Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Hot Stove Update: Scouting the Rule 5 Draft

We'll get right to the point:  The Giants absolutely should select a player with the #2 overall pick in the Rule 5 Draft tomorrow.  Even if they don't think they have a need for a player of that pedigree, ther is really no risk as the net cost if they end up sending the player back to their original team is a measly $25 K.  A player selected that high in the Rule 5 draft also is likely to have some trade value.  So, with that background, let's take a look at some specific players the Giants might pick.  The hardest tool to project in a rule 5 draftee is the hit tool.  If the only thing you are looking for is a bat, it might be best to look elsewhere.  What you can find in the Rule 5 Draft is pitching, especially relief pitching, and defense.  The Giants just happen to be in the market for a defensive CF and for help in the bullpen.  There you go!

RHP Burch Smith-  ranked by many as the #1 player in the Rule 5 Draft, Smith is a hard throwing RHP with 36 innings of MLB experience in 2013 for the Padres.  He missed all of 2015 and 2016 with Tommy John surgery.  he pitched at 3 levels in the Rays organization last year, putting up a 2.43 ERA in 37 IP at AA and a 1.65 ERA in 15.1 IP in AAA.  He could be in the mix for a 5'th starter/swingman role at the MLB Level.

CF Ian Miller- B-L, T-R.  Miller was left off the Mariners 40 man roster.  He is a plus defender in CF and can really fly.  He hit .326 with 30 SB in AA ball last year but fell off to .256 with 13 SB in AAA, albeit a small sample size.  Miller could contend for a starting or platoon role in CF for the Giants.

CF Victor Reyes- B-S, T-R.  Very similar player to Miller but from the D'Backs organization.  Plus defender in CF.  Hit .292 with 18 SB last year at AA and then had a very solid Arizona Fall League.

LHP Nestor Cortes- Soft tossing lefty out of the Yankees organization.  Has always been solid in the minors but caught fire last year.  Doesn't have great velocity(sits 88-89 MPH) but may have enough secondary stuff, particularly a changeup, to be effective as a 5'th starter/swingman.  He's a flyball pitcher, which is not a great profile for a soft tosser, but he seems to be able to miss bats with his assortment of pitches.

I am sure there are others that deserve consideration, but those 4 caught my eye.

Hot Stove Update: Winter Meetings Day 2- Still Waiting for the Giants to Make A Move

Day 2 of the Winter Meetings felt like a continued hangover from the Stanton/Ohtani misadventures. Henry Schulman reported that Denard Span was one of the players who would have gone to the Marlins for Stanton to help keep the Giants within hailing distance of the CBT threshold.  Bobby Evans said that several teams are interested enough in Giants prospects to ask about taking bad contracts as payment.  He named Chris Stratton as one such prospect.  Evans indicated he was not inclined to accept a trade like that at this time, but he apparently was ready to in the proposed Stanton trade. Baggs reports that Heliot Ramos is asked about in virtually every trade proposal.  The Giants are also rumored to have made a strong offer for CF Billy Hamilton but a deal does not appear to be close.

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The Giants may have avoided paying a $20 M posting fee for a broken pitcher as it was revealed that Shohei Ohtani has a partial UCL tear and received platelet-rich plasma injections in October.  I wonder if that came out during the the meetings with the 7 "finalist" teams?

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The run on relief pitchers continued as Bryan Shaw signed with a the Rockies for 3 years/$27 M.  Tommy Hunter Signed with the Phillies for 2 yrs/$18 M.  37 yo RHP Pat Neshek gets 2 years/$16.25 M from the Phillies. Wow!  And just this morning, it was announced that Jake McGee will re-sign with the Rockies.  Terms are unknown at this time.

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The trend of buying young talent by taking on bad contracts continued as the Padres took Chase Headley and his $13 M off the Yankees hands and also got RHP Bryan Mitchell in the deal.  Jabari Blash goes to the Yankees as a near non-factor.

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2 pitchers who will likely sit out most or all of 2017 post-TJ surgery were signed to 2 years contracts with an eye toward 2018.  Michael Pineda signed with the Twins for 2 yrs/$10 M with $2 M in 2017 and $8 M in 2018 with $3 M in incentives, presumably for 2018.  The Cubs signed LHP Drew Smyly to a similar deal.

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The market seems to be quite soft for the higher priced free agents, as it should be.  What moves do you think the Giants will make today?

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Hot Stove Update: Cardinals and Cubs Sign Relievers

While everyone was recovering from the Stanton/Ohtani fallout, the Cardinals and Cubs signed a couple of relievers who were surprisingly expensive.  The Cardinals signed RHP Luke Gregerson, the slider specialist who has seemingly been around forever, but is just 33 years old, to a 2 year/$11 M contract with an option for a 3'rd year at $5 M.  Gregerson is coming off a 4+ ERA with at the Astros, but did put up a nice K/BB.  Like many pitchers in 2017, he got hurt by the long ball.  At this point, he has to be considered a fungible commodity and that apparently costs about $5 M per year in this economy.

The Cubs then signed RHP Brandon Morrow to a 2 year/$21 M contract with a 3'rd year option. Morrow was dominant for the Dodgers last year but only pitched 43 IP which is the most he's pitched since 2013.  That is a whole lot of money to pay a reliever with an extensive injury history.  The potential to. have a shutdown closer is there, but the injury history makes this contract frighteningly risky.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Hot Stove Update: Winter Meetings Day 1

The idea that the free agent and trading floodgates would open as soon as the Stanton/Otani situations were resolved did not happen on Day 1 of the Winter Meetings.  In fact, everybody sort of stood around almost like they were in shock.

For those of you who like to read tea leaves, there was some indication of where the Giants may be headed and it's in the opposite direction that most prognosticators are projecting.  First, reporter Jon Heyman tweeted that the money the Giants were willing to pay Stanton does not translate to other players.  They are going back into "payroll conscious mode" per Heyman.  Then, Brian Sabean was asked about whether the Giants would pursue players who had rejected Qualifying Offers.  His reply, "I would vote no."  He then went on to wax enthusiastic about the Giants getting to draft #2 in each round and how they are planning to "make hay" with those picks.  Ha!  Is this the same guy who once upon a time punted a first round draft pick to save money to sign Michael Tucker?  Good to see you've changed your tune, Sabes!  Alex Pavlovic then reported that Bobby Evans is of the same mind on QO's and draft picks.  Henry Schulman then reported that the Giants are "listening to offers" for their #2 overall Rule 5 draft pick.  Yeah, Giants need to use that pick even if they don't have use for the player themselves.  More and more teams are willing to trade for Rule 5 picks and they don't want to pass on that value.

Armchair GM: Going Cheap at the Winter Meetings

As the Winter Meetings begin, the chatter on websites and the MLB channel is all about the Giants going after JD Martinez, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain.  The problem is all 3 of those players are going to require salary commitments within shouting distance of Giancarlo Stanton, each!  That approach might return the Giants to postseason contention but would also likely have them bumping up against the CBT threshold for the next 3-4 seasons.   Early in the offseason, the Giants brass said they would like to stay under the CBT threshold if at all possible.  If that is the case, they have about $10 M to spend this offseason without dumping salary.  Believe it or not, there are ways they can address their needs for about $10 M in additional expenditures.  The Giants needs are improved defense in CF, 3B, power, backup catcher, bullpen help.  Here's how they get it done:

1.  Re-sign Nick Hundley 2 years/$5 M.

2.  Trade Tyler Beede for Brett Phillips.  Brewers need pitching.  Giants need a CF.  Approximately equal value as prospects.  Phillips would be league minimum salary $550 K.

3.  Trade Mac Williamson, #2 overall Rule 5 draft pick and $1 M of international bonus money to the Padres for 3B Yangervis Solarte.  Solarte has 2 years left on his contract for a total of $7.5 M which means his AAV for CBT purposes is $3.75 M.  Hate to give up Mac, but he's out of options and deep in Bochy's doghouse so the best thing to do is trade him for something.  I think he will hit 30 HR's in a season someday, but likely not with the Giants.  Padres love them some Rule 5 draft picks and they love international bonus pool money.  Trade would have to be worked out ahead of the Rule 5 draft with the Giants picking a specific player for the Padres.

So, the Giants have filled 3 needs with a total of $7.25 M.  That leaves them with $2.75 M to sign a reliever and/or trade for a corner OF.

Other potential trade targets include:

CF Jackie Bradley Jr.(Arbitration eligible, est. $5.9 M).

CF Jake Marisnek(Arb. eligible, est. $2.0 M).

Corner OF Clint Frazier(minimum).

CF Keon Broxton(minimum)

3B Hernan Perez(Arb eligible, est. $2.2 M).  Can play 3B and all other positions except catcher.

3B Derek Dietrich(Arb eligible, est $3.2 M).

CF Leury Garcia(Arb eligible, est $1.2 M)

OF Domingo Santana(Minimum). Doubt Giants have prospects to get him.

What is your plan for the Giants at the Winter Meetings?

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Hot Stove Update: Stanton to the Yankees

1 day after rejecting a trade to the Giants, Giancarlo Stanton waived his no-trade clause to accept a trade to the Yankees which almost feels like a cliche.  It's ARod 2.0 almost to a T.  The Marlins, who were at the mercy of that no-trader were almost certainly forced to accept a lesser return than they would have received from either the Cardinals or the Giants, although there are very few tears being shed for the Marlins after all this.  Stanton now joins Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez as the latest incarnation of the "Bronx Bombers" or "Murderer's Row". What's a bit unusual for the Yankees is they are all RH batters.  The Yankees, who fell 1 game short of going to the World Series in 2017, are now the favorites to do that in 2018 and possibly beyond.

The Marlins "haul" in this trade is Starlin Castro who is owed $22 M over the next 2 seasons and 2 prospects from the lower minors who might be described as lottery tickets.  Jose Guzman seems to be the more promising.  He's a RHP with nice size and a high-90's FB who looks like he's most likely on the reliever track.  SS Jose Devers is defense-first with some projectability at the plate.  But basically, this was a massive salary dump for the Marlins.  It stinks for their fans and for all of baseball, except for Yankee fans, but maybe the Marlins new ownership legitimately feels it needs to clean up Jeffrey Loria's mess before they and start to build a winner in Miami?  That process does not appear to be particularly accelerated by either this deal or the recent trade of Dee Gordon as the Marlins are not getting top notch prospects back in either deal.

This trade appears to make a mockery of all of the efforts in recent CBA's to limit spending by big-market teams.  Bonus pools, CBT's, harsh penalties for circumventing the rules all punish prospects, but have done little or nothing to stop the big spenders from spending.  In baseball, the more things change, the more they stay the same.  This deal may make ownership more determined to push for a hard salary cap in the next round of CBA bargaining which could lead to a work stoppage, which would be very bad for everybody.  A hard cap might make the league more competitive, but would probably serve more to suppress the salaries of low-mid level players than to suppress superstar salaries.  The players might want to counter with a proposal for a payroll floor if MLB wants them to accept a hard cap.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Down on the Farm: Don't Sell the Young Guns!

