chemistry that that we had and get back to who we are so these are you know this is part of what what we need to do to get better well

Sabean: my comment was more relative to if you if you've taken an account at WBC you take another comp Bobby was put in a position or he had the wisdom to kind of have more players in camp to be able to deepen our roster from a bench standpoint and we also were introducing a new closer to the mix and while we had the pieces there were days that if you watched us play you know we would it didn't appear from a baseball standpoint we were in sync like some of the other teams in the past but there are a lot of different factors baseball wise that led me to that comment at that time I wasn't referring to chemistry or how the group got along

ogc:  A question that needs to be asked, and yet, not expected to be answered.  Bobby did ding the Core for not taking on more leadership, though, that's about the most significant things mentioned here.

Q: yeah this is for Bruce and Bobby, the other day, you mentioned obviously it was a difficult year just how difficult was it for you to process all this as it was going along and how do you bounce back how do you how do you regain that enthusiasm obviously as a veteran you've been around for the ups and downs but what did you go through personally through these ups and downs

Bochy: well I'm like all the players and the fans me I was I'm really disappointed that we didn't have the type of season that we had planned on having and and so you know my job is is to keep coming here every day you know with hopefully the same attitude and and try to get this club on track that's you have no choice in this game you have to deal with the down periods too I mean it's great when you're winning and you love your players and all its going well but it's as part of the game that you have to deal with - as players as coaches as a manager so you know it's not fun trust me but at the same time we have a job to do we have a responsibility and an obligation you know to ownership to each other to the fans to go out there and give it our best.

Now with that said I'm pretty proud of how things ended up with this this club but nobody caved in or threw in the towel.  the way we played the last couple weeks the type of baseball that we played I mean you saw Hunter Pence dived for a ball hurt himself there at the end and it was mentioned all the starters were out there and they weren't and they still wanted to play and and really we should have finished up on a good note we had some hiccups there in the ninth inning but we're playing some good teams and playing good baseball so you know says a lot about the character of those guys that you know they they kept pushing and that's all you can do when you go through a season like this and trust me it's humbling and you don't worry we were all disappointed but this is the time I think you look back you study from it you learn from it and you focus forward

ogc:  Wasted question, what is Bochy going to say in response?  Humbling, disappointing, study/learn from, move forward, check, all the things you have to PR say to the public about this bad season.

Q: Bobby things had changed so fast in a year I mean you got the twins playing tonight they lost 103 games last year but you have three teams in your own division that you're looking up and they're all playing right now how much does that add to the immediacy of making some big changes

Evans: well I think that it we need significantly better results and we've got to we've got to find a way to you know give ourselves an edge and our division really you know battled this year and we anticipated that even last year and yet we were able to keep our head above water and get into the postseason this year we really we couldn't we couldn't find a good you know a good attack against even our own division and that was that was tough to watch but again making the next right move and the next right move one move at a time and trying to put ourselves you know in a position where whatever we can do this offseason and to start next year you know really on the right foot but you can't you can't do move for move against your your division or against the other teams in the National League you're just trying to find ways within your own roster within your own it approach you know to get better it's really one thing at a time and it's not all one offseason but it's gonna it's going to be our focus this winter to try to get ourselves into a position where we should be playing much better baseball and giving ourselves a chance against a very strong division they've done a lot of things right this year and you know we've got to find ways to you know compete with them

Sabean: just to add to that you know from I guess from afar one of the things you realize we had a last-place season that can happen in sports just like you have a lost year in life but whatnot last place people and we're not a last place organization with the furthest thing from that we know that the Dodgers about year to year and quite frankly as you're pointing out while Colorado and Arizona were on the rise they too were in a precarious situation last year so to the questions earlier this is a blow it up this isn't a rebuild, we hope it's a reset know what it's going to take and how that plays out to go from what we finish to being competitive to a playoff team that's incumbent upon all of us to figure out and that's been going on for months the autopsy's been going on for months I don't know how much more we can tolerate knowing that the patient got sick and why it gets sick and fortunately it didn't die

Baer: I would add to that you know Brian mentions the DNA I think that's important I mean that's that is who we are is that we are you know we're an organization that gets very focused we've had in the 25 years China this ownership group and these guys have been Brian and Bobby you've been here the whole time coach has been almost half the time now we've had 90 lost seasons before and no wait bounced back in 09 going back to 96 97 when Brian took over as GM and I mean there's a there's a lot of focus three of them and their staffs on on repeating that reversal the turnaround which 08-09, there was a turnaround in 96 and 97 there wasn't turnaround what we've been there before

ogc:  Sabean had to say it:  "We are not losers".  He always have a knack for finding a phrase that people loam onto.  "Village Idiot"  "Lunatic Fringe"

As I'll get into in my post-mortem on the season, the Giants as is is not that bad a team if the players perform the way they are expected and if they can stay healthy.  Losing all those good players you depend upon, whether through injury or poor performance or both (#1-2 starters, closer, 1B, SS, 3B, LF, CF, RF), is going to tank your season, do that to LA and Houston, they would not have made the playoffs either.

Part of the reason the NL West teams did so much better in 2017 was because the Giants were that much worse.  In 2016, the Giants were 45-31 against the NL West, but in 2017, they were only 29-47, a 16 game swing.   If you took each team's 2017 record and changed their record against the Giants from 2017 to 2016, LA would have been 101-61, Arizona 87-75, Colorado 84-75.   And the Giants would have been 80-72.   So it would not take a lot to return to inner division goodness if they can return to how good they were overall in 2016, particularly against the NL West.

Q: on payroll what did you guys end up this year with what's kind of the range for next year and how does that affect what you do on the free agent market

Evans: well I think that what affects us more in the free agent market are multi-year commitments that currently exist and also how creative market tends to be older players and in many ways this games getting younger so we've really got a balance you know trying to make sure our roster is getting younger but yet you know we want to get it stronger and from a payroll perspective and we finished in into the CBT this year and you know that's you know third third year in a row in the CBT and you know we're gonna be right up against it next year and our goal is to you know not focus so much on payroll but you know trying to make the most out of you know the support we get from ownership and at the same time in strengthen our roster in many different ways and again free agent market is albeit the most expensive way to improve your roster, it's not always the most strategic especially you know as the games getting younger and younger

ogc:  Avoided the question totally, though gave us a signpost of the CBT penalty threshold, which is at $197M for the 2018 season.   Per Baggarly's article, the Giants have $169M in payroll for 10 players from existing contracts, and then another $15M for 5 arbitration eligible players.    However, MLBTR's analyst, who I trust, calculated $13.9M for the arbs, so I'll use that amount.

That's $183M, leaving only $14M for the last 10 players on the 25-man roster.  And with the MLB min at $545K, that's a minimum of $5.5M right there, leaving only $8.5M that they can spend on free agents before going over the CBT penalty threshold again.

Not many ways to reduce the current payroll.  Unless they can renegotiate a contract with someone to backload salary from 2018 to 2019 or 2020, like Bumgarner or Moore.   Or do something with one of the arbitration guys for a backloaded contract.   And Span is the only guy who is tradeable and can bring savings, the Giants probably could find a team to take him if they cover his salary some and reduce the contract to, say, $6M for the other team, he's not good, but he'll at least provide some value to cover that.

If not, then they can barely sign a Nunez or left reliever, the rest of the targeted acquisitions will have to be via trades or waiver pickups, unless there are some severely backloaded contracts pushing salary from 2018 into the future.

Q: Bobby, as Larry mentioned you've been around forever but you're still relatively new in the big chair what have you learned if anything this year about yourself about the job and you plan to change anything at all and Brian, I'd like you to kind of mention anything you may have served about Bobby's growth

Evans: I mean it's it's a team effort and and it's it takes it takes an entire army you know to put together rosters and to have success and and you know I really leaned tremendously on my staff in the front office I think they did a tremendous job from soup to nuts just in terms of helping us you know focus on you know figuring out what's wrong and what's what needs to be corrected I might dependence upon Bryan and Larry and Boch I mean just the team effort I mean you know not letting the struggles divide us helped keep us focused on you know what's at hand for the day but also together looking ahead as to how we can fix this and get it right and again I give a lot of credit to our scouts in the field our player development staff I mean again it's discouraging for all of us to see the struggles and we wear it you know every day and every conversation every restaurant you visit but at the end of the day staying focus on what you know not so much on the struggles but focused on what's ahead and how to get it right, the team effort really has been impressive to me and been you know really something that's kept me upbeat

Sabean: despite the the tough the tough season and the tough year you know specific to this year and and you know Bobby in his various responsibilities before he became GM you know you all all of us in the front office getting the mode it's year-round you're an on-call doctor your best laid plans are really only just that and that the art form and how you perform in a day to day basis and in his case what he does with Boch and the roster at hand is constantly crisis management and that changes everyday because the the 25 man and the forty man roster is a living organism, it's like a person that you have to attend to every day and I think the most admirable thing I can say is along the way through one of the toughest experiences we've had in our lives baseball wise he's kept his personality he's kept his way how he conducts business and he was unflappable he you know he you couldn't see any cracks in the armor at least publicly and I don't think he showed that to anybody in the clubhouse and that's important because under circumstances like this you know your true self should shine and I think Bobby did that above and beyond to be honest with it

ogc:  Wow, what a softball question, what can we really expect Bobby or Brian to say, that he sucked?   A lot of kumbayah, team effort, and good effort.  Another "art form" from Sabey Sabes!   It's alive!  Let your true self shine!

Q: Larry, getting back to the payroll you've been in the above the luxury tax threshold three straight years paying 50 percent tax on the dollar you had to pay this past year that may or may not been the reason you didn't get a left fielder but looking forward I mean you have Cain and maybe others off the books you have built-in raises with Belt etc are you prepared to go into the threshold above it for a fourth straight year or is the goal to stay underneath

Baer: I think as we've shown we're not afraid of the luxury tax or the formal name the CBT we're not afraid of it we've been in three years in a row you know there are penalties there financial penalties but there's also you know prospect and player related penalties sprinkled throughout the new collective bargaining agreement which affects your ability to assign players it asks you to a player compensation and has to do with international signing pool so it's not a goal to be in it but I think, as we've shown, that for the right opportunity to make the team competitive and do and to succeed on the field if we need to be in the CBT we'll be in the CBT so it's really going to be a situational evaluation when these guys come to me and and and say look we have this opportunity to sign X or train for Y and if that put throws us into the CBT then you know we're looking at the time and you know as we've done the last three years we might opt in to the CBT

ogc:  Good question and answer.  Much as it has been since Magowan retired to spend time with his grandchildren, the Giants will spend if the baseball need arises, but, unsaid, but understood, ideally don't want to be penalized as that is money that they can't spend in future years.   Gotta ask in case things changes, but fortunately the answer is the same.

