Mike Morse: Potential Steal?

The Beast has a new home… and he’ll be roaming around Bonds’ old stomping grounds.

I was back home in Northern California all week for a business trip that doubled as a vacation with the family, so I apologize for being late to the Morse party. I’ve definitely got my share of opinions, though, and have been making mental notes since the signing was made a few days ago. The rumors of possible LF candidates picked up some steam on Wednesday with names like Franklin Gutierrez and Jeff Baker being tossed around. In the end, Sabean found his guy, and snuck out of Orlando with Mike Morse, aka The Beast, signed to a 1-year deal. Apparently Houston was among the other clubs trying to lure Morse in. Personally, I think it was a no-brainer… 2 years to DH for the Astros, who really don’t look to be going anywhere for at least a few more seasons, or 1 year to play LF for a winning organization that’s hoping to get back in the race. Hmmm…

Anyway, Morse is a Giant for $6M, with some possible incentives that I haven’t read too much about yet. It turns out the skipper thinks pretty highly of Morse, and probably advocated to Sabean on his behalf. Bochy wanted a LF with some pop, and that’s what he’s getting with Morse. Compared to what else was available, and what other teams were asking for in trades, Morse was definitely a realistic candidate all along. Maybe he was so realistic that most people just wrote it off from the start. I think that’s what I did, although I did say back in October that I wanted Sabes to find the next Pat Burrell-type player to man LF. I’d say Morse fits the bill.

I know the reactions to this deal were pretty mixed, and I expect it to stay that way until the big guy has spent some time on the field next year. But I’ll be honest, I’m glad the Giants made this move. Obviously, Morse has his issues, but he’s also got as much upside of just about any other player that was available on the cheap. Had he performed up to expectations in Seattle this year, he’d have probably earned himself a nice little extension, or at least received a qualifying offer. Instead, his season fell apart, and the trade so Baltimore late in the year didn’t do him any favors either. So, The Beast went on the open market, looking for a reclamation deal. The Giants know a thing or two about those.

It’s already been stated that Morse is going to play everyday, and that Gregor Blanco will be the late-inning sub. This has quite a few folks in a rage, and I’m sure most of those people will be ready to strike with the old “I told ya’ so” if Morse struggles next season. Look, we all know the dude lumbers in the field. He’s a liability in left, and probably more suited for a DH role at this point in his career. But Sabean set out to find himself a starting LF with power, and Morse is exactly that. Sure, it’d be nice to have a guy with a power bat and above average defense out there… but those guys are called 5-tool players, and they general don’t come cheap on the open market. So, you just hope that Morse is healthy enough to crack a few moonshots out of the park, and trust Bochy to get Blanco or Perez into the game for defense when it’s necessary. They showed us they knew what they were doing with Pat the Bat in 2010, so it’s hard not to envision a similar situation going down next year with Morse. And I would also be willing to bet that Blanco will get his fair share of AB’s, as Morse and Pagan are both pretty injury prone out there.

I’ll tell you what I like most about this deal: Morse lengthens the lineup. The Giants now have 5 guys with legitimate 20-HR power in Morse, Pence, Posey, Sandoval and Belt. And just by walking through the door, Morse becomes the only player on the team with a 30-HR season to his name. Not a lot of guys can say that in MLB today, and those who can generally don’t come cheap. If he’s healthy, Morse is a .275+ hitter with tremendous power and without platoon splits. That’s a huge upgrade in the 6 or 7-hole over Blanco, and it also pushes Brandon Crawford back to the #8 spot. That’s what I call depth through the entire order, something the Giants haven’t always had. Yes, you’re asking for a few things to break right here, but if they do, we could be looking at a pretty stout lineup, and hopefully not a lot of Blanco-Crawford-Pitcher wasted innings anymore. I can say this though. If Morse is productive in the 7-hole, I’d expect the Giants to be very much in contention.

Let’s be clear about something: I’m not naïve to the issues the Giants face heading into next season. With the addition of Morse, we’re now looking at four players with serious health concerns (Morse, Sandoval, Pagan, Scutaro). If one of these guys goes down, as they all did last year, where’s the backup plan? Bringing in Morse definitely helps add depth to the OF, as Blanco and Perez could platoon if Morse or Pagan misses time. The infield might be a bigger concern at this point. Obviously though, if both Morse and Pagan hit the deck, it’s going to be a long season… I don’t like to speculate on things like that, but it’s definitely in the back of my mind. And of course, defense certainly could become an issue at some point. Again, though, I’m going to trust the organization’s better judgment to not let one player’s defensive shortcomings hurt the team. Bochy seems to pull the right strings with late-game replacements most of the time.

