Giants

After trading for Evan Longoria, what's next for Giants?

After trading for Evan Longoria, what's next for Giants?

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants waited nearly three months after their final game to announce their first significant move of the offseason, so they understand that there’s not much of a grace period after the Evan Longoria trade. What’s next? Team officials seemed to know that question was coming Wednesday, and at several points they indicated that another hole was about to be filled. 

After calling the Longoria trade “a long-awaited day in our offseason dealings,” vice president of baseball operations Brian Sabean said, “We hope to add accordingly and we hope it will be as significant a move as this one.”

So what actually is next? In conversations with league sources after the Longoria deal, a picture emerged of what the team hopes to do after adding Longoria at third base. The Giants obviously want to add an outfielder, but they also have pivoted back to the relief market, and there’s some hope within the organization that the team can fill two holes -- outfield and bullpen -- with one trade. 

Team officials believe the trade market holds more appealing relief options at this point than free agency, and there is newfound financial flexibility to take on another team’s heftier deal after a pair of trades. The Matt Moore deal wiped $9 million off the books, and while exact figures of what the Giants got back from Tampa Bay are not known, the Giants actually are further under the tax line than they were before the Longoria trade. The combination of Denard Span’s contract and cash — believed to be about $14 million — shipped over from the Rays created additional breathing room.

Does that mean Jay Bruce? Andrew McCutchen? Billy Hamilton? While the Giants like Bruce, he is not said to be Plan A at this point, despite his name being connected to the Giants all week. McCutchen also is not on the front burner, but the team continues to discuss a Hamilton deal with the Reds. Those talks have been held up by high demands, and the Giants hope to be a bit more cautious with their prospects after dealing Christian Arroyo. Those long-term concerns continue to come into play for other potential moves; while national writers like to connect the Giants to Lorenzo Cain, the front office has held firm in a belief that it cannot sacrifice the two draft picks it would cost to sign a player who got the qualifying offer. 

The Longoria discussions picked up at the winter meetings, and while in Orlando, team officials talked to the Brewers about their outfield surplus and the White Sox about outfielder Avisail Garcia. The offseason started with the front office looking for a center fielder, but Sabean is said to be a big believer in prospect Steven Duggar, so it’s possible the Giants will ultimately spend most of their remaining resources on a corner bat. 

On paper, the Giants need a leadoff hitter, but manager Bruce Bochy said Wednesday that non-traditional options have already been discussed internally, so the Giants could instead opt for another power bat to hit sixth. Right now, the lineup has Longoria, Buster Posey and Brandon Belt hitting 3-4-5, although Belt is one of the names being thrown around for a top-of-the-order slot. 

The Giants seemed confident this week that the seeds have been planted for an outfield addition and a new reliever, but that won’t end the winter shopping. The front office is canvassing the starting pitching market for back-end guys, and it’s expected that at least one veteran is brought in to compete with Chris Stratton, Ty Blach, Tyler Beede and Andrew Suarez for the last two rotation spots. Even before the winter meetings, Evans was talking to veteran starters who could come into camp on a minor league deal and try to win a job. 

Giants look poised to put Mac Williamson in left field Friday

Giants look poised to put Mac Williamson in left field Friday

PHOENIX — After his team was held to fewer than two runs for the 10th time this season, manager Bruce Bochy said Mac Williamson will be in Anaheim on Friday as part of the taxi squad. The Giants need the outfielder to be more of a tow truck. 

This is a lineup that has not gotten in gear in any way, but a red-hot reinforcement is on the way. Williamson was hitting .487 with six homers in 11 games in Triple-A, and while Bochy couldn’t say he’ll be active and in left field against the Angels, it was not hard to read between the lines. Hunter Pence said the thumb he sprained in the home opener continues to give him problems and needs a few days of rest. It seems likely that Williamson will officially be called up Friday, with Pence going on the disabled list. 

“We’ll see what happens tomorrow,” Bochy said. “Mostly he’s coming up because he’s swinging the bat well. We’re hoping he’ll be a shot in the arm and provide some production, and we need some help in that area.”

The futility has the Giants six games out of first after just three weeks of action. The culprit is clear. Johnny Cueto, Chris Stratton and Ty Blach combined to give up three runs over 20 innings in a tough ballpark, but the Giants still dropped two of three. 

They need more than just one offensive fix, but Williamson represents a start. The 27-year-old has never stuck in the majors, but he rebuilt his swing in the offseason while working with Doug Latta, a private instructor in the Los Angeles area who helped Justin Turner became a star. Williamson’s swing has many of the same markers as Turner’s, and he had a huge spring as he continued to work on adjustments. Williamson lowered his hands and added a higher leg kick in hopes of keeping his bat in the zone longer and being shorter and more direct to the ball. 

“In the past I’ve been really active with my shoulders and hands late in the swing instead of just going and attacking the ball,” he said this spring. “I’m trying to just really calm down a lot of that non-essential movement.”

Williamson knew there was not a spot for him on the opening day roster, but hoped to make an impact sooner than later. His torrid start, plus the struggles at the big league level, have made this a daily question. 

“He showed this spring with the adjustments he made that he’s primed,” Bochy said. “He went out and did what we were hoping.”

The key for the Giants now will be to show more faith than they have in the past. Williamson is a .226 hitter in the big leagues, but his 212 at-bats have been scattered across three seasons and plenty of call-ups. It seems he is always one 0 for 3 night away from a demotion, but the Giants would be well served to let him work through any kinks this time. 

The incumbent in left field, Pence, is batting .172. His backups — Gorkys Hernandez and Gregor Blanco — are better fits as defense-first reserves. Pence hurt his thumb while diving in left field during the home opener and said it has never gotten better. An MRI back then showed a sprain. 

“It’s been going in a backwards direction,” he said. 

So have the Giants, but perhaps help is finally on the way.

Bumgarner has pins removed from pinky, to begin strengthening program

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USATSI

Bumgarner has pins removed from pinky, to begin strengthening program

PHOENIX -- The removal of three small pins in Madison Bumgarner's left pinky represented a big step for the pitcher. 

Bumgarner had the pins taken out Thursday and he now will begin the process of strengthening his hand, which was fractured during his final spring training appearance. He could begin playing catch in two weeks. 

"Once he gets that going, I think you'll see him make real progress," manager Bruce Bochy said. 

It still will be a long process for Bumgarner, who is on the 60-day DL and not eligible to return until May 26. It seems unlikely that he's ready on that day, but it could be soon thereafter. Bumgarner will need to play catch for a bit before starting bullpen sessions and eventually a real rehab assignment. Realistically, the Giants are hopeful that he'll be back in the rotation in early June. Bochy said he wouldn't be surprised if Bumgarner beats the initial timetable. 

"But it all depends on (how he feels) when he starts throwing," Bochy added. 

The Giants will get another key pitcher back Friday when Jeff Samardzija makes his season debut. 

--- Hunter Pence has a sore right thumb and wasn't in Thursday's lineup. The timing is, well, interesting. Mac Williamson wasn't in Triple-A Sacramento's lineup, so this could be the time a move is made, but the Giants also will need to clear a spot for Samardzija and they're hoping to stick with eight relievers for now. Stay tuned.