Monday, December 2, 2019

Thoughts On Rebuilding

Hey team!  Sorry for so few posts lately.  A respiratory infection kicked my butt last week.  Between that and a total lack of Giants activity in the Hot Stove league gave me a bad case of writer's block.  I am not sure if these ideas are fleshed out enough to write a coherent article, but I'll take a stab at it.  Let's start with a theorem:  The Giants are Rebuilding.  I am not sure if this is a universally accepted theorem amongst the Giants fanbase, but it's true.  It's not true because Farhan is the GM.  It is not only true because the team is aging and they have a lot of under-performing contracts, although that is certainly part of it.  They are rebuilding because that's how Bobby Evans designed the contracts.  Here is a list of Giants contracts set to expire over the next 2 years:  Jeff Samardzija, Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Johnny Cueto.  Add in Evan Longoria a year later.  Yes, the old core is going to be history and a lot sooner than it seems.  Say what you will about Evans and his contracts, but he actually did a good job of staggering them so there would be a steady stream coming off the books to make room for future contracts.  Farhan's Melancon trade helped that process significantly, but the Giants have never been as in dire CBT hell as has been made out in a lot of corners.

There is a conventional wisdom out there that the Giants cannot afford any more big, longterm contracts until the current core has run it's course.  There is also a conventional wisdom, starting to break down but still out there, that the farm system is barren and needs several years of high draft picks to turn it around.  Both of these conventional wisdoms are false narratives.  As we have detailed in previous posts, the Giants could add close to $90 M of payroll for 2020 and not pay a penny of CBT tax.  Beyond that, you have the above-mentioned contracts rolling off the books and the Giants are most definitely not in a payroll box by any stretch.  As for the farm system, sure, high draft picks are one way to acquire high-end talent, but fortunately Evans took care of that before he was axed too  as the Farm system has high end talent which could come online as early as this year in the form of Joey Bart and Heliot Ramos with more exciting talent not that far behind in the system.

Which brings us to how this Hot Stove season can jump start the rebuild.  There are definitely some types of transactions the Giants should not be making this offseason.  I think we can all agree they should not trade prospects for veterans.  No prospects for Andrew McCutchen.  Sure, if you can get a Kevin Pillar type veteran for 3 guys who are about to be released anyway, go for it, but no trading of legitimate prospects for short term veteran help.  No!  They probably should also not sign a bunch of mid-level 3-4 year FA contracts that quickly balloon the payroll and might not contribute to the next seriously contending Giants team.

On the other hand, there are trades and FA signings that can be both beneficial in the short term and be part of a long term rebuild.  Flip trades where you make a low cost FA signing, hope for a bounceback season then flip the player for a big league ready prospect is exciting to see now and is a great way to add future pieces.  Drew Pomeranz for Mauricio Dubon is a great example.  Farhan's acquisition of Tyler Anderson is possibly a prelude to another such trade(assuming Anderson is not non-tendered today).  If you can unload a big under-performing contract like Farhan did with Mark Melancon last year, that also frees up more money sooner for invest in longterm pieces.  Farhan even managed to get a decent prospect back in Tristan Beck.

One more way to jumpstart the rebuild is to sign a "franchise" free agent or two to longterm contracts.  Just because a player is expensive and good now, does not preclude him from being part of the next championship team.  Farhan made a late move to make just such a deal last year in his pursuit of Bryce Harper.  It is true that there are generally only one or two of these "franchise" players available each FA cycle.  I was not and am not convinced Bryce Harper is "that guy", but he fits the profile:  Star player, still in prime of career, not afraid to be the focal point, years of productivity ahead.

There are two players, possibly three, who fit this profile available this offseason:  Gerrit Cole and Anthony Rendon and possibly Madison Bumgarner.  Of those three, Gerrit Cole best fits the description.  I put him in the same class as Max Scherzer, Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling.  Guys who are worth betting the farm on and who deliver on the bet.  First of all, the Giants most certainly can afford Gerrit Cole, now and in the future.  Like Scherzer, Cole is build to last.  Like Scherzer was, he's not only still in the prime of his career, he may still be getting better!  We saw once again this postseason that the surest way to a WS championship is having at least 2 ace SP's.  Everything else is window dressing!  The Giants championship run was Cainer, Timmy and Bum.  You can add in Buster but everybody else were role players.

So, the thesis of this post is the Giants and Farhan need to go hard after Gerrit Cole.  Not only does he make them competitive now, he is very likely to still be in his prime for at least 2-3 more seasons and possibly for the entire long term contract.  If Farhan can't add the pieces for a true championship contender within 3 years, why is he the GM?

I would add that the Giants can easily afford to sign both Cole and Bumgarner which would give them a great 1-2 at the top of the rotation now with room to add in future seasons.  They should seriously consider a strategy of signing both players this Hot Stove season while continuing to work The Churn and prospect development for the longterm rebuild.


  1. I like your thought process her Doc!
    I know you are not disparaging Farhan.
    That said, IMHO > I like Bobby Evans as G.M.
    For me; I am not sold on Farhan, and Gabe will have to go through charm school in my assessment.

    Richard In Winnipeg

  2. "A" for coherency. Makes a lot of sense.
    However, at this point of the "rebuild" it seems unlikely top FAs can be enticed here without overpaying, perhaps significant overpaying.
    To a "arrived" player (or Agent) there is no longer a track record here, tjere's no no continuity in management, no contention since the flop of 2016, no arrived stars for nearly a decade -- only the past ability and willingness to spend to the limit but is that true going forward?
    To many SF is heaven on earth, but to the general US populace it is a great place to visit but not so great to live because of the expense and crowding. Perhaps Cole and Rendon are worth $250m each (and they don't have to worry about expense) but should SF overpay significantly?
    When the young stars actually arrive, Bart and Ramos, aren't they still wishes, hopes, and promise until they actually do something?
    The failed effort to get Harper suggests the disadvantage of not being "arrived" is important but perhaps not critical.
    Would "overpay" interest even Bumgarner?

  3. Agree on Gerrit Cole, and would love to have Bumgarner. Bumgarner represents a risk, but who is to say he doesn't remain good for 4-5 years.

    The 'pay for pitching while drafting and developing hitting' model makes sense for the Giants unless dimensions at Oracle change. Sign Cole and Bumgarner, and the Giants can continue to focus on drafting offense.

  4. This seems to me to be a fair and accurate of assessment of where Zaidi is at: a rebuild in practice, if not in name. I expect he'll continue to work on things at the margins, but I don't think we'll see any high profile trades or FA signings. Certainly not Cole, as that does not at all seem like the move Zaidi would make. And I struggle to see why Cole would pick SF when there will be other teams, closer to the WS and better positioned for the future.

    My frustration with Zaidi's approach is that it seems to be entirely dependent on the current top tier of prospects ending up as All-Star level players. If we miss with Bart, Luciano, or Ramos, it's hard to see the plan for a major talent infusion. Players like Yaz are nice complements, but not how you build a team for long term success (if he can even keep it up in world without a juiced ball).

    Zaidi should be maximizing the payroll, spending that $90 million on players with short term contracts. Either they payoff and take us to the playoffs, we can trade them for assets, or we let their contracts expire and move on to the next step. We keep hearing that Zaidi has free reign to make whatever moves he thinks are best, but it's hard not to think that ownership has telling him to keep payroll down while they're rebuilding without calling it that, so the ownership group can pocket the leftovers. If that's not the case, he's not using all assets effectively.

    1. Not sure about pocketing the leftovers, but the income from butts in the seats is down in excess of $30,000,000/year from the attendance high mark this decade.
      Even billionaires might notice that amount of money.
      Doubt if either Pillar or Villar would affect the turnstile.

  5. Just saw Kevin Gausman SP non-tendered, Cesar Hernandez 2B non-tendered - both names I've seen in articles about possible SF pickups for 2020. I predict no splashes on big money FAs. It'll be the year of the SP churn while Belt, Crawford, Longoria, Cueto, Samardjiza and Posey play out their contracts - if any of them get red-hot they'll be tradeable in July for good prospects. Kevin Pillar non-tendered makes sense - Duggar needs another chance and there's always Dubon to learn CF to complement his SS/2B profile. Plus Yaz, Dick and Slater. Probably not Ozuna but maybe Castellanos?

    1. Gausman was 3-6 with a 6.19 ERA in 16 starts for Atlanta last year...he did a little better as a reliever for Cincy. I would hope they were talking about him as a bullpen piece. Beede and Webb could be very cheap productive 4/5 end of the rotation guys for the Giants next year. If you take Webb's one start in St. Louis out of his numbers his ERA is mid 3's and at 22 years old that is pretty promising especially finishing strong at Fenway, at Atlanta and home vs. the Dodgers in his last 3 starts.

    2. I didn't like that Pillar was non tendered, but I understood the reasoning. They didn't want to block their younger outfielders from more playing time. The interesting thing is Zaidi said they'll look to add more power in the corner outfield position in the free agent and trade markets. He said the owners have given the FO the green light to spend money to improve the team. Doc I like your idea on spending money to improve the pitching staff 1st. My concern is how successful they'll be luring free agents considering they'll be teams that are closer to contending then the Giants.

  6. Cueto 2, Samardjiza 3, Beede 4 and Webb 5. -- we're missing one --