So, Morse is a Giant for a year, and maybe another offseason steal. We’re hoping he’ll hit 20+ HR and not kill us on defense. Can he stay healthy? Who knows? But for the price, I’ll gladly take a shot on that upside. He’s big and charismatic, and I think he’ll fit in well with the rest of the club. It looks like the roster is mostly set at this point, except for a few bench and bullpen spots that should play out in spring training. We’ve got plenty of time to look at what this group has to offer going forward, but for now, at least we don’t have to speculate about LF anymore. That job belongs to The Beast… and hopefully he makes the front office look like geniuses by this time next year.

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A Wild 24 Hours

On a day when the Giants gave their minor league players a day off from conditioning camp after one of their team vans was involved in an accident, I think it fitting to take a day off from the Cove Chatter 100 prospect lists. If you missed all the commotion this morning, here’s the write-up over at CSN Bay Area. Fortunately, all of the players that were taken to the hospital (Mejia, Bandilla, Soptic, Tomlinson, and Slania) were released without any serious injuries.

Honestly, it doesn’t matter which players were in that van. What matters is their safety. The pictures of the car that hit them aren’t pretty… what a scary situation. This is one blog that is sure thankful those guys are all safe.

In other, not so stressful baseball news, it’s been a very busy 24 hours for the hot stove. Last night was the non-tender deadline for MLB, and the Giants were pretty generous with their contracts. No surprise that Brandon Belt, Gregor Blanco, Yusmeiro Petit, and Joaquin Arias were re-upped, but it was a bit of a shocker to me (and likely a few others) that Tony Abreu was tendered a contract. I guess Sabes doesn’t think too highly of the infield market… not enough to cut ties with Abreu – who really didn’t provide much support last year – anyway.

While all five of the arbitration-eligible guys were awarded contracts, Sandy Rosario and Francisco Peguero were sent packing last night. The Giants apparently couldn’t find a trade partner for Peguero, as they did with Johnny Monell (Baltimore). I’m sure someone will offer Peguero a minor league contract eventually, but his MLB future is very much in doubt at this point. Rosario’s time as a professional has sort of become a revolving door, as I remember his name popping up on numerous waiver claims last winter. He’s a guy I’d take a chance on, but the Giants seem to be looking for more stability from the bullpen next year… I can’t blame them.

So… it would appear that the same reserve infield/outfield issues still loom for the Giants going forward. Let’s assume for a second that Arias and Blanco have two of those spots locked up (which I think is a safe bet). If that’s the case, you still have Juan Perez, Brett Pill, Ehire Adrianza (who is out of options), Nick Noonan, and now Abreu all fighting for the final two spots… plus any other IF/OF Sabean decides to bring in before camp. I don’t know about you, but I sure hope there are more moves to come, even if it’s a guy like Mark Ellis, who I’d gladly take over Abreu to back-up Scutaro at 2B. Abreu and Adrianza are both switch hitters, but Abreu can’t stay healthy, and Adrianza’s ability at the plate is TBD. This is going to get a little messy, friends, and likely won’t be decided until spring.

Around the league, there really weren’t all that many interesting names on the non-tender lists… again, let me show you my surprised face. Noticeably absent from those lists were Justin Ruggiano and Drew Stubbs, two guys who I could see as decent fits to platoon with Blanco in LF. If Sabes is interested in either of those two (which is purely speculation at this points), he’ll have to acquire them in a trade.

The few non-tender players who do intrigue me: Justin Turner, John Axford, Wesley Wright, Daniel Hudson, Andrew Bailey, Jerome Williams. Among this list, I think Turner could be a nice fit (although I seriously don’t know the priority for middle infielders now that Abreu was tendered). He plays all over the diamond, seems to be passable on defense, and is accustomed to a reserve role. The OBP isn’t all that great, but the positional flexibility would be nice. The rest of these cats are pitchers. Hudson isn’t very far removed from a pretty darn good season with Arizona. Axford, Wright and Bailey could all be valuable pieces in a bullpen, but Bailey especially comes with the high injury risk. I would think all three of those guys will find a home pretty quickly. Finally, if the Giants want a little more depth in the rotation heading into spring training, Williams could be a nice full-circle story on a minor league deal. I didn’t really find much else that caught my eye… remember, these are the guys that other teams DIDN’T want.