I did not see the LF situation as one dictated by budget, the Giants have been pretty good about keeping at least one position open for a prospect on the edge of making it, giving him a chance to win the position against a marginal MLB player.  In 2017, it was LF because of Parker and Mac Williamson.  

I think 3B would have been a position in 2018 had Arroyo not been HBP and ended up missing so much of the season.  It might still be, the Giants don't have a lot of money left over from the budget, so they will have to be creative to fill their needs, much like in 2003, when they passed on Vlad in order to buy a grab-bag of crafty cheap veterans, as well as trade for AJP.

Q: For anybody, you guys had a very successful formula for a decade with homegrown players, the game is always evolving and everybody loved to have an Aaron Judge or a Giancarlo Stanton, but is that the way the games evolved is that made you maybe rethink your philosophy a little but as you look at young players and who you might want to draft

Evans: I don't know that has changed our thinking I mean I think the I think that we want to get the best talent in the system into our system and up to our big league club that we can I think that the game the evolution of of power these last few years you know can be disheartening because we haven't shown that same power and are it's affected even the results our pitchers are getting but I think our scouts are steadfast to try to get the best players you into this organization that are well-rounded and can play both sides of the ball and in and yet you know looking at our weaknesses you know as an organization or as a big league club you know some of that has a direct impact upon how we look at the draft but again the draft is still three or four years away from guys that actually get up here so some of it may affect more of how we look at player development than necessarily the draft

ogc:  Long ago, Sabean in one of these pressers said that the game is one of cycles, and while the game was in the power cycle then, that he thinks the next phase is pitching and defense.  And here we are again, in the next power cycle, with further evidence that the MLB is just screwing around with the public by changing the balls (again, there is strong evidence that the power cycle that started in 1993, and reached its heights with Bonds, was driven by a lively ball, not steroids, which was a convenient scapegoat)

Lot of hand waving in this response, the most important part is at the beginning when Bobby says that nothing has changed their thinking.  And nothing should.  Studies have found that offense is not a key factor in how teams go deep into the playoffs (links and explanations are in my business plan, see link on the side).   So power is nice to have, as an offensive weapon, but the main goal should be to find good hitters, whether for OBP or SLG, however it may come, whether power or walking or whatever.  That is, Best Player Available.

Same for pitching and overall.   Studies have shown the power of pitching and fielding defense in going deep into the playoffs.   Focus on those two areas, while maximizing what you can get out of offense, that is the secret to playoff success.

It takes so long for prospects generally to make the majors and make an impact on the roster, too long to really adjust to trends, especially if the MLB is manipulating the run environment by changing the ball.  By the time you stock up on homer hitting guys, maybe the ball is dead again, there has been a lot of outrage, and this time, BY THE PLAYERS, talking about the blisters and then during the World Series, about how slippery they were, disabling pitchers from throwing specialty pitches like the slider.

Thus I personally believe that to be as good as you can be in the playoffs, a team needs to focus on pitching and fielding defense consistently and continually.  Great pitching stops great hitting, it is as simple as that.  Great hitting may win the battle, but most teams don't have such a deep lineup of great hitters, anyway.  And great pitching may get solved, batter to batter, but the point is not to give up runs, not to avoid base runners at all costs.  Great pitching will strand runners more times than not.

And great pitching needs great fielding to support them.  Pitching can only take you so far, and if your fielders are allowing more hits, then great pitching will give up more runs than they would have had they had great fielding.  We see the effect that errors have when the extra base runner (we see it with 4 pitch walks too) scores.  Well, we never really think about the hits that made it in because the fielder just wasn't up to par, but the same effect happens, these leads to runs eventually, when there are enough of them.

Q: Hank: just harping on the power issue and when I talk about power I echo you guys that we're also talking about doubles and triples in the light if I'm reading what I've heard from all of you gentlemen today you know power prevention run prevention in general better defense seems to be a higher priority so a direct more direct question is do you not see the need to acquire I guess what in baseball they sometimes call a presence for the middle of the lineup to bat behind and protect Buster as a lot of these playoff teams seem to have right now

Evans: you know I think it's important I think it's very important to have a presence and and build the heart of your order I think that you get the best out of your your your core your the best out of Belt and Crawford and Posey and and others if the the middle of your order is stronger and so that's that's definitely of concern and interest to us I think that we'll be creative however we can get you know build a stronger middle the order I mean we want to do that and it doesn't you know it doesn't necessarily have to come domestically I mean sure we're open to outside options and whether that's trade or for agency or you know obviously we want to look internally as well

ogc:  Answer non-answer.  Evans basically said what we all know, that we need good hitters in the middle of the batting order to maximize the lineup.  So whether you call that a presence or whatever, any offense needs to maximize their key lineup positions.

Interesting that he noted Belt, Crawford, and Posey as their core hitters.  As he left out Pence.

Sounds like they believe Pence is on the decline, and not even core now.  They apparently do not see any way to have him improve in some way, or see any rebound in the future, that 2017 was not an aberration.

