Thursday, November 5, 2015

Hot Stove Update: Declining Options

The weather has turned cool here in SoCal just in time to fire up the Hot Stove with our first update of the season.  The Giants raised some eyebrows yesterday by announcing they had declined options on Nori Aoki and Marlon Byrd.  The Byrd decline was expected, the Aoki one, not so much.  After the $700 K buyout for Aoki, the savings on his contract come to $4.3 M.  Not a huge difference maker, but  not negligible either.  Aoki was cleared from his concussion symptoms and Bobby Evans emphasized that the decision was not due to medical concerns but a desire to maintain financial flexibility going forward.

The Giants have a huge windfall of money coming off the payroll this offseason.  These are rough approximations but here's the tally:

Tim Lincecum- $20 M
Tim Hudson- $11 M
Marco Scutaro- $6 M
Jeremy Affeldt- $5 M
Ryan Vogelsong- $4 M
Nori Aoki- $4 M
Casey McGehee- $4 M
Joaquin Arias- $1.5 M

That all adds up to $55.5 M.  Figure about $15 M for scheduled and arbitration raises and they have a war chest of about $40 M left over for attack the FA market.  Factor in a 5-10% payroll increase and that number could get above $50 M.  My point here is that Aoki is a really good value at $5 M and the Giants could have picked up his option and still had a huge stockpile of cash left over.  To me, the message is clear.  When Bobby Evans says they wanted to maintain financial flexibility, he was telling us they are keeping their powder dry to go after some really big fish!

In a possibly related development, Zack Greinke, as expected, opted out of his Dodgers contract.  There are rumors out there that the Giants are going to make a run at Greinke if nothing else, to drive his price up for the Dodgers.  At the same time there are rumors out there that the Dodgers are intent on going young and cutting payroll.  Hmm…..  This could get verrrry interesting.

While Bobby Evans confirmed that the Giants are going after pitching, he also brought up the OF and stated that they have to look there for upgrades also.  Part of their thinking was that by bringing back Aoki before upgrade options are addressed, they would be creating uncertainty and possibly disappointment with his role next year.  He mentioned Jarrett Parker and Mac Williamson but stated that the Giants do not want to go into the season depending on them.  The Giants certainly have a large enough war chest that they could sign a top tier pitcher or a couple of low tier pitchers PLUS go after a FA OF.  There are a number of interesting FA options on the market including Yoenis Cespedes, Justin Upton and Jason Heyward.  Evans hinted, though, that the upgrade may come via trade as he specifically mentioned some exciting possibilities in the trade market.

Giants fans have been primed for blockbuster signings in the past, but have ended up disappointed.  The difference this year is you don't have to stand on your head and twist yourself into a pretzel to see that they have the financial muscle to actually carry it out.  Should be an interesting Hot Stove League season.  We'll all hope to not be disappointed once again.


  1. While I think Aoki could come back and bite us, I kind of see the logic on this one. At this point, we have 3 solid OFs with two potential reserves in the wings. Mac did well in Arizona and that is promising. Parker certainly could open a lot of eyes. So you have to figure one of those makes the team as a reserve. The issue (I think) is whether you viewed Aoki as a starter, and perhaps the injury issues were such that they don't. I agree if the choice is a rookie or Aoki as the starting LF, maybe this decision plays out poorly but if this is a question about who can play a reserve, maybe not so.

    There is also the Kelby factor. I doubt he can transition into CF immediately (although we all certainly hope that) but maybe he can transition into LF more quickly than not. He's proven he can hit. And after Panik and Duffy, maybe the Giants are willing to roll the dice a little to get a spark plug.

