After Longoria trade, what's the plan for Pablo Sandoval?


After Longoria trade, what's the plan for Pablo Sandoval?

SAN FRANCISCO — The second week of January is usually a good time to start looking at spring position battles and potential lineups, but that’s pretty hard to do while we struggle through the slowest offseason in recent MLB history. 

The Giants, for instance, still want to add two outfielders. A Billy Hamilton or Jay Bruce or Andrew McCutchen would change the lineup and dramatically alter the spring chances of young players like Austin Slater and Steven Duggar. 

We can still start to prepare for the Cactus League, though, so this is the start of a series answering your questions about the team, the offseason, specific roster issues and more. If you have a question, send it over on Twitter (@pavlovicnbcs) or Facebook (pavlovicnbcs). I’ll try to get to them all as we wait for teams to realize that they’re actually supposed to sign these gentlemen known as free agents … 

What is Pablo’s role going to be since we got Longoria? — @kelsmarie991

The Giants never intended for Pablo Sandoval to be an Opening Day starter, and the Longoria deal locked that into place. Sandoval will head to Scottsdale as a leading candidate to win a bench job, and — short of showing up terribly out of shape — it’s hard to see what he could do in the Cactus League to lose that job. At the Winter Meetings, Bobby Evans told me he expects Sandoval to have a Joaquin Arias-type of role, getting occasional starts at first and third but mostly pinch-hitting. 

Bruce Bochy likes the idea of having a powerful switch-hitter on his bench, and despite his poor overall numbers once he returned, Sandoval did hit a walk-off on the final day and also took Max Scherzer and Kenley Jansen deep. More than anything, he still possesses a trait that Bochy likes from his pinch-hitters: aggression. The coaching staff was very frustrated the past few seasons by young players who seemingly fell behind 0-2 every time they were sent up to pinch-hit. 

Sandoval showed just enough last season that the Giants believe there’s something there, and they’ll give him a chance to show he can be the first bat off the bench every night. 

How’s Will Smith’s recovery going? Is he still ahead of schedule? — @SFGLifer

Smith showed surprising velocity during games of catch in late September and there have been no setbacks since. Bochy believes he’ll be ready for Opening Day, and by the All-Star break the Giants expect the lefty to be fully cleared for multiple-inning outings and to pitch three days in a row. They’ll slow-play this at first because Smith is coming off Tommy John surgery, but they certainly are anxious to get him back near the back of the bullpen. When the Giants were scuffling in May, Bochy told me he thought losing Smith was the most underrated factor in the collapse. The previous year, Smith finished the regular season with 18 consecutive scoreless appearances.

Smith, a Jeremy Affeldt-type when right, is potentially Bochy's most valuable reliever. I’ve always believed that if he would have started the ninth inning of Game 4, the Giants would have won that series. 

I've been watching the trend of signing veteran starters to minors deals with invites to spring training. Do you think the Giants will follow this trend? If so, who do you think they would sign? — @coffee_needed_

Some names from the non-roster list have already trickled out, including Hector Sanchez, the former backup catcher who re-signed on a minor league deal. Alen Hanson, Chase d’Arnaud, Jose Valdez and Josh Rutledge have also signed minor league deals, according to various reports, but the full list won’t be out for a bit longer. I’m told the Giants are still finalizing some deals, and I would expect at least one veteran starter to be on the list. The front office would like to bring in a pitcher or two to compete with Chris Stratton, Ty Blach, Tyler Beede and Andrew Suarez. 

Suarez, by the way, is a name to become familiar with, and not just because you need to know the difference between Albert and Andrew. The young lefty has a lot of fans in the front office, and he's a dark horse to take that No. 5 spot. 

Which Giants player is the best chef? — @TucsonFan4

Brandon Belt will probably tell you it’s Brandon Belt, because that’s the way these things go. I have no idea what the actual answer is, since every meal I've ever seen a player eat has been made for him by the clubhouse staff. (I can tell you that a certain recently-retired center fielder/leadoff hitter would get very upset if his toast was not sufficiently crispy.) 

The best chef on the field, though, is certainly BP pitcher/replay assistant Chad Chop. He has taken on just about every role imaginable for the Giants, and a couple of springs ago that included cooking Paleo meals for Hunter Pence. 


McCutchen Mailbag: What does trade mean for Giants' young outfielders?

McCutchen Mailbag: What does trade mean for Giants' young outfielders?

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants will introduce Evan Longoria on Friday at AT&T Park (we’ll be airing it and doing Facebook Live, so get ready) and at some point they figure to get Andrew McCutchen up on a podium with a brand new jersey. 

At that point, McCutchen can talk a bit more about his new team and his walk year. For now, let’s run through some questions about the trade and what might come next … 

How are you liking this move, Alex? I love it. — @DionTheDude

I was an advocate of taking a step back in 2018 and rebuilding a bit for the future, but the Giants were never going to do that. So, if you’re going to go for it, I think McCutchen is the perfect fit and a really savvy move. I also don’t think it cost the Giants very much. For my full thoughts, check out the Emergency Andrew McCutchen Podcast I did with Ahmed Fareed. 

Slater showed some promise with the glove last season. Do you see him as an option in center field? 566 career CF innings in the minors. — @BrooksKnudsen 

I do, and at the winter meetings, team officials talked about him playing all three outfield spots. At the time it seemed the emphasis would be right field, but with McCutchen now out there, I would guess Slater sees most of his time in left with starts in center, as well. A lot of people asked about Slater, Jarrett Parker, Mac Williamson etc. Simply put, the Giants are now in a position that normal teams hope to be in. They don’t have to rush some of these guys into a ton of starts in the outfield. The ones who have options can ride the Sacramento-San Francisco shuttle and provide more talent than in the past when a player gets hurt -- and on this old team, players will get hurt. Parker is out of options, but you’ll see some other familiar names fill out the outfield in Triple-A. If you missed it yesterday, here's the plan for Steven Duggar. 

Could the Giants go the Dee Gordon route and just sign Eduardo Nuñez to play center? - @raj_sidhu_123

I liked what the Mariners did with Dee Gordon, but Nuñez was pretty rough in left field last year. Having said that, I recently asked about him as a potential February addition, perhaps on a minor league deal if his market just turns out to be completely dry. I was told, “Nuñey is going to be just fine,” so I assume that he has some solid infield offers in hand. 

How about some pitching? - @pablodiablow 

My friend, we’re on the same page. The bullpen has been bad for two years and just lost a promising arm in Kyle Crick. Hopefully Derek Law fills that void, but he’s coming off a down year. I think they need another bullpen arm and another starter, because it would be rather shortsighted to build a lineup that you think can contend, and then turn the back end of the rotation over to a bunch of rookies. I expect a veteran or two to be in camp to compete for an Opening Day job. 

Does this mean Billy Hamilton is still possible? - @Gaberino4 

In conversations with sources, I haven’t heard Hamilton’s name in weeks. It was McCutchen, McCutchen, McCutchen at some point. I think that ship has likely sailed, as the Reds set a high asking price and didn’t waiver. Per Zach Buchanan, one of their beat writers, Hamilton is expected to start the season in Cincinnati. 

Was hanging onto Belt a priority? Seems like that would’ve been an ideal contract to get rid of given their cap issues. — @JoshSessler 

Yes, I’m told Belt was made just about untouchable at the start of the offseason, and frankly not many teams have asked about him given his potentially scary concussion issues. But to a larger point, holding Belt should’ve been a priority. He’s a good baseball player. End of story. Sorry, Belt Bashers. Even with McCutchen and Longoria, if I had to bet on who will lead the 2018 Giants in OPS, I would choose Belt. He should benefit quite a bit from hitting lower in the order. 

Do you have an estimate of how much money they still have for a center fielder? - @PeteDeBoerWar 

According to Cot’s, the best tracker out there, the Giants have about $4.4 million until they reach the tax. They were helped by the Pirates picking up $2.5 million of McCutchen’s $14.75 million deal. I think the actual number is $3-4 million under the tax, so that’s the budget for a defense-first center fielder, if that’s the way they go. 

You think they should go for Lorenzo Cain at a reasonable price now even if they lose the second-round pick? - @pejvahdat 

I do not. Cain is still going to be very expensive and he turns 32 in April, so forgive me for immediately thinking about the years I’ve spent covering an aging Angel Pagan and Denard Span. Cain is a much better defender than either of those two, but still, I think he comes with a lot of risk. Plus, the Giants just traded two of their top five prospects and they have a poor farm system. They need to nail those second- and fifth-round picks next year and add to what appeared to be a very good draft in 2017. At some point, a rebuild is coming. 

Where are all the people wanting Bobby Evans’ head now? — @kmav88

Oh, they’re still on Twitter. I still hear from them every day. Make no mistake about it, if this doesn’t work and the Giants fall well short of the postseason again, this will all come down on the front office. But for now, Evans has to be sleeping better. At the end of the day, he came away from the offseason with Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen, and so far he’s kept ownership from paying the tax again and given them two new stars to sell. That’ll play. 

Just a number? Longoria says slow down with concerns of Giants' aging roster


Just a number? Longoria says slow down with concerns of Giants' aging roster

The Giants added two premier face of the franchise players this offseason in Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen. Together the two have combined for eight All-Star Game appearances. 

What they don't bring to San Francisco though, is youth. Longoria (32) and McCutchen (31) are the latest to join an again Giants roster. Buster Posey turn 31 in March, Johnny Cueto turns 32 in February, Hunter Pence turns 35 in April, Brandon Crawford turns 31 in January, and Brandon Belt turns 30 in April.

Father Time though, is far from getting Longoria and the rest of the Giants' stars according to the third baseman. 

"I believe that all of us believe we're in our prime and we are more than capable of competing," Longoria said Wednesday on KNBR. "That's just ways of making waves in the news. Our job is to just go out and do our job. I think we'll be just fine." 

Longoria is entering his 11th season in the big leagues. That has certainly added wear and tear on him, but also added knowledge of his body. 

"I'm definitely a different player," Longoria says now at 32 compared to 22. "There's a lot of ways that I prepare now that I didn't have to do or I didn't know how to do when I was a younger player. For me personally, it's going to be quite an experience."

While Longoria and McCutchen may not have the freshest pair of legs in baseball, they are two of the most durable players in the game. In 2017, both players appeared in 156 out of 162 games.

"Being prepared for the season is one thing and I know how to do that and I know how to get myself ready for that," Longoria said. "It's just a matter of the day in and day out homework so to speak that I'll have to do. That's gonna change based on the league and based on the division."