- In a reader mailbag piece about several Giants-related topics, MLB.com’s Chris Haft doesn’t see San Francisco re-signing free agents Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez, Angel Pagan or Jake Peavy, though there’s a chance Gregor Blanco could return. The probable departures of Romo and Lopez could be part of a wider bullpen shakeup for the Giants, as GM Bobby Evans has said that finding a closer is a top offseason priority.
We’re just a few months away from this winter’s Rule 5 draft, so it makes sense to take a look back and see how things shook out from the 2015 selections. Several organizations found useful players, even if the most recent class didn’t include an Odubel Herrera-esque breakout sensation. Some of the most recent draftees have probably locked up MLB jobs again for 2017, though others who stuck on a major league roster all year may head back to the minors for further development. (Once a player’s permanent control rights have been secured, his new organization is free to utilize optional assignments as usual for future years.)
Here’s a roundup of the 2015 draft class with the 2016 season in the books:
- Tyler Goeddel, OF, kept by Phillies from Rays: The 23-year-old struggled with the aggressive move to the big leagues, carrying a .192/.258/.291 batting line in 234 trips to the plate, but showed enough for the rebuilding Phillies to hold onto him all year long.
- Luis Perdomo, RHP, kept by Padres (via Rockies) from Cardinals: It didn’t look good early for Perdomo, but he showed better after moving to the rotation and ended with a rather promising 4.85 ERA over twenty starts. Though he struggled to contain the long ball, and only struck out 6.4 per nine, Perdomo sported a nifty 59.0% groundball rate on the year.
- Joey Rickard, OF, kept by Orioles from Rays: After opening the year with a bang, Rickard faded to a .268/.319/.377 batting line on the year but held his roster spot in Baltimore. He ended the season on the DL with a thumb injury, though, and may end up at Triple-A for some added seasoning.
- Joe Biagini, RHP, kept by Blue Jays from Giants: The only Rule 5 pick to appear in the postseason, Biagini was a great find for Toronto. He ended with 67 2/3 innings of 3.06 ERA pitching, with 8.2 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9, and now looks like a potential fixture in the Jays’ relief corps.
- Matthew Bowman, RHP, kept by Cardinals from Mets: Bowman rounds out a trio of impressive relievers. He contributed 67 2/3 innings with a 3.46 ERA and 6.9 BB/9 against 2.7 BB/9 to go with a monster 61.7% groundball rate.
Retained By Other Means
- Deolis Guerra, RHP, re-signed by Angels (who selected him from Pirates) after being outrighted: Guerra was in an unusual spot since he had previously been outrighted off of the Bucs’ 40-man roster when he was selected, meaning he didn’t need to be offered back. Los Angeles removed him from the major league roster and then brought him back on a minor league deal, ultimately selecting his contract. Though he was later designated and outrighted by the Halos, Guerra again returned and largely thrived at the major league level, contributing 53 1/3 much-needed pen frames with a 3.21 ERA on the back of 6.1 K/9 against just 1.2 BB/9.
- Jabari Blash, OF, acquired by Padres (who acquired Rule 5 rights from Athletics) from Mariners: Blash’s intriguing tools weren’t quite ready for the majors, but San Diego struck a deal to hold onto him and was surely impressed with his showing at Triple-A. In his 229 plate appearances there, Blash swatted 11 home runs but — more importantly — carried a .415 OBP with a much-improved 66:41 K/BB ratio.
- Ji-Man Choi, 1B, outrighted by Angels after Orioles declined return: The 25-year-old scuffled in the bigs but was rather impressive at the highest level of the minors, where he walked nearly as often as he struck out and put up a .346/.434/.527 slash with five home runs in 227 plate appearances.
- Jake Cave, OF, returned from Reds to Yankees: After failing to crack Cinci’s roster out of camp, Cave impressed at Double-A but slowed at the highest level of the minors (.261/.323/.401 in 354 plate appearances) upon his return to the New York organization.
