The GM meetings are a week away, and while that’s not near as big a deal as the Winter Meetings, it still feels a little odd when a team doesn’t actually have a GM in place. It might not be time to panic or start throwing a fit yet, but if you’re feeling a little confused about the pace and timing of the front office search, well, you aren’t alone. Especially when A) the Giants don’t seem satisfied despite having interviewed some really solid candidates, and B) Sabean’s comments hinting at a slower moving offseason were already contradicted less than 24 hours later, with rumors of an “active early market” on the horizon, according to Jeff Passan.
So, as we wait to get more clarity on the team’s search for a new president/GM, all we can do is speculate about the types of moves that person might make to the roster this winter. Personally, I’m of the belief that there will be some pretty significant, “splashy” changes, if you will. Whether that’s trading Bumgarner for a prospect package, going all out to sign Harper, or getting involved in some other sort of blockbuster trade, I can’t say at this point. But the main reason they let Bobby Evans go was the roster he was responsible for (or was the scapegoat for, in some senses) wasn’t cutting it anymore. Changes are necessary, and I’m sure the ownership group will expect to see them start to happen sooner rather than later.
A couple weeks ago I posted my mock offseason plan, in which I kind of went crazy with the notion of putting a competitive 2019 team on the field. That probably wasn’t super realistic, especially for a new GM who has their eye on building a team that can compete for multiple years. As I said then, I’m always tweaking things and trying out different ideas.
So here’s another version of an offseason plan, this one taking a more long-term approach. It’s still not a rebuild/teardown scenario, as I just don’t think this is the franchise to commit to something like that. Most of the major market teams like the Giants have the luxury of not needing to strip their roster to bare bones. Now, that’s not to say they can’t use their resources to create a younger roster, and that’s the angle I tried to take here, relying less on free agency and more on trades.
Free Agent Signings
According to Sabean, it doesn’t sound like the Giants are going to be very involved in free agency this winter. It’s really odd (and kind of counterintuitive) to me that we’re hearing things like this before the new front office is in place. At the same time, Sabean & Larry Baer are running the search, and until something changes, what they say goes.
#1: C Nick Hundley: 1 year, $4M
Rationale: I’ll probably include Hundley on all of my projected rosters. Bringing him back for a year at a low-cost seems like a pretty easy decision.
#2: INF Josh Harrison: 2 years, $10M
Rationale: I overlooked Harrison in my “offseason targets” series, and he’s now a free agent after Pittsburgh declined his 2019 option. It was a down year for him at 0.3 fWAR and 8 HR in 374 PA, but he’s still just 30 and looking to bounce back somewhere, likely on a cheaper deal. I wish he could play SS, but I think he makes some sense as an occasional starter at 2B and sub at 3B. He’s only a year removed from a 16 HR, 12 SB season that netted him 2.6 WAR in 2017, so there’s some potential for improvement if he can stay healthy into his 30’s.
#3: SP Charlie Morton: 1 year, $16M
Rationale: I mentioned Morton in my free agent targets post, and since then the Astros decided to offer a QO to teammate Dallas Keuchel, but not to Morton. I’ve written about fWAR $ Value, which has Morton racking up $49M ($34M net value) in his two seasons with Houston. Solid production for anyone, but especially for a mid-30’s starter who resurrected his career. The Giants don’t need more long-term contracts in their pitching staff, but I see no harm in taking a run at Morton on a one-year deal, in what could be the last season of his career. If he performs anywhere close to 2017-18 and the team struggles, he’s a great trade candidate come July as well.
While I decided on using free agency as more of a short-term strategy this time around, the trades I suggest below are focused more on finding future impact talent. Only one of them involves the acquisition of a player nearing free agency, while the others were directed at young and controllable offensive upgrades.
#1: Trade 2B Joe Panik to Yankees for SP Sonny Gray.
Rationale: This is basically a repeat of a move I proposed in my first offseason plan. As recently as yesterday, I had included Bumgarner and a trio of NYY prospects in the package. This was in response to Baseball America’s podcast covering the Yankees farm system, in which it was suggested that if the price for Bumgarner was New York’s top two prospects, Justus Sheffield and Estevan Florial, that it would be a no-brainer deal for the Yankees. I also included Clint Frazier, who is again buried on the depth chart as he recovers from a concussion. Adding Sheffield & Florial would be a major boost to the farm system, but after factoring in the trades I’ve proposed below, I decided it best (again) to keep Bumgarner around as the staff #1 to start the year. That put me back to a 1-for-1 deal involving Panik & Gray, which I still believe is fair, realistic, and potentially helps both sides. Others may disagree.
#2: Trade SP Dereck Rodriguez to Twins for RF Max Kepler.
Rationale: Aside from Joey Bart & Heliot Ramos, all of the Giants key trade pieces are pitchers, most of them on the MLB roster. If they plan on fielding any kind of a watchable team next year, I don’t think it makes sense to trade both Bumgarner and Rodriguez. So I decided on D-Rod, who was very impressive this year, but also seems like a sell-high candidate.
