San Francisco Giants – MLB Trade Rumors Tue, 16 Oct 2018 05:27:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Giants’ GM Search Mon, 15 Oct 2018 14:52:34 +0000 At the end of a disappointing 2018 campaign, the Giants decided it was time to shake up the leadership of the baseball operations department. President of baseball operations Brian Sabean will work to find replacements for himself and Bobby Evans, who had held the general manager role. It’s the end of a successful era in San Francisco that culminated in three World Series championships in a five-year span. Whoever takes the reins will be put in charge of one of the game’s most venerable, highest-budget franchises, and tasked with implementing the strategic pitch that wins them the job.

Equal parts opportunity and challenge await a new ops boss. Here’s the latest on the search:

Latest Update — Oct. 15

  • The Giants have interviewed Diamondbacks senior vice president of baseball operations/assistant general manager Amiel Sawdaye, reports USA Today’s Bob Nightengale (via Twitter). The interview seemingly went well, as Nightengale adds that the 41-year-old Sawdaye is expected to be among the finalists for the position. Sawdaye has been with the D-backs in his current role for two seasons and was previously an integral part of the Red Sox’ front office, where he most recently oversaw the team’s international and amateur scouting efforts. During his time in that role, the Sox drafted the likes of Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Travis Shaw, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Matt Barnes.

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Bobby Evans On Giants, Other GM Jobs Mon, 08 Oct 2018 02:54:57 +0000
  • Former Giants GM Bobby Evans tells the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo that he would like to be considered for the other open general manager jobs around baseball, though since he still has 15 months remaining on his contract in San Francisco, he is happy to take on whatever role assigned by the Giants’ next baseball operations head.  Evans would also be understanding if the new GM would prefer if Evans left the organization.  The team’s decision to remove Evans from his former post caught him somewhat off-guard: “I think you’re always surprised when something like this happens because we’ve all worked so closely together for so long and we had three World Series championships together.”  Nevertheless, Evans said “the Giants were fantastic to me for 25 years,” and he defended his front office from the perception that it was somewhat behind in analytical implementation, noting that the team was already in the process of shifting from a traditional scouting-heavy approach to more analytics usage.
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    Poll: Which Is The Most Intriguing General Manager Job? Mon, 08 Oct 2018 01:27:23 +0000 After recently polling MLBTR’s readership about which of the six open managerial positions had the most to offer, it only follows that we ask the same question about the three general manager vacancies.

    For simplicity’s sake, let’s use “general manager” in this sense as the person in charge of a team’s baseball operations department, even if that official title could be something different (i.e. president of baseball ops) on a particular team.  If you’re a hypothetical executive who has multiple GM offers presented to them, deciding which job to take demands a big-picture view.  Which franchise has the most to offer a new GM in terms of resources, which range from everything from player payroll to front office staffing?  Would a GM have full control of baseball ops, or is there another rung above them on the organizational ladder?  Does a team already have some good players in place and is expecting to win, or is a rebuild under way, or will a rebuild be under way in the near future?

    With all these factors (and more) in mind, let’s take a look at the three open GM jobs…

    Mets: As disappointing as New York’s 2018 season was, this is still a team that boasts one of the game’s best pitching staffs, plus some intriguing young building blocks in Brandon Nimmo, Amed Rosario, and a healthy Michael Conforto.  If incumbent veterans like Yoenis Cespedes, Jay Bruce, and Todd Frazier can avoid the DL and regain some of their old productivity, the team’s lackluster lineup will already get a huge boost, not even factoring in what external additions can bring into the fold.  There is certainly opportunity for quick improvement in 2019, and since the team doesn’t have any payroll money guaranteed beyond the 2020 season, there’s plenty of room for extending in-house stars and adding some other notable salaries in trades or free agents.

    That’s the good news about the Mets job, though as any follower of New York’s sports media could tell you, there’s also quite a bit of bad news.  It’s still unknown how much financial flexibility the Mets actually have, as while team payroll has cracked the $150MM mark in each of the last two seasons, that’s still a modest figure for a club that plays in the New York market.  There’s also the open question about how much autonomy a general manager truly has within the organization, given how owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon are so often accused of taking a heavy hand with their input in the baseball operations department.  For instance, it’s unusual that an incoming GM would be inheriting three influence senior members of a team’s current front office staff, and there is uncertainty if a new GM would really be allowed to fire John Ricco, J.P. Riccardi, and/or Omar Minaya unless ownership allows it.  Manager Mickey Callaway is also staying on for 2019, so a new general manager wouldn’t even able to select their own preferred voice in the dugout.  It also might not help that the Wilpons themselves are reportedly looking for different things in a general manager, as Jeff prefers to hire a younger GM with an analytics background, while Fred wants a more experienced name from a scouting and personnel background.

    Giants: The main pro and the main con of the San Francisco job amount to the same thing — this is a team that expects to win.  Even if 2019 may be a season more focused on something of a rebuild-on-the-fly, there is little doubt that the franchise wants a turn-around after two straight losing seasons.  To this end, a new GM will have money to spend, as the Giants haven’t afraid of exceeding the luxury tax threshold in the past, and are now free for more big spending after (barely) getting payroll under the threshold this season to reset their escalating tax payment figure to zero.  There’s also no small amount of appeal in taking over one of baseball’s top-tier, most historically-rich franchises, and a team that has three World Series championships within the last decade.