- Evan Rutckyj, LHP, returned from Braves to Yankees: Sent back late in camp, the 24-year-old struggled in limited action on the Yanks’ farm after missing most of the season with elbow issues.
- Josh Martin, RHP, returned from Padres to Indians: In his first attempt at Triple-A, Martin posted 66 frames of 3.55 ERA pitching with 8.2 K/9 against 3.1 BB/9.
- Daniel Stumpf, LHP, returned from Phillies to Royals: Slowed by a PED suspension, Stumpf was bombed in a brief MLB stint with the Phils but dominated at Double-A upon his return to K.C., posting a 2.11 ERA with 11.0 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9 in 21 1/3 innings.
- Chris O’Grady, LHP, returned from Reds to Angels: Sent back in late March, O’Grady compiled a 3.48 ERA over 95 2/3 innings in the upper minors, though he performed much better as a Double-A starter than he did as a Triple-A reliever.
- Zack Jones, RHP, returned from Brewers to Twins: The 25-year-old was out with a shoulder injury for most of the year, and ended up being sent back to Minnesota in late June, but has shown swing-and-miss stuff when healthy.
- Blake Smith, RHP, returned from Padres to White Sox: Smith ended up making a brief MLB debut upon his return to Chicago, but spend most of the year pitching well at Triple-A Charlotte, where he ran up a 3.53 ERA in 71 1/3 innings with 9.5 K/9 against 3.0 BB/9.
- Colin Walsh, INF, returned from Brewers to Athletics: After struggling badly in his major league stint with the Brewers, Walsh went to Oakland’s Triple-A affiliate and put up a .259/.384/.388 bating line over 245 plate appearances.
We looked previously at the comments of the Giants’ top executives following the team’s postseason exit, but it seems worth exploring one major long-term question on its own. As Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News reports, the team’s leadership also talked about the possibility of a second extension for workhorse ace Madison Bumgarner.
There have been at least preliminary discussions between the team, Bumgarner, and his new representatives at The Legacy Group, GM Bobby Evans said. As things stand, though, it doesn’t appear that any significant progress has been made — or that there are any firm plans to chat further this winter.
Bumgarner, 27, just turned in his fourth consecutive season with over 200 innings of sub-3.00 ERA pitching, cementing his status as one of the game’s most productive starters. And his value is only enhanced by his remarkable postseason record; over 102 1/3 total frames, he has dominated to the tune of a 2.11 ERA.
Owing to the brilliant original extension reached by the team, San Francisco has plenty of time to think things over and try to exercise some leverage. Bumgarner will earn just $11.5MM next year and can be retained for two more seasons via successive $12MM options, making him one of the game’s most valuable assets.
That contractual control runs through Bumgarner’s age-29 season, so there’s plenty of relatively young seasons still in play. Obviously, risk and reward is inherent in any deal involving pitching, for both player and team. While it’s easy to imagine something coming together — we have seen second long-term extensions for players such as Ryan Braun, Evan Longoria, Ryan Zimmerman, David Wright, Salvador Perez, and (of perhaps greater relevance) Justin Verlander — there’ll surely be plenty of jockeying involved.
There’s little question that Bumgarner is a screaming value who would command a much greater price in another deal, especially with the price of pitching moving northward of late. Acknowledging that while factoring in the team’s locked-in years and dollars could prove tricky, especially with the fiery hurler’s impeccable health history and dogged consistency driving his potential future free agent value up.
There does seem to be a fairly special relationship between the ace and an organization that has a penchant for retaining its most treasured players. CEO Larry Baer acknowledged as much. “[Bumgarner has] been a tremendous asset for us,” he said. “He’s done historic things. But, look, obviously, we want to make Madison a Giant for a long, long time to come – well-beyond his current contract.”
Still, Baer declined to make a firm commitment as to how hard the team would press to get something done. “I think that remains to be seen,” he said of how the team will prioritize extension talks with Bumgarner. And Evans seemingly suggested that the ball is in the court of the pitcher and his advisers at present. “When they’re interested in talking, we want to make sure we’re available,” he said. “But we don’t have a timeline. We want Madison to be here for a long time. At the right time, we’ll address this when his camp is ready to talk.”
