Welcome(?) to the Offseason

 

by Dr Lefty

Don’t get me wrong–I wanted the World Series to end when, where, and how it did, even if that meant two fewer baseball games in 2018. But it hit me, starting this post, that this is the first time in over eight months I’ve sat down to write without an actual baseball game to talk about. That makes me sad.

 

 

It’s been an eventful week for baseball news even though there hasn’t been an actual game since last Sunday. The Boston Red Sox had their parade on Halloween, and an overlubricated fan broke their World Series trophy with a beer can. Also on Halloween, the Giants family and all of baseball lost the beloved Hall of Famer Willie McCovey at the age of 80. Greek Giant already wrote a great tribute to #44, so I won’t try to add to it. If you haven’t seen them, I also recommend the tribute written by Andrew Baggarly for The Athletic and the one written for the Bay Area News Group by Dan Brown (go Ags!).

There was also news about free agent options being declined or picked up and about qualifying offers being tendered. The biggest development so far was that Clayton Kershaw extended his deal with the Dodgers rather than opting out of his contract and testing free agency. While that’s not a huge surprise for a number of reasons, it was a bit of a shock that Kershaw would forego free agency for just one additional guaranteed year. Andy McCullough’s column about the deal for the LA Times provided some context.

More curious is Kershaw, a few months shy of turning 31, declining to enter the open market. The decision points to his loyalty to the organization, and his confidence in their capability to contend on a yearly basis…Yet Kershaw has also emerged as a vocal member of the players union, criticizing opposing teams for tanking and championing the right of players to be paid fair value. This new deal with the Dodgers is what Kershaw has determined as his own value — a contract that rewards him for past achievement, places an elevated price on his present ability and concedes the risk of a lengthy commitment to his left arm.

 

“I would never want to sign anything I couldn’t live up to,” Kershaw said during a conference call on Friday.

While this deal probably says more about who Kershaw is and his relationship with the Dodgers, it perhaps raises some questions about where the free agent market is for starting pitchers, and it will be interesting to see what kinds of contracts the biggest names, Patrick Corbin and Dallas Keuchel, ultimately receive. It also, some of us quickly observed, sets a possible blueprint for what a Giants extension for Madison Bumgarner might look like.

 

Qualifying offers

Yesterday was the deadline for teams to give their free agents qualifying offers, if eligible to receive them. The two exceptions are (1) if the player was traded during the season and (2) if the player has previously received a qualifying offer. The QO amount went up to $17.9 million, which is quite a chunk of change. Only seven players were given QOs this year, and interestingly, four of those came from just two teams, the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks: Bryce Harper (Nationals), Patrick Corbin (Diamondbacks), A.J. Pollock (Diamondbacks), Dallas Keuchel (Astros), Craig Kimbrel (Red Sox), Yasmani Grandal (Dodgers), and Hyun-jin Ryu (Dodgers). Notable non-QO players were D.J. LeMahieu (Rockies), Marwin Gonzalez (Astros), and Charlie Morton (Astros). With the possible exception of Ryu, I see all of those guys turning down the QO. Those are big names, and Grandal, despite his postseason faceplant, had a good year and is in a thin market for free-agent catchers.

The rules about signing free agents who received a QO changed with the latest (2016) collective bargaining agreement, so let’s review what they mean for the Giants. If they sign one of the above guys, the Giants, as a team that does not receive revenue-sharing, would lose their second- and fifth-round draft picks in 2019 and $1 million from their international bonus pool. Because of that hit, Henry Schulman speculates that the Giants will not sign any free agent with a QO. I’m not so sure. They definitely will pursue (but probably not land) Harper, and I could see them making a serious run at Corbin or Keuchel–among other considerations, that gives them cover if they trade Bumgarner or lose him to free agency.

 

Other Giants news

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for the Giants with losing not only McCovey but also beloved former broadcaster Hank Greenwald. They also appear to be stalled in their pursuit of new executives to run their front office.

 

 

While Schulman’s piece linked here suggests that this is not a big deal, Ken Rosenthal’s article for The Athletic a couple days ago took a dimmer view–he hears that the Giants are aiming high (think Dombrowski, Epstein, or Friedman), but there’s no one available who’s in that elite tier. However, the names that have surfaced as possible candidates, such as Chaim Bloom of the Rays, Farhan Zaidi of the Dodgers, and Kim Ng of MLB, are all intriguing ones with upside.

In lesser news, the Giants tidied up their 40-man roster by returning players from the 60-day DL (Posey, Cueto, etc.) and DFA’ing Pierce Johnson, who cleared waivers and is now a minor league free agent. That leaves them with 35 players on their 40-man roster. The next deadlines coming up are offering arbitration to eligible players and adding minor leaguers to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 draft. Both of those come up at the end of November. This article has a handy calendar of all of the upcoming announcements (awards), meetings, and contract deadlines. I noticed in this article that CBS Sports predicts that two former Giants–Zack Wheeler and Matt Duffy–have a good chance to win their respective league’s 2018 Comeback Player of the Year Award. (Dang, Pablo was supposed to win that! Oh, well, Buster will win it again next year.)

 

Deeper thoughts

Election Day is Tuesday, and regardless of your red or blue leanings, I hope that you will vote and encourage all your family and friends to do so. This is a very fraught and difficult moment for our country, filled with bitter divisions and horrific acts of violence and terror. Thanks to Footy and watchingsince62, I chose the “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” soundtrack for my morning walk today, and our neighbors got treated(?) to me belting out the alto harmony line to “Keep On the Sunny Side,” a song from the dark days of the Depression in the 1930s. I’ll leave us with that for now. Lefty out.