One of the better kept secrets in the Giants organization is how they have quietly built a young cohort of prospects in the lower minors who are poised to progress through the farm system, more or less together and potentially be a welcome source or talent for the 2020's.  Of course, most analysts know about Heliot Ramos, the Giants first round draft pick in 2017 and got off to a tremendous start to his pro career.  The Marlins reportedly thought highly enough of him that they insisted on his inclusion in the now defunct Giancarlo Stanton trade.  Less well known is an impressive cast of prospects who played the 2017 season as teenagers.  What also may be overlooked is the Giants are poised to made at least 2 significant additions to this core in 2018 in the draft where they have the 2'nd overall pick and the international market where they will be out from under the Lucius Fox penalty on July 2 and have north of $4 M in their bonus pool.  They are reportedly in on a high level international prospect for the upcoming signing period.  Combine Heliot Ramos, the #2 overall draft pick and the high level international prospect and suddenly they have a potential 3-headed monster of elite prospects in the farm system.  With that for a background, let's run down the Giants key prospects who played the 2017 season as teenagers:

-Heliot Ramos, OF:  DOB 9/7/1999.  One really great thing about Ramos is he is almost a full year younger than most 2017 HS draft prospects.  He got a full rookie ball season under his belt at age 17 and can now play his first full pro season, likely in Augusta, at age 18.

-Sandro Fabian, OF:  DOB 3/6/1998.  Fabian played the full 2017 season as a 19 yo in Augusta.  While he struggled at times, he managed to keep his head above water and went on a late season tear.  He appears ready to play his age 20 season in San Jose which is only 2 steps away from the major leagues.

-Ricardo Genoves, C:  DOB  5/14/1999.  Genoves was the other major signing in the Lucius Fox international cycle.  The Giants are bringing him along slowly but he is drawing the attention of some scouts for his tools as a catching prospect.

-Jacob Gonzalez, 3B:  DOB 6/26/1998.  While JGone is more than a year older than Heliot Ramos, he showed an advanced approach at the plate in rookie ball and should do well as a 19 yo in Augusta.

-Seth Corry, LHP:  DOB 11/3/1998.  Corry had his ups and downs in rookie ball with severe control issues at times but dominance when he was able to throw strikes.  Again, almost a year older than Ramos, but the Giants have had some success ironing out control issues giving hope that Corry can thrive in Augusta at age 19.

-Ismael Munguia, OF:  DOB 10/19/1998.  Munguia is a scrappy, undersized DSL graduate who played in the States at age 18.

-Diego Rincones, OF:  DOB 6/14/1999.  Another DSL graduate.  Just 3 months older than Ramos.  Put up impressive numbers in Arizona.

-Alex Canario, OF:  DOB 5/7/2000.  Canario impressed with both his athleticism and performance in the DSL at age 17.  He is poised to come to the States in 2018.  BA included him in their 2018 Giants top 30 which is rare for a DSL player.

-Ghordy Santos, SS:  DOB 9/2/1999.  Santos got a #300 K bonus in the 2016 international cycle.  He got off to a painfully slow start in his pro debut at age 17, but caught fire in August.  Not clear if Giants will keep him in the DSL another season or bring him to the States in 2018, but I am cautiously optimistic about his long term success.

-Gregory Santos, RHP: DOB 8/8/1999.  A hard throwing young RHP acquired in the Nunez trade to Boston.  Already has 2 pro seasons under his belt and won't turn 19 yo until late August of 2018.  Could he go directly from the DSL to Augusta?

While the Giants immediate future is fair to partly cloudy, their prospects for the 2020's are bright and about to get a lot brighter.  Rather than trading from their teenage talent pool, the Giants need to be adding to it in the 2018 draft and international signing cycle.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Hot Stove Update: Black Friday

The Giants hopes of dramatically altering the balance of power in the NL West took a severe downward turn today as first Shohei Ohtani decided to sign with the Angels, and as Vin Scully would say, "go figure!"  Then, late in the day, the Giants threw in the towel on the Giancarlo Stanton trade and announced that he refused to waive his no-trade clause to clear the way for the trade Larry Baer and Giants management wanted so badly.

Ohtani wants to both pitch and hit. The easier route to that goal is to play for a team that uses the DH, which effectively narrowed his reasonable choices to the Mariners, Angels and Rangers.  Ohtani said he "felt a strong connection with the Angels."  I don't know how to even begin commenting on THAT!  Apparently Arte Moreno can be a pretty sweet guy when he wants to be as he's pulled off more than a few of these dark horse deals.  At any rate, it will be fascinating to see how Ohtani develops as a major leaguer.  Wish him the best since he won't be doing it for the Dodgers or Padres.

It's a bit tough to figure out what's going on with Stanton.  Does he want to be baseball's version of Kevin Durant signing with the Warriors and only consider teams that already have overwhelming talent?  Is he so ticked off at the Marlins, he's hell-bent on frustrating them any way he can?  "So, you think tanking the team around me is going to force me out?  OK, you can just go ahead and tank the team for 10 years.  See how THAT makes it profitable!"  I mean, I wouldn't blame him a bit if he did that.  Does he really think the Giants are in such terrible shape they won't be winners again in the next 10 years, even with him on the roster?  Is he intimidated by AT&T Park?  Whatever the reason, the Giants have to now cross their fingers that if he gets traded, it won't be to the Dodgers.

So, now the Giants have to wake up from their little reverie into fantasyland and get to work on a real offseason plan.  I hope they don't rebound into an expensive and bad relationship with a lesser player than Giancarlo Stanton.  I'm A-OK with adding a complementary player or two, working on getting kids like Arroyo, Duggar and Tyler Beede up to speed.  And by all means, hold onto Heliot Ramos!  Sometimes the best trades are the ones that are not made.  Stanton would have brought a ton of risk with his promise of transformation.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Hot Stove Update: Marlins Trade.....Dee Gordon; Tyler Chatwood Won't Be A Giant

The Hot Stove started percolating today with a major trade and a mid-range FA signing.

The Marlins officially started their tear down by trading 2B Dee Gordon and his contract to the Seattle Mariners for 3 relatively unexciting prospects while sending $1 M in international bonus pool money back along with Gordon to the Mariners.  Gordon bounced back last year from a rough 2016 in which he missed 50 games with a PED suspension and performed poorly after returning. His 2017 stat line:  .308/.341/.375, 9 3B, 2 HR, 60 SB, fWAR= 3.3.  He has posted 12.4 fWAR over the past 4 seasons in spite of the down year in the midst of that.  The Mariners already have Robinson Cano at 2B and plan to use Gordon as their CF.  The Mariners obviously believe the key to signing Shohei Ohtani is being able to offer him the largest signing bonus.  They have almost frantically acquired additional pool money with each of their trades and are now in position to offer him the largest signing bonus.

This is a sad day for the Marlins.  The current ownership group may have a long range plan to build a competitive team at some point in the future, but it could take a good long time because their farm system is one of the worst in baseball and they seem to be much more intent on shedding payroll than in acquiring top prospects in their trades.  Meet the new boss.  Same as the old boss.  Even Jeffrey Loria wasn't THIS bad!  Hard to believe MLB allowed these clowns to buy the Marlins when they obviously believe they can't afford to field a competitive MLB team.  It's not even like Gordon is all that expensive being owed $38 M over the next 3 seasons with a team option for $14 M in 2021.

One other possible angle to this could be the Marlins might have just sent a very loud message to Giancarlo Stanton reinforcing their threat to strip the team around him if he sticks to his no-trade clause and vetoes all trades.  At any rate, the Mariners are the beneficiaries of the unfolding disaster in Miami.

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The Cubs signed one of my favorite free agents from this year's class, Tyler Chatwood.  Chatwood's overall numbers don't look so hot until you take a look at his splits and see he had a sub-4.00 ERA away from Coors Field.  He has always been particularly effective against the Giants and I was hoping the Giants would stay true to form and go after a player who has dominated them.  There are risks that come with Chatwood.  He's a pitcher, after all, and he has a history of Tommy John surgery.    Maybe the splits are a sample size aberration.  He does still throw his FB in the mid-90's with one of the highest spin rates in the major league.  The signing price was 3 yr/$38 M with some incentives.  That's a bit more than he was projected to get as a FA, but in the ballpark.  This could end up being a great deal for the Cubs and Chatwood is a breakout candidate for 2018.  Of course, he would have been an even bigger breakout candidate if he was going to pitch half his games in San Francisco, but too late now.

Fantasy Focus: Breakout Bonanza- Matt Olson

Players who "break out" or see a big jump in production are the holy grail of fantasy baseball.  Players like that can make your fantasy season.  On the other hand, if you invest too heavily in breakout potential, you can end up breaking your season when they fail to produce the hoped for return.  We'll start a series on breakout candidates with Matt Olson, 1B, Oakland A's.  He's a big guy at 6'5", 230 lbs., B-L, T-R.  He is a former 1S round draft pick from 2012 who has worked his way up through the A's farm system.  He was called up in late May 2017 and struggled in his first month, then caught fire.  His overall line for the season was .259/.352/.651, 24 HR, 10.2 BB%, 27.8 K%, .238 BABIP in 216 PA.  In the second half, Olson hit .286 with 20 HR in 158 PA.

If you look back at his minor league record, the numbers are not dissimilar.  Some would say he has already broken out, but his 2017 HR's project to 70 over 600 PA while his 47 dingers combined between AAA and MLB likely offer a reasonable projection of what he might do in 2018.  The A's traded Ryan Healy at least in part to give Olson a clear shot at full time play.  He does have a fairly extreme L-R split and his numbers my suffer if he has more exposure against LHP's.

Just for comparison, let's look at Cody Bellinger's stat line for 2017:  .269/.352/.581, 39 HR, 11.7 BB%, 26.6 K%, .299 BABIP, 548 PA.  Bellinger will likely get drafted much higher than Matt Olson for what is likely to be very similar production.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Hot Stove Update: Waiting for Shohei and Stanton

While the Giants and their fans waited patiently for Giancarlo Stanton and Shohei Ohtani to make up their minds about playing in San Francisco, a few other teams moved forward with lesser transactions:

The Angels pounced on former uber prospect, Kevin Maitan, SS, with a $2.2 M bonus.  Maitan was once considered the top international prospect and was signed by the Braves to a large bonus, but struggled last year to a .241 BA in the Appalachian League and appeared to be noticeably, ahem, less athletic in the process.  Apparently the Angels are willing to bet a large portion of their 2018-2019 international bonus pool that this is a temporary.

The Angels also signed former Braves prospect, Livan Soto, SS, to an $850 K bonus.

The Phillies signed former Braves prospect, Abraham Gutierrez, C, to a $550 K bonus.

The Royals signed former Braves prospect, Yefri Del Rosario, RHP, to a $650 K bonus.

The Royals also signed RHP Willy Peralta to a major league contract for $1.5 M for 1 season with a $3 M option and $25 K buyout for 2019.  The deal contains an additional $1.25 M in incentives for each season.  Peralta has struggled for the past 2 seasons with the Brewers but his FB was still averaging 96 MPH last season, so there is some hope for a turnaround.

The Tigers signed CF Leonys Martin for $1.7 M with $1.1 M in incentives.  Martin is a plus defensive CF but challenged at the plate.

The Cardinals signed RHP Miles Mikolas to a 2 year/$15.5 M contract.  Mikolas posted a 5.32 ERA in MLB from 2012-2014, then went to Japan and produced a 2.18 ERA over 424.1 IP the past 3 seasons.

The Rangers signed LHP Mike Minor, a former first round draft pick to a multiyear contract the terms  of which were not known by MLBTR at reporting time.  Minor struggled early in his MLB career but found traction last year as a reliever.  The Rangers reportedly want to try him as a SP again.