Baggarly explores whether the team’s situation with the equally excellent Johnny Cueto could tie into the timing. As he notes, whether Cueto pitches well enough again next year to opt out of the final four years of his deal will have a major impact on the state of the team’s future balance sheet. San Francisco already has more cash promised to veterans than most organizations in the game, with nearly $100MM committed through 2020.
Those broader considerations will surely weigh into the equation, though it’s tough to imagine the large-market, perennial contenders passing up an opportunity to achieve yet more value from their world-class lefty. Whether and when such a chance will arise figures to be a storyline that will grow in prominence as the three remaining years on Bumgarner’s deal tick down.
Former Astros skipper and current Braves special assistant Bo Porter is receiving at least some consideration for the Rockies’ open managerial position, according to MLB.com’s Thomas Harding. The report identifies a number of other possibilities on a growing list of names who appear to be on Colorado’s radar.
Another former Astros’ manager, current Indians bench coach Brad Mills, has also come up. His Cleveland staff mate, first base coach Sandy Alomar Jr., is another name to watch. Obviously, neither of those possible candidates can be pursued in earnest at present, with the Indians just opening play in the ALCS.
Two other bench coaches who could draw interest from the Rockies are Dave Martinez of the Cubs, who also is busy with his current position, and Ron Wotus of the Giants. We heard earlier today that Wotus had received contact from a team with a managerial opening. Given that the Diamondbacks — the other team with an opening — haven’t yet resolved their front office situation, it seems reasonable to suspect that it was the Rockies who came calling.
Today’s report significantly expands the group of names tied in some way to the Rockies’ top dugout post. Last we checked in, the scuttlebutt was that former Brewers skipper Ron Roenicke (most recently of the Angels), former Padres manager Bud Black (ditto), Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo, Braves first base coach Eddie Perez, and Rockies Triple-A skipper Glenallen Hill had some form of connection to the gig — though in some cases, the reporting involved interest on their behalf rather than the team’s.
All told, that slate largely represents a “who’s who” of skippers-to-be around the game. Those that haven’t yet taken managerial jobs at the major league level have at least interviewed for jobs with other organizations.
Still, the Rockies aren’t just looking to plug in an experienced hand. According to Harding, Colorado hopes to find someone “who will apply statistics and other research into managing and coaching, and who are adept at various methods for creating team chemistry.” In that regard, certainly, the organization seems to be participating in a near-universal trend leaguewide.
The Giants’ season ended in a devastating defeat that saw a gem from Matt Moore — two runs (one earned) on two hits and two walks with 10 strikeouts across eight innings — go to waste as five relievers turned a three-run lead into a one-run deficit in the ninth inning of Game 4 of the NLDS vs. the Cubs. In the wake of that stunning defeat, executive vice president of baseball operations Brian Sabean and general manager Bobby Evans spoke to the San Francisco media on Thursday, and Alex Pavlovic of CSN Bay Area has published three different stories on the media session. (Giants fans would do well to read each in its entirety, as they contain far more quotes and context than this overview.)
Sabean and Evans emphasized that the Giants will pursue late-inning relief help this winter. A top-flight closer appears high on the wishlist for the longtime San Francisco baseball ops duo, though as Pavlovic notes, there won’t be a complete overhaul of the bullpen. The Giants are encouraged by the overall output of Derek Law, Hunter Strickland, Josh Osich, Steven Okert and Will Smith, and Evans confirmed that right-hander George Kontos will be tendered a contract as well. However, as Evans explained, the Giants believe there’s a benefit to all members of the relief corps if there’s no question as to who will be closing out games.