We’ll wrap up with a quick overview of the recent trade/FA signing action. To my knowledge, there have been approximately 250 moves in the past 48 hours – and those are just from the office of Billy Beane. Seriously, though, the past couple days have been trade central. The A’s (Jim Johnson, Craig Gentry, Luke Gregerson) and Rays (Ryan Hanigan, Heath Bell) have certainly been the most active, but the Nats probably swung the biggest deal in snagging Doug Fister from the Tigers. Fister is a very nice addition to that rotation.

If we’re learning anything here, there are certainly trades to be had out there. The winter meetings are next week, and I sure as hell hope Uncle Sabes is working on that shopping list for a LF. Even if it’s a Ruggiano type, I don’t care. I’m not satisfied with a Blanco/Perez platoon, and I hope you aren’t either. Maybe the front office will completely surprise us with a trade nobody was expecting. They sure have enough interesting prospects to snag a decent player, but whether they’ll pull those strings or not remains to be seen.

We’ll pick back up with the CC 100 tomorrow, with another honorable mention list to be released. For now, though, we’re just thankful here at Cove Chatter that those prospects are safe, and still able to play the game they (and we) all love.

Tony Abreu

More Moves (with Video!)

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. It’s time to get caught up on some recent Giants roster moves, as there have been plenty in the past couple days. Some are more prominent than others, and there are already plenty of reaction pieces out there, so I’ll keep my thoughts brief. I’ve also done a little searching and found some video on each of the players involved in the recent slew of moves, which is nice because there’s not always a ton of clips out there.

Vogey’s Back:

First, reports came out just a few minutes ago that Ryan Vogelsong’s one-year deal is done, pending the customary physical. I haven’t seen anything describing the official terms of the contract, but rumors were that he’d earn somewhere around $3M in guaranteed money, with incentives taking it to more than $6.5M (the total for his 2014 option the Giants declined a couple weeks ago). If those numbers hold true, it’s a head scratcher to me why they didn’t just pick up his option in the first place.

At this point, it would appear that Sabean has filled his rotation for next season. He did so in a hurry, like usual. Considering that we knew Sabes wanted a 1-year deal for his 5th starter, and that the Giants had been connected to Vogey all along, this really shouldn’t be a big surprise. But I would be lying if I said I was completely satisfied with the move. With so many short-term options still available in the pitching market, I’m a little disappointed in the front office for closing the rotation door so quickly. When you consider Vogelsong’s 2013 season was pretty abysmal, I’m just not a big fan of bringing him back. Granted, this contract could turn out to be a steal if he even comes close to his 2012 performance next season. At 36 years old, I’m not so sure that’s going to happen. Honestly, I would have preferred a one-year flier on a guy like Phil Hughes to Vogelsong, but Hughes probably wouldn’t have come as cheap. Whatever, I guess…

Make no mistake about it: the Giants brought Vogey back because they think he’s capable of looking like this again. But, don’t forget those 93’s and 94’s had dipped to 88’s and 89’s this September. The only time he looked good all season was in the WBC start I watched in March, so maybe the short offseason really did screw him up. Only time will tell, but for now I think it’s safe to say the 5th spot in the rotation is Vogelsong’s to lose.

DFA:

A couple nights ago, we learned that two players had been DFA’d, making room for two new additions to the 40-man roster. For Johnny Monell and Francisco “Frankie Peggs” Peguero, it’s probably so long Gigantes. For pitchers Jose De Paula and Eric Cordier, it’s welcome to San Francisco, home of two world titles in four years.

Let’s be clear here. Monell had absolutely no future with the Giants. He was called up for a cup of coffee (and maybe a little showcase?) in September, but his age and defense are working against him in a big way. He’ll get picked up for his left-handed power (see this video), but he’s probably destined to a part-time DH role. Of course, I’ll be rooting for him.

The Giants have a logjam of AAA outfield types, and one or two of them were bound to bite the dust. It just happened to be Peguero that got the first call, but don’t be surprised if Roger Kieschnick’s phone rings too. Juan Perez passed both guys this year, and neither was all that impressive in their brief MLB action. If Peguero is claimed, there’ll be some upset fans out there, of that I am certain. The dude got only 46 PA in two seasons, which isn’t nearly enough to form an opinion. But we know how the Giants roll: if they give you an opportunity, you’d better damn well show them something. To me, all Peguero showed was the inability to take a pitch. He didn’t do himself any favors, and looked pretty rough in the majority of his AB’s. Of course, some fans will forget the bad, and remember his only good swing in a Giants uniform when they abuse Sabean for cutting ties.