    The downside, of course, is that taking over such a team means taking on a lot of pressure.  There may be more of a case that the Giants need a rebuild rather than a reload, given how many expensive veteran contracts are on the books.  (And how more veteran additions could be coming, if the Giants stick to their logic from last offseason.)  Madison Bumgarner, the Giants’ best asset, is also scheduled for free agency after the 2019 season, so the contention window may be particularly short unless Bumgarner can be extended, though the team is at least open to listening to a GM that would suggest Bumgarner be traded.

    There is also some question of autonomy within the chain of command, as long-time executive Brian Sabean is staying on in an upper-management role, plus Bruce Bochy is being retained as manager.  Team CEO Larry Baer has said, however, that the new baseball operations head will be reporting to him, and will have the freedom add new faces to the front office mix.  This could be a situation where the “new GM” is really a president of baseball operations, with a general manager also hired in a secondary role to handle day-to-day duties.

    Orioles: The cleanest slate of the three jobs, the Orioles are undergoing a change in direction at the very top of the organization, as John and Louis Angelos take over ownership duties from their father, Peter.  It remains to be seen how the Angelos brothers’ style will differ from that of Peter Angelos’ style, though there has already been some indication that the Orioles are adopting a more standard approach to baseball operations (such as a new willingness to spend on international players).  It also isn’t clear if a new GM will have the full autonomy that the team’s recent media release claims, or if incumbent VP of baseball operations Brady Anderson will still have a major voice in the decision-making process.

    This all being said, while it might take some years for a general manager to remake the Mets or Giants in their own image, the new Orioles GM can put their big stamp on the organization as early as this offseason.  Rather than navigate pre-existing payroll hurdles or expectations of contention, the new Orioles only has to focus on rebuilding for the next several years.  As low as the Orioles sunk in 2018, the lure of a total rebuild could be enticing to many candidates — Blue Jays baseball ops VP Ben Cherington, for one, would seemingly only leave his position in Toronto “to build an organization from the ground up,” according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.  A new general manager also has something of a head start on the rebuilding process due to the number of young talents acquired by former baseball operations executive VP Dan Duquette in the trade deadline deals of Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Kevin Gausman, Darren O’Day, Brad Brach, and Jonathan Schoop.

    (poll link for app users)

    Joe Panik Discusses Rough Season Sun, 07 Oct 2018 15:09:27 +0000
  • Fresh off a rough season, Giants second baseman Joe Panik’s future in San Francisco is uncertain, considering the team’s next head of baseball operations may opt for someone else at the keystone, Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports California observes. Panik realizes as much, telling Pavlovic: “It’s all about whoever comes in and who they feel is the best fit for the organization going forward. You hope it’s you, but at the end of the day, it’s not your call.” Although the soon-to-be 28-year-old Panik batted a non-threatening .254/.307/.332 (75 wRC+) with four home runs in 392 plate appearances this season, he’s likely to score upward of $5MM during his second-last arb trip during the winter, Pavlovic writes. That’d be a solid raise over the $3.45MM Panik pulled in this year. As for his disappointing 2018, during which he missed time with thumb and groin injuries, Panik offered: “Once I went down with the thumb, I feel like I could just never get it back. It’s hard to explain to people … when your season is kind of choppy and broken up, it’s hard to sometimes find your rhythm. But when it comes down to it, you still have to find a way.”
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    Giants Not Yet Hurt By Returns For McCutchen, Longoria Sat, 06 Oct 2018 20:56:07 +0000
  • The Giants haven’t yet been bit by the returns for offseason acquisitions Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria, writes Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area.  The McCutchen trade was dually headlined by reliever Kyle Crick, whose substantially improved command still falls short of the threshold for sustained success, and outfield prospect Bryan Reynolds, who turned in a solid, if unspectacular season as an old-for-the-level 23-year-old for Double-A Altoona.  Reynolds, who dealt with hamate issues at the beginning of the season, still faces questions about his ability to stay in center field and whether or not he’ll possess enough thump should he be confined to a corner.  For Longoria, the Rays’ lot was headlined by the 23-year-old Christian Arroyo, who again struggled this season after a disastrous MLB debut in 2017.  Arroyo’s strikeout rate ballooned to a career-high 27.1% at Triple-A Durham, and his coveted versatility won’t much matter if he continues to be inept at the plate.
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    Ben Cherington Won't Interview For Giants' GM Job Thu, 04 Oct 2018 20:25:47 +0000 2:34pm: The Mets haven’t yet contacted Dan Duquette, though he is expected to receive an interview with the team, Mike Puma of the New York Post writes.  As a further detail about Cherington, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter link) that he also removed himself from consideration for the Giants’ search. Cherington is open to GM opportunities but would prefer the opportunity to “build an organization from the ground up,” per Rosenthal.

    Cherington won a World Series during his tenure as Boston’s general manager (covering the 2012 season to August 2015), and joined the Jays in September 2016.  He was linked to previous front office vacancies with the Twins and Braves over the last two years, though declined offers to interview for those positions; the Giants are also reportedly interested in Cherington for their current GM opening.

    Giants Interested In Byrnes, Bloom, Arnold As GM Candidates Thu, 04 Oct 2018 18:46:05 +0000
  • Rays senior VP of baseball operations Chaim Bloom, Brewers assistant GM Matt Arnold, and former Padres and D’Backs GM Josh Byrnes are under consideration from the Mets and Giants for their general manager positions.  Reports from last summer indicated that Byrnes was likely to stay in his current role as the Dodgers’ VP of baseball ops, though it isn’t known if his stance has changed.