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Craig Mish of Sirius XM radio is reporting that the Giants proposed deal with the Marlins for Giancarlo Stanton does include Heliot Ramos and Christian Arroyo.  Henry Schulman hears that Arroyo is not part of the deal.  Sounds like the Giants are willing to empty out their farm system for Stanton as well as take on most of his contract.  Hate to say it, but that's about right.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Hot Stove Update: Suspended Animation

I am not sure I have ever seen a situation quite like either of these, let alone two at one time.  What is going on here?

The Marlins have reportedly agreed to two trades for the same player:  Giancarlo Stanton to the Cardinals and to the Giants.  Since Stanton has a full no-trade clause, he can choose which trade he wants to be part of or not.  He can turn down both of them if he wants to.  If he does, it either means he is holding out for a deal with the Dodgers or he is calling the Marlins bluff about trading the rest of the team out from under him, or maybe he just likes playing in Miami enough that he doesn't care if he is the only good player on the team.  Or he may think he can outlast the rebuild?  He has a 10 year contract which is enough time for the Marlins to rebuild their farm system and put a team of good young players around him long before the end of his contract?  More likely he will choose between the Giants and the Cardinals.

Both the Giants and Cardinals are first class organizations who have demonstrated they are willing to spend money to field good teams year in and year out.  The Giants probably have the advantage in location while the Cardinals appear to have a stronger position to field a competitive roster around him, at least in the short term.  How long will we have to wait for Stanton to decide?

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Japanese 2-way star and free agent Shohei Ohtani has narrowed his choices to 7 teams, all but two of which are on the west coast.  The A's are out, the rest of the west coast teams including the Giants are in.  The Cubs and Rangers also made the final list which means the Yankees and Red Sox did not.  The Giants and Mariners seem to be the two teams that have made the strongest pitches to Ohtani.  Is the city of San Francisco's historic connection to Japan and it's culture a plus here?  Will having a bench coach who speaks Japanese be a deciding factor?  Does Dave Roberts speak Japanese too?

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So, the Giants would seem to have at least a 50% chance of landing at least one of Stanton and Ohtani maybe more as they seem to have close to a 50% chance to get Stanton and seem to have better than 1 in 7 odds of signing Ohtani.  Adding one would be a big boost to their fortunes.  Adding both in one offseason would be transformative.  Unfortunately, the Giants have finished second in these types of signing competitions enough in the last 10 years that I still refuse to get my hopes up too high here.  For some reason a memory keeps gnawing at me of the 1972 NFL football season when the Niners and Raiders were both in their respective championship games. There was a 75% chance that one of them would be in the Super Bowl.   Both teams actually led their games late only to lose to a flurry of Roger Staubach TD passes and the immortal Immaculate Reception.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Hot Stove Update: There Is Life Out There

As we stand around the Hot Stove waiting for Giancarlo and Shohei, a few moves took place that could be significant down the line:

The Oakland A's signed Yusmeiro Petit to a 2 yr/$10 M contract with a club option for a 3'rd season at $5.5 M.  Petit is coming off a terrific season with the Angels in which he posted a 2.76 ERA in 91.1 IP with a K/9 of 9.95 and a BB/9 of just 1.77.  Petit made just 1 Start.  The rest of the innings call came in 59 appearances out of the bullpen.  There is an interesting article on Fangraphs showing that the two relievers acquired by the A's so far this offseason, Petit and Emilio Pagan, have a unique combination of K-BB/9 AND Batters Faced/Appearance.  Only Chad Green of the Yankees had higher numbers in both categories last year. It looks like the A's have bought into the idea of 5 inning starters and multi-inning relievers being a winning combination.  Oh, and congrats to Petit who deserves the payday.

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The Angels made a trade for RP Jim Johnson of the Braves.  Johnson has had his ups and downs as a closer/reliever.  He struggled last year to a 5+ ERA and lost his Closer role with the Braves.  His contract calls for him to be paid $5 M next season which the Angels pick up in full.  The Braves also send $1.2 M in International Bonus Pool money to the Angels which the Angels will use to pursue Shohei Ohtani or some of the international free agents from the Braves fiasco.  This deal is an inneresting way to get bonus pool money and demonstrates just how desperate teams are to acquire it to dangle in front of Ohtani despite zero evidence that money will be a factor in his decision regarding who to sign with.

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The White Sox made a significant free agent signing, bringing in Welington Castillo to be their primary catcher.  Castillo had a solid season with the Orioles last year hitting .282 with 20 HR's.  He was particularly strong in the second half hitting over .300 with 12 of his dingers.  He was the catcher for my fantasy team down the stretch and was a plus for my team.  Castillo has a reputation as being a poor pitch framer, but other aspects of his defensive game are solid including a 49% rate for throwing out base stealers.  As a primary catcher in a hitter-friendly ballpark, Castillo should be a solid fantasy option at catcher.  He has averaged 26.5 HR's/600 PA's over his last 3 seasons.  He had turned down a mutual option for 1 year/$7 M with the Orioles and now gets 2 years/$15 M with an $8 M club option for 2020 with a $50 K buyout.

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The Blue Jays acquired IF Aledmys Diaz from the Cardinals for minor leaguer JB Woodman.  Diaz made a big splash in his MLB debut in 2016 but struggled in 2017, got demoted to the minors and was replaced by Paul Dejong at SS or the Cards.  Woodman was a 2'nd round draft pick in 2016 who struggled at class A level in 2017.

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There were several inneresting non-tenders yesterday at the deadline for teams to offer contracts to arbitration eligible players including Matt Adams, Jace Peterson and Danny Santana of the Braves and Hector Rondon of the Cubs.  The Giants tendered contracts to all of their remaining arbitration-eligible guys.  Tim Federowicz had previously been released.  The Giants did not tender a contract to Albert Suarez even though he is not arbitration eligible.  That move opened up 1 spot on the 40 man roster.  The Giants have the 2'nd selection in the upcoming Rule 5 Draft.  Could it be they are planning to take someone with it?

Friday, December 1, 2017

Scouting the 2018 Draft: Logan Gilbert

Logan Gilbert is college RHP for Stetson with classic pitcher size listed at 6'6", 207 lbs. on the Stetson website.  He backed up a terrific sophomore college season with a strong effort in the Cape Cod League and has joined the conversation about who might be the top college pitcher in the 2018 draft.  First, the stat lines:

2016(College):  2-1, 2.74, 49.1 IP, 27 BB, 43 K.
2017(College):  10-0, 2.02, 89 IP, 27 BB, 107 K.
2017(CCL):  2-2, 1.93, 31.1 IP, 4 BB, 24 K.

Scouting reports have Gilbert's 3-pitch mix fronted by a FB that goes 93-96 MPH.  On Video, he gets great extension on his delivery reminiscent of Madison Bumgarner with long and loose arm action.  The FB explodes in the top of the strike zone and on the the armside corner with running action.  I can't say I saw any secondary pitches on video.  His drop and drive delivery with a long stride combined with his length allows him to release the ball significantly closer to home plate than the average pitcher.

I can see a reasonable debate, Gilbert vs Brady Singer for top college pitcher in the draft.  I think Singer has better present stuff and has pitched against stronger competition and on bigger stages.  He's the guy who is most likely to make the quickest impact a the MLB level.  Gilbert is more of a project with a need to develop his secondary stuff, but may ultimately have a higher ceiling than Singer. The risk with Gilbert is he does not take then next steps in development.  The risk with Singer is he ends up a reliever.

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DrB's Updated 2018 Draft Board:

1.  Seth Beer, OF/1B, College(Clemson).
2.  Jarred Kelenic, OF, HS.
3.  Nander De Sedas, SS, HS.
4.  Kumar Rocker, RHP, HS.
5.  Ethan Hankins, RHP, HS.
6.  Brady Singer, RHP, College(Florida).
7.  Logan Gilbert, RHP, College(Stetson).
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8.  Matthew Liberatore, LHP, HS.
9.  Nolan Gorman, 3B, HS.
10.  Greyson Jenista, OF/1B, College(Wichita St.).
11.  Casey Mize, RHP, College(Auburn).
12.  Nick Madrigal, 2B, College(Oregon St.).
13.  Shane McClanahan, LHP, College(Univ. of South Florida).
14.  Ryan Rolison, LHP, College(Mississippi).
15.  Griffin Conine, OF, College(Duke).
16.  Brice Turang, SS, HS.

Hot Stove Update: Giancarlo Rumors Heating Up

Craig Mish of Sirius XM Radio dropped a pretty big rumor yesterday that 3 members of the Giants management team, Brian Sabean, Bobby Evans and Bruce Bochy flew to Los Angeles to meet with representatives for Giancarlo Stanton.  Nobody is disputing this story, so we'll assume it is true.  A follow up tweet from someone named Joe Frisaro says this meeting does not mean a trade is imminent which means that Frisaro agrees the meeting either took place or will take place. This is a significant development since the Marlins would. have to OK any such meeting and they likely would not approve it unless a tentative trade is in place.

So wow!  Not sure where to start with this.  I'll start with the thought that it is probably no accident that this meeting comes to light within a day of rumors that Stanton had expressed doubts about the future competitiveness of the Giants.  The purpose of the meeting is likely to give the Giants executives a chance to convince him they have a plan to remain competitive or even dominant despite carrying the majority of his contract.  In Stanton's mind, that likely means they are not going to dump veteran players like Johnny Cueto or Jeff Samardzija or even Brandon Belt and that they can and will also extend Madison Bumgarner's contract which means the Giants are likely to have to tell him they are willing to live significantly above the Competitive Balance Tax(CBT) line.

Stanton's representatives may also ask for compensation for waiving his no-trade clause, and for moving from a from a low tax state to a high tax state.  Of course, he would have the same issue with his rumored preferred destination, the Dodgers.  My guess is a guarantee of the team option for 2028 would get past that hurdle and I cannot imagine the Giants allow the trade to get blocked by refusing that request.

It's still hard to believe the Giants can pull this deal off.  We've seen this movie before when they sent a delegation to meet with Jon Lester, so we know things can still go awry.  It does seem like we have to move the needle on the Giancarlo meter from unlikely to at least a serious possibility.  We know the Marlins want to trade him to get that contract off their backs.  We know the Giants need and want him and are willing to take on most or all of his contract.  It appears the Giants are the most likely of several potential interested teams and the only one we know about that has gotten this far in the discussions.

At this point, I'll give the Giants even odds against the field of being Giancarlo Stanton's employer in 2018 and beyond.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Fantasy Focus: Impact Rookies- Brent Honeywell

Brent Honeywell was probably ready to pitch in the major leagues sometime last year, but the Rays are notorious for taking is slow with their prospects, especially pitching prospects.  Honeywell spend most of 2017 in AAA Durham where he put up terrific numbers:  12-8, 3.64, 123.2 IP, 11.06 K/9, 2.77 BB/9, 2.84 FIP, 2.77 xFIP.  Honeywell was drafted in round 2 of the 2014 draft out of JC ball and has marched up the Rays farm system.  He has an average pitcher's build at 6'2", 180 lbs.  While he does not have eye-popping velocity, he succeeds with excellent command of a somewhat unconventional 3-pitch mix, FB, screwball and changeup with a curveball that has potential.  Yes, you read that right.  He main secondary pitch is a screwball which he learned from his father who is Mike Marshall's cousin.  Yeah, THAT Mike Marshall!

