GM Meetings: Hank has the Dirt

As the GM meetings take place in Orlando, you can cross one name off the list of outfielders available this winter. The Phillies signed Marlon Byrd to a 2-year, $16M deal this morning. The deal itself isn’t all that surprising, as MLB Trade Rumors had him signing at a projected 2-$15M, but I think the Phightin’ Phils are sending a pretty clear message to the rest of baseball here by not wasting any time. With such a slim market this year (especially for outfielders), teams really do need to get their negotiations going early… Does that mean they’ll have to overpay some? Probably, but it might beat the alternative of waiting, as this market could dry up pretty rapidly.

One team who’s not waiting around to throw their name out there: that’s right, your own Gigantes. While Baggs’ is tossing around unrealistic qualifying offer hitter fluff pieces over at his place, Hammerin’ Hank Schulman got down to business this morning, and just called into KNBR from Orlando to chat about his findings.

First off, a big surprise. The Braves apparently low-balled Tim Hudson. According to Hank, the offer was low enough that it all but sent the message “We don’t want you here anymore.” Those are his words, not mine. I would say most people (myself included) didn’t see that coming. Hudson spent 9 years with the Braves, and only posted an ERA north of 4 once. To lowball him is a pretty big slap in the face, in my opinion. Enter the Giants, pitching gurus! Word is Hudson’s willing to go west, and multiple sources are calling him a “chief target” for Brian Sabean.

The Giants need pitching, and they prefer shorter deals. According to Mr. Schulman, they’re not afraid to bump up the yearly salary on those deals to get their man, either (see Lincecum, Timothy). So…Hudson’s available, and could probably be had on a one or two-year offer… he made $9M last year, and he’s predicted to earn about the same this year. If the Giants upped it to $11M (they can afford it), he’d probably accept. But what do I know anyway?!

Personally, I’d take Hudson in a heartbeat. The guy is a total pro, and he’s quietly been one of the most consistent pitchers of this era. 426 career starts, 25 complete games, a 3.44 ERA, and a .649 win%. Age is really the only thing working against him, although the brutal ankle injury might scare a few teams away… like Hank says, though, “There’s nothing wrong with his arm.” I know there are certainly people who would ream Sabean for a two-year deal for a 38 year-old in the twilight of his career, but I wouldn’t be one of them. If that two-year deal prevents us from three years of Bronson Arroyo, that’s all the better in my opinion.

Speaking of Arroyo, Schulman mentioned him as a guy the Giants might stay away from, as the interest for him might indeed push his offers to three years… thank goodness.  Hank did bring up Scott Feldman and Dan Haren as two other starters that could be on Uncle Sabes’ shopping list, though. One thing I found interesting, he seemed to think that Ryan Vogelsong’s days in the orange and black are done. If Sabean wants a rotation that’ll compete with the Dodgers and Cardinals, he needs to come in with 5 solid options. Long story short, Vogey and Petit are Plan B, and the Giants know they need to focus on Plan A.

A couple other things before I wrap up the “Schulman Talks.” As for trading Pablo; there’s certainly interest out there, and the Giants should listen to any offers. But unloading the Panda would probably create more hills than it filled, and the front office probably isn’t willing to subtract his valuable “power potential” at the moment. Honestly, unless someone blows you away with an offer, I too think it makes more sense to hang onto him this winter.

Finally: playing the qualifying offer games. Hank says he’s talked to a few folks from the Giants in Orlando who report there is a scenario where the club could give up its first round pick. If someone gets the Kyle Lohse treatment, and remains available this spring, there’s a chance the Giants could swoop in and make a discounted offer. Overall, though, I expect (and hope) they’ll hold onto that pick.

So we have our first pretty significant Giants rumor, and the market for outfielders is already shrinking. I’d expect Sabean to start tossing some offers out there in the coming weeks, so there should be plenty to talk about in the hot stove department going forward.

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Pitching Market Part II: 10 Names (and a Vogelsong)

In Part I of the offseason pitching list last night, we looked at some of the more unlikely candidates for the Giants rotation, including (depending on your opinion) some of the top dogs on the market in Masahiro Tanaka and Matt Garza. As I said, Tanaka should be someone the Giants put a good amount of effort into. Unfortunately for all of us, MLB and the Japanese NBP still haven’t worked out the new posting system, and a report today says they still may be “several weeks away” from doing so. Until then, I guess we’ll just remain in a holding pattern… ugh.

Whether or not Brian Sabean will make a run at a front-line pitcher this winter remains to be seen. It’s just speculation at this point, and I wouldn’t say anyone other than Sabes and his staff really knows what the full extent of the offseason plan entails. We do know that the Giants have two spots to fill in their rotation. How much money they’ll spend in doing so is anyone’s guess.

Today, I wanted to look at another group of guys. I’ll call this the B-List, and say there is a very real chance that at least one of these fellows dons a Giants hat for the next year or two. If Sabean doesn’t pursue or fails to land a Tanaka/Garza type, I would guess that two of these guys will ink deals to join the party.

I’ve used John Heyman’s free agent list and projected contracts to form a list of 10 reasonable options, and added on Ryan Vogelsong as the wildcard 11th man. The rankings listed are Heyman’s, and I’ll admit I would have ranked them quite differently… It was easier just to work my way down his list. I also included ages and a snapshot of 2013 stats to go along with the player’s expected contract.

B-List:

#17. Bronson Arroyo, Age: 36
2013: 32 GS, 3.79 ERA, 32 HR
Expected Contract: 3-$35M

#18. Jason Vargas, 30
24 GS, 4.02 ERA, 17 HR
3-$30M

#23. Scott Feldman, 30
30 GS, 3.86 ERA, 19 HR
2-$20M

#28. Phil Hughes, 27
29 GS, 5.19 ERA, 24 HR
2-$18M

#34. Scott Kazmir, 29
29 GS, 4.04 ERA, 19 HR
2-$15M

#35. Bruce Chen, 36
15 GS, 3.27 ERA, 13 HR
2-$14M

#39. Bartolo Colon, 40
30 GS, 2.65 ERA, 14 HR (18 wins for the Moneyballin’ A’s… What the hell Bartolo?!)
1-$12M

#44. Paul Maholm, 31
26 GS, 4.41 ERA, 17 HR
2-$12M

#48. Tim Hudson, 38
2013: 21 GS, 3.97 ERA, 10 HR
1-$9M

#51. Dan Haren, 33
2013: 30 GS, 4.67 ERA, 28 HR
1-$8M

Wildcard:

NR. Ryan Vogelsong, 36
19 GS, 5.73 ERA, 15 HR

Thoughts: I’ll tell you the first thing that stands out to me after putting this list together: the Giants overpaid like hell for Tim Lincecum. But you already knew that.

Moving on, I’d have to say there’s some value to be had with this year’s pitching class, even a couple cats who are still under 30. Most of these guys are going to sign short-term deals, which bodes very well for Sabean’s needs. Unless they flirt with Tanaka, the Giants aren’t looking to lock up pitchers for 4-5 years at this point. I’d say it’s pretty realistic that at least a couple of the Crick/Blackburn/Escobar/Mejia/Stratton/Blach/Flores/Agosta group will be contributors in the rotation by 2016, so Sabean would be wise to leave a little wiggle room for when that time comes.

A lot of these guys will come pretty cheap as well, at least by today’s outrageous salary standards. $6 million for Paul Maholm…$8 million for Dan Haren…$9 mil for Hudson? Those aren’t bad at all, folks. Personally, I wouldn’t give anyone on this list 3 years, but I could handle 2 for the quite a few of them.

So… 10 names and a Vogelsong. What to make of this mess? Fortunately, I’ve come up with a few groups.

Give me one: If Sabean goes large and shocks the world by outbidding for Tanaka, or pays Matt Garza handsomely for 4 years, I’d take Maholm, Haren or Vogey on a one year deal to fill the back end of the rotation. Maholm’s not my favorite by any means, but he’d make a decent 5th starter. This is also probably the only scenario where I’d like to have Vogey back, as you’d already have three very reliable options at the top of the rotation. Anything extra from Lincecum and Vogelsong would be the icing on the cake. Here’s something to ponder: put Vogey’s 2012 numbers by his name up there, and he’s one of the better options on the list. You never know. Haren is another guy I like. He wants to play on the west coast, and getting him out of DC and into AT&T would probably cut those 28 HR down. He had a nice second half, but his velocity has definitely dipped.

Give me two: If the Giants decide not to pursue Tanaka or Garza or come up short, they’d likely need to grab two guys from this bargain bin to form a competitive rotation. In that case, I think a Kazmir/Hudson combination would fit pretty nicely. Hudson would be perfect on a one year deal, but he’s probably the least likely of this group to be lured to San Francisco at his age. Kazmir was a steal for the Indians as a resurrection story, and he rolled down the stretch. He’d give the Giants a second lefty in the rotation, and he boasts some of the top fastball velocity of this group. I like Kazmir, and I think he’s really turned things around.

Sabes’ Special: The Giants have been already been connected to Arroyo and Haren quite a bit, and I see them as the most likely Sabean signings. Baggs has tossed their names around a handful of times, Arroyo has been quoted saying he loves San Francisco, and Haren was the lone top 50 free agent assigned to the Giants in MLB Trade Rumors’ predictions. As of this afternoon, Buster Olney has people connecting the dots to Arroyo with comments about the Giants being “well-positioned” in his bidding… whatever the hell that means.

Ok…Can I get something off my chest here? I don’t like Bronson Arroyo. I think he’s smug, and those MLB commercials of him playing the guitar and singing drove me up the wall last year. I didn’t like him in Boston, and I certainly didn’t appreciate him throwing up and in on Vogelsong in 2012. Look, there are very few players in the game that I legitimately don’t like. That’s not my style. But for some reason, the dude just rubs me the wrong way.

There, I said it. I don’t like the man, and I hope we go a different direction. I understand he’s been very steady, and admit that he’d make a solid 4th or 5th starter. . If he helps us get back to the playoffs, I’m sure the grudges will fade away. But seriously, Sabes, two years max… for the love of all things good. But enough about that.

So, final verdict for Uncle Sabes and the starting pitcher market: Close your eyes, cross your fingers, and hope for Tanaka. If we fall short, close your eyes again and hope the Dodgers don’t land him. When the dust settles, a one year deal for Haren and a two year deal for Arroyo is probably a pretty reasonable bet.

Baggs Postseason Chat Recap

Andrew Baggarly had a quick postseason chat over on CSNBayarea.com today, so I thought I would recap a few of the major topics he addressed (Giants’ related, of course). I’ll note that he seemed quite less irritated with Giants’ brass this time around. That hasn’t been the case all season.

Jose Abreu

I noticed the link for Baggs’ chat as I was leaving for lunch today, so I hopped on and sent him a quick question. I’ve submitted a few questions before, yet he’s never responded despite answering multiple questions from other users. So I was quite surprised to see that my question was answered when I checked back later. Here’s the direct text from my question regarding Abreu and Baggs’ response.

CoveChatter:

Any follow-up to the recent CSN report on the Giants as favorites to land Abreu? Goes against all previous reports.

3 Hours Ago from www.csnbayarea.com

CSNBaggs:

Hard to say they’re the favorite because this is still developing and other teams are making up their minds how involved they will be. But the Giants have done an analysis on the free-agent market and even though Abreu is untested against major league pitching, I think the Giants recognize they have more bang-for-their-buck potential with him than many of the other free agents, who will command massive contracts. Is Shin Soo Choo really worth $100 million? Is Robinson Cano worth $300 million? That’s what agents are throwing out there, and yes, I think those numbers are ridiculous, too. I do think the Giants will be in on Abreu to the very end, and they’re going to try hard to get him. The concern is that he is more of a DH type, so while they like his ability to hit for power, they won’t overspend to get him. It’s hard to commit mega dollars to a DH type in the NL because you end up getting stuck with no place to put him.

2 Hours Ago from www.csnbayarea.com

I was very surprised by his response to this, as it seems many others don’t see Abreu as a realistic option for the Giants. This would lead me to believe otherwise, and it makes sense, as I don’t see the Giants putting so much time and effort into scouting a player if they weren’t seriously interested. Abreu is essentially a 1B-only player, so I wouldn’t be shocked at all to see reports coming out this winter about a LF transition for Brandon Belt. You’d have to think management has already had talks with him about this, as it’s not a secret that Sabean and his posse have been to the DR to scout Abreu.

Pitching

As you’d imagine, there were plenty of questions about starting pitching. On the Lincecum front, Baggs seemed to indicate that Timmy’s only realistic options after the qualifying offer might be returning to San Francisco or going to Seattle, who has a protected pick and obvious interest. His words… Either way, I think the qualifying offer will cripple him as a free agent. The Mariners wouldn’t need to give up their first-round pick since it’s protected, though. So my expectation is that he’ll return, or he’ll go home to Seattle if the Mariners make a push.” He also mentioned the Angels and Dodgers as sleeper teams in the Lincecum market. Personally, I’d be shocked if the Angels didn’t make him some kind of an offer.  

Other notes on the pitching front: Ryan Vogelsong’s option may be (or is currently being?) restructured to save some money… that would seem to indicate that he is coming back in some form for 2014.

If Yusmeiro Petit has a strong spring, he will essentially start the season in the role held this season by Chad Guadin.

As for Gaudin, he might be looking at a minor league deal until he proves he’s healthy. By the Giants? That part isn’t clear.

Responding to a question about the Giants forming a blockbuster trade for a David Price, Cliff Lee type, here’s what Baggs had to say: I doubt you would see a big trade for a starter of that ilk. They don’t have the prospects to make that happen without moving Crick and others, and that’s the next wave they’re relying upon. Probably they’d just sign Dan Haren and Bronson Arroyo and hope for the best.”

Arroyo has been linked to the Giants a couple of times already, and has even noted his excitement for the city in an interview. I’ve seen Haren’s name mentioned on a couple of Giants blogs out there recently. If nothing else, I would say this gives us a pretty good indication of the organization’s standpoint on the 2014 rotation… Surround Bumgarner and Cain with some stopgap options until the young core is ready to contribute (maybe 2015?).

Speaking of the young core…

Edwin Escobar

Baggs referenced Escobar when asked about who might be closest among the “next wave” of pitchers in the organization. Obviously this isn’t breaking news, but the fact that he finished with this: “…and he’s way more legit than a Kickham or a Surkamp” gives some pretty good evidence that we prospect-hounds aren’t the only ones excited about these young arms. He probably got himself kicked off the Surkamp and Kickham family Christmas card lists, though.

Masahiro Tanaka

Someone asked about the Giants’ interest in Tanaka, the star righty from Japan. From the sounds of it, they don’t think he’ll be worth the big money he’s going to pull. Personally, I’d spend the big money on Tanaka if I were going to spend it on anyone. If they’re willing to go in on Abreu, how much more money could Tanaka possibly be commanding?

Angel Villalona

A final thought here on Angel V., who’s hanging out in the Arizona Fall League right now. Baggs didn’t seem to think he’d be a MLB regular even before his time away from the game. Felipe Alou thinks Villalona is a solid defensive 1B… apparently he’s the only one who feels that way.

You can find the full chat transcript here.

Humiliated at Home

The Giants suffered a double whammy last night, getting absolutely demolished by the Reds (11-0) on the same night the Dodgers moved into first place in the NL West. I have no way to prove this, but I’m sure there haven’t been many follow-ups to a no-hitter that were as bad as Lincecum’s last night. He got into trouble in the first, but was one strike away from getting out of the jam unscathed. Instead, Todd Frazier doubled in three runs and the game was never close again. Timmy’s final line: 3.2 IP, 9 H, 8 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, and a whopping 3 HR, although George Kontos helped make sure the runners Lincecum gave him in the 4th came around to score as well. Kontos allowed 7 H and 3 ER in 3.1 IP to make sure the game was out of reach.

What a crazy two starts for Lincecum. One minute the guy is the toast of the town. He’s all over the national news. Stories of his resurrection and return to stardom are being pumped out by every (clueless) major sportswriter. His general manager goes on the airwaves to dispel any rumors of his trading, and fans are all of a sudden dying to keep him in San Francisco forever. Ten days later, he’s serving up beach balls to Cincinnati hitters, who made AT&T Park look like anything but a pitcher-friendly venue.

After the no-hitter, I said that I thought it would still take something unexpected for Lincecum to be a Giant next season. Games like last night are the exact reason why. The Giants absolutely need to win games at this point, yet he gets shelled on his home field. The writers at CBS can talk all they want about Tim “Cy Young” Lincecum finding his new way as finesse pitcher, but most knowledgeable fans know it’s going to take more than a no-hitter to undo two years of subpar pitching.

A few thoughts on this one:

Unfortunately, the Freak could have allowed one run on this night and he would’ve taken a loss all the same, as the offense was again nowhere to be found. Zero runs and 11 runners left on base. Right now, Posey is literally the only hitter of the group that isn’t replaceable, and that’s sad. The Giants continue to hit singles, but cannot drive in runs. Bronson Arroyo tossed a shutout to earn his first career victory at AT&T. Man, I don’t like that guy.     

Prior to the season, I thought Shin-Soo Choo would have been a great addition to the outfield, but the Giants really didn’t show any interest. He’s a free agent at the end of the season, and he’s 31 years old. Maybe that’s why we stayed away. The Reds decided he fit into their plans, and he’s batting .294 with 14 HR as the leadoff hitter this season.

While the Dbacks continue to squander opportunities against lineups that include Cody Ransom and Cole Gillespie, the Dodgers pounded Toronto to move into first place. To be honest, I don’t think Arizona has what it takes, and Magic’s big spenders are continuing to get better. Meanwhile, the Giants lost only a half-game in the standings. They’re now 6 games back.

Tonight’s double-header couldn’t come at a worse time for the Giants, but they really don’t have anyone to blame but themselves. Eric Surkamp makes his return to the big leagues in game one. I’m very happy for the guy, but this definitely isn’t an ideal situation to be in. Let’s hope the Reds don’t do to him what they did to Kickham in Cincinnati a few weeks ago.

Put Up or Go Home

*Edit: Congratulations, Ryan Braun. You have become the Lance Armstrong of MLB.

Entering this season, there were three NL teams that you had to think were just chomping at the bit to unseat the Giants. At least that’s how I felt (and still feel). It’s probably not hard to guess either. The Dodgers began 2012 red hot and made some blockbuster trades at the deadline, but the Giants buried them down the stretch. The Cardinals were one win away from heading back to the World Series until Barry Zito toed the rubber in St. Louis for game 5. But I don’t think any team has it out for the Giants as much as Cincinnati.

If you recall, there was already some bad blood between the two clubs long before they met in the NLDS last season. It was one of the few moments during the season where I was truly fired up over something extracurricular, and I remember it like it was yesterday: Vogelsong squares up to bunt, and Bronson Arroyo sends a fastball up and in. Vogey hits the dirt, gets up, throws hit bat down and gives Arroyo one of the best mean-mugs you’ll ever see. I don’t know why, but I love moments like that where you can get the competitive juices flowing.

Long story short, the Giants and Reds had some history when they squared off last year in the division series. After the Reds managed to piss off a collective fan base with two absolute beatings in games 1 and 2, the Giants pulled off the impossible, taking three straight at Great American Ballpark. Tell me when Posey hit that grand slam off of Latos in game five, it didn’t create a little bit of bitterness toward the Giants on the part of Reds’ players and fans.

My intention for all of this is not to create an “us against the world” mantra, but to make a point about the upcoming series with Cincinnati (which is just what the Giants don’t need right now). If the Reds take three of four, or even sweep the series in San Francisco, the Giants’ chances might be all but cooked. This is not so much a “make-or-break” series for Buster and co. as it is a “put up or shut up” series. Basically, the Giants need to split at the least, or they risk falling 7, 8, even 9.5 games out for the division. That kind of deficit is when you start kissing any trade deadline upgrades goodbye.

Do I think Lincecum can beat Arroyo in the opener tonight? Yes, I do, although Arroyo has been on a roll lately. I think the Giants have something to prove against that punk though. I also think Gaudin can take home the finale, although it’s another tough matchup with Mike Leake. It’s Tuesday’s double-header that worries me, with the two soft-tossing lefties Zito and Eric Surkamp taking the mound. The Giants need to pitch well, but the guys not named Buster need to start swinging the bat.

None of us wants to think about what happened the last time the Reds played at AT&T. Thankfully, the Giants improbably ended Cincinnati’s season. There’s no doubt in my mind Dusty Baker’s crew wouldn’t like to return the favor.

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