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    Blue Jays Interested In David Bell As Managerial Candidate Thu, 04 Oct 2018 16:07:31 +0000
  • The Blue Jays are considering Giants VP of player development David Bell and MLB Network analyst Dave Valle as part of their managerial search, as per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal (Twitter links).  As Rosenthal notes, Bell is also a candidate for the Reds’ manager position, and has been mentioned as a potential successor to Bruce Bochy in San Francisco.  Before becoming the Giants’ farm director, Bell worked for the Cardinals as a bench coach and assistant hitting coach, the Cubs as a third base coach, and as a manager for the Reds’ Double-A and Triple-A affiliates.  Valle would be something of an outside-the-box choice, as his only pro managing or coaching experience was one season managing Seattle’s A-ball affiliate in 2014.  Since wrapping up his 13-year playing career in 1996, Valle has been a TV and radio broadcaster for the Mariners, as well as a broadcaster for MLB Network since 2009.
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    Giants Notes: GM Search, Pence, Hundley, Holland Mon, 01 Oct 2018 04:15:39 +0000 Some items out of San Francisco…

    • Royals assistant GM Scott Sharp, Brewers assistant GM Matt Arnold, and Blue Jays VP of baseball operations Ben Cherington have all been linked to the Giants’ general manager position, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes.  Going into more detail on Cherington, Cafardo believes Cherington’s use of both traditional scouting and modern analytics makes him an ideal all-around candidate for both the Giants and Mets jobs, as Cherington is reportedly also under consideration in New York.
    • Hunter Pence may have played his last game in a Giants uniform on Sunday, but the veteran outfielder tells reporters (including Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area) that he isn’t ready to retire.  In fact, he said he plans to “reinvent myself” after two unproductive seasons; Pence intends to overhaul his swing this offseason, and is planning a winter ball stint in Mexico or the Dominican Republic.  “I feel strong, I feel healthy, I feel fast. I’m going to work on flexibility and changing my swing completely.  I want to still play. It’s uncertain — hopefully I can find an opportunity, and I’m going to look for it,” Pence said.
    • Free agents Derek Holland and Nick Hundley are both hoping to return to the Giants in 2019, the duo told reporters (including NBC Sports Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic).  Holland signed a minor league deal last February but will command a much more significant commitment this winter after posting a 3.57 ERA, 8.9 K/9, and 2.52 K/BB rate over 171 1/3 innings.  He’d be a nice addition to the Giants’ rotation if the price is right, given how many lingering injury questions remain within the team’s pitching staff.  Hundley has spent the last two years with the Giants as Buster Posey’s backup, and Pavlovic notes that the team would prefer a veteran backup presence behind the plate given that Posey will be recovering from hip surgery.
    Giants Notes: Bumgarner, Posey, Duggar Sun, 30 Sep 2018 23:23:15 +0000
  • The Giants are open minded with what to do with ace Madison Bumgarner as they seek a new baseball operations leader, CEO Larry Baer suggested Sunday. The team “does not plan to dictate a timetable for contention or major decisions such as trading or keeping” Bumgarner, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. Instead, the Giants will listen to the candidates’ opinions on the best course of action in regards to Bumgarner, who’s only under control for another year. As for longtime battery mate Buster Posey, the soon-to-be 32-year-old will remain behind the plate when he returns from hip surgery next season – perhaps as early as Opening Day, per Schulman. “There’s been no discussion about him playing any other position,” executive vice president Brian Sabean said. “He’s our franchise player and he wants to catch.”
  • More on the Giants, who plan to go into next season with Steven Duggar as their Opening Day center fielder, Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic tweets. The 24-year-old got his first taste of major league action this season and hit a below-average .255/.303/.390 (87 wRC+) in 152 plate appearances, though he did account for four Defensive Runs Saved and a 1.4 Ultimate Zone Rating in 345 innings as a center fielder. Baseball America (subscription required) ranks Duggar as the Giants’ sixth-best prospect.
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    Top Five Trade Candidates: NL West Sat, 29 Sep 2018 22:19:32 +0000 With the season nearing its end, and the teams who fell short of playoff contention well into their offseason preparations, it’s a good time to scan around the league and take a look at the top five trade candidates in each division.

    We’ll start in the NL West, which features two of the most intriguing targets in baseball:

