Category Archives: San Francisco Giants Shirts

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SAN FRANCISCO — It’ll be another extremely quiet awards season for the Giants.

MLB announced finalists for all the major honors on Monday afternoon and Mike Yastrzemski, the only Giant with a shot at being included, was not part of the field for National League Rookie of the Year. The three finalists are New York’s Pete Alonso (who should be a runaway winner), Atlanta’s Mike Soroka and San Diego’s Fernando Tatis Jr.

The Giants did not have a single player receive votes for any of the four major awards the two previous seasons, either, but this time there’s a difference. They did not even have a player get nominated for a Gold Glove, while Brandon Crawford and Buster Posey were at least finalists in 2018. Crawford won the Gold Glove in 2017, another down year for the franchise as a whole.

Yastrzemski was one of the few bright spots in 2019, posting a .272/.334/.518 slash line with 21 homers in 107 games. But it was a strong year for the NL’s rookies, and he finished tied for eighth among rookie hitters in WAR (2.2), per FanGraphs. Alonso hit 53 homers and drove in 120 runs for the Mets and Tatis Jr. had 22 homers and hit .317, posting 3.6 WAR in just 84 games. Soroka had a 2.68 ERA in 29 starts for the NL East champion Braves.

The league announced all the finalists on Monday. Craig Counsell, Mike Shildt and Brian Snitker are up for NL Manager of the Year. Jacob deGrom, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Max Scherzer are the finalists for Cy Young. Cody Bellinger, Christian Yelich and Anthony Rendon are the final three for MVP.

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SAN FRANCISCO — The decision to non-tender Kevin Pillar, like several others made over the past year, was not a popular one with Giants fans.

Pillar was a Willie Mac Award winner who did two things that fans could easily cheer: Hit home runs and make diving catches.

Go on Twitter and you’ll find fans who say they won’t attend a game next season and a weird contingent that believes Farhan Zaidi is a secret agent still working for the Dodgers. But all that anger ignores one key fact. The man who decided to move on from Pillar is the same one who acquired him a week into the season for two players who are no longer with the Blue Jays and one who had an 8.11 ERA in the minors.

The Giants hired Zaidi to make good decisions, and there’s no doubt that the trade for Pillar was a brilliant one. Zaidi believes moving on after one season is the right move, too, and time will tell if he’s correct.

What we know for now is that there’s no going back, and there will be a new look in center field. In a conversation on Monday afternoon, Zaidi said the emphasis will be on adding production to the corner outfield spots. It’s hard to find a good center fielder in free agency anyway, so the Giants will go young and go in-house.

Here’s what that might look like in 2020:

The Favorite
Mike Yastrzemski got just 30 innings in center field last season because Pillar was an everyday player, but he generally looked comfortable out there, and he should. Yastrzemski actually has more minor league starts in center field (224) than any other position, and he has over 2,000 professional innings of experience in the middle of the outfield.

Yastrzemski probably won’t be climbing many walls or diving nearly as often as Pillar did, but he did a nice job in the corners last year and was worth seven Defensive Runs Saved in right field and eight overall.

The Giants are fully confident that Yastrzemski can handle center field at Oracle Park — the dimensions are shrinking a bit, too — and if the season started today he would be their center fielder.

The Young Guys
A year ago at this time, Steven Duggar was the Center Fielder of the Future. Duggar is still just 26 years old and is expected to be 100 percent for spring training after another season-ending shoulder injury.

The Giants can’t go into 2020 counting on much from Duggar, but they certainly are hoping for a breakthrough. If he improves his plate discipline and taps into his natural speed, Duggar could be the everyday center fielder. He’s the organization’s best defensive center fielder and would have been even if Pillar was brought back.

Jaylin Davis is another player the Giants want to take a long look at, although he has just 30 minor league starts in center field. Davis may see time out there in the big leagues, but he’s more likely to benefit from the Pillar decision in a different way. With Yastrzemski set for lots of time in center, Davis — a 25-year-old who hit 35 homers in the minors last year — will have an opportunity to win at-bats in one of the corner spots. The same holds true for Austin Slater and potentially Chris Shaw.

The Wild Card
When Zaidi traded a week of strong Drew Pomeranz relief appearances for Mauricio Dubon, he mentioned that one thing the Giants loved about Dubon was his potential as a super-utility player. On deadline day, Zaidi compared Dubon to Chris Taylor, but another Dodger could be a better fit. Kiké Hernandez mostly started at second base for the Dodgers last year but also made 43 appearances in the outfield, and Dubon is expected to shag plenty of fly balls next spring.

Given where the roster is right now, Dubon is also the starting second baseman and a strong option to split time with Brandon Crawford at shortstop. But if he can handle center field, the Giants would have more of the flexibility they’re seeking. They plan to be active in the infield market this offseason. If they add another middle infielder who hits right-handed, could you see that player at shortstop against left-handers with Donovan Solano at second and Dubon in center?

The Future
When the Giants drafted Heliot Ramos in 2017, some scouts predicted he would move to right field. But the Giants have kept Ramos in center and there’s no indication that he’ll need to be moved next season. There were fears that Ramos would outgrow the position as he hit his early 20s, but he appeared slimmed down in the Arizona Fall League and the Giants will keep him in the middle of the diamond for now.

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Dubón emerged as one of the Giants’ most exciting late-season callups this year, so I think he definitely put himself in position to earn a starting infield job in 2020. He seems to have the tools to develop into an everyday player, as the Giants were impressed with his instincts, game awareness and pop from the right side.

I think I’m more curious to see how Dubón is deployed defensively next year. He showed that he can handle shortstop and second base, but he also started five games in center field during the 2016 Arizona Fall League, so it’ll be interesting to see if the Giants will give him some more exposure in the outfield to try to mold him into a super-utility player like the Dodgers’ Chris Taylor.

Do you have a list of top prospects the Giants have on their 40-man roster or prospects who will be protected from the Rule 5 Draft?

Right-hander Logan Webb (Giants’ No. 5 prospect, per MLB Pipeline), Dubón (No. 8), righty Melvin Adon (No. 15), left-hander Conner Menez (No. 17), outfielder/first baseman Chris Shaw (No. 21), catcher/first baseman Aramis Garcia (No. 23) and shortstop Abiatal Avelino (No. 27) are on the 40-man roster. The Giants opted not to add any other prospects to their 40-man roster ahead of Wednesday’s deadline to protect players from the Rule 5 Draft.

That means outfielders Sandro Fabian (No. 16) and Franklin Labour (No. 20), catcher Ricardo Genoves (No. 22) and left-hander Garrett Williams (No. 28) will be among the Giants’ prospects who will be eligible to be taken by another club during the Rule 5 Draft on Dec. 12. None of them have played above Double-A, though, which probably minimizes the risk of them being poached by another club.

Bart throws out Franco
Jul 8th, 2019 · 0:07
Bart throws out Franco
Obviously, the majority of Giants prospect talk centers around Joey Bart, but do you see any other prospects breaking through in 2020? Do you see the likes of Heliot Ramos, Sean Hjelle, Seth Corry (or any others) getting callups?
–Mike H., Sheffield, England

Ramos and Hjelle both finished the 2019 season at Double-A Richmond, so I could see them reaching the Majors next season if they stay healthy and productive. I think Hjelle in particular could follow a similar path as Webb and receive an extended look in the Giants’ rotation at some point in 2020.

Corry took some impressive leaps forward this year, but he hasn’t pitched above low Class A, so I think he’s a little further away than Bart, Hjelle or Ramos. 2021 might be a more realistic target date for him.

Any idea on who will round out the coaching staff?
–Larry H.

The only confirmed member of manager Gabe Kapler’s coaching staff so far is Ron Wotus, who will return as third-base coach. There figures to be a significant amount of turnover, as bullpen coach Matt Herges has already left to become the D-backs’ pitching coach and hitting coach Alonzo Powell has accepted a job with the Chunichi Dragons in Japan. Bench coach Hensley Meulens has also been offered a spot on the Marlins’ coaching staff, though he is also reportedly in the mix for the Mets’ bench coach opening.

The status of first-base coach José Alguacil, pitching coach Curt Young and assistant hitting coach Rick Schu remain unknown. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kapler tried to hire some of the coaches who worked under him during his tenure with the Phillies.

Maria Guardado covers the Giants for MLB.com. She previously covered the Angels from 2017-18. Follow her on Twitter.

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SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants stunned much of their fan base Monday when they decided to let go of Kevin Pillar, but the veteran center fielder wasn’t the only notable big leaguer to suddenly find himself a free agent.

Ahead of the deadline to offer contracts to arbitration-eligible players, 56 big leaguers were non-tendered. The list includes top draft picks, All-Stars, and a couple of familiar names. Former Giants Derek Law and Josh Osich were let go and now are on the open market.

Farhan Zaidi has four roster spots open as he heads to the Winter Meetings. That’ll allow him to be active in the Rule 5 Draft if he wants, as well as take a long look at the non-tenders. Here are a few veterans who could make sense for the 2020 roster:

Cesar Hernandez
A switch-hitting second baseman who has experience at other positions, a .352 career on-base percentage, and 29 homers the past two seasons? That’s an intriguing piece even before you consider that Hernandez played for Gabe Kapler the past two seasons.

The Giants brought Donovan Solano back but still could use middle infield depth in case Mauricio Dubon needs more time in the minors. Even if Dubon is the starting second baseman, they could use a left-handed bat to support Dubon, Solano and third baseman Evan Longoria, and Kapler could certainly use a former Phillie or two in the clubhouse to help ease the transition.

Blake Treinen
The former A’s closer might be the most intriguing name on this list. Treinen posted one of the best relief seasons in history in 2018, but his ERA jumped from 0.78 to 4.91 in 2019 as his walk rate more than doubled. Few relievers have better raw stuff than Treinen, and you can bet there will be a strong interest in a pitcher who could be a difference-maker if he finds anything close to his 2018 form. The Giants can offer him a guaranteed shot in the late innings, with a clear path to the closer job if Treinen gets off to a good start.

Kevin Gausman
The fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft, Gausman is the type of pitcher a lot of front offices will look at and wonder, “What if we could get him on track?”

Gausman, a 28-year-old right-hander, had a 5.72 ERA for the Braves and Reds last season but has had stretches of sustained success as a big-league starter. He had a 2.87 ERA in 10 second-half starts for the Braves just a year ago.

Regardless of what Madison Bumgarner decides, the Giants have enough rotation flexibility to take a shot on a player or two like Gausman. If they hit on one, they could have a heck of a trade chip in July. Aaron Sanchez (Astros) and Taijuan Walker (Diamondbacks) are others who fit this mold. Both are super-talented but coming off injuries.

Jason Adam
Most Giants fans have likely never heard of Adam, a 28-year-old who had a 2.91 ERA in 23 relief appearances for the Blue Jays. The right-hander has been in the minors for seven years but has piled up strikeouts the past two. Sam Selman had a somewhat similar background and found success in Triple-A last season before making it to the big leagues for the Giants.

Jimmy Nelson
The 30-year-old right-hander is just two years removed from posting a 3.49 ERA and 3.05 WHIP for the Brewers. Nelson missed all of the 2018 season with a shoulder injury and struggled in scattered appearances when he returned to the mound last season, but Zaidi likes taking chances on guys like this. The Giants claimed Tyler Anderson after an injury-marred 2019 season and might have had him in their 2020 rotation had he agreed to a deal Monday.

Yimi Garcia
Zaidi has brought in a few former Dodgers — Solano was a success story last year — and Garcia also is familiar with Kapler. The right-hander had a 3.61 ERA and 0.86 WHIP last season, striking out more than a batter per inning. He gave up a ton of homers, but what if MLB unjuices the ball?

Domingo Santana
Some Giants people had an interest in Santana when he was in Milwaukee, but he ended up in Seattle, where he posted a .253/.321/.441 slash line with 21 homers last season. The 27-year-old was worth 3.3 WAR in 2017 but has been worth just one Win Above Replacement the rest of his career, in large part because of serious issues with the glove.

Santana played left field and right in Seattle, but he was worth negative-10 Defensive Runs Saved in left and negative-7 in right.

[RELATED: What Giants CF plans are after Pillar non-tender]

The Giants of old would put anyone with a pulse in left field, but that may not be necessary after the 2019 discoveries of Mike Yastrzemski and Alex Dickerson. Still, this club needs right-handed power, and Santana has a career .473 slugging percentage against lefties.

Catcher To Be Named Later
The Giants need to replace Stephen Vogt, and they haven’t seemed all that ready to hand the job to Aramis Garcia. Nobody will be as clean a fit as Vogt, a great clubhouse guy who hit left-handed and could platoon a bit with Buster Posey, but there are a few veterans who became free agents Monday, including Josh Phegley, John Ryan Murphy and Kevin Plawecki.

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As things currently stand, the San Francisco Giants might not be incredibly fun to watch in 2020.

In fact, barring the re-signing Madison Bumgarner or the addition of another big-time player through free agency or trade, things could get downright boring.

However, one of the more interesting things to watch will be the progression of their young players, including Mike Yastrzemski, Mauricio Dubon, and Logan Webb as they enter their sophomore season.

At the same time, it will also be worth watching how top prospects Joey Bart and Heliot Ramos perform in the minors early in the season, and if they can prove they are ready for the big leagues in 2020.

There’s a good chance that one, if not both of them, will play for the MLB squad this coming season.

While both players ended the 2019 season at Double-A, Bart is two years older and arguably the more polished all-around prospect. That said, he’s lost some developmental time to injury, and will need to stay healthy going forward.

The 22-year-old hit .316/.368/.544 in 22 games with Double-A Richmond to close out the regular season, and he was arguably the most impressive player in the Arizona Fall League before he fractured his thumb on a hit by pitch.

In the 10 games he was able to play pre-injury, he hit .333/.524/.767 with four home runs and 10 RBI while tallying more walks (9) than strikeouts (7) in 42 plate appearances.

Ramos also played in the AFL, though his performance was decidedly less impressive. In 17 games, he hit .185/.250/.262 with 23 strikeouts in 72 plate appearances.

These are small sample sizes for sure, but it’s enough to give you the sense that Bart might be the first one to arrive in the majors.

That’s not to say Ramos hasn’t provided plenty of reason for optimism after hitting an impressive .290/.369/.481 with 24 doubles and 16 home runs in 102 games between High-A and Double-A. Of equal importance, he raised his walk rate from 6.5 to 9.5 percent, showing a more refined approach.

Both players could start the season at Triple-A, which would leave them one hot streak away from providing the MLB lineup with a boost.

However, versatility enthusiast Farhan Zaidi has said he wants Bart to learn another position, so that could delay his call-up. As for Ramos, he took significant steps forward in 2019, but he still has plenty of developing to do since he won’t turn 21 until next September.

I’ll say Bart sees the majors by midseason, while Ramos has to wait until September to get his shot, meaning both players make their San Francisco Giants debut in 2020.

No matter what, we should all look forward to these youngsters possibly contributing to the big league team in the near future. With Madison Bumgarner on his way out the door and Buster Posey in decline, they could be the future faces of the franchise.

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The Giants kicked off free agency by extending qualifying offers to Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith. But on day two, they did what they spent a great deal of last year doing: adding players to the 40-man roster who had been discarded by other organizations.

The new Moneyball isn’t about exploiting the market’s inefficiencies to collect overlooked players and skills, it’s about self improvement and internal discipline. Can the Giants renovate their development pipeline to make good players great and former fodder-types good? That’s the gambit they and most of the top teams employ and it’s the path the Giants have taken in order to catch up.

I’ll admit it’s tough to get excited about waiver claims because the idea that one of them could become a star doesn’t stick after the first couple of times. A year into the Zaidi Method and my opinion of the lottery ticket development system is that the metaphor doesn’t really work. It’s more like a raffle. There’s always the potential for a prize to be really great, but most of the time, it’s just free junk you never really needed or if it is, it’s something you could’ve bought with your own money and to your own specifications.

Like the two qualifying offer players, the trio of adds don’t figure to stick around in 2020, but let’s dive in anyway. That’s the thing about the churn: it doesn’t matter what you do because it never stops.

Rico Garcia – RHP
We got word of this single transaction via a tweet earlier in the day and little did we know it would be the tip of the iceberg. At the time I saw the tweet, it felt a little exciting, as though the Giants had fleeced the Rockies for the second time this offseason. MLB.com currently ranks him as Colorado’s #20 prospect.

While he is just 5-foot-11, Garcia still manages to get good downhill plane, and his fearlessness on the mound helps his stuff play up. Thanks to a structured throwing program, he’s managed to add 3-4 mph on his fastball since signing and will sit in the low-90s with the ability to reach back for more with his four-seamer on occasion, while his two-seamer has cutting action to it. His breaking ball can be a plus pitch, with late knee-buckling action to it, thrown in the 80-81 mph range. His changeup gives him what should be a solid third option.

FanGraphs had some nice things to say, too:

Garcia will sit 93-96 and touch 97 early in outings but lose command and zip later in starts. There are a variety of opinions about Garcia’s delivery, as one source thinks his deliberately paced mechanics are easy for hitters to time, while another thinks Garcia hides the ball really well. He’ll flash an above-average changeup and slider, and shows an ability to manipulate the fastball to sink and cut at various times. He’s more of a middle relief candidate than potential rotation piece, but it appears Colorado has found a big league piece in the 30th round.

Hmm. Short stature but big heart? A starter who could also be a reliever? Structured throwing program? Has all the makings of a teachable player with an industry consensus projection as a borderline major league-caliber player (40 Overall on MLB.com; 35 Future Value on FanGraphs)? Woo-hoo!

He was a 30th round pick by the Rockies in 2016 out of Division II Hawaii Pacific University, the only school to offer him the chance to pitch after high school. On the day of the draft, he was in touch with a professional team in Germany who wanted to sign him (read this interview with him on MiLB.com). Three years later, he made his major league debut, an August start against the Red Sox.

His legal name is Josh, but there were too many Joshes in his youth so he went with Rico. He turns 26 in January and has three option years remaining. He’s just 5-11, 190 lbs, but what he lacks in height he makes up for with heart and an open mind.

“Being a 30th-round pick and having the first season that I did and going to extended and back to Boise, it was kind of a downer,” Garcia admitted. “But I’m not the type of guy who will put my head down and be quiet. I’m going to continue gathering all the information that I can. I just talk to my teammates and coaches. That’s probably been the biggest part of my journey so far.”

The way the Rockies saw it, the struggles only made Garcia study even harder at how to get pro hitters out with his three-pitch combination.

We can only assume the Rockies called him “RiGa”, as per the franchise’s storied nicknaming convention.

He ran though Colorado’s system as a starter but he might wind up being more of a long reliever type. He doesn’t have an overpowering fastball, but it does play up in shorter stints. He’s on the Giants because he’s better than what they already had. But also,

He turns 26 in January and has three option years remaining.

Taken together, his interesting backstory, willingness to learn, hard-to-pin down projected role, and quality skill set make him a perfect project player and raffle ticket grab.

Standout number(s)
It’s important to remember that any player the Giants add meets some base level of criteria they use to evaluate players. A track record of some sort is mandatory. From there, the distinction is all about ability, which again, the organization seeks to manage as part of their new development system.

So, here’s the main standout number that points to the cover quality bound to the book of all the player’s traits: 9.0

That’s his minor league career K/9. He has 400 strikeouts in 400.2 MiLB innings to just 128 walks. That’s . . . really good. Earlier this year, he set a Hartford Yard Goats single-game strikeout record with 11 as part of a strong Double-A campaign (1.85 ERA, 87 K in 68 IP).

Churnover odds
A young arm with strikeout stuff, the potential to start or relieve, and three options remaining makes him a 4/4 on the Farhan Scale, but all of these churnover odds will be based on the probability that they hang on the roster through the entire season. The Giants used 64 players last year (an NL record) and with a 26-man active roster for 2020, figure that record will be broken.

Garcia really struggled once he got to Triple-A and used the Major League Ball (6.90 ERA in 61.1 IP), and his size doesn’t do him any favors, but if he’s truly Drivelined his delivery to success, he’s going to continue to find work. Will that be in the Giants organization? I don’t know how to calculate odds, so I’ll say he has a 33.3% chance of not being churned over. For now, let’s enjoy this hasty Photoshop job on MLB.com:

Kean Wong
Hey! It’s Kolten’s brother! And another player from Hawaii. FanGraphs rated him as the Rays’ #28 prospect at season’s end, giving him a future value (FV) of 40, which means bench player. Before you guffaw, for the cost of a waiver claim, the Giants just added a 24-year old left-handed utility player with three options remaining.

From FanGraphs:

We don’t think he plays every day, but lefty bats with that kind of positional flexibility are good role players, and Wong is ready for the big leagues right now. The infield situation in Tampa Bay is very crowded and Wong may need a change of scenery to get an opportunity.

Welcome!

It should be noted that although he made his major league debut for them, he didn’t end his season with the Rays: the Angels grabbed him as a waiver claim at the end of September. The Rays waived him because of their extreme crunch in terms of infield talent. Must be nice. The Angels waived him this week and after playing just one game (he started and had a strikeout) for reasons.

In the meantime, please enjoy this hasty Photoshop job on MLB.com:

Standout number(s)
5. That’s the number of positions he’s played in the minors: second, third, left field, center field, and right field. He’s the purest version of a utility player who doesn’t figure to hit much (career minor line of .287/.342/.383).

Churnover odds
Zaidi loves him some positional versatility and Wong’s age, option situation, and pedigree (being Kolten Wong’s brother doesn’t guarantee a solid major league career, but he’s off to a good start, comparison-wise) seems to make him a decent bet to hang around. You could also get cartoony in the analysis here and think that a Rays castoff is better than the average castoff.

Wong’s situation differs from Garcia’s, too, in that the Giants already have a bunch of interesting arms in the system but very little by way of talented middle infielders. Again, not knowing how to calculate odds, I’ll give him a 66.7% chance of avoiding The Churn.

Trevor Oaks
Burch Smith finally has a companion tree in Trevor Oaks, another right-handed pitcher who, like Burch, is a starter/reliever. The Dodgers drafted him in 2014, just before Farhan Zaidi became the GM, and then was traded by Zaidi to the Royals in the deal that netted the Dodgers . . . uh . . . well, it was a three-team trade with the White Sox, too, and uh . . . hmm, carry the one . . . I see it now — for utility infielder Jake Peter and the cursed 1980s TV mechanic character-looking mustache of lefty reliever Scott Alexander:

As convoluted as the trade was, Oaks’ skill set is not. He’s a groundball pitcher in a launch angle world, relying primarily on a sinker-slider combination, all pitches averaging 89 mph or less. We might all be aware of the dwindling efficacy of a major league sinker, but look at what Statcast considers to be his slider:

That looks like a changeup, but the data doesn’t credit it as such. Also, it’s pretty devastating.

His prospects going forward look to be pretty good, actually. While he’s been a sinker-slider guy for most of his career, he also throws a cutter. The Giants remade Trevor Gott by getting him to ditch his sinker in favor of his four-seamer and last week they claimed Tyler Anderson from the Rockies who also has an effective cutter that could be harnessed better than his other fastballs, so maybe, just maybe, the Giants have a plan in place for a former Farhan farmhand.

Standout number(s)
5.3%.

That’s his minor league walk rate. It pairs with a greater than 50% groundball rate in 532.1 minor league innings. Groundball pitchers do still exist in the modern game and aren’t any worse than pitchers who don’t get a high volume of groundballs. It’s the sinker pitch that’s going away, but there are other ways of inducing weak contact and grounders, and if the Giants can harness Oaks’ natural sink and he can translate his minor league walk rate into something similar at the major league level, then they might have something. It’s the lack of velocity that gets in the way of an orgiastic projection.

Churnover odds
Oaks turns 27 at the end of Spring Training and even though he’ll have two options remaining, his generally soft repertoire might not help him keep up with whatever competition the Giants bring to camp. He certainly gets credit for being a guy Farhan Zaidi remembers and that might just well mean there’s something in his skill set they’re keen to unlock or continue developing, but on paper, I’m seeing a 90% chance of churn. So, get what will probably be your first and only look at the guy in a Giants hat:

The Giants’ 40-man roster is now full. The GM meetings begin next week, so either the Giants don’t plan to make any moves in the near-term or they’re getting ready to make many moves in the near term and plan to coincide their activity with whatever’s about to happen in Scottsdale. Yeah, there’s an excellent chance the Giants will try to sneak one, two, or all three of these guys through waivers as teams make free agent moves and trades.

The whole point of The Churn is to upgrade the back of the roster on the cheap. To that end, Garcia, Wong, and Oaks take the places of Kyle Barraclough, Mike Gerber, and Ricardo Pinto, who were all recently designated for assignment. Wong is three years younger and at least two positions more versatile than Geber; Garcia and Oaks can both start and relieve and have options available to them. They’re not the power arms, but they’re more versatile with more potential upside, and if the planned development system is fully operational, should make excellent candidates for improvement through it.

If it all works out, the Giants will have added a versatile utility infielder to spell or displace Brandon Crawford, Mauricio Dubon, and/or Donovan Solano, and two pitchers in the Shaun Anderson mold who could start or relieve, potentially filling out the back of the rotation or the middle of the currently vacant bullpen.

But don’t get attached. It’s just as likely that none of these guys play an inning for the Giants this year.

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The Milwaukee Brewers need starting pitching, and they’ve been clearing money off the books for the past few weeks. Could they look to add San Francisco Giants starter Jeff Samardzija?

Coming into 2019, Jeff Samardzija had two years left on a deal that would pay him $39.6 million through 2020. He also posted a 6.25 ERA in an injury-plagued season, and literally no one was looking to deal for him.

He bounced back in 2019, and he only has one year left on his contract before hitting free agency. Could the Milwaukee Brewers look to add a financially motivated Samardzija for the 2020 season?

How did Samardzija look in 2019?
A lot better than he did in 2018.

Samardzija made 32 starts for the Giants last year, and managed a 3.52 ERA. He tossed 181 1/3 innings, struck out 140, walked 49, and was tagged for 28 homers.

His average velocity on his heater was a career low 91.9 MPH. He made up for the dip in velocity by using his cutter more often and changing speeds. He’s not quite the 95 MPH+ guy he was when he was younger, but he can still eat up innings and keep hitters off balance.

What would it take to deal for Samardzija?
It really depends on how much salary the Giants are willing to eat. If they want to pass the entire salary on the the Brewers, they’d likely get a name on a roster from the Dominican Summer League. If they’re willing to take on money, they could get a fringe top-30 prospect in exchange for Samardzija. Teams aren’t going to fall over themselves to acquire a 35-year old starter with a questionable track record who’s owed almost $19 million next year.

What role would Samardzija play with the Brewers?
He’d likely slot in as a third or fourth starter in front of Eric Lauer and behind whoever they find to fill out the rotation. The team needs an innings eater who can take the ball every fifth day.

Samardzija in a contract year would likely be motivated to get one more bite at the free agent apple before opening a dispensary or a car dealership. A solid year with the Milwaukee Brewers and a playoff run would help his case for some team to give him a multi-year deal after the 2020 season. The two teams are a fit on paper, but a lot has to happen to pull off a deal. However, fans may want to pay special attention to the rumors coming out of San Francisco during the upcoming winter meetings. There’s going to be a lot of smoke around Samardzija while Brewers GM David Stearns and all the other executives are all in the same place at the same time.

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SAN FRANCISCO — The best reliever on the market came very close to being a Giant in 2020.

Will Smith told teams that he would sign the one-year qualifying offer and return to San Francisco if they did not come up with better offers, and he came pretty close to holding true to that statement. Ultimately the Atlanta Braves stepped in, giving Smith a three-year deal just before the deadline to accept the qualifying offer.

That move left the Giants with a massive hole in the ninth inning, but the bullpen issues go beyond the closer role.

The Giants had one of the National League’s best bullpens in the first half last season, but Sam Dyson, Mark Melancon and Drew Pomeranz were traded and Trevor Gott and Reyes Moronta got hurt. Of the six Giants who made at least 40 appearances out of the bullpen last year, only Gott and Tony Watson will be on the active roster on Opening Day.

That leaves a lot of room for newcomers, and Farhan Zaidi has said he likes his young depth and believes in some of the rookies who got a chance late last season. Shaun Anderson, Sam Coonrod, Tyler Rogers and Jandel Gustave are among those who could be in the mix for high-leverage jobs.
But you can expect the Giants to add plenty of experienced arms to the spring training mix, too.

Here’s a look at the bullpen market now that Smith has left for his hometown:

The Top Tier
Yeah, it’s uhh … not a good offseason to be looking for a closer. You can make a strong case that Drew Pomeranz — who signed with the Giants in January as a starter — is the best reliever left out there. Pomeranz showed flashes of brilliance when the Giants moved him to the ‘pen and they turned that promise into Mauricio Dubon. In Milwaukee, Pomeranz made himself a lot of money, striking out 45 batters in 26 1/3 innings while sitting in the high 90s with his fastball.

Will Harris, who had a 1.50 ERA last year for the Astros, is the top right-hander left on most boards. He has just 20 career saves but should pitch in the last couple innings for a contender next year. Daniel Hudson has had a rough few years but ended up as the postseason closer for the World Series champs, so he should be in for a nice raise.

The Giants have a need, but they also shouldn’t pay for high-end relief pitching given their current roster situation.

The Former Giants
The Giants need good PR right now, and there are plenty of options if they want to go the #ForeverGiant route.

Sergio Romo, Cory Gearrin and Dan Otero are all free agents, along with a few relievers who pitched for the Giants in 2019: Kyle Barraclough, Fernando Abad, Nick Vincent and Derek Holland.

None of that moves the needle too much.

The Likely Answer
Zaidi wants flexibility in his bullpen, and he never spent much on free agent relievers in Los Angeles other than the Kenley Jansen contract. Want to know how the Giants will fill out their 2020 bullpen? Last year’s model gives us a good starting point.

The Giants traded cash considerations for Gott, a hard-throwing right-hander they believed could be pretty good in a different situation. You can bet they’re looking for the next opportunity to scoop up a similar player.

They gave a non-guaranteed deal to Vincent well after spring training had started, taking advantage of a market that has become cruel to veteran relievers. There will be plenty of options again as the offseason winds down.

There are a lot of familiar names out there — Cody Allen, Carl Edwards Jr., Jeremy Jeffress, Hector Rondon, to name a few — and a few veterans are going to be sitting around in early February looking for an opportunity. Zaidi should be able to add a few experienced arms to the spring mix and do so without spending much.

Finally, there’s the method the team turned to late in the year. The Giants went young, and while the results were sometimes ugly, the front office does feel good about some of what was seen. Rogers was a revelation, Anderson showed a desire to pitch the ninth, and Coonrod had some big moments.

The Giants know they’re in a situation where they can continue to give young guys a shot, with the hope that a year from now a few of them will look like foundational pieces for the 2021 bullpen.

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The Giants lost an All-Star early in free agency when closer Will Smith signed with his hometown Atlanta Braves last week.

Smith’s departure left a clear void in San Francisco’s bullpen, as he tied for fifth in MLB with a career-high 31 saves in 2019. Replacing Smith is a clear priority for Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi, but he told The Athletic’s Tim Kawakami on Tuesday that he is in no rush to name a new closer.

“We’ve got some time to figure that out,” Zaidi said on “The TK Show” podcast. “I don’t think we need to decide that before Thanksgiving here, but one of the benefits for us of having made some of the trades we made at the deadline is it gave us the opportunity to see some of the younger relievers in our organization. Guys like Tyler Rogers, Jandel Gustave and Sam Coonrod. [These are guys] that could work their way into the picture and work their way into late-inning [situations] in 2020.”

Rogers, Gustave and Coonrod were bright spots as rookies last season. None of the trio pitched more than 30 innings, but each showed potential pitching out of the bullpen in August and September. Rogers pitched the fewest innings of the three (17 2/3), but was worth nearly a win above replacement in his appearances, according to Baseball Reference’s metrics.

[RELATED: Former Giants hitting coach Powell takes job in Japan]

No matter which of the three emerges, the Giants are going to have a different look in the late innings next season. That could include a free-agent acquisition as well, according to Zaidi.

“Our closer may be in the organization right now,” Zaidi continued. “We’re going to continue to shop around and see what options are out there, but we at least like the depth that we have in our group of relievers.”

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Catchers gear, such as shin guards, a chest protector and a mask, are an important part of the position, but that was not always the case. In fact, it was not until this day in 1907 that shin protectors would be worn, debuted by New York Giants catcher Roger Bresnahan.
The image of a major league catcher is pretty uniform. They are covered in padding and wearing a mask, resembling a hockey goalie more than any other player on the diamond. Considering the plethora of foul tips, balls in the dirt and other assorted nicks and bruises they acquire over the season, it is difficult to imagine someone playing the position without any protection.

However, during the early days of baseball, that was the case. Catchers would be in that familiar position behind the plate, leaving themselves exposed to the vagrancies of those foul tips and wayward pitches. That is, until New York Giants catcher Roger Bresnahan began to protect himself, using the first shin guards on this day in 1907.

Instead of the fancy shin guards that catchers use in modern times, these were nothing more than some modified cricket gear. As strange as it may have seemed at the time, those shin guards proved their use almost immediately, as Bresnahan was protected from a foul tip in the fifth inning due to the protection he had in place.

Naturally, having seen the success and usefulness of these guards, other catchers began wearing them. Suddenly, those foul tips and balls in the dirt were not quite as hazardous as they had been, allowing catchers to remain healthier and be far more productive.

This was also not the only piece of protective equipment that Bresnahan created. After being hit in the head the following year, he created a leather batting helmet, one of the first of its kind. The first catcher in the Baseball Hall of Fame, Bresnahan was a pioneer in regards to player safety and protection.

NEXT: Jackie Robinson signs first major league contract
Catchers may resemble armored tanks these days, but that was not always the case. If not for the foresight of Roger Bresnahan, who knows how long it would have taken for someone to create catcher’s gear as we know it.