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San Francisco Giants Rumors
TODAY: The Giants’ inquiry regarding Craig actually took place before Spring Training opened, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports on Twitter. In other words, it was not in response to Pence’s injury.
YESTERDAY: As they prepare to open the season without star right fielder Hunter Pence, the Giants are not presently in active pursuit of another outfield option, Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com reports on Twitter. If an addition is made, says Gammons, the club would be looking for a power bat.
San Francisco did recently inquire with the Red Sox on veteran Allen Craig, per the report, but found that Boston was not interested in “selling low.” Craig’s name has come up repeatedly this winter as a trade candidate; after struggling through 2014 and heading to the Sox in a deadline deal, he found himself battling with numerous other viable candidates for a roster spot. His trade value, of course, is weighed down by the $26.5MM left on his contract. Most recently, however, reports out of Boston indicated that the team expects to open the season with him on the 25-man roster.
While losing Pence for a significant stretch was undoubtedly a blow, it is at least somewhat surprising to learn that the team actually showed interest in Craig, particularly since he would not appear to have much of a role when Pence returns. After all, the Giants seemingly utilized their available payroll space over the offseason, and have a reasonable temporary replacement in Gregor Blanco.
On the other hand, the club does figure to have a rather left-leaning lineup at present. Regardless, the report seemingly suggests that San Francisco was not inclined to take on a large portion of Craig’s deal, echoing prior reports that the team would only be interested in a low-risk acquisition of the former All-Star. And with no current efforts underway, Blanco remains the odds-on favorite to keep Pence’s seat warm in the season’s early going.
The Giants have acquired catcher Jackson Williams from the Angels in exchange for cash considerations, Angels director of communications Eric Kay announced on Twitter. Williams had spent his entire professional career in San Francisco prior to 2014.
Last year was the first in which Williams cracked the big leagues, picking up 16 plate appearances with the Rockies. He also enjoyed his best campaign at the plate at the Triple-A level, slashing .256/.353/.368 with four home runs. The former late-first round pick made his way to the Halos on a waiver claim early last fall.
Presumptive backup catcher Andrew Susac has been dealing with wrist inflammation, which may have led San Francisco to pursue another depth option. While Williams is slated to head to minor league camp, as Alex Pavlovic of CSNBayArea.com tweets, he represents another link in the chain alongside names like Hector Sanchez and Guillermo Quiroz.
The World Series winners brought back some familiar faces from their latest championship team, yet they’ll have to account for a Panda-sized hole in their lineup.
Major League Signings
- Jake Peavy, SP: Two years, $24MM
- Sergio Romo, RP: Two years, $15MM
- Nori Aoki, OF: One year, $4MM ($5.5MM club option for 2016 with $700K buyout; option becomes mutual with 550 plate appearances)
- Ryan Vogelsong, SP: One year, $4MM
- Total spend: $47.7MM
Notable Minor League Signings
- Alfredo Aceves, Travis Blackley, John Bowker, Ronny Cedeno, Robert Coello, Edgmer Escalona, Cory Gearrin, Juan Gutierrez, Brandon Hicks, Justin Maxwell, Curtis Partch, Guillermo Quiroz, Clay Rapada, Carlos Triunfel
Trades And Claims
- Gregor Blanco, OF: Two years, $7.5MM
With five key members (two position players and three pitchers) of last year’s roster facing free agency, the Giants brought back all three of the arms. Madison Bumgarner, Tim Hudson and a hopefully-healthy Matt Cain will be joined in the rotation by the re-signed Jake Peavy. Ryan Vogelsong seemed to be on the verge of going to the Astros, but after a bit of controversy scuttled that deal, he ended up re-signing with the Giants. Vogelsong is currently slated to fill a long relief role but he (or Yusmeiro Petit) could be elevated to the fifth starter’s role if Tim Lincecum‘s struggles continue.
After receiving some interest from the Astros, Dodgers, Yankees and Red Sox, Sergio Romo instead returned to San Francisco on a two-year, $15MM deal. The veteran relief trio of Javier Lopez (37 years old), Santiago Casilla (34) and Romo (32) have played major roles in the Giants’ three World Series titles since 2010, and they’ll continue to hold down the back of the bullpen.
The Giants will miss Mike Morse’s .279/.336/.475 batting line (133 wRC+, or 33 percent better than the league-average hitter) and 16 homers, yet in replacing him in left field with free agent signing Nori Aoki may be an overall upgrade. While Aoki posted only a 104 wRC+ and obviously fell far short of Morse in the power department, he generated 2.3 fWAR to Morse’s 1.0 fWAR last season due to a big edge in defense and baserunning, as well as a better batting average and OBP. Aoki’s skill-set makes him a good fit for AT&T Park, and his defensive versatility may already have come in handy for the Giants; Aoki may be a short-term replacement in right field while Hunter Pence is on the DL.