However, looking at his peripherals, he's actually not that far off from recent years, so I would not be surprised if there is a rebound.  However, his power went down a lot, while his percentage of flyballs went up, so it appears that he's making weak contact, and while his peripherals are normal, he's unable to do with the batted ball what he used to be able to do, and so that'll be an interesting story to follow in 2018.  His LD% did go down, but his hard-hit ball percentage is not out of range with what he's done in recent seasons.   2017 was very much like his 2014 season with us.

His defense, as bad as it was, was not actually that much worse than in recent years, perhaps slightly better.  So unless their scouts and coaches are seeing something that is not showing up in his data, I don't see a lot of reason to take him out of the starting RF position.  He appears to be the same player he was before with us, just had a bad season with making hard contact that would fall for hits and homers.

Q: Hank: another power question Bruce second year in a row Buster mostly stopped hitting home runs after the break do you have an explanation and how much does it matter if he's doing other things well at the plate

Bochy: you know, I don't have a way to explain, his second half that as far as the home runs but I think if you look at again the doubles when he had three doubles one game, just there toward the end and part of it is a little protection it may help him, if there was somebody.   at times with our injuries and you know they're they're gonna be careful with this guy yeah but when you have a 400 on base and you hit 320 that works too that's pretty good and so you know we're we're not trying to put pressure on this guy trust me because you go up there and try to hit home runs and you know you're in a compound of damage and we want him to be who he is.

now it's easy to say hey we want you to hit more home runs at or as a club but you know and those numbers will work and now as far as the order you know that that could move a little bit to you know where we put in where you know he he could be a better fit but for this year it made the most sense that hit him clean up I'm put him in a three hole but and then I want to have we're talking about power here and that it looks like wow we're just so far behind and everything, but you know just to remind you, we have picked up a player and a lot of these World Series runs that we had that really made a difference in our club whether it's a Burrell or Cody Ross or Morris or even a Marco Scutaro that really helped change our club so it's not like you know you're gonna go out and you're gonna find two or three heart of the order guys it's not going to happen but it could be a player maybe two that could make a difference

ogc:  Good question that I think most of us have been wondering about.  Avoided the question about why he's like that, though Bochy was kind of trying to suggest that it was a bit random, by noting the 3 doubles game.  But yeah, 320 with 400 OBP works really well in the lineup, just that the 4th spot really needs someone who can hit with more power to drive in runs.   I would not bat him 3rd, though.  Given how much Bochy and the Giants seem to be aware of sabermetrics key words, I'm surprised that they still like to use their best hitter (or at least a good hitter) in the 3rd spot.

The third spot, if you want to straddle the old rubric of having a good hitter there and modern analytics that say you want maybe your fifth best hitter there, is my theory that you want your most risky good hitter there.  Where risky is defined as someone who is hot and cold but overall is a good hitter.  And that fits Brandon Belt to a T, he's probably our second best hitter most seasons, but fans also know him for his hot and cold streaks.  This blends the goals of each tactic:  you have a good hitter most of the time, but since the third spot comes up more times with two outs, it does not hurt as much to have a guy who might be in a cold streak there, as that puts the cleanup hitter up first in the next inning.   Ideally it is Span, Panik, Belt, Posey (when hitting for power), Crawford (when hitting), then reliable power hitter 5th, and then periodic power hitters 6 and 7.

While its true that the Giants have had a lot of good pickups mid-season who ended up contributing to each championship, it is better not to depend on that by having a good team to start with.  That said, since the team has historically devoted more resources (rightfully) towards pitching, fans need to understand that the Giants cannot always have everything a team needs in order to have someone good at every position.  Even the Yankees and Dodgers do not have that much money to spend to do that.  And if they have every position filled, then young players will rarely break through, which is something fans want to see to, our prospects getting opportunities to show what they got.  So there is a balance between trying to buy all you need vs. giving opportunities for your hitters to take a position.

Q: These are things that we're talking about now free agency seems to be about a month away but listening to everyone today it seems like you need some new players are you first in line with other teams you're going to be aggressive now it seems move should be made soon looking at this year and what happened at the end of last year so how aggressive are you now to make things happen and you did go to Japan to see Otani what was your reaction there and is there a chance that you'll be in the bidding for him

Evans: I mean we're gonna be aggressive with players that are posted.  we've got our posted guys and we don't know how many ultimately will get posted we don't know if Otani will get posted but I mean we want to be aggressive and have we have you know good information from our scouts haven't been over there a lot this year and so that's one option.

I think in terms of trades I mean we're as aggressive as players as clubs are prepared to be you know we want to be mindful of the fact that some clubs are not actively in the trade discussions right now so you you're cutting out a third of your clubs if you do too much right now so it tends to be a little slower market this time of year but we're prepared to make deals as opportunities present themselves no question

ogc:  The more interesting part was about Otani, which they could have commented on, since he doesn't below to another team, per se, but as always, as Sabean used to love to say, they like to keep their kimono closed, so as not to give out their interest in any particular player.  Then again, they already answered the media's questions on Otani before, noting that they sent people out to Japan, and Bochy saying that it would be great to have him, so it is not like they haven't spoke about him before.

The great thing is that Otani is available for every team to talk to, because he is still young enough to qualify under international prospect rules, and not through the usual posting rules that Japanese players normally go through.  So the Giants should be kicking the tires.

And they said that they will be doing that, the Giants under Sabean has always been diligent about due diligence, I can still remember them talking about how they asked a big time hitter if he would be willing to take under $10M (I think it was Gary Sheffield), and I had to laugh, because there was no way he was giving a discount out to the Giants.  I think he eventually signed a contract for around $13M per seasons.

