Monday, October 15, 2018

Scouting the Free Agent Market: Garrett Richards

Just when you were starting to think DrB is a hopeless curmudgeon who hates all free agents and doesn't think the Giants should sign anyone, here comes my White Whale for this offseason.  Garrett Richards!  After years of nursing along a torn UCL with rehab and plasma-rich platelet(or is it the other way around?) injections he finally gave in to Tommy John surgery late in the season.  That means he is probably not going to pitch at all in 2019, or if he does, in September at the earliest.  That's a bummer for him because this development just happened to come along in his walk year and now he's a free agent who is not going to play in the season following his free agency.

OK, remember I promised more on Johhny Cueto and HIS Tommy John surgery?  Well, it turns out he has 3 things in common with Garrett Richards that should interest the Giants a lot:  1.  They are both ace pitchers when they are healthy.  2.  They are both going to miss all, or at least most, of the 2019 season.  3.  They should both be healthy again in 2020!  Now, I'm not necessarily ready to give up on the 2019 season just yet, but I also am looking ahead to to 2020, 2021 and beyond.  What if, for a modest additional investment, both Johnny Cueto and Garrett Richards were both healthy for 2020.....in Giants uniforms!  Here's the breakdown on Richards:

Performance:  Richards has performed like an ace when he's been healthy which has not been often over the past 3 seasons.  He seemed to be finally healthy to start 2018 and went 5-4 with a 3.66 ERA in 16 Starts with a 10.26 K/9 and a GB/FB of 1.57.  His walk rate was up, but that may have been due to the loose UCL that finally snapped.

Stuff:  Richards has always had premium velocity.  His FB averaged 96 MPH in 2018 and he threw it about 50% of the time.  He also mixed in a slider(39%) and a curveball(11%).

Intangibles:  Full recovery from Tommy John surgery is not a given, but the odds are good enough that if you have a chance to stash an ace like Garrett Richards for a season on thee chance he will be healthy the next, you have to go for it if the price is right.  Which brings us to.....

Price:  The only precedent for this I can think of is last year when Michael Pineda signed with the Twins for 2 years/$10M.  Hey!  It only counts for $5 M against the CBT threshold!  Pineda gets a nice paycheck for the year he is on the DL and the Twins have a pretty good shot at an ace pitcher for 2019.  In a recent MLBTR Chat, the host opined that Richards would probably sign with some team for the same deal Pineda got.  I'm not so sure he won't get a bit more, but even if the Giants had to go 2/$15 with an option/buyout for 2021, man, that's a gamble I'm taking in a heartbeat!

Summary:  The Giants probably should not try to win a bidding war for Garrett Richards, but if the rest of the league is sleeping on him, they need to grab him!  Selling Point:  AT&T Park is a great place for pitchers to rebuild their value.

Come on, Kim!  Get it done!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Giants Depth Charts: Left Field

Left Field was a black hole for the Giants again in 2018.  A total of 6 players manned the position. While some of them played other positions and their numbers are not exclusive to LF, those 6 players combined for an fWAR of -1.5 on the season.  Last year's Opening Day starter, Hunter Pence, is a FA as is Gregor Blanco.  Both are probably done as Giants. At this point there is no clear cut #1 on the Depth Chart(although players who play mainly CF and RF can generally be moved to LF, I will keep the Depth Chart to only those who mainly play LF or are likely to play LF).  

MLB:  1.  Gorkys Hernandez/Mac Williamson/Austin Slater/Chris Shaw.  At this point, LF is essentially an open position. I would say the Giants will definitely make upgrading it priority, but they are in the same boat with CF and RF which may come first on their offseason to-do list.  Of the currently rostered players, I still think Mac is the most likely to have a breakout season and hit 30+ HR's at some point.  He's out of options, so he's going to have to grab the position in spring training or have his breakout with another organization.

AAA:  Dylan Davis has "light-tower" power but it comes with severe contact issues.  Jacob Heyward spent most of 2018 with A+ San Jose and got a brief late season promo to Sacramento.  

AA:  Empty.

A+:  Heath Quinn bounced back from a terrible 2917 with nice numbers in his second stint with San Jose.  He's a big guy with plenty of power potential who also seems to be able to hit for average. Should take the Richmond Challenge in 2019.