    1. Nolan Arenado, Rockies: Arenado, 27, will enter his final year of arbitration in 2019 as one of the most decorated performers in club history.  He was the MVP frontrunner in the season’s first half, smashing out of the gate to a .312/.395/.586 line in the lead-up to his fourth consecutive all-star appearance.  Though he slumped to a near league-average line after the break, and his usual vacuum-like defense wasn’t always on display, Arenado is arguably the league’s most consistent performer over the last four seasons, where his 20.5 fWAR ranks third in the National League, and his 629 games played is tied for fifth among all performers.  Colorado, loath for years to deal from their lot of established contributors and minor league riches, may have to acquiesce here: the club has already shelled out massive deals to 30-somethings Charlie Blackmon, Ian Desmond, and Wade Davis, and has scores of dead money buried in aging relievers Mike Dunn, Jake McGee, and Bryan Shaw.  Fitting Arenado into the books would leave precious little space with which to maneuver; a monster haul, however, could set them right back on a division-pacing track.
    2. Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks: Goldschmidt, 31, has rebounded from an awful start to the season to yet again place himself among the league’s best: his 145 wRC+ almost exactly mirrors his career average, and his 5.1 fWAR is the fourth consecutive season in which he’s eclipsed the 5.0 mark.  The Diamondbacks, though, are a in a precarious position – a mostly barren farm seems to preclude any major upgrades, and the club boasted little in the way of unexpected production from under-the-radar performers this year.  Plus, there’s the departing free agents – a dominant Patrick Corbin, who figures to parlay his bat-missing ways into a huge contract this offseason, and A.J. Pollock, whose steady performance when healthy will surely not go unnoticed.  The mid-market club is still saddled, too, by Zack Greinke’s behemoth deal, and doesn’t figure to fit both Goldschmidt – who’ll hit free agency after the club picks up his $14.5MM option for ’19 – and the veteran hurler on the books without severely compromising the team’s flexibility moving forward.  A wide-ranging infusion of talent seems just what Arizona needs this offseason.
    3. Joc Pederson, Dodgers: Pederson, 26, has quietly put together another stellar season, slicing his strikeout rate for the fourth consecutive year (to a career-low 19%) and delivering 2.7 fWAR in just 436 PAs.  But he remains unplayable against lefties (60 career wRC+), and his center-field defense, over the last two seasons, has earned mostly subpar reviews.  Still, he’s a fierce power threat against right-handers, offers quality defense in a corner, and has shown an aptitude for plate-discipline adjustments not often seen in exploitable power bats.  With a healthy Corey Seager set to return in ’19, Max Muncy, and Cody Bellinger, the platoon-happy Dodgers figure to have more than enough left-side thump to go around: perhaps moving the second-time arbitration-eligible Pederson for bullpen help and/or rotation depth will be a priority come November.
    4. Brandon Belt, Giants:  No player in the division seems in more desperate need of a scenery change than Belt, who is routinely harangued by his fanbase for a supposed lack of power, propensity for the fluke injury, and a perceived failure in the ’clutch.’  Belt, 30, has done little but produce when on the field, though, pairing elite first-base defense (his 13 DRS – in just 112 games – was tied for the league lead among 1B this season) with sky-high walk rates and steady gap power (limited, perhaps, by the cavernous right-field at AT&T Park) to cement himself as above-average regular (12.2 fWAR in limited time since the beginning of ’15 ) at the position.  His contract – he’s owed $48MM through the end of the 2021 season – and recent injury history (a meniscus issue that precipitated a second-half decline) may give some teams pause, but the retooling Giants should net a significant return if they’re willing to eat a little cash.
    5. Robbie Ray, Diamondbacks: Ray, 27 on Monday, seems the perfect target for a team that leans heavily on the bullpen: he rarely makes its past the 6th inning, preferring instead to max out with the heater (his 94.1 MPH average fastball velocity ranks third among left-handers since the start of the 2016 season) and a wipeout breaking ball mix that’s allowed him to post the league’s second highest strikeout total (11.70) over the same frame.  With two years of arbitration eligibility left, the man with the 85 xFIP- over the last three seasons (good for 22nd in baseball) is sure to bring back an attractive return from a data hungry team with bat-missing preferences.
    NL Notes: Kang, Kennedy, Giants, Wainwright Sat, 29 Sep 2018 13:57:59 +0000 The Pirates will be faced with a decision on Jung Ho Kang’s 2019 option this offseason, but GM Neal Huntington tells Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic that Kang’s performance in this weekend series won’t have an impact on the outcome (subscription required). “Truth be told, there’s not going to be a whole lot of value in the evaluation process of a one-game or a one-plus-game look,” said Huntington. Biertempfel notes, though, that the late promotion could earn a bit of good will with Kang’s camp in the event that the team elects to buy out his $5.5MM option and try to bring him back into the fold for a few million less than that. There’s been no indication one way or another as to how the Pirates plan on proceeding, though the very fact that he was brought up to the Majors at all indicates that they’re not totally closed off to the possibility of continuing the relationship in spite of Kang’s legal troubles over the past few seasons.

    Here’s more from the National League…

    • Padres right-hander Brett Kennedy underwent knee surgery that will sideline him for the first six weeks of the offseason, tweets AJ Cassavell of However, Kennedy is still expected to be able to have a largely normal offseason program, and the operation isn’t expected to impact his availability for the 2019 campaign. Kennedy, 24, didn’t impress in six starts with the Friars this season, working to a 6.75 ERA in 26 2/3 innings. However, the 2015 11th-rounder fired off 89 1/3 innings of 2.72 ERA ball with 8.1 K/9, 2.3 BB/9 and a 52.6 percent ground-ball rate in an extremely hitter-friendly setting with the Padres’ El Paso affiliate in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. He posted solid numbers at Double-A in 2017 and at Class-A Advanced in 2016, and with multiple minor league options remaining beyond 2018, he’ll have ample opportunity to cement himself as part of the San Diego pitching staff in come capacity over the next few seasons.
    • The Giants’ search for a new general manager and/or president of baseball operations isn’t expected to be a quick one, tweets Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. The process could take several weeks as Giants leadership interviews a wide range of candidates with varying backgrounds. Notably, Schulman adds that the Giants aren’t set on hiring any one specific type of executive (e.g. analytically inclined, traditional scouting background, etc.) and seem to be embarking on this process with an open-minded approach.
    • With the Cardinals on the brink of elimination, Derrick Gould of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch notes the uncertain future of Adam Wainwright, who may have made his final start yesterday for the only MLB team he’s ever known. Wainwright’s a free agent at season’s end, and while he spent most of the season sidelined by elbow soreness, he’s rebounded in September to pitch admirably for St. Louis. His 4.84 ERA across his past four starts may not look pretty, but his 3.20 FIP and stunning 6.25 K/BB ratio points to a much more effective pitcher than the version of Wainwright the world had seen across the rest of the past three seasons. Teammate Yadier Molina, for what it’s worth, doesn’t seem to think it’s the last time the two will be batterymates, saying he’s “confident” about that. “It may have been,” Wainwright himself said. “It doesn’t feel like it is. For whatever reason. I haven’t had those emotions. The way I’m feeling now, if that is my last start here it would be kind of hard to walk away knowing the way I’m feeling right now.”
    Past, Present & Future: National League Closer Turnover Fri, 28 Sep 2018 22:40:26 +0000 While a new breed of pitcher, one who can rack up holds, strikeouts and throw multiple innings, is beginning to emerge as an integral role on a baseball roster, becoming the “closer” is still the ultimate goal for a Major League relief pitcher. The closer gets the entrance music. The closer gets the congratulatory hug from the catcher after the third out, followed by handshakes from every teammate. Closers get paid! Most importantly, being the closer usually means that your manager trusts you above all other pitchers in that bullpen.

