This is a tough time to be a baseball writer, especially one who has to do it for a living. Under normal circumstances, by which I mean “up through 2019,” we’d be talking about the Winter Meetings and the Rule 5 draft this week. There might have been a big trade or two or a splashy free agent signing.
Instead, we have Jim Bowden giving offseason “grades” (spoiler: the Mets got an A because they spent a lot of money!), Peter Gammons writing a strange stream-of-consciousness piece that covered a lot of ground and cherry-picked a lot of history (he did, however, talk a bit about a particular Giant, so we’ll get back to this), and Grant Brisbee throwing out wild ideas about how the Giants should spend their money.
Weird. But desperate times call for desperate measures. There really is no interesting Giants news to report because, well, how could there be? So in an effort to make something out of nothing, let’s play a little game. Indulge me in a thought experiment, just for fun.
I’m going to review what little Giants information and speculation emerged this week, and then we’re going to guess which (real or potential) event will have the biggest impact on the 2022 Giants. You don’t think obscure moves in a random week of the offseason can matter much? Well, when were the last two Willie Mac Award winners (Mike Yastrzemski and LaMonte Wade Jr.) obtained, and who in the moment thought those transactions were going to matter, even a little bit?
OK, ready? Here we go, in no particular order.
- Giants lose six players in the minor league Rule 5 draft and get two. The major league Rule 5 draft couldn’t happen because of the work stoppage/lockout, but minor league transactions continue. The Giants lost six players–most of any team–which attests to the real or perceived strength of their farm system. Three of them had major league experience (Conner Menez, John Nogowski, and Jon Duplantier). We probably know Menez the best because he was drafted by the Giants, made his major league debut in July 2019, and spent parts of the last three seasons with the Giants. Nogowski signed with the Giants in September after being released by the Pirates and played a handful of games with the River Cats. Duplantier, a former top prospect with the Diamondbacks, was just signed by the Giants last week, but they’ve already lost him (to the Dodgers). The other notable name lost in the draft was Jacob Gonzalez, son of Hall-of-Famer Luis, and the Giants’ second-round draft pick–between Heliot Ramos and Seth Corry–in 2017. The Giants drafted outfielder Michael Gigliotti from the Rays’ system. A 2017 draftee, Gigliotti hasn’t yet played above high A, and he appears to be a speed-and-defense outfielder. The Giants also obtained Tanner Andrews, a right-handed pitcher, in a trade with the Braves, just a day after the Braves drafted Andrews from the Marlins.
- Giants sign utility infielder with local ties to a minor league deal. That would be Alex Blandino, formerly of St. Francis High School in Mountain View and Stanford. Blandino was drafted in the first round by the Reds and amassed 279 plate appearances with them over three seasons. The Giants have had recent success with acquiring former Reds (Anthony DeSclafani, Curt Casali, Alex Wood, Kevin Gausman), so maybe Blandino is the smart pick for this week’s sleeper acquisition. Blandino made four appearances in 2021 as a mop-up relief pitcher, including one against the Giants on April 20. That game didn’t go very well for the Reds, but Blandino actually had better results than most of the real pitchers who appeared that day.
- Peter Gammons (of all people) provides an update on an injured Giant. So I don’t usually think of this venerable (=old) writer as a Giants insider, but he did begin a rambly column on all things baseball with some tidbits on Tyler Beede: that he spent some time with the Giants late in the season and “Farhan Zaidi was encouraged about the velocity and the sink on his fastball” and that Beede is having a normal offseason of conditioning and ramping up for spring training after spending last year recovering from Tommy John surgery. Beede said, “My arm is feeling great. I think I’m as strong as I’ve ever been” and that he “can’t wait” to join the Giants and try to contribute. Beede, it’s important to remember, is out of minor league options now, so unless he’s traded after the lockout, he’ll get the chance to make the team in spring training.
- Grant Brisbee argues that the Giants should sign Clayton Kershaw. Brisbee, like the rest of us, is trying to find things to write about when there is literally nothing happening, so he’s been amusing himself this week by writing articles arguing for various free agent signings when the lockout ends. The first article was about Kris Bryant, and while it’s still highly unlikely that the Giants are going to pony up for the kind of money and years that Scott Boras will try to get for Bryant, at least that argument makes sense (after all, Bryant was a Giant). The Kershaw article was a little harder to swallow, not that Brisbee didn’t make some good points (He will sign a short-term deal! He’s still good!) along with caveats (the arm problems that kept him from pitching in the postseason are a huge red flag), but because it’s hard to imagine any scenario in which Kershaw would want to sign with the Giants. For one thing, he’s a #ForeverDodger, so if he signs anywhere, it would most likely be there. For another thing, if he doesn’t sign with the Dodgers (maybe because they don’t want to commit the money, given his health risks), it seems most likely he’d sign with his hometown team, the newly interesting and still flush Texas Rangers, who have already signed his Dodger teammate Corey Seager.
- Two Athletic writers give the Giants props for their offseason work so far. One was columnist Jim Bowden, who gave the Giants a solid “B” for the acquisitions/extensions of Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, DeSclafani, Wood, and Alex Cobb, while noting the loss of Gausman, Buster Posey, and likely Bryant. He called the moves “impressive” and “shrewd.” The other was beat writer Andrew Baggarly, fresh off a Maui vacation where he may or may not have snagged a table at Mama’s Fish House. Baggarly concluded:
There’s still a lot of heavy lifting to be done to this roster…Even after signing three pitchers to multiyear contracts and locking in first baseman Brandon Belt with the $18.4 million qualifying offer, the Giants have the resources to make multiple major moves. But in the few weeks before the industry locked down, they probably needed to make sure their rotation didn’t continue to consist of Webb and tumbleweeds. Webb has company now. So the Giants are better positioned for the rest of the offseason, whenever the heck a lockout is lifted.
Baggarly also threw out the names of Zack Greinke and Danny Duffy as possibly interesting free agent acquisitions for the Giants’ rotation. However, Duffy just had flexor tendon surgery and won’t be available until at least next June.
OK, Time to Predict the Future
Of the following actual or hypothetical Giants mentioned in this column who made the news/commentary this week, who will make the biggest impact on the 2022 Giants team?
- Michael Gigliotti
- Tanner Andrews
- Alex Blandino
- Tyler Beede
- Kris Bryant
- Clayton Kershaw
- Zack Greinke
- Danny Duffy
[I’m leaving out the obvious names–the Brandons and the three starters they’ve signed–because I think it’s more fun to play with the obscure or remote possibilities.]
If you’re really feeling cynical/bored/adventurous, you could also predict which player the Giants lost in the Rule 5 Draft or will not sign (e.g., Bryant or Kershaw) who will make the Giants most miserable in 2022 or beyond.
The Most Important Part of This Column
HAPPY BIRTHDAY today to great TWGer and my buddy Crawnik! Have a good one! 77 days until pitchers and catchers (hopefully) report! Lefty out.