The screwball and changeup both move away from LH batters and in to RH batters, so the concern with Honeywell is whether he will have a strong reverse split and whether he needs more time to develop a pitch that moves away from RH batters.  If I remember correctly, Mike Marshall didn't let that bother him and just threw the screwball at the back foot of RH batters.  That's an interesting sub-story with Honeywell.

The Rays will likely make him start 2018 back in AAA until they have an extra year of control on his contract, but he will almost certainly be up by mid-season and should be rostered in most fantasy baseball formats.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Scouting the 2018 Draft: Ryan Rolison

Ryan Rolison is a draft eligible college sophomore LHP from Ole Miss.  He's close to perfect size for a pitcher listed at 6'3", 200 lbs.  He started off his freshman year pitching in the bullpen but moved into the rotation as the season progressed and was Ole Miss' best pitcher by the end of the college season.  He followed that up with a terrific Cape Cod League performance and is poised for a breakout sophomore campaign and possible first round MLB draft stock.  Here are his 2017 stat lines:

2017(College):  6-3, 3.06, 61.2 IP, 24 BB, 64 K.
2017(CCL):  6-0, 1.54, 28 IP, 11 BB, 35 K.

One scouting report has his FB 89-93 and sitting at 91.  Another says his velocity ticked up toward the end of the CCL season reaching 94-95 consistently when he needed something extra.  His delivery is low-moderate effort which makes scouts think he can reach back for more when he needs to.  The delivery is a smooth and clean with a 3/4 arm slot reminiscent of Madison Bumgarner with a little less sweeping motion.  He commands the FB on both sides of the plate.  Some scouts think his best pitch is a 2-8 slurve.  His change up is rated as a work in progress, but I saw one on a video that had nice sink and a bit of a tail on the outside corner to a RH batter.  His goals for 2018 should be to lower his walk rate by about 0.5-1 BB/9.

My take: He does not have quite enough stuff to be a top of the draft prospect, but could be a nice high floor pick late in the first round or early second round.

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DrB's Updated 2018 Draft Board:

1.  Seth Beer, OF/1B, College(Clemson).
2.  Jarred Kelenic, OF, HS.
3.  Nander De Sedas, SS, HS.
4.  Kumar Rocker, RHP, HS.
5.  Ethan Hankins, RHP, HS.
6.  Brady Singer, RHP, College(Florida).
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7.  Matthew Liberatore, LHP, HS.
8.  Nolan Gorman, 3B, HS.
9.  Greyson Jenista, OF/1B, College(Wichita St).
10. Casey Mize, RHP, College(Auburn).
11. Nick Madrigal, 2B, College(Oregon St.).
12. Shane McClanahan, LHP, College(Univ. of South Florida).
13. Ryan Rolison, LHP, College(Mississippi).
14. Griffin Conine, OF, College(Duke).
15. Brice Turang, SS, HS.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Scouting the 2017 Draft: Later Rounds Part 2

119. Marlins:  Colton Hock, RHP, College(Stanford).  R:  0-1, 7.00, 9 IP, 0 BB, 10 K.  SS:  1-3, 6.62, 17.2 IP, 12 BB, 13 K.  Hock was a polarizing prospect.  I had him ranked lower than some others.  Rough start to pro career.  Grade D.

120.  Royals:  Michael Gigliotti, OF, College.  R:  .329/.482/.477, 3 HR, 15 SB, 16.8 BB%, 11.0 K%, 191 PA.  A:  .302/.378/.419, HR, 7 SB, 8.0 BB%, 20.0 K%, 100 PA.  Gigliotti's stock dropped dramatically with a brutal junior season.  He continued to thrive as a pro after an aggressive promotion to A ball.  Grade A.

121.  Astros:  Peter Solomon, RHP, College(Notre Dame).  Pitched just 1 inning as a pro.  Grade:  Incomplete.

135.  Cubs:  Erich Uelman, RHP, College(Cal Poly).  SS:  0-2, 2.04, 17.2 IP, 9 BB, 23 K.  Grade B.

149.  Marlins:  Ryan Lillie, RHP, College(UC Riverside):  SS:  0-5, 4.35, 31 IP, 5 BB, 27 K.  Grade B.

153.  Mariners:  David Banuelos, C, College(Long Beach St.):  SS:  .236/.331/.394, 4 HR, 11 BB%, 27.4 K%, 146 PA.  Grade C+.

161.  Alex Scherff, RHP, HS.  DNP.  Scherff's stock dropped pre-draft.  I still liked him.  Grade Incomplete.

163.  Nationals:  Brigham Hill, RHP, College(Texas).   SS:  0-1, 2.63, 13.2 IP, 3 BB, 9 K.  A:  0-1, 6.07, 29.2 IP, 5 BB, 30 K.  Aggressive promotion to A ball.  ERA was high, but ratios look good.  Grade B.

166.  Twins:  Ricky De La Torre, SS, HS.  R:  .268/.341/.359, 3 HR, 5 SB, 9.4 BB%, 22.9 K%, 120 PA.  I had De La Torre as a first round talent all the way up to draft day.  Twins grab him at top of 6'th round and sign him with $500K bonus.  I'll be watching this one closely in future seasons.  Grade B on performance, but could be the steal of the draft.

207.  White Sox:  Evan Skoug, C, College(TCU).  R:  .529/.600/.882, 20 PA.  A:  .154/.263/.308, 76 PA.  Stock dropped after brutal junior season.  Aggressive promotion to A ball might have been a bridge too far?

210.  Royals:  Brewer Hicklen, OF, College.  R:  .299/.384/.471, HR, 3 SB, 9.1 BB%, 27.2 K%, 99 PA.  R:  .348/.439/.609, 3 HR, 13 SB, 11.0 BB%, 29.3 K%, 82 PA.  College sleeper.  Nice numbers but too low levels.  Grade B.

214.  Cardinals:  Chase Pinder, OF, College(Clemson).  R:  .320/.442/.438, 3 HR, 5 SB, 209 PA.  Nice numbers.  Level too low.  Grade B.

225.  Cubs:  Ricky Tyler Thomas, LHP, College(Fresno St).  SS:  1-0, 2.33, 19.1 IP, 13 BB, 24 K.  Too many walks.  Grade B-.

232.  D'Backs:  Tim Susanna, C, College(Oregon).  SS:  .210/.329/.282, 13.7 BB%, 24.7 K%, 146 PA.  Grade D+.

252.  Indians:  Eli Morgan, RHP, College(Gonzaga).  DNP.  Grade Incomplete.

261.  A's:  Jared Poche, LHP, College(LSU).  DNP.  Grade Incomplete.

363.  Marlins:  Darren McCaughan, RHP, College(Long Beach St.).  R:  0-1, 3.75, 12 IP, 3 BB, 18 K. Grade B.

550.  Dodgers:  Max Gamboa, RHP, College(Pepperdine).  1 IP.  Grade Incomplete.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Scouting the 2017 Draft: Later Rounds

We'll continue our early returns series on the 2017 draft with some selected reviews of players on my draft board and others I profiled late in the cycle.  Again, grades are based on current performance and level of play only.  Listed by overall draft number:

72.  Pirates:  Connor Uselton, OF, HS.  R:  3 for 7.  Uselton's stock dropped as the draft approached.  I still liked him as a late first rounder or early second rounder.  Grade Incomplete.

74.  Orioles:  Zac Lowther, LHP, College(Xavier).  SS:  2-2, 1.66, 54.1 IP, 12.42 K/9, 1.82 BB/9.  I thought Lowther might make a good Giants pick as he dominated the Cape Cod League.  He's off to a terrific start for the O's.  Grade A.

76.  Twins:  Blayne Enlow, RHP, HS.  R:  3-0, 1.33, 20.1 IP, 8.41 K/9, 1.77 BB/9.  Enlow was another kid who seemed like a reasonable late first or early second round choice.  He fell to the top of the 3'rd round and did well.  Grade A.

77.  Reds:  Jacob Heatherly, LHP, HS.  R:  0-1, 12.00, 9 IP, 5.00 K/9, 4.00 BB/9.
 R:  2-1, 2.93, 30.2 IP, 7.63 K/9, 4.70 BB/9.  Pitchability HS lefty.  ERA looks OK but the ratios are ugly.  Grade C.

81.  A's:  Nick Allen, SS, HS.  R:  .254/.322/.326, HR, 7 SB, 8.4 BB%, 18.2 K%, 154 PA.  Undersized defensive SS.  Hard to judge defense at these levels.  Grade C(could be higher depending on how his D grades out).

83.  Phillies:  Conner Seabold, RHP, College(CS Fullerton).  SS:  2-0, 0.90, 10 IP, 2 BB, 13 K.  SSS, but you work with what you've got.  Grade A.

84.  Brewers:  KJ Harrison, C, College(Oregon St.).  R:  .308/.388/.546, 10 HR, 10.7 BB%, 25.7 K%.  Great numbers, but a draftee from the Pac 12 has no business playing in rookie ball.  Grade C+.

87.  White Sox:  Luis Gonzalez, OF, College(New Mexico).  A:  .245/.356/.361, 2 HR, 2 SB, 13.7 BB%, 18.1 K%, 277 PA.  Aggressive placement.  Decent numbers.  Grade:  B.

97.  Mets:  Quinn Brodey, OF, College(Stanford).  SS:  .257/.303/.348, 2 HR, 10 SB, 6.1 BB%, 21.5 K%, 228 PA.  Grade C+.

99.  Blue Jays:  Riley Adams, C, College(San Diego).  SS:  .305/.374/.438, 3 HR, 7.9 BB%, 22 K%, 227 PA.  Grade A-.

100.  Dodgers:  Conner Wong, C, College(Houston).  A:  .278/.336/.495, 5 HR, 6.5 BB%, 24.3 K%, 107 PA.  Aggressive placement.  Grade B+.

105.  Cubs:  Keegan Thompson, RHP, College(Auburn).  SS:  1-2, 2.37, 19 IP, 4 BB, 23 K.  Grade A.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Hot Stove Update: Rangers Sign Doug Fister

The Hot Stove, which had nearly frozen over, flickered to life today and whoo boy!  A major signing it was!(Just kidding there, team). The Texas Rangers must have decided to fill in their rotation from the back as they signed perennial 5'th starter Doug Fister to a 1 yr/$3.5 M contract with $500 K in incentive bonuses and a team option for $4.5 M with $500 K in more incentives with a $500 K buyout for 2019.

Fister's stock had a bit of a resurgence last year.  He originally signed a minor league deal with the Angels last offseason but exercised an opt-out clause on June 21 and signed with the Red Sox where he his average FB velocity, which had been south of 88 MPH for several years ticked up to almost 90 MPH.  He also mixed in about 10% more breaking balls than in recent seasons.  His line for 2017 was 5-9, 4.88, 90.1 IP, 8.27 K/9, 3.79 BB/9, 50.6 GB%.  The K rate increased along with the velocity and may have been helped by the additional use of breaking balls.  His FIP and xFIP were almost a run lower than is ERA.

The Rangers get a pitcher who is likely to eat some innings at the back of the rotation.  Fister has had his ups and downs as a pitcher, but since 2009 he's had just one season, 2015, in which the dollar value of his performance was less than $9 M which gives the Rangers an excellent chance of getting surplus value from him, which is good as long as they don't have someone better to turn to instead.

Scouting the 2018 Draft: Griffin Conine

Griffin Conine is the son of former Giants nemesis Jeff Conine.  Yeah, that guy from the Marlins.  Griffin is a B-L, T-R OF for the Duke Blue Devils who, after a slow start his freshman season broke out last year in his sophomore campaign and backed that up with a MVP performance in the Cape Cod League.

