Surkamp, Pill on the Outs?

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that professional baseball is a business. However, that’s what it is, first and foremost, and there are a handful of players who are finding out they aren’t a part of the Giants’ business plan going forward. And most of these announcements haven’t exactly been well-timed. I have no idea how much earlier players find out about their fate before the public does. It was the night before Thanksgiving when we found out Johnny Monell and Francisco Peguero were being DFA. Now, just days before Christmas, we’ve been told that Eric Surkamp is off the 40-man, while Brett Pill is likely headed to play in Korea.

While the Surkamp DFA did take me by surprise this morning, none of these moves are earth-shattering. All of these guys have grinded through, and all are deserving of a shot, but none really fit into the Giants’ future. I have to think someone will give Surkamp a look. Really, Surkamp isn’t all that much different from Pill. Both guys have had exceptional minor league careers, but their MLB potential is very questionable. The big difference for Surkamp was the arm injury, which certainly looks like it cost him his chance of ever having a job in San Francisco. He’s 26, and it’s not unreasonable to think he could find his way into the bigs as a 5th starter or long-man in the next couple years. But with Petit, Kickham and Escobar all on the 40-man, and the addition of lefty Jose De Paula, it became pretty obvious that Surkamp had been passed on the Giants’ depth chart. Really, a move to another organization could turn out to be a blessing for the guy.

In the case of Pill, I don’t know how great a feeling it is to find out you’re being sold to a Korean club the week before Christmas. At least he’ll be an everyday player over there, and may be able to build some value and come back to the majors in a year or two. There was a time when I felt Pill deserved a chance to start at first for the Giants. But that was when Aubrey Huff was still around, and Brandon Belt was a struggling rookie. Those days have long passed for me… but there are still a ton of fans out there who think the guy is a .280, 25-HR hitter who hasn’t gotten a fair shot. Maybe those people are getting hung up on the AAA stats, because the Pill I’ve watched take 240 AB over the past 3 years seems to be the exact player his MLB stats indicate. .233/.279/.376 with 9 HR and semi-adequate defense. He’s a class act, but that doesn’t mean he’s a starting 1B. Still, I wouldn’t think he’s thrilled about the news of his departure from the organization. I don’t know that I’d be able to handle playing baseball in Korea full-time, but maybe he’s excited about a new opportunity?

Ok, one last thought here. If you’re scoring at home, you knew Giants needed to open up a 40-man spot to make room for Mike Morse. Apparently there was a deal in the works (Pill?). But then we heard that Ryan Vogelsong hadn’t been officially placed on the 40-man, so there was some wiggle room. Well, now we see that all 3 of Vogelsong, Morse and Pill are on the 40, with Surkamp removed. When the Pill to Korea situation is finalized, there should be one spot open on the 40-man. Although I feel like it would be beneficial to enter spring with a couple of spots open, the Giants generally don’t do that. I only mention this because there was a pretty overlooked tweet this week from former Oakland reliever Andrew Carignan, who indicated that he’s moving out west to join the Giants. I retweeted it on my Twitter page, but haven’t seen any response from the Giants or the beats. Carignan spent small parts of 2011 and 2012 in the A’s bullpen, but missed all of 2013 recovering from Tommy John surgery. When he’s healthy, he averages 95 mph with his fastball. If in fact the Giants did sign Carignan to a small deal, I’d be willing to bet we’ll see his name on the 40-man, with a chance to win a bullpen job in spring training.

This was supposed to be a quick take, but I got a little long-winded again. What do you know? The moral of the story is that two previous “prospect-non-prospect” guys in Surkamp and Pill are on their way out. Of course, we’ll be rooting for them to succeed wherever they end up. Will there be a corresponding roster move? Maybe we’ll find out in the next couple weeks. It’s getting a little quiet on the hot stove front, so we’ll continue to churn out Cove Chatter 100 pieces during the slow period. Happy holidays everyone.

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Eric  Surkamp throws to the Houston Astros during the first inning of a baseball game in San Francisco, Saturday, Aug. 27, 2011. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar) Photo: Tony Avelar, AP

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6 thoughts on “Surkamp, Pill on the Outs?”

