- Among Giants players, infielder Eduardo Nunez is drawing the most interest, Olney tweets. That’s hardly surprising, as he’s a pending free agent who can play all over the infield. It still seems a bit difficult to imagine that the Giants won’t find a worthwhile arrangement involving Nunez, who could fit with quite a few different contenders.
TODAY: The Royals are another team with interest in Sandoval, FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman reports (Twitter link), though the third baseman is still expected to land with the Giants.
WEDNESDAY, 8:38pm: Sandoval says he’s “waiting for Friday to make a decision,” with the Giants being “one of [the] options,” per ESPN.com’s Marly Rivera.
7:17pm: The Giants have agreed to a minors deal with third baseman Pablo Sandoval, according to MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez (via Twitter). Sandoval was released earlier today by the Red Sox, though the deal will not be formally entered until his contract has passed through waivers — which (all but certainly) will occur on Friday, Evan Drellich of CSNNE.com tweets.
While the match had been rumored, and is rather unsurprising on paper, it’s still quite a notable reunion for a player who was once one of San Francisco’s most visible stars. Both Sandoval and the Giants have had seasons to forget thus far. The former was released by his most recent organization after a third-straight season marred by injury and underperformance. And the latter currently sits five games back of the Padres in the NL West cellar.
Sandoval, now thirty years of age, was a popular and productive player for seven seasons with the Giants. Over his 3,533 plate appearances, Sandoval slashed a robust .294/.346/.465 and compiled about twenty wins above replacement. That performance earned him a five-year, $95MM contract with the Red Sox, who’ll pay the vast majority of the nearly $50MM remaining (less any prorated portion of the league minimum for time Sandoval spends in the majors from now through 2019).
The Giants tried to keep the affectionately nicknamed Panda, but extension talks never materialized and he spurned the organization in free agency — suggesting in comments at the time that he was happy to be moving on. But Sandoval never found his footing in Boston. His longstanding battle with weight was again an issue, and Sandoval missed all of 2016 with a shoulder injury. He got into shape and showed well this spring, but endured a DL stint for a knee problem and struggled both at the bat (.212/.269/.354) and with the glove (-6 DRS; -8.6 UZR/150 innings) over his 32 games in 2017.
It’ll be interesting to see whether Sandoval can jump start his career in the place he once thrived. First, though, he’ll have to earn his way back to the big leagues. It’s important to bear in mind that the sides won’t be committed to one another for very long even if things go well. Unless the deal provides the club with an option of some kind — and it is fair to note that Jose Reyes agreed to such terms with the Mets while the Rockies were paying his contract — then Sandoval will return to the open market at season’s end. That said, it’s possible to imagine an extended reunion if things go well, as the Giants don’t yet have a clear plan for the 2018 season at third base.
- The Red Sox now have Giants infielder Eduardo Nunez atop their list of possible third-base targets, a source tells MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (Twitter link). Indeed, the clubs have discussed Boston’s interest in both Nunez and reliever Hunter Strickland, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports. It seems the Sox are also still engaged with the Marlins on third bagger Martin Prado (as well as reliever David Phelps) along with Pirates infielders David Freese and Josh Harrison. Of course, it’s worth bearing in mind that Prado is on the DL, while the Bucs may be hesitant to deal given the team’s improved outlook. All told, it still seems to be a wide-open search.
- It’s not clear if talks have occurred between the Indians and Giants, but Cleveland is scouting Nunez as well, per ESPN.com’s Buster Olney (via Twitter). With the defending AL champs still battling for a postseason spot, they can’t just wait idly for second baseman Jason Kipnis to return from the DL. And a player such as Nunez would also improve the team’s bench once Kipnis is back.
Giants GM Bobby Evans appeared on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM with Mike Ferrin today and discussed his team’s approach at the trade deadline (audio link via Twitter). The Giants aren’t used to finding themselves as sellers, but they find themselves buried in both the NL West race and in the Wild Card. However, Evans echoed recent comments from president Brian Sabean, suggesting that the team is looking more toward 2018 than at a total rebuild.
