San Francisco Giants Rumors

NL West Links: Rockies, League, Lincecum, Giants

Earlier tonight, Jeff Todd recapped and analyzed the Padres' winter moves in the latest entry of the MLBTR Offseason In Review series.  Jeff has also covered the Giants and Diamondbacks thus far in the OIR series.  Here's some more from around the NL West…

  • "There has been buzz" that the Phillies and Tigers are interested in the Rockies' extra outfielders, Troy Renck of the Denver Post writes.  Even if Colorado uses a center field platoon of one of Corey Dickerson or Charlie Blackmon (both left-handed hitters) and one of Drew Stubbs or Brandon Barnes (both righty batters), that still leaves a surplus.  Detroit could use a left-handed hitting outfielder to replace the injured Andy Dirks, though the Tigers aren't yet sure if they'll look outside the organization to make such a move.
  • Could the Dodgers cut Brandon LeagueSteve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times doesn't quite think the club is ready to take that step given the $17MM remaining on League's contract through 2015.  That deal looks worse and worse for L.A. given how League struggled in 2013 and during this year's Spring Training, while the Dodgers have a number of impressive young bullpen arms who might be relegated to Triple-A.
  • Tim Lincecum dicusses his pitching evolution with Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan, noting that though he has lost a few miles off his fastball, he is working to become a better overall pitcher as he ages.
  • Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com discusses the Giants' roster and other topics during a Giants-centric chat with readers.

Offseason In Review: San Francisco Giants

After an unsuccessful attempt at defending the 2012 World Series crown, the Giants doubled down on their veteran core while adding two significant free agents to the mix.
 
Major League Signings
Notable Minor League Signings
Trades and Claims
Extensions
  • Hunter Pence, OF: Five years, $90MM. (Agreed to deal on Sept. 28, 2013.)
  • Tim Lincecum, RHP: Two years, $35MM. (Agreed to deal on Oct. 22, 2013.)
  • Joaquin Arias, INF: Two years, $2.6MM.
Notable Losses
Needs Addressed
 
As the end of the 2013 regular season approached with nothing left to play for, the Giants looked ahead at a 2014 with uncertainty in the corner outfield and the back half of the rotation. In particular, San Francisco faced the pending free agencies of right fielder Pence and one-time ace Lincecum. Having previously pursued a strategy of retaining its own players, would San Francisco commit the resources needed to keep these major names in town?
 
Lincecum
The answer, of course, was a resounding yes. First, GM Brian Sabean got a jump-start on the offseasion by inking Pence to a market-setting five-year deal at the tail end of the season. $90MM was a big commitment, but the cost for Pence looks reasonable when put in context of the free agent spending that came in its wake. (Shin-Soo Choo may not prove to be a better producer than Pence, but got seven years and $130MM; Curtis Granderson, who is two years older and has had injury and performance issues, landed at four and $60MM.) 
 
Then, the Giants moved quickly to lock up the enigmatic 29-year-old Lincecum, whose fortunes shifted downward in 2012 and 2013. Though a mid-summer no-hitter highlighted some sparks of his former dominance, Lincecum ended last year with a second-straight campaign that fell far shy of his early-career standards. Nevertheless, the Giants signed on for two more years at the eye-opening price of $35MM. 
 
Even with Lincecum in place, the club had two open rotation spots after declining options on Vogelsong and Zito. The first was filled with veteran hurler Tim Hudson, who received a $23MM guarantee (and full no-trade clause). This year will be Hudson's age-38 campaign, and he is coming off of a devastating ankle injury. Nevertheless, the 15-year MLB veteran has been a model of consistent excellence, having logged just two seasons in which he allowed more than four earned runs per nine innings.
 
The second hypothetical rotation spot was re-filled with its original possessor, Vogelsong. Discussions on a new deal began even as the team declined its 2014 option over the 36-year-old righty, who struggled with injury and performance issues last year after two effective campaigns in 2011-12. It wasn't just that his 2013 ERA ballooned to more than double its 2011 level. Vogelsong's strikeout and groundball rates declined, while his walk and home run-per-flyball rates increased, in 102 2/3 innings last year as against his two prior seasons. While San Francisco will surely hope for a bounceback, the club seemed to pay a bit of a premium over the much smaller guarantees given pitchers like Paul Maholm ($1.5MM) and Chris Capuano ($2.25MM).
 
