Utility Players

The Farhan Zaidi hiring is forcing me to think a little differently about roster construction and the idea of “finding value.” Not that that’s a bad thing, but it is kind of ironic – the guy has yet to make a MLB move with the franchise and he’s already making me work harder!

Position flexibility is all the rage in baseball right now. All of a sudden, being solid in one area doesn’t really cut it anymore (see the recently DFA CJ Cron, who hit 30 HR this year). Superstars aside, most teams are looking for players who are versatile. The Dodgers have been a prime example of this under Zaidi & Andrew Friedman. Yes, they still have their guys who hold down a single position (Puig in RF, Seager at SS, Turner at 3B), but they also boast tremendous lineup versatility in the way they utilize guys like Max Muncy, Cody Bellinger, Kike Hernandez, and Chris Taylor. Just look at how they dished out playing time in CF this year, courtesy of Baseball Reference.

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This is such a change from what we’re used to with the Giants. Normally, when we’ve seen that many players getting significant starts at one position, it was because none of the options had established themselves in that spot… the revolving door situation. The Dodgers, on the other hand, moved multiple starting-caliber players around the diamond on a nightly basis. This is what we can hope to see from Zaidi-improved Giants rosters in the future, and I wanted to take a look at some of the potential options out there.

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Net Value: Forecasting 2019

Someone anonymously commented on my last post, which compared the Giants 2018 value to the rest of the league, that I should use my calculations as a forecaster for 2019. It’s not something I had considered, but when I thought about the current temperature of the “hot stove” (is this thing on?), I figured it’d be a good time to see what the projections say about the Giants chances next season. I haven’t had enough time to chart the AL teams yet, but I think looking at the NL will give you a pretty good idea of where things stand right now.

A couple of things here. I used Steamer projections, which are sorted nicely over at Fangraphs, to get fWAR totals for this exercise. I’ve never really been a fan of projection models like this, as they’re usually very conservative, which kind of takes the fun out of making predictions. But I’ve also started to finally understand and appreciate the methodology behind such projection models, and I know that I’m not nearly smart enough to come up with a projection system with the depth and research behind it that Steamer and others have. But, I still find them all a bit bland.

The salary data comes from Spotrac, as well as MLB Trade Rumors for arbitration-eligible players. I used Roster Resource to get an idea of the current (pre-free agency and trades) projected 25-man rosters for each team, and Baseball Reference to log the 2019-season age for those players. When you’re toggling between four different websites to complete one spreadsheet, you can see how it might get a little time-consuming. But it’s a labor of love, and I wanted to make sure I credited those sites for the valuable information they provide.

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Net Value Rankings: Giants vs MLB

I used WAR $ Value totals from Fangraphs for every MLB player who logged meaningful time this season. I then subtracted each player’s salary to get their “net value.” Here’s a look at the most and least valuable teams, position units, and players across baseball, with my thoughts on how the Giants fit into the picture.

The Formula:  WAR $ Value (Fangraphs) minus Player Salary = Net Value ($Millions)

*According to Fangraphs, 1 WAR is currently worth around $8M.   

Qualifiers: At least 100 PA for hitters; At least 30 IP for pitchers  

MLB Team Net Value

Top Five

#1: A’s = $290M | Chapman = $52M | Lowrie = $33M | Treinan = $27M

#2: Yankees = $286M | Severino = $45M | Judge = $40M | Hicks = $36M

#3: Astros = $278M | Bregman = $60M | Cole = $43M | Verlander = $34M

#4: Indians = $271M | Ramirez = $62M | Lindor = $60M | Bauer = $43M

#5: Braves = $259M | Albies = $30M | Acuna Jr = $29M | Foltynewicz = $29M

Bottom 5

#26: Tigers = $36M | Martinez = -$31M | Cabrera = -$24M | Zimmermann = -$17M

#27: Marlins = $28M | Prado = -$17M | Sierra = -$12M 

#28: Blue Jays = $17M | Tulowitzki = -$20M | Donaldson = -$16M | Martin = -$15M

#29: Orioles = negative $21M | Davis = -$46M | Jones = -$13M | Trumbo = -$9M

#30: Giants = negative $23M | Pence = -$25M | Samardzija = -$21M | Cueto = -$20M

Giants roster breakdown: 21.9 Team WAR | $176M WAR value | $199M Payroll

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Giants Mock Offseason Plan; Take 2

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.

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Offseason Targets: 2019-20 Free Agent Pitchers

It looks like there have been a few updates worth noting on the hitter front since I profiled them. I thought Brett Gardner was a non-option candidate, and it turns out I was right. I was wrong about him hitting free agency though, as he re-upped with the Yanks for $7M after they bought out his option. While that might not make him as realistic of an option for the Giants, it might mean New York is more willing to part ways with Clint Frazier, who missed most of the year with a concussion and doesn’t seem to fit into their roster plans anymore.

A couple of infielders I find intriguing had their options declined and became free agents this week too. Yangervis Solarte was the one among them who I did profile, while Josh Harrison was a guy I somehow overlooked. I like that Solarte hits both ways and offers some pop. Harrison’s only a year removed from 16 HR and 12 SB. Either guy can play multiple infield positions, and either would make a nice part-time option, especially if the Giants acquire an upgrade at 2B (Marwin Gonzalez or DJ LeMahieu).

Anyway, onto the pitchers who might be trade candidates in their final year of control. This isn’t a very long list, and it’s not exactly the most exciting list either. But the idea is to look at this offseason from many different angles, so that’s what we’re going to do.  

* = Team option for 2020.

Mike Fiers RHP | A’s = One of the underrated parts of the Giants looking for a new front office regime – especially if they bring in a well-regarded, “next-gen” type that we’ve been hearing about – is the potential to do business with some old foes. Let’s be real. As long as Sabean is in charge, the Giants aren’t doing business with Beane & the A’s. Ain’t happenin’! But maybe the new GM can bury the hatchet and build new relationships. Fiers had a nice bounceback season (30 starts, 1.4 fWAR) and looks to get about $10M in arbitration. That probably puts him on the block. He could be a nice one-year option for the Giants… then again, his 4.75 FIP may be a warning sign, and the A’s might just hate the Giants no matter who’s calling the shots!

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Offseason Targets: 2019-20 Free Agent Hitters

We’ve already looked at current free agent targets for the Giants this winter. Now let’s see who’s set to hit the market a year from now. Remember, the point isn’t necessarily to figure out who the Giants will target next year, but more to see if there’s anyone out there making too much money in their final year for a non-competitive team. Generally, those are the types of players rebuilding teams are willing to move.

Our Giants, well they’re kind of stuck on the center divider for the moment. They aren’t anywhere close to contention, but we don’t know if they have any desire to sell off their final-year guys like Bumgarner & Will Smith either. Still, they’re a team with some payroll room and obvious holes to fill. Just as short-term FA contracts look like the best plan for them right now, acquiring a couple of players on final-year deals might not be such a bad idea either. So let’s take a look at who’s available, shall we?

*= team option for 2020

Infielders

Jose Abreu 1B | White Sox = Ok, you caught me. This one’s super unlikely, especially when we consider Chicago would be selling low on their star 1B after his worst season (114 wRC+, 1.2 fWAR) in the big leagues. Of course, the Giants would need to have an actual opening at 1B to make this happen anyway. But, if we’re playing all the scenarios here, maybe the new front office staff is committed to moving Belt for a prospect package, and maybe the White Sox don’t want to pay Abreu the $16M he’s projected to earn this year. Very unlikely? Yes. Impossible? Not exactly.

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Offseason Targets: Free Agent Pitchers

Fangraphs calculates the price of a win at about $8M. If you factor in a player’s WAR & subtract his salary, you get what I call a net value. The Giants as a team racked up a negative net value this year. That shouldn’t surprise you, but it is a bit shocking that they’re the only team in the NL that can make such a claim.

Despite their four highest earning pitchers (Cueto, Melancon, Samardzija, & Bumgarner) combining for a whopping negative $60M net value, the pitching staff actually managed a positive value overall. So there were some bright spots, with Holland, Rodriguez, Watson, & Smith providing the biggest boost. Can we learn anything from this? Well, for all the talk about interest in Patrick Corbin & Dallas Keuchel, any new hire would have to be out of their mind to look at this roster & think it could use another long-term pitching contract. From where I’m standing, the smart money lies in the shorter deals. Let’s take a look at what’s out there.

Starters

Derek Holland LHP = Ok, when the Giants hire their new head cheese, you just know Sabean is still going to be lurking around some, dropping subtle hints from time to time. He’ll probably talk all about how much he loved having Holland around, how he fit in with the clubhouse, helped mentor younger starters, and took on many roles. Sabes might also mention that Holland was the most valuable player on the entire roster last year ($15M net value)… pretty good for a minor league signing. Everyone says he wants to return to the franchise as well. Will any of this mean anything to a new regime? Hard to tell.

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