- Across the bay, the Giants have stumbled through a disastrous season. CEO Larry Baer discussed the state of affairs as the campaign comes to an end with Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News reports. It’s an interview you’ll certainly want to read in full, as Baggarly pushed the executive on some interesting subjects. Baer emphasized that the organization can hope for turnaround efforts from some key players, noting in particular that the club got much less than anticipated from key pitchers. He explained: “I’m not proclaiming that’s what is going to happen, but I am saying that we believe with the talent level, we can get back.” In addition to discussing the state of the organization’s finances and the ongoing fan support (and, thus, revenue), among other topics of note, Baer also addressed the role of GM Bobby Evans with his predecessor, Brian Sabean, still a figure in the organization. Baer says he’s still confident in the front office “structure,” explaining that it’s a “pretty collaborative” unit that consists mostly of “all the same people” that built the club’s recent, better-performing rosters.
The latest on a few National League clubs:
- Second baseman Cesar Hernandez has emerged as either a legitimate building block for the Phillies or someone they could dangle over the winter in an effort to acquire sorely needed starting pitching help, Ryan Lawrence of PhillyVoice.com observes. The 27-year-old has combined for 7.0 fWAR and 5.5 rWAR in 1,139 plate appearances dating back to last season, thanks in part to a .293/.367/.406 batting line. Hernandez’s OBP over that span ranks 24th in the majors, and the Phillies’ front office places a great deal of value in his ability to get on base, Lawrence writes. The switch-hitter is controllable through 2020 via arbitration, further adding to his appeal.
- Reds prospect Hunter Greene entered this year’s draft as a right-handed pitcher/shortstop, but the second overall pick is no longer eyeing a two-way career. Rather, he’s solely focused on pitching, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. The 18-year-old revealed that he feels a “lot more natural” on the mound and suggested that working as both a pitcher and a position player in the pros would’ve been too physically taxing for him. “Big kudos to the guys in the big leagues who are playing every day, it’s a lot of work on the body, the arm and the feet. It’s a lot,” Greene said. “To be able to have rest days and recover and be able to have that day where you go out and perform and pitch at your best, it’s more comfortable for me.”
- Giants general manager Bobby Evans announced Saturday that the team will exercise Matt Moore’s $9MM option for 2018. For his part, Moore told Jonathan Hawthorne of MLB.com and other reporters that he didn’t expect the Giants to make a decision on his future so soon. The southpaw is glad they did, though. “It makes me very happy. … It definitely did take me by surprise,” Moore said. “It was something cool to kind of see because it’s probably a month and a half before they even have to do anything.” The 28-year-old Moore has pitched to an uncharacteristically bloated 5.39 ERA this season, but he noted that the Giants’ decision to bring him back indicates they believe his 2017 struggles are a blip. “It is nice to have the confidence that this is something that’s very temporary — the type of season I’m having isn’t expected here on out,” he stated.
The Giants will exercise lefty Matt Moore’s $9MM option for 2018, GM Bobby Evans tells Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. By doing so, they will avoid paying a $1M buyout and, more importantly, retain a $10MM option or a $750K buyout on Moore for 2019.
Moore has struggled in 2017, posting a 5.39 ERA over 167 innings in his first full season in San Francisco. Evans’ admission comes as little surprise, however, as FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal recently reported that the Giants seemed likely to retain Moore as part of an effort to retain pitching depth. Also, Moore is relatively young at 28 and posted reasonable peripherals (7.7 K/9, 3.3 BB/9) this season, and he has pitched significantly better in the second half than in the first, cutting his BB/9 by about a third.
By exercising the option, the Giants get Moore, and flexibility for 2019, at what appears to be a reasonable cost. They will effectively be able to retain Moore for one year and $9.75MM, giving them a price similar to those of recent contracts for free agents like Andrew Cashner and Bartolo Colon, whose futures looked questionable at the time their deals were signed. The Giants will also, of course, get an option that could turn out to be quite valuable.
Nonetheless, the Giants’ decision perhaps was not an automatic one, and not just because of Moore’s performance. The Giants already had north of $150MM committed for 2018, including salaries of $18MM or more for six players (assuming Johnny Cueto does not exercise his opt-out clause). Moore’s salary will add even more to their 2018 payroll.
3:13 pm: Vielma has been claimed by the Giants, Darren Wolfson of KSTP News reports via twitter.
