Giants

Evaluating Giants 'painful' trade options

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USATSI

Evaluating Giants 'painful' trade options

SAN FRANCISCO — Two years ago, the Giants entered the offseason with a clear goal of adding to the rotation. They scooped up Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto. Last year, there was no doubt that the priority had to be getting a closer, so Mark Melancon was brought in. 

The 2017 offseason is quite a bit more complicated. The Giants have an aging roster that just lost 98 games, a payroll that is bumping up against the tax for a fourth straight year, and a farm system that is poorly rated and not yet ready to fill the major league club. 

It’s a sobering time for Brian Sabean, Bobby Evans and the rest of the front office, which is why they so often mention how painful this winter might be. Sabean did so again on a recent episode of “The TK Show.”

“There are going to be some painful decisions,” Sabean told Tim Kawakami. “To do what we need to do to be competitive to start the year and hopefully have that roll into also making some moves at the deadline, we’re going to have to make some tough choices and may have to move some payroll, which means moving some people that we perhaps under normal circumstances would not.”

When it comes to moving money, the Giants would love to find a way to shed the $18.5 million they owe Hunter Pence and $11 million they owe Denard Span, but those aren’t realistic options. Those are not the players Sabean is talking about when he refers to pain. Neither are Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford or Madison Bumgarner, the three Giants viewed as most untouchable. 

When you’re talking pain, you’re really only talking about a few regulars. Here’s a look at some players the Giants might have to make decisions on:

Joe Panik: The greatest strength of a terrible team was infield defense up the middle, which also means Panik serves as the front office’s best trade chip. You can bet there are a few general managers out there who would like to see what the 27-year-old could do with a full season away from AT&T Park; he hit .320 on the road last season with all 10 of his homers. Panik also brings cost certainty, as he’s just now entering his arbitration years. The Giants don’t want to break up their Crawnik duo. They also might find themselves with no choice, and with Kelby Tomlinson and Christian Arroyo in the wings, this is one position where they have options ready in-house. 

Brandon Belt: Many Giants fans focus on what he doesn’t do, but the people filling front offices can see what he does do. Belt is an elite defender with a strong eye at the plate and power that would play up outside of AT&T Park. He’s also owed $64 million over the next four seasons, about to turn 30, and coming off his fourth concussion in eight years. On the surface, it seems just about impossible to move him at this moment, but some big-market teams (most notably the Red Sox) have sniffed around in the past and could find that Belt is a nice alternative to more expensive free agent options like Eric Hosmer. 

Jeff Samardzija: He’s coming off a sneaky-good season that was wrecked in large part by the Giants’ outfield defense, is as durable as it gets, and has the repertoire that will forever have opposing pitching coaches dreaming of unlocking an ace. There was interest in Samardzija at the deadline and there will be this winter, with a lack of quality starting options on the market. At the same time, he has a restrictive no-trade clause and has made it clear he likes being in San Francisco. This one is highly unlikely, but Evans will again get calls on a pitcher who could step into any rotation and toss 200 innings next season. 

Hunter Strickland: The Giants have said they want to upgrade center field, third base and the bullpen … so why would they deal a reliever? Well, if Mark Melancon returns to form, they’re actually in decent shape from the right side, with Sam Dyson, Cory Gearrin and Kyle Crick backing Melancon, and youngsters like Reyes Moronta, Chris Stratton and Tyler Beede potentially being options. To fill one hole, the Giants will have to create another, and a small-market team out there could view Strickland as a cheap (he’s due about $1.7 million this year) option in the late innings. 

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

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AP

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."

Evan Longoria reacts to Giants' 'big, big acquisition' of Andrew McCutchen

Evan Longoria reacts to Giants' 'big, big acquisition' of Andrew McCutchen

When Evan Longoria heard he was being traded to the Giants, he instantly thought of the three World Series trophies. 

"They've won three World Series in the past eight years or whatever, everyone knows that," Longoria said Wednesday on KNBR. "It's a great place to be. The fan base is amazing. I'm just looking forward to playing in front of that and being a part of that." 

That's true, the Giants have won three titles in the last eight years. At one point, it was three in five years, building a modern-day dynasty. That also means they have come up short the last three years. 

In 2017, the Giants fell well beyond short. Playing his whole career in the American League East for the Tampa Bay Rays, Longoria didn't realize quite how bad things were going in San Francisco this past season. 

His wife did though. 

"My wife was actually the one that said, 'Hey, did you know the Giants basically had the worst record in baseball last year?'" Longoria shared. "I said 'I'm excited to be going to a contender' and she said 'Uhh... wait a second here.' But I know that those things happen and it's very tough to compete atop of the division every year and there's years that you have to punt so to speak and start preparing for next year." 

None of that matters to Longoria. The past is the past. All Longoria cares about now is 2018 and beyond. And he believes the Giants are in line to make some more Even Year Magic.

"I truly believe that this organization, obviously with the moves that they've made this offseason, with the recent acquisition of [Andrew] McCutchen, I believe that they're still not done," Longoria says. "I think they wanna do a few more things and that shows a committment to winning. We're definitely on the path to turning it around this year." 

The Giants acquired McCutchen from the Pirates on Monday for prospects Bryan Reynolds and Kyle Crick. Longoria couldn't be any more excited to be in the same lineup as McCutchen. 

"It's a big, big acquisition," Longoria said. "I think when you look at Cutch's numbers, they speak for themselves. When you look at what he's done on the baseball field is probably some of the best numbers and performances in the last 10 years in the National League.

"When you add a player like that, it brings a mindset that the team is committed to winning and I've heard nothing but great things about McCutchen in the clubhouse and off the field too. Whether or not you can quantify it, I believe those things go a long way." 

Longoria and McCutchen combined for 48 home runs and 174 RBI in 2017.