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.

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Expectations

The Giants snuck out of New York with a close victory yesterday, spoiling Mariano Rivera’s farewell ceremony with a 2-1 win. It was the Giants’ only win of the weekend in Yankee Stadium, and Yusmeiro Petit outpitched Andy Pettitte in Pettitte’s final regular season start in New York. Ehire Adrianza homered off Pettitte for the Giants’ first run, and Tony Abreu drove in the go-ahead run late. Juan Perez singled off Rivera in the 9th, and also plucked another runner at home. So, I guess you could say the kids stole the show in this one.

The Giants didn’t play as well as we would have liked this weekend, but they weren’t that far off either. On Friday night, Timmy held his own against CC Sabathia, and George Kontos’ hanger to A-Rod in the 7th was the difference in a 5-1 loss. Saturday’s game was the outlier, with Ryan Vogelsong getting it handed to him on national TV. If you had to choose between $6.5 million of Vogey, or a cheap Petit for next season, it’s beginning to look like a pretty easy decision. Petit is averaging better than a strikeout per inning with the Giants in 44.1 IP, and if you combine his MLB and MiLB numbers, he’s got a 3.88 ERA with 144 K and 27 BB in 137 IP… and to think he was DFA’d earlier in the season. Meanwhile, Vogelsong can’t strike anybody out, or make it past the 5th inning these days. He’s a good dude with determination, but that $6 million option isn’t looking any better than his fastball is anymore.

Anyway, the Giants may not have put up much offense against the Yankees, but they finished a 10-game road trip at 6-4, their first multi-city winning road trip all year. Yeah, all year.

A final thought here. I watched the Rivera farewell ceremony yesterday. Pretty cool stuff. I learned a few things in the process too. I didn’t know Dave Righetti was the Yankees’ all time saves leader before Rivera, and I also didn’t know Rivera made his debut at 25. 25! That’s old for a prospect, right? Just goes to show that you can’t ever write a player off. Rivera, Jeter, Pettitte and Posada all debuted in 1995. Wow.

Yes, the Giants have their rings, and none of us will ever forget it. But I sure as hell hope 2010 and 2012 are the norms, not 2013. This season has definitely been a struggle, but it’s hard to be angry at a franchise that has given its fans so many positives over the past four years. Watching those games against the Yankees, as well as the Rivera events, it’s hard not to respect and appreciate what they’ve done. That franchise has set the gold standard, and even when they aren’t winning titles, they’re in the hunt every year.

With the talent the Giants have, they cannot have another season like this. Not with players like Posey, Bumgarner and Cain anchoring the team. Yes, last year was fun. But this year was inexcusable, and Brian Sabean has a ton of work to do this winter. You can’t get comfortable in this business, and this is a fan base that now expects to be in contention every year, just like the fans that sit in Yankee Stadium.

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Elimination

The Giants managed to avoid being mathematically eliminated from contention with a pair of walk-off wins on Sunday and Monday. They couldn’t avoid it last night, however, blowing a 6-0 lead over the Rockies. Trailing 8-6 in the 8th, Hunter Pence tied the game with a 2-run single, but Sergio Romo gave up a go-ahead home run to Michael Cuddyer in the 9th, and the Giants were cooked. To lose like that at home is both heartbreaking and embarrassing, regardless of the standings. So, the team that made it look easy down the stretch last season is now officially eliminated, with 3 weeks still to play… although realistically they were eliminated two months ago.

A tough night, in an even tougher season. But last night really highlighted a lot of the difficult decisions the Giants’ will be faced with in the offseason. Let’s look at a couple of them.

At the top of the list, Pence stayed red-hot with 4 hits and 6 RBI. That’s right, the Rev knocked in each of the Giants’ 6 runs last night. He did it with a 3-run HR, an RBI double, and the 2-run single in the 8th. The homer was his 20th of the year, and he’s the first 20-20 Giant (20 HR, 20 SB) since Barry Bonds 15 years ago, and only the 7th San Francisco Giant to accomplish the feat. That’s impressive stuff. That’s impact player stuff, and you can be darn sure the rest of the league is watching. The Giants want the guy back (as they should). Pence wants to be in San Francisco. He’s prime real estate in a thin outfield market, and someone is going to give him the big bucks. If the Giants don’t make a deal before he hits the open water this offseason, you can kiss his hustling behind goodbye. That’s the way I see it, at least.

So, how important is it to bring Pence back? Well, let’s take a look at the picture without him. If Pence leaves, what you’re left with is oft-injured Angel Pagan and a slew of guys who probably aren’t MLB starting material – Gregor Blanco, Juan Perez, Roger Kieschnick, Francisco Peguero. That absolutely will not cut it. Maybe they (the front office) makes a push for Jacoby Ellsbury or Chin-Soo Choo, the other top outfield names on the market. But if they aren’t willing to pay for Pence, why would they be willing to throw down big dollars for another fragile player in Ellsbury or a guy about the same age as Pence (Choo)? All three of these players are going to get big bucks, and the Giants have not been big into the bidding war for free agents lately. Ideally, I’d like to see them lock up Pence AND go after Choo as well. Will they? I’m really not sure.

Pence is 30 years-old, and he’s a career .286/.339/.475 hitter. After his down year in 2012, he’s back to .289/.340/.474 in 2013 – literally right on par with his career line. He’s also swiped 20 bases this season for the first time. He’s one of the best athletes in baseball, and one of the only guys who you can pencil in every single night. Put it this way; if the Giants give Pence 5 years, I’d be willing to bet he makes good on those 5 years, even playing into his mid-30’s. You just can’t say that about a lot of players these days. The dude wants a long term home. Lock him up, Sabean!

The next order of business is Ryan Vogelsong. Vogey pitched last night, and had a 5-0 lead going into the 5th inning. Then, it all fell apart, as it has in so many of his starts this year. He finished the 5th, but not before allowing 5 ER. He also didn’t record a single strikeout last night. A few weeks ago, it seemed pretty likely that the Giants would pick up Vogelsong’s option for next season (which I believe is in the neighborhood of $6-7 million), but now I’m not so sure. The Giants need starting pitching, it’s true. But are they really willing to spend that money on a 35 year-old journeyman with a 5.82 ERA? Don’t get me wrong, Vogey has been a huge part of this team for the past couple years, and he’s as competitive as they come. But right now, Yusmeiro Petit looks like a better option than he does.

Lots more decisions to be made for the eliminated Gigantes, and we’ll get to them in due time. But for now, I say give the Rev a home, and let Vogey walk if he can’t pick up the pieces in his final couple starts. If he wants to come back on a cheap, minor league deal, great. If not, it might be time to look elsewhere.

Walking (Off)

When you’re 17 games out and you steal a win from a first-place team like the Red Sox, I think that’s cause for a little celebration. The Giants definitely stole one last night, gutting out three runs to overcome a 2-0 deficit. Buster tied it with a sac fly in the 8th, and Scutaro walked on a very close pitch with 2 outs and the bases loaded, and the Sox left the field pouting. I’m not sure when the Giants last walked off, but it feels like it was probably back in May. A literal “walk” off is kind of awkward, and the Giants almost didn’t know how to react at first. Scooter didn’t even think the pitch was a ball. I’m guessing the Red Sox didn’t think so either, but the whole ordeal just made the win that much sweeter.

Thoughts:

Ryan Vogelsong still didn’t have his normal fastball velocity, but he threw over 100 pitches while working 7 strong. That’s the Vogey we’ve all become accustomed to over the past couple years, digging in and working himself out of trouble. It’d sure be nice to see a few more starts like this from him down the stretch. Sabean needs someone to step up and lock down a rotation spot for next season, and the Giants would gladly pick up his option in a heartbeat if he finishes the year strong.

Another 3-hit night for Belt, and this one may have been the most impressive to me. He hit a mammoth triple off the wall in right-center in the 4th, then doubled down the line in right in the 6th. Belt’s bat has been strong all month, but he crushed those pitches last night. I can’t help but think he’s found that next level as a hitter that many players spend their entire career striving for. If he really has turned the corner, that’s a huge positive for the Giants going forward.

Speaking of 3-hit nights, Roger Kieschnick went 3-4 last night with 2 runs, including the game-winner on Scutaro’s walk (off). Roger K. continues to gain confidence at the plate. He still only has one extra base hit in the big leagues, but he’s taken 6 walks to only 4 strikeouts over the last 10 days. After starting his career with a bb/k ratio of 1/16, he’s starting to make nice adjustments. We know the guy has power in his bat, and I think we’ll start to see it as he gains more confidence. For now, he’s taken a pretty nice hold on the everyday left field spot.

Roster News:

Francoeur DFA’d; Machi and Kickham recalled; Dunning and Hembree are probably pissed.

Zito moves back into the rotation… and I can’t find any good reasons why. Not one.

Angel Pagan is getting close to returning from the DL. Pagan’s presence could make the Giants a much happier (and more competitive) team closing out this season.

Francisco Peguero and Juan Perez should be back September 1. I’d think Nick Noonan will be as well. Andres Torres should be sent the way of Francoeur… and that’s that.

Orioles Come to Town

Interleague play in August… crazy, huh? The Giants welcome 63-51 Baltimore to AT&T Park for a weekend series, with Ryan Vogelsong returning to the mound for game one tonight. In a normal year, it would make sense to suggest that a strong performance from Vogey might inspire the troops. But this isn’t a normal year, and the Giants have had excellent starting pitching lately (with no help from the offense). It hasn’t really mattered lately whether the team has played at home or on the road, they’ve been pretty lousy at the plate and in the field everywhere. Brandon Belt hit clean-up yesterday in the finale of a four-game series with Milwaukee, and hit a 3-run home run. Belt and Brandon Crawford knocked in all four runs, and the Giants managed a split with the last-place Brewers. When a 4-run performance feels like a breakout, you know the cabinet is getting pretty bare.

Belt and Crawford have hit well of late, but they’re about the only players driving in runs. Pablo Sandoval, on the other hand, has now dipped his average below .260 again. The Panda has been dreadful at the plate for quite a while now. He’s been benched before, but I just don’t think you can sit a guy like him down, as we all know one swing of the bat might start a hot streak. Plus, the only realistic options for 3rd base right now are Joaquin Arias and Nick Noonan. If Pablo doesn’t break out next year – the final year on his contract – I’m guessing Brian Sabean will be looking for someone new to man the hot corner going forward. Adam Duvall, it’s time to step up.

Yes, there is so much going wrong with the Giants right now. But if one thing has gone incredibly right in the second half, it’s been the starting pitching. Yesterday, Tim Lincecum continued that trend with an 8-inning, 1-hit masterpiece against the Brewers. Add 8 K’s and 1 BB, and Timmy was flat out filthy. I’ll say this; Lincecum has been very good lately outside of his one disaster of a start in Cincinnati a couple of weeks ago. Depending on how you look at it, the Freak’s performance could be a great sign or a terrible one for the Giants. If he’s willing to re-sign next year, he may be returning as an above average #3. However, don’t doubt that many other GM’s are watching his every start right now, and you’d have to believe there are some teams who’d be willing to give him a good chunk of change in the offseason. Yes, the Giants will likely shoot him a qualifying offer, meaning teams will lose their first round pick (if the pick is below the top 10) in order to sign him, but I doubt that would keep teams like the Angels, Orioles or Rangers from making him a nice offer.

So the Orioles are coming to town. I’ll be tuned in tonight to see the return of Vogey, as well as Baltimore’s big bats. It would be a welcome surprise if the Giants bring their bats to the party this time.

Giants Sign Lilly; Vogey Coming Back

Ted Lilly is coming back to Northern California… but it might be Fresno first. The Giants are in the process of signing the veteran lefty to a minor league contract as I type this. Lilly made 5 starts this season before the Dodgers parted ways with him. LA has to pay off his hefty salary, so it’s pretty much a low-risk move for the Giants. If you care to read more about this extremely exciting news, you can check out Baggarly’s article here.

** Scratch that. Sounds like the Giants nixed the deal before Lilly signed. Bobby Evans reported that they weren’t comfortable with Lilly’s medical history. Was this just something that was leaked on accident, or did the Giants not do their homework? Oh well…

In other news, the Giants announced that Ryan Vogelsong will be returning to the rotation this weekend. His first start: Orange Friday against Baltimore. Vogey has been out since May 20th after breaking his finger against Washington, and he’s got every chance in the world to earn his contract for next season. The way he pitched in April, though, that contract is far from guaranteed at this point.

There’s been a lot made about the health of Vogey and some of the other guys who played in the WBC. I don’t know about whether playing in a preseason tournament messed him up for the regular season, but I do know that it was Vogelsong’s choice to play for Team USA… and he’s certainly not one to make excuses. I’m excited to see him get back out there. His story is well known, but his competitiveness and focus on the field are impressive. Let’s hope he can regain some of his 2012 form and help the Giants win some games down the stretch.

It’s Not Pretty, But…

The Giants are playing better baseball lately. I won’t say they are playing complete baseball, but they’re at least winning some games here and there. If the Brewers continue to fall over themselves as they did last night, I don’t think it’s out of the question for the Giants to take 3 of 4 in this series. The orange and black started the home-stand with a 4-2 victory last night, a win fueled mostly by solid pitching and Milwaukee blunders.

A few thoughts:

The Giants are pitching very well right now, as we discussed a couple of days ago. Chad Gaudin continued that trend with another quality start last night, allowing 1 ER in 6.1 IP. Gaudin’s situation is starting to look a lot like Ryan Vogelsong’s in 2011. Is this season an anomaly? The big red beard is only 30 years-old, and if he can keep his nose clean off the field, I don’t see why the Giants wouldn’t bring him back on a 2-year contract… I’m not saying it’s the smartest decision in the world, but I really wouldn’t be surprised to see it happen.

Speaking of Vogelsong, he was in the dugout last night with the team. I haven’t heard for certain whether he’ll be making another rehab start (likely in Fresno) or getting back on the bump in San Francisco this weekend. Either way, he’s getting close. If Vogey can be productive at all down the stretch, the Giants will have a very complete rotation again – and they’d likely pick up his option for next season, leaving only one open spot to fill in the rotation for 2014.

Bruce Bochy shuffled his lineup last night, but the offense still isn’t there. Marco Scutaro hit leadoff for the first time this year, and had some good at-bats, but he had only a 0-5 to show for it. Brandon Crawford moved into the number two spot in the order, and he posted a 0-4. The Giants had 8 hits on the night – all singles – and only one RBI. Three of those hits came off the bat of Brandon Belt, who’s swinging with a lot more confidence since sitting down for a few games last week. Jeff Francoeur had the big RBI hit on a broken bat in the 8th before Jeff Bianchi’s error put the Brewers out of reach. But Hunter Pence had the best game among Giants’ hitters, taking three walks from the #3 spot and stealing two bases. Pence is now an impressive 17-17 on the paths this year.

I like the new-look lineup; I hope Bochy gives everyone a chance to stick in their spots. I really think Crawford could be a nice top of the order hitter, but as long as he’s not in the 8-spot anymore, there are no complaints on this end. If Blanco and/or Torres are going to play every night, those guys need to be slotted in front of the pitcher and left there. I still think Torres should be replaced by Francisco Peguero or Juan Perez, but what do I know anyway?

It wouldn’t be right if we didn’t end with a little closer discussion. Sergio Romo allowed another home run to a left-handed hitter last night, serving up a solo shot to Juan Francisco in the 9th. This one didn’t cost him the game, but Romo has been very shaky against the lefties lately. Not that there are a lot of other options right now, but can Romo really be counted on as the closer going into next year if he can’t get lefties out? Heath Hembree, anyone?