Low A:  Ismael Munguia is a scrapper who profiles as more of a 5'th OF type.  Malique Ziegler is more of a CF type but seems to have serious stamina issues and is unlikely to hit for enough power for LF.

Short Season:  Diego Rincones had a tremendous season for Salem-Keizer.  He'll have to prove it tougher hitting environment like probably Augusta next year, but he looks like he may have enough bat for LF.

Rookie AZL:  Kwan Adkins and Randy Norris were college draftees who made their pro debut in rookie ball with mixed results.  They both seem like leadoff/speed types which is not necessarily what you want in a LF.  Undrafted FA Tyler Flores seemed to have some pop in his bat and Zander Clarke has intriguing size at 6'5", 225 lbs.  All 4 mentioned players are major projects at best.

DSL:  Neither Luigi Pichardo nor Jose Hernandez showed much stick in their DSL debuts.  I doubt we'll be seeing either in Arizona in 2019.

Free Agents:  Michael Brantley the oft-injured LF for the Indians and Carlos Gonzalez who is a bit of a Coors Field marvel and appears to be seriously into the downside of his career head a very mediocre LF FA crop.  If the Giants want to upgrade the position, it will likely have to be by trade

Summary:  LF has been a mess for the Giants for several years now.  The future of the position did not gain any clarity in 2018 and remains in desperate need of an upgrade either from in internal player stepping up, or by trade.

Scouting the Free Agent Market: Patrick Corbin

LHP Patrick Corbin is widely regarded as the top FA pitcher in this year's class, and he's coming off a great season for the D'Backs.  He's also relatively young for a FA at age 29.  The Yankees are reportedly hot on his trail and they have money to spend.  He gonna get paid!  Let's break it down:

Performance:  Corbin made 33 starts for the D'Backs totaling 200 IP with a 3.15 ERA, the best of his MLB career by a fairly wide margin.  His career ERA is 3.91.  His K/9 took a huge jump from 8.45 to 11.07 while his BB/9 has dropped over the past 3 seasons from 3.82 to 2.89 to 2.16.  The numbers do not look flukey as the ERA comes with a FIP of 2.47 and an xFIP of 2.61.  It should be noted, however, that his numbers in prior years do not come anywhere near his 2018 performance.

Stuff:  When Corbin entered the league in 2012, he had a standard 3-pitch mix throwing his FB 70% with 15% slider and 15% changeup.  Over the years, the FB use has trended down while the slider use has trended up.  In 2018, he threw the FB 49% and the slider 41%.  He also ditched his changeup for a curveball defying the notion that a LHP has to have a changeup to keep LH hitters honest.  He remains a groundball heavy pitcher with a GB/FB of 1.79.  Red Flag:  Avg. FB velocity dropped from 92.4 to 90.8 in 2018.

Intangibles:  I don't know of any personality or clubhouse issues with Corbin.  He seemed to be particularly tough on the Giants(who wasn't, I guess) with a 2.27 ERA.  The Yankees have a particularly need for LH SP's to protect that short porch in RF.  Think about it.  All great Yankee teams have had great LH SP's from Whitey Ford to Ron Guidry to Andy Pettite.

Summary:  Someone is going to overpay for Patrick Corbin and his career year.  That someone is likely to be the Yankees.  He has several "Red Flags" which would make me stay away:  1.  Coming off a career year.  2.  Drop in FB velocity.  3.  Dependence on the slider.  I say you live by the slider, you die by the slider.  The Giants should just stay away.

Prediction:  Signs with the Yankees for 5 years/$90 M, maybe more.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Armchair GM: Madison Bumgarner Trade/No Trade Smackdown

I have been openly intrigued by the idea of trading Madison Bumgarner since last offseason when I first proposed the idea.  I don't know if I was the first blogger to propose it, but I think I was at least riding shotgun on that bandwagon.  Since then, I have spent way too much of my time thinking about it from every angle.  I've put together numerous hypothetical trades(BTW, it's way hard to make those realistic.  You almost always end up either undervaluing your guy to get the other team to agree or you end up overvaluing to the point where the other team would hang up).  I've scripted the outcome if the Giants don't trade him.  Out of all that, I just know one thing for sure:  The Giants should not, SHOULD NOT, give Madison Bumgarner the kind of large, longterm extension it will take to keep him in a Giants uniform for his career!  So before we get to the smackdown, we'll stipulate that there is no 9 figure contract with the Giants in Bummy's future.

