How Giants can answer Giancarlo Stanton's biggest questions of concern


How Giants can answer Giancarlo Stanton's biggest questions of concern

SAN FRANCISCO — As a brutal 2017 comes to a close for the Giants, they just had one of their best days without ever taking the field.

Being granted a meeting with Giancarlo Stanton’s representatives on Thursday is a clear sign that the Giants can at least see the finish line for what would be a franchise-altering move. Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans, per sources, led the contingent to Los Angeles, and the Marlins wouldn’t let those two speak to Stanton’s agents at the Wasserman Media Group unless they were confident that the right package is in place. 

Now it’s up to Stanton, who has a full no-trade clause, to make up his mind. The Giants executives were greeted with questions about a future arrangement, and while it’s not known exactly what was discussed, some educated guesses can be taken. 

The Giants need to convince the reigning National League MVP that he should waive his no-trade clause and maybe spend his next 10 seasons in San Francisco. How can they do it? Here are some potential questions Stanton might have, and some ways the Giants might try to swing him over to their side. 

You lost 98 games last season. How can you contend? In September, Stanton told Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports that he didn’t want to rebuild anymore. “I’ve lost for seven years,” Stanton said. Heyman reported earlier Thursday that Stanton might have some concerns about the Giants’ roster. 

A couple of years ago, Sabean might have just pointed to the three rings on his fingers. But after a last-place season the Giants pushed a different blueprint in end-of-season meetings and press conferences. They had a clear message for fans: We can compete with a full season of Madison Bumgarner; health for Johnny Cueto, Brandon Belt and Mark Melancon; a bounce back from Brandon Crawford; a few tweaks to the bullpen; and improvement defensively. 

A lot of things have to go right, and Stanton couldn’t be blamed for thinking this might just be a sinking ship. But if you’re trying to convince a player that you have a winning core, you could do worse than bringing up names like Posey, Bumgarner and Crawford. 

Is there a commitment to turning this around? This one is a no-brainer. To convince Giancarlo Stanton that you’re willing to do anything to get out of this hole, all you have to do is point out that you’re trying to spend nearly $300 million on Giancarlo Stanton. From an aggressiveness standpoint, the Giants can note that they’ve guaranteed more than $400 million in multi-year deals over the past 24 months to try and be competitive (they should not point out that much of this approach has backfired). At the very least, Stanton will never have to worry about a Marlins situation, where resources were never fully devoted to the roster. 

What about the ballpark and my numbers? Free agents hitters always avoid AT&T Park, but Stanton has a .676 slugging percentage there in 27 career games and regularly takes aim at the Coke bottle during batting practice. This shouldn’t be a sticking point.

What about the fact that I grew up in Dodger territory? It’s believed within the industry that Stanton’s first choice is to play in Los Angeles. He went to high school minutes from Dodger Stadium and the 818 area code is in his Twitter handle. But if the Dodgers aren’t interested — and they don’t seem to be — the Giants can point out that they provide a meaningful alternative. They play nine games a year in Los Angeles (triple what the Marlins do), nine more in nearby San Diego, and spend occasional off days in both towns. Stanton would return home as a rival, but he would still be spending an extra week or so in L.A. during the season, and the flight is a short one for family members and friends. 

What about my taxes? According to ESPN's Buster Olney, a move from Florida to California could cost Stanton $25 million over the next decade in state tax increases. There's no way to sugarcoat that one unless the Giants are willing to change the finances of his deal, which they really shouldn't given how massive it already is. If Stanton is willing to go to Los Angeles, there's no tax difference in ultimately accepting a deal to play in Northern California. 

How can you protect me in the lineup? This would surely be important to a player who might be wary of being the next Barry Bonds, a prolific slugger who lives life in the intentional walk lane. Stanton got 419 of his 597 at-bats in the No. 2 spot last season, with Dee Gordon in front of him and Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna right behind him. The Giants don’t have a Dee Gordon, or a Yelich-Ozuna combination, but they can offer Posey as lineup protection and that should be a strong selling point. If Stanton would rather become an RBI machine, he could hit behind Posey (.400 on-base percentage) and Belt (.355). It’s not what he had in Miami, but as long as Posey is on the field, Stanton should be confident that he won’t be on an island. 

Report: Tim Lincecum throws 90-93 MPH at showcase


Report: Tim Lincecum throws 90-93 MPH at showcase

Tim Lincecum was back on a mound Thursday, trying to prove to teams once again that he still has a little bit of magic left in his right arm. 

The former Giants star held a bullpen session for scouts Thursday in Seattle. The event was closed to the media, but Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that between 25 and 30 scouts were in attendance. 

And Lincecum may have some of his velocity back. According to Heyman, Lincecum was sitting between 90 and 93 miles per hour. 

Lincecum last pitched in 2016 with the Angels. In that season, his fastball averaged just 88.4 miles per hour. In nine starts with the Angels, Lincecum was nowhere near what he once was and went 2-6 with a 9.16 ERA. 

The Giants planned to be at Lincecum's showcase, according to Insider Alex Pavlovic. 

Over nine seasons with the Giants, Lincecum posted a 108-83 record and a 3.61 ERA. He won back-to-back National Cy Young awards in 2008 and 2009, was a four-time All-Star and led the league in strikeouts three times. 

Slater fighting for outfield job after Giants' offseason overhaul


Slater fighting for outfield job after Giants' offseason overhaul

SCOTTSDALE — Catchers are usually the only position players to hit on the main field during the first few days of spring training, but Austin Slater snuck into a group Thursday to take a few cuts. With manager Bruce Bochy leaning against the back of the cage, perhaps Slater’s session will serve as a reminder: I’m still here, don’t forget about me.

The 25-year-old broke through last summer before injuries halted his progress. As Slater focused on getting healthy this offseason, Bobby Evans focused on overhauling the outfield. That has left several familiar faces in precarious spots, and Slater finds himself fighting for a fifth outfielder job a year after batting .282 in his first 117 big league at-bats. 

At the same time, he’s trying to balance competition with health. He wants to push for an Opening Day job, but also is very aware that he needs to back it down at times as he recovers from sports hernia surgery.

“You want to prove that you can play here and win a job, but (the staff) stressed health over everything,” he said. “It does no good to push and then start the season on the DL. For me, health is the most important thing. I feel like if I’m healthy I can prove myself. There’s nothing I can prove on the DL.”

Slater originally tore his groin on July 8 and the Giants thought it would prove to be a season-ending injury. He worked his way back ahead of schedule, though, seeing limited action before sports hernia surgery the last week of September. “They went in there and cleaned up the groin,” he said, smiling where others might grimace. The procedure kept Slater from playing in the Dominican Republic as planned, although that might have been a blessing in disguise. 

The Giants were aggressive with their winter ball plans because so many young players got hurt during the season. But Jarrett Parker lasted just 24 hours before being sent home with a health issue. Christian Arroyo’s hand swelled up soon after he arrived, and he headed home. Ryder Jones immediately got food poisoning and lost 12 pounds in just over three weeks before player and team decided a mutual parting would be beneficial. 

Slater stayed home throughout, living in the Bay Area and rehabbing. The Giants told him to focus on his rehab instead of lost at-bats and then come out and try to win a job in Scottsdale. By mid-November, he was hitting again. By Thanksgiving, he was on a regular lifting and running schedule. In late January, he felt like his old self again. 

For the Giants, that means a versatile option in a new-look outfield. Slater had a .290/.343/.430 slash line going before his first injury and he’s working to tap into more power. As Bruce Bochy pointed out Thursday, Slater has a long history of putting up numbers at every level. 

“He really did a nice job of figuring out what it takes to play in the major leagues, and he has a tendency throughout his career to just get better,” Bochy said. “You have to love his right-handed bat. He’s got some pop. I think he can play all three outfield positions, so he’s in the mix.”

The Giants have Andrew McCutchen in right and Hunter Pence in left and Austin Jackson as the third guy, and Bochy’s preference is to have a true center fielder as his fourth outfielder. That leaves Slater fighting for the fifth job, alongside many others. No matter what he did last year or does this spring, Slater has options remaining, and that will come into play. A year after using 13 different players in left field, the staff is intent on having greater depth at the Triple-A level. 

Slater is a Stanford product who spent the offseason surrounded by Giants fans. He knows the math after the offseason moves.

“It doesn’t change anything,” he said. “It just adds some great guys to learn from, and there are still outfield spots to be won, so it’s not discouraging, it’s encouraging. I didn’t expect them to keep an open roster spot for a guy with 120 at-bats. We’re trying to win a championship here.”