Giants

With Ohtani officially available, Giants ready to make their pitch

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AP

With Ohtani officially available, Giants ready to make their pitch

SAN FRANCISCO — Late in the season, after watching his team lose yet another game to the Dodgers, Bruce Bochy pulled up some Shohei Ohtani clips on a laptop and spent a few minutes watching the two-way star. The highlights brought a smile to Bochy’s face even as the Dodgers celebrated a division title a few hundred feet away. 

Two months later, the Giants — along with 29 other teams — will finally get their shot at the 23-year-old who throws 100 mph on the mound and hits mammoth homers in his spare time. Ohtani was officially posted on Friday when a new agreement was reached between Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball. He can negotiate with MLB clubs until 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 22. 

It’s unclear what exactly Ohtani is looking for in a future home, and the Giants, per multiple sources, have gotten no indication that they are or are not in the running. But they have taken the chase seriously, with Bobby Evans and assistant GM Jeremy Shelley scouting Ohtani in Japan in September and team officials spending much of their offseason preparing a recruiting pitch. 

Bochy has watched a lot more film and pored over scouting reports since September. His first impression of Ohtani hasn’t changed at all. If anything, he is more convinced than before that Ohtani could be a frontline starter and play a corner outfield position multiple times a week. 

“This guy is special,” Bochy said on Friday, shortly after Ohtani was posted. “I see him as somebody who could be a starter and it’s possible you’re also looking at 300 or 400 at-bats. It’s going to make it a little easier next year with our days off, looking at the new schedule, to where he could play even more because he’ll get that additional rest. That’ll make it easier, too.”

The new CBA calls for an expansion of off days, from 21 to 25, and interested teams are said to be mapping out prospective schedules for Ohtani. With four veteran starters already, along with Chris Stratton and Ty Blach as swingmen, the Giants would seem well-positioned to manage Ohtani’s initial workload as a pitcher. He would not be blocked in the outfield on a team desperate for power, and Bochy has shown with Madison Bumgarner that he has no concerns about giving pinch-hit at-bats to a pitcher who can hit. Bochy said he could see Ohtani playing the outfield on the days after starts and then spending the day or two before his next start preparing to pitch. 

The workload would be unprecedented in modern baseball and nobody truly knows if Ohtani can actually make it work. It’s clear, though, that teams will have to let him try in order to be in the running. Ohtani is potentially giving up hundreds of millions by coming over at the age of 23, but he wants to test himself against the best in the world. On talent alone, he appears ready to give this a shot. 

“He’s got a great swing,” Bochy said. “We all know he has a great arm and he’s got the equipment to be a No. 1 starter, but the overall athleticism is what’s so impressive with this guy. He’s got a great arm but he runs well and he’s a good outfielder with a nice swing. He’s got plus power and great plate discipline. You can tell it’s a swing he’s worked hard on. It’s a beautiful swing.”

Report: Giants 'were sniffing around' young Phillies 3B at Winter Meetings

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USATSI

Report: Giants 'were sniffing around' young Phillies 3B at Winter Meetings

One of the Giants' big offseason goals is to find an everyday third baseman.

That search appears to have included checking in with the Phillies on Maikel Franco.

According to Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia, the Giants "were sniffing around" the 25-year-old third baseman during the Winter Meetings last week in Orlando.

Franco burst onto the scene at the end of the 2015 season with 14 home runs and 50 RBI in 80 games. He backed that up with 25 home runs and 88 RBI in 2016.

But the 2017 season was a mixed bag for Franco. He managed to hit 24 home runs and drove in 76 runs, but his average fell all the way to .230 with an OBP of .281 and a slugging percentage of .409.

Franco is under team control through the 2021 season.

No word if the Giants and Phillies actually talked about a deal or if an offer was ever made.

At this moment, Pablo Sandoval is penciled in as the Giants' starting third baseman, manager Bruce Bochy told NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic. But the Giants would prefer to use Sandoval in a utility role.

Dodgers acquire Kemp in five-player trade, including former Giants infielder

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USATSI

Dodgers acquire Kemp in five-player trade, including former Giants infielder

Matt Kemp is returning to the place where he began his major league career, reacquired by the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday as part of a five-player trade with the Atlanta Braves that creates more financial flexibility for the reigning NL champions.

The Dodgers sent first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, oft-injured starting pitchers Scott Kazmir and Brandon McCarthy, infielder Charlie Culberson and cash to Atlanta for the 33-year-old Kemp.

Gonzalez agreed to waive his no-trade clause after receiving assurance from the Braves that he would be designated for assignment since they are already set at first base with Freddie Freeman.

"This allows him the opportunity to go and find some playing time," new Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos said.

After sitting on the sidelines during the recent winter meetings, the Dodgers moved quickly to dump nearly $50 million in salary committed to Gonzalez, Kazmir and McCarthy for 2018. Kemp is owed about $43 million over the next two seasons.

Los Angeles was looking to reduce baseball's highest payroll of $240 million last season as a way of lowering exposure to higher luxury taxes.

The deal made sense for the Braves, too, since the players they acquired all have expiring contracts.

"It puts us in an even greater financial position going forward and going into next offseason as well," said Anthopoulos, who was hired from the Dodgers.

Kemp played for the Dodgers from 2006-14, hitting 182 home runs, fourth-most in Los Angeles history. The outfielder hit .276 with 19 homers, 64 RBIs and 23 doubles in 115 games last season with the Braves.

Moving Kemp opens up a potential roster spot for top Braves prospect Ