by DrLefty

OK, phew. We made it through Thanksgiving and the post-holiday letdown. Now it’s time for the Winter Meetings–the Room Where It Happens (unless you’re Bryce Harper and wait until February in Las Vegas, that is).  The meetings begin tomorrow and go through Wednesday and will be held at the Gaylord Hotel in Nashville.

 

Schedule Highlights (all times PST)

  • Contemporary Era Hall of Fame ballot results released: Sunday, Dec. 3
  • 2024 Draft Lottery, Tuesday, Dec. 5, at 2:30 p.m.: The Giants finished with the 13th-worst record in MLB, so they’ll be in the lottery–all non-playoff teams are. That means they have a small chance at moving up to one of the top six picks. It’s pretty confusing because it’s complicated by revenue-sharing teams and tax-paying teams being penalized. There’s a breakdown of sorts in this article. Anyway, in all likelihood the Giants will pick somewhere around 12th or 13th, but we won’t know for sure until the ping pong balls stop bouncing and the dust settles.
  • 2024 Rule 5 Draft, Wednesday, Dec. 6, at 11 a.m.: The Giants left a couple of their higher-ranked prospects, outfielder Grant McCray (#7) and shortstop Aeverson Arteaga (#12), unprotected. Since neither of those guys has played above high A ball, it seems unlikely that they’d be claimed or that they would stick on a major league roster for a whole year. Observers have predicted that if anyone gets drafted from the Giants, it might be AAA reliever R.J. Dabovich, a 2020 draftee who missed most of the 2023 season following hip surgery. Meanwhile, the Giants currently have 36 players on their 40-man roster, so there’s room for their own Rule 5 pick, unless other things, you know, Happen before Wednesday (we’ll get to that).
  • Ford C. Frick ballot results released: Wednesday, Dec. 6.

Honestly, the only one of these items I really care about at all is whether Duane Kuiper or Mike Krukow gets into the Hall of Fame. We all think they should go in together when they do, but no one thinks that’s a real possibility. If you haven’t read them already, both Andrew Baggarly and Grant Brisbee have great articles out this week about Kruk and Kuip.

 

What We Really Care About: Free Agents & Trades 

First of all, there’s no guarantee that any major deals will get done during the Winter Meetings. In the past, the meetings were typically a hotbed of activity, but during the darker years of the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement, there were a couple of Winter Meetings that came and went without much happening at all. However, last year, the first year of the newest CBA, was insanely busy and memorable. I mean, who remembers where they were when they heard the Giants had signed Mitch Haniger?

Ha ha ha. I remember the Haniger news quite clearly because it was juxtaposed (same day/time) with the Fake News that the Giants had signed Aaron “Arson” Judge. Later that night we learned that Judge had signed back with the Yankees after all. The biggest stunner of the Winter Meetings was Xander Bogaerts jumping ship from the Red Sox to sign a crazy big deal with the Padres. And there were others.

It is assumed that deals–both free agent signings and trades–will indeed get done either in Nashville and/or over the next 7-10 days. The biggest shoes to drop are the two Japanese players, Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto. Teams still “in” on Ohtani (we’ll get back to him in a minute) need to know what he’s decided so that they can see if they can afford anyone else after breaking the bank for him. Yamamoto is considered the top free agent pitcher on the market, and his price tag is expected to end up well north of $200 million, so his contract will help set the market for other free agent pitchers, such as Blake Snell, Jordan Montgomery, Eduardo Rodriguez, Marcus Stroman, and a few others. Two major names, Aaron Nola and Sonny Gray, are already off the board.

 

The Requisite Discussion of Ohtani

With Ohtani, it’s always been a “who the hell knows” situation–what does he want, what will his deal look like, especially given that he just had his second Tommy John surgery and won’t pitch until 2025 at the earliest–but it seems clear that (a) he’s going to get the largest contract in baseball history (in total value and probably also average annual value, maybe in length, too); and (b) some teams have already decided that’s too rich for their blood. As of yesterday, rumors had teams like the Red Sox, Mets, and Rangers “out” on Ohtani, while the Dodgers, Cubs, Blue Jays, and Angels and “others” are still “in.” The Mariners, who’d been expected to be in the mix for Ohtani because of their Ichiro connection and because Ohtani loves Seattle, were also rumored to be “out.”

Let’s be honest. No one has any idea what they’re talking about. Ohtani and his agent play things very, very close to the vest. It may be that teams have indeed decided they’re out and/or that Ohtani’s camp has already told them they didn’t make the short list. But reporters are just guessing, and we shouldn’t believe anyone is “out” or “in” until we have a confirmation that Ohtani has made his choice. One of the most ridiculous takes I’ve seen on all this was when a NBCS-BA reporter repackaged yesterday’s article in The Athletic about Ohtani’s agent by saying that the Giants have a chance because their new pitching coach Bryan Price and their AAA manager Dave Brundage both played minor league ball with Ohtani’s agent back in the 80s. I mean…seriously?

Where do the Giants fall in all of these Ohtani rumors? Well, we know two things: (1) they really, really want him and are trying hard to land him and (2) no one thinks they have a chance, whether it’s because the ballpark is bad for lefty sluggers or the Giants aren’t close enough to being contenders or he doesn’t like garlic fries or crab sandwiches, or…I don’t know. It’s sad. These national stories are all “The Giants want a star so badly” and “They have no chance to get these guys.” It’s frustrating and embarrassing to me as a fan, and I’d love one of these big fish to finally land in San Francisco just to shut up that galling narrative.

 

Yamamoto and the Others

It might not be as ridiculous to think that the Giants could sign Yamamoto…if they offer him the best contract. But a lot of teams are pursuing him–a lot more than are rumored to still be in on Ohtani. Let’s say, for example, that Yamamoto gets a 10 year/$250 mil. contract, or an AAV of $25 mil. That’s a lot of money and a long contract, especially for a starting pitcher (they break) and someone who’s never pitched in the major leagues, but that AAV is doable for many teams, unlike paying Ohtani $45-50 mil/year to maybe just DH. And a lot of teams would take the chance on Yamamoto, given how young he is and how good he apparently is. So the Giants have tons of competition.

As for the other top free agents, the Giants have been linked to pretty much all of them, especially Cody Bellinger (whom they tried to sign last year), Jung Hoo Lee, Blake Snell, and Matt Chapman. Marcus Stroman’s name gets thrown around quite a bit, too, since he seriously considered the Giants a couple years ago when he was on the market, and he and Logan Webb are good buddies. Could the Giants get a couple of those guys? Sure–maybe, why not?

OK, here’s a “why not.” Since the free agent market is thin, especially for hitters, these guys will probably all get contracts that are out of Farhan Zaidi’s comfort zone. And, except for Lee, Yamamoto, Montgomery, and Stroman, the Giants would lose a draft pick for signing them. While the Giants have gotten extra draft picks when their free agents declined qualifying offers and went elsewhere (Madison Bumgarner, Will Smith, Carlos Rodón) and had three straight years in which players accepted their qualifying offer (Kevin Gausman, Brandon Belt, Joc Pederson), it’s been a long time since the Giants relinquished a draft pick by signing some other team’s free agent. It last happened in the Bobby Evans era when the Giants signed Jeff Samardzija during the 2015-2016 offseason and lost their first-round pick in the 2016 draft. (Their first pick in that draft, second-rounder Bryan Reynolds, never played for the Giants, so no harm done, right?)

Anyway…will Zaidi overpay? Will he sign players with qualifying offers and lose draft picks? Both of those things go against his M.O., and having gotten a contract extension (!!!), does he feel urgency to make a free agent splash this year? We may know the answers to these questions by the next time I write Out of Left Field.

 

Trade Possibilities

In one of Kerry Crowley’s podcasts this week, he reviewed six players–three hitters and three pitchers–that he thinks the Giants should consider trading for. Before getting into his list, I should clarify that Kerry thinks the Giants’ Plan A should be to sign free agents, who after all cost only money (and OK, maybe draft picks). Also, he’s been arguing all fall that the Giants need to get away from one-year deals to players and build for the long-term. But if they want/need to go into the trade market, here’s his list:

  • Hitters: Juan Soto (Padres), Pete Alonso (Mets), Mike Trout (Angels)
  • Pitchers: Tyler Glasnow (Rays), Corbin Burnes (Brewers), Shane Bieber (Guardians)

He also mentioned Dylan Cease (White Sox) but specifically excluded him from the list because he has a couple of years of team control, so there’s likely to be a brutal bidding war for him. Of the six, all but Trout will be free agents after this season.

So a few thoughts about Kerry’s list along with other names that could be on it (for example, Alex Bregman will be a free agent after this season, and there are rumors that the Astros could shop him).

  1. I am not excited enough about the Giants’ prospects in general to do much “prospect hugging.” However: Kyle Harrison is off the table for me, especially for a one-year rental. IF the Giants knew they could trade for Soto and that he’d agree to a long-term extension, maybe I’d consider it.  Also, while I don’t consider any prospect other than Harrison off-limits, that doesn’t mean I think they ought to give good young players away for nothing special.
  2. While the three pitchers probably are all on the trading block, it’s possible/likely that none of the hitters are. Of the three, maybe Soto is the most likely to be traded because the Padres need pitching and to cut payroll, but if they don’t like the offers, they might just keep Soto and make a serious run in 2024. They still have some really good players, even assuming they lose Snell, Josh Hader, Seth Lugo, and Michael Wacha. And even if the Padres do want to trade Soto, they might rather send him to the Yankees or the Cubs than to a division rival. The Mets have plenty of money and should be extending Alonso, not trading him. And as for Trout, he has a no-trade clause, so even if the Angels wanted to trade him, they can’t send him anywhere he doesn’t want to go.
  3. Kerry likes the idea of sending a package that could include Marco Luciano and a couple of young pitchers for Burnes and shortstop Willy Adames (also a free agent after this season). Burnes grew up in Bakersfield and went to college in the Bay Area (St. Mary’s), so he might be interested in an extension.
  4. Kerry really likes the Giants’ chances of making a deal with the Guardians for Bieber because of all the Giants’ ties there now–new manager Stephen Vogt, bench coach Craig Albernaz, and infield coordinator Kai Correa. Albernaz and Correa know the Giants’ young players and might vouch for Joey Bart or Casey Schmitt, for example.

 

As I said, other than Harrison and just a couple of players on the major league roster (Webb, Patrick Bailey, and maybe Camilo Doval), I’m not so attached to any Giant that I wouldn’t trade him. And frankly, they need to shake things up, anyway. That said, I don’t see throwing good inventory at one-year rentals. It’s unlikely that the Giants are making a major run at anything in 2024, so I’m more interested in free agents they can get on longer deals and in continuing to develop younger players. So I’m conflicted about the idea of major trades.

 

Gabe Kapler Gets a New Job

Gotta hand it to Kapler–he lands on his feet, doesn’t he? Remember that he got fired from the Phillies after just two years as manager and almost instantly was hired by the Giants. Now the Giants fire him and he…fails UP? I don’t really get why some people keep getting hired, but there must be things about Kapler that I as a fan and outsider can’t see well enough to appreciate. Anyway, he’s the new Assistant GM of the Marlins, and the weird thing about that is that they have a new President of Baseball Operations but no GM, so it’s not clear whom Kapler will be “assisting.” But that’s not our problem anymore.  Good luck to Gabe.

 

New Book Recommendation for Your Wish List/Holiday Shopping!

John Shea of the Chronicle recommended this book last night. It’s by Gary Mintz, president of the New York Giants Preservation Society, and it’s called Baseball from 3000 Miles Away: The Trials, Tribulations, and Triumphs of Being an East Coast San Francisco Giants Fan. I immediately downloaded the book onto my Kindle, but not before I texted Surf Maui and Totalfan62, both of whom need this book (maybe Frank, too, and some others!). Oh, and Greek Giant, of course!

 

This could be a big week for the Giants and Farhan Zaidi…or it could be a crushing letdown…or it could be a big bowl of nothing. Stay tuned to TWG for all the breaking news. Lefty out.