Monday, December 9, 2013

Hot Stove Update: Winter Meetings Begin

Major League Baseball's annual Winter Meetings are probably in the process of going the way of record and book stores and shopping malls.  Modern communications make it unnecessary for executives to gather in one place to do business.  I would certainly hope that most transactions no longer require both parties to belly up to a bar to see which one loses their inhibitions first.  The proof was in the almost frantic flurry of activity last week as teams seemed to be almost desperate to complete their hoped for transactions prior to arriving at the meetings this week.  Giants manager Brian Sabean didn't even wait until last week to finish the lion's share of his offseason work completing the top 5 of his 6 stated priorities long before last week's frenzy.  Here is a summary of what Sabes has accomplished so far:

1.  Signed Hunter Pence, the best OF on the FA market, to a 5 year/$90 M contract.  After Jacoby Ellsbury signed for 7 years/$153 M, Pence is looking like the bargain of the offseason!

2.  Signed Tim Lincecum, 2 years/$40 M.  That is a lot of $$$$ for a guy who hasn't pitched very well for the last 2 years, but the key here is the short length of the contract as the Giants have a lot of pitching talent in the minors who should be ready by 2016.

3. Signed Tim Hudson, 2 years/$23 M.  Huddy is coming off a severe ankle fracture but is reportedly on tract for a full recovery.  Again, the key here is the short length of the contract for a guy who should be able to pitch a lot of quality innings and be a huge upgrade on Barry Zito, at least the Zito of last year.

4.  Signed Javier Lopez, 3 years/$13 M.  Gotta have that shutdown lefty specialist if you want to take it all the way in the postseason.  In today's market, $4.5 M/year is a bargain.  The only thing I don't like about the deal is it takes him through his age 39 season.

5.  Signed Ryan Vogelsong, 1 year/$5 M with incentives that could push it to $7 or 8 M.  This one is a bit curious as the Giants declined an option for almost the same amount of money earlier in the offseason.  I have to think Sabes must have thought he saw an opening on the market that did not materialize, maybe Johnson or Haren?  When Phil Hughes gets 3 years/$24 M and Scott Feldman gets 3 years/$30 M, Huddy's contract looks like a huge bargain and Vogey's 1 year deal looks like a favorable risk for the Giants.  Even Timmy's deal doesn't look like so much of an overpay!

6.  Declined Barry Zito's option for $18 M, paying him $7 M to go away.

So what's left?  The clamor is for a leftfielder.  I have never heard Brian Sabean make any declaration that upgrading LF is a priority for him.  At the postseason press conference, a reporter included it in a list of priorities and Sabes reply was "that's about right", or something to that effect.  He has also said that when you look at the overall contribution of the player, including defense, that in upgrade is not as easy as it looks.  He clearly was referring to Gregor Blanco there.  Other Sabes pronouncements on the subject include that while the Giants have room for more addtions to the 2014 payroll budget, they do not want to commit to any more big longterm deals that may limit flexibility in future years.  He has also said that he is not willing to give up the first round draft pick(#14 overall) for a FA with a QO and that the FA market looks weak.  There have been no less than 3 articles on suggesting that Sabes will be looking for a trade at the Winter Meetings to the point where if he does not come away with something, it will seem like a huge failure, although Sabes himself appeared to throw cold water on expectations by saying not to expect any major deals.  BTW, Sabes also flatly stated that Brandon Belt is NOT moving to LF!

Once you get past Shin-Soo Choo and Nelson Cruz, neither of whom are coming to SF, the FA pickings are almost non-existent.  The only guy you might consider is Mike Morse, who the Giants are rumored to be kicking the tires on.  Morse is a terrific hitter when he's healthy, which is almost never.  He is also a terrible OF who gives  away about as many runs as he produces.  He might be able to play a Pat the Bat role, but you would not want to pay much more than the Giants paid for The Machine, the first time!

We've had several good suggestions for potential trades in the comments sections of previous threads in which most of the possibilities have been discussed.  I think we all know that neither Matt Kemp nor Andre Ethier are coming here.  The two names that I find the most attractive are Justin Ruggiano and Justin Maxwell.

Ruggiano may be available as the Marlins are going with a youth movement.  He hit just .220 last year but that came with 18 HR's and 15 SB's. His .260 BABIP suggests that a nice rebound season is possible. He also does not hurt you on defense.  I would not give up much for him, but would go for deal that cost a single bullpen arm or an extra middle infielder.

