As the Giants have struggled to lock up the ninth inning down the stretch, GM Bobby Evans discusses his decision not to push harder for a top-tier closer at this year’s deadline, as Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Evans told Jon Heyman of Fan Rag that the struggles have made him feel like a “knucklehead,” though he notes to Schulman that he was saying that in jest. The San Francisco general manager went on to explain a bit more about the team’s efforts to acquire Mark Melancon, who ended up with the Nationals, from the Pirates. “It was very comparable to what they ultimately got,” he said of the Giants’ offer. “You think about it. ’Was there something else I could have done? Was there another name I could have pushed across the table?’ They ended up getting one guy who throws 100 and another who throws 98.” But as Evans went on to discuss, it’s ultimately a matter of hindsight. “Those are just reflections,” he said. “… All I can do is think about how I handled it and how far I went.”
FanRag’s Jon Heyman kicks off his weekly notes column by recapping seven moves that turned the Cubs from cellar-dwellers into contenders, recalling the trades that netted the team Anthony Rizzo, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks and Addison Russell as well as the Rule 5 selection of Hector Rondon. Here are some highlights from his roundup of notes on all 30 big league clubs…
- Brian Snitker, Terry Pendleton and Bo Porter are the Braves’ primary internal candidates to fill the managerial vacancy, while Heyman lists some potential outside candidates as Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo, former Padres manager Bud Black, former Twins manager Rob Gardenhire and Royals bench coach/former Mariners skipper Don Wakamatsu.
- The Astros will seek rotation help this offseason even if Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers get back up to full strength from their respective shoulder and elbow issues. With Doug Fister hitting the open market and the Astros receiving lackluster production from Collin McHugh and Mike Fiers, that’s not exactly a surprise.
- Both Tim Lincecum and Jered Weaver are determined to return in 2017, according to Heyman. He writes that Lincecum feels that he focused so much on strengthening his surgically repaired hip that he neglected to strengthen his arm enough, though a return to prominence for Lincecum always seemed like a fairly noted long shot after four down seasons and a significant surgical procedure.
- The Yankees will make a run at re-signing Aroldis Chapman as a free agent this winter, Heyman writes, at least in part due to Dellin Betances’ recent struggles. While Betances’ slump has been magnified by the fact that it’s taken place in late September, he was excellent for the bulk of the time following the Yankees’ deadline sale, pitching to a 0.57 ERA in his first 15 2/3 innings following the deadline and allowing only one run in August. If the motivation to re-sign Chapman is simply to once again create an extraordinarily deep back of the bullpen, that certainly makes sense, but pursuing him in light of three poor September outings from Betances seems rather reactionary when looking at Betances’ body of work as a whole.
- Second-half bullpen struggles have the Giants kicking themselves for not making a stronger push for Mark Melancon, Heyman reports. The Giants felt their offer was comparable to that of the Nationals, but Pittsburgh ultimately traded Melancon to D.C. in exchange for left-hander Felipe Rivero and minor league lefty Taylor Hearn. While the Giants made a run at Andrew Miller, as well, the Yankees asked for Joe Panik in exchange, which the Giants understandably found to be too steep an ask. GM Bobby Evans lamented not adding another established reliever to Heyman, and it seems likely that they’ll be in the mix for the top bullpen options this winter (Chapman, Kenley Jansen, Melancon).
- Extension talks between the Rangers and Rougned Odor were put on hold earlier this season, as the two sides couldn’t get on the same page. Odor’s camp was seeking a deal larger than Gregory Polanco’s five-year, $35MM pact with the Pirates, and while the Rangers wanted two club options tacked onto their top offer, Odor’s reps were only willing to concede one option year. That, of course, doesn’t rule out a deal being reached further down the line, but Odor’s 31-homer season as a 22-year-old second baseman figures to give his side plenty of leverage in talks, even if that power comes with an OBP that’s barely scraping the .300 mark.
7:52pm: Cueto has been diagnosed with a grade 1 strain but will likely only need to have his next start pushed back, per manager Bruce Bochy, via Baggarly (Twitter link). Meanwhile, Crawford is wearing a splint and won’t play tonight, but says he expects to play through the injury once the pain subsides somewhat, MLB.com’s Chris Haft tweets.
8:58am: While the Giants topped the Dodgers last night in a 2-0 victory, the win was somewhat bittersweet, as both Johnny Cueto and Brandon Crawford departed early with injuries. Crawford dislocated his left pinkie finger while sliding into third base, whereas Cueto suffered a groin strain that will lead to an MRI today, as Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News writes.
Cueto was in good spirits following the injury and displayed a sense of humor about the injury, likening the injury to “a crab going there and biting me,” per Baggarly. Cueto’s curious and upbeat demeanor notwithstanding, though, the Giants can ill afford to lose their rotation’s No. 2 even for a lone start. San Francisco is currently in a three-way tie with New York and St. Louis for the two National League Wild Card spots, so each of the remaining 11 games on the Giants’ schedule is of the utmost importance to their postseason hopes. Giants GM Bobby Evans called Cueto day-to-day last night when asked by ESPN’s Jim Bowden (Twitter link), but the extent of the damage remains to be seen.