    Give up a lead in the seventh or eighth inning and your team still has a chance to pick you up. The later in the game a players fails, the better chance that mistake will stand out to anyone watching. It will be in the headlines. Fantasy Baseball owners will want to know who is “next in line.”  And for a team that has fought tooth and nail to get to the ninth inning with a lead, it can be debilitating if the last pitcher standing can’t close things out. Managers don’t have much patience for blown saves, either. There is a lot of pressure and a lot of turnover, which is why most teams won’t have the same closer in September as they did on Opening Day.

    Here’s a look back at each National League team’s closer situation on Opening Day versus where they are now and where they will be as they head into the offseason. (We ran through the American League earlier this week.)

    [Related: MLB closer depth chart at Roster Resource]

    Arizona Diamondbacks Diamondbacks Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Brad Boxberger
    September 2018: Committee — Yoshihisa Hirano, Archie Bradley, Boxberger

    Future Outlook: The Diamondbacks opted to keep their best reliever, Bradley, in a setup role while plugging offseason acquisition Boxberger into the closer’s role. For the majority of the season, things went according to plan. That duo, along with Hirano and lefties Andrew Chafin and T.J. McFarland, were a strength on a team that led the NL West on September 1. But as the bullpen has fallen apart over the past few weeks, the team has quickly descended in the standings and fallen out of the playoff hunt.

    As a result, the D-backs will head into the offseason with their closer situation somewhat up in the air. Overall, Boxberger, Bradley and Hirano have each been mostly effective and can still be counted on as valuable late-inning relievers. The D-backs will need to decide if they want add a better ninth inning option, though with numerous holes to fill as key players like A.J. Pollock and Patrick Corbin depart via free agency, the team could decide it has bigger needs.

    Atlanta Braves Braves Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Arodys Vizcaino
    September 2018: Arodys Vizcaino

    Future Outlook: Vizcaino was entrenched as the Braves’ closer to start the season, and he’s seemingly back in as the Braves prepare for their first playoff series since 2013. A.J. Minter proved to be a capable fill-in during both of Vizcaino’s disabled list stints. For a time, he even appeared to be more of a co-closer with a healthy Vizcaino on the roster, presenting a very formidable righty-lefty combination in the late innings.

    With a solid group of relievers, including Minter, Jesse Biddle, Shane Carle and Dan Winkler, all under contract for next season and the chance that one or two of their enticing young prospects could help out of the ’pen, the Braves appear to be in good shape in 2019. They could be tempted, however, to bring back free agent Craig Kimbrel, who had 186 saves, four All-Star appearances and won the NL Rookie of the Year award during a five-year stint with the team from 2010-2014.

    Chicago Cubs Cubs Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Brandon Morrow
    September 2018: Committee — Jesse Chavez, Jorge De La Rosa, Steve Cishek, etc.

    Future Outlook: The offseason signing of Morrow came with significant risk due to his long history of injuries and a heavy postseason workload (14 appearances) with the Dodgers in 2017. And while the Cubs did their best not to overuse him—he made back-to-back appearances just six times and pitched on three consecutive days only once—his season ended in mid-July due to a bone bruise in his elbow and biceps inflammation.

    Pedro Strop was up to the task as the fill-in closer—he had a 1.77 ERA and 11 saves in 13 chances after Morrow went on the disabled list—but a strained hamstring ended his regular season on September 13. He could return for the playoffs. In the meantime, the Cubs have been mixing and matching in the late innings, at times relying on journeymen like Chavez and De La Rosa as they try to hold off the Brewers in the NL Central race.

    Morrow and Strop will be back in the picture in 2018—Strop’s $6.25MM club option will almost certainly be exercised—as will setup men Carl Edwards Jr. and Cishek. Finding a left-hander who can close, if necessary, might be on the team’s agenda. Zach Britton could be a target if that’s the case.

    Cincinnati Reds | Reds Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Raisel Iglesias
    September 2018: Raisel Iglesias

    Future Outlook: Iglesias has had three consecutive good seasons out of the bullpen with 63 saves in 71 opportunities. The Reds, however, have been in last place with less than 70 wins in each of those years, making Iglesias’ contributions less significant.