Don’t get me wrong, the guy has nice speed, and maybe he’ll catch on with someone. But I just didn’t see him fitting into the Giants long-term plans.

40-Man Adds:

So, the newbies… De Paula is a lefty who earned a spring training invite in San Diego last year. That’s pretty good for a 23 year-old, as he is so listed on Baseball Reference. It’s not so exciting, however, for a 25 year-old, as he’s listed on SFGiants.com. Which one is it? Pretty certain it’s 25, and he’s already missed a season due to visa issues. He’s never been above AA, and doesn’t pitch all that well against righties. Maybe a future reliever? Here’s some video from his time in the Cal League.

Cordier (how do you pronounce that?) has bounced around a few organizations, but had a pretty nice season for Pittsburgh’s AAA club this year. He’s a big 27 year-old, throws major gas, and doesn’t seem to have any clue where it’s going. Don’t believe me? Watch the first three pitches from this AFL video in 2011. Yowzers. The Giants are loading up on flame-throwing bullpen arms, and I can’t say I disapprove. If Cordier can find the mitt, he may finally break through to the big leagues next season. And he should be fun to watch!

Gosh dang it, I rambled again. It’s a work in progress, friends. That’s all for now though, as we get closer to the winter meetings. Will Sabean swing a deal for an OF or a utility player? We can certainly hope. For now, the pitching staff looks to be locked up, so things could get pretty quiet on the Gigantes front heading forward.

Monell

Offseason Happenings

I thought we’d kick the week off with a little recap of last week’s hot stove action, including the signings of Brian McCann, Jhonny Peralta and Dan Haren over the weekend. Things are starting to really pick up now, so we’ll try to stay in the know here at Cove Chatter.

Giants Updates:

The Giants knocked another item off the to-do list last week with a 3-year, $13M deal for Javier Lopez. Again, Brian Sabean took some pretty good heat from callers on KNBR for signing another 35+ year-old pitcher to a multiple year contract (Tim Hudson being the first). Again, though, I think people are failing to understand the significance of this move… and I’ll be the first to admit I was skeptical a couple months ago about giving any kind of money to a lefty specialist in his upper 30’s. But look closely at the numbers; 2013 was Javy’s best season as a big leaguer. A 1.83 ERA… a .156 batting average against vs lefties. You have to have a guy like this in your bullpen, and Lopez is the best there is right now. He’s a stud, and yet another reason why the Pirates are probably done making trades with Sabean (Jason Schmidt, Freddy Sanchez anyone?). As long as Bochy keeps pulling the right strings and the Giants can keep Lopez’ arm fresh for potential postseason runs, I love the deal. Javy’s the man, and I actually thought it would take more money to bring him back.

Pitching:

Breaking news: Veteran pitchers love the California sunshine and spacious NL West outfields… and can you blame them? If there’s one commodity that’s not in short supply this winter, it’s veteran pitching, and the Golden State NL trio is on the case. The Giants pulled the first card with their two-year deal for Hudson, and the Padres and Dodgers responded with one-year reclamation deals last week. Sand Diego inked Josh Johnson for a year at $8M, and LA signed Dan Haren to a 1-year, $10M contract yesterday afternoon. Both Johnson and Haren wanted to be in California, and both were in at least some form of discussion with the Giants as well. All of these short-term deals could turn out to be major bargains, especially when guys like Jason Vargas are getting four years in the AL. To me, Haren would have been the better fit of the two for Sabean, as Johnson is just too much of an injury risk for a team looking for reliable arms. I think Haren could have a very nice season in LA, and I was hoping he’d join Hudson in a Giants uniform. My guess is Sabes isn’t interested in shelling out $10M for another starter at this point.

With the Haren signing, the Dodgers essentially have a full rotation. Are they still planning on going after David Price? What about Masahiro Tanaka, if he’s posted? I’ve got a slight hunch they’ll still be in on the bidding for Tanaka, but I certainly can’t see them pursuing both of these guys anymore. Of course, it’s not a guarantee that Tanaka will even be available this winter anymore, so Haren could turn out to be an underrated move for LA come April.

