I’ve been doing this Out of Left Field gig long enough now that I’m familiar with this part of the offseason. It’s dreary. The World Series just ended a few weeks ago, so the new baseball season is still months away. All of the post-World Series activity has come and gone, and we’re still more than two weeks away from the Winter Meetings. Even though anything could happen, it seems that nothing will. Front office personnel, agents, and players want to spend Thanksgiving with their families rather than executing trades or new free agent contracts. Imagine that!
So today I’ll just recap the various activities that happened this past week and react to a few rumors because what else do we have, really?
The Giants announced that they’d finalized their coaching staff under new manager Bob Melvin. Greek Giant covered this in depth a few days ago. I’ll just add that I like the mix of old and new, veteran and young, on this staff. It sits with me a lot better than when Gabe Kapler put together his strange-looking staff in 2019-20–though to be fair, as I said last week, that coaching staff did some nice things like revitalizing the offense in 2020-21 and earning some pitchers a lot of money in their post-Giants phase (and Logan Webb in his with-Giants phase!).
The Giants also added three minor league pitchers to their 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft: Trevor McDonald, Erik Miller, and Kai-Wei Teng. Teng and Miller, both acquired in trades, spent the 2023 season in AA/AAA. Miller in particular had a very good year, and given the Giants’ dearth of lefty reliever prospects with the departures of Scott Alexander and Alex Wood, seemed the most obvious player of any to be added to the 40-man roster. Teng, in my opinion, was less obvious, but he follows the path recently taken by Sean Hjelle, Keaton Winn, and Tristan Beck–pitchers who hadn’t blown the doors off in their minor league careers but were serviceable starting pitchers at the AAA level–and that’s a valuable commodity even if they’re not the next Spencer Strider or Zac Gallen–or Logan Webb. McDonald, an 11th-rounder in the 2019 draft, was the biggest surprise because he hasn’t pitched above High-A Eugene, but again, there’s precedent for that in the Zaidi regime, most notably the addition of Camilo Doval to the 40-man roster after the 2020 season.
It was also a bit surprising who wasn’t selected, specifically top prospects like outfielder Grant McCray (#7) and shortstop Aeverson Arteaga (#12). McCray, the Giants’ third-round pick in 2019, was a high school draftee who is about to turn 23, but he hasn’t played above High A yet. Despite decent overall stats in Eugene that included 52(!) stolen bases, he struck out over 33% of the time. He’s also considered an elite defensive outfielder with the speed to stay in center. All of this–youth, speed, athleticism–sounds like exactly what the Giants have been lacking. This time last year, the Giants didn’t want to take a chance on losing Luis Matos, who’d had an even less impressive year in Eugene, and they protected him from the Rule 5 Draft. With McCray, they’re rolling the dice that no one will carry a High-A outfielder on the major league roster for a whole season, so either no one will take him, or the Giants will get him back if they do. Arteaga is a glove-first shortstop, who was an international signee in 2019 and is still just 20 years old. Of the two, it seems less likely that anyone would take Arteaga in the R5 Draft, but we’ll see in a couple of weeks.
Yesterday was the deadline for offering contracts or arbitration to eligible players. We knew that the Giants were going to tender all six of their arb-eligible players, and they announced that they’d agreed on one-year contracts with Mike Yastrzemski ($7.9 mil) and Austin Slater ($4 mil.). As for the other four (J.D. Davis, Thairo Estrada, Tyler Rogers, and LaMonte Wade Jr.), the Giants can keep negotiating with them or exchange arbitration numbers in January. As I noted last week, Estrada and Rogers seem like candidates for multi-year contracts at this point. The Giants also announced that they non-tendered three minor league pitchers: Jose Cruz, Thomas Szapucki, and Cole Waites. Cruz is the one guy added to the 40-man roster last year who did not thrive, struggling and stalling in AA (the other four, Beck, Winn, Marco Luciano, and Matos, all made their major league debuts in 2023). Szapucki and Waites are both recovering from major surgeries. I didn’t know “non-tendering” minor leaguers was a thing, but I guess it means that they immediately become free agents rather than going through waivers. It was speculated that the Giants may already have agreements to re-sign them on minor league deals.
So with adding the three young pitchers and non-tendering three others, the Giants’ 40-man roster stands at 36. I’d love to say this gives them space to sign premium free agents, but I think it’s more likely that Zaidi wanted flexibility to go shopping among other teams’ non-tenders. Here is the full list of players non-tendered across MLB, which you’ll notice includes #ForeverGiants such as Sam Coonrod, Mike Ford, Trevor Gott, Derek Law, and Chadwick Tromp. Here is a list of the “ten most intriguing non-tendered players,” headed by two-time All-Star and co-ace Brandon Woodruff, who was cut loose from the Brewers since he will not pitch in 2024. YMMV, but Zaidi has signed a couple of guys in similar situations–specifically relievers John Brebbia and Luke Jackson–to multi-year deals. The Brewers also non-tendered Rowdy Tellez, who hit 35 homers as recently as 2022. Nick Senzel, a former top prospect non-tendered by the Reds, is the kind of versatile player (can play all over the field, hits lefties well) that Zaidi loves.