The former Twins infield prospect adds a bit of depth to a Giants team that has been in dire need of a defensively-minded backup infielder lately. Both Kelby Tomlinson and Orlando Calixte have been underwhelming with the glove this season, so if Vielma can develop even a replacement-level offensive skillset, his defensive wizardry could make him a solid utility option for San Francisco.
2:54 pm: Recently-designated Twins infielder Engelb Vielma has been claimed off waivers by an unknown National League club, tweets Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
Vielma was designated for assignment by the Twins on Tuesday in order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for lefty reliever Gabriel Moya. The switch-hitting shortstop has yet play in the majors. In 314 plate appearances at AAA this year, he put up an unimpressive .206/.233/.260 batting line.
In spite of his poor hitting, it makes sense that an organization would have interest in Vielma. He has been rated as the Twins’ best defensive minor-league infielder for multiple years, and could serve as an excellent defensive replacement or utility option. It’s possible he could still carve out a path to the majors, but he’d need to make major improvements with the bat.
Vielma, a 23-year old native of Venezuela was first added to the Twins’ 40-man roster this past offseason in order to protect him from the rule five draft after he managed to get on base at a .344 clip between High-A and Double-A in 2016.
We previously checked in on the vesting option scenarios playing out around the game. In the interim, though, we learned of a previously unreported clause and also gathered quite a bit more information about which options will and will not vest.
Here’s where things stand with just two weeks to go:
- Greg Holland: It didn’t take long for the Rockies closer to finish thirty games, which triggered a clause that turned his $10MM mutual option into a $15MM player option. All indications are that Holland will spurn that payday (and the qualifying offer that will surely follow in close succession) to test the open market, but it affords him injury protection the rest of the way. Holland has already earned $9MM in bonus money. With six more games finished over the final two weeks of the season, he’d tack on another $2MM.
- Gio Gonzalez: After topping 180 frames in his most recent start, Gonzalez is now under contract for 2018 at $12MM. While he has hit a bit of a wall of late, that still looks like quite an appealing price for a pitcher that has worked to a 2.68 ERA on the year.
- Ian Kinsler: It was learned recently that Kinsler’s 2018 option actually has a somewhat convoluted vesting provision. He’s guaranteed to earn $11MM upon reaching 600 plate appearances. And if he takes home another Gold Glove award, he’ll earn another $1MM in 2018. The option is going to be picked up regardless, but the 35-year-old can make things official if he strides to the plate 49 more times between now and the end of the season. He’ll likely get there if he plays more or less every day over the next two weeks.
Will Not Vest
- Ricky Nolasco: It’s still theoretically possible that Nolasco can reach the 202 1/3 innings he needs to transform a $13MM club option into a player option, but with over forty to go that’s just not happening as a practical matter. Instead, he’ll likely receive a $1MM buyout on the option.
- Matt Cain: Cain is even more certain to receive a buyout; he’ll get a cool $7.5MM when the Giants say no to the alternative of paying $14MM more to keep him for another season. The veteran has compiled 119 1/3 innings of 5.66 ERA ball to this point, far shy of the volume or quality needed for that option to come into play. (It would have vested at 200 frames.)
- Hisashi Iwakuma: Though he needed only 125 innings for his $15MM vesting provision to be triggered, Iwakuma has managed just 31 to date and is still on the DL. Instead, the M’s will likely pay him a $1MM buyout rather than picking up his option at $10MM.
- Andre Ethier: Though he made it back from the DL, it was far too late for Ethier to lay claim to a $17.5MM salary for 2017. Since it’s impossible for him to make it to 550 plate appearances, he’ll instead receive a $2.5MM buyout when the Dodgers all but certainly decline the club option.
- Matt Garza: Garza will be controllable via a $5MM club option. He was not able to reach 110 total starts from 2014-17, so his option did not vest at $13MM. But he also did not miss 130 or more days of action on the DL this year, so he avoided a provision that would’ve left the Brewers with a $1MM option for 2018.
- J.J. Hardy: Also now back from the DL, Hardy returned far too late to reach the 600 plate appearances he’d have needed for a $14MM club option to become guaranteed. Instead, he’s destined to receive a $2MM buyout from the O’s this fall.
Veteran right-hander Ryan Vogelsong will formally retire as a member of the Giants this coming Sunday, the team announced via press release.
“We are so excited to honor Ryan and touched that as one of our home grown players his career will officially end where it all began for him,” said Giants GM Bobby Evans in a statement within the release. “Ryan’s journey in this game has been marked by highs and lows, successes and challenges, but through it all he has always been a person of great integrity, strong character and a fierce competitor. He is a World Series Champion and a forever Giant.”
The 40-year-old Vogelsong was in camp with the Twins back in Spring Training but didn’t make the big league club out of camp and hasn’t appeared in the Majors or minors during the 2017 regular season. While his final season the Majors came as a member of the Pirates — one of two big league teams for which Vogelsong ever played in parts of 12 big league campaigns — he’ll be most remembered as a San Francisco Giant.
Vogelsong was San Francisco’s fifth-round pick back in 1998 and ultimately went on to debut as a 22-year-old with the Giants back in 2000. He struggled through half of the 2001 season before being traded to the Pirates as part of that season’s Jason Schmidt trade. Vogelsong was ultimately unable to cement himself as a consistent member of the Pirates’ staff, and the Bucs cut him loose in 2006.
Vogelsong went on to spend parts of the next three seasons pitching in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and found enough success to get a look with the Phillies and Angels at the Triple-A level in 2010. However, neither club saw fit to bring him to the Majors, setting the stage for an improbable rise to prominence as a member of the team that first gave Vogelsong a chance in that 1998 draft.
In the 2010-11 offseason, Vogelsong rejoined the Giants on a minor league deal, and while few would’ve expected him to even surface in the Majors, he took things one step further by establishing himself as a key member of the Giants’ rotation. Vogelsong returned to the Majors with a flourish, tossing 179 2/3 innings with a 2.71 ERA, 7.0 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 en route to a few rogue Cy Young votes (11th place) and his lone All-Star nomination.
Vogelsong went on to play an instrumental role in the Giants’ 2012 and 2014 playoff rotations, and when all was said and done, his second tenure with the team resulted in 792 2/3 innings of 3.89 ERA ball with 7.1 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 and two World Series rings.
All told, Vogelsong’s career will come to a close with a 61-75 record, a 4.48 ERA, 6.8 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 over the life of 1190 Major League innings. Those numbers don’t include another 37 innings of 2.92 ERA with a 29-to-16 K/BB ratio for the Giants in the postseason. Vogelsong banked more than $20MM over the course of his 12-year playing career. Best wishes to him in his post-playing days.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
- It’s a safe bet that the Giants will exercise left-hander Matt Moore’s $9MM option for 2018 and retain his $10MM option for 2018 in the offseason, says Rosenthal. Although the 28-year-old Moore has recorded the NL’s highest ERA (5.31) through 162 2/3 innings this season, the Giants would rather bet on a bounce-back 2018 at a reasonable cost than subtract from their pitching depth. Buying Moore out would cost the Giants $1MM next year and $750K in 2019.
- Giants first baseman Brandon Belt has been out since Aug. 4 on account of a concussion, and the likelihood is that he won’t return this season, per Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area. While Belt has suffered four documented concussions during his career and is still having vision problems related to his latest brain injury, doctors have informed him he’ll make a full recovery. As such, the 29-year-old Belt insists his career isn’t in jeopardy. “It’s not like I’m repeatedly banging my head against something,” Belt told Pavlovic. “If that was the case, it might affect me more in the long term. This is more sporadic and the hits aren’t too terrible. Once I get over these concussions, they tell me that I won’t have to worry about them anymore.”
The news comes as no surprise, as Melancon and the team have made clear in recent weeks that he’d have a procedure at some point in the coming weeks. The procedure will address chronic compartment syndrome in the pronator muscle, which has long been a problem for the veteran hurler but increasingly bothered him during the 2017 season.
Melancon is expected to be able to resume throwing in about six to eight weeks’ time. That ought to give him plenty of time to rehab and get ready for a full camp next spring.
While the overall outlook seems to be pretty promising, it’s obviously still disappointing for the season to wrap up this way. Melancon, 32, has turned in only thirty innings of 4.50 ERA pitching on the year, far shy of what San Francisco expected when it promised him $62MM over four years.
On the positive side, his key peripherals do not appear to have changed all that much from his recent work, so there is at least some cause to hope that Melancon can make good on the contract once he’s back to full health. The Giants, who face a variety of other needs, have little choice but to hope that he can rediscover his form in 2018.
With just over three weeks remaining in the season, much of the focus in baseball is on the American League Wild Card race, historic winning streaks from the D-backs and Indians, and Giancarlo Stanton’s pursuit of 60 home runs. Fans and executives for a number of teams, though, are already beginning to look toward the future as they seek ways to remedy disappointing 2017 seasons that won’t result in a playoff berth.