    If the Reds are confident that they can be a much better team in 2019, it makes perfect sense to hold on to the 28-year-old right-hander—he’s under team control through 2021—and make him available via trade only if they fall out of contention during the season. Since he’s been able to stay healthy as a relief pitcher—not to mention that there is no clear “next in line” closer in the organization—they’re be better off leaving things as they are rather than experimenting with a move back to the rotation. The ninth inning should belong to Iglesias again come Opening Day 2019.

    Colorado Rockies Rockies Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Wade Davis
    September 2018: Wade Davis

    Future Outlook: Despite a few rough patches along the way, the 33-year-old Davis has 42 saves for the first-place Rockies and has been on a roll when it counts the most. In his last 17 appearances, he’s 10-for-10 in save chances with 23 strikeouts in 17 innings and only one earned run allowed.

    Davis is still guaranteed $36MM over the next two seasons—he’ll also get another $14MM in 2021 if he finishes 30 games in 2020—so his mid-season struggles and continued decrease in fastball velocity (95.9 MPH in ’15; 94.9 MPH in ’16, 94.3 MPH in ’17; 93.8 MPH in ’18) are a concern. He has done enough to hold on to the closing job for 2019, but it would be a good idea to have a backup plan in place. Adam Ottavino, the team’s most valuable reliever with a 2.47 ERA, six saves and 33 holds, will be a free agent after the season. Re-signing him or replacing him with a top free agent will be difficult considering that Jake McGee and Bryan Shaw, both disappointments thus far, signed $27MM contracts last offseason. They could rely heavily on Seunghwan Oh, who recently had his $2.5MM option vest for 2019 and has been very good since being acquired from Toronto in July.

    Los Angeles Dodgers Dodgers Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Kenley Jansen
    September 2018: Kenley Jansen

    Future Outlook: Jansen allowed six earned runs with two blown saves and a loss in his first seven appearances of 2018. He missed 13 days in August due to an irregular heart beat that will likely require offseason surgery. Upon his return, he allowed seven earned runs with two losses and a blown save over four appearances. And yet, the 30-year-old right-hander has 37 saves and a sub-3.00 ERA for a Dodgers team that is fighting for a playoff spot as we head into the last weekend of the regular season.

    Jansen’s occasional struggles on the mound and health concerns only magnified the team’s inability to replace Morrow, who was their primary setup man and bullpen workhorse last post-season. Setup relievers seem likely to be an area of focus this winter, and the Dodgers will be keeping their fingers crossed that Jansen comes back strong in what will be year three of a five-year, $80MM contract.

    Miami Marlins Marlins Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Brad Ziegler
    September 2018: Co-Closers — Drew Steckenrider and Adam Conley

    Future Outlook: It’s not clear why the rebuilding Marlins stuck with the veteran Ziegler through a rocky two-month stint as the closer to begin the season. Even though he had just one blown save in 10 chances when he was removed from the role, he had an ERA near 8.00 and Kyle Barraclough, next in line, had a 1.48 ERA. If they had any reluctance to turn it over to Barraclough, he showed why that might’ve been the case by losing the job two months later.

    After locking down all seven save chances while allowing just one hit over 12 scoreless innings in June, Barraclough fell apart in July. Over his next 13 appearances, he blew four saves and allowed 14 earned runs in 10 2/3 innings before the Marlins decided on a closer-by-committee approach in early August. Steckenrider and Conley lead the team with four and two saves, respectively, since Barraclough was removed from the closer’s role. Both pitchers have an ERA over 5.00 in the second half, however, so it’s very likely that the team will look to find a more reliable option during the offseason.

    Milwaukee Brewers Brewers Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Corey Knebel
    September 2018: Committee — Knebel, Jeremy Jeffress, Josh Hader

    Future Outlook: Knebel suffered a hamstring injury during his third appearance of the season, forcing him to the disabled list for a month. By the time he returned, Hader and Jeffress had each established that they were more than capable of picking up the slack if Knebel could not return to his 2017 form. And this did prove to be the case. The 26-year-old Knebel, sharing the closer’s role with Hader and Jeffress, had a 5.08 ERA through August 31st. September has been a different story, however, as Knebel has allowed just four hits and three walks over 13 1/3 scoreless innings with 26 strikeouts. Regardless of how things go in the playoffs, the Brewers appear set with the same trio of late-inning relievers heading into 2019.

    New York Mets Mets Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Jeurys Familia
    September 2018: Committee — Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Anthony Swarzak

    Future Outlook: The return of Familia, who missed time in 2017 due to a 15-game suspension and a three-and-a-half month-stint on the disabled list, was supposed to help propel the Mets back into playoff contention. While things have not gone swimmingly for the Mets, Familia’s comeback has actually gone quite well. He posted a 2.88 ERA with 17 saves for the Mets, was traded to Oakland in July and should be headed for a decent payday in free agency this offseason.

    The Mets, coincidentally, will likely be in the market for a closer, although it’s not known whether they or Familia would be open to a reunion. Gsellman has held his own as the primary closer, saving eight of nine games since Familia’s departure, but probably isn’t the long-term answer. Lugo has been terrific out of the ’pen, although his best role could be as a multi-inning setup man for whoever the team’s next closer will be.

    Philadelphia Phillies Phillies Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Hector Neris
    September 2018: Committee – Neris, Seranthony Dominguez, Tommy Hunter, etc.

    Future Outlook: Neris was 8-for-10 in save chances with three losses and an ERA over 5.00 in mid-May when manager Gabe Kapler declared that he would no longer have a set closer. It didn’t take long for rookie Seranthony Dominguez to emerge as the most significant part of the group, pitching 14 2/3 scoreless innings with only two hits allowed, no walks and 16 strikeouts to begin his MLB career. He would falter as the season progressed, though, leaving Kapler to rely more on veterans Hunter and Pat Neshek down the stretch.

    Considering that Dominguez was a starting pitching prospect with no experience in the upper minors prior to the 2018 season, it wouldn’t be a stretch to think he can take a big leap forward and solidify the closer’s job for a full season. But with expectations for the Phillies likely to be in the high-to-extremely-high range, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Phillies pursue a more established free agent to close out games.

    Pittsburgh Pirates Pirates Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Felipe Vazquez
    September 2018: Felipe Vazquez

    Future Outlook: Vazquez signed a $22MM contract extension in the offseason and changed his name in April. By the end of May, Vazquez had an ERA near 5.00 and four blown saves. There wasn’t the normal negative buzz that surrounds most closers after blowing a save or two, though. He had only allowed an earned run in four of 24 appearances and the Pirates were playing much better than expected. He was also dealing with forearm discomfort and, of course, was one of the most dominant relief pitchers in baseball in 2017. He earned that long leash. Over his last 44 appearances, the 27-year-old lefty has a 1.77 ERA and 26 saves in 27 chances. Yep– still one of the most dominant relievers in baseball.

    With three games to go, Vazquez is two appearances shy of reaching at least 70 games for the third consecutive season. He pitched both ends of a double-header twice in 2018 and pitched three consecutive days on three occasions, including two days after experiencing the forearm pain. The acquisition of Keone Kela and the emergence of Kyle Crick and Richard Rodriguez as reliable setup men should help ease Vazquez’s workload in 2019.

    San Diego Padres Padres Depth Chart 

    Opening Day 2018: Brad Hand
    September 2018: Kirby Yates

    Future Outlook: While Hand’s offseason contract extension removed any sense of urgency that the Padres had to trade him, it also made him a much more valuable trade chip. After saving 24 games and posting a 3.05 ERA with 13.2 K/9 in 41 appearances, Hand was traded to the Indians for catcher Francisco Mejia, one of the top prospects in baseball. Yates stepped into the closer’s role, although there was a decent chance that it would be a short stint with 12 days to go until the non-waiver trade deadline and several contending teams potentially interested in acquiring him. The 31-year-old stayed put, though, giving him an extended opportunity to prove himself as an MLB closer. He’s passed the test with flying colors, saving 10 games in 11 chances—he has 12 saves overall—while continuing to strike out more than 12 batters per nine innings.

    The Padres, who currently have 95 losses, aren’t likely to build a legitimate playoff contender during the offseason. However, they’re far enough into their rebuild that they’ll want to go into 2019 with a team that can at least be .500. In that case, holding on to Yates would be smart, although general manager A.J. Preller will surely be willing to pull the trigger on a deal if a team meets his asking price.

    San Francisco Giants Giants Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Hunter Strickland
    September 2018: Will Smith

    Future Outlook: With Mark Melancon on the disabled list to begin the season, the Giants turned to Strickland as their closer. For the most part, he did a fine job, but his days as a closer swiftly came to an end, at least for the near future, on June 18th. Strickland entered the game with a two-run lead over the Marlins, an ERA just over 2.00 and 13 saves in 16 chances. After allowing three earned runs in the eventual 5-4 loss, he punched a door in frustration and fractured his hand. Upon returning in mid-August, Smith had 10 saves and a strong grasp on the closer’s gig.

    Smith will likely be the front-runner to keep the job in ’19 with Melancon also firmly in the mix given his experience and his sizable contract (four years, $62MM). He’s not quite back to his pre-injury form, but Melancon has a 3.08 ERA in 40 appearances.

    St. Louis Cardinals Cardinals Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Committee — Dominic Leone, Tyler LyonsBud Norris
    September 2018: Carlos Martinez

    Future Outlook: The committee was supposed to be temporary while Greg Holland, who signed a one-year contract in late March, worked his way back into shape with a Minor League stint. Holland, though, was brought to the Majors before he was ready and never looked right with the Cardinals. He walked four in his St. Louis debut and never quite recovered. Norris, as he did in 2017 with the Angels, quickly separated himself from the other closer options and proved to be a steady force in the ninth inning with 28 saves and a sub-3.00 ERA through August. The 33-year-old ran out of gas, though, forcing the team to use a temporary committee in early September. Martinez, who returned from a disabled list stint to pitch out of the bullpen in late August, has emerged as the team’s primary closer as they fight for a Wild Card spot.

    It’s highly unlikely that Martinez, the Cardinals’ Opening Day starter, will remain in the bullpen beyond this season. Barring any injury concerns, he’s just too good as a starting pitcher. Rookie Jordan Hicks, who has dazzled with his 100+ MPH sinking fastball, is a good bet to be the team’s closer at some point. It’s just not certain that the Cardinals will trust him enough at the beginning of the 2019 campaign, which could put them in the market for a stop-gap closer this offseason.

    Washington Nationals Nationals Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Sean Doolittle
    September 2018: Sean Doolittle

    Future Outlook: Doolittle was the Nationals’ closer on Opening Day, an NL All-Star selection in July, and he’s the Nationals’ closer as we enter the last weekend of the regular season. You’d figure things went pretty well for the Nats in 2018. But you’d be wrong.

