Giants

Giants enter offseason 'very concerned' about their defense

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USATI

Giants enter offseason 'very concerned' about their defense

SAN FRANCISCO — Brian Sabean knew in March that his team had some issues. By May, he knew that the deficit was mathematically overwhelming. In September, he watched the Giants stumble to the finish line and finish in last place in the National League West. 

On the third day of October, Sabean — having watched all that — sent a passionate message to the fans.

“We had a last-place season. That can happen in sports, just like you have a lost year in life,” he said. “But we’re not last-place people and we’re not a last-place organization. We’re the furthest thing from that … This isn’t a ‘blow it up,’ this isn’t a rebuild. We hope it’s a reset. 

“Now, what it’s going to take and how that plays out to go from where we finished to being competitive to a playoff team, that’s incumbent on all of us to figure out. That’s been going on for months. The autopsy has been going on for months. I don’t know how much more we can tolerate knowing that the patient got sick and why it got sick. Fortunately, it didn’t die.”

At times Tuesday, the four men on a podium at AT&T Park looked like they had witnessed a death. This was not the press conference they wanted to be giving, in part because of the date. Sabean, Larry Baer, Bobby Evans and Bruce Bochy sum up every season from that podium, but it’s rare that they’re doing so before the first playoff game. Never have they had to do so after such a wildly disappointing run. 

There were few details, because it’s too soon to give details. Any coaching changes will be announced later, and the roster is healthy heading into the offseason, for the most part. While the Giants have spent months formulating an offseason plan, tampering laws exist and they’re also just not sure which players might be available. 

There was a general outline, though, and you didn’t have to read between the lines much. The clear priority is fixing the outfield defense, with the thought that doing so would have a cascading effect. The outfield was worth negative 45 defensive runs saved, per the Fielding Bible, a distant last in the majors. The A’s were 29th at negative 32. The Dodgers, by comparison, saved 14 runs in their outfield, per that metric. 

The eye test matches the numbers, and the Giants believe a change in center field can lead to much better results for a pitching staff that disappointed in 2017. Denard Span is preparing to move to left field, and team executives hinted Tuesday that they could also make a move in right and perhaps limit Hunter Pence’s playing time if there’s a complete outfield overhaul.

“Defense is something we’re very concerned about,” Evans said. “It’s one of the ways we can help support our pitching, and it’s important we support our pitching with excellent defense. We struggled in that area this year.”

The Giants have a list of defensive-minded outfielders they will pursue, and the focus is on trades, not free agency. They’re not thought to be big fans of players like Lorenzo Cain, who is 31. The focus is on getting younger and more athletic, and hopefully finding a center fielder who would be under team control for several years. 

In a perfect world, the Giants would add right-handed power with their new outfielder. It may be tough to do otherwise, although Evans joked Tuesday that the team might get Madison Bumgarner more at-bats next year. While Bochy would love a masher to take over the cleanup spot and protect Buster Posey, team executives were vague about that pursuit on Tuesday. 

They did not, however, waffle on how much work is to be done. 

“We can’t come back next season with the same roster and expect different results,” Evans said. 

Durable Longoria ready for additional boost from ballpark, Giants fans

Durable Longoria ready for additional boost from ballpark, Giants fans

SAN FRANCISCO — The field at AT&T Park is covered with patches and small piles of dirt right now, showing the signs of a winter hosting holiday parties and concerts, and a week with plenty of rain. 

For Evan Longoria, though, that grass was a beautiful sight.

A month after a trade that had him switching coasts, Longoria was introduced at a press conference at AT&T Park and ran the usual gauntlet with team employees and season-ticket holders. He spent some time this week looking for housing in the Bay Area, but soon he’ll be back in Scottsdale, getting to know new teammates and preparing his body for the 2018 season. 

Longoria said his workouts have been a bit different with a new staff, but the goal remains the same. He is a player who prides himself on taking the field every day, and that’s one of the traits that drew the Giants to Longoria. He has played at least 156 games in five consecutive seasons, and 160 in four of those seasons. 

It’s no accident that Bruce Bochy has mentioned durability during every media session this season. Andrew McCutchen has a similar track record, and the Giants lineup certainly could use some stability, especially at third base, where seven different players made double-digit starts last season. Longoria will change that. 

“I have a desire to play every day, and I think that that is infectious,” he said. “Players that may feel the grind of a long season or might be in a little bit of a funk offensively or defensively or with pitching, something like that can give you a boost when you have guys around that you know come to play and compete on a daily basis, no matter what the circumstance is.”

[RELATED: Just a number? Longoria says slow down with concerns of Giants' aging roster]

For Longoria, who turned 32 early in the offseason, the circumstance has changed for the better. After years on the unforgiving turf at The Trop, he comes to a park and division featuring nothing but natural grass. 

“I hope it helps,” he said. “Going on the road (with the Rays), my body definitely felt better when I played on grass. I’m sure that it will help. It’s definitely not going to be a negative. Not playing on the turf anymore is something that crossed my mind as soon as the trade happened.”

Longoria expects to benefit from another aspect of AT&T Park, too. The Rays finished dead last in the majors last year with an average of 15,670 fans per game. Even though their sellout streak ended, the Giants still had an average of more than 40,000 per night. Asked about playing outdoors, Longoria smiled and added, “in front of fans.”

“The environment here is obviously much different, so it’s going to be nice to step into that on a daily basis and play in front of a fan base that’s obviously very storied,” he said. “It helps with energy. It helps with motivation.”

McCutchen ready for more conversations with 'Steve the Seagull' at AT&T Park

McCutchen ready for more conversations with 'Steve the Seagull' at AT&T Park

Andrew McCutchen has been one of the best players in the National League for years now. The 31-year-old is a five-time All-Star and was named the 2013 NL MVP. 

Not only do his stats stand out, McCutchen is also one of the most entertaining players in baseball. And that's clearly going to continue in San Francisco. 

On Thursday, McCutchen was asked about the famous seagulls of San Francisco flying around the outfield at AT&T Park. 

"I definitely made a few friends out there over the years. Steve the Seagull out there, I know him," McCutchen said on KNBR. "He comes in every now and then. We have a little pow-wow when I come to San Francisco. Yeah, we get along well, me and the guys, me and the birds. They know when to come in that's for sure." 

Denard Span, who the Giants traded to acquire Evan Longoria, had a much different relationship with the seagulls. 

McCutchen is clearly the opposite of Span in this regard though. He seems about as calm as can be when it comes to the birds paying him a visit. 

"They chill, we have some conversations. It's all good," says McCutchen. 

One other aspect McCutchen can't wait for in the outfield at AT&T Park, is getting to know all the fans. Specifically, not being a part of a special chant Giants fans have for opposing outfielders. 

"I'm lookin' forward to fans not callin' me bums anymore," McCutchen said with a laugh. "I'm glad I'm on the winning side. I'm glad I'm on the San Francisco Giants side. I can't wait to meet all the fans."