The problem for the Giants is that because they gave out that $6M bonus for Fox previously, they are one of the teams very limited as to how much they can offer him, something in the mid-$300K range.  Apparently, however, money will not be a major determination factor, as every team is also limited to an extent since signing Otani would be considered part of an International free agent signing, and they will be going into the penalty to sign him above their team's spending slot.  Nobody should be spending willy-nilly for him.

So the Giants can appeal to Otani with other things that they might be able to do for him, whether it be allowing him to play a position on his off days, or providing a support team of a translator and other assistants, to help him adjust to life here, or any other soft benefits that he might be interested in.  Or maybe the local Japanese presence, with Japan Towns in both San Francisco and San Jose will attract him.

About aggressiveness with free agents, as I noted above, they only have about $8-9M that they can spend in 2018 before going over the CBT penalty threshold, and incur steep penalties for being a consecutive offender (last year they were penalized at 50% of the amount pass the threshold; thus a $7M player will cost $10.5M, a $15M player will cost $22.5M;  not sure what it is this year, but it escalates, and so I would guess either 75% or 100%, but I've seen someone use 50% again).

And they don't really have a lot of expensive assets that they can trade off to clear out salary.  Belt would be the most logical one to do this, because of both abilities still around and salary.  But he's probably our second best hitter right now, and certainly best power hitter, an odd choice to trade if you are going to trying to power up the lineup.  And he's also obvious because our best hitting prospect is probably Shaw, who could play 1B.  However, Shaw is, at best, average defensively at 1B, whereas Belt is very good, maybe not Gold Glove good, but per UZR, he produced about 1 WAR per full season worth of games.  Thus, given the statement about getting better defensively, this would be a regressive move, especially at a position the Giants has viewed as important defensively under Sabean, fielding Snow and Belt there (though Huff was there too).

Span is probably the only tradeable asset who shows enough ability so that we don't have to cover the whole salary, while having a big enough salary to save significantly.  In spite of his bad defense, he generated 1.2 fWAR in 2017, 1.4 fWAR in 2016, which is roughly $10M in free agent value.  His salary is $11M, so the Giants could cover, say, $5M for his last season of his contract, making his contract $6M (plus cover the $4M buyout, for a total of $9M) for the buying team, seems like fair risk for another team to take on to get a useful player.

Q: last question, Andy Baggarly: the bullpen Brian you have a nice pickup that you made with Sam Dyson, Melanson expects to be healthy, next spring you'll have Will Smith back at some point early next year, to what extent can you count on those things being having this bullpen come together or do you think that it's going to need more help from the outside world

Sabean: well you know the long and short any manager of any general manager wants four or five guys that can pitch a inning so yeah not constantly playing match up baseball.   into the names that you've just mentioned being veterans and if you have Melancon the closer and Dyson's the set up guy in some form, and then you'll get Smith coming back who I believe can pitch an inning, Strickland's morphing into a late inning guy, and some of our younger guys like Crick and maybe Moronta is you know impress us you know immediately instead of later, on up the line.   the more we can catch up in the arms race which is it starts with relievers pitching an inning and then more so kind of some power within that to get some strikeout ability like everybody else yes but we've got some pieces and I know Bob you look at trade opportunities and free agent opportunities.

ogc:  Nice question by Baggs.  The big pieces of info are the mention of Kyle Crick, the prodigal prospect, and especially Reyes Moronta, who is an unheralded prospect.    Both are only 25 for next season, and Crick finally had the breakout year that everyone was waiting for and mostly had given up on, while Moronta built upon his breakout in 2016, after three years of poor results, though with high K-rates (and unfortunately high walk rates).

And Moronta, unlike Crick, was not pushed against higher level and older players, he's been right around league age for the most part, only playing against much older competition in 2017, and succeeding.  Perhaps it was a matter of acclimation to a foreign culture, or just getting comfortable being a professional baseball player, but he had a great season in San Jose in the 2016 season, then continued to do well in 2017, first in AA, then AAA, and finally the Majors, compiling an overall 2.92 ERA, 11.4 K/9.  But his wildness returned, as his walks were high again, but tolerable given his high K/9, resulting in an adequate 2.35 K/BB ratio.  He's young and hopefully will still improve in next few seasons.

Crick had been the highly touted prospect, actually ranking in the Top 40 of all MLB prospects in pre-2014 for Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and MLB Pipeline, but probably not making the Top 30 Giants prospects after the 2016 season.  His issue has always been the walks.

And he's the reliever on the edge if the Giants find a bullpen upgrade for 2018, as the others are pretty much locked in:  Melancon, Dyson, Smith, Strickland, and Gearrin.   Smith probably won't rejoin the team until early season, so Crick or one of the lefties will fill that spot until he returns, assuming the Giants find that upgrade they are looking for.

Crick has almost always been the youngest player in the league, and that continued with his rise to the majors.  That has been a mitigating factor in how wild he was in the minors, that he was always facing much older (and experienced, he only started pitching full time as a senior in high school) hitters.  He has actually mostly did well, per ERA, except for 2016, when he was very lost (even more lost than his very wild 2015), so his rebound to the majors is not exactly surprising, though not expected given all the walks.