Meanwhile, Sabean moved to address two other important elements of the roster's makeup. By re-signing 36-year-old southpaw Javier Lopez with a three-year guarantee, the Giants ensured that they would return every pitcher who made thirty or more relief appearances for them in 2013. 
 
Finally, Sabean decided to fill the club's left field opening with free agent Michael Morse. In spite of a rough and injury-riddled 2013, Morse has an accomplished big league bat. His outfield defense is quite another story, however; when added to poor baserunning, it is fair to ask whether he was the right fit for this club.
 
Questions Remaining
 
MLBTR's Zach Links wrote before the start of the offseason that the Giants could look to bring in some fresh blood in the bullpen and bench. While some changes are likely in the offing in both areas, San Francisco did not make any big moves on the fringes of the roster. A collection of prospects, waiver claims, and minor league free agents is competing with some of last year's arms to round out the bullpen, with several slots still apparently up for grabs.
 
The bench figures to add one recently effective big leaguer in outfielder Gregor Blanco, who was demoted to make way for Morse after holding down the left field job last year. Otherwise, however, it too will be composed of players who saw time off the bench last year unless a non-roster invitee can break camp. Second baseman Marco Scutaro is increasingly looking like a health concern as the spring drags on, though San Francisco has several depth options up the middle.
 
It could well turn out that only Hudson and Morse will be new faces on the Opening Day roster. Much the same roster will take the field in 2014 as was in place for the two prior campaigns. The question remains, then, whether that group will play more like the one that took home 94 wins and a World Series in 2012, or the one that stumbled to a 76-86 mark last year. 
 
Deal of Note
 
One of the more interesting contracts in recent memory is the Giants' extension of Lincecum just before he was set to hit the open market. One of the most recognizable players in the game, the two-time Cy Young winner's star faded quite significantly over the last two years. 
 
Back in September, I polled MLBTR readers on the relative merits of Lincecum and fellow one-time ace Ubaldo Jimenez. As I wrote at the time, there were many similarities between the career arcs of the two pitchers. (In brief: similar age and mileage; struggles with declining velocity; analogous peak/collapse/partial redemption paths.) While it is reasonable to argue a preference for the new Oriole, readers preferred Lincecum at nearly a 2:1 clip. 
 
Now that both have signed new deals, the comparison is quite different. Lincecum is only a two-year risk for San Francisco, but he will earn $17.5MM per year — a higher AAV than all but a handful of 2013-14 free agents and the 17th-highest rate of all time for a pitcher. He also gets a full no-trade clause. Meanwhile, for an extra $15MM guarantee, Baltimore can slot Jimenez in its rotation for two additional seasons. And the actual spread is even smaller once the dollars are discounted to present value, especially since Jimenez will have $2.25MM a year deferred without interest.
 
Lincecum has looked strong in the earlygoing this spring, and still tantalizes with the ability to shut down opposing teams. But while his 2013 season stabilized his value and seemingly raised his expected floor moving forward, it did little to show that he will return to being a frontline starter over the course of a full season. The Giants, more than any other team, seem to act on the premise that they know their own players best, and they surely know Lincecum well after seven MLB seasons of highs and lows. Nevertheless, he will have to exceed his recent track record — by a fairly significant margin — to justify his ace-level annual salary.
 
Overview
 
I noted on Wednesday that the NL West-rival Diamondbacks have had two straight offseasons of major trades that reshaped their roster. Precisely the opposite has been true of the Giants, who have extended or re-signed virtually all of the significant players that might have left the club via free agency. It will be particularly interesting to track these two franchises' fortunes given their divergent approaches.
 
A rebound is expected for a San Francisco club that significantly underperformed expectations last year. But like Arizona, this team faces an uphill battle (on paper, anyway) to challenge the Dodgers for the division crown. For that to happen, Sabean needs to have been right with his pitching investments and the team needs to receive more production from players like Angel Pagan and Pablo Sandoval.
 
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

West Notes: Giants, Rangers, A’s

 The latest out of baseball's Western divisions:

  • The Giants and Pablo Sandoval had yet to talk extensions as of Friday, MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo tweets. When we last checked in, the club was considering the issue but felt it had the whole of the 2014 season to put together a deal, should it decide to go that route. Sandoval is scheduled to become a free agent after this year.
  • Mike Bauman interviewed Rangers GM Jon Daniels in an article for MLB.com. Daniels says that after having traded away a number of young players in recent years, the club decided this winter that it would place more emphasis on developing its own players into big leaguers. Texas lost its first-round draft choice after signing Shin-Soo Choo, but gained a compensatory pick after Nelson Cruz signed with the Orioles.
  • Sam Fuld has a real shot at making the Athletics' Opening Day roster, Jane Lee of MLB.com reports, having impressed early in camp while Craig Gentry has nursed a back strain. Importantly, Fuld's minor league deal includes two opt-out dates that will allow him to part ways with Oakland if he's not on the Major League roster. The first comes at the end of the month.