Justin Maxwell seems to be pushed aside in KC with the acquisition of Aoki.  Again, Maxwell strikes out a lot and will likely never hit for much of an average but he has solid walk rates, enormous power potential and can D it up in CF.  Again, as long as not too much is going the other way, I would be down with a flyer on Maxwell.

Logan Morrison appears to be available.  He was once considered one of the better young hitters in the game. He is coming off 2 abysmal seasons, is a terrible fielder and a bit of a loose cannon personality.  He and Sabes kind of got into a comment war after the Posey injury.  I don't think he's coming to SF and I don't particularly want him.

Without indulging in any Brian-Sabean-is-a-terrible-GM  or the Giants-lineup-is-terrible or the-Giants-are-cheapskates rants, what REALISTIC deals would you like to see Sabes come home with?


  1. I think I read on mlbtraderumors that the pirates were looking for a SS. Do you think you could deal Crawford or package a deal involving adrianza for their prized OF Polanco? He would then be our LF for next year.

    I guess Yankees might have a surplus of OF so maybe ichiro or gardner could be available.

    There's also Morse but I don't care too much about him.

    Another Trade candidate is Drew Stubbs. I think you could platoon him with Blanco.

    Just throwing stuff out there. Not sure what to expect for the winter meetings, but i'd consider signing a SP or OF to a minor league deal and sign another bullpen arm would be suffice for me in terms of a successful winter meeting. Getting an OF would be bonus. I'd be ok with starting the season with Blanco/Perez in a platoon and maybe do a midseason deal if we are in it.

    1. The Pirates are not trading Polanco for anything. Tabata could be available if and when they think Polanco is ready.

      I think Ichiro is done.

      Gardner is a good player but if you discount his SLG% moving out of Yankee Stadium and the AL East, he's basically Gregor Blanco.

      Stubbs might be an option for his walks, power and D, but I would probably prefer Ruggiano or Maxwell.

    2. I also think Tabata could be available and a decent pickup also. It think the moves for Sabes should be all about depth. Even a minor upgrade like Gardner would improve the bench by having Blanco there. Really, they could use 2 OFs, one of which can backup the infield. Juan Perez may not be the guy you want coming off the bench to pinch hit in a tight ballgame.

      What are your thoughts on Jeff Baker? Showed some pop last year. And some walks.

      And if Sabes has to trade Hembree, then he's just going to have to pickup a free agent pitcher like Jesse Crain or John Axford or whatever. There seems to be little bit of depth to deal from there. That and Adrianza and Pill seem to be his hand to deal from for these marginal upgrades.

      Any thoughts on Casey McGehee? Santa Cruz guy had a nice year in Japan.

    3. Wonder if we can trade Blanco?

      Trade Blanco?

      If we include him in a package, and he's not expensive, plus with his WAR, and if we get a full time bat back, maybe we can replace Blanco with Perez.

  2. Very nice rundown. Not trying to be nit-picky here DrB, but #2 says Lincecum at 2/$20M. Just thought I'd put it on your radar. I still would be just fine with a Ruggiano deal too, but I wouldn't at all mind a surprise move for Brett Gardner and his 51 XBH in 2013. Honestly though, I don't know what the Giants could give up that would net him. NY is looking for a 2B and SP... would they go for a package of Kickham/Adrianza/Insert young pitching prospect? Is that too much... too little? I know there are other teams looking at him as well. I'd at least make an offer.

    Speaking of middle infielders, I'd still like to see a 1-year for a guy like Mark Ellis. The names are kind of falling off the table, and the 40-man is full... but I think that's an area that still needs to be addressed beyond Noonan/Arias/Abreu/Adrianza. Maybe Justin Turner on the cheap?

    1. Fixed. I also forgot to include Javier Lopes in Sabes priority list and fixed that too.

      I am OK with 2 out of Arias, Abreu and Adrianza for backup MI. Adrianza probably has the weakest bat of the 3 but has the most upside as a possible future starting SS and he's out of options. I would really hate to see the Giants lose him.

      I like Brett Gardner but I'm not sure how much of an upgrade he is on Blanco after you discount his SLG% for leaving Yankee Stadium and the AL East.

