2014, Full Steam Ahead

It’s a brand new year here at Cove Chatter, as it likely is wherever you are too, I’d imagine. We’re a couple months out from Cactus League play (eight weeks to the day, to be exact), but there’s still much to do until then. I’ve made some 2014 resolutions for the blog, and wanted to share them with you briefly.

Obviously, the top priority is to provide all of you a place that brings consistent, reliable year-round Giants coverage – wall to wall, wire to wire, and what not. I don’t think we’ll have a problem there. When I look back at the last six months and how far Cove Chatter has come, I’m very proud of the dedication I’ve put into this project. And the support I’ve gotten from all of you has been humbling. But still, there just seems to be something missing. I think I’ve finally pinpointed it.

It’s humor, ladies and gents. That’s what’s been missing, and it’s something that I’m committed to providing a bit more of to you in the future. Why? If you’ve ever read Grant Brisbee’s stuff, you know exactly why. That guy is one of the most knowledgeable, and absolutely hilarious writers I’ve ever read. He kills me, every single time. That’s like being a 5-tool player in my book, and it’s the exact reason why I think being a blogger is so much more rewarding than being a sportswriter. Sportswriters are so restricted, while bloggers can let it all hang out. Sure, there’s no money in running a blog, but had I wanted to write for money, I would have pursued a journalism degree in the first place.

Anyway, I realize I’m nowhere near as witty as a pro like Brisbee, but do I think I’m a funny guy. In fact, scouts have called my humor tool projectable on a number of occasions. There’s more in the tank (as one high ranking fellow blogger might say) and I’ll need to tap into it if I ever want to reach my ceiling as a writer. Is it likely? I guess we’ll find out. So, there you have it folks. My resolution is to lighten up a tad, and provide you with a little more humor into the New Year.

I suppose you were thinking there’d be some actual substance in this post? Let’s get to it then. Like usual, I’m late to the party. This time it’s the Masahiro Tanaka posting. I figured I’d let everyone else talk about him for a while, and honestly I don’t think there’s any traction with him and the Giants. Do I think they’ll put in the $20 million max bid? I couldn’t tell you, but I’d hope so. I can tell you this though: If they do pay the posting fee, they most certainly won’t make the largest offer. Theirs probably wouldn’t be top 5, and maybe not even top 10 in dollar amount.

If you think the Giants have any inkling to give Tanka the money that the Dodgers or the Yankees or Mariners (or maybe Astros) are going to, you need to sober up. It’s January 2 – the New Year’s parties are over, and the rest of the world is back to work. The Giants aren’t going to pay $100M+ for a guy who’s never pitched in a major league game. That’s just the reality, and it’s unfortunate one.

If all factors were equal, I really couldn’t think of a better fit for Tanaka than San Francisco. Successful franchise, proven pitching staff, great crowds, vibrant city, mild climate… I haven’t even mentioned the large Asian-American influence. Frankly, I think he’d love being a Giant. Unfortunately, the weather’s even warmer in LA, and they may even have more palm trees down there. The pockets are also much deeper, as you well know. And the almighty dollar will ultimately matter the most.

So, while most of the baseball world (and the top pitchers on the market) wait for the Tanaka extravaganza to play out over the next few weeks, Brian Sabean and the Giants front office will likely stay inside by the fire, swapping old stories and playing cribbage. Their winter shopping’s all done, as is the usual case. It’s amazing how much pitching is still out there at this point. I’d imagine the next 6 weeks are going to be highly, highly entertaining. There will likely be some overspending of the grandest variety, with a ton of harsh criticism sure to follow. But not for the Giants. They’ll still be inside, sipping away on their Folgers Original, waiting for the spring to come.

I don’t know if it’s the optimism of the New Year coming out in me, or if I’ve just learned to accept the “Giants way” over the years… but I’d say I’m just fine with them staying cooped up for the winter. If the MLB market is anything like Montana this time of year, it’s best to stay inside anyway, and let the crazies take their chances out in the cold. Those roads can be pretty slick, you know.

That’s all for now. Although there’s not a ton of Giants news at the moment, there are still plenty of things to discuss around here in the coming weeks, as well as the rest of the Cove Chatter 100 series (which is just starting to get into the meat of the system). So I hope you’ll stick around for the remainder of the offseason. 2014, here we come…

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(Terry Foote)

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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.

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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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.