Foreign Water

Jose Abreu will soon be playing his games at the cell phone field on Chicago’s south side, six years’ worth. The White Sox reportedly beat out Boston and Houston for the Cuban slugger, who got a $68 million deal. His contract was significantly greater than that of Yoenis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig, who have certainly set the bar high for Abreu. There are still plenty of questions for the hefty 1B/DH, though. Will he hit? Will he field? Is he worthy of that kind of money? 6 years too long? All fair questions, I’d say. But here’s one question that crossed my mind after hearing of the Abreu signing: What the heck happened to the Giants?

In his annual end-of-season press conference, Brian Sabean told us not to expect a “big splash” in the international free agent market, despite the fact that there are some potential impact players available again this offseason. Next thing you know, Sabean and his posse (Pat Burrell and Felipe Alou) are on a plane bound for the Dominican to get a better look at Abreu and fellow Cuban infielder Alexander Guerrero (who was very close to signing with the Dodgers, but is still on the market). What did the posse learn about Abreu? They didn’t like his glove. That’s the message I took from a few of the Giants beat guys on twitter, anyway. I thought it a bit odd though… the dude wasn’t known for his glove in the first place!

So… if the Giants didn’t like Abreu’s talents, and don’t plan to make an international splash, then why did CSN release a post calling them (the Giants) favorites to land the guy? Why did Baggs’ say he expected Sabean and Co. to be “all in” on Abreu, fighting to the finish to sign him, when I asked about the conflicting reports? Now, only a week removed, the Giants weren’t even among the final three. Did the bopper want too much money? $60-70 million is a hefty price tag for a guy with no MLB experience, but not an unreasonable one in my opinion. He’s got 30-40 HR potential, and that doesn’t come cheap. But that’s the game of baseball these days, and somebody was going to pony up the money. The Giants knew what it would cost all along. Did they lowball him? I haven’t found any reports saying they even made him an offer.

If, in fact the Giants really were all in on Abreu, and they truly were not among his final three suitors, I think that’s a pretty big misfire on the organization’s part. If he really wasn’t ever a priority, and all the flights and reports were smokescreens, so be it. In that case, I would like to see them throw a dollar amount out there to Guerrero. To pluck him from the Dodgers would be a big statement for an organization that was left in the dust by its rival this year. Do I think it will happen? Honestly, I don’t. The Dodgers had a 5-year, $32 million offer on the table, according to MLB Trade Rumors. I don’t see the Giants giving an international free agent that kind of money to come in without a defined role… unless of course they are looking to move Pablo, but I really don’t find that likely either. Sabean did say that he wants to bring in more depth. He didn’t say that he wanted to bring in someone to unseat one of his everyday infielders. I’d say a smaller offer (say 2-3 years at $5-7 million per) to a utility guy like Omar Infante would be a much more likely play for Sabean.

Abreu and Guerrero are the top Cuban hitters on the market. They aren’t the top talent in the international water though. I’ll give that distinction to Masahiro Tanaka, Japanese sensation. Tanaka has a big fastball and a signature split as his out pitch. I’ve read a few reports calling him the next Yu Darvish, a few others saying his split won’t play in the bigs. How can scouts be that far apart on him? Doesn’t make much sense to me, but I do know this: Iwakuma is rocking the AL West out in Seattle with a nasty splitter. He doesn’t throw as hard as Tanaka, and he’s quite a few years older. I think whoever gets Tanaka will have a stud on their hands, but that’s just me. A lot of people sold Hyun-jin Ryu short last season (a few even gave him a middle-relief tag), and look what he did in LA.

If I’m Sabean, I’m throwing a decent offer at the righty. If you snag him, you’ve got 3 very good starters on your hands. Bumgarner, Cain, Tanaka… that’s a deep group. Problem is, the Yankees have their sights set on him as well, and it sounds like they’re serious. Maybe the pecking order in the American League has changed somewhat, but I still find the Yankees as a team who can bring in any player they want. If they’re serious about somebody, that’s bad news for the 29 other clubs. $300 million payroll next year? Give me a break! Personally, I don’t think the Giants have a chance on the Tanaka front, nor is it Sabean’s nature to get in a bidding war.

So, it would seem to me that Sabes was telling the truth (as he often does) about the international market. No big splashes, just a lot of evaluations. Barring some unforeseen development on the Guerrero front, I’d say the Giants are out of the foreign water at this point.

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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.