Out Of Options Players: NL West

The following 40-man roster players have less than five years service time and are out of minor league options.  That means they must clear waivers before being sent to the minors, so the team would be at risk of losing them in attempting to do so.  I've included players on multiyear deals.  This list was compiled through MLBTR's sources.  Next, we'll take a look at the NL West.

Diamondbacks: Randall Delgado, Matt Tuiasosopo, Marcos Mateo (Rule 5)

With the Diamondbacks beginning their season on March 22nd in Australia against the Dodgers, both teams will deal with a unique set of roster rules, as outlined by MLB.com's Steve Gilbert last month.

Delgado seems slated for Arizona's bullpen, unless perhaps Bronson Arroyo's bulging disk lands him on the DL.  Regarding Tuiasosopo, D'Backs manager Kirk Gibson told Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic yesterday, "He definitely could be a guy that comes into play for us because of his versatility."  

The D'Backs took Mateo from the Cubs in December's Rule 5 draft, but with Brad Ziegler, J.J. Putz, David Hernandez, Addison Reed, Josh Collmenter, and Joe Thatcher seemingly locked in, there won't be room for Mateo if Delgado joins the pen.  A trade or injury could create a spot.  A trade with the Cubs to retain Mateo's rights wouldn't make much sense, as the D'Backs would still have to pass him through waivers to get him to Triple-A.

Dodgers: Scott Elbert, Javy Guerra, Drew Butera

Elbert is on the 60-day DL currently, so he won't be occupying a roster spot.  Guerra is "up against it" in trying to make a Dodgers bullpen stacked with veterans, as explained by MLB.com's Ken Gurnick last month.  Tim Federowicz is set to back up A.J. Ellis behind the plate, so the Dodgers will probably have to try to pass Butera through waivers.

Giants: David Huff, Joaquin Arias, Gregor Blanco, Yusmeiro Petit, Jean Machi, Ehire Adrianza, Tony Abreu

Yesterday, Matt Kawahara of The Sacramento Bee suggested there are two openings in the Giants' bullpen, assuming Petit makes the group as a long man.  Machi will probably take one, but it could be tough for Huff to make the team in a similar role to Petit.  Heath Hembree, Derek Law, and Jose De Paula are just a few of the other names in the mix.

There won't be room for both Adrianza and Abreu, as explained by Grant Brisbee of McCovey Chronicles.  It seems likely one of them will be traded.

Padres: Cameron Maybin, Eric Stults, Dale Thayer, Yonder Alonso, Rene Rivera, Alex Torres

Unless the Padres decide to carry three catchers, Rivera's shot at making the team depends on Yasmani Grandal's recovery from July knee surgery.

Rockies: Jordan Pacheco, Tyler Chatwood

Pacheco is slated to serve as the backup catcher behind Wilin Rosario, though he had an issue with his shoulder earlier this week.  Michael McKenry is in camp to provide some competition for Pacheco.


Second Base Rumors: Guerrero, Espinosa, Royals

A number of notable clubs entered Spring Training looking for clear answers at second base, and other teams could face looming questions at the position.  Here's a roundup of items about the keystone…

