Giants Mailbag: What's the asking price for Cubs outfielder Soler?

Giants Mailbag: What's the asking price for Cubs outfielder Soler?

SAN FRANCISCO — Major League Baseball was riding high after a thrilling postseason that was capped by a tremendous World Series. The month that followed threatened to be far too quiet. 

The sport was mostly out of the headlines in November, with reports that even the Winter Meetings, the marquee event of the offseason, could be shut down. Yoenis Cespedes changed all that. The outfielder returned to the Mets on Tuesday morning, getting a reported $110 million over four years. The stove is heating up, and while the CBA -- which expires Thursday -- is still front and center, the Cespedes deal temporarily got MLB back to what it does best in the offseason: Big rumors and bigger deals. 

Will the Cespedes deal set the offseason in motion or was it an aberration? We'll have to wait and see. In the meantime, this is as good a time as any for our first Giants Mailbag of the offseason. It won’t be the last, so if you have questions, hit me up on Twitter or Facebook.  

Q: “When are the Giants going to sign somebody?” — Half my Twitter followers. 

A: This is a good time for a reminder of how last offseason’s spending spree actually went down. Jeff Samardzija was the first addition, and that deal leaked out on December 5. The Johnny Cueto deal wasn't announced until December 14 and the Denard Span contract wasn’t finalized until January 7. So, even without the CBA stuff, November might have been quiet. 

Having said that, the Giants will be as curious as any team to see how the CBA talks play out, and that’s surely part of the equation right now as they chase the Chapmans and Jansens and Melancons of the world. The competitive balance tax — which the Giants are paying — is a big part of the pie, and it’s understandable that the biggest spenders are waiting to see how it all shakes out before adding to payroll. The Mets weren't quite in the same situation; even with the Cespedes deal, they are far short of being a tax-paying team.

Q: “What do you see as being the likely makeup of the bullpen for 2017. I know the Giants are going to be going after a closer, will the rest of the bullpen be made up of guys already in the organization or do you see additional help coming in via FA or trade?” — Via Matt S. on Facebook. 

A: Some fans probably disagree after the way the season ended, but I’m of the belief that the pieces are already in place for a really good bullpen -- assuming a veteran is added for the ninth. Will Smith is set as the late-innings lefty and Derek Law and Hunter Strickland are ready for the seventh/eighth in some form. George Kontos is a lock as Bruce Bochy’s mid-game guy (with a 2.48 ERA the past three seasons, you could argue he deserves a shot at a bigger role). The loser of the Matt Cain/Ty Blach battle could be the long reliever, or Albert Suarez could reprise that role. There will be a second lefty, and Josh Osich and Steven Okert will compete for that role. Cory Gearrin will be back. Remember, he pitched his way into an eighth-inning job before getting hurt, and he was a guy Bobby Evans mentioned a couple of times at the GM Meetings in early November.

So, find a closer, work out some of those position battles, and you’ve got a solid eight-man core.

Now, the Giants won’t necessarily plan that way. Evans likes the group he has, but it’s good business to add a non-roster-invitee flyer or two for spring training depth. Josh Johnson has already been signed as one possibility, and you can bet three or four more veterans will be in camp.

Q: “What is the ask for Jorge Soler?” — Via Steve D. on Facebook. 

A: I liked this question because it sent me down a wormhole that turned up a Baseball America list with Soler as the No. 41 prospect, eight spots BEHIND Kyle Crick and 15 ahead of Edwin Escobar. That's a reminder that top prospects quite often don’t pan out. Soler was supposed to be a superstar, but he had just five at-bats for the Cubs in the World Series and now might be trade bait for a team that could use young pitching. Crick is still far from the Majors. Escobar was traded away for Jake Peavy, and suqsequently waived by the Red Sox and Diamondbacks. He was claimed by the Indians two weeks ago.

As for the actual question, my guess is that any team that calls the Giants this winter is going to ask for Tyler Beede. That was the deal at the deadline, and the Giants held the line. They're pretty happy that they did, too. 

Q: “Which non-Giants team are you watching?” — Via Carlos M. on Facebook. 

A: The answer is always the Dodgers, both during the season and offseason. But keep an eye on the Diamondbacks this winter, too. They were the big story last offseason and it ended in disaster, but a lot of that had to do with A.J Pollock — a down-ballot MVP candidate in 2015 — going down before the season began. Imagine the gut-punch that a Brandon Crawford injury would be and that’s kind of what you’re looking at here. Pollock, Paul Goldschmidt and Jake Lamb give them a dangerous lineup, and new GM Mike Hazen (who has a very good reputation) is doing the right thing by swinging high and acquiring pitchers like Taijuan Walker. It’s a big if, but if Walker and Shelby Miller can sort things out, the Diamondbacks could have enough pitching to keep pace in the West. At the very least, an improved Arizona team would be a pain for the Giants, who went 13-6 in their meetings last season.