So, with some of the middle-tier pitching talent starting to drop, where does that leave the Giants? I guess it depends on what Sabean is looking to spend, but I get the feeling he doesn’t want any “5th starters” in his Opening Day rotation. I like that idea, although I’d say Tim Lincecum is about as close as you can get to a 5th starter these days. It doesn’t sound like Bronson Arroyo is going to be a good fit, as he’s looking for at least three years. Jason Hammel’s name has been tossed around a bit, and he might be a good fit on a short-term deal. Personally, I’d like to see Sabes make a push for a guy like Scott Kazmir, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Giants connected to guys like Bartolo Colon or Paul Maholm on a one-year offer when it all boils down.

Quick Take:

Mets sign Chris Young for 1-year, $7.25M – another possible Giants LF platoon option is off the books, and I don’t understand the Mets’ reasoning in paying out that much money, even on a one year deal. Kind of a head scratcher for a team trying to get out of the cellar.

Indians sign David Murphy for 2-years, $12M – Definitely not on the Sabes winter shopping list, but this deal could impact Cleveland outfielder Drew Stubbs, who looks to be the odd man out. If Stubbs is non-tendered, maybe the Giants look to him on the cheap as a right-handed partner to Gregor Blanco in left. Stubbs strikes out in bunches, but he’s a solid defender with wheels who sports a career .796 OPS vs LHP. Just a thought…

Royals sign Jason Vargas for 4-year, $32M – the AAV isn’t bad at $8M, but I’ll take Hudson and Lincecum and hope for Kyle Crick and Edwin Escobar in 2 years rather than giving 4 years to a soft-tossing lefty with a career 4.30 ERA. Don’t get me wrong, Vargas is consistent when healthy, but my gut says Kansas City fans will be fed up with that contract in less than two years.

Yankees sign Brian McCann for 5-year, $85M – The Yankees had Chris Stewart behind the dish for a good chunk of 2013. They’ll also likely be getting a compensation draft pick when Curtis Granderson leaves, so losing their first round pick for McCann shouldn’t have much of an effect. Comparing the McCann deal to the 5-year, $90M whopper the Giants gave Hunter Pence, I’d take Pence over McCann (for the Giants) every time. McCann’s lefty bat should play well in Yankee Stadium. The back end of that contract might look rough, but back ends of contracts usually do.

Cardinals trade David Freese for to the Angels for Peter Bourjos, sign Jhonny Peralta for 4-years, $53M – Freese is a solid but not elite 3B who’s had one great offensive season in his career. Bourjos is a fairly young outfielder with plus defense and injury issues. Considering everything the Cardinals touch these days turns to gold, I’m sure Bourjos will be a star in St. Louis. I guess I’m a little unmoved by this trade, but the Cards did just replace Freese’s production with the Peralta signing. I don’t say this kind of thing very often, but I hope Peralta just tanks for the next four years, or gets suspended for using PED’s again. This is getting to be a little ridiculous, and I’m not exactly seeing the downside for players who use these days. If MLB is serious about getting rid of the problem, they need to step it up… and they need to start by getting rid of A-Rod… for good.

Tigers trade Prince Fielder to Texas for Ian Kinsler – Wow, I didn’t see this trade coming at all. The Tigers get a solid all-around player in Kinsler. The Rangers get a big slugger to make the women swoon in Arlington. Everything’s bigger in Texas. How long was Prince in Detroit? Two years! He played all 162 both seasons, and was a huge bust in the playoffs. Now his $214M contract is headed for Texas, who seems to be in desperation mode after falling short the past couple years. Don’t get me wrong: I’d take Fielder’s bat in the Giants lineup any day. But that much money for a one-dimensional player? Maybe Uncle Sabes isn’t as crazy as we thought for staying away from these major free agent contracts.

Final thoughts:

A trade for a LF or a minor league contract is looking more and more likely for the Giants at this point, as I’d imagine the rest of the offseason money will be going to a pitcher. This shouldn’t surprise a lot of people, but it will certainly upset them. Yes, it would be ideal to start the season with Blanco as the 4th outfielder, but the (realistic) options just aren’t out there right now.

**Update** Here’s your minor league signing, but it’s not an OF. The Giants signed IF Brandon Hicks this morning. Hicks is a 28 year-old journeyman whose most recent MLB action was in 2012 with Oakland. He’s a former 3rd round pick, has 90 big league at-bats to his name, and is a career .247 hitter in the minors. He did hit 3 HR in 22 games with Oakland, though.

Keep your eyes open in the next couple weeks as we get ready to unveil a major project dedicated to the Giants farm system. I’ve been working on it for a couple months now, and can’t wait to go live with it. Exciting times here at Cove Chatter, folks. As always, thanks for reading.

The Hitting Market: Buyer Beware

We’ll turn our attention now to the offensive market this offseason. The caveat here: it’s pretty bare – even more so than the pitching market in my opinion. But Sabean promised us more depth, despite his lack of confidence in free agency and potential trades. So, what should we expect this winter? Well, here are 10 players that might be of interest for Uncle Sabes during his shopping trip this offseason. Ok, it’s actually 12 players if you count all 3 of the Dodgers’ infielders, but let’s not get hung up on technicalities here. Some of these guys are a little more likely than others, of course, but each might be a reasonable name to file away in your offseason guide as we start to wade deeper into free agency.

If Sabean were to take up an ad in the classifieds this offseason, I’d expect it to look something like this:

WANTED

A Left fielder – right-handed hitting; defensive-oriented; home run power preferred (this is starting to sound a little like an oxymoron, isn’t it?) Draft pick compensation players need not apply.

A Utility Infielder – part-time starting position available. Must be willing to take a back seat to gritty NLCS MVP, but also available to step in on late notice when said gritty NLCS MVP wakes up with a stiff back… cagy veterans welcome, positional flexibility preferred.

That looks about right, you think? Now, we watch the applications roll in… but seriously, the Giants need some kind of an offensive upgrade in left field. Aside from filling the back end of the rotation, this is one of the greatest needs on the team going forward. Here’s what Baggs had to say about the situation in his weekly chat last week… “I think you’ll see the Giants either try to trade for a left fielder, or find a better right-handed bat (with some power) to platoon with Gregor Blanco…Defense remains a big part of the equation.” And “…that would mean Blanco would get most of the at-bats in that scenario. I think the Giants know they need to do a little better than that.”

Wow, I’m painting a picture in my head right now, and it looks something like a kindergarten splatter-paint masterpiece. A right-handed, defensive-minded, power bat… in this market, that won’t be easy to find, folks. That’s just the way it goes. Even Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo, the top outfielders available this winter, don’t fit that description. They are both left-handed… they both received the qualifying offer as well, so the masses out there wishing for a Choo or Ellsbury signing almost assuredly aren’t going to get their wish. Sabean already spent his big money in the outfield, and it’s sitting in the bank account of the Rev. Hunter Pence. There’s not much dough left for the opposite corner at the moment. It’s going to take some creativity to get better production out of left field next year, that’s for sure.

The utility infielder spot actually shouldn’t be all that difficult to fill. And it shouldn’t take a whole lot of money. The Giants have quite a few in-house options to consider as well. If they still see Marco Scutaro as the primary starter, they’re really only looking for a player to come in and make roughly 50 starts… essentially a Ryan Theriot role.

Those are your needs… now, who’s going to fill them? I’ve listed a handful of players who might fit, whether through free agency or trade. I even added a couple of wildcard candidates to consider as well.

*One thing to note here: I included the 2013 and career OPS+ for each player to give just a quick snapshot of his recent production in comparison to what he’s done for the long haul. Remember, a 100 is average.

Free Agents:

Chris Young, CF, 30 yo | 2013: OPS+ 85 (94 career), 12 HR, 10 SB – career .837 OPS vs LHP. The A’s declined their option on Young last week, and if Sabean decides his best bet is a platoon partner for Blanco, he’s probably one of the better fits. He offers center field-caliber defense, some potential for power, and a little speed to boot. He should come cheap, but you have to remember he only hit .209 against lefties last season.

Mike Morse, 1B/LF, 31 yo | 2013: OPS+ 84 (119), 13 HR – career .819 OPS vs LHP. If the Giants want defense, Morse may not be a good fit. He had a pretty messy 2013 campaign, and his wrist injury is a concern. If he’s healthy, he could be a great offensive bounce back candidate.

Marlon Byrd, RF, 36 yo | 2013: OPS+ 138 (102), 24 HR – career .804 OPS vs LHP. Byrd resurrected his career last season, and could definitely be the right-handed power bat the Giants are looking for. But do you trust him to post those numbers again next year? Maybe on a one-year offer…

Omar Infante, 2B, 31 yo | 2013: OPS+ 113 (93), 10 HR. Two weeks ago, Infante was my under-the-radar dynamite pickup… his bat and positional flexibility would fit perfect in the Giants’ infield, and he’d probably push Scutaro to a reserve role. Problem is, this is a very overpriced market, and a guy like Infante now stands to get close to $10 million a year… so much for that.