2017(College):  .298/.425/.546, 13 HR, 9 SB, 41 BB, 45 K, 218 AB.
2017(CCL):  .326, 11 HR, 20 BB, 48 K, 178 AB.

He's got an average build with some strength at 6'1", 200 lbs.  On video he has a spread stance with hands way back and up high.  He kind of wraps the bat around his head a bit reminding me of Nate Schierholtz.  The swing is long with a moderate uppercut which should produce dingers and K's.  Combine that with his plate discipline and you get a 3 true-outcomes hitter.  He might have enough speed and arm to cover LF in some MLB parks but in an era where OF defense is valued, he is more likely a 1B/DH type.  He has his supporters out there, but for me he's a late first rounder at best.

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DrB's Updated 2018 Draft Board:

1.  Seth Beer, OF/1B, College(Clemson).
2.  Jarrad Kelenic, OF, HS.
3.  Nander De Sedas, SS, HS.
4.  Kumar Rocker, RHP, HS.
5.  Ethan Hankins, RHP, HS.
6.  Brady Singer, RHP, College(Florida).
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7.  Matthew Liberatore, LHP, HS.
8.  Nolan Gorman, 3B, HS.
9.  Greyson Jenista, OF/1B, College(Wichita St.).
10. Casey Mize, RHP, College(Auburn).
11. Nick Madrigal, 2B, College(Oregon St.).
12. Shane McClanahan, LHP, College(Univ. of South Florida).
13. Griffin Conine, OF, College(Duke).
14. Brice Turang, SS, HS.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Fantasy Focus: Impact Rookies- Walker Buehler

As if don't have a disgusting amount of talent already at the MLB level, they have more on the way, an in the near future.  The Bad Guys drafted Walker Buehler #24 overall in the 2015 draft out of Vanderbilt.  He pitched just 5 total innings between 2015 and 2016 due to Tommy John surgery.  He made up for lost time in 2017 and then some as he rocketed through 3 minor league levels with a callup to the majors in September.   In the process, he regularly made headlines with spectacular performances and frequent triple digit readings on the radar guns.

High A:  0-0, 1.10, 16.1 IP, 14.88 K/9, 2.76 BB/9, 53.6 GB%.
AA:  2-2, 3.49, 49.0 IP, 11.76 K/9, 2.76 BB/9, 51.2 GB%.
AAA:  1-0, 7.71, 9.1 IP, 11.57 K/9, 7.71 BB/9, 66.7 GB%.

Buehler's FB average a tad over 98 MPH in the majors and he threw it 70% of the time.  He backed that up with a curveball which he threw about 20% and a slider for the other 5%. Despite that repertoire he had a severe reverse L-R split at both AAA and MLB levels albeit in small samples.  He might need to develop a changeup if he wants to have a career as a starter at the MLB level.  I would think he starts 2018 in AAA and will likely be called up again sometime midseason.  I expect his results will be better the next time.  He will only be fantasy relevant in most formats if he either starts or closes games for the Dodgers next year.

Scouting the Offseason: Free Agents to Avoid

Black Friday did not materialize in MLB's free agent market as the waiting game continued.  While we continue to wait, here are 5 free agents likely to give their new teams buyer's remorse:

Eric Hosmer, 1B.  28 yo.  2017:  .318/.385/.498, 25 HR, 6 SB, 9.8 BB%, 15.5 K%, .351 BABIP, UZR/150= -0.4, 671 PA.

If you are a GM who thinks Hosmer can put up a fWAR of 4.1 every season, then you might be happy to spring for MLBTR's projected contract of 6 yrs/$132 M.  But Hosmer's fWAR's for the past 5 seasons are 3.2, 0.0, 3.5, -0.1, 4.1.  You also might want to take a hard look at that BABIP and ask yourself what happens if it regresses to the mean.  There are other reasonable 1B options on the market projected to get less money including Yonder Alonso and Carlos Santana.  A GM who is thinking about signing Hosmer to a contract like this should be frantically trying to reach Bobby Evans to see if Brandon Belt is available.

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Yu Darvish, RHP.  31 yo.  2017:  10-12, 3.86, 186.2 IP, 10.08 K/9, 2.80 BB/9.

MLBTR projects Darvish to get a contract of 6 yr/$160 M.  That's way too much for too long for any pitcher, and Darvish, while he is very good, is not quite one of the elite SP's in baseball.  While it is probably not rational to get too hung up on his WS performance, it was awful.  Team's thinking of signing Darvish to that kind of contract should be looking at Tyler Chatwood, Juan Nicasio, Alex Cobb and Jhoulys Chacin who should be available at a fraction of the price.

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Jake Arrieta, RHP.  32 yo.  2017:  14-10, 3.53, 168.1 IP, 8.71 K/9, 2.94 BB/9.

2 years ago, Arrieta was the best pitcher in baseball, but his velocity has been declining while his ERA has been rising.  MLBTR's projected 4 yr/$100 M is payment for past performance.  As bad as Darvish's projected contract is, this one may be even worse even at 2 yrs/$60 M less.  The same alternatives as for Darvish apply here.

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Wade Davis, RHP.  32 yo.  2017:  4-2, 2.30, 58.2 IP, 12.12 K/9, 4.30 BB/9, 32 Saves.

Despite the increasing reliance on bullpens, especially in the postseason, investing big money like MLBTR's projected 4 yrs/$60 M for Closers is always a bad idea.  This contract would be only slightly less likely to bust than Arrieta's above.

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Lance Lynn, RHP.  31 yo.  2017:  11-8, 3.43, 186.1 IP, 7.39 K/9, 3.77 BB/9, BABIP= .244.

MLBTR's projected contract of 4 yr/$56 M is considerably less than for Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta. It's still a bad contract for the signing team.  Just say no and call the agents for Chatwood, Nicasio or Chacin.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Scouting the Offseason: Free Agent Bargains

I thought it might be fitting on "Black Friday", a term I hate BTW, to take a look at some potential bargains on this year's free agent market.  These are not necessarily names that fit for the Giants, just ones I think are likely to bring positive value to any team that signs them.

Cameron Maybin, OF.  31 yo.  B-R, T-R, 6'3", 215 lbs.  2017:  .228/.318/.365, 10 HR, 33 SB, 11.3 BB%, 20.9 K%, 1.2 fWAR, BABIP .274, 450 PA. CF UZR/150= 10.0.

Maybin is listed outside MLBTR's top 50 FA's. He did get an honorable mention.  They are predicting the guys at the bottom of that list to get contracts with AAV's in the $5-6 M range.  Maybin has had some trouble staying healthy but his injuries are not of the type that are generally recurrent and cause production decline.  Compare his numbers to Billy Hamilton who the Giants are believed to be pursuing and who they would have to give up prospects for.  If you project the SB's to equal PA's, Maybin isn't even that far behind in that category. Hamilton is probably a better fielder, but Maybin still has a positive UZR in CF.  A 3 yr/$15 M deal for Maybin would likely give a positive return over the life of the contract possibly by a large margin.

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Sergio Romo RHP.  35 yo. 2017:  3-1, 3.56, 55.2 IP, 9.54 K/9, 3.07 BB/9.

Sergio Romo finally wore out his welcome in San Francisco and signed with his boyhood favorite team, the Dodgers last year for 1 yr/$3 M.  He then did what any good secret agent would do and blew up his ERA to over 6.  He ended up with the Tampa Bay Rays and immediately started putting up vintage Romo numbers:  2-0, 1.47, 30.2 IP, 7 BB, 28 K's.  Romo ain't getting any younger, but he will likely be available for a 1 year deal at no more than $3 M.  That's a risk worth taking on a reliever with his track record.

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Nick Hundley, C.  34 yo. 2017:  .244/272/.418, 23 2B, 9 HR, 303 PA.

Hundley doesn't seem to be on anybody's radar as a FA.  He's probably not the guy you want to be your starting C, but he might be the best backup catcher in baseball.  He can probably be re-signed for about the same price as last year's 1 yr/$2 M contract.  The Giants might want to sweeten the deal to 2 yrs/$5 M.  He'd still be a bargain at that price.

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Tyler Chatwood, RHP.  28 yo.  2017:  8-15, 4.69, 147.2 IP, 7.31 K/9, 4.69 BB/9, 58.1 GB%.

Chatwood is my white whale of this offseason.  His overall numbers have not looked that great and he tends to walk too many batters, but he has been hurt tremendously by having to pitch half his games in Coors Field.  His away ERA was 3.49.  He has a TJ in his history, but is just 28 years old, averages 94. 7 MPH on his FB and can erase a lot of those walks with GIDP's due to a huge groundball tendency. Oh, and he has absolutely shut down the Giants whenever he's faced them.  MLBTR predicts he'll sign for 3 yrs/$20 M, and that's a bargain.  The team that signs him will be getting a guy who is as likely as anyone out there to be a solid mid-rotation SP over the course of the contract.  If the Giants could trade any of their SP's for something of value in return and then sign Chatwood they would likely be getting just as much production for a much lower price and could re-allocated the difference.

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Jake McGee, LHP.  31 yo.  2017:  0-2, 3.61, 57.1 IP, 9.10 K/9, 2.51 BB/9.

McGee is a big lefty reliever with a FB that averages 95 MPH.  He struggled to adjust to Coors Field in his first season with the Rockies but bounced back with a strong campaign in 2017.  He was even better outside of Coors with a 2.64 Away ERA.  MLBTR projects him to get 3 yr's/$18 M.  That's a bit rich for a lefty reliever, but not by a lot and he could become dominant in an environment like AT &T Park.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Fantasy Focus: Impact Rookies- Alex Reyes

Alex Reyes is a holdover from last year's list due to season ending TJ surgery that was performed very early in spring training.  So, he will pick up where he left off in spring training 2018.  Expect the Cardinals to take in easy with him early.  There is some talk of him starting 2018 in the bullpen.  He could rehab for a month or two in extended spring training and/or the minor leagues.  It is likely we'll seem him starting games again at some point next season.

You all know who he is.  He has an almost perfect pitcher's build and rides his fastball in the mid-upper 90's.  Control/command is an issue as his walk rates have alway sat in the mid-4's/9.  He makes up for that with double digit K/9's, but at some point he's going to have to throw strikes more consistently.  Given that command is often in issue post-TJ it's not a give that Reyes will be as dominant as he was in is ML debut in 2016, but the ceiling is ace starter.   Here are is 2016 stat lines:

AAA:  2-3, 4.96, 65.1 IP, 32 BB, 93 K.
MLB:  4-1, 1.57, 46 IP, 23 BB, 52 K.

Thoughts on Braves Punishment

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

I've seen a whole lot of comments on other sites about how harsh MLB's penalties are against the Braves in which they were stripped of multiple prospects and essentially banned from future International signings for a period of time.  In addition, their GM John Copollela was banned from working in the game for life and their assistant GM for 1 year.  With the possible exception of Coppy being banned for life, the evidence MLB lays out in their statement shows the infractions were egregious and the penalties were not too severe.  Of course, severity of penalties is always subjective and this is just my opinion, but allow me to explain.