Cueto, 30, signed a six-year, $130MM contract with an opt-out following the second season of the deal this winter, as the Giants showed faith that his downturn in effectiveness during his Royals tenure was an aberration and not the beginning of any notable decline. Cueto has emphatically rewarded that faith in his first Giants season, pitching to a pristine 2.79 ERA with 7.9 K/9 against 1.9 BB/9 in 212 1/3 innings behind ace Madison Bumgarner in the rotation. While the Giants have been ice cold in the season’s second half, that pairing alone would give the team as formidable a punch as any opponent could muster in a short playoff series.
Crawford, meanwhile, had his finger popped back into place in the tunnel following the injury and was wearing a splint on his hand after the game. However, the Giants are at least somewhat fortunate that the injury was sustained on Crawford’s glove hand as opposed to this throwing hand. X-rays after the game ruled out a fracture, Baggarly writes, but the 29-year-old shortstop is listed as day-to-day as well, with the chief concern likely to be how the finger injury impacts his ability to swing a bat. Crawford is one of baseball’s premier defenders at shortstop and is in the midst of his third consecutive above-average season at the plate, having batted .268/.334/.424 with a dozen homers, 28 doubles and nine triples under his belt.
We heard recently that the Dodgers and Brewers had worked on an August trade that would have sent Yasiel Puig to Milwaukee in exchange for fellow outfielder Ryan Braun. New reports provide interesting new details on the swap, which nearly took place and could well be a viable scenario for the coming winter.
One iteration of the talks would have packaged Puig with righty Brandon McCarthy and a pair of prospects, as MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy recently reported. Indeed, negotiations went right down to the wire before the August 31st deadline, with Braun camping out in the Miller Park clubhouse to await word. The sides “simply ran out of time,” per McCalvy, who adds that both the Giants and Braves have stated interest in the veteran slugger.
Whether or not other trade partners will be reconsidered remains to be seen, but Bob Nightengale of USA Today says that an offseason deal to send Braun to the Dodgers is actually “likely.” According to the report, Braun was advised by the Brewers to stick around and wait until the deadline because a deal seemed so promising at that juncture. Ultimately, the final prospect piece couldn’t be agreed upon.
Braun declined to address the matter, but did note that he grew up a Dodgers fan and spends his winters in the Los Angeles area. “When those conversations started, I think it was an interesting position for me to be in,” he said. Braun’s contract requires him to list up to six teams to which he can freely be traded, and the Dodgers were one club that had a green light this year. If he wanted to gain leverage, he could in theory switch the Dodgers out of that position when his next opportunity to re-name the teams arises, though it seems that Braun has compiled his list based primarily on geographic preference.
The above-noted trade parameters are obviously quite interesting, even before learning what type of prospects would’ve been included. McCarthy’s inclusion would help offset the $76MM in salary obligations owed to Braun after this year, as the veteran hurler will be paid $20MM over the next two seasons and has only just returned from Tommy John surgery. But he also might have filled some innings for Milwaukee while representing an interesting potential bounceback trade piece — especially if his 2019 conditional club option is available. (It has not been reported what type of injury would allow that option to be triggered, but it functions as a variation of the Lackey clause.)
- Tim Lincecum won’t pitch again for the Angels in 2016, but GM Billy Eppler tells John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle that he’ll touch base with the righty in the offseason. In fact, Eppler said he has already “spoke at length with [Lincecum] about some thoughts for the wintertime and I’ll probably have more dialogue with him to see what he’s doing from a rehabilitation and strengthening standpoint.” Shea figures Lincecum will have to accept a minor league contract and be more open about converting to relief pitching if he hopes to continue his career. The Giants were interested in Lincecum as a reliever last winter, so a reunion could be possible if Lincecum indeed accepts a role change. While Lincecum struggled badly in limited duty with the Halos, Shea feels a proper offseason of conditioning and a full Spring Training could be greatly beneficial for the right-hander.
The Giants aggressively pursued Royals closer Wade Davis in advance of the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline, reports Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (via Twitter). Davis’ name came up in many pre-deadline rumors, but the chances of the Royals parting with him evaporated when the right-hander landed on the disabled list with a flexor strain July 31.
Acquiring Davis undoubtedly would have been costly for San Francisco, though there’s no word on whether any of its trade chips intrigued Kansas City enough to make a deal possible. To cite one report, the Royals were seeking premier pitching prospect Lucas Giolito from the Nationals in return for the lights-out reliever.