Sabermetrically speaking, the gap between Pablo Sandoval and the newly-acquired Casey McGehee was closer than you might expect at first glance. Sandoval posted a .279/.324/.415 slash line, 16 homers, a 111 wRC+ and .323 wOBA over 638 PA last season and generated 3.0 fWAR. In his return to North American baseball after spending 2013 in Japan, McGehee hit .287/.355/.357 with four homers over 691 PA, good for a 102 wRC+, .319 wOBA and 2.0 fWAR. Since McGehee will earn $4.8MM in 2015 as compared to Sandoval’s $17MM salary from the Red Sox, the Giants will be overjoyed if there’s only a one-win gap between the two third basemen next year.
While the Giants brought the band back together pitching-wise, Bumgarner’s postseason dominance obscured the fact that the club actually didn’t get much from its rotation in 2014. San Francisco starters generated only 8.2 fWAR last season, the third-lowest total in baseball. While this number should rise with Cain’s return and a full season from Peavy, there is still plenty of uncertainty given Cain’s health, the fifth starter spot and the 39-year-old Hudson’s fade down the stretch last year. Hudson’s health isn’t a 100 percent guarantee, either, as the veteran righty underwent January surgery to remove bone spurs from his ankle. Though he’s expected to be ready for Opening Day, the aftereffects of that operation are yet undetermined.
With questions surrounding their rotation, the Giants checked in on several top free agent pitchers this offseason. They were serious suitors for both Jon Lester and James Shields (though their four-year, $80MM offer to Shields was reportedly taken off the table once they signed Peavy), and they at least considered the likes of Max Scherzer, Francisco Liriano and Ervin Santana. I would guess that if the Giants are still in the race by midseason but have one or two pitchers struggling, they’d be prime candidates to pick up a top-tier arm at the trade deadline.
It seemed that “close-but-no-cigar” was the theme of the Giants’ offseason, as they explored what would’ve been very notable trades and signings for the likes of Nelson Cruz, Justin Upton, Torii Hunter, Ben Zobrist, Chris Johnson, Asdrubal Cabrera, Chase Headley, Jed Lowrie, Nick Markakis, and some of Boston’s extra outfielders. They also fell short in the bidding for Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomas, who could’ve helped the club in either left or third. Timing seemed to be an issue on some of these non-moves; with the Giants not knowing until the Winter Meetings if they would land Lester, they couldn’t make other commitments until they knew if they’d need the $140-150MM they had earmarked for the ace southpaw.
The Giants also made a strong push to re-sign Sandoval, though the Panda had reportedly made up his mind to leave San Francisco before last season even began. (His postseason hitting display was quite the parting gift.) McGehee’s 2014 stats were boosted by a .335 BABIP, and given Sandoval’s clear edge in career hitting totals, McGehee will likely fall well short of matching Sandoval’s production. Given how the Giants looked elsewhere for third basemen this winter, McGehee might just be a one-year stopgap until they can find a more long-term answer at the hot corner.
Losing Sandoval and Morse will damage a Giants’ lineup that posted middle-of-the-pack numbers in most offensive categories last year. Missing Pence for potentially all of April certainly won’t help in the team’s search for more runs. On the flip side, the lineup should get a bit of a power boost with Brandon Belt healthy again after an injury-plagued 2014.
Romo actually posted a negative fWAR (-0.3) last season, largely due to career highs in both FIP (3.94) and HR/9 (1.4). He lost the closer’s job partway through the season but rebounded enough that he earned a share of the closing duties with Casilla, though it was Casilla who received all four save opportunities during the playoffs. As a result, Casilla will be the Giants’ closer going into Spring Training.
With this in mind, guaranteeing $15MM to a 32-year-old setup man coming off his worst statistical season was something of a risky move. San Francisco already had a pretty strong bullpen without Romo, and with Vogelsong/Petit (or maybe Lincecum) added in a swingman or long relief role, a case could be made that the Giants could’ve let Romo go and spent that $15MM elsewhere. Romo does provide depth for Casilla, who’s a non-traditional closer, but the Giants are investing a lot in the hope that Romo’s poor first half was just an aberration.
Deal Of Note
While the Giants couldn’t land a frontline ace like Lester or Shields, they did sign a guy who pitched like an ace while in a Giants uniform. Peavy posted a 2.17 ERA, 3.41 K/BB rate and 6.6 K/9 in 78 2/3 innings after his late-July trade from Boston to San Francisco, though his peripherals (3.03 FIP, 4.01 xFIP, 3.91 SIERA) indicate that he enjoyed some good fortune ERA-wise.