First of all, each and every one of the prospects who MLB declared FA's likely would not have been the Braves property in the first place had it not been for the rule infractions.  What the Braves did was to sign older "prospects" who were not subject to their bonus pool cap to much higher than market value.  In return, those players agents or "buscones" promised to sign several other, younger prospects for less than market rate to keep the Braves under the bonus pool cap.  The buscones would then pass on the extra money from he older prospect to the younger ones.  All of the prospects MLB took away from the Braves were involved in those shenanigans.  When you realize the Braves never should have been able to sign them in the first place, the penalty doesn't really seem that harsh, at least to me.

As for Coppy, I don't think his lifetime ban is as harsh as it seems when you understand how dishonest his dealings apparently were.  It's one thing to cheat the system to gain a competitive advantage over other teams, which should be intolerable to MLB as an organization.  It's quite another to lie, cheat and steal from 16-18 year old starry eyed kids.  Among the MLB findings in their investigation, the Braves illegally made promises of future non-monetary compensation to multiple prospects in return for them signing for a lower amount of money.  They then allegedly reneged on those promises and never delivered the non-monetary goods.  In the case of Drew Waters, a 3'rd round draft pick, he was promised a car in return for a lower monetary signing bonus.  The car apparently never materialized.

Another complaint I've seen about the penalties is that everyone is doing it and the Braves biggest offense was getting caught.  While I am sure other organizations have been involved in similar shenanigans, it's not that hard to see patterns that suggest such activity.  I mean, are we really surprised teams like the Braves and Red Sox and GM's like the guy who moved from the Rangers to the Padres are the ones getting caught?  They are getting caught because they are doing it!  While I have no illusions that Giants management would be entirely above such behavior, if you look at the patterns of their international signings and their draft bonuses, there is nothing to suggest similar activity on their part as they have played the process very straight, much to the sometimes disgust of their fans who saw other teams signing shiploads of international prospects and wondering why the Giants weren't doing it.  So no, I don't accept the "everybody" else is doing it argument because I don't believe everybody else is doing it.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Scouting the 2018 Draft: Nolan Gorman

Nolan Gorman is a solidly built 6'2", 210 lb, B-L, T-R, HS SS who will likely be drafted as a 3B.  With an IF throw clocked at 91 MPH, he probably has enough arm to stick at the hot corner.   His calling card is power.  He uses a short, quick stroke to generate easy plus pull power.  He hit 18 dingers in a showcase batting practice this summer.

He's no 5-tool player but love the bat.  Right now, I think I will rank him just outside the top tier of 2018 draft prospects.

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DrB's 2018 Draft Board:

1.  Seth Beer, OF/1B, College(Clemson).
2.  Jarred Kelenic, OF, HS.
3.  Nander De Sedas, SS, HS.
4.  Kumar Rocker, RHP, HS.
5.  Ethan Hankins, RHP, HS.
6.  Brady Singer, RHP, College(Florida)
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7.  Matthew Liberatore,LHP, HS
8.  Nolan Gorman, 3B, HS.
9.  Greyson Jenista, OF/1B, College(Wichita St).
10.  Casey Mize, RHP, College(Auburn).
11.  Nick Madrigal, 2B, College(Oregon St).
12.  Shane McClanahan, LHP, College(Univ. of South Florida).
13. Brice Turang, SS, HS.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Hot Stove Update: Braves Stripped of 12 Prospects, Giants Could Benefit

The Commissioner came down hard on the Braves today declaring 12 of their prospects free agents including uber-prospect Kevin Maitan.  The decision was to remedy a series of dishonest maneuvers which enabled the Braves to sign more international prospects than they could have signed by following the rules.  The most egregious violations in my mind were multiple instances of promising prospects, including at least 1 draft pick, certain benefits to sign for less money then reneging on those promises.  Now THAT is lowdown, no-good and dirty pool!

What's interesting about this new pool of free agents is the rules the commissioner laid down for other teams to sign them.  The Giants may have gotten good news here.  The players can sign for any amount of money during a window in December and early January and are subject to international bonus pools.  What's interesting for the Giants is that teams can choose to use either their 2017-18 bonus pool or their 2018-19 bonus pool, but not both  The Giants cannot sign any prospect for more than $300 K out of their 2017-18 bonus pool, but they are only limited by their total pool in 2018-19.  So, the Giants have bonus pool money available to go after any of these prospects they might like and are not limited to $300 K per prospect.  In addition, the first $200 K of any signing bonus for these players does not count against the cap.

I don't pretend to know anything at all about any of these newly minted free agents except that Maitan has struggled a bit in pro ball and is not generally considered the elite prospect he once was.   This should be interesting!

Hot Stove Update: Giants Protect 4 From Rule 5 Draft

The Giants prepared for baseball's Rule 5 Draft, the exercise that annually makes the careers of 1 or 2 prospects and derails countless others, by adding 4 prospects to the 40 man MLB roster.  In compensatory moves, they designated utility man Orlando Calixte and OF/2B Micah Johnson for assignment and outrighted RHP Dan Slania to AAA Sacramento.  SS Engelb Vielma, who never appeared in a Giants affiliated uniform, was claimed off waivers by the Phillies.  The added prospects were RHP Tyler Beede, C Aramis Garcia, LHP DJ Snelton and RHP Tyler Herb.

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Beede was the Giants first round draft pick in 2014.  He has not rocketed through the organization as some expected given his pedigree, but has steadily climbed the ladder to AAA and the Arizona Fall League.  He started last season in AAA Sacramento.  Although he had his ups and downs over the season, most of his poor starts occurred in the ridiculously hitter-friendly environments of some of the home parks of the PCL they River Cats travel to.  In his final regular season start on July 19, he pitched 7 shutout innings before going on the DL with a leg strain.  To make up for lost time, the Giants assigned him to the Arizona Fall League where Giants fans went into a bit of a panic after he got shelled in his first start, but he then settled down to pitch really well in his next 3 starts.  Here are his 2017 pitching lines:

AAA:  6-7, 4.79, 109 IP, 39 BB, 83 K, GO/AO= 1.61.
AFL:  0-1, 4.50, 16 IP, 4 BB, 11 K, GO/AO= 1.13.

He allowed just 3 ER in 14 IP with 1 BB and 10 K's in his final 3 AFL starts to give him a great starting point for the 2018 season.

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Aramis Garcia was the Giants second round pick in the 2014 draft.  He missed a big part of the 2016 season with a facial injury suffered in a collision at 2B which put him back in San Jose to start the 2017 season.  He hit .272 with 17 HR's for San Jose then hit .282 after a late season promotion to AA Richmond.  He also went to the AFL and posted a .259 BA in 59 AB's.  He'll most likely start the 2018 season in Richmond with hope for a midseason promo to AAA with a September callup since he is now on the 40 man roster.

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DJ Snelton had a breakout season as a lefty reliever in 2017 dominating AA and continuing his success after a promotion to AAA with a stellar Arizona Fall League Campaign.  Snelton uses his 6'7" height to induce groundballs at a high rate by driving his 4-seam FB down in the strike zone.  Here are his 2017 pitching lines:

AA:  4-1, 1.66, 21.2 IP, 5 BB, 28 K, GO/AO= 3.63.
AAA:  4-0, 2.42, 52 IP, 18 BB, 43 K, GO/AO= 2.08.
AFL:  0-0, 2.25, 12 IP, 5 BB, 11 K, GO/AO= 2.29.

Snelton's addition to the 40 man roster should get him some early looks in spring training with an outside chance of making the 25 man Opening Day Roster.  More likely, he'll head back to AAA and be ready for a callup when needed.

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Tyler Herb was acquired from the Mariners organization midseason for cash, but he was really the PTBNL in the Chris Heston trade.  Herb is another strong groundball pitcher who put up interesting AA numbers both before and after the trade.

AA(Mariners):  6-4, 3.31, 98 IP, 30 BB, 88 K, GO/AO= 1.97.
AA(Giants):  2-3, 2.76, 65.1 IP, 18 BB, 48 K, GO/AO= 1.92.

Herb's ceiling is probably a backend MLB SP or a long reliever, but has a strong chance of reaching that.  I consider him a sleeper in the system.

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These 4 prospects now have 3 Option Years in which they can be sent down to the minors at any time without being exposed to waivers which extends their development time within the Giants organization.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Hot Stove Update: Trader Jerry Strikes Again!

Just a few days after saying he wasn't going to "go crazy" with trades this winter, "Trader Jerry" DiPoto, GM of the Seattle Mariners completed 2 more trades for 3 in 4 days.  As I reported in a prior Hot Stove Update, DiPoto kicked the Hot Stove League off by sending a pretty good reliever and a DSL SS to the A's for 3B/1B/DH Ryon Healy.  His second trade was to send hard throwing RHP Thyago Viera to the White Sox for $500 M in International Bonus Pool money.

Viera pitched last season in AA and AAA compiling a combined pitching line of 2-4, 4.00, 54 IP, 22 BB, 46 K's.  That line isn't so impressive, but Viera's FB has been clocked in the triple digits.  After the trade, there was speculation that DiPoto is trying to build a war chest to make a bid for Shohei Otani.  There may have been 40 man roster considerations here too.

Trader Jerry then turned around and acquired RHP Nick Rumbelow from the Yankees for 2 lower level minor league pitchers, JP Sears and Juan Then.  Rumbelow is 26 years old, 6'0", 190 lbs.  He has something like 15 innings of MLB experience to his credit, all in 2015.  He missed most of 2016 after undergoing TJ surgery.  His AAA line for 2017 was 5-1, 0.62, 29 IP, 8 BB, 30 K.  The Yankees have a 40 man roster crunch coming into tomorrow's deadline for protecting players from the Rule 5 Draft, and needed to trade Rumbelow or lose him for nothing.

JP Sears is an undersized LHP drafted in Round 11 in the 2017 draft.  He goes 5'11", 180 lbs.  He put up a line of 1-2, 0.65, 272. IP, 12 BB's and 51 K's over 2 levels after signing.  Then is a 6'1", 155 lbs. 18. yo RHP from the DSL whose 2917 line was 2-2, 2.64, 61.1 IP, 15 BB, 56 K's.  The Yankees were able to take a player they were going to lose anyway and turn him into 2 intriguing lottery tickets.  Nice trade for the Yanks.

I thought the Healy trade was OK from the Mariner's standpoint but Trader Jerry seems to be spinning his wheels a bit on these last 2, unless he lands Otani.  Then he gets the last laugh.

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We may see a few more of these kinds of trades today as the deadline for setting the 40 man roster looms.

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Bobby Evans all but confirmed that the Giants had at least inquired about a trade for Giancarlo Stanton.  His comment was that he did not think the Marlins would have fielded the offer at all if they did not at least think it was a possibility they would trade the slugger.  Evans left the impression that interest from the Marlins end is still a bit vague and they indicated they would only approach Stanton about waiving his no-trade clause after talks had progressed to a final offer.  I would add that the Giants would not be kicking the tires on Stanton if they did not think they could figure out a way to absorb his hefty salary.  MLBTR is reporting that the Cardinals have also made an offer for Stanton.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Armchair GM: Giancarlo Stanton May Be Less Expensive Than He Seems

Ken Rosenthal seems to think the Giants have actually submitted a trade offer to the Miami Marlins for Giancarlo Stanton.  He give no hints of any names involved except to say that the Giants are willing to take on a "sizable portion" of Giancarlo's contract which will certainly put them well over the Competitive Balance Tax(CBT) threshold.  This may be alleviated by trading 1 or more high priced current Giants players, possibly in the same deal with Stanton.