    A stress reaction in Doolittle’s foot forced him out of the All-Star game and out of action for a majority of the second half. When he returned in September, the Nats were out of the playoff chase. Five different relievers, including Kelvin Herrera, picked up saves while Doolittle was out. Brandon KintzlerRyan Madson and Shawn Kelley were all traded, and Herrera suffered a season-ending foot injury in late August.

    Doolittle will be back in 2019—his $6MM club option will surely be exercised—and should jump right back into the ninth-inning role unless the Nats make a bold acquisition for another closer. In all likelihood, they’ll bring in another veteran setup man to help out a group that includes Koda Glover and Justin MillerGreg Holland is one possibility. He has been a pleasant surprise since signing with the team in early August (0.89 ERA in 23 appearances) .

    Nate Jones (if $4.65MM club option is declined)
    Joe Kelly
    Craig Kimbrel
    Ryan Madson
    Andrew Miller
    Fernando Rodney (if $4.25MM club option is declined)
    Sergio Romo
    Trevor Rosenthal
    Joakim Soria (if $10MM mutual option is declined)
    NL West Rumors: D-Backs, Pence, CarGo, Galvis Fri, 28 Sep 2018 16:08:14 +0000 Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic breaks down the tough choices facing the Diamondbacks this winter. Taking another crack at contention would mean filling several needs. It’d also come with some clear risks. As Piecoro well explains: “For years, the Diamondbacks have had just enough talent to want to keep pushing forward, but not enough to seriously contend for a World Series. And, it seems, each time they’ve tried to load up, they’ve only set themselves back further from a possible championship.” It’s a really interesting initial look at the complicated situation, including some takes from rival executives from around the game.

    More from the NL West:

    • The Giants are expected to wish a fond farewell this weekend to outfielder Hunter Pence, as Kerry Crowley of The Mercury News writes. He’ll get a prominent place on the lineup card, but that’s not solely honorary. Pence has turned in a bit of a late charge, after all, and the Giants still have a consolation prize (keeping the rival Dodgers from a division title) to play for. So, is this the end for Pence? That still seems unclear. He says he’ll “treat it just like I treat every game. You never know your whole career even when you’re young, it could be your last game.”
    • It could soon also be the end of the line for Carlos Gonzalez with the Rockies, as Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post recently explored. Understandably, the veteran outfielder is focused on finishing out what could be a special season for the Colorado organization. He has been getting less opportunities of late, which seems likely to be the prelude to a departure via free agency this winter. Whether or not that’ll come to pass, CarGo (much like Pence) says he’ll continue to “try to take advantage every night” of the chance to suit up. Soon to turn 33, Gonzalez carries a .276/.329/.463 slash line through 489 plate appearances — good for an approximately league-average overall output once adjusted for park effects and league context.
    • Finally, we’ll turn to yet another pending free agent. While the Padres’ youth movement is the primary hope for the franchise, the team still needs to fill roles. That could conceivably lead to a reunion with shortstop Freddy Galvis. As AJ Cassavell of writes, Galvis has been on a tear at the plate to end the season. And it seems he has generally left a good impression. While fans are pining for Fernando Tatis Jr., skipper Andy Green notes that there are reasons to like the idea of a return for Galvis. Tatis, after all, still has some seasoning left. That leave room at short to open the year, at least, in addition to the possibility that Galvis “could bounce around,” as Green put it. Of course, the veteran infielder is also likely to test the waters to see whether he can pull down more money or a better opportunity elsewhere. He’ll be among several glove-first veterans hitting the open market.
    Giants Notes: Front Office, Bochy, Holland Wed, 26 Sep 2018 16:24:13 +0000 The Giants’ recent front-office shakeup is designed to “bring a new approach to Giants baseball,” CEO Larry Baer explained in the wake of the firing of GM Bobby Evans. As Kerry Crowley of the Mercury News writes, longtime exec Brian Sabean will be in a key role in making a new hire, though the incoming baseball ops head will report directly to Baer. The CEO says he’s looking for a “next-gen” executive — a statement that could perhaps be interpreted in several ways but nevertheless offers an interesting hint as to the organization’s intentions.

    • Notably, the top hire likely won’t be the only one. Baer acknowledged that any new baseball ops leader may want to bring in some of his or her own people. And Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets that there’s actually already an expectation of creating a two-tiered structure. The Giants, he says, are looking for both a VP of baseball ops and a general manager.
    • Giants skipper Bruce Bochy, meanwhile, says that the upper management changes don’t impact his preference to continue in his job, as Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area reports. Bochy is only under contract through 2019, but he says that “lame duck” status won’t be an issue heading into his 13th season on the job. Clearly, he’s also not concerned that the club’s competitive outlook is at best uncertain. The fact that Bochy will remain in place adds an interesting dynamic to the front office situation, though the veteran skipper says he’s committed to meshing well with whoever steps in. Potential baseball ops hires may prefer to choose their own manager, though it’s also not hard to imagine that many will feel comfortable with the highly respected Bochy for at least one campaign.
    • Whoever ends up taking over the baseball operations department will face a number of challenges, along with questions on existing players. The pitching staff, in particular the bullpen, has some potential trade candidates. It also has one potential candidate to be re-signed in Derek Holland, who has turned in a bounceback year and is set to return to the open market. Through 168 2/3 innings, the southpaw carries a 3.63 ERA with a career-high 8.9 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9. The 31-year-old says he’s interesting in continuing his career with San Francisco, as John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle writes, and Bochy adds his endorsement. At this point, though, it’s anyone’s guess whether that will be of interest to the new top decisionmakers.