With that in mind, MLBTR is re-launching its yearly Three Needs series, in which we’ll take a high-level look at a trio of pressing areas that need to be addressed on non-contenders with the offseason looming. We’ll take considerably deeper dives into each team’s flaws and possible avenues to improvement in our annual Offseason Outlook series, beginning next month, but this series will get the ball rolling for offseason content here at MLBTR.
In arbitrary fashion, the Giants are first up in 2017. With a 55-87 record, they need to go 8-12 down the stretch to avoid their first 100-loss season since 1985 and just the second season of triple-digit losses in the storied history of their franchise.
1. Outfield improvements, both on defense and offense. Much has been made of the Giants’ lack of power, particularly in the outfield. They’ve already been linked to Giancarlo Stanton on multiple occasions, but the Giants need more than a power upgrade in the outfield. (Moreover, gutting an already thin farm and taking on a significant portion of Stanton’s contract doesn’t seem especially prudent anyhow.)
San Francisco ranks dead last in the Majors in outfield Defensive Runs Saved, and they’re a bottom-three team in Ultimate Zone Rating as well. Denard Span shouldn’t be playing center field anymore, but he’s been at least a league-average hitter. If the Giants can find a way to trade him and/or Hunter Pence, it could go a long ways toward improving the 2018 roster by creating space for younger options and freeing up resources for free agency and trades.
That’s a tall order, though, and the Giants could be better off simply sliding Span into left field and pursuing a center fielder that can excel defensively while providing some offense. Lorenzo Cain will be a free agent that, at 32 years of age, won’t break the bank in terms of contract length. Adding another aging outfielder to the mix might not pay off in the long run, but the Giants are aiming to compete next season. One alternative would be paying down some of Span’s contract to flip him to a team with a left field need, then giving Austin Slater an earnest look in left field and perhaps adding a more cost-effective center field option. Jarrod Dyson would bring elite glovework into the fold, though he’d only exacerbate the team’s lack of power and would need to be paired with a right-handed-hitting platoon partner.
2. A dependable mid-rotation starter. Giants fans may perceive the bullpen to the bigger need — and it’s a need, to be sure — but the rotation as currently constituted has far too many question marks and not much in terms of readily apparent reinforcement options. Assuming Matt Moore’s improvements in the second half are enough for his option to be exercised, the Giants will deploy a rotation consisting of Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto (whose injury all but rules out an opt-out), Jeff Samardzija and Moore. Candidates for the remaining slot include Ty Blach, who has the worst strikeout and swinging-strike rates in MLB, and 27-year-old Chris Stratton, who struggled in Triple-A this year and has walked 23 batters in 45 1/3 MLB frames. Prospect Tyler Beede could eventually surface as an option, but he didn’t perform especially well in Triple-A and missed the final chunk of the season with a back injury. More time in Triple-A could benefit him while buying the Giants some extra club control.
The free-agent market will be fronted by Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta and possibly Masahiro Tanaka. The Giants may not be keen on spending at those levels with a number of other notable players on the wrong side of 30 still under contract, but the middle tier of arms has some solid names as well. Lance Lynn, Alex Cobb, Marco Estrada and Tyler Chatwood (who has been successful outside of Coors Field in his career) will all be on the open market, among others. As always, the trade market will feature myriad names that could step into the middle of the mix in San Francisco.
3. Infield depth, with a focus on third base. The Giants entered the year with Eduardo Nunez at third base, while Conor Gillaspie and Aaron Hill served as utility options. Korean star Jae-gyun Hwang headed to Triple-A with the hope that he could emerge as an option down the line. None of those players are with the organization anymore, leaving the re-signed Pablo Sandoval (who is in an 0-for-38 slump) and prospects Ryder Jones and Christian Arroyo as options at the hot corner. Neither Arroyo nor Jones has hit in the Majors yet. While both could emerge as long-term pieces eventually — Arroyo, in particular, has long been regarded as a quality prospect — neither has yet shown himself ready to handle regular duties for a (would-be) contender.
The Giants’ bench, too, is lacking in the way of infield depth. Kelby Tomlinson’s strikeout rate is a career-high 21.4 percent, and he hasn’t homered since 2015. Adding a player in the Jed Lowrie mold makes a good bit of sense for San Francisco. If Arroyo steps up and claims the third base role, a player of Lowrie’s skill set could easily slide into a utility role, potentially allowing him to spell Joe Panik and Brandon Crawford on occasion. (Panik has missed significant time with injuries in recent years, it’s also worth noting.) One option could be to re-sign Nunez, who enjoyed his time with the Giants and has said he’d be open to a return in free agency.