by DrLefty

I went to bed early last night and missed the Matt Chapman breaking news. I woke up to texts from BrotherLefty and SisterLefty and have spent the last couple of hours catching up, including listening to the Giants Talk emergency podcast recorded late last evening and reading the coverage in The Athletic, the Chronicle, and NBCS-Bay Area. First, the basics: Chapman reportedly has agreed to a three-year deal worth $54 million, with opt-outs after each of the first two years. Here are some observations about this deal:

  1. It is way, way, way less than Chapman was expected to receive at the beginning of the offseason. Initial projections ranged from 4-6 years and from $100-$150 mil. ($24-25 average annual value). His AAV in this deal ($18 mil) is less than the qualifying offer he turned down from Toronto and far less than the reported extension offers he’s turned down in the past from the A’s and the Blue Jays.
  2. Chapman is a good player, and he can help them in several important ways. We’ve all known for months that new manager Bob Melvin, who was with the A’s when Chapman came up and had his best years, really wanted Chapman for the Giants. There hasn’t been much enthusiasm for him in the fanbase or here on TWG, though. But for perspective, even in a down year at the plate last season, Chapman was over league average (OPS+ 108) and had a bWAR of 4.4. The highest bWAR among Giants’ position players in 2023 was Wilmer Flores at 2.6. Chapman is an upgrade on anything the Giants had last year. Most notably, he’s won four Gold Gloves, including one last year, and two Platinum Gloves. He’s hit over 20 homers in four of his six full seasons, and after his rookie year, he’s played in 140-156 games every year (not counting 2020). Chapman can help them at the plate, but he’s here for his defense, and with a pitching staff that’s ground-ball-focused, he will help a lot.
  3. This is a good deal for the Giants. I don’t love the opt-outs, but I do love the fact that it’s three years, max. When you’re signing a guy whose primary value is his defense and he’s past his 30th birthday (Chapman will turn 31 at the end of April), the idea of a 5-6 year contract is a lot less appealing. With this one, even if Chapman’s offense turns out to be declining and he stays all three years, it’s not a budget-buster, and he’s likely to still have value with the glove. Zaidi waited out Scott Boras and made a good deal. Well done.
  4. This development probably makes J.D. Davis redundant and likely to be traded. He says no one from the front office contacted him about it before the news broke. Of course, the big irony is that Davis and Chapman were college teammates at Cal State Fullerton. And no, Chapman is not “the same as J.D. Davis.” Davis had a 0.9 bWAR last year, even though he and Chapman were similar offensively. (Davis had a 103 OPS+ and 18 homers to Chapman’s 17.)
  5. This is not great news for Casey Schmitt, who probably was ticketed for AAA anyway. Chapman is going to be the everyday third baseman, Schmitt’s best position. The shortstop competition, which I’ll get to in a minute, is crowded and now includes Nick Ahmed along with Marco Luciano and Tyler Fitzgerald.

Other implications:

  • Chapman’s deal brings the Giants close to the first competitive balance tax line. Does that mean they’re no longer pursuing a starting pitcher? The beat writers say no, the Giants are still very much in on the negotiations for NL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell. But as Alex Pavlovic pointed out on Giants Talk, now that super-agent Boras has blinked on deals for Cody Bellinger and Chapman (shorter deals for less money with opt-outs), will other teams get back into the bidding for Snell and Jordan Montgomery, hoping to snare a bargain? I’m happy that the Giants got Chapman, but they really do need another starter, especially with the news that Tristan Beck is having surgery at Stanford on Monday for the aneurysm in his pitching arm. It would seem a shame to have gone to this much effort and expense to build the team and stop one starter short.
  • Related: Who will get the starting shortstop job? Lost in the shuffle this week with all the hullabaloo about Brandon Crawford signing with the Cardinals is that the Giants have quietly made it known that no, SS is not being handed to Luciano. On the contrary, they’ve declared that it’s an open competition among Luciano, Schmitt, Fitzgerald, and the newly arrived Ahmed. In fact, Ahmed said that in one of Andrew Baggarly’s articles yesterday that though the Cardinals had also reached out to him, he “preferred the opportunity to join the Giants as a non-roster invitee after manager Bob Melvin and president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi told him ‘nothing was set in stone’ at shortstop.” Ahmed got off to a great start in his first Cactus League game with the Giants yesterday–and the Giants’ first win!–by playing a smooth SS and hitting a three-run homer. If Ahmed is playing well defensively–he had shoulder surgery in May 2022 but says he’s fully healthy now–it’s not hard to dream on all of a sudden having a stellar left side of the infield.

If, if, IF Zaidi lands a good starting pitcher via free agency or trade, I’ll be happy to eat my words and give him full credit for salvaging a very good offseason. The additions–Jung Hoo Lee (who’s off to a nice start at the plate in the Cactus League), Jorge Soler, Chapman, Tom Murphy, Jordan Hicks, and Robbie Ray–all have the potential on paper to be very good acquisitions. And yes, we squinted and tried to say that last year about the various additions, but this year’s crop, which include a World Series MVP, Gold Glovers (if you count Ahmed, who’s won two along with Chapman’s four), and a Cy Young winner (Ray in 2021), are in a different tier than “Ross Stripling coming off a decent year with Toronto” (and so forth). Speaking of Stripling, Zaidi deserves credit, as I’ve written previously, for the subtractions, as well. Offloading albatross deals with Mitch Haniger, Anthony DeSclafani, and Stripling opened up budget space to add Soler, Chapman, and hopefully a (better) starting pitcher.