The idea of moving D-Rod back to the franchise that released him might seem odd, but I believe he’s the one player that matches up in this deal. Kepler, despite his career .233 batting average, is a young, controllable, toolsy player who I believe has the potential to be dynamic as he enters his age-26 season. He’s athletic, plays a very good RF (which is a huge point of interest for me in my search this offseason), displays power from a sweet left-handed swing, and is just entering his first arbitration year.
The Twins have no real reason to move Kepler, but with Eddie Rosario established in LF, Jake Cave in CF, and elite prospect Alex Kiriloff’s getting closer to the majors, I do believe Minnesota could afford to swap Kepler for the right return. Maybe a second chance at Rodriguez would make that happen.
#3: Trade SP Chris Stratton & OF Sandro Fabian to Brewers for OF Domingo Santana.
Rationale: It’s pretty rare to see a guy who hit 30 HR get replaced and sent back to the minors the next season. Then again, you can understand when the player who replaced him (Christian Yelich) puts up a potential MVP season. I’m intrigued by Santana, and barring a permanent move to 1B for Ryan Braun, I have to believe Santana is available. Again, the Brewers won’t just give him away, so including a young player with some upside like Fabian is necessary. Santana doesn’t turn 27 until next August, and could team up with Kepler and Steven Duggar to give the Giants the young, controllable, and exciting outfield that’s eluded them for so many years.
#4: Trade RP Hunter Strickland & RP Steven Okert to Cubs for UT Ian Happ & SP Tyler Chatwood.
Rationale: The Cubs are financially strapped, their season ended in truly shocking fashion, there’s rumors of Joe Maddon ending his tenure with them in a year, and to top it all off their bullpen is a mess. They need upgrades there, and the Giants seem like a team who could could match up with them in that department. A suggestion was made on McCovey Chronicles last week about using Will Smith to pry Kyle Schwarber away from them. While I would love to have Schwarber’s bat in the lineup, I think the Cubs would be more willing to move Happ, whose offense took a hit in his second season (.233, 15 HR, 167 K). He played primarily in the outfield, where his numbers were much worse than in 2017, and actually made only two appearances at 2B all year. For the Giants, he could start most games at either 2B (sharing some of the time with Harrison or Hanson) or LF (splitting with Santana). It seems like keeping him away from CF & RF would help improve his defensive metrics too.
Crazy as it sounds, Strickland for Happ straight up probably isn’t a big mismatch. Strickland is still pretty cheap, projected at $2.5M next year, and has three more seasons of control. Happ didn’t make the strides in year two that many were hoping for. If the Giants were willing to take on Chatwood’s remaining contract (2 years, $25M), Happ would be a nice consolation prize. He’s only 24, has a first round pedigree, posted a .350+ OBP in a down offensive year, and has plenty of team-controlled years to mature as a hitter. Chatwood’s 2018 was brutal, but maybe a move to AT&T Park, where he has excellent history, could help him get back on track. He’d be a project, but giving Chicago some payroll space is what’s going to help you get back a controllable player like Happ anyway. I really liked Happ coming out of Cincinnati, and he’s a guy I’d be like to see the Giants take a chance on.
Total 2018 fWAR: 25.2 | Projected 2019 Payroll: $204M
This roster has a very different feel than the first one I assembled. I realize there’s no guarantee you’re getting even above-average hitters in Happ, Kepler, or Santana. All have their warts, but there’s no denying they’ve got a couple things going for them that most players on the current Giants roster do not. They’re young, they’re not highly paid, and maybe most importantly, they’ve all got potential upside to dream on. Our opinions of whether they’ll reach that upside will likely vary. Still, I’d be thrilled if the new GM were able to add three mid-20’s hitters to the lineup without breaking up the farm system.
On the pitching side, it might make more sense to move players like Bumgarner and Smith, who both could fetch a nice prospect haul. But moving a young starter like Rodriguez for an MLB-established hitter seems like something ownership would be open to signing off on. Again, it depends on your feelings about the Giants and their direction going forward. I have said I don’t see a teardown situation happening, and I maintain that.
A rotation that includes Bumgarner, Morton, and Gray certainly has some promise from where I’m standing. Gray & Bumgarner are both still under 30, FWIW, and all three pitchers in this scenario are only under control for one season. Also, Morton is one of the better starters available this winter. Could the Giants actually convince him to sign with them? I don’t see why not, if they were willing to compensate him appropriately (as the Astros appear unwilling to do). The coaching staff could have its hands full with Samardzija and Chatwood, but Shaun Anderson may also be knocking on the door if those two prove unreliable. They could also extend an offer to one of the many fringy, veteran starters on the market – Edwin Jackson, Jeremy Hellickson, Tyson Ross – as more rotation insurance.
The bullpen could still be a relative strength, with guys like Ray Black & Melvin Adon (not listed here) looking ready to contribute as well.
What do you think? Was “Take 2” better than the opening act? Who would you like to see the Giants target?