  3. I just read that Trumbo and Dominic Brown are very available. No idea how they could make it work for either but getting creative and doing a 3 team trade might be an option. Neither is perfect but there really aren't any perfect options out there. I think low risk options like Morse, Hart, and even Bay are more along the lines of what Sabes will probably do and any of those would have upside albeit low likelihood that any turn into the next pat the bat. Maybe sign 2 of those guys and increase your chances that one of them makes it through the year and contributes. In hindsight it does look like Sabes has done well with the moves he has made so far considering what was available and how ridiculous some contracts have been. Pence is by far the best signing he has made and possibly the best of the winter IMO.

    1. I like Trumbo, but more as a first-baseman than an OF. The Angels need pitching and need it yesterday. I doubt the Giants have enough MLB ready pitching to land him.

      Brown would be great, but I have a hard time believing the Phillies are really going to trade him.

    2. I agree, the Pence signing is looking more and more like the deal of the offseason.

    3. Supposedly Trumbo actually has a positive UZR at 1B but that would mean shifting Belt to LF which Sabes doesn't want to do. Would probably take a 3 way trade but maybe the cubs would be able to get involved and ship Samardja to the Angels, we get Trumbo, cubs get some of our prospects....

    4. I also find it hard to believe Brown is on the block after a break out season in which he finally seemed to tap into his massive potential. I had been watching closely to see if Mayberry Jr was tendered a contract and even though he was I think he might be more obtainable in a trade rather than Brown. Big right handed power and I think not a liability in the OF. Also attended college locally at Stanford. With the signing of Byrd the Phils now have Ruf and Mayberry Jr, both RH hitting OF for LF. Ruf might be a possible target for the Giants also, huge power potential, but is more of a liability in the field.

  4. I would trade Sandoval for Domonic Brown. Brown is cost controlled through 2017 and Sandoval contract is through this year. I think that Domonic would be a good gamble for an OF power source who is young and controllable.

    I would also consider trading any of the pitching prospects except Crick and Mejia for Brown. My first choice would be to offer a deal headlined by Stratton. Let that #3 BA ranking do some work/heavy lifting.

    1. They are looking for young controllable pitching for brown. I'm not sure what exactly the phillies are expecting. But the phillies are top heavy in their rotation. They don't have much beyond hamels and lee. Perhaps they would go for Petit and Hembree and another pitching prospect for brown. The phillies will need a closer if they are able to unload papelbon.

    2. I would start the negotiation with Surkamp, Blanco and a low A pitching prospect and move on from there.

    3. Maybe start with Surkamp, Blanco and Kontos. We will sign Axford or some other reliever.

      This way, we save more trade chips for more deals.

  5. Pato is on to something. True, we do not have MLB ready pitching to get into a trade for Trumbo or Dominic Brown. But, we could always get another team involved that might want younger prospects such as Susac, Mejia, or Stratton. I am pretty sure Crick and Williamson are untouchable unless the trade is involving David Price.

    I am sorry but Surkamp is not going to return much. He is 26 and just got back from missing a huge bunch of time. Even grouping him with Blanco and Kontos you still are not going to do better than Blanco.

    It is funny to see the Giants name in articles of teams potentially making a run for Choo. I would love to land Choo but I don't think it will happen. DrB always said that when Sabean says something it usually is correct. Wouldn't that be awesome if this was the exception to that rule. With Choo added in the mix I don't think the Dodger's are a clear favorite. If any of their starters goes down like Kershaw or Greinke I think we would be evenly matched. Besides Puig their outfield is shaky. Ethier and Kemp had horrible years. Their second baseman hasn't even taken an MLB at bat. I wouldn't crown them division winners yet.

    1. We have to start somewhere, don't be sorry. Where it ends, nobody knows.

      The point is if we can get a full time bat back, Blanco could be in the consideration.

    2. When was the last time Sabean was involved in a, that is? Love Trumbo's bat but he's a first baseman and Sabes has categorically said Belt is not moving. I haven't seen their names in the rumor mill, but I would prefer Ruggiano or Maxwell who give you the RH power bats and can also D it up in the OF.

  6. Sign Omar Infante so as to move Scutaro to third. Trade for Brown with the Phillies by sending them Sandoval (to make up for Brown's bat), plus two strong pitching prospects--if TINSTAAPP will pardon my phraseology--not including Crick, with major-league-ready Hembree as one possibility. Does that pass the test of plausibility without lurching into wishful thinking on the one hand or foolhardiness on the other? As Scutaro ages, start edging Posey into playing third, so that he can do so by 2015 and take over there in 2016.

  7. I wonder if Alex Rios is still on Sabean's radar? He's getting to the right age (33 in 2014) for Sabean to make a play for him.