“The bullpen performs at a much higher level when you know who your ninth-inning guy is,” said the GM. “It puts everybody at ease and helps [manager Bruce Bochy] as he defines roles. With ambiguity, it creates tension and unknowns that can add to or detract from performance and ultimately lead to struggles.” As for how he’ll go about acquiring a closer, Evans implied a no-stone-left-unturned approach, stating that he’ll be active in free agency, trades and even evaluating his internal options.
Giants lefty Javier Lopez is interested in pitching again in 2017, as Alex Pavlovic of CSNBayArea.com reports. The 39-year-old had seemed to be a candidate to retire after the year, when his three-year, $13MM contract expires.
“I don’t know what’s next for me,” Lopez said after the Giants were bumped from the postseaon. “I’m a free agent and we’ll see what happens. If I have the opportunity to come back, I’ll welcome that.”
There are several ways to interpret those comments, including that he may only be interested in pitching if he can do so in San Francisco, where he has played since 2010. But it seems fair to expect that Lopez will be open to opportunities with other organizations this winter.
The level of open-market interest in the fourteen-year veteran remains to be seen. He threw only 26 2/3 innings this year despite making 68 appearances, with Giants skipper Bruce Bochy deploying him as perhaps the truest LOOGY in baseball.
Lopez ended the year with a 4.05 ERA, which is his worst mark in San Francisco but really isn’t all that relevant given the unique nature of his usage. More notably, he exhibited some erosion in the strikeout-to-walk department, managing only 15 strikeouts against 15 walks on the year. Though Lopez has succeeded for most of his career with an uninspiring K/BB ratio, he also ended 2016 with a 6.3% swinging strike rate that represented a clear personal low.
Lopez did manage to limit the ninety opposing lefties that he faced to a .208/.315/.312 batting line, and the ability to dominate in that area is the key skill for which he’d be pursued. The 28 righties who stepped into the box against him posted a .348/.464/.522 slash, but Lopez has long carried extreme platoon splits.
Former Giants closer Santiago Casilla watched last night as five separate San Francisco relievers tried and failed to stop the Cubs in the 9th. Instead, a three-run lead turned into a one-run deficit. As Carl Steward of the Mercury News reports, the 36-year-old righty was moved to tears by the loss — and the fact that he wasn’t able to help in the attempt to prevent it.
Though he lost his closer’s role after logging 31 saves this season, Casilla was stung by the fact he wasn’t considered at any point in the decisive fourth game of the NLDS, Steward says. As Casilla heads to the open market this winter, it seems likelier than ever that his seven-year run with the Giants will come to an end. “I’m a free agent, so I don’t know,” Casilla said of his future. “I’m just going to wait and see what happens.”
Casilla did make it onto the NLDS roster after a tough end to the year, but made just one appearance in the series. In his 7 2/3 frames from the start of September, he allowed five earned runs with just five strikeouts against three walks. Though he only permitted six hits, two were homers. Of course, he had been solid — albeit hardly dominant — for much of the season, ending with a 3.57 ERA with 10.1 K/9 against 2.9 BB/9 over 58 total innings.
Despite his diminished role, Casilla said that he felt confident he could have gotten the job done when the Giants most needed a shut-down inning. “I’m a pitcher. I’m part of the bullpen,” he said. “I know I have had some bad moments in September and during the season, but I have good numbers in the playoffs and I know I can pitch in that situation. I know I can pitch in the big leagues.”
Indeed, Casilla does possess a rather distinguished postseason track record. In 19 2/3 frames, all with the Giants, he allowed just two earned runs on 15 hits while striking out twenty and permitting only five free passes.
It seems, though, that Casilla had already been buried on the depth chart. A parade of his pen mates — Derek Law, Javier Lopez, Sergio Romo, Will Smith, and Hunter Strickland — was called upon while Casilla sat in the dugout. Regardless of one’s views on the decisionmaking process of oft-lauded skipper Bruce Bochy — certainly, the post-loss questioning is inevitable given the result — the Giants seem to be headed in a different direction with the back of their pen.