Jeff Samardzija to miss start of season after MRI reveals strained pectoral muscle


Jeff Samardzija to miss start of season after MRI reveals strained pectoral muscle

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants nearly left Scottsdale unscathed. Instead they'll leave with an injured No. 3 starter, but the news on Jeff Samardzija late Thursday night was good news. 

Manager Bruce Bochy told reporters that Samardzija has a strained pectoral muscle that will sideline him for the start of the season. But given that Samardzija, who has had a rough spring, went for an MRI on his shoulder a week before the season opener, team officials have to be breathing a sigh of relief. 

"He'll go a week without throwing the ball and then crank it back up," Bochy told reporters, including Kerry Crowley of the San Jose Mercury News. "It should't take long to get him back on the mound so it's good news."

Samardzija was supposed to take the ball next Saturday at Dodger Stadium. Instead, the Giants will rely on two young pitchers and a non-roster invitee at the back end of their rotation. The injury ends a three-way race for the final two spots between Chris Stratton, Ty Blach and Derek Holland. The Giants could use all three in the rotation until Samardzija is healthy, or they could skip their No. 5 starter and move one of the pitchers into the bullpen. 

Because the Giants have two off days before their seventh game, Madison Bumgarner can line up to pitch three of the first nine games. The Giants have been considering that all spring, although they have yet to publicly announce a decision one way or the other. Bumgarner said early in camp that he would be up to the challenge, and given how sharp he was all spring, that might be the best way to tread water until Samardzija is cleared to return to the rotation.

No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers


No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers

SCOTTSDALE — A couple of veterans walked past a clubhouse TV earlier in camp and saw that the Giants and Padres were tied heading into the bottom of the 10th of an exhibition game. The Padres infielders were just standing around, and there was not yet a new pitcher on the mound. 

“It’s that time when No. 99 comes in to pitch,” one of the players joked as he headed home for the day.

A few seconds later, a big left-hander took the mound. He was, in fact, wearing No. 99, and in his inning on the mound he would face a No. 74 (Aramis Garcia) and No. 78 (Steven Duggar). This is the norm for spring training, when dozens of players — including teenagers and journeymen still hanging around the low minors — get into every game. That leads to action between numbers you would never see in a normal game. The Giants had 60 players in camp, plus 10 coaches and staff members with numbers. Throw in their 10 retired numbers and the unofficially retired ones (25, 55, etc.) and, well, there aren’t a whole lot of choices left. 

If Duggar makes the Opening Day roster, he’ll get an upgrade from his lineman’s number. Ditto for Garcia, who could be Buster Posey’s backup as soon as next season. Still, a taste of big league action doesn’t guarantee a normal number in camp, when young players regularly find themselves back at the end of the line. 

Ryder Jones wore 83 in camp last year and 63 in the big leagues. When he showed up this year, with 150 big league at-bats under his belt, he was told that he would have to wait until the end of the spring to upgrade. Players with more service time (think No. 2 Chase d’Arnaud or No. 19 Josh Rutledge) get priority, at least until all the cuts are made. Jones said he has a few numbers in mind for his next stint in the big leagues, but he won’t be picky. 

“Anything under 40 works,” he said, smiling. 

The steady climb toward single digits happens to just about everybody. Long before Brandon Crawford’s became @bcraw35, he wore 79 in his first camp. He moved up to 53 after that and Mike Murphy flipped that to 35 when Crawford became the big league shortstop. Hunter Pence doesn’t remember his first spring training number with the Astros, but he knows it was in the low eighties. Joe Panik wore 66 the first time he spent a spring at Scottsdale Stadium. “I was an offensive lineman,” he joked. Tyler Beede, now on the cusp of his big league debut, got promoted from 63 to 32 when he arrived last spring, only to swap to 38 this year because of some in-season shifting. When Pablo Sandoval arrived last summer, Steven Okert switched from 48 to 32.

Then there are those who have only known one jersey. Posey was a can’t-miss prospect when he arrived and doesn’t remember wearing anything other than 28. Brandon Belt was a top-25 prospect when he came to camp for the first time, and he’s been 9 since that day. Madison Bumgarner wore 40 in his first big league camp because he had already made his big league debut, but somewhere in the team archives, there are probably a few photos of a 19-year-old Bumgarner wearing something else. 

“The previous spring I came up to pitch a few times,” Bumgarner said. “I’m pretty sure I had a different number every time I came over and I’m pretty sure it was always in the eighties.”

There were seven Giants in the eighties this spring. Duggar was one of two top prospects — Chris Shaw inherited Crawford’s old 79 — to come close, and he didn’t mind one bit. He’s not thinking too far ahead, even though he could be a big leaguer in eight days. 

“I’ll take anything if I’m in the big leagues,” he said. “I’ll take No. 112 if that’s what they give me.”