Dodgers MIF: Ellis, 36 yo, OPS+ 92 (94) /Punto, 36 yo, OPS+ 87 (76)/Schumaker, 33, OPS+ 90 (94). Dodgers, and plenty of them. All of these guys fit the reserve infielder, scrapper profile. Ellis was my first choice, but the more I think about Schumaker’s positional flexibility, the more I come around to the idea.

Trade:

Brandon Phillips: 2B, 32 | 2013: 92 (96), 18 HR. He’s as “good as gone,” in Cincy, according to one report. I’ve always like Phillips, and those damn Reds always seem to mash in AT&T… he stands to make $50M over the next four years, so the Reds would need to eat some money. Definitely a long shot, but he would certainly make the team better, both offensively and defensively.

Mark Trumbo: 1B/OF, 27 | 2013: 109 (114), 34 HR. Like Phillips, he’s available. You want a power bat from the right side? Here it is, with some contact issues as well. The Angels want starting pitching. I’ll give you a Kickham and a Surkamp, straight up… just kidding… but seriously, they’re on the table.

Justin Ruggiano: CF, 31 | 2013: 90 (102), 18 HR, 15 SB – .834 career OPS vs LHP. He’s a late bloomer who’s kind of bounced around organizations. But the last two seasons in Miami have been very intriguing. The batting average fell off quite a bit in 2013, but he’s got all the makings for a very realistic trade candidate. Power against lefties, speed, and CF defense. Also, the dude had a (short-lived) Marlins’ blog named after him… so there’s that. Credit to DrB of When the Giants Come to Town on the initial find of what could be a very under-valued trade candidate.

I truly believe a Ruggiano deal could happen, and don’t think it would cost Sabean all that much in return. Kickham, Ehire Adrianza, Nick Noonan, Francisco Peguero… Pick any two, and size the newest Giant for a hat.

Wildcards:

James Loney: 1B, 29 | 2013: OPS+ 118 (106), 13 HR. Not finding a match in the right-handed hitter department? What about a 2-year offer for another former Dodger? He’d require Brandon Belt to move to LF against righties, but Loney’s been a pretty safe bet to hit .280 for most of his career. He’s got gap power from the left side, which is exactly how lefty hitters should approach AT&T Park. He shouldn’t cost much, and could really give Sabean and Co. a nice 7th hitter who adds depth to the lineup.

Brian McCann: C, 29 | 2013: OPS+ 115 (117), 20 HR.  “If you asked me right now, McCann is the only player who received a qualifying offer that I could see the Giants punting the draft pick to sign.” ~ Baggs. So, the Giants really are interested in McCann… fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your priorities), he’s got a very large market this winter, and reports have him signing for $100M+. It won’t be with the Giants, who should have a very good chance to use their 1st round pick on another power pitcher. Don’t get me wrong –McCann is a pro who’s going to help some team out greatly. But he’s not a good fit for the Giants right now, and kicking the draft pick for him would be a serious mistake, in my opinion.

There you go… free agents, trades, and a couple wildcards. 10 (ok, 12) potential players to fill two needs. Young or Morse might be the most likely fits for a short-term deal, but keep your eye out for Ruggiano in a trade if the free agent market turns sour after the New Year.

Happy shopping, Sabes… and good luck.

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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.

Winter Shopping: Pitching Part I

Been on the road this week with an iPad. Lots of reading, but writing any posts was pretty much out of the question. Back home now, and so much to catch up on! I was able to draft a tentative Opening Day 2014 projection, but after much reading and speculating, I feel there are changes that need to be made. Predicting the Giants’ offseason moves is never easy, as they really do play things very close to the chest. I’d always followed the offseason pretty passively until last season, but this blog has given me an outlet to follow along much more intently this winter. So many things are up in the air right now, and I’ll admit I’m not sure how aggressive the front office will get in rebuilding this team for next year. We do know what the needs are though, and it never hurts to take a closer look at the options.

The hot stove is upon us, and Uncle Brian’s going shopping kids. Wonder what he’ll find…

For starters, he’ll need to find two more starting pitchers to join his 3 first round picks, who’ve all been rewarded handsomely for their efforts. Matt Cain, $20 million next season; Tim Lincecum, $17 million; and Madison Bumgarner, 2013 ace, maybe getting the short end of the stick at $3.75 million next year after his arbitration years were bought out. Over $40 million going to 3/5 of the 2014 rotation, and the dude with a sub-4.00 ERA gets 3.75! This group is getting expensive, but they’ve got the rings to back it up. So, who do you get to join them?

