- Early struggles from Matt Cain and Jake Peavy (who tied a career-worst by allowing four homers in his most recent start) have many Giants fans wondering about Tim Lincecum, but manager Bruce Bochy has continued to stand behind his struggling starters, writes Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News. Bochy reiterated on Wednesday what GM Bobby Evans said earlier in the week: the club has interest in Lincecum in a relief role — more specifically, a long relief role, per Bochy. Lincecum seems intent on attempting to break back into a rotation, though, making a reunion with the Giants difficult to envision. And, as Baggarly notes, Lincecum wouldn’t even be ready to join the rotation immediately, so he doesn’t represent a short-term fix for San Francisco’s ills. Moreover, it remains to be seen if Lincecum is even capable of performing as a quality big league starter on the heels of September hip surgery. While it wouldn’t take much to outperform Peavy (9.00 ERA, 4.96 FIP, 4.72 xFIP in 29 innings) or Cain (7.00 ERA, 4.66 FIP, 4.79 xFIP in 27 innings), I’d imagine that the Giants would want a more definitive upgrade were they to unseat one of their current starters with an external option.
We learned recently that free agent righty Tim Lincecum is preparing for a long-awaited showcase on Friday. Once one of the best pitchers in the game, Lincecum has been slowed by a variety of injury and performance issues more recently — including, particularly, hip surgery this past September — and is looking to show that he’s back to full health before signing.
Here’s the latest, with links to the Twitter account of MLB Network’s Jon Heyman unless otherwise noted:
- The showcase will be held at Scottsdale Stadium, the Giants’ spring home, per Heyman. While Lincecum has availed himself of his long-time team’s facilities during his ramp-up, it shouldn’t be supposed that a return to San Francisco is particularly likely. As we’ve covered before, the Giants are said to be interested in Lincecum as a bullpen option, while he’s hoping to find a shot as a starter.
- This particular event was always going to draw more fanfare than a typical bullpen session for a free agent who hasn’t posted a sub-4.00 ERA since 2011, but it appears that it could be made into a bigger spectacle than anyone would have foreseen. ESPN may be on hand to broadcast the outing, Heyman tweets, which would certainly lend an interesting combine-esque quality to the proceedings.
- Beyond the Giants, we heard previously that the Orioles, Padres, and Athletics plan to have a scouting presence on hand. The White Sox, too, will be there, per Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter link), as will the Angels, according to Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com (via Twitter). And the Blue Jays will also take a look, John Lott tweets.
- Heyman also adds several more clubs that plant to send eyes (links: 1; 2; 3; 4). The Dodgers, Cubs, Nationals, and Marlins will be there from the National League side of things. And American League teams with at least one scout in the stands will include the Rangers and Astros.
MAY 2: The Athletics will also be in attendance, tweets John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group. Meanwhile, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post (Twitter link) and Mike Puma of the New York Post (Twitter link) report that the Rockies and Mets, respectively, will not be in attendance. Puma notes that the Mets are already comfortable with their pitching depth, and as Saunders notes, it’s highly unlikely that the Rockies would be able to convince Lincecum to attempt to revitalize his career at Coors Field.
MAY 1: Tim Lincecum will hold a long-awaited throwing showcase for scouts on Friday in Scottsdale, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports (Twitter links). As many as 20 teams are expected to attend, including representatives from the Orioles, Padres and the Giants, Lincecum’s former team.
As of February, a return to the Giants was still Lincecum’s preference, as the right-hander told at least one person while visiting his old teammates during Spring Training, CSNBayArea.com’s Alex Pavlovic reports. The Giants have long said that they would be interested in a reunion with Lincecum if “the Freak” was willing to take on a bullpen role, and Pavlovic reports that this relief-only stance hasn’t necessarily changed even though the club’s rotation has had some early struggles.
Lincecum, for his part, wants to return as a starter and has been working out all winter in order to rebuild his durability and velocity following hip surgery that shortened his 2015 season. He reportedly wanted to be in top form before officially throwing for scouts, which is why the showcase (rumored to be imminent for four months) is only taking place this week. There is no small amount of mystery surrounding Lincecum’s condition as scouts have been kept away from his workouts, though recent reports have him throwing 70 pitches on an every-five-days basis and throwing in the 90 mph range off of flat ground.
If Lincecum looks good in his showcase, he would likely be able to find a starting job with one of the many interested teams, though it might be on a minor league contract given his health history. San Diego and Baltimore have both been connected to Lincecum all offseason, with both clubs perhaps in more need of starting pitching depth now due to injuries and ineffectiveness within their current rotations. The Orioles just added some veteran depth earlier this week by signing Wandy Rodriguez to a minors deal.
- “It was an easy decision” for Denard Span to sign a three-year, $31MM deal with the Giants during the offseason, the outfielder told Bill Ladson of MLB.com. Not only did Span want to play for a contender, the Giants also showed the most interest in his services. Other teams were only offering one- or two-year contracts, with the Nationals among the clubs that wanted to give him only a single-year pact, Span said. The 32-year-old spent 2013-15 with the Nats and accounted for 8.8 fWAR while batting .292/.345/.404. Span entered today’s action hitting a somewhat underwhelming .256/.358/.344 in his first 107 plate appearances as a Giant, but the contact specialist has continued to show great control of the zone with 14 walks against seven strikeouts. Also as part of the Q&A piece, Span tells Ladson that he regrets coming back too quickly from the DL last season, as he wished he’d taken a few more weeks to be fully healthy before returning to action.
