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. 

Dave Righetti is the face of the Giants' rebuild so far

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AP

Dave Righetti is the face of the Giants' rebuild so far

There was something almost disturbingly surreptitious about the Giants’ decision to announce Dave Righetti’s removal as pitching coach (for a front office job) Saturday. Saturday, after all, is the day you typically bury sports news that isn’t football, or related to football in some way.

But that could just be us being needlessly conspiratorial. We’re willing to bestow, if not the benefit of the doubt, at least the lack of doubt.

Still, Righetti’s reassignment, and those of bullpen coach Mark Gardner and assistant hitting coach Steve Decker, makes it clear that however the Giants want to avoid the use of the word “rebuilding,” they are indeed rebuilding – just not in the traditional new-players-for-old way.

General manager Bobby Evans made it clear without saying the words that Righetti’s messaging had lost its efficacy with the younger pitchers, who for the most part had not been part of the franchise’s most glorious times. And since the only pitchers still on the 40-man roster who had been with the club for its last World Series parade are Madison Bumgarner and Hunter Strickland, Evans clearly concluded that the message to the new staff needed to come from elsewhere.

Now this assumes that the problem with the Giants’ pitching was not the talent level or the execution, of course. Typically, it takes a lot for a manager or coach to screw up his job so profoundly that he needs to be replaced – mostly it’s considered an environmental matter that a new voice saying the old stuff is sufficient. It’s really more alchemy than science, and alchemy is fairly hit-or-miss.

But it is change where the Giants feel they can change; their four starters (Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija and Matt Moore) and closer (Mark Melancon) are in for $70.8 million this coming year, so a full-on demolition is not cost effective, and the young’uns (Chris Stratton, Strickland, Cory Gearrin, Derek Law, et. al.) remain in that tenuous middle ground between dependable and disposable. In other words, there aren’t a lot of options for dramatic player change, and the Giants don’t look to be aggressive buyers in the off-season, crackpot Giancarlo Stanton rumors notwithstanding.

So this is the face of the Giants’ rebuild so far – Dave Righetti, Mark Gardner and Steve Decker. Make of the act and the circumstances of the release of the information what you will, but as it is neither the manager (Bruce Bochy is golden) or the players (who with only a few exceptions are decidedly meh, with a side of feh), it will have to do as the first answer to the question, “What do they intend to do about 64-98?"

I mean other than keeping a low profile about it.

Report: Two Giants hitters elect free agency

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USATSI

Report: Two Giants hitters elect free agency

With free agency set to begin five days after the World Series ends, two hitters that played for the Giants during the 2017 season have put their names on the open market.

Veteran third baseman Conor Gillaspie and longtime minor league outfielder Carlos Moncrief have both elected for free agency, according to Baseball America.

The 30-year-old Gillaspie appeared in 44 games for the Giants this past season. He hit just .168/.218/.288 with four doubles, two home runs and eight RBI. He was designated for assignment on August 3 and outrighted to Triple-A Sacramento on August 5. With the River Cats, Gillaspie hit .375 with four doubles in 15 games in August.

Prior to the 2017 season, Gillaspie signed a one-year, $1.4 million deal with the Giants.

As for Moncrief, the soon-to-be 29-year-old finally got his first call-up the majors this past season after eight and a half seasons in the minors. He debuted for the Giants on July 29. In 28 games, he hit .211/.256/.237 with one double and five RBI. While he didn't do much with the bat, Moncrief showed off a cannon for an arm when he patrolled right field.