“It’s really about the core of guys that we have, that, arguably between Belt, Panik, Crawford, Posey, Bumgarner — they’re in the prime of their careers,” said Evans of the current Giants roster. “This is a time to build with them. They’re not 34 going on 35. They’re 28 to 30. That’s a good range in which we still think there’s a lot that they can offer and help us get back to where we need to be. That said, we’ve got to do more, defensively, in the outfield — more offensively in our lineup. We’ve got to pitch better. … We can’t go with what we have. We’ve got to make changes. This trading period may offer us some opportunities to look toward next year.”
- After seeing trade target Todd Frazier head to the Yankees last night, the Red Sox are now eyeing Giants third baseman Eduardo Nunez, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today. That’s not the first time the BoSox have been linked to Nunez, though he’s among the first players to whom they Yankees have been linked following last night’s Frazier swap between Chicago and New York. The versatile Nunez is a free agent at season’s end and is earning a reasonable $4.2MM this year. He’s not a standout defender anywhere on the diamond, but he could hold down the fort at the hot corner for now and then bounce between third, shortstop, second base and perhaps the corner outfield later in the summer if the Sox give Rafael Devers an audition. Nunez is hitting .295/.319/.407 through 289 plate appearances.
- The Mariners have reached out to both the Giants and the Padres about their available starting pitchers, tweets MLB.com’s Jon Morosi. San Diego has three rental options to offer, highlighted by breakout righty Trevor Cahill but also including right-hander Jhoulys Chacin and southpaw Clayton Richard. (Each is signed to a one-year, $1.75MM deal.) The Giants, meanwhile, could conceivably listen on Johnny Cueto (though he’s struggled, has an opt-out clause complicating his trade candidacy, and is on the shelf with blister issues). It’s Jeff Samardzija, however, that has drawn the most headlines on the rumor circuit as of late. Though he’s just halfway through the second season of a five-year, $90MM deal and has an ERA in the upper-4.00s, Samardzija is pacing MLB in K/BB ratio and is among the game’s best in K%-BB%. Of course, it’s uncertain if the Mariners would want any part of that contract, and if the Giants are looking toward 2018, they may hope to have a healthy Samardzija contributing 200+ innings in the middle of their rotation. Speculatively speaking, Matt Moore could also be a reclamation project, though he’s worked to an ERA of 5.81 with reduced velocity and diminished peripherals this year.
The Giants are “drawing [a] fair amount of interest” in right-handed starter Jeff Samardzija and right-handed reliever Hunter Strickland, reports Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (all Twitter links). While Samardzija’s surface-level numbers aren’t exactly appealing this season — 4.86 ERA, 20 homers in 124 innings (1.45 HR/9) — he leads the Majors in K/BB ratio and is fifth in K%-BB% (23.7 percent). Moreover, Schulman notes that other teams simply value Samardzija’s durability. The Giants, too, value Shark’s innings, however, making the situation complicated. Schulman adds that the Giants are willing to think “creatively” in terms of trades, speculating about possible three-team swaps or taking on poor contracts.
As far as Strickland goes, the 28-year-old has a pristine 1.91 ERA with 9.8 K/9 through 33 innings this season. His 5.2 BB/9 rate and 88.5 percent strand rate suggest that there’s probably some regression in order, but the Giants (or an acquiring team) can control Strickland through the 2021 season, so it stands to reason that he’d draw interest as a long-term bullpen option.
The Giants have a deal in place with prospect Jack Conlon, pending a physical, per Ken Rosenthal of MLB Network (via Twitter). Conlon, a high-school righty who had been chosen by the Orioles in the fourth round of the recent Rule 4 draft, was granted free agency after failing to sign.
Baltimore determined that Conlon’s physical did not pass muster. When the team declined to offer him at least 40% of the slot value of the pick with which he was chosen — in this case, $409K — he qualified for the open market.
As Baseball America’s Hudson Belinsky recently explained, the Ballengee Group client was expected to command $1MM or more for a bonus. Conlon had committed to Texas A&M, and attending college remained at least a theoretical option prior to his agreement with the Giants.