A healthy Davis likely would have helped the Giants’ playoff odds – which have been shrinking throughout the season’s second half – more than deadline pickup Will Smith has. In dealing pitching prospect Phil Bickford and catcher Andrew Susac to Milwaukee, the Giants paid a hefty price for Smith, who has since yielded six earned runs on 11 hits in 9 2/3 innings. However, the left-hander has impressed with 12 strikeouts against four walks and hasn’t allowed a run in the seven innings he has amassed since Aug. 18.
The Giants’ team-wide woes began well before the deadline. Since going 57-33 prior to the All-Star break, the club has recorded a dreadful 18-32 mark. At 75-65, the Giants are now in second place by four games in the National League West, a division they once led comfortably, and hold a tenuous grip on a wild-card spot. It hasn’t helped matters that San Francisco’s bullpen has been without its best option, Derek Law, since late August because of an elbow strain. Law should return next week, and it’s possible he’ll emerge as the Giants’ closer down the stretch. Santiago Casilla held that role until manager Bruce Bochy took it away from him Friday.
Looking ahead to the offseason, the Giants and Royals could once again resume talks centering on Davis, who returned from the DL on Sept. 2. Kansas City would have to be willing to listen, of course, and the reigning World Series champions could eschew moving him in favor of taking another run at a championship in 2017. The Royals are unlikely to make the playoffs this year and will face questions on whether to shop Davis, among several other veterans on soon-to-expire contracts, in the offseason. Davis has a $10.5MM club option for next season, the final year of his deal.
- The Giants have elected to remove Santiago Casilla from the closer’s role, skipper Bruce Bochy told reporters including Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. San Francisco intends to play the matchups for the time being, but Bochy suggested both that Casilla could still see save opportunities and that rookie Derek Law may get some chances once he’s back from the DL. Law, 25, has posted a 1.94 ERA over his first 51 MLB frames, with 8.3 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9, and could set himself up as the team’s closer of the future. As for the 36-year-old Casilla, the move mostly represents an acknowledgment that he’s more a sturdy reliever than a lights-out presence at the back of the pen. He still carries a solid 3.52 ERA with 10.2 K/9 against 3.0 BB/9 in his walk season.
The Giants have selected the contract of righty Joe Nathan, as the Mercury News’ Andrew Baggarly and others have tweeted. To clear roster space for Nathan, they’ve recalled righty Ray Black and placed him on the 60-day DL.
The Giants signed the 41-year-old Nathan to a minor league deal last month. He has pitched sparingly since 2014, making his way through three organizations while battling his way back from Tommy John surgery. He did pitch three outings with the Cubs earlier this season, and the results were modestly promising — he struck out four batters and walked two in two innings.
Nathan’s first appearance with the Giants will represent a homecoming — he played his first four big-league seasons with San Francisco, making his big-league debut all the way back in 1999. It was the Twins, though, who enjoyed much of Nathan’s big-league success, as the Giants traded him with Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser in late 2003 in a famously lopsided deal for A.J. Pierzynski. In Minnesota, Nathan became one of the game’s top closers, racking up 260 saves between 2004 and 2011 before heading to the Rangers and then the Tigers. For his career, Nathan has a 2.88 ERA, 9.5 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 919 innings.
In what could be a major blow to their bullpen, the Giants will place right-hander Derek Law on the disabled list with a strained right elbow, according to Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News (Twitter link). The club will recall outfielder Jarrett Parker from Triple-A Sacramento to take Law’s roster spot, tweets Alex Pavlovic of CSN Bay Area.
Law, 25, has enjoyed a tremendous rookie season until now, having recorded a 1.94 ERA, 8.29 K/9, 1.59 BB/9 and 50 percent ground-ball rate in 51 innings. Not only is his loss troubling from a baseball standpoint, then, but the injury itself is also reason for worry because Law underwent Tommy John surgery in 2014. He has also experienced a dip in velocity, which the Giants’ staff is concerned about, per Baggarly (Twitter link).
Regardless of whether Law’s out for two weeks or far longer, his absence should negatively affect the free-falling Giants, who have gone 13-26 since the All-Star break and hold a 1 1/2-game lead in the National League wild-card race. Despite Law’s stellar production, San Francisco’s bullpen only ranks toward the middle of the pack in both ERA and K/BB ratio. Now, without their best reliever, the Giants will have to get by with a group led by Santiago Casilla, Hunter Strickland, Sergio Romo and trade deadline acquisition Will Smith.
- Right-hander Jake Peavy was supposed to return to the Giants’ rotation Saturday to fill in for the injured Matt Cain, but he instead ended up on the 15-day disabled list because of a lower back strain (via Justin Wise of MLB.com). “He can’t pitch with the way his back is. Jake was excited to get back into starting, so it’s a bad break for him,” said manager Bruce Bochy, who turned to Albert Suarez to start in place of his two hurt veterans. Suarez threw 4 1/3 innings of three-run ball in a 3-1 loss to the Braves. Peavy, whom hitters have teed off on in eight relief innings (.351/.368/.568), has recorded a 5.47 ERA, 7.47 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in 108 2/3 frames as a starter this year.