 

Brandon Crawford: How to Ruin a Legacy in One Ill-Considered Interview

I am especially grateful to Zaidi that this Chapman news broke last night so that I didn’t have to spend this whole column talking about Crawford’s interview with Baggarly. Crawford also, perhaps taken aback by how Baggarly’s interview turned out and the reactions to it, made some follow-up comments to Susan Slusser of the Chronicle. From Slusser’s article:

“The Giants roots go back pretty deep for me, and that was the point I was trying to get across and maybe said a little too much. … I’ve had a pretty level head my whole career. I don’t make comments like this just kind of out of nowhere. So take that for what it’s worth.”

So having carefully read both articles and heard a LOT of reactions in the comments, on Twitter, and on the radio (including from Will Clark), here are my thoughts in a lot briefer form than I might have shared were it not for the Chapman news:

  1. On a human level, I understand why Crawford is sad and disappointed about how things turned out with the Giants. Among other things, he has to leave his family to go spend spring training in Florida and play further from home in a strange city.
  2. At the same time, I think he’s kidding himself about his prospective value to the Giants. Not only did he hit under .200 last year, but he also played poorly defensively. Did you know that Crawford had -20 Defensive Runs Saved in 2022-23 (and -14 in 2023 alone)? (Nick Ahmed was +1 DRS in 2023, in case you were wondering.) Crawford seemed to have talked himself into a vision of him being a utility guy and mentor to the younger players, especially Luciano, but he’d still have been taking up space on the roster.
  3. Grant Brisbee’s article a few days ago (after the news that Crawford signed with the Cardinals) explained that it would have been too awkward to bring Crawford back since the team wanted to move ahead with younger players. If it didn’t work out well, you’re either DFA’ing a franchise icon or blocking a younger player who could do a better job. Best just not to go there. What Grant argued is quite consistent with what Crawford said Zaidi told him when they met in November.
  4. In his comments to Slusser, Crawford also said “I don’t think it’s any coincidence they signed Ahmed the next day.” Well–it’s kinda apples and oranges. Ahmed agreed to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training, no guarantees. Before Crawford accepted the Cardinals’ offer (major league contract, $2 mil), he had his agent try Zaidi one last time and was basically offered the same deal the Giants gave Ahmed (come to camp and compete for a job). Further, Ahmed has no history with the Giants or the fanbase. If he doesn’t make the team out of camp, or if he does but is later DFA’d, there will be no outcry or recriminations.
  5. I think Crawford went way too far in implying to Baggarly that Zaidi had something personal against him. It was a business decision, a baseball decision. Zaidi’s made other tough ones in letting Madison Bumgarner walk after 2019, Brandon Belt and Evan Longoria after 2022, and DFA’ing Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval.
  6. We can’t predict the future. We thought Crawford was washed up after 2019, and then he had an MVP-caliber season in 2021. Maybe he’ll have a great year for the Cardinals and all of the Giants’ SS options will flounder. But as of today, it seems like Zaidi made the right decision–as a baseball decision, not a “nostalgia” decision.
  7. I am the furthest thing from a Zaidi apologist. The furthest thing. But I think Crawford having a tantrum to Baggarly and throwing Zaidi personally under the bus was a d*** move, and I think less of him for doing it.
  8. Going back to point #1: If Crawford wanted to be a “forever Giant” and stay home with his family, all he had to do was retire. He’s 37 years old and just came off the worst season of his career, which also included four different trips to the injured list. He’s made all the money he’ll ever need and he and his wife just had a new baby. If he’s unhappy about where life has taken him, he just needs to look in the mirror to see whom to blame.

On KNBR yesterday, co-host John Lund said something like “Well, maybe if he’s playing well and the Giants need someone, they can get him back in a trade at the deadline.” His co-host Greg Papa laughed and said, “No, Crawford’s burned the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge, the San Mateo Bridge, the Richmond Bridge…” Imagine that it’s a year from now and Crawford is (finally) retired and living just down the road from Scottsdale Stadium. Will he get invited to visit camp and hang out like other beloved former Giants? It seems like as long as Zaidi is in charge, Crawford may not be welcome around the Giants, and that’s sad–and if it’s true, that’s his own fault.

 

Hey! We Won a Cactus League Game!

The Giants until yesterday were the only MLB team that had not won a spring training game–they were 0-4-2. But the bats broke out yesterday, and they won 11-5. Besides the previously mentioned homer by Ahmed, Luis Matos hit two homers and now has three. In the same Athletic article where Baggarly talked about Ahmed’s debut, he discussed how Matos had sacrificed an opportunity to play winter ball at home in Venezuela so that he could focus on the Giants’ request that he get stronger. He’s put on solid muscle and is now using a heavier bat. So far, so good.

The Giants have actually hit pretty well this week (except, of course, in the game Logan “Cain” Webb started), but their pitching has been shaky and has put the team into early holes. After the news about Beck’s injury, Melvin was asked if the Giants needed more pitching, and he snorted and responded “You think?” Yeah, BoMel. We’re right there with you.

 

Today’s Game

Padres at Giants, 12:05 p.m. at Scottsdale Stadium, Radio: KNBR

Michael King vs. Mason Black

If the Giants don’t obtain any new starters, Black could be next in line to take Beck’s spot in the rotation. King was one of the pieces who came over from the Yankees in the Juan Soto trade. This is Melvin’s first game against his most recent team, though it’s kind of been old home week for him. The Giants have played Seattle, Oakland, and Arizona this week–all teams Melvin has managed–not to mention two games vs. the Giants’ former manager, Bruce Bochy.

Well, after months of having to manufacture something out of nothing for Out of Left Field every weekend, I finally had more than enough to write about. The next OOLF will come to you from Scottsdale!  Lefty out.