Resolved:  The Giants should trade Madison Bumgarner this offseason.

This side of the argument rests on two pillars:  1.  The Giants will not be competitive for postseason baseball in 2019.  2.  The Giants will lose Madison Bumgarner after the 2019 season for close to nothing in return.  If you believe in both of those two pillars, the decision is easy.  Bummy gets traded.   There are enough teams out there who are likely to think they are 1 ace pitcher away from a ring to start a bidding war and bring back MLB ready prospects who will not only jumpstart the rebuild, but might be enough of an immediate talent upgrade to make them competitive in 2019!  Here are just 2 possible trade scenarios I have thought of.   They aren't perfect, so don't start throwing the rotten tomatoes, but I think they are close enough to realistic to give us an idea of what is possible:

Trade #1:  Madison Bumgarner to the Brewers for 2B Keston Hiura, OF Domingo Santana, RHP Aaron Brooks and C Jacob Nottingham.  Brewers window of contention is obviously now.  They desperately need an ace pitcher but don't want to pay a lot.  Giants immediately upgrade the bat at 2B(though probably not the glove), a starting OF with power and speed an MLB ready SP and depth at C.

Trade #2:  Madison Bumgarner to the Phillies for OF Odubel Herrera, RHP Enyel De Los Santos, RHP Adonis Medina, LHP David Parkinson.  Phillies think their time is now and are making noise about signing Bryce Harper.  Rotation was a weak spot after Aaron Nola and Bumgarner would make a nice LHP bookend the top of their rotation.  Herrera's production has slipped but is on a very team-friendly contract through 2021 with 2 option years.  The Giants also get a big upgrade on a nearly barren pitching side of their bullpen.  De Los Santos could step into the rotation immediately or be a nice multi-inning reliever.

Other teams who might be in the market for a cheap ace pitcher for 1 year and have multiple good prospects to trade are the Yankees, Braves and Oakland A's.

*********************************************************************************

Resolved:  The Giants should not trade Madison Bumgarner this offseason:

This side of the argument also rests on 2 pillars:  1.  The Giants can put together a contending team for 2019.  2.  An Ace pitcher on a cheap 1 year contract is not a bad thing.

Look, there is a reason why Madison Bumgarner has serious trade value.   Think about it this way:  Would you rather have an ace pitcher on a 6 year/$150 M contract or a 1 year $12 M contract?  I think about 30/30 GM's would pick door #2 there.  Besides, there is no guarantee that any of the your players you might get in return in a trade will pan out.  If the Giants think they can contend in 2019, you are not going to find a better SP on a more favorable contract than Madison Bumgarner.  You upgrade the OF and rest of the rotation through FA and/or trades, hope for good health from a few players and Voila!  You're a contender!  At the end of the season, you make a QO.  If Bummy accepts, you have him for another year without a longterm commitment.  If not, you re-allocate the money and are a year closer to being out from under CBT hell. Plus, you have Johnny Cueto back from TJ surgery(more on that in future posts).

Conclusion:  If the Giants are serious about building a contending team in 2019, they should keep Madison Bumgarner.  If they don't think they can contend in 2019, they should trade him.  That's a big decision!

Friday, October 12, 2018

Giants Depth Charts: Shortstop

Brandon Crawford has 3 years left on his 5 yr/$60 M contract.  He can still pick it at SS so he isn't going anywhere soon.  The bat is worrisome as he finished the season with almost identical marks as 2017 after being close to the hottest hitter in baseball in May and June.  Whether that was due to nagging injuries or his swing is notoriously dependent on timing and just got out of synch we may not know for sure.  I guess the hot streak is encouraging but the collapse afterward is just the opposite.  We should probably expect future seasons to be more like 2017 and 2018 than 2015 and 2016.  On to the Depth Chart:

MLB:  1.  Brandon Crawford- See above.  2.  Alen Hanson- Hanson is OK to fill in occasionally, but if he had to play the position for long stretches, would probably be a defensive disaster.  3. Abiatal Avelino- recent acquisition from the Yankees for Andrew McCutchen.  Has some defensive chops but the bat needs more salt.  Will probably start the season in AAA.