  • Multiple talent evaluators tell ESPN's Jim Bowden that Alexander Guerrero needs a lot of time at Triple-A in order to both learn second base and simply to regain his form after not playing last season.  In the Insider-only piece, Bowden looks at internal and external second base answers the Dodgers could explore to solidify themselves at the position.
  • Early word on Guerrero hasn't been too positive, as one evaluator tells ESPN's Buster Olney (another Insider-only piece) that the Dodgers "could get him through outright waivers right now if they need a roster spot."  Olney speculates that the Nationals could generate some interest in Danny Espinosa given the number of teams (including the Dodgers and Yankees) looking for second base help, though Washington wouldn't want to accept a sell-low offer for Espinosa given his poor 2013 season.
  • The Royals are lacking in middle infield depth behind Omar Infante and Alcides Escobar, as Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star notes may not have the 25-man roster space for a backup infielder.  Since Ned Yost plans to carry 12 pitchers, that leaves only four bench spots for Justin Maxwell, Jarrod Dyson, Danny Valencia and the backup catcher.  Christian Colon, Pedro Ciriaco and Johnny Giavotella are currently fighting for a roster spot in camp and the team will have Valencia and Mike Moustakas work out at second in case they need to be emergency options.  “It’s not ideal not to have a backup middle infielder on the team,” GM Dayton Moore said. “However, I do anticipate Infante and Escobar in the lineup most days.”
  • Marco Scutaro is only beginning to take grounders and has yet to swing a bat, CSNBayArea.com's Andrew Baggarly reports.  The veteran infielder is purposely taking a slow start to Spring Training in order to keep himself healthy and free of hip problems, and Giants GM Brian Sabean admits that the team probably should've shut Scutaro down last year when he was battling multiple nagging injuries.  Despite Scutaro's issues, Sabean is confident he'll be ready for Opening Day though he only said "we'll see" when asked if he was comfortable with the team's second base depth.

NL Notes: Padres, Minicozzi, Dodgers, Hannahan

MLB.com's Corey Brock brought readers into the dugout for some game action in an interesting read today. Receiving permission to camp out with the Padres during their game Thursday, Brock observed a number of inside snippets. For instance, infielder Stephen Carmon, who came over from minor league camp as depth and did not play, enjoyed a peaceful afternoon chatting with some veterans and sampling the wide variety of sunflower seed flavors made available. 

Here are a few notes from around baseball:

  • In another great story out of the NL West, Alex Pavloic of the San Jose Mercury News tells how 31-year-old Mark Minicozzi took an improbable path — around the world, through multiple injuries, and over multiple years — to rejoining the Giants. He left the organization after 2007, only to come back in 2012. Last year, he homered in his first Spring Training at-bat with the big club after coming over from the minor-league side for a road trip. This year, he earned his first non-roster invitation, and had his first ever start today. In his first trip to the plate, he swatted another long ball. Though Minicozzi still has many obstacles to overcome to reach a regular-season MLB game, his tale is testament to the power of perseverance and positive thinking.
  • The second base position for the Dodgers is now a "full-blown tryout camp," reports MLB.com's Ken Gurnick. Major offseason acquisition Alex Guerrero continues to try to learn second while adapting to the pace of the big league game, and Gurnick says it seems as if he'll start off in Triple-A. Though Dee Gordon is the other player that the team would like to see emerge, he too has not separated himself from a pack that includes Brendan Harris, Chone Figgins, Justin Turner, and Miguel Rojas.
  • Infielder Jack Hannahan has not yet appeared in full spring action for the Reds because he underwent offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum, reports MLB.com's Mark Sheldon. Hannahan struggled mightily last year, but was apparently playing through the injury the entire time. The 33-year-old is in the final guaranteed year of a two-year, $4MM deal that comes with a $4MM club option for next season.

Baer On Spending, Dodgers, Sandoval, A’s

Giants president and CEO Larry Baer spoke to reporters (including Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle) today at the team's Spring Training camp in Scottsdale and discussed a number of topics, including…

  • The Dodgers have drastically outspent the Giants over the last couple of seasons but, while Baer says his team's payroll will remain competitive, he is comfortable with the Giants' strategy of building through the draft and making big signings only when necessary.  "We’re fine with not matching them dollar for dollar because when it comes down to it, it’s an art, not a science, and it comes down to judgments," Baer said.  "Drafting Cain, Lincecum, Posey, Bumgarner, etc…Those were judgment calls, not money calls."
  • The Giants have yet to begin talks with Pablo Sandoval about a multiyear extension.  A deal could still happen before Opening Day, Baer said, though the team feels it has the entire season to work out a deal if it decides Sandoval is worth keeping in the fold.  This is Sandoval's last year under contract with San Francisco and today MLB.com's Tracy Ringolsby looked at how the Giants' uncertainty over Sandoval's conditioning and consistency at the plate are the main hurdles to a new contract.
  • Baer said that the Giants could be open to temporarily sharing AT&T Park with the Athletics if the A's are getting a new ballpark built in Oakland.  Of course, Baer stressed that the Giants were more than happy about the A's getting a new stadium "in their territory," as the two franchises are in a dispute over territorial rights to the San Jose area, where the A's want to relocate.

Giants Sign Tyler Colvin

7:42pm: The deal is official now that Colvin has passed his physical, Schulman tweets.