The no-trade protection in Ryan Braun’s contract allows the star outfielder to block a deal to every team besides the Angels, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Giants, Marlins and Padres, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter link). Like most players with partial no-trade clauses, Braun has the ability to change the teams on his no-trade list each year; last season, the Angels, Dodgers, Marlins, Nationals and Rays were the only clubs that escaped Braun’s veto power.
Braun is in his first season of a five-year, $105MM extension that he signed way back in 2011, when he still had almost five full years remaining on his previous extension with the Brewers. It’s been a roller-coaster for Braun and the Brewers ever since — superstar seasons in 2011 and 2012, a 65-game suspension in 2013 for his role in the Biogenesis scandal and some recurring injuries, particularly to his thumb.
Braun rebounded for a very productive year in 2015, though his future salary commitments have made him a possible trade chip now that the Brewers are rebuilding. That same contract, as well as Braun’s age (32) and PED history, could also just as easily limit his trade market unless the Brewers ate some salary in a trade or took on another big contract.
There are any number of reasons why a player could include or omit a team on a no-trade list, though in Braun’s case, geography could be a factor. Braun was born and raised in the Los Angeles suburbs and he went to school at the University of Miami, which could explain why the Angels, Dodgers and Marlins didn’t appear on either no-trade list. The Dodgers and Marlins are rather unlikely trade partners, however, given that both teams are already set for corner outfielders. The Angels have a big vacancy in left field, though they may not be a fit for Braun for a variety of other reasons, as Rosenthal explained yesterday.
Braun’s southern California roots may also explain why he wouldn’t block a trade to the relatively-nearby D’Backs, Padres or Giants. It generally appears as though Braun would prefer to stay in the National League, as the Angels are the only AL team on his current veto list.
If the Brewers worked out a trade that would send Braun to a team on his no-trade list, of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean the former NL MVP would choose to remain in Milwaukee. He could decide to join a contender rather than stick it out through the Brewers’ rebuilding process. Like other players with no-trade protection, Braun could ask for more financial incentive in order to allow a deal to be consummated. Braun’s deal contains a $15MM mutual option for the 2021 season that can be bought out for $4MM, so it’s possible he could ask to have that option year guaranteed to allow a trade to happen, though that would be a tough ask to give him another $11MM in his age-37 season.
- Speaking of relievers, the Mets, Giants and Blue Jays will look to fortify their bullpens as the season advances, per Rosenthal. Mets relievers have been outstanding this year, while the other two clubs’ bullpen production has been average or worse. Toronto will get in-house help there eventually in the form of starter Aaron Sanchez, whose innings limit will remove him from the team’s rotation, Rosenthal notes. Sanchez, who has been excellent in a starting role (2.59 ERA, 8.33 K/9, 2.87 BB/9 in 31 1/3 innings), put up a 2.39 ERA with 19 strikeouts and seven walks in 26 1/3 frames out of the Jays’ bullpen last season.
The Giants have placed pitching prospect Ian Gardeck on waivers, Alex Pavlovic of CSN Bay Area tweets. The move clears roster space for fellow righty Vin Mazzaro, who the Giants have added to their 40-man roster. The team also optioned righty Mike Broadway to the minors.
Gardeck will miss the 2016 season after having Tommy John surgery in March. Last year, the 25-year-old earned a spot on the Giants’ 40-man after posting a 3.54 ERA, 10.8 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in 86 1/3 innings of relief with Class A+ San Jose.
Broadway struggled after being promoted less than two weeks ago, allowing seven runs in 5 1/3 innings spread over four outings. Mazzaro, meanwhile, performed well for Triple-A Sacramento (albeit with his usual underwhelming peripheral numbers), allowing just one run while striking out nine and walking four in 14 innings. The 29-year-old has appeared in parts of seven big-league seasons, suiting up for the Athletics, Royals, Pirates and Marlins, generally faring well when given opportunities to pitch in relief. He’ll provide the Giants with an extra bullpen arm.
- Giants relievers Sergio Romo and George Kontos are both beginning to test out their injured elbows, with the latter slightly ahead of the former, as Alex Pavlovic of CSN Bay Area tweets. Kontos is still at least two weeks away, and the club may get a better read on Romo once he attempts to throw for the first time later this week.
- The Giants have added veteran minor league catcher Steven Lerud on a minors deal, per Eddy. The 31-year-old began the year with the Mariners but didn’t make the big league roster and was released in early April. Lerud, 31, spent the 2015 campaign in the Nationals organization, batting .238/.320/.301 in 231 plate appearances (60 games). Lerud saw brief action for the Phillies in 2012-13, but he’s spent most of his career in the minors and is a lifetime .229/.347/.324 hitter in parts of four seasons at the Triple-A level.
- The Giants have selected the contract of third baseman Conor Gillaspie from Triple-A Sacramento and optioned outfielder Mac Williamson to clear a spot on the 25-man roster, the club announced. To clear a space on the 40-man roster, San Fransicso has transferred utility man Ehire Adrianza to the 60-day disabled list. Gillaspie, 28, was originally a supplemental-round draft pick of the Giants in 2008 and made his big league debut in a Giants uniform. He spent parts of three seasons with the Giants before being traded to the White Sox in 2013. The left-handed-hitting Gillaspie spent two and a half seasons as the primary third baseman for the White Sox and batted .260/.314/.397, largely in a platoon capacity. But he was largely ineffective at the plate last year and wound up returning to the Giants on a minor league deal this winter.