    $40mm off the books is a big time number. Even if went and got a top tier starter, that is going to be about $20mm +/- so that leaves you room to play and likely payroll not going up. Peavy comes off the books next year, likely Casilla too, and Cain the year after, so the Giants are pretty healthy even if they sign a long term contract when you consider that we have a wealth of pitchers coming up likely to take those spots.

    ps, thanks for the depth chart (I was one of the guys asking for it). I actually think the Giants are pretty good shape with their IF. Seems like 1b is really the only question mark given young players everywhere else, and I could see their approach with Belt is cautious knowing they could move Posey to first (if they can convince him to do that) given their depth at Catcher. The rest of the infield looks very solid given prospects and age of the current guys. Can't wait for the OF depth chart!

    1. We should be able to take it slow in deciding about Aoki, given that we could sign him pretty late in the past offseason, at a bargain price by WAR, when he was a year younger and less fragile from concussion problems.


  2. When I saw Aoki and Byrd were not tendered, I also read earlier that day that Alex Gordon who declined his option with the Royals and is going into FA. Which made me wonder if Evans is going to chase Gordon.

    If he is, I think Gordon's a very good signing candidate for LF. He's very good defensively and even on a down year, he's better than Aoki (and Pagan and even Pence) with the glove and range. He would also give the Giants a lot of line-up flexibility as he's got the average and eye to make an excellent lead-off man plus he has some modest power and could get you about 15-to-20 dingers a year so you could easily justify putting him lower in the order to exploit that as well.

    Plus I've never read a bad word written about him. Unlike many other players with reputations for being difficult, or party-boys, or lazy...

    But it still leaves CF as a problem. Pagan just doesn't have the range anymore. So far the Thomlinson experiment isn't working as I read Pav's (I think it was him) twitter feed, and he mentioned that Evans said the CF/OF coaching with Thomlinson didn't exactly go all that well. Evans said something along the line that 'OF is not his best position.' Though I rad that it wasn't 'over-and-done' as Thomlinson may play winter ball as an OFer as, apparently, there is a Mexican League team that might be pursuing him.

    Anyway, it'll be interesting. I'd love to see two second-tier pitchers and Gordon. Or, better yet (but getting difficult to manage) a top-tier pitcher + Gordon + a second/third tier pitcher.

  3. The disturbing news for me is that Belt is still suffering concussion symptoms. That's no bueno. Aoki can hit quite nicely, but he isn't that good a fielder. The Giants have never prioritized LF, its the last piece of the puzzle, not the first.

    And it also fits with their MO of giving the player himself the best chance to earn. Not putting a QO on Pagan. I'm quite sure they will get a phone call to match any offers that come Aoki's way.

    1. I"m not. He's working out, which you're not supposed to do. So he's getting light-headed and dizzy. But the major, scary symptoms he had are all gone.

      As an aside, it's interesting how different reporters report it. With Pavs, you think he's just going to get cleared. So all the hand-wringing over his going to the doctor doesn't make a lot sense.

      I didn't read Schulman's take on it until this afternoon. But, like I said, I'm not terribly concerned. I have a concussion and the minor symptoms are annoying but not debilitating and they go away. It's the major ones that suck Barfing. Falling over. Blinding headaches. Vision problems. Confusion. Not fun.

    2. I was worried too, but this article with interview with Belt and more info helped calm me down:

  4. With Measure D being approved yesterday the Giants can go ahead with their major Mission Rock development. Declining Aoki could be that they just have more financial flexibility with this real estate deal for the future and want to add a better piece. Maybe a cheaper top OF FA such as Gordon. He will be much less than Upton, Cespedes or Heyward. Within a few years Pagan, Cain and Peavy Will be off the books and they will have enough financial freedom to support a few big moves this year .

    1. As a distant Giants fan, can you tell me what Measure D is/was, what Mission Rock is, and how that relates to the Giants? Thanks!

    2. There is a pretty good discussion of it on Basically the Giants want to take Parking Lot A across from McCovey Cove and convert it into a apartments/retail/green parklike open spaces. Measure D was a ballot measure to gain SF voter approval. The lost parking space will be made up for by a high rise parking structure.

    3. That is a horrid parking lot to get into anyways, so good riddance!

  5. Here is a good article on Mission Rock. Everything points to tens of millions of dollars in revenue. Its kind of a big deal: