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Friday, November 17, 2017

Why the Giants need Giancarlo Stanton

I'm not sure if you all have heard this but... the freshly minted NL MVP might get traded this offseason.

I know! Crazy right?

What else -- it seems like the San Francisco Giants might have a legit interest in getting this MVP. They might even think it'll fix the attendance issues that plagued the team for the first time since World Series parades became a thing in San Francisco.

It's no secret that Giancarlo Stanton (oh, that's who we're talking about by the way) would love to play in LA and let's not be foolish, if LA has any interest whatsoever that is where he'll land. But if LA doesn't have interest in adding him, and Andrew Friedman hasn't showing any type of willingness to take on those type of contracts in his Dodger GM tenure, then SF is the next best spot. I do think it would be kind of cool if Arte Moreno surprised everyone and picked Stanton up to pair with Trout and Upton but that ain't going to happen.

Stanton wants to win, yes. And the Giants lost 98 games in 2017. However, he also allegedly wants to play in stadiums with big crowds every night. He prefers a coast, and most prefers the west coast, and he doesn't want to endure a rebuild.

The Giants, aside from not winning in 2017, offer all those things. They're never going to go full rebuild at least not until after 2022 when Buster Posey's contract ends. The fans are not going to stop showing up unless 2017 happens over and over again and the likelihood of that is slim. A lot went wrong for the Giants in 2017 and for it to all happen again... well that would really just be devious of the Baseball Gods. 

Despite AT&T's rep for not being friendly to hitters, it DOES have a rep for having great fans, a great atmosphere for players, and despite what WE think a front office and coaching staff that actually has respect from other players on how they treat players and their families. The park itself is of course sold out almost every single night win or lose which has to appeal to Stanton who, even during an epic and record threatening pace of home runs, had a hard time getting the citizens of Miami out of their rest homes or nightclubs to come see him hit baseballs over the fence. 

From the Giants perspective, getting Stanton would mean getting a legit Major League superstar that would reinvigorate a fanbase that forgot what it was like to lose so much. That in effect would mean the park would start selling out again regularly and don't think that notion isn't important to the key decision makers. Also, it would give the park a player to buzz about that is hasn't had since Bonds retired and Timmy Lincecum's magic ran out. I mean, those awesome World Series runs were something but are people really buying tickets on a cold Monday night to watch Buster Posey hit? No, they aren't. And as awesome as Bumgarner is (and he is... super effing awesome) he doesn't have that megawatt star power that would get the casual fan to come out to the yard. Giancarlo Stanton crushing 450 foot homers might however. 

Also, I know it SEEMS very highly unlikely, but don't count out Stanton opting out of his contract after 2020. If he has 3 more seasons of MVP level production, he'd still be a free agent at age 31. Would he be able to surpass in theory an 8yr/233M deal at age 31? By then who knows whatsalaries would be but I would imagine it's not automatic he would stay locked into his contract. Especially if the Giants were sucking. And especially not after Bryce Harper and Manny Machado get somewhere around 400M-500M each next offseason even though they're several years younger. 

Here's a look at Stanton's contract breakdown. It actually declines towards the end when Stanton is older.

2018: 25M (28 yrs old)2019: 26M (29)2020: 26M (30)2021: 29M (31)2022: 29M (32)2023: 32M (33)2024: 32M (34)2025: 32M (35)2026: 29M (36)2027: 25M (37)2028: 25M or 10M buyout (38)

What's interesting is you're only paying 30M+ for him 3 seasons out of that contract. To put this into perspective, JD Martinez is asking for 30M per season for the next 7 seasons right now and he's older, slower, and not as good defensively.

The Giants have an impossible task when it comes to adding superstar hitters to their line-up. Bonds came because this was home. Otherwise he would have gone to the highest bidder. No other free agent superstar wants to come here for multiple reasons (the park, California taxes, the park, and maybe the weather. Also, it's expensive as **** to live here and the Giants would have to overpay just for them to say yes. Think Aaron Rowand. Also, the park.)

I guess what I am trying to say is... the chances of the Giants signing another hitting star is basically a pipedream. They would have to draft one. And they haven't been exactly stellar in that department.

To date in the AT&T Park Era, they have not drafted anyone capable of hitting 30+ homers. Posey has been their best hitter drafted by far and he topped out at 24 homers in 2012. Sandoval (think about this)... SANDOVAL is probably their 2nd best farm system hitter produced and his career high in home runs was 25. Good ol' Richie Aurilia is the only prospect that came up through the Giants system and wound up hitting over 30 homers for the team and that happened in 2001 when he was hitting in front of Barry when all he did was set the single season record in home runs. And let's remember Richie came to the Giants via trade (granted, as a prospect). Otherwise, the only other hitter that comes close to qualifying as a legit home run threat is Adam Duvall, who has hit 30+ the past two seasons in Cincinnati, one of the easiest parks to hit homers.

There you have it. If the Giants ever want to get a legit home run hitter, they either have to get extremely lucky in the draft or trade for one.

Stanton is easily the best chance they've had since Bonds to acquire a franchise altering superstar hitter and an opportunity they won't get again any time soon. Like I said, there's no way Harper or Machado come here next offseason and there is no other elite home run hitting franchise star coming available anytime soon after those guys.

They need to make it happen. The time is now San Francisco Giants. Go get the MVP.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Is it 2018 yet?

To say this season hasn't gone according to plan would be an insult to all poor planners out there in the history of planning. The Giants season hasn't just NOT gone according to plan, it essentially was replaced by a stink bomb gag season that came wrapped in glorious wrapping paper and pretty bows but was unveiled to be what it truly was: a foul smelling piece of crap.

We are halfway through this 2017 season, the Giants have nearly 60 losses already (and about half as many wins) and the only thing that Giants fans care about right now are what aging declining veterans might get traded just to trim the fat off a roster that has monstrously underperformed. The Giants are sellers, they are a bajillion games behind the first place Dodgers, and are vying with the atrocious Phillies for the worst record in baseball. That's a pretty crazy turnaround for a team that a year ago had the best record in baseball. Granted, the very very poor 2nd half of 2016 maybe should have served as a warning sign. But the Giants still made the playoffs and gave the Cubs all they could handle so if anyone said they saw this downward spiral coming, ask them for the weekend's lottery numbers.

Are we witnessing Murphy's Law? Whatever can go wrong will go wrong? Because very little has gone right for the Giants this season. Aside from Buster Posey having another All Star season and putting together what might be his 2nd best season overall as a major leaguer, the Giants aren't seeing many positives. Let's go through the laundry list:

Madison Bumgarner made 4 starts and then severely injured himself dirt biking on an off day. Bumgarner may only pitch once every 5 days but he's a monster piece of the team in terms of swagger, attitude, and confidence. Losing him for months (hey, he's back today!) may have deflated an already seeping air Giants balloon. It was the straw that broke the Giants backs.

Brandon Crawford has struggled offensively and had a personal tragedy. Players are human and have emotions and feelings. Losing a sister-in-law unexpectedly and then having to go out and play baseball like nothing's wrong could have a toll on a man who values family so much. Crawford hasn't been the B-Craw we've gotten used to the last few seasons. Is he just having an off year, is he declining, or is he just grieving? Who knows but his offensive decline has impacted a line-up that needs its cogs to click.

The LF experiment was DOA. Look, we all know the Giants are pretty antsy about their budget and the luxury tax. They signed Melancon and decided they were done retooling the team hoping someone would be able to play LF capably at some point. Well, that plan was questionable at the start anyways and it was exposed when the rest of the line-up struggled. It has essentially been an open tryout all season long. It was solved briefly when Austin Slater came up and, unlike all the others, decided to NOT suck, but as the season has gone, he got injured and will now miss most of the 2nd half. Maybe there's a reason the Giants are being mentioned in Giancarlo Stanton talks. It'll never happen but it's fun to dream of once again having one of the best power hitters in the game playing left field.

The Mark Melancon signing had an ominous beginning and never got better. Last year's Giants bullpen was a mess and the closer role was definitely one of the culprits. So the Giants went out, signed the closer everyone thought they'd sign, and called it a day. Never mind the rest of that awful bullpen from 2016, if you gave them a leader, they'd for sure fall in line and perform. Right? Wrong. The bullpen is equally as bad this season with not one of the incumbents showing any sign of real improvement. Hunter Strickland has probably been the best reliever all said and done and he got suspended for a week for hitting Bryce Harper because Hunter Strickland never forgets. The fact that Strickland is your best reliever says all you need to know about the bullpen. Maybe we should have known this year was going to be terrible when Melancon blew his very first save opportunity on Opening Day. That should have been an ominous sign that the pen had NOT been fixed. Or that we were going to get punished for whatever reason. Regardless, the pen has been awful and Melancon was not the stress-free closer the Giants thought they were getting. He also may be damaged goods as he's now on the DL for the second time this season with no return date set.

The bench? What bench? The Giants spent the rest of the offseason after signing Melancon trying to find lightning in a bottle. They signed a bunch of veterans and probably hoped one or two would turn out to be an okay bench piece. None have. Michael Morse has been out with a concussion since Jeff Samardzija inadvertently tackled him in the Bryce Harper/Hunter Strickland title match. Jimmy Rollins never made the team. Melvin Upton Jr was probably close to getting a look-see from the minors then got his hand broken on a hit by pitch. Nick Hundley has been okay as the backup catcher but has he really been any better than Trevor Brown would have been? 2016 Postseason Would-Be Legend Conor Gillaspie has been mostly a ghost and has himself seen more DL time than playing time. The bench has no scary bats on it and is just another example of the Giants failed plan.

The rotation is pretty bad. The rotation was supposed to be NOT pretty bad. The rotation wasn't even supposed to be average or good. The rotation was supposed to be great. One of the best in the game. Two aces in Bumgarner and Cueto. A solid number 3 in Matt Moore who once had number 1 stuff who looked good down the stretch and in the playoffs in 2016. A reincarnated, reinvented Jeff Samardzija as your number 4? A 200 innings horse who could give you quality starts? And then, a blackhole in the 5th slot where Matt Cain was going to reside as a farewell tour but with hope and promise waiting in the wings in Beede, Andew Suarez, and Joan Gregorio. Well, Bumgarner got hurt, Cueto became ordinary at best, Matt Moore morphed into the worst starter in the National League, and Matt Cain, well, he's been the same Matt Cain from the past few seasons... a not very good starting pitcher. The only bright spot has been Samardzija who's peripherals look really good but who's classic stats look mediocre (E.R.A. and wins and losses). Beede has struggled in AAA, Joan Gregorio got suspended for PED's, and Andrew Suarez... well, he's actually doing okay so we might see him after the Giants trade Bumgarner (kidding!). Ty Blach actually took Bumgarner's spot when he got injured and he's actually pitched like a serviceable MLB starter so that is a positive as well. But it doesn't offset all the other rotation issues. The Giants will need to figure out what they want to do here moving forward. Cueto's opt out looms despite him having a mediocre season and now's on the DL with blister problems which probably means he doesn't get traded at the deadline. So the Giants will either watch him opt out for nothing or be stuck with him for 4 more seasons and 84M. That's not bad if he goes back to being the Cueto of old. But who knows?

Bright spots keep getting dimmed. In a season where the only thing Giants fans can really look forward to is seeing glimpses of the future, the brightest futures have already been shelved. As noted, Austin Slater is out for most of the 2nd half due to injury. And top prospect Christian Arroyo, after getting a cup of coffee for a couple weeks, went back down to the minors, got hit by a pitch that put him on the DL, then on the day he returned to the line-up got hit by a pitch again that broke his hand. He's out for most of the 2nd half now as well. What this means is that, in a lost season, the Giants lost two of their players that had the best chance of having an impact now and into the future. It's been that kind of year.

The worst of all of this is that it's not just that the Giants are boring, terrible, awful, and literally one of the worst teams in baseball. It's that the DODGERS are the exact opposite. The Dodgers are the best team in the National League and have all the makings of a true World Series contender. They're having amazing comebacks, they're having fun, they have a rookie that came out of relatively nowhere to go bonkers on the league...

It would be fitting for this crap season to end with those bums in blue winning a title. So I guess we can really only hope some other team can knock them off. The Giants won't have that opportunity this season. And yes, I'm STILL annoyed we didn't get a Dodgers/Giants NLCS in 2016 (damn you bullpen!!). So the Giants play now for 2018. What can they do and who can they take a look at to make 2018 not suck like 2017 has sucked. We'll find out in the coming weeks as the trade deadline looms. But as each Giants loss mounts, the only question is...

Is it 2018 yet?

Sunday, April 2, 2017

MLB Predictions 2017

The time is now. Opening Day is upon us. With rosters set and most of the free agents in new homes (sorry Pagan, can't believe you're still unemployed dude!) it's time to take a gander at all 30 teams and the 6 divisions to see how SFGiantsGuy sees them shaking out. In my 2016 predictions, I got 6 out of the 10 playoff teams correct (though not necessarily right in terms of their place in the standings) and the NL Rookie of the Year and NL Cy Young Award winner pegged. My World Series prediction of Rays vs Giants however did not com to fruition. No worries! New season, new guesses! Here we go - may the 2017 season shake out almost exactly like this...

(Division winners bolded, wildcard teams in italics)

AL East: Red Sox, Blue Jays, Orioles, Yankees, Rays
AL Central: Indians, Royals, Tigers, White Sox, Twins
AL West: Astros, Rangers, Mariners, Angels, Athletics

NL East: Mets, Nationals, Braves, Phillies, Marlins
NL Central: Cubs, Pirates, Cardinals, Brewers, Reds
NL West: Giants, Dodgers, Rockies, Dbacks, Padres

ALWC: Rangers over Jays
NLWC: Dodgers over Nationals

ALDS: Indians over Rangers, Red Sox over Astros
NLDS: Dodgers over Cubs, Giants over Mets

ALCS: Indians over Red Sox
NLCS: Giants over Dodgers

World Series: Indians over Giants

AL MVP: Mookie Betts, Red Sox
NL MVP: Bryce Harper, Nationals
AL CYA: Chris Sale, Red Sox
NL CYA: Noah Syndergaard, Mets
AL ROY: Andrew Benintendi, Red Sox
NL ROY: Hunter Renfroe, Padres

A look at the AL East: The East has been a hard division to predict the past few seasons but with the Yankees committed to a youth movement and the Rays continuing to be a farm system for other teams (thanks for Matt Moore!) the cream rising to the top is much easier to see. The Red Sox had a great offense last season and it's hard to imagine it being any less stellar in 2017 despite the retirement of Big Papi. The Red Sox got the best starting pitcher available in the offseason in Chris Sale to pair with David Price and their Cy Young winner Rick Porcello and having those arms to support their powerful offense should clear a path to the top of the division. The Blue Jays let Edwin Encarnacion go and that may come back to haunt them in October but Toronto is still plenty good and should be in the running for the wildcard. The Orioles continue their strategy of having a powerful line-up with really questionable starting pitching. It worked for them last season in terms of getting into the wildcard playoff game but Buck Showalter inexplicably decided a one-game playoff was not a good time to use his best pitcher (closer Zach Britton). Not sure it'll work this season but I've written the O's off plenty of times only to see them defy logic. I'm usually a Rays supporter as I always think they'll contend considering their pitching depth but not this time. The Yankees will be interesting to watch and may surprise but they probably need one more year of their rebuild before they're ready to be serious contenders.

A look at the AL Central: The Indians were missing their #2 and #3 starters down the stretch last season, not to mention one of their most dynamic offensive players in Michael Brantley who missed almost the entire season and yet Cleveland wound up one win away from winning the World Series. Since that tough loss, they added power hitting clutch RBI guy Edwin Encarnacion, will get back Brantley, and have Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar back in their rotation. Oh yeah, they'll also have Andrew Miller for a full season. The Indians were some peoples sleeper last season. Not this season. They should be one of the AL's best teams and in a weak division, should easily make it back to October. The Royals window has all but closed but there's still talent there to give the wildcard a run. They may want to make one last run at it given the Royals of 2018 will look a lot different than the World Series bound teams of 2014 and 2015. The Tigers are another year older and they're not doing much to get younger. While they have a lot of talent still, they may have too many miles on the core group to sustain a playoff run. Fulmer and Castellanos may be part of the next great Tigers teams but Verlander, V-Mart, Kinsler, Francisco Rodriguez, and Miguel Cabrera all can't defy father time forever. The White Sox are in full blown tear down and rebuild mode so the only questions will be where does Jose Quintana wind up, how many vets get traded during the season, and when does Yoan Moncada get called up? The Twins have some intriguing young guys but their pitching is a disaster and the only thing they'll contend for in 2017 is the worst team in the American League.

A look at the AL West: The AL West could be the battle of Texas. The Rangers and Astros should be competing amongst themselves all year for the AL West crown. The Rangers have a top heavy rotation with Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish and a decent line-up while the Astros have a very strong line-up and some starting pitching that is hard to gauge. They are constantly mentioned as suitors for Jose Quintana which would help them a lot but they need to get Dallas Keuchel right too. If they can do that, they will be very tough. The Mariners are searching for that magical year where they break their playoff drought. This year could be the year if things break right. But Felix Hernandez needs to be King Felix and the rest of the rotation has to keep the team in games. The Mariners could be a solid sleeper this season. They eventually will see October again one of these years. The Angels and Athletics will likely sit at the bottom of the standings in 2017. The Angels are not in an enviable position. They have the best player in the game but can't surround him with talent. It's sad to see Mike Trout waste away in Anaheim but that is what he'll be doing this season. The A's have some intriguing prospects and young pitchers (Jharrel Cotton, Sean Manea) that could make them fun to watch, but they won't be challenging for a playoff spot.

 A look at the NL East: The East is a battle between the Nationals and Mets. The Marlins aren't sure what they are doing and it was an impossible task for them to fill the void left by Jose Fernandez's sad departure from this life. The Phillies and Braves are working on being relevant in a season or two and don't have real plans for contention. They both have interesting players littered all over their rosters but it would be a surprise if either contended for a wildcard slot. The Mets have their Big 5 intact. Their starting rotation may be the deepest in the game, even if it starts off missing Steve Matz. The offense should be good enough to support their starters and establish the Mets as one of the NL's best teams. But they're going to have a dog fight with the Nationals who's line-up and rotation is on par with New York's. It'll come down to health most likely as whichever team stays healthiest likely wins the division. The other should be right there for a wildcard spot.

A look at the NL Central: The NL Central used to be the Cardinals nest but there were always good teams nipping at their heels. The Cardinals are still a well run franchise but they no longer are the darlings of the division. The World Series Champion Cubs (still weird) are the new hotness. They have youth, attitude, and a ton of talent. They had the best record in baseball in 2016 and the scary part is their offense should keep getting better. However, it's realistic to believe the pitching may take a step back but Chicago should still be deep enough to conquer all division rivals. The Pirates are in an interesting spot. They have a lot of young talent emerging but will they be consistent enough for Pittsburgh to challenge for the playoffs? Here's thinking McCutchen will rebound from a bad 2016 and will lead the Pirates to a winning record that will have them fighting for a wildcard spot in September. The Cardinals are always going to contend but the Cubs and Pirates have likely passed them by unless Adam Wainwright returns to form, a tall order for an aging veteran. The Brewers and Reds will provide fodder for wins for the other 3 teams as they are both in rebuilds.

A look at the NL West: The Giants and Dodgers have owned this division for several seasons now and that won't really change in 2017. The Dodgers have won 4 consecutive division titles and the Giants once again should be their main threat for the NL West crown. The Dodgers depth helps them continue to win but the Giants rotation may be the 2nd or 3rd best unit in the National League if they all stay healthy. The division should come down to the September divisional games. The Rockies do seem interesting at the very least given that they seem to be thinking they can contend. Their pitching staff will always be strained due to the altitude in Denver but if they can keep games close, the Rockies line-up should be able to score some runs. They should be a wildcard contender this season. The Dbacks, like the Rockies, have a good line-up that can score plenty of runs. But their pitching will have to improve if they want to avoid a losing season. They have the ingredients to be a decent team but they also are essentially returning the same cast of characters that only won 69 games last season. The Padres completely have gutted their MLB talent to restock a farm system that may start producing players in a couple seasons. They will likely combat the Reds for the number one pick in the draft next season.

And dem's the picks for the 2017 season to be revisited in November or December!

Welcome back baseball. You've been missed.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Wait, is it time for the 2017 baseball season already?

What the hell happened to 2016? There I was, getting all giddy about the free agent additions of Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, and Denard Span and making my preseason predictions!

And then?

And then I totally didn't write one post about the 2016 season. Not during it. Not during the playoffs. Not after. I didn't do my year in review. I didn't do anything! It's like the 2016 season didn't happen. But it did! And it was nuts! The Giants were the BEST TEAM IN BASEBALL at the All Star break. Johnny Cueto was everything we hoped he would be and started the All Star Game! Samardzija was pretty decent too. Span was mainly a bust but still useful. The Giants were 24 games over .500 and had a 6.5 game lead over those SoCal Devils in Los Angeles by July 12th. Things were terrific.

And then? 

And then the 2nd half happened where the Giants bullpen couldn't get outs and the Giants offense couldn't score runs. That led to a 30-42 2nd half record that nearly cost them the playoffs. It cost them the division and it forced them into the 2nd wildcard spot, where they were lucky that all the other wildcard contenders also didn't really seem to want to make the playoffs. That 2nd half provided many a consternation to Giants fans and a lot of mutterings anytime Bochy came out to remove a starting pitcher. But due to their amazing first half, they were able to squeak into the playoffs. And anytime you have Madison Bumgarner going in a one game NL Wildcard Game, you feel pretty good about it. Even if the guy opposite him is the mighty Thor (or, ya know, Noah Syndergaard). 

Of course, the Giants biggest bugaboo showed up at the worst time. The Giants had the eventual World Series champion Cubs (how weird does that sound!?) on the ropes. Yeah, they were down 2-1 in a 5-game series but the Giants had so clearly taken the momentum in the NLDS and were up 5-2 going into the 9th inning of a game they clearly had won. They were ready to send Johnny Cueto to the mound (with the Mighty Bumgarner ready to relieve him) for an epic Game 5 at Wrigley where all the pressure and awful history was going to go against the Cubs and the Giants even year magic was going to whisk them to another World Series title, their 4th in 7th seasons. I mean, the bats were coming alive, everything was starting to click.

And then?

And then the bullpen happened. Matt Moore (who cost the Giants the beloved Matt Duffy and his oversized cat) had spun an 8 inning gem. All he needed, all the Giants and their fans needed, was the pen to get 3 little outs. And of course, they didn't. Derek Law, Javier Lopez, Sergio Romo, Will Smith, and Hunter Strickland combined to give up 4 hits and a walk that led to 4 Cubs runs to lose the lead and the series. I mean, yeah, I guess they got those 3 outs eventually. But by the time the Giants went into the batter's box for the bottom of the 9th, we all knew it was over. It was deflating. Like 2002 Game 6 of the World Series deflating. And it was a harsh way to end a season. It wasn't just that we lost in the playoffs. It was that we lost so quickly, so abruptly... right after being on the verge of continuing on to the parade (or so it felt). Baseball man. Baseball.

And then?

And then it was time to turn the page. The Cubs went on to beat the Indians in the World Series in a great showdown and the Giants were ready to pick up the pieces. As pitchers and catchers report to Arizona and Florida and full squads are about to get underway, now's the time to renew optimism. Put that painful 2016 end to the back of our minds and start thinking about vengeance in 2017!

We got Mark Melancon now. He was magnificent as a National against the Dodgers in their own NLDS series. He was magnificent all season. He's been pretty magnificent for the past several years come to think of it. And now he's the Giants closer! No more Romo (have fun in LA bruh), no more Casilla (we'll see you in the Bay Bridge Series, hermanuh), no more Lopez (enjoy golf!). We now have steady Eddie for the 9th. Melancon could be the most stress-free closer the Giants have had since Rod Beck. Think about that for a moment. 

What else? Well, I guess there really isn't much else. The Giants didn't really do much else. They did all their big lifting in 2016 when they signed Cueto, the Shark, and Span and extended Belt and Crawford. This offseason? Melancon and then... a backup catcher (Nick Hundley) and a lot of high risk medium reward signings like bringing back Mike Morse, signing the ageless Jimmy Rollins, and finally nabbing Justin Ruggiano who I feel like SabEvans has wanted forever. They somehow got David Hernandez on a minor league deal (the one time Dbacks closer) and they have some interesting other guys in camp (That Hwang dude from Korea? Could he be a thing?). But the Giants were already a good team. Despite their awesome 1st half followed by them completely forgetting how to hit and relieve in the 2nd half of 2016, the Giants were and are a very good team. They didn't need much so they didn't do much. They addressed their biggest weakness (the bullpen, duh) and are sort of playing it by ear in left field... an interesting approach when you realize the Dodgers look really effing good. But hey, it's spring time and the time for optimism is here. I mean, like, all we need is Clayton Kershaw to go on the shelf for like... months and we'll run away with the division right? Oh wait... he did that last year and somehow our team was the one that fell apart.

Well, forget about that. It's a new season. And besides, Mike Morse is back. He's Hunter Pence's real good friend, not that Posey fella. So I expect a lot of good things. If anything, at least I know I can boo Romo and Casilla now and not feel too guilty about it... because they're actually wearing opponent jerseys instead of Giants ones and coughing up games. Loved those guys by the way... but excited to see a new guy named Melancon out there closing games.

Beat LA.

Monday, March 28, 2016

2016 MLB Predictions

Opening Day is a week away which means it's time for this guy's annual(ly wrong) MLB predictions. My 2014 guesses weren't terrible but 2015 was a whole different beast. I had the Nationals beating the White Sox in the World Series (neither team even made the playoffs) and I had the Cubs and Astros in the basement of their respective divisions (both teams won the wildcard). I only got one AL playoff team correct. Oops.

On the plus side, I got 3 out of 5 NL playoff teams right and nailed the NL ROY award only because it was almost as obvious as picking Mike Trout for the AL MVP in 2014. And I sort of predicted Cole Hamels would be a Ranger.

Regardless, the 2015 season is in the books and it's now time to take a close look at the 2016 teams and make educated guesses about how this upcoming season is going to play out. Play Ball!

(Division winners bolded, wild card teams in italics)

AL East: Rays, Blue Jays, Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles
AL Central: Indians, Tigers, Royals, White Sox, Twins
AL West: Mariners, Astros, Rangers, Angels, Athletics

NL East: Mets, Nationals, Marlins, Braves, Phillies
NL Central: Cubs, Cardinals, Pirates, Reds, Brewers
NL West: Giants, Dbacks, Dodgers, Padres, Rockies

ALWC: Astros over Blue Jays
NLWC: Nationals over Cardinals

ALDS: Rays over Astros, Indians over Mariners
NLDS: Mets over Nationals, Giants over Cubs

ALCS: Rays over Indians
NLCS: Giants over Mets

WORLD SERIES: Giants over Rays*

*It's an even year.

AL MVP: Nelson Cruz, Mariners
NL MVP: Anthony Rizzo, Cubs
AL CYA: Chris Archer, Rays
NL CYA: Max Scherzer, Nationals
AL ROY: Blake Snell, Rays
NL ROY: Corey Seager, Dodgers

A look at the AL East: This division has seemingly been up for grabs every season for several seasons and nothing changes in 2016. My predictions this year are based mostly upon strong starting pitching and the Rays have the best starting pitching in the division. If the Rays offense can score enough runs (always a question) and Matt Moore, Drew Smyly, and eventually Alex Cobb can return to form the Rays are going to be a handful. If the Rays need more offense they can trade a starter and promote Blake Snell near mid-season. Chris Archer may be the 2nd best pitcher in the AL East, behind only David Price, the guy he helped replace in Tampa. The Blue Jays will score plenty of runs like they did last season. That helped push them into the playoffs for the first time since the 90's but they had to acquire an ace at the deadline to help get them there. The ace is now gone and wearing a Red Sox uniform and Toronto shockingly did little to replace him. Still, the American League seems to be as wide open as ever and the Jays offense should make them contenders all season. The Yankees made the playoffs last season but couldn't get out of the wildcard game. Their starting pitching is slowly getting better and deeper but they're still balancing the whole getting younger while rebuilding and contending thing and this year the division may be too strong all around to support a Bronx playoff run. Alex Rodriguez had a shockingly productive 2015 but will he be able to replicate that in a season in which he turns 41? The Yankees likely will hover around the .500 mark most of the season. The Red Sox entered 2015 with question marks in their rotation but a top-billed offense after an offseason of spending big. The new acquisitions flopped and the rotation, lacking a true ace, struggled for much of the first half that buried Boston. This year, they got their ace but the rotation behind him is still questionable. They're expecting bounce back campaigns from their pricey acquisitions from the season before and further development of their young players. If everything breaks right for Red Sox Nation, they could conceivably be a playoff team especially after getting one of the league's best closers. But I'm not sold on them. Too many ifs. Finally, what are the Orioles doing? They seemingly had a window to contend but can't seem to figure out whether they want to contend or rebuild. That puts them in a weird middle ground area where they inexplicably throw money around for middle tier free agents like Yovani Gallardo and Pedro Alvarez while staying away from guys that could really impact the team. Their rotation lacks an arm that would scare a line-up and is full of high risk low reward guys. The O's will be able to score a ton of runs, but unlike the Jays, they don't have a lot of high upside pitching they can put their faith into that will help them scale the division standings.

A look at the AL Central: Welp. I was way off in my AL Central pontifications last season. This year it's no easier to call. Since my theme this year is starting pitching, I believe the Indians will emerge as surprise divisional winners in 2016. The Tribe has a trio of top arms in Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Danny Salazar and those three along with back end guys that are perfectly capable could help drag a lackluster Indians offense to the divisional banner. Meanwhile, the Tigers have improved their rotation from a year ago, when they finished in last place. Justin Verlander is no longer the ace he was (blame Kate Upton), but the addition of Jordan Zimmermann helps lengthen the Tigers rotation and while the Tigers don't have a clear cut #1 they should have steady starting pitching that will help complement a professional line-up. Will it be enough to make the playoffs? Unless Verlander or Zimmermann can recapture their previous ace-level talents, they may come up just a bit short, despite adding one of the better right handed hitting outfielders in Justin Upton (no relation to Kate) and a solid closer in Francisco Rodriguez. Still, the Tigers playoff aspirations may be better than the defending World Series Champions. Kansas City is a scrappy team and they've been in the last two World Series while overcoming the odds. They won their first title since the 80's last season with a bunch of guys that experienced heartbreak the year before in a Game 7 World Series loss. That should tell you the Royals know how to win. However, they are lacking a true ace unless Yordano Ventura can figure it out. Their rotation isn't bad but it's not great. Besides Ventura, they're relying on veteran starters who have had ups and downs in their careers. Will that be enough to reach October? Almost the entire line-up is returning and the bullpen should once again be lights out. The Royals emphasize defense and baserunning and all those things should be elite once again. So another deep playoff run cannot be discounted. But I can't help but think they're due for a step backwards after appearing in back-to-back Fall Classics. The White Sox, my prediction darlings of a year ago, fell flat on their face in 2015 and they haven't done too much to make me think they're any better going into 2016. They also had a weird drama with Adam LaRoche and his kid this offseason that soured the taste of some very respected White Sox players, namely their lights out ace Chris Sale. Adam LaRoche promptly retired and it's safe to say it's not the way the South Siders wanted to start their season. They have talent but it's a hodge podge of guys that couldn't get it done last season and newcomers that provide offense. There was no upgrades made on the pitching side of things and that's something the White Sox needed. They don't appear to have the horses to realistically contend in a tough AL Central. The Twins have begun graduating talent to the majors and actually ended last season in second place and with a winning record. However, a lot of that was due to a relatively weak division. The Twins should face more adversity in 2016. While it should be fun seeing their young prospects continue to develop, their pitching isn't strong enough to make a dent in the standings. Last season, Minnesotans would even admit they were pleasantly surprised with the team's contention. Because of that, this season may be frustrating as the slide back down to the bottom of the standings.

A look at the AL West: The Mariners were contenders until the very end in 2014. That led to them being favorites to make the playoffs in 2015. I predicted them to be in the ALCS. Instead, Seattle finished 10 games under .500 and didn't look all that impressive. Due to this, the team may be overlooked in 2016. After a full regime change in the front office and the dugout, the Mariners look interesting. Their pitching let them down last season but I expect a bounce back year for their rotation, specifically King Felix and Taijuan Walker. They were able to retain Hisashi Iwakuma and they acquired Wade Miley who wasn't great in Boston but was fine as a mid-rotation starter in Arizona. The backend of the bullpen could be a headache but the offense could be much improved. Robinson Cano shouldn't be as bad as he was the first half of last season and the defense may even be better all around. Don't sleep on the M's this season! Contending with them will be the upstart Astros and Rangers. The two Texas teams both grabbed playoff spots last season and both were surprises. They won't sneak up on anyone this season but they both look legitimate. The Astros have an emerging group of young talented players both in the line-up and on their pitching staff that makes them dangerous. If that core group can continue to improve and develop, the Astros can be legitimate World Series contenders. They even added a young up and coming stud closer to a bullpen that may have been their undoing in last season's playoffs. Houston should be good for the next several seasons. The Rangers have ridden a roller coaster from 2010-2015 and who knows what 2016 may bring. They should get back their erstwhile ace Yu Darvish early in the season to pair with the ace they acquired at the deadline last season, Cole Hamels. The offense in Texas is never a problem and if the starting pitching can hold up, the Rangers will be in contention for either the division or wildcard. Beyond those top 3 teams, it's hard to envision the Angels and A's being competitive. The Angels still have the best player in baseball in Mike Trout but his supporting cast is questionable at best. The A's appear to be missing the true talent to contend and could shop their young ace Sonny Gray during the season. Or the A's could surprise everyone and contend like they love to do in years where everyone writes them off. But it doesn't look promising this season. The starting pitching beyond Gray is either young, injury prone, or both. The line-up may score runs or it may not. It's hard to tell. The bullpen appears deep though. The A's are always a hard team to read but it seems more likely that Billy Beane will trade Josh Reddick and Sonny Gray this season and load up on prospects than it is that everything will break right for Oakland to push for a wildcard spot.

A look at the NL East: The Mets were the NL representatives in the World Series last season and that was a surprise. However, when looking at the Mets now, it should be no surprise if they're favored to return. The Mets starting rotation is arguably the best in baseball and has room to get better when Zack Wheeler returns. Their line-up, which was a question mark entering 2015, proved to be productive enough and when Yoenis Cespedes joined the team midseason, their offense took off. Cespedes is back and one can argue the Mets improved their middle infield offense as well by trading for Neil Walker and signing Asdrubal Cabrera. All this points to another great season for the Mets. The only concern will be if all the young starters can stay healthy after a year where they were all pushed to the limit. If they do stay healthy, the Mets should be right there as a World Series favorite. Pushing them will be the Washington Nationals, who always look good on paper but have trouble actually living up to the hype. However, there is a major difference this year for Washington, they swapped out former Giant All-Star Matt Williams as manager and brought in ex-Giants manager Dusty Baker. Dusty has a reputation of getting players with great talent and big egos (cough, Bonds, cough) to play nice and that will be his undertaking with Bryce Harper. Matt Williams may have lost his clubhouse by the end of his tenure but Dusty Baker has always been a players manager. If the Nationals can play up to their talent level, they'll be right with the Mets all season. Their rotation is almost as strong despite the loss of Jordan Zimmermann and their offense should score plenty. The Mets also will detract attention and expectations away from a Nationals team that has consistently underachieved. This may spur Washington to higher highs. They should absolutely be in the divisional race as well as the wildcard. Speaking of wildcards, the Marlins are one. It's hard to gauge how good Miami may or may not be. They have a legit ace in Jose Fernandez, finally back to full health. They have Barry Bonds as a hitting instructor mentoring their own young slugger Giancarlo Stanton. And they have a good amount of talent. However, the rotation behind Fernandez is questionable. Wei-Yin Chen is a solid pitcher but he's not a true #2. And the talent behind Chen is even more questionable. The bullpen also lacks depth. It wouldn't be surprising to see Miami contend for a wildcard but it also wouldn't be shocking to see them finish under .500 for the 7th consecutive season. After Miami, the  NL East gets ugly. The Braves are in a full rebuild and have traded every "name" player of theirs aside from Freddie Freeman and Julio Teheran in the past 2 seasons. The only solace for Atlanta is that they shouldn't be the worst team in baseball. That mantle should belong to the Philadelphia Phillies who are finally embracing a long overdue teardown and starting from scratch. They do have two perspective studs in third baseman Maikel Franco and starter Aaron Nola but aside from that, Phillies fans don't have much to look forward to in 2016.

A look at the NL Central: This division housed 3 of the 5 NL playoff teams last season. And it wasn't really close. The Cardinals, Pirates, and Cubs all had fantastic season while the Reds and Brewers were the division's punching bags. Not much looks to change this season except the order of the finish of the top 3 teams. The Cubs should continue to improve. They crashed the playoff party one season earlier than expected and now they have confidence and experience and a swagger. Of course, the Cubs also added talent this offseason, snagging two guys that helped the Cardinals to 100 wins last season - Jason Heyward and John Lackey. Those defections should cause the balance of power to shift in Chicago's favor this season and give the Cubs their first division title in years. The Cardinals are the Cardinals, meaning you can't write them off. And although they didn't really do anything splashy this offseason, they always find ways to win. Their rotation is still strong even after losing Lackey to the Cubs and Lance Lynn to Tommy John surgery. They have one of the best closers in the game and they have some depth on the bench. They should be right there in the divisional and wildcard races. The Pirates have had much success the past few seasons but a closer look at their offseason shows a team that may be standing pat and waiting for more of their talented prospects to arrive late in 2016 and early 2017. Could it be a rebuilding year in Pittsburgh? Not necessarily. But they didn't put much effort to improving a club that hasn't been able to get past the wildcard round for two consecutive seasons. The rotation after Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano is questionable at best though those 2 pitchers are both very good. The Pirates should be a winning team this season and will be contenders for yet another wildcard but unless they make some improvements midseason, I don't see them being a playoff team this year. The Brewers and Reds are going to be competing for 4th place. It's hard to say which team has an edge there as both teams are clearly rebuilding but still have franchise stars on their squad. Ryan Braun is still a Brewer and Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, and Brandon Phillips are still Reds. Neither team has the talent to actually threaten the top 3 teams in their own division and the fun in the 2016 season for both franchises fans may be who will get traded for prospects and how the young talent already on the roster develops.

A look at the NL West: The Dodgers have won this division three years in a row but a changing of the guard is due. LA let their co-ace Zack Greinke go to a division rival. To the surprise of many, that division rival wasn't San Francisco but Arizona. The move equals the playing field in the West. The Giants had a solid offseason where they came in needing at least one starter and likely two and an outfielder. They got all three. The Giants signing of Johnny Cueto gives them a co-ace to pair with Madison Bumgarner that they hope will give them the edge the Dodgers had with Clayton Kershaw and Greinke. The addition of Jeff Samardzija also gives San Francisco an innings eater who has ace-level stuff but hasn't yet been able to truly harness it consistently. If Samardzija can be anything close to his 2014 version, the Giants will trot out a trio of top end starters to go with a balanced offense and solid defense. Their bullpen has always been consistent and given that it's an even year, it's fair to believe the West will belong to them for the first time since 2012. With the addition of Zack Greinke, the Dbacks announced to baseball that they're in a win-now mode as well and right now, they look to be the 2nd best team in the NL West. They revamped their rotation with Greinke and the trade of Shelby Miller and they have their 2013 ace Patrick Corbin back to being fully healthy. Those top 3 starters should help the Dbacks win plenty of games with an offense that was very good in 2015. Even the Dbacks back end starters have great potential with top prospects waiting in the wings down in the minors as well. Arizona should battle San Francisco for the division and be firmly in the wildcard hunt as well. The Dodgers are doing a weird thing down in LA. They have a massive payroll, the largest in the game. Yet they're also trying to build the best farm system in the league while sacrificing a true "go for it all" mentality. The Dodgers haven't advanced past the first round the past two seasons and Dodgers fans will say that's because the front office didn't make the one big move they needed at the deadline each season to get them there. The Dodgers have opted to create depth instead of going for the home run and it has cost them thus far. This past offseason was no different. The Dodgers let Greinke go and replaced him with Kenta Maeda, an unknown Japanese import with a middling ceiling, and Scott Kazmir. They re-signed a bunch of their second basemen instead of improving a bullpen that could have been improved. All told, the Dodgers don't look to be any better than the team that won 92 games last season. While they have their phenom Corey Seager manning shortstop for the entire season, they've lost Andre Ethier for a couple of months due to injury and already lost starter Brett Anderson for most of the year. The Dodgers depth will be tested immediately and with improved division rivals, it's hard to see them overcoming their losses this season. The Padres are quasi rebuilding but they still can pitch. Their bullpen always seems to perform and Tyson Ross, James Shields, and Andrew Cashner are solid starting pitchers. The Padres problem always seems to be the offense and this season could be a real struggle in that regard for San Diego. Only Matt Kemp seems to be a true threat in the line-up and he can be pitched to. A lot would have to break right just for the Padres to finish above .500, let alone compete for a playoff spot. The Rockies have finally acknowledged it's time to rebuild. It started with the trade of Troy Tulowitzki last season and will likely continue this season with Carlos Gonzalez being traded at some point. The Rockies are the opposite of the Padres. They always hit but pitching is a problem. If MLB could combine these two teams, they'd have something. Alas, it should be another long season in Denver as balls should fly out of Coors Field consistently both for the home team as well as their opponents. The Rockies are not close to contention at this time.

And that's it for my Nostradamus takes on MLB 2016. Games count in a week!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Issuing A SharkCueto Warning: Grading the Giants Offseason

It's not even February but it's safe to say that the Giants have done the majority of their heavy lifting this offseason. They came into the offseason with about 50M to spend on players for the 2016 season and to Giants fans delight, they spent it. After the 2015 season, the Giants had one primary focus: Improve the starting rotation. As a secondary goal, they needed to get more depth in the outfield. Their infield and bullpen were set. So what did they do? They signed two solid starting pitchers and a centerfield / leadoff guy.

Perfect.

The Giants were in the Greinke sweepstakes until the very end. They almost pulled off the upset by luring Greinke away from Los Angeles until those pesky, new-money Dbacks came charging in and surprised both LA and SF to sign Greinke at the last second. Regardless, Zack Greinke is no longer a Dodger and that is a win for the Giants. The ink on Greinke's contract had barely dried when the Giants immediately went to their fallback option and signed Jeff Samardzija to a 5yr/90M. Jeff Samardzija is no Zack Greinke. But he's also no Mike Leake. He's sort of a nice combination of the two to be honest. He has some major ace like talent in that arm of his, something Greinke has but Leake does not. But he hasn't really been able to consistently harness that talent, making him an overall relatively average starting pitcher, making him more like Leake than Greinke in regards to results. The Giants signed Samardzija hoping he could start consistently being a solid above average starting pitcher. They took this same gamble on another guy with a big fastball about 15 years ago when they traded for some guy named Jason Schmidt. All he did for the Giants was go 78-37 with a 3.36 ERA and finish in the top 5 for the Cy Young twice. The Giants would be stoked if they could turn Jeff Samardzija into that kind of success story. He DOES have that talent. But if you asked the Giants to be honest, they'd be happy to just get 200 effective innings out of him each season for the life of the contract. When Samardzija was signed, he wasn't quite the #2 the Giants and their fans wanted to pair with Bumgarner but at least if you squinted your eyes hard enough, fans could talk themselves into Samardzija being a #2. He did have a 2.99 ERA in 2014, not exactly the distant past.

But the Samardzija signing itself wasn't enough to allay fear about the rotation. Peavy and Cain are wildcards and Heston was great in the first half of 2015 and not very good in the 2nd half. The Giants needed more. Who was that 2nd pitcher going to be? Was it going to be Mike Leake? Wei-Yin Chen? With David Price in Boston and Greinke in Arizona and Jordan Zimmermann in Detroit, there didn't seem to be any other top starters out there to pair with Bumgarner. There were murmurs the Giants were interested in trading for Jose Fernandez or Danny Salazar or Carlos Carrasco but the asking price for those guys was sky high. Combine that with the fact that the Giants farm system never gets love and that their better prospects were at the lower levels and it looked like the Giants were going to have to settle for another middle tier starter as opposed to someone elite.

And then Johnny Cueto happened. Johnny Cueto, the former Reds ace, doesn't look the part of an SF Giants pitcher at all. The Giants love athleticism. They love guys that can do all the little things. It's why Mike Leake was so alluring. He could pitch decently, field his position like a Gold Glover, and could hit like Bumgarner. Cueto is somewhat of an enigma. He dominated with the Reds. But after he got traded to the Royals, he was relatively mediocre. His postseason was also up and down. And he's a big man. He's like Pablo Sandoval, except as a pitcher. He also had some question marks in regards to his health - mainly his arm. These are all red flags and they add up to a player that the Giants usually pass on. Except this time they didn't. They shelled out big money (and big risk) to sign the best remaining pitcher on the market. And he is indeed the Big Fish they wanted - he is a legitimate ace that they can pair with Bumgarner. It is entirely conceivable that Cueto will have his best years wearing a Giants uniform. That's saying something because this is a guy that had 4 consecutive seasons with an ERA below 3 in a hitter friendly park. But Cueto will only be 30 by the time Spring Training begins and he's moving to one of the pitcher friendliest ballparks there is. And he's going to a contender and will be supported by an offense that can score plenty of runs. The Giants looked around, saw this guy was available, and rolled the dice. They should be commended for doing so. When the offseason began, I thought Cueto was the least likely free agent to sign with SF. And now he's a Giant. Go figure.

Of course, it also comes with the risk of completely backfiring. Cueto could go down with an injury at any moment and the Giants would be on the hook for several years. But that can be said of any pitcher. Cueto has the shiny credentials the Giants want (including a World Series ring) and are betting big he'll stay healthy and productive. It also has the added benefit of pushing Samardzija down the depth chart to a #3 starter. All of a sudden, the Giants have a sturdy rotation with two aces, a guy with ace-like talent in Samardzija, and two former aces in Peavy an Cain. There's a whole lot of potential in the Giants rotation. There's also a chance they all underperform but it's hard to find a rotation in baseball that has as high a ceiling as San Francisco's current 5.

So the Giants fixed their biggest issue coming into the offseason. And then they added a cherry on top by signing Denard Span to a team friendly 3-year deal. Span for his career has mostly been a spectacular defender in centerfield and a bonafide leadoff hitter. He came to the Giants on a decent deal because he dealt with injuries this past season. After declining their option on Nori Aoki, the Giants needed someone that could bat leadoff in case Pagan stared being all Pagan-ish in 2016. They now have that guy. And given that Pagan will almost assuredly not be a Giant past the 2016 season, the Giants also got their new centerfielder for the next few seasons. Given the lack of decent centerfield options available in the near future, Span looks to be a great get. But as the theme of this offseason goes - it all comes down to health. If Span stays healthy, he is the dynamic leadoff hitter and centerfield defender the Giants needed. It also helps he can steal bases effectively. The Giants basically took Aoki, gave him defensive superpowers and a better eye at the plate. That's Denard Span.

Going into Spring Training, it's hard to see a visible weakness on the Giants. Their infield was already one of the best in baseball and they rewarded their key infielder with a monster extension before they even signed a free agent. Signing Brandon Crawford to a huge extension helped assure pitchers that their Gold Glove shortstop would be gobbling up ground balls for the next several seasons. They needed some outfield depth and they got it by signing Span. And they needed a lot of help in the rotation and they procured two solid starting pitchers. If the Giants can stay healthy (always a big if), they should be contending for the NL West title. It's hard for a Giants fan to ask for a better offseason than the one that was given to us by Baer, Sabean, and Evans.

Beware, NL West clubs. A #SharkCueto warning has been issued.

Offseason Grade: A


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Hot Stove: What Will the Giants Do?

Remember last offseason? The season where the Giants were coming off a rousing World Series championship in the best fashion - 7 games? Their clutch third baseman was going to be a free agent. So, too, were 2/5's of their starting pitchers. And there was our former set-up turned closer turned set-up reliever that was also a goner. And alas, that goofy OF/1B who hit a huge PH home run in the NLCS to set up that other 1B/OF who hit a walkoff to propel the team to the World Series? He was going to be a free agent as well. In other words, a lot of money was about to come off the books for those World Champion Giants. Fans and media alike thought...

"Watch out for San Francisco. They just won the World Series. They have a lot of money and players coming off the books. And they've sold out, like, a trillion games at AT&T Park."

So what happened?

The Giants miraculously were outbid for Sandoval's services by Boston. Jon Lester picked Chicago over SF in a Bachelor episode or something and wound up pitching for the Cubs as well. Mike Morse wanted more than a one year contract that the Giants weren't willing to give him. And the Giants surveyed the market and thought...

"Well gee. There's not too much out here we like. But next year there's a lot we may like. So we'll just sign a couple guys we know and like and then we'll figure this thing out later. Maybe we'll win some games too."

And so that is what they did. They re-signed Jake Peavy, they re-signed Ryan Vogelsong, they re-signed Sergio Romo. And since they needed SOMEBODY to play third base, they traded for Casey McGehee. They also realized late in the game they might need someone to replace Morse's spot in left field and they didn't envision that person to be Gregor Blanco or Travis Ishikawa so they signed Nori Aoki.  And that was it. No splashy signings. No big free agents. Just a bunch of guys that helped them win the big enchilada just months previous and a couple newbies that combined to make 8M dollars.

It can be debated on whether or not it was a good strategy. The Giants got ravaged with injuries but they did manage to hang around the divisional and wild card races into September. Had they stayed healthy maybe the 2014-2015 offseason plan would have worked. Unfortunately, the Giants WERE ravaged by injuries and that exposed a lack of depth that they were unable to overcome given the strengths of the teams they were chasing.

Now it's the 2015-2016 offseason. And because of their lack of long term spend during last year's offseason, they now have nearly doubled their nest egg for a free agent class that has depth in the areas the Giants need it most: starting pitching and the outfield.

So what will the Giants do with their approximate 50M cheddar? It's hard to say. It's almost impossible to think they'd pull another 2014-2015 type of offseason. First of all, Jeremy Affeldt and Tim Hudson retired, so they can't even re-sign those guys if they wanted to (thanks for retiring guys and thanks for the memories).  Tim Lincecum is too broken to actually be given a large, ridiculous contract, hence saving the Giants from themselves. He may come back on an incentive laden deal but at least he won't be coming back for 2yrs/35M. I mean, in theory, the Giants COULD re-sign Mike Leake and Ryan Vogelsong and that would precisely mirror the re-signing of Peavy and Vogelsong last offseason but it's much more likely the Giants finally will wave goodbye to Vogey for good this offseason. It is expected however the Giants will try hard to retain Leake. I'm not really sure that's the best way to spend 80-90M (I think Leake will wind up with at minimum a 5yr/85M deal). Many experts are pointing to Leake's youth and decent stats pitching in a hitter's park for his career as signs he would be a good long term investment but to me, he is the definition of a #3 or #4 starter. He eats innings, he pitches to contact, he doesn't strikeout guys, and when he doesn't have his location, he gets rocked. Is that what I want my team to spend 15-18M per year? Nope, not really.

So what do the Giants do? They HAVE to sign at least one starter and in an ideal world two. Peavy will be a free agent after 2016 and Matt Cain looked mostly awful upon his return from an injury riddled 2014 and 2015. The Giants do have intriguing starting pitching prospects coming up the pike but no one that looks to stand out as that co-ace they want to pair with Madison Bumgarner. This free agent market has plenty of starting pitching talent to it. Could the Giants realistically go for the very top tier? The David Price's or the Zack Greinke's? Sure, they could. But would they? Price is going to get over 200M and the Giants just do not do that for pitchers (or for anyone, really). If they wanted to go to that level, they would have been in the Max Scherzer auction last offseason but they weren't. Greinke likely won't get 200M but he'll get somewhere between 150-175M most likely. Would the Giants do THAT? Possibly, only because they seem to love everything Greinke brings to the table as well as what it'd mean to steal from LA. But my brain says that there's no way the Dodgers let him go to San Francisco. Beyond Greinke and Price, there's plenty of good pitchers left on the market. Jordan Zimmermann has been on my radar a long time but his 2015 was a step down from what he usually produces. Would that scare the Giants off? I have no idea what the Giants are planning. Would they get two mid-level starters and feel okay with that? Or one high priced starter and one flier guy that would only require a 1-3 year commitment?

Then there's the outfield. The Giants, somewhat surprisingly, shook up their outfield by declining Aoki's option. I mean, I get it. He wasn't the best fielder and all he brings to the table is base hits and some speed. Maybe they thought he was redundant with Blanco. Or maybe they're aiming higher. The Giants have ZERO outfield depth in their system. Their best outfield prospects are Jarrett Parker and Mac Williamson. Those guys are knocking on the door but they hardly seem to be stars in waiting. And Pagan's on his last legs (pun intended). Could the Giants shake up their outfield outlook this offseason? Could you imagine Jason Heyward patrolling left field with Pence in right? What a defensive corner outfield. Of course, Heyward won't happen because he too is rumored to get 200M this offseason and I'm not sure his tools are worth that and I doubt the Giants would spend to find out. But there are many other intriguing options out there both in free agency and the trade market. With little in the way of outfield prospects coming up, the Giants could use some of their ducats to try to get younger and more athletic in left and center.

At the end of the day, I have absolutely no idea what the Giants are going to do this offseason. All I know is they have about 50M to spend and that after the lackluster 2014-2015 offseason and the pressure of missing the playoffs after a successful World Series run the year previous, the Giants will likely spend that chestnut this offseason. In what way is going to be the most fun storyline for Giants fans this winter.