Interesting, though, just noticed that Dyson, Strickland, and Gearrin are guys other teams gave up on, and the Giants were able to claim and get them productive again.  Perhaps that's how they fill that last spot in the bullpen, by claiming someone, say, when teams are releasing players rather than offering them arbitration.  Or someone they like in the Rule 5 Draft, as they have the second position there, after the Tigers.  Maybe they can find someone to be their Biagini (pitcher they lost via Rule 5 to Toronto; he did very well as reliever in 2016, but not so well at all as starter in 2017).

ogc thoughts

These pressers are rarely that informative, in spite of all the questions asked.  Not every question is a gem.  Even if they are, the Giants, especially Sabean, loves to keep the kimono closed, as Sabean loves to say, and not share their inner most strategies openly where their competitors (and free agents' agents) can glean what they are planning to do.  It is a matter of reading the tea leaves, often.

Key Point:  Giants Are Not Rebuilding

Sabean clarified it as only he can:  "We are not losers!"   Sabes also noted "reset, not rebuild."  I miss Sabean running the show...

The talk is about making incremental improvements, focused on defense and pitching (clarified in later press conference as the following:  defensive CF, starting 3B, and bullpen upgrade), by using creative ways of obtaining these.  Which means no big contract to anyone nor any huge trade, and could involve minor free agent signings for platoon situations, lower end trades, trading for arbitration eligible players that teams were looking to waive anyway, thus earning something in trade instead, waiver wire pickups, even Rule 5 (not mentioned, but that's creative as well, which, through reading the tea leaves means:  we don't money or top prospects to get the players we need simply, so we'll have to be creative to get what we want).

Another creative way would be setting up a multi-team trade, but the Giants have rarely done those (there was one long ago, got us a nice catcher from Pittsburgh, I believe, then we traded him on to Marlins, I think, for a prospect of some sort).  Anyone know of any other creative ways the Giants have used?

The only silver lining is that Baer noted that the Giants are not limited entirely by the CBT penalty threshold, that they will look at deals that would push them into the penalty and decide whether it is worth doing that for the player in question.  Presumably, whether through trade or free agency.  Could mean that the Giants might open pockets some in January/February to pick up a free agent not getting any bites from teams that fits out needs.  Could mean big trade if the price (money and prospects) become palatable (or just plain doable, if the other team was asking for too much to begin with).  But, of course, we should not expect or bet on this.

Key Acquisition Targets and Challenges

No reading of tea leaves necessary for this one, stated it at the start:  they are looking for a defensive CF, a starting 3B, and a bullpen upgrade.   I would note here that Otani fulfills none of those, but they will be kicking the tires both because they can and because he's an outstanding talent, that if he chooses the Giants, would be paid very little.

However, as the contracts and 25-man is currently constructed, the Giants have around $8.5M that they can spend before reaching the CBT Penalty Threshold.   Thus, these thoughts:
  • Defensive CF:  that's most likely a trade (Billy Hamilton is a common name thrown out by fans; Kiermaier of the Rays is another, but he's already signed to a relatively cheap long term contract, and thus would take a lot more player value to obtain) or a small commit FA (Jarrod Dyson).   This is the Giants highest priority, given the problems they had with Span and Pence defensively, and the one that they will throw the most resources at obtaining.  
  • Starting 3B:  I see as the most likely ways that this happen is via trade or waived players set free before the arbitration deadline, much like how we picked up Jose Cruz.  I also think this is stated to give Sandoval a big mental push to get physically fit during the off-season, that he's viewed as a bench player (and maybe perhaps get DFAed to AAA at times) unless he shows up in spring training ready to compete.  He is promised nothing, but maybe the Giants pick up another guy like McGehee, who is OK enough, but not so great that the internal options can't beat out by playing well.  And such a player is an upgrade over the 2017 version of Sandoval but not the 2014 version.  I assume they are not going to baby him anymore, if he improves great, if not, we're moving on, as the Giants are the ones doing him the favor.  And like anyone with addiction, at this point, he has to be the one who gets himself into shape, no one else can, he needs to decide what he wants more, to be fat and out of MLB or still playing.
  • Bullpen upgrade:  I don't see how this isn't via the waiver wire, Rule 5, or minor trade (meaning minor upgrade).  I would say it most likely comes from relievers who are waived before the team has to offer them arbitration.  As there is not enough money, nor do they want to waste better prospects to pick up someone.  Plus, there will be the usual assortment of castoffs and on-the-edge relievers/starters, who the Giants seem to pick up and try out.  Creativity could mean using one of our starting pitching prospects in upgrading the bullpen.
Kiermaier Krush

The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of getting Kevin Kiermeier from the Rays.   He is great defensively and offensively, and will only be 28 next season.  And not just great defensively, perhaps the best in the game, and he's a power-speed combo now, looks like he can reach 20 homers-20 SB one of these years.  Plus he's signed to a long-term low cost contract, a la Bumgarner was.

The only major problem for the Giants - and it is major - is that he can't stay on the field that much, roughly 100 games per season the past two years when he's young (OK, other major is do we have the prospects?).  He injured his hand in a dive for a catch in 2016 and fractured his hip diving into first base avoiding a tag.  That's not a great aging pattern, a potential harbinger of long stretches of DL as he gets into his 30's.  Yet, he's so good defensively that he generated more than 5.0 bWAR the past two seasons, nonetheless.  Even part time, he would be a huge boost to the Giants.

While most mention of him notes the difficulty of getting him, the Giants did get Matt Moore from the Rays with a similarly good but growing contract commitment.  Plus they probably know our farm system pretty well still, and might be interested in other prospects.  And their team has basically been stagnant for the past four years, and the team is getting to the end of the string with their under-30 players.  They seem ripe for some sort of re-load.

Especially since they just lost their best hitter, 1B Logan Morrison to free agency, without giving him a qualifying offer, because they preferred to QO another player, Alex Cobb, a pitcher.  On top of that, it has already been announced that they are looking to cut payroll, with one of their beat writers noting a handful of arbitration eligible players who they would be looking to trade to reduce payroll.  Seems like a team looking to get younger, at least rebuild a little, though not a lot, they have Longoria still, and a number of good starting pitchers in Archer, Cobb, Odorizzi, Snell, Faria.

Their needs are to get younger but to reload and be competitive still (kind of like the Giants).  If they want another power hitting 1B, perhaps Chris Shaw could be part of the package.  They would also need a replacement CF, so perhaps we would give up Steven Duggar, who would not be as relevant with Kiermaier in the fold.  Andrew Suarez is from the Florida area, at least during college, so they might be interested in him, teams can always use good lefty pitchers (but he would be hard for me to give up, been looking forward to him getting up to the majors).  This would be a nice package of nearly ready prospects who can help them out in 2018-19.  Maybe throw in another MLB-ready-ish prospect, like Williamson or Parker, since Kiermaier would push Span to LF and we won't need them as much.   Plus a lower level prospect, might be a nice match, though I have zero idea what other teams might offer.

I have to think the Giants are targeting him as the highest priority given their emphasis on defensive CF, but given how good he is, other teams probably can beat this offer.  He's great defensively and offensively, along with the cheap-ish contract, and thus other teams would be just as interested in picking him up.  And we don't have a lot in the farm system in terms of top talent, we would have to overwhelm in terms of providing a lot of MLB ready-ish prospects, much like when we traded 7 players to pick up Vida Blue.  So maybe include guys like Blach and Stratton into the mix too, maybe even Arroyo, if pushed, though we need to keep Beede, as we need good starters in a few years, contracts are ending then.

Billy Hamilton would be a secondary target, less interesting because he would be an offensive hole in the lineup, though perhaps taking the role of secondary leadoff from the 8th position in the lineup.   But he's very good defensively because of his superlative speed.  And might be easier to trade for, the Reds want to reduce payroll as well, with him because he's arbitration eligible, and he's not that good offensively (and the Giants only noted defensive CF, not necessarily offensive, so he fits their definition just as well).

Jarrod Dyson is the easiest target, since he's a free agent.  And costs the least, in terms of contract (about the same per season as Hamilton would, he's projected at $5M arbitration salary, and Dyson at $6M per season, he could be backloaded at $5M/$7M for a two season contract at $12M projected) and prospects (none since he's free agent).  But he's much older and a strong platoon candidate since he does not hit lefties at all:  career vs RHP, decent .267/.332/.372/.704, vs LHP, indecent .215/.291/.259/.551.  So he would be a huge compromise in a number of ways, but could platoon with one of our right-handed OF in CF.

Creative Ways Returning

Creative (and art form) are key words the Giants use to mean, "we are not spending a lot this off-season, and thus we will have to be creative in how we fill our needs, as it is an art form."   As noted, roughly $8.5M available for free agents, lack of tradeable contracts, lack of top tier prospects, but three main objectives of the off-season - defensive CF, starting 3B, and upgraded bullpen - means that the Giants will have to be creative with how they fill these objectives.

It does appear, however, that the Giants ownership will allow Evans to be aggressive if he sees the baseball need to get a substantial upgrade, but that the preference is to stay under the threshold.  Meaning that ownership will have to be a huge part of any conversation to acquire big contract players.  Most free agents do not fulfill the need of getting younger, however, and the Giants appear to be trying to avoid big contracts with older players, but meanwhile, the Giants don't have the prospects to trade for a big contract.

Except for maybe Stanton, only because Miami is looking to cut payroll and start rebuilding, but that contract is so large that most teams will want money back from the Marlins, which is where the Giants might come in. The more money taken on by the acquiring team, the less prospect value they will have to give the Marlins in return for Stanton.  This is where the Giants can get away with less prospects, by taking on more money.  But it's a HUGE risky contract.

Maybe giving them some young promise in a big bundle:  Williamson, Parker, maybe Suarez and/or Arroyo, as both have name value in Florida, both having been stars there, or even Shaw, as he has similar power, plus some lower level prospects with potential.  They might also include Span or Pence into the deal, to balance off salary in 2018, while paying for more salary later.  Acquiring an OF means that the Giants can include OF prospects due to progress to MLB over next few seasons.

Prospect Periscope

The Giants only brought up two prospects:  Crick and Moronta.  They answered a question on Shaw, as well.  And mentioned Arroyo and Ryder regarding the open 3B situation, as well as mentioning Slater, Arroyo, and Beede (but only because they were injured and need opps in AFL), but didn't really get into it on any of them.

They usually mention somebody among prospects who looks promising.  I think Moronta was the most eye-opening of the comments.  The rest were necessary (in Shaw's case) or relatively obvious to fans already (Crick, Arroyo, Ryder Jones, Slater, Beede).

The only interesting factoid among those was that Cody Ross was coaching Shaw on OF fielding, which shows how serious the Giants are about having him play in LF.   The Giants often play fielding challenged hitters at 1B so that they can concentrate on their hitting, but when they get closer to actually making the majors, start preparing them for the position that the Giants are envisioning for him.  Shaw actually was an outfielder in college (RF though), and it seems that the Duvall conversion to LF that the Reds tried and succeeded with (Giants never really tried him there that much) has emboldened the Giants to try that with Shaw, another defense challenged power hitter.  Or perhaps they want to raise his trade value, as well.


  1. Don't want to say too much here because there is a lot of material here. However, I think it is not necessary to go after a third baseman as we have a major league guy who signed a 96 million dollar contract, at major league minimum who may for the first time in over 2 years be getting back to full health. We also have a major league minumum back up just in case Sandoval does not work out in Arroyo. If we sign Nunez, a nice player and would love to have him back, (just remember the giants were losing and in last place while Nunez was on the team). For me there are two needs and maybe they can be addressed in one person. We need a really good fielding center fielder. We also need someone who can hit home runs, as there is no defense against the dinger. That could be one person or two. I am not that enthralled about Billy Hamilton. Remember the Marlins had two silver slugger outfielders and yet were not a playoff team. Of course losing their ace last year to a boating accident really sent them back. The giants need to give up a few less runs, but they need to score a lot more runs. 12 dingers for Posey and none during the last 6 weeks of the season were brutal for a cleanup hitter. We cannot have our RBI leaders with just 70 plus RBI. A couple of folks are going to have to drive in 100 plus runs. The pitching can be tweaked but either internally or externally we need a Loogy that can get key left handed hitters out.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts. Not much I disagree with.

      I'm OK with the options we have at 3B. I see that as our "prospect position", where an Arroyo or Ryder can step up and take the starting job by, as the Giants said, forcing the issue.

      But, personally, I think Pablo was overpaid, and it will take a lot for him to return to the Panda he once was that got him the contract. And as I will get into in my post-mortem, I don't think the Giants have much to go offensively, so we don't need a huge upgrade at 3B.

      I like getting Nunez more because he's happy being a utility guy, would accept that, and we could play him at a variety of positions, and be our insurance if there are any issues at 2B, 3B, LF, where he can be a good stop-gap if necessary, or we could bring up a guy if he's going good.

      Yelich would be nice, but he's only average as a CF, he's just a great upgrade offensively (or mostly, as even average is an upgrade over what Span did). But he just signed a cheap contract, much like Kiermaier. If I'm giving up some good package of prospects for anyone, I would rather have Kiermaier.

      Of course, the rub in all this is we don't know who is really available and who isn't. Yelich I haven't seen in any of the Marlin rumors, they mainly want to dump salary, and he's on a very affordable contract, so he's not likely to go, especially at only 26 YO next season. Not like they are going to tank the team.

      But yeah, forgot that they lost Fernandez, what a loss for baseball, huge blow for them.

      Dingers are nice, and I do love the long ball too, but I haven't seen one study that says that homers lead to success in making and winning in the playoffs, so I'm sanguine about homers, I'll take them if they come, but I'm not going to worry about them.

      About the bullpen, if you have a good right-hander who can handle both right and left-handed hitters, I'm OK with that, I don't need to have a loogy. Of course, such a pitcher would cost a lot of money.

      A recent Sabean interview (I'm providing the link in next comment; that's twice in a week he's out talking, wonder if Evans is on a very hot seat, Sabean has been pretty quiet since Evans was elevated, but now he's talked twice, I'm not even sure he has done that twice since Evans took over as GM) noted that he wanted to solidify the bullpen, and a good loogy would do that.

  2. Tim Kawakami, now of The Athletic (I'll probably subscribe soon because Andy Baggarly is joining them, and I need my Andy, but I'm waiting to get another offer at 40% off, which briefly was offered, but when I tried to do it the next day, it disappeared) interviewed Sabean on last Friday:

    I miss a good Sabes interview, used a couple of his old catch phrases. The big news there is that while Posey and Bumgarner is off the table in the reset, everyone else is fair game, as Sabean noted that the team really do not want to be over the CBT threshold for a fourth year because there are other penalties involved, like losing 2nd and 5th round picks for QO's and losing $1M from International Signings. This means that the Giants are open to trading someone to shed salary.

    As I noted, one Giant who seems likely is Belt, because he has a big salary and since Shaw could play there. but this could also be a way open up 1B for both Posey to play more there, as well as to give Otani a spot to play regularly, and allow him to hit, as a way to entice him to the Giants.

    Samardzija or Cueto also become possible trade pieces to get salary relief, as well as other pieces, a al Matt Williams, picking up a defensive CF and starting 3B, for example, or a nice reliever.

    Not many other people to trade for salary relief, except maybe Span or Pence, but not as likely.

  3. That Sabean/Kimono metaphor conjures up a picture that is, well, not pretty!

  4. Hey, ogc, I just got 50% off a The Athletic subscription within the last hour. How long they will be offering it, I don’t know.

  5. Thanks for the heads up!

    Unfortunately, even worse now, only 20% deals, I can get 30% off with Baggs deal.

    It seems to change even within one session, i was pulling down a report, got the 30 offer, then not sure how but next web view got me the 40. I had to think about it, as it was late night, but when I tried to sign up, it was over I guess.

    Thanks again!



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