Now, notice in that discussion the Giants don't seem to be nearly as worried about what they have to pay Giancarlo was they are how much of a penalty they will have to pay for going over the CBT threshold.  Here's where Stanton's contract gives them some help.  Many analysts, including Grant Brisbee of MCC, seem to think Stanton's contract is for 10 years/$295 M and thus has an AAV which counts against the CBT of $29.5/season.  It doesn't.  The 10 years/$295 M is how much he has left on the contract, but the contract as originally signed was for 13 years/$325 M for an AAV of $25 M.  Unless they change the rules of how the CBT is calculated, even in the years he is scheduled to be paid $32 M, the CBT hit is still just $25 M.

Now, Rosenthal did not say the Giants would take on all of Stanton's contract, just a "sizable portion."  Let's say the Marlins agree to pay $50 M of Stanton's $295 M contract or $5 M per season X 10 years.  That reduces the Giants portion of the CBT hit to $20 M.  Now, let's say the Marlins also take Denard Span and the remainder of his contract exchanging short term salary for much larger long term salary relief.  The Giants are about $10 M under the CBT threshold and removing Span's contract would put them $20 M under before adding Stanton's now $20 M hit.  Voila!  The Giants have Giancarlo Stanton and are right at the CBT threshold.  See, he is affordable after all!

Of course this scenario would still leave the Giants some holes to fill, and in at least one case, backup catcher, they don't have any viable internal options, so they would still need to find additional salary relief.  I doubt the Marlins would take both Span and Pence, but that would be sweet if they did.  Unfortunately Pence has a no-trade clause and would have no reason to accept a trade to the Marlins so that's all but out as a consideration.  More likely the Giants would have to trade a Joe Panik or Brandon Belt or even Johnny Cueto or Jeff Samardzija to clear more CBT cap space but there are probably trade options available for all of those players.  I mean, once Eric Hosmer signs, Brandon Belt may seem like a cheap alternative even with the concussion history!

Of course, the Giants also have to think about extending Madison Bumgarner's contract in the next 2 years, but I'm already on record that they need to be listening to offers of MLB ready prospect packages for Bummy sooner rather than later.

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Then we have the question of whether Giancarlo will provide value for the cost of his contract.  For this, we'll use the actual money he is going to be paid.  We will also use the entirety of the contract as we all know it is likely to be underwater by the time it is completed.  As we all know, Giancarlo has been injured a few times.  His fWAR in a 8 year career has ranged from 1.9-6.9 with an average right at 4.  Apparently the current value of 1 fWAR is $9 M so in an average season, he's been worth $36 M.  The 6.9 came last year for a value of a whopping $62 M.

Eno Sarris of Fangraphs posted a  couple of theoretical decay curves to show there is a good chance he will provide that value.  One optimistic, yet reasonable, curve has him starting at his projected fWAR for 2018 at 5.4 and maintaining that for 3 years, then declining on a typical aging curve over the remaining 7 years.  His total WAR value for the life of that scenario would be over $400 M.  In a less optimistic scenario, you start at 5.4 and start the decline immediately.  You still get to $293 M over the course of the contract.

Of course, he could suffer an injury in the first season that accelerates the decline and the contract ends up a bust, but that is not the most likely scenario.

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Market cost of Wins is just one way for a blind man to look at the elephant of MLB contracts.  Another way is to ask whether he will bring in at least $295 M more to the Giants over the next 10 years.  This one is impossible to know for the average fan like me.  We do know that the Giants hate empty seats in the stadium and their business model depends on fielding a competitive team, or at least an interesting team to put butts in those seats.  Last year, the Giants weren't just a bad team.  They were a boring team.  By the end of the season, we were seeing an awful lot of green space in the stands at most games.  In addition, the Giants are part owners of the TV channel that carries their games on cable/satellite TV.  That revenue stream depends on advertisers and advertisers depend on viewers and the numbers are enormous.  Then there is merchandising, and surrounding developments which depend on the foot traffic the games bring to the area.  All told, it is likely that Giancarlo would bring in more money to the Giants than he would cost.

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What about the players traded to the Marlins in a Giancarlo Stanton trade?  Unfortunately, the one name that seems to have leaked out is Heliot Ramos.  There is one and only one player in the Giants farm system I consider untouchable, and that is Heliot Ramos. I will be crushed if the Giants trade him for anything, even Giancarlo Stanton.  They could trade the entire rest of the farm system and I would not be unhappy, but please not Heliot Ramos!  Now, I freely admit that is more of an emotional reaction than a rational one, but I am irrationally exuberant about Heliot Ramos' future.  Given his last name and where he comes from, though, it makes perfect sense why Ramos is the one player the Marlins would covet the most and not just from a future performance standpoint.

From a rational viewpoint, it will be at least 4 years before Heliot Ramos appears in a MLB uniform in a regular season game and the chances of him ever having as valuable MLB career as Stanton is likely to have over the next 10 years is very small to the point of approaching zero.  So, Heliot Ramos should not be the deal breaker in the Giants quest for Giancarlo Stanton.  If the Giants have a real chance to acquire a player of his caliber, the only question they need to answer before pulling the trigger on the trade is whether they can afford to pay him for the next 10 years. The answer to that question is probably yes.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Thoughts on What Went Wrong: It Wasn't Injuries!

Fangraphs posted stats yesterday of how many DL Trips and Days Lost for each team in 2017.  In discussions regarding what the Giants need to do this offseason, we've had a vocal contingent saying the biggest problem last year was injuries.  If the Giants just keep the gang together and they stay healthy, voila!  They're contenders again!  Bruce Bochy has made several comments this offseason blaming much of the Giants 2017 problems on a succession of injuries.  Now, maybe the Giants injuries just happened to the wrong people at the wrong times and therefore had more impact than other teams' injuries, but by sheer numbers, it wasn't the injuries!

The average number of days lost to injuries last year in MLB was 1061.  The median was 1035.  The Giants lost 1001 days to injuries, just a bit below both the average and median.

Conclusion:  The Giants poor record in 2017 was most likely not due to injuries.

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Were the Giants unlucky in 2017?  Well, yes they were.  If you remember, when we did our midseason series on What Went Wrong, we pointed out the unusually low hitting BABIP for the Giants coupled with an unusually high pitching BABIP.  Those numbers improved in the second half without an improvement in W-L, but overall, the Giants were at least moderately unlucky on BIPs.  The Giants final hitting BABIP was .294 against an MLB median of .303.  Their pitching BABIP was .308 against a MLB median of .298.  It wasn't all luck as their horrendous OF defense contributed to the high pitching BABIP and explains why they are so intent on acquiring a top defensive CF.  But their record should be significantly better with league average BABIP's on both sides of the ball.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Hot Stove Update: A's Trade Ryon Healy

While rumors swirled around the Giants at the GM meetings, the two biggest trade addicts in MLB, Jerry Dipoto and Billy Beane, pulled off another one with young slugger Ryon Healy going to the Mariners for Reliever Emilio Pagan and a 17 yo SS prospect, Alexander Campos.

Healy was kind of blocked in Oakland despite a strong start to his MLB career as the Matts, Chapman and Olson had moved ahead of him at 3B and 1B respectively and the A's want to move Khris Davis to DH taking that option away from Healy.  Healy is a much better fielder at 1B than 3B and the Mariners badly needed an offensive upgrade at the position which they get in Healy.

I had never heard of Pagan before, but he put up tremendous numbers as a reliever last year with a 3.22 ERA in 50.1 IP, but with a K/BB of 10.01/1.97.  Wow!  That is good enough that he will probably compete for the Closer role in Oakland.  He is big and strong at 6'3", 210 lbs so he could also become a multi-inning reliever.

Campos is a defensive whiz at SS with some upside in his bat, basically a lottery pick throw-in on the deal.

Win-Win.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Fantasy Focus: Impact Rookies- Victor Robles

Victor Robles is an elite OF prospect for the Washington Nationals.  He is the one they have refused to trade.  He's a 5-tool athlete with strong hit tool.  B-R, T-R.  6'1", 185 lbs.  He started last season in High A ball got a late season promotion to AA and a September callup to the majors.  Here are his numbers from 2017:

A+:  .289/.377/.495, 25 2B, 7 3B, 7 HR, 16 SB, 338 PA.
AA:  .324/.394/.489, 12 2B, 3B, 13 HR, 11 SB, 158 PA.
MLB:  .250/.308/.452, 2B, 2 3B, 27 PA.

Robles will most likely start 2017 in AAA, unless the Nationals trade Michael Taylor to, say, the Giants in which case Robles could play CF.  More likely the Nats will challenge him to force the issue by dominating AAA.  He's a definite future perennial 20/20 player with a chance to have a few 30/30 seasons.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Armchair GM: Should the Giants Trade Madison Bumgarner?

The GM meetings got underway yesterday.  In interviews since the postseason press conference, both Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans seem to be sounding more urgent and more willing to do something that would massively shake up the roster.  On the Giants own website, Evans was quoted as saying that while they are not shopping Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner or Brandon Crawford, they are willing to consider strong offers.  It is not a stretch to think that Brian Sabean may see parallels between the 1996 Giants and the 2017 Giants and be itching to pull off another Matt Williams type trade.

There are several reasons why, out of those three players, Madison Bumgarner may be the most likely to be traded.  The biggest reason why is also the reason why on the surface he seems to be the player the Giants would least want to trade.  He's a #1 SP that comes with a #4 SP price for the next 2 years, which is a lifetime in MLB.  In short, he is the one player the Giants could reasonably expect to get a massive return of elite young players for.  By contrast, while Posey and Crawford have trade value, the return would be limited by the large contracts they already have.

So we have one big reason why Bumgarner might be trade bait.  Are there others?  The Giants just exercised a very team-friendly option for 2018 and have another one for 2019.  Beyond that, they have to either extend his contract, which will undoubtedly be large and long, or they risk losing him to free agency after 2019.  Do the Giants want to extend Madison Bumgarner with the kind of contract it would take to get him to sign the papers?  He's still relatively young for a veteran pitcher, but he has a whole lot of miles on the arm.  The Giants track record with those kinds of contracts is downright terrible.  Barry Zito and Matt Cain are exhibits A and B.  They dodged a bullet with Tim Lincecum.  Johnny Cueto's contract is already looking iffy at best.  Let's take a look at Bumgarner's average FB velocities over the last few years(from Fangraphs):  2013- 92.5, 2014- 92.8, 2015- 93.0, 2016- 91.7, 2017- 91.3.  See a trend there?  Madison Bumgarner may be already 2 years past the peak of his career, at least in terms of his physical abilities.

Then there is the dirt bike incident.  Players that do things on or off the field that the Giants do not like don't tend to stick around long.  Remember Jeff Kent and the truck washing caper?  Melky Cabrera?  AJ Pierzynski?  There was some happy talk after Bummy's incident because they did not want to PO the big guy, but I wouldn't be shocked if there is some residual resentment from the front office.

So, in summary, here are the reasons why the Giants might be willing to pull the trigger on a Bumgarner trade:

1.  He'd bring the biggest return
2.  They might not want to give another mega contract to a pitcher with a ton of mileage on his arm.
3.  The Dirt Bike Incident.

The reasons why they might not want to trade him are fairly obvious, I think.