A 2.17 ERA over a full season probably isn’t in the cards, yet Peavy should provide the team with quality innings and a solid return on their two-year, $24MM investment. As Peavy himself hinted while speaking with reporters (including MLBTR’s Zach Links) after his signing, he may have taken less money than he could’ve found elsewhere to return to the Giants due to his love of the organization and his desire to win.
While the Giants’ projected $170MM payroll for 2015 is one of the game’s highest, it was expected they would spend a little more than $52.7MM (their free agent signings and McGehee’s salary) on players given the extra revenues from their playoff run. It seems like the team expected the same thing given the number of high-salaried targets they pursued but couldn’t land.
Still, a fairly quiet offseason is not a huge cause for alarm. Not spending in winter means that the Giants probably have some cash to spend in June or July. As mentioned earlier, the club could be contenders for pitching upgrades, or potentially could aim for bullpen help or lineup additions should the need arise. The Giants could add short-term rentals, or pursue pricier players who are signed beyond 2015. San Francisco can afford to consider such additions since they’ll have roughly $53MM coming off the books after the season (expiring deals for Lincecum, Hudson, McGehee, Vogelsong, Jeremy Affeldt, Marco Scutaro and Joaquin Arias) and possibly more if club options for Casilla and Aoki aren’t exercised.
For now, however, the Giants should be in pretty good stead given that they’re returning the large majority of a world championship roster. Bruce Bochy will have to work some of his usual creativity to make up for the absences of Sandoval and Morse, and the club will have a tougher road in the NL West with the reloaded Dodgers and the rebuilt Padres both looking like contenders. Still, anyone writing off the 2015 Giants simply due to the “Odd Year Curse” does so at their own peril.
Photo courtesy of Peter Aiken/USA Today Sports Images
Giants reliever Sergio Romo left no doubts about how glad he is to be back with San Francisco, as Alex Pavlovic of CSNBayArea.com reports (Twitter links). “It was like, we can get this done in five minutes, for real,” Romo said of his free agent stance towards the Giants. “Call me up.” Though other clubs offered him a chance to return to a closing role, Romo says he “just didn’t want to go anywhere.”
Here’s more from the game’s western divisions:
- Rangers lefty Matt Harrison feels increasingly confident in his ability to make it back to the big leagues, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan writes. Now working his way up to a full-size mound, Harrison still faces a difficult road in his return from spinal fusion surgery. “I don’t think about [retirement] anymore,” Harrison said. “It would definitely be hard to do without giving it another shot. The more I learn and the more I understand the rehab, I feel good about the possibility of getting back to a five-day rehab.” Obviously, any future contribution from Harrison — who is owed owed $41MM between now and 2017 (including a buyout on an option for 2018) — would be welcome news for a Texas club that has been beset by a variety of pitching injuries in recent years.
- New commissioner Rob Manfred says a new ballpark for the Athletics is a priority, as the Associated Press reports (via ESPN.com). While Major League Baseball will remain involved, Manfred said that he is not sure how much influence it can have on the process and said he prefers the team to work with Oakland on a solution.
- Padres owner Ron Fowler vetoed a June 2013 proposal from the team’s baseball executives to make a bid to acquire Cliff Lee, Tom Krasovic of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. Then just ten months into his chairmanship, and overseeing a front office led by then-GM Josh Byrnes, Fowler decided the move did not make sense given the team’s overall situation and Lee’s expense. San Diego had been hovering at .500 at the time, but quickly fell back and out of contention that year, and obviously the move could have had significant long-term repercussions as things turned out.
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that the Red Sox spent a lot of time with Jon Lester trying to get him over his fear of throwing to bases. It’s an issue that the Cubs will have to address if it arises again and Cafardo is surprised that more opposing teams haven’t tried to pounce on that perceived weakness. That could change, however, as he hears that one team already is looking forward to testing him this season. Here’s more from today’s column..
- Orioles GM Dan Duquette twice has tried to engage in extension talks with Matt Wieters’s agent, Scott Boras, but now it doesn’t appear that the sides will get together before Wieters becomes a free agent. After missing most of 2014, Wieters will earn $8.3MM in his final year of arbitration. The 28-year-old was hitting .308/.339/.500 in 112 plate appearances before right elbow issues forced him to undergo Tommy John surgery.
- Scouts are beginning to at least discuss what the Red Sox may need to receive in order to part with Jackie Bradley in a trade. The Sox don’t appear to be in that mode right now, but there are teams who feel Bradley will turn things around at the plate because he’s hit at every level except the majors. “I think Chili Davis is going to be good for him,” said one scout of Boston’s new hitting coach. “I think he needs someone with a tough approach and Chili isn’t afraid to give someone some tough love.” There has been a great deal of trade talk around Bradley this offseason and Joel Sherman of the New York Post recently suggested that the Braves could make sense as a landing spot.
- Giants assistant GM Bobby Evans told Cafardo that the team offered James Shields a five-year, $80MM contract not long after Jon Lester agreed to join the Cubs.Evans said that Shields wanted time to explore other offers, however, and the timing wasn’t right. A previous report indicated that the Giants made Shields a four-year, $80MM pitch, which is the same length as his deal with the Padres, but worth $5MM more. Shields’ agent Page Odle said in February that his client received more than one offer with a higher AAV than the one he ultimately accepted from the Padres.
- Before Daniel Bard signed a minor league deal with the Cubs this winter, the Red Sox considered bringing him back. Now that early reports are indicating that Bard is throwing hard and possibly cured of the yips that have troubled him the last couple of years, the Cubs must be glad that they decided to give him another chance.
- While many scouts believe that the Dodgers’ offense won’t be as productive without Matt Kemp, many also believe that he will hurt the Padres‘ defense. “Everyone raves about the Padres with Kemp, but they’re going to find some things they’re not going to like, and I’ll leave it at that,” said one scout. For his career, Kemp has a -13.9 UZR/150 rating in the outfield.
The Indians announced that former star third baseman Al Rosen died last night. He was 91. “He was an inspiration to us all and had a special presence, strength and intellect,” says Indians president Mark Shapiro, calling Rosen’s competitiveness and toughness “legendary.” Rosen hit .285/.384/.495 over a ten-year big-league career spent entirely with the Indians. His best season came in 1953, when he hit .336/.422/.613, won the AL MVP award and missed a Triple Crown by one point of batting average. Injuries ended his playing career early, but he went on to become president and chief operating officer of the Yankees (1978-79), then became president and GM of the Astros (1980-85) and Giants (1985-92). Here are more notes from the Central divisions.
- The White Sox paid $46MM for closer David Robertson, but they weren’t planning on spending heavily on a closer if they didn’t get him, Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune writes. Robertson was the specific player they wanted, and if they hadn’t gotten him, they would have developed a closer internally. “I still feel strongly that we have a very solid track record in terms of that development, whether it’s (Bobby) Jenks or (Sergio) Santos or (Addison Reed) or whomever else through the years, like Keith Foulke before that,” says GM Rick Hahn. “And that’s going to continue to serve us as we build out the bullpen from the back in front of David.”
- Reliever Francisco Rodriguez, who officially signed with the Brewers Saturday, turned down more money elsewhere to return to Milwaukee, Todd Rosiak of the Journal Sentinel tweets. His decision to sign with the Brewers was primarily about his comfort with pitching for them, not about finances, he says. 2015 will be the fifth consecutive season in which Rodriguez will have spent at least part of the year with the Brewers.
- The Giants have signed hard-throwing right-hander Edgmer Escalona to a minor league pact, Eddy reports. Though Escalona didn’t appear in the Majors least year, the Orioles thought enough of his arm to give him a Major League deal in the offseason. Escalona, 28, has a career 4.50 ERA in exactly 100 innings in the Majors, but he posted a 5.80 ERA from 2012-13 with Colorado. Though he averages just under 94 mph on his heater, he’s only whiffed 6.4 hitters per nine innings in the Majors.
- The Athletics released corner infielder Miles Head after a pair of injury-plagued seasons in which he batted just .233/.292/.352 at Double-A. Head was one of the prospects sent to the A’s from the Red Sox in the Josh Reddick-Andrew Bailey swap prior to the 2012 season and has previously ranked among the organization’s 10 best prospects.
- Right-hander Robby Rowland has signed a minor league deal with the Cardinals, per Eddy. Formerly a third-round pick of the D-Backs (2010), Rowland has yet to pitch at a level higher than Class-A Advanced. He has a lifetime 5.28 ERA in the minors with 5.6 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9. Rowland turned 23 in December.
- The Astros have signed righty Robert Stock, says Eddy. Stock is a converted catcher who was drafted in the second round by the Cardinals in 2009 when Houston GM Jeff Luhnow was still their scouting director. Stock is clearly still a work in progress on the mound, as he’s walked 6.9 hitters per nine innings at two different Class-A levels.
It’s been a whirlwind week on the Hector Olivera front, as the 29-year-old Cuban infielder switched agents earlier this week and is said to be weighing offers of four to six years in length, with the ultimate price tag expected to land around $50MM as recently as last night. Per MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez — who discussed Olivera and other Cuban players with Jeff Todd on the MLBTR Podcast last month — Olivera has received strong interest from the Dodgers, Braves, A’s, Marlins, Padres and Giants. To this point, the Braves have made an offer and are reportedly interested in the $30-40MM range, while the Padres are said to be considering an offer worth upwards of $50MM. Olivera has already conducted physicals for the Braves, Dodgers and Padres, and possibly other clubs as well. Let’s take a quick look at how he’d fit on each of the reportedly interested clubs…
- Dodgers — The Dodgers have Howie Kendrick and Juan Uribe at second and third base, respectively, which are Olivera’s two best positions. Uribe is a free agent next winter and could shift into a super utility role, as he has plenty of experience at shortstop and second base in the Majors as well. However, much of his value has come from his suddenly excellent work at third base over the past two seasons, and the Dodgers may have to use Alex Guerrero in a super utility role due to his contract, which allows him to refuse an assignment to the Minors.
- Braves — Olivera could step directly into Atlanta’s lineup at second base, as he’d be an upgrade with the bat over likely starter Alberto Callaspo and potential utility player Jace Peterson. Braves fans will point out that Jose Peraza is believed to be the long-term answer at second, but he’s at least a year away, and Olivera could always unseat Chris Johnson at third base; Johnson posted just a .292 OBP with little power last year and is not well-regarded defensively.
- Athletics — The A’s will likely use Ben Zobrist at second and Brett Lawrie at third this year, though Zobrist could be used in the outfield, presumably left field, if Olivera were signed. Zobrist is only controlled through this season, so Olivera makes sense as a long-term option for the A’s at second base.
- Marlins — The Marlins’ infield situation is crowded, and there’s no spot opening up for the next two years, barring a trade. Still, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reported last night that Miami is comfortable in the $50MM range with Olivera and believes he could handle all four infield spots. Per Frisaro, the Fish would like to rest Mike Morse one or two days per week and also would like to spell Adeiny Hechavarria at shortstop from time to time.
- Padres — Olivera would likely start over one of Jedd Gyorko or Will Middlebrooks at second or third base. It’s possible that Middlebrooks could eventually wind up playing first base, depending on how well Yonder Alonso hits this season. The two could at least platoon, one would imagine, allowing Gyorko and Olivera to handle second and third (each player can handle both positions).
- Giants — Joe Panik looks to be their second baseman this season, but much of Panik’s 2014 success was driven by a .343 BABIP that may be too high to repeat, and he doesn’t offer much in terms of power or speed. Even if the Giants feel Panik is the long-term answer at second, they could shift him to a bench role this year and slide Olivera over to third next year after Casey McGehee becomes a free agent.
It’s possible that another club will enter the mix unexpectedly, as Olivera’s agency shift has reportedly expanded the level of interest. (His previous agents had been touting a $70MM goal.) However, at this point, these appear to be the six top landing spots, which seems like plenty of fuel to conduct a poll.
Cuban infielder Hector Olivera is weighing offers that range from four to six years in length and could come to terms with a team this week, reports MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez. Sanchez’s sources indicate that the Dodgers, Braves, Marlins, Padres, A’s and Giants have all shown a strong interest in Olivera, who will turn 30 early next month.
Olivera’s market has been anything but typical, as while scouts believe he’s Major League ready and could hit 15-20 homers with strong OBP marks right out of the gate, he also comes with myriad health issues and underwent a late change of representation, switching to the Legacy Agency’s Greg Genske earlier this week. Olivera has a blood disorder that at one time caused clotting in his biceps but is said to be cleared up now, and a report last week indicated that he may have damage to his ulnar collateral ligament as well. Olivera maintains that he is completely healthy, and multiple teams, including the Braves, Dodgers and Padres, have already conducted physicals.
Meanwhile, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro hears that Olivera’s price tag is expected to land in the $50MM range, and the Marlins are comfortable making an offer in that vicinity (though he does not specify the number of years, and clearly, $50MM over four years would be drastically different than $50MM over six). As for where he would play in Miami, Frisaro notes that the Marlins believe Olivera could handle all four infield positions, and the team would like to get Mike Morse a day or two off per week. They’d also like to keep Adeiny Hechavarria fresher at shortstop by resting him periodically.
Reports last night indicated that the Padres were weighing an offer that was worth “upwards of $50MM,” though no length of contract was specified. The Braves also reportedly have an offer on the table to Olivera, and their comfort zone is reportedly in the $30-40MM range.