AAA:  Orlando Calixte is on the River Cats roster, but I believe he is a minor league FA.

AA:  Ryan Howard and CJ Hinojosa are interchangeable middle infielders who should both move up to AAA unless the Giants sign some MLB depth to stash there.  One of them could move to 3B so they and Avelino can all play at the same time.

A+:  Brandon Van Horn has a nice glove but the bat has a long way to go.  May not be ready for AA.  Kelvin Beltre has played SS, 3B and 2B.  His big need is to stay healthy.

Low A:  Manuel Geraldo finally conquered the SAL and seems ready for the challenge of higher levels.  I've been high on his potential for a long time, but he has been a slow developer.  Abdiel Layer got a late callup but may start next season back in camp.

Rookie AZL:  Nico Giarratano is a defensive SS from USF who put up decent offensive numbers for S-K.  I expect to see his name in the Greenjackets boxscores next season.  Jett Manning is a defensive SS from Alabama who did not show much stick in his pro debut.

Rookie AZL:  Not much to get excited about at this level.  Marcos Campos, Francisco Medina, Enoc Watts and Edison Mora failed to distinguish themselves.

DSL:  Ghordy Santos has had two seasons in which he couldn't hit his way out of a paper bag for 2 months then got hot in August.  Is that enough to get him a ticket to Arizona?  He has a high-ceiling vibe about him.  Jean Pena was hot early then cooled off but hit 6 dingers, which is a lot for a DSL player.

Marco Luciano was signed on July 2 as a SS.  He is already the #3 prospect in the Giants system on my list.  I expect him to skip the DSL and start next season in Arizona. Augusta would be an extremely aggressive placement and probably not best for his development.

Free Agents:  Manny Machado(26) obviously heads the list.  Freddy Galvis is probably the most interesting other name.  Other's include Alcides Escobar(30), Adeiny Hechiaverria(30), Jose Iglesias(29), Jordy Mercer(32), Eduardo Escobar(30).

Summary:  It's hard to imagine anyone but Brandon Crawford playing SS for the Giants over the next 3 seasons.  It might be time for him to think about changing his hairstyle, though.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Scouting the Free Agent Market: AJ Pollock

The Giants almost certainly need to add at least one veteran OF to roster this offseason.  While you can make a case for bounceback seasons from each of the incumbent infielders, and thus Stay the Course, I don't think any reasonable analyst would recommend starting the season with Mac Williamson, Chris Shaw, Steven Duggar and Austin Slater competing for 3 OF spots if the Giants wish to compete for a postseason berth in 2019.  Bryce Harper is obviously the dominant presence in the free agent market, and I am sure the Giants are going to do more than kick the tires on him, there are many reasons on both sides why Harper may not come to SF, not the least of which is there will be at least 10 other teams doing more than kicking tires on him.

The other clear upgrade on the market is AJ Pollock, long time Arizona D'Back.  Pollock is 31 yo.  He plays a league average CF.  He bats RH and hits for both power and speed.  Pollock had a big breakout season in 2015 in which he hit 20 HR's and stole 39 bases and ran up a fWAR of 6.8.  Since then he has been beset by a string of injuries:  A fractured elbow, a groin strain, and last year an avulsion fracture in his wrist or hand while trying to make a diving catch. The elbow fracture limited him to just 12 games in 2015.  He played 112 and 113 games in 2017 and 2018 respectively with fWAR's of 2.2 and 2.5. He was leading the NL in fWAR when he went down with the injury in mid-May of 2018.  Let's break it down further:

Hitting:  Pollock is part of the Launch Angle Revolution as his GB/FB has dropped from 1.74 in 2015 to 1.10 last year.  At the same time, his IsoP has climbed from .182 to .228.  This, in spite of the humidor in Chase Field which has suppressed overall HR's by about 1/3.  At the same time, Pollock sacrificed BA, OBP and BABIP falling from .302 to .257, .353 to .316 and .338 to .284 respectively.  Pollock is a pull hitter with the majority of his HR's coming to LF, which may play well in AT&T Park.