4:34pm: Colvin himself tweets that he has "signed the dotted line."

10:37am: The Giants have agreed to terms outfielder Tyler Colvin, the Mercury News' Alex Pavlovic tweets. Colvin's contract is a minor-league deal, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets. Colvin will make $1MM if he makes the team, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman notes. Colvin is represented by Relativity Baseball.

The deal is pending a physical. Colvin had previously agreed to a big-league deal with the Orioles, but the O's backed out of the deal once Colvin took his physical with them, citing back issues.

Colvin, 28, has a career .241/.289/.454 line in 1,167 career plate appearances spread over parts of five seasons with the Cubs and Rockies. The lefty spent much of the 2013 season with Triple-A Colorado Springs, where he hit .275/.377/.480.


Cardinals Among Several Clubs Talking With Aledmys Diaz

THURSDAY, 8:58pm: Add the A's to the list of teams with interest in Diaz, per the latest from Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Slusser writes that Oakland had interest in Diaz last year and has maintained that interest, with one official telling her, "We've gathered all the information we can." 
The A's don't plan on holding a tryout for Diaz, as the Cardinals did.

Slusser points out that the need for Oakland may not be as strong as it is for other clubs due to the fact that top prospect Addison Russell is a shortstop by trade, and current big league shortstop Jed Lowrie is one of the team's better hitters. Of course, Lowrie is eligible for free agency at season's end.

1:32pm: The Blue Jays worked out Diaz last week, reports Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca, though he notes that there was no indication that the sides were approaching a deal. 

Though they may appear at first glance to be a potential landing spot, the Mets are not in on Diaz, reports MLB.com's Anthony DiComo via Twitter.

12:32pm: Diaz and fellow Cuban Odrisamer Despaigne (a right-handed pitcher) continue to make their way around Florida for various showcases, tweets Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. (They had previously appeared in Arizona for teams that hold their springs there.) The pair is expected to appear in front of the Yankees today, says Sanchez.

8:57am: Other teams participating in talks with Diaz include the Giants, Blue Jays, Yankees, Braves, Phillies, and Mariners, Strauss reports in a follow-up piece.

Torres indicated that his client would focus his decision on maximizing dollars and opportunity. "We know he's going to be in the major leagues," said Torres. "It's only a matter of time. His preference is shortstop, but he's played second and third and I'm sure would be comfortable playing whatever position is necessary."

WEDNESDAY: After a private workout in front of top Cardinals brass today, Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz is expected to receive an offer from St. Louis within 24 hours, reports Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Diaz, who is represented by Jaime Torres, has drawn wide interest around the league, but Strauss says that the Cardinals are believed to be among the four clubs that have shown the most interest.

Echoing an earlier report from MLBDailyDish.com's Chris Cotillo (via Twitter) that a signing could come in two or three days, Torres told Strauss that his client is "prepared to move very quickly" in reaching agreement. Diaz is eligible to receive formal offers starting today. Though he is awaiting authorization to play in full-squad spring outings, Diaz has been cleared to play in B games.

The 23-year-old worked out only at short for the Cards, though he has performed on both sides of the bag in front of other clubs. "He's a player we've had interest in for awhile and the next natural step in the process was to put him in front of our people in this setting," said GM John Mozeliak. Of course, the club has already made two significant additions to its infield, signing Jhonny Peralta and Mark Ellis to join a middle-infield mix that already included Kolten Wong and Pete Kozma.


Giants Avoid Arbitration With Brandon Belt

The Giants have avoided arbitration with first baseman Brandon Belt, reports Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (via Twitter). The sides have agreed upon a one-year deal for $2.9MM, tweets Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com, just eight hours before Belt's hearing was set to begin.

Belt, who hits and throws from the left side, is coming off of an outstanding season in which he put up a .289/.360/.481 line in 509 plate appearances, establishing himself as one of the league's best young hitters. The 25-year-old knocked 17 home runs and upped his overall power production while continuing to get on base at a solid clip. 

Belt had filed at $3.6MM, while the Giants countered at $2.05MM, meaning that Belt lands just above the mid-point. That left the sides further apart than all but two other arbitration cases (in relative terms) on filing day. Belt was projected to earn $2.4MM by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz, but beats that figure by a substantial margin. While his $2.9MM baseline falls shy of the $3.6MM figure landed by Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer, the fellow Super Two-eligibles are closer than Swartz had expected, as he had pegged Hosmer at $4.1MM.