Whether or not San Francisco will pursue Casilla in the offseason, and whether he’d be amenable to a return at this point, remain to be seen. But he figures to receive a good bit of interest on the market. Casilla’s late-inning track record certainly doesn’t hurt his case, even if he stumbled at times this year, but teams will mostly focus on the fact that he’s thrown at least fifty innings annually since joining the Giants in 2010, with a cumulative 2.42 ERA. In fact, 2016 was the first time he provided the organization with an earned run average of greater than three per nine.
- Giants outfielder Angel Pagan was hopeful he’d be able to go for last night’s thrilling NLDS Game 4, Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News reported. His back spasms had him at day-to-day status, the veteran said. Ultimately, though, Pagan did not appear in the contest, in which San Francisco suffered another stunning bullpen meltdown to end its season. The 35-year-old’s five-year run with the Giants may be over, with the seemingly minor back issue not doing much to damper a nice bounceback campaign. Over 543 plate appearances on the year, he posted a sturdy .277/.331/.418 batting line with 15 steals and a dozen home runs. The switch-hitting Pagan was particularly good against right-handed pitching, and seems likely to draw a fair bit of interest as a center field-capable fourth outfielder on the open market.
7:36pm: Alex Pavlovic of CSN Bay Area tweets that the trade is now official and adds that the Giants will send minor league infielder Rich Rodriguez to the Braves in return. While it’s certainly surprising to see a player headed back to the Braves, Rodriguez spent the 2016 season, his age-22 campaign, at Class-A Advanced and batted .174/.209/.183 in 117 plate appearances.
MLB.com’s Chris Haft tweets that Nunez is expected to be out for the next two to three days, so the Giants ultimately may not lean on Beckham for more than a couple of games.
2:32pm: The deal is going through, with cash consideration to Atlanta, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman tweets.
1:48pm: The Giants are “very close” to striking a deal to acquire infielder Gordon Beckham from the Braves, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports on Twitter. Presumably, the move would be made to help cover for Eduardo Nunez, who is dealing with a hamstring issue.
It’s obviously rare to see trades at this stage of the season, but hardly unprecedented. Beckham, 30, would not be eligible for the San Francisco postseason roster and is a free agent after the season. But the team evidently feels that it needs a boost to its infield mix over the final six games, as it clings to a Wild Card slot.
If Nunez is out, the Giants would be left with options such as Conor Gillaspie, Ehire Adrianza, and Kelby Tomlinson at third base. Beckham isn’t exactly a premium addition — he owns only a .217/.300/.354 batting line over 273 plate appearances on the year — but promises to bolster that unit. He has been somewhat more useful against left-handed pitching, so the club will pick up some flexibility if nothing else.
The Giants have designated left-hander Matt Reynolds for assignment in order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Gordon Beckham, whose acquisition from the Braves is now official, tweets Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. Additionally, the Giants have selected the contract of former Pirates catcher Tony Sanchez from Triple-A Sacramento and placed Mac Williamson on the 60-day DL with a quadriceps strain to clear another 40-man roster spot.
Reynolds, 31, signed a minor league deal with the Giants earlier this summer and had his contract selected back in July. He allowed five runs in six innings at the big league level but enjoyed a more successful run with San Francisco’s Triple-A affiliate, firing off 13 2/3 shutout innings with a 12-to-2 K/BB ratio. The veteran Reynolds tossed 153 1/3 innings of 3.58 ERA ball with with 8.3 K/9 against 2.5 BB/9 between the Rockies and D-backs from 2010-13, but he underwent Tommy John surgery in early 2014 and missed the season. He’s spent the past two seasons attempting to earn his way back into regular bullpen work at the Major League level and figures to be in line for another minor league pact and an invite to Spring Training this coming offseason.
Sanchez, 28, will give manager Bruce Bochy a third catcher over the final week of the regular season. The former No. 4 overall draft pick hit .259/.303/.378 in parts of three Major League seasons with the Pirates but has split the 2016 season between the Triple-A affiliates for the Jays and Giants, batting a disappointing .201/.298/.317 through 228 plate appearances.