So that’s where we are–all the decisions made about the coaching staff, the options, the arbitration-eligible players, and protecting prospects from the Rule 5 Draft. There’s space on the payroll and on the 40-man roster. Now we just need something to, well, Happen.
Rumors and Reactions
Because nothing is actually happening, there are all kinds of storylines, some of dubious origin, about who’s “in on” certain players, whether it be free agents like Shohei Ohtani, Blake Snell, Cody Bellinger, or Yoshinobu Yamamoto, or possible trade targets such as Juan Soto, Corbin Burnes, or Mike Trout(!). Here are a few Giants’-specific talk tracks plus one that we’ll just decide cannot be happening, because…well, you’ll see.
- The Giants are going to sign Matt Chapman. This is a rumor that appears to have strong legs, though I’m not sure why other than that he started out his career playing under Melvin on the A’s and that Matt Williams, also a former 3B, really likes him. I have mixed feelings about this. Chapman is going to be expensive–MLB Trade Rumors projects him at six years/$150 mil. While he would clearly be an upgrade to the Giants’ current third-base options, which include Davis, Wilmer Flores, and Casey Schmitt, is he that big of an upgrade, and don’t the Giants have bigger needs elsewhere? The Matt Chapman rumor feels a lot like getting Evan Longoria in a December 2018 trade–a good Giant, still had productive years ahead, but his prime years were already behind him. I hope I’m wrong about that because this is a rumor that I think could actually happen.
- The Giants are going to trade for Mike Trout. Grant Brisbee wrote an article this week urging the Giants to do exactly this, but he wasn’t the first person to voice the idea–it goes back at least as far as the 2023 trade deadline. I’m not sure I bought Brisbee’s arguments for why the Giants should do whatever it takes to get Trout in a trade; I understand that he’s a generational talent, but he’s really broken down over the last couple of years, and 2030 (the end of his contract) is a looooong way off. (Cue Surf Maui saying that he might not live until the end of that contract, but I still think SM is going to bury us all.) The biggest issue is Trout’s no-trade clause. Does anyone remember when the Marlins were ready to ship Giancarlo Stanton to the Giants for a package that included, and I’m not making this up, Mac Williamson and Tyler Beede? Yeah, that actually happened in 2017, but Big G said “No, thank you” and strong-armed his way to the Yankees, instead. Bear in mind that Stanton was the reigning NL MVP at the time. Anyway, setting aside that the Yankees would absolutely undo that decision right now if they could, why on earth would Trout waive his no-trade clause to come to the Giants? Let’s move on.
- The Giants are going to throw money at Cody Bellinger or Jung Hoo Lee. Both of these elite centerfielders are Scott Boras clients, meaning that maybe the Giants could buy one of them if they offer the most money (see Zito, Barry, and Correa, Carlos). The Giants need a premium centerfielder, and it’s feasible that they could sign one of these two. This one makes sense.
- The Dodgers are going to sign Ohtani AND trade for Trout. No package of prospects is off the table for Trout. This rumor surfaced on Twitter last night and got a lot of attention. I have a hard time believing this is true for several good reasons: (1) The Angels’ owner would trade Trout to Japan before he’d trade him to the Dodgers; (2) The Dodgers are already loaded up with sluggers–especially if they do sign Ohtani–and what they need desperately is pitching (and won’t get that from Ohtani until 2025 at the earliest). If the Dodgers are going big with spending this winter, I’d guess it would be for the high-end pitchers such as Yamamoto or Blake Snell or Aaron Nola, not for a declining outfielder in his 30s (and yeah, I get he’s not just “any” outfielder).
There are other Giants’ rumors about pitchers to whom they’re talking, including Yamamoto and Snell, the newly crowned NL Cy Young Award winner. But since every team seems to be rumored to be “in on” those pitchers and a few more (Nola, Jordan Montgomery), I’m not all that interested in those discussions. Suffice it to say that the Giants need at least one top-tier starting pitcher and that they will be talking to/about a lot of pitchers (including perhaps Burnes or maybe the Rays’ Tyler Glasnow).
That’s all I’ve got for you–a bit of recap and a few rumors. As I said, it’s a slow time of year for baseball news. Oh, well. At least “The Crown” dropped the first half of its new season on Netflix. Not to be a spoiler, but I have a bad feeling about how things are going to go for Princess Diana. Happy Thanksgiving, all! Lefty out.