There really are a ton of starting pitchers on the market, but the high-end talent is very thin, as I’m sure you already know. I’ve taken 21 of the “premier” names out there (20 free agents + David Price), and sorted them into some groups.

Qualifying Offer Gang: Hiroki Kuroda, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana.

The only three to get the qualifying offer. The Giants goofed up and won a few too many games down the stretch, missing the protected pick. They aren’t giving up their first round pick, plain and simple. I don’t know that any of these guys would have been a great fit anyway. Kuroda’s steady but nearly 40. Ubaldo could be interesting, but not for the money he’ll get. I told a buddy Santana was looking for $100 million; his response was “Where? Under his couch cushions?” Not happening!

Damaged Goods: Doc Halladay, Johan Santana, Josh Johnson.

The former elite, currently busted up group. Some team might get a steal with Johnson on a one-year deal. Maybe Halladay too. It also could be money down the drain. Sabean needs to fill two spots, and he needs some certainty. I don’t see him calling this group.

No Thanks: Ricky Nolasco, AJ Burnett

Nolasco was intriguing for the brief period when the Giants had a winning record last spring. The guy has his first above average season (101 ERA+) since 2008 and they project an Edwin Jackson 4-$52 million deal? How’s that contract working out for the Cubs again? Burnett, like Kuroda, is considering retirement. No thanks.

A-List: Masahiro Tanaka, David Price, Matt Garza

Here’s the cream of the crop. You’ve got the international phenom in Tanaka, the prized trade piece in Price, and arguably the top free agent starter in MLB with Garza. The Giants have been connected in some form to Tanaka and Price, but a trade with the Rays is highly, highly unlikely to me. The high-ceiling prospects just aren’t there to make it happen right now. Kyle Crick would be a given, but I think Tampa would ask for Bumgarner or Belt as well. I just don’t see it happening. Peter Gammons can see a Price trade happening for the Dodgers, though… that’s scary.

That leaves Tanaka and Garza. Had you asked me about the Giants’ going for one or both of these two even a week ago, I’d probably have told you it wasn’t going to happen. But something seems to have changed this week. If you read the Baggs chat transcript on CSNBayArea.com yesterday, you might have read this: “The Giants are being very quiet and kind of trying to deflect interest. Which is precisely what makes me think they’ll make a push. That and they sent almost everyone who owns a panama hat (stereotype!) to see him pitch in Japan.” Those are Baggs’ words, followed by an article this morning. John Shea also wrote a Tanaka/Giants piece too. What’s going on here?

After giving it a lot of thought, I think Sabean will indeed make a run at Tanaka, and I for one cannot fault him for it. 25 years old…mid-90’s heat… dirty splitter… reports of intelligence and poise not shown by Yu Darvish… that’s hard to beat, regardless of the price. The kicker, though… like Price, Tanaka’s already been connected to the Dodgers. Again, that’s not good. Sabean has said he needs to build a rotation to compete with the big dogs. Tanaka could go a very long way in making that happen. It’ll be damn expensive outbidding the likes of the Dodgers and Yankees (estimates have been as high as $150 million for the posting fee and contract), and certainly a risk, but consider the alternative… Kershaw, Greinke, Tanaka, Ryu… Price? Can you handle that? I know I can’t…

The only real concern I have with Tanaka is his stamina going forward. He’s 25, and he’s already pitched 1,315 professional innings. He threw 160 pitches in his final postseason start in Japan… I’ll bet it wasn’t the first time.  There certainly aren’t any guarantees in baseball, but I think Sabean has to make a competitive bid. That’s all we can really ask for.

If the Giants come up short on Tanaka (which I ultimately think they will), I think Sabes needs to look to Garza next. He’s not an ace, and there are some injury concerns, but he’s really the top arm that doesn’t require draft pick compensation. He’s 29, and it’ll take a 4-5 year deal in excess of $15 million per, but Garza’s another guy who would add significant depth to the rotation. Will the Giants get involved with him? If they miss on Tanaka, I almost think they have to…

That’s it for tonight. In part two, we’ll take a look at some of the more realistic starting pitching options (or what I call the B and C-Lister’s) that Uncle Sabes may find at the market this winter.

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