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With that in mind, I set out to find a deal that might work for the Giants.  The deal has to be to a contending team that thinks Bumgarner can substantially increase their chances of winning the Commissioner's Trophy in the next 2 years.  It also has to be a team that is loaded with MLB ready prospects or young players with MLB experience they have backup plans for.  A second criteria is the Giants have to get young MLB ready pitching as part of the return package.  Teams I looked were the Yankees, Red Sox, Astros, Brewers, Cubs and Cardinals.   The Red Sox, Astros and Brewers have strong farm systems, but are light on MLB ready pitching.  The Yankees and Cardinals seem to be the best fit.  Bumgarner would be a tremendous addition to both teams and both teams have room to give a solid return.

Specific criteria for the return would be 1.  At least 4 good young players.  2. Need to fill specific holes at OF in 3B.  3.  Bring back at least 1 solid MLB ready pitcher.  Here are the two potential trades I came up with:

1.  Giants send Madison Bumgarner to the Yankees for IF Gleyber Torres, OF Clint Frazier, RHP Chad Green, RHP Chance Adams.

Torres can step right in at 3B as soon as he is fully recovered from TJ surgery on his left(non-throwing) arm.  Frazier is an MLB ready CF with both speed and power.  Green is a beast of a reliever who can go multiple innings per appearance and might even be able to start.  Chance Adams is a decent SP prospect.  Torres also opens up the possibility of a Brandon Crawford trade if the Giants were to get a good offer for him.

2.  Giants send Madison Bumgarner to the Cardinals for RHP Luke Weaver, RHP Sandy Alcantara, IF Aledmys Diaz and OF Harrison Bader.  Weaver can step into the rotation, Diaz can plug in at 3B, Bader can play CF immediately and Alcantara is a high ceiling arm.  Giants could also ask for Alex Reyes instead of Weaver, but I was not sure if they would want to take the chance on him before seeing how he performs after TJ surgery.  They could also ask for Jack Flaherty instead of Alcantara.

Personally, I like the Yankees deal better.  Is it enough for Madison Bumgarner?

Monday, November 13, 2017

Hot Stove Update: Could These Trades Happen?

Joel Sherman who is a knowledgeable baseball writer who is no stranger to breaking big stories, wrote a speculative piece for the New York Post of trades he thinks the Mets, Yankees and Marlins could make this week at the GM meetings.  And why do I or you care about trades the Mets, Yankees or Marlins could make?  Well, because 2 of them involve the Giants.  Here goes with my comments:

Trade 1:  Giants trade Joe Panik to the Yankees for 2B/SS Starlin Castro, RHP Luis Cessa and 1B Tyler Austin.  This may actually be a good trade for both sides.  Panik is a native New Yorker and a Yankee fan.  His left-handed swing is tailor made for Yankee Stadium.  Heck, he might hit 30 HR's there!  He's a better fielder than Castro.  The Giants would get an immediate replacement for Panik who is almost as good.  They also get a hard throwing RHP with significant upside who can both start and relieve.  Austin is a power hitter throw in.   I'm in!  I'll add that part of the Yankees motivation is they have way too many MLB caliber players to fit on their 40 man roster so have to trade them before the Winter Meetings or risk getting nothing in return for them.

Trade 2:  A 3-way trade that sends Johnny Cueto to the Cubs, Stanton to the Giants and Christian Arroyo, Seth Corry, Ian Happ and Ben Zobrist to the Marlins.  Zobrist is salary relief to lessen the net cost of Cueto.  I know everybody wants to find a place for Stanton and the Giants seem like a perfect fit, but if the Cubs really want Johnny Cueto bad enough to give up Ian Happ and with Zobrist as the salary dump, why not cut out the middleman, avoid the huge risk of Stanton's contract and simply trade Cueto to the Cubs for Happ and Zobrist?  Happ is a plus defensive CF with tremendous hitting potential.  Zobrist can be the everyday 3B until Christian Arroyo is ready, then go back to being a utility guy.

These 2 trades(my version) would fill the Giants needs in CF, 3B, and partially address pitching.  They could then use the money saved to sign Tyler Chatwood, who I think would be terrific pitching half his game in AT&T Park.

Could these trades happen? Would you want them to?

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Scouting the 2018 Draft: Greyson Jenista

Greyson Jenista, 1B/OF, College(Wichita State).  B-L, T-R.  6'4", 210 lbs.

2016:  .326/.431/.471, 8 2B, 3B, 5 HR, 2 SB, 31 BB, 27 K, 172 AB.
2017:  .320/.413/.509, 14 2B, 3B, 9 HR, 6 SB, 32 BB, 46 K, 228 AB.
2017 CCL:  .310, 4 2B, 3 HR, 9 SB, 142 AB.

Jenista is a big, but athletic 1B/OF from Wichita St who hasn't completed tapped into his power yet.  He was named MVP of the Cape Cod League.   He has worked on his speed and felt confident enough in it to ask to play CF in the CCL. They let him play RF and he reportedly did better than OK defensively out there.  On video, he reminds me a bit of Anthony Rizzo.  If he can really play corner OF at the MLB level, then his value goes way up.  I don't like his swing as much as Seth Beer's, but I don't hate it either.

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Dr B's 2018 Draft Board:

1.  Seth Beer, 1B/OF, College(Clemson).
2.  Jarred Kelenic, OF, HS.
3.  Nander De Sedas, SS, HS.
4.  Kumar Rocker, RHP, HS.
5.  Ethan Hankins, RHP, HS.
6.  Brady Singer, RHP, College(Florida).
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7.  Matthew Liberatore, LHP, HS.
8.  Greyson Jenista, OF/1B, College(Wichita St).
9.  Casey Mize, RHP, College(Auburn).
10.  Nick Madrigal, 2B, College(Oregon St).
11.  Shane McClanahan, LHP, College(Univ. of South Florida).
12.  Brice Turang, SS, HS.

Fantasy Focus: Impact Rookies- Gleyber Torres

Gleyber Torres was the centerpiece of the package the Yankees received from the Cubs in the Aroldis Chapman trade.  He's a B-R, T-R, SS prospect who stands 6'1", 175 lbs.  He started last season in AA and put up a line of .273/.367/.496, 5 HR, 5 SB, 12.2 BB%, 15.1 K%, 139 PA.  He moved up to AAA and where he hit the ground running with a .309/.406/.457, 2 HR, 2 SB, 13.5 BB%, 27.1 K% in 96 AB.  There was talk of a promotion to the MLB team when he suffered an unusual injury tearing his left(non-throwing) UCL on a slide into home plate and underwent midseason TJ surgery.  I don't know what the timetable is for a position player undergoing TJ on their non-throwing elbow.  Torres reportedly is currently swinging a bat.  His situation should be monitored closely through the spring.  He is currently blocked at SS by Didi Gregorius, but he could potentially step in at 3B for the Bronx Bombers sometime in 2018.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Hot Stove Update: Thoughts on Giants Needs, Payroll and Giancarlo Stanton

As the Hot Stove starts to flicker to life, let's take a quick inventory of the Giants offseason needs which are amazingly complex, diverse and difficult to quantify.  They could probably field a team if they do absolutely nothing, but what kind of team would it be?  Actually, there is one position that they don't have a current option with Nick Hundley a free agent and a decline of Tim Federowicz' option making him a minor league FA, backup catcher.  So, in a way, you could reasonably put backup catcher as the one essential hole to fill this offseason, especially since Bochy seems to want to gradually increase Buster Posey's use at 1B.  

Adding to the complexity of the situation is that many fans perceive the Giants biggest need to be a power hitting LF, but that is not necessarily the thoughts of the Giants front office.  In a recent interview, Brian Sabean reiterated the need for improved OF defense, specifically CF, and then somewhat surprisingly added an everyday 3B to the list and mentioned that the Giants have to be "resourceful" in improving the bullpen.

So, let's list them:

1.  Back up Catcher.

2.  Upgrade CF defense

3.  Everyday 3B.

4.  Bullpen.

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Further complicating the Giants offseason is the Competitive Balance Tax(CBT).  This one is a challenge for fans to wrap their heads around not only because of the arcane way it is calclulated but because there are now multiple levels or thresholds for CBT penalties which now include more than just money.  Fortunately the website Cot's Baseball Contracts, linked to the left, provides something called a Tax Tracker in a separate spreadsheet from payroll, which is not the same number.  According to the updated Tax Tracker, the Giants are just $9.5 M under the first CBT threshold after adding in estimated salaries for arbitration eligible players and salaries for the remaining 40 man roster.  If you go by MLBTR's Arbitration Salary estimates, you can add another $1.5 M to that number giving them $11 M to spend this winter before they hit the first threshold.

Since the Giants have gone over the threshold the past 3 seasons, the penalty for going over in 2018 is a 50% penalty for every excess dollar. There are two more thresholds:  A surcharge kicks in if the threshold is exceeded by more than $20 M and non-monetary penalties such as devaluation of draft picks and loss of International bonus pool money kick in at $40 M over the limit.

It is difficult to interpret what the Giants stance is on the CBT.  On the one hand, they keep listing multiple offseason needs.  On the other hand they express concerns about exceeding the CBT threshold.  Those two concerns seem close to being mutually exclusive as $11 M might get you a barely league average player in free agency, if you are very lucky.  Bobby Evans has expressed a preference for acquiring needed players by trade, but even players coming in trades will have salaries that get added to the payroll.  Players earning league minimum salaries are seldom available in trade and would come at high prices in prospects, probably higher than the Giants have available even if they wanted to pay the price. 

Larry Baer has expressed concern about the non-monetary CBT penalties.  Most of those kick in at $40 M over the first threshold, so maybe the management group has clearance from ownership to add as much as $30 M in AAV salary this offseason?  That would enable them to acquire 2-3 players in the $10 M range or, here we go, acquire a Giancarlo Stanton without shedding payroll.  It's a tangled web the Giants have woven here.  Cutting through it to make the upgrades they need and want will be a challenge.

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MLBTR reports that the Marlins have discussed a Giancarlo Stanton trade with 4 teams, the Cardinals, Red Sox, Giants and Phillies.  It's hard to reconcile the Giants reported interest in acquiring Giancarlo with their stated goals and CBT limitations, but the rumors continue to persist.  I would note that while the Giants vehemently denied the accuracy of a recent Jason Heyward rumor, there have been no such denials around the Stanton rumors.

The Cardinals would seem to have the best combination of CBT space and tradable assets to acquire Stanton.  The Red Sox have never worried much about the CBT and Dave Dombrowski likely does not care about the non-monetary penalties, so the Red Sox rumors have legs.  The Phillies have an intriguing combination of low current payroll and an up-and-coming team of young players which might interest Stanton who has full veto power over any trade.  Stanton is believed to prefer a coastal team which may complicate the Cardinals pursuit.  He's from California, so the Giants may have a leg up on his preference list. Perhaps the Giants could ask the Marlins to take on the short term salaries of Denard Span and Hunter Pence to offset the first year of Stanton's salary, but it's unlikely the Marlins would accept that.  BTW, Stanton's AAV which is the number that would count as CBT salary, is $25 M.

While I would not want to see the Giants incur draft pick and international bonus penalties to acquire Stanton, I would be otherwise fine with adding him.  It's not my money and the Giants are widely believed to have plenty of it. Whether Stanton is enough of a difference maker that the Giants could add just him and go with internal options everywhere else?  Probably, but they would be boxed in for at least the next 3-4 seasons until the Posey/Crawford/Belt/Cueto/Samardzija contracts are up.  They also have to think about what they are going to do with Madison Bumgarner whose contract will have to be extended and will be quite costly if they want to keep him beyond 2019.

In summary, I would still rate a Stanton trade as unlikely.