Defense:  Pollock was once a plus defensive CF.  That has slipped to about league average with age.  He hits well enough to play a corner if needed.

Baserunning:  Pollock's SB's have fallen dramatically from a high of 39 in 2015 to 13 last year which may project to about 20 with 600 PA's.  He's still as asset on the basepaths and would help the Giants move away from station-to-station baseball.

Intangibles:  I am not aware of any red flags or off-field issues with Pollock.  The injury history gives pause, but each injury seems like an isolated event which he should be fully recovered from.  Of course, there is always the issue of whether top FA hitters will come to SF because of the park.

Cost:  Pollock will not cost anything close to what Bryce Harper or Manny Machado will command.  First, he is 5 years older and is coming off 3 consecutive years of missed time due to injury.  On the other hand, he is the only OF on the market other than Harper and possibly Andrew McCutchen who is not a member of the Usual Suspects club. which means there will be at least 1 team willing to overpay.  I'll project a 5 yr/$75 M contract.

Summary:  The Giants should, and likely will, do more than just kick tires on AJ Pollock.  Although I am not thrilled with the idea of adding another longterm 8 digit contract to a player over 30 yo, the Giants might have to if they want to compete in 2019.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Giants Depth Charts: Third Base

For better or worse, Evan Longoria seems entrenched as the Giants 3'rd baseman for the next 4 seasons.  That's right, 4 seasons!  Then the Giants owe him a buyout if they want to make a change for the 2023 season.  Yep, I said 2023!  On the other hand, the Giants don't have any 3B prospects to speak of at a higher level than Low A, so maybe it's just as well.  Here's the 3B Depth Chart:

MLB:  1.  Evan Longoria- The starting 3B unless injured or traded.... for the next 4 seasons.  I actually think after a year of acclimation to NL pitchers and a full season of health, he could be pretty good next year.  2.  Alen Hanson- He's versatile.  3. Ryder Jones- He'll probably start the season in Sacramento for more seasoning.  Pablo Sandoval is listed as a FA although I think the Giants may have some sort of option on him.  Red Sox are on the hook for all but MLB minimum of his salary.

AAA:  Empty.

AA:  Jonah Arenado-  tremendous power potential, but has yet to show it's usable in games.  Bigger than his older bro and may end up at 1B, IF the bat ever comes around.  Ryan Howard and CJ Hinojosa likely could play 3B defensively, but don't have ideal power for the position.

A+:  Wander Franco was the starter all season but I believe he is a minor league FA.  Kelvin Beltre is listed on the roster as a SS, but has played 3B in the past.

Low A:  Jacob Gonzalez had a terrible first full pro season in Augusta.  Too early to give up on him though.  Manuel Geraldo was the starting SS  but has played 3B in the past.  He probably does not have enough bat for the position a the MLB level.  40'th round draft pick Abdiel Layer had a fine debut in Arizona but went 0 for 11 after late promo to Augusta. He also played SS in Arizona.

Short Season:  David Villar- Here's where we start getting into some serious 3B prospects.  Villar showed as much bat as Joey Bart in his pro debut.  I project him to start next season in San Jose.

Rookie AZL:  Sean Roby- Strong pro debut, out of JC ball.  Probably ticketed for Augusta next season.  Yorlis Rodriguez- 18 yo from Cuba had a terrific pro debut for Giants Orange.  There is a bit of a logjam for Giants 3B prospects here but it probably layers out with Vilar in SJ, Roby in Augusta and YRod in Salem-Keizer.

DSL:  Luis Toribio- Toribio started of red hot for the DSL Giants then tailed off a bit.  He probably bought himself a ticket to Arizona next season, especially now that the Giants have two teams there.

Free Agents:  Manny Machado(see last post), Mike Moustakas?, Josh Donaldson, Asdrubal Cabrera, Adrian Beltre.

Summary:  Short of signing Manny Machado and finding some creative way to jettison Longoria, I'd say it's going to be Longoria next season, with a decent chance for a modest bounceback.