  1. I was really shocked by the Surkamp news. He came back from Tommy John surgery and pitched great in Fresno–really, great, better than any other Fresno starter last year, and it wasn’t close. I gather the Giants don’t really see him as major league starter material, but just dumping him now doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. It’s not like the Giants are swimming in major-league-ready starting pitchers–honestly, it’s stretching a point to consider 21-year-old Escobar, after half a season at AA, “depth,” and given how poorly Kickham performed in the majors last year, we should be in no hurry for that young man to come back, either. And if Petit gets pushed into the rotation, then we have no long man, just like with Gaudin last year.

    Was Surkamp in the same situation as Pill–he had to make the team out of spring training or go through waivers to get sent down? If so, maybe that explains it. If not, though, why in the world wouldn’t you keep Surkamp at Fresno for emergencies, at least until some of the young talent at AA next year is ready to move up?

    I’d just hate to see the Giants repeat last year’s really costly mistake of having five and only five major league starters with a journeyman long reliever (Gaudin/Petit) and a couple of green youngsters being the only “depth” (last year it was Heston and Kickham) It didn’t work out last year, and it’s hard to see it working out this year, even if Escobar is a prospect upgrade from Heston or Surkamp.

    1. You know, I didn’t really address my feelings for the Surkamp move. That would have made the post REALLY long-winded. I just kind of wanted to hit the basic points. To be honest, I was very surprised that Surkamp didn’t make some starts at the MLB level toward the end of the season. I thought that would have been the perfect time to evaluate him. I don’t know that cutting ties with him is a smart decision either, and I certainly don’t trust Kickham to step in. But the front office must think Escobar has the goods to make an impact, and they clearly felt Surkamp wasn’t MLB material… a bit of a head-scratcher, if not earth-shattering (as I said). I have a feeling he’ll catch on somewhere, but I don’t know that I see him having very much of a big league career.

  2. Lets face it, the Giants have no current starting pitcher depth past Pettit – should Hudson not be ready by opening day or if anyone gets injured. So….. The Giants must have at least one or two signifigant non roster spring training invitee pitchers up their proverbial sleeves. They have to. There will be 10 or 15 potentially solid major league starting pitchers unsigned by spring training (Bedard, Capuano, Chen, Garcia, Hammel, Hanson, Harang, Jurrjens, Lannan, Maholm, Marquis, Myers***, Oswalt, Westbrook etc..) who will probably sign minor league contracts, and the Giants are masters of scrapheap reclamation projects, maybe moreso than any team in baseball. Furthermore, in my opinion the Giants have at least 3 or 4 roster spots open. They have exactly one sure back-up outfielder and one back-up infielder (Blanco & Arias). Last time I checked they had only 2 lefties in the bullpen as they jettisoned Mijares and Runzler and they could use another lights out righty (Kontos and Machi were not lights out). So. I think the Giants will bring more players in as non roster invitees and I wouldn’t be surprised if the have one, maybe even two major league signings before spring training. (Jeff Baker would be solid, he plays all infield positions plus outfield corners and has good power). Maybe a trade for a right handed reliever?

    1. Kevin, thanks for the comment. You are right about a lot of things here. The Giants really don’t have much SP depth behind Petit at the moment, which leads me to believe they think they can find someone out there on a MiLB deal that is a stronger option than Surkamp… that, or they REALLY think highly of Escobar.

      There are certainly some holes on the team right now, but it appears on the outside that they’re looking to fill from within the organization. I agree that the infield depth is slim, and even the bullpen still has its concerns. Another proven reliever would help the situation, but I just don’t see it happening. Sabean says he’s basically done spending, and I believe him. If the Giants did in fact sign Carignan, he could be a nice RHP option… but he doesn’t have too much of a track record himself.

  3. Nice reply Kevin. Lefty is a professional hitter. And you know your way around the Giants, KG. Good job as always.

    Kevin mentioned Paul Haholm. Just go sign him. I think he’s amenable to going both ways. A third lefty would make Bochy a happy camper.

    KG mention that newly acquired De Paula. That must’ve sealed Surkamp’s fate. How’d they pick up De Paula? Waivers?

    1. I think De Paula was DFA by the Padres. The thing I worry about with him is that he’s never pitched above AA either, and is 25 or 26, I believe. But word is he’s pretty rough on lefties.

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