Already known to have Todd Frazier, Martin Prado, Jed Lowrie and Yangervis Solarte on their radar, the Red Sox are also scouting two Pirates (Josh Harrison and David Freese), a pair of Mets (T.J. Rivera and Asdrubal Cabrera) and the Giants’ Eduardo Nunez as they search for a third baseman, according to Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald.
Of that five-man group, the versatile Harrison may be the most difficult to acquire – especially considering the Pirates will aim to contend next year even if they don’t make a serious playoff push this season. With a .273/.352/.424 line to go with 10 home runs and 10 stolen bases across 377 plate appearances, in which he has accumulated 2.1 fWAR, the 30-year-old is having a fine campaign. Harrison is also on a reasonable contract, one that pays him $7.5MM this year, $10MM in 2018 and carries club options for 2019 ($10.5MM) and ’20 ($11.5MM). While Harrison would be an immediate upgrade at third for the Red Sox, it’s questionable how he’d fit into the organization in the coming years. Boston’s much-ballyhooed third base prospect, Rafael Devers, is nearly major league ready, and the club has Harrison’s other positions – second base and the corner outfield – covered with Dustin Pedroia, Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi.
Freese, 34, would also be more than a rental, as he’s due a guaranteed $4.25MM next season and has either a $6MM club option or a $500K buyout for 2019. Currently on a $6.25MM salary, the long-competent hitter has paired a respectable .245/.376/.364 slash in 271 trips to the plate with decent work at third (two defensive runs saved, 1.7 UZR/150).
The two Mets also come with control beyond this season, though the Red Sox would have the ability to decline Cabrera’s $8.5MM club option for 2018 in favor of a $2MM buyout. Cabrera, who’s earning $8.25MM now, brings a solid offensive track record to the table and has been OK in that department this year (.250/.333/.408 with nine homers in 270 PAs). However, the switch-hitter has just one career appearance at third base, which came back in 2007, and hasn’t looked good at all in the middle infield in his age-31 campaign. Cabrera has combined for minus-14 DRS and a minus-15.2 UZR/150 at shortstop and second, his customary positions.
Rivera, who at 28 is younger than Cabrera and won’t even be arbitration eligible until after the 2019 season, has survived a low walk rate (3.9 percent) since debuting last year to post quality numbers at the plate. Through 311 PAs, including 202 this year, Rivera has batted .315/.348/.469 – a line that’s either 15 percent or 17 percent better than league average, depending on whether you prefer OPS+ or wRC+. As such, he joins Harrison in looking like someone who’d be rather tough to pry from his current employer.
Nunez, a pure rental, is earning $4.2MM and has hit a playable .297/.323/.414 over 280 trips to the plate during his platform year. More impressively, the 30-year-old has stolen 17 of 20 bases, meaning he’d provide another speed threat to a Boston team that already ranks eighth in the majors in steals. Nunez is also capable of playing second, short and left field, though he hasn’t garnered particularly positive reviews anywhere as a defender.
As Boston continues to mull its options before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, it’ll utilize a platoon of Brock Holt and Deven Marrero at the hot corner, tweets Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe. After the Red Sox defeated the Yankees on Sunday night, they optioned third baseman Tzu-Wei Lin to Triple-A. Lin fared nicely before his demotion, hitting .280/.379/.360 over the first 59 PAs of his career, but the 23-year-old owns a meager .638 OPS in a much larger minor league sample of 1,954 PAs.
- Craig Mish of Sirius XM tweeted Saturday that the Giants have shown more interest than anyone else in Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton, leading Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area to assess whether a deal could happen. The California-born slugger’s enormous contract (he’ll collect $295MM through 2028 if he doesn’t opt out after the 2020 season) makes it highly unlikely he’ll end up in San Francisco, even if the Marlins were to eat around $95MM, observes Pavlovic. To take on that type of money – particularly for a player who has had difficulty staying healthy – would cripple the Giants’ budget for both the near term and the long haul, Pavlovic writes.
At 49-43, a half-game up on the Yankees for the American League’s top wild-card spot and two games above the sixth-place Twins, the Rays are setting up as deadline buyers. Acquiring bullpen help by July 31 seems to be a priority for Tampa Bay, whose relievers rank 19th in the majors in fWAR (1.5) and 20th in ERA (4.37). With Alex Colome, Brad Boxberger, Chase Whitley, Tommy Hunter and Erasmo Ramirez, the majority of the Rays’ bullpen is in good shape, though they’ve struggled to find reliable options to fill out the group. Jumbo Diaz, Danny Farquhar and Austin Pruitt have combined for 93 1/3 innings among them, but no one from that trio has prevented runs at a particularly appealing clip this year.
The 28-year-old Strickland has limited damage throughout his career, evidenced by a 2.48 ERA over 152 1/3 innings, and has pitched to a sparkling 1.91 ERA across 33 frames this season. Additionally, Strickland’s 9.82 K/9 and 19.4 percent infield fly rate make him look like a shutdown option. However, there are some troubling signs – including a dip in velocity and a skyrocketing BB/9 that has climbed to 5.18 after sitting at 1.75 in 2015, Strickland’s first full season, and 2.8 last year.
While Strickland does come with concerns, his track record and team control suggest he’d warrant a solid haul in a trade. Strickland is making a near-minimum salary this season and brings four years of arbitration eligibility to the table. It’s unclear, then, how open the Giants are to moving him, especially considering they’re aiming to put a rough 2017 behind them next year and return to contention. If the Giants do make any deals in the coming weeks, they’d like to acquire major league-ready talent in return, notes Haft.
Having finished as one of the runners-up in the Jose Quintana sweepstakes, the Astros are still looking to improve their rotation. That upgrade could come in the form of Giants right-hander Jeff Samardzija, on whom the Astros are “doing background work,” tweets Jon Morosi of MLB Network.
Samardzija, 32, would represent a potential multiyear piece for Houston, as he’s under control through 2020 on the five-year, $90MM contract he signed prior to the 2016 campaign. He’s still owed upward of $60MM, which would make him an especially costly acquisition for a Houston club whose biggest contract is the four-year, $52MM pact right fielder Josh Reddick signed before the season.
In the near term, Samardzija, who’s on pace for his fifth straight 200-inning season, would provide a mid-rotation workhorse to an Astros team that could use one. While the Astros easily own the American League’s best record (61-29) and have run away with the AL West, which they lead by 16.5 games, their rotation hasn’t been the picture of health this season. Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers have pitched like aces this year, but the former has hit the disabled list twice with neck issues and the latter has been on the DL once and, over the past month-plus, has struggled to go deep in games. Charlie Morton has also missed extensive time this year, and injuries have troubled him throughout his career, while Collin McHugh hasn’t pitched at all and Joe Musgrove hasn’t been sharp after a strong major league debut last season. Fortunately for the Astros, Keuchel and McHugh are nearing returns, while Brad Peacock and Mike Fiers have stepped up since Keuchel’s DL placement in early June.
Despite the myriad issues in their rotation, including David Paulino’s season-ending performance-enhancing drug suspension, Astros starters entered Saturday atop the AL in ERA (3.86) and third in fWAR (8.2). Samardzija has accounted for 2.3 fWAR, making him one of the majors’ most valuable starters in that metric’s estimation, but the hard thrower hasn’t prevented runs at a pristine rate. Through 118 innings this year, he carries a 4.58 ERA, largely thanks to a career-worst home run-to-fly ball rate (16.7 percent), an elevated batting average on balls in play (.323) and a low strand rate (67.1 percent). Going from pitcher-friendly AT&T Park in San Francisco to Houston’s Minute Maid Park likely wouldn’t do his already high homer rate any favors, though his sparkling K/BB ratio (9.07) – which is No. 1 among major league starters – could help lead to somewhat of a turnaround in the ERA department.
While the Astros may push to acquire Samardzija, it’s unclear whether the Giants would trade him or whether Houston is one of the eight teams he’d block a move to. Giants executive vice president of baseball operations Brian Sabean revealed earlier this week that the out-of-contention club is “open for business” as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline nears, but he also plans to vie for a playoff berth in 2018. As such, the Giants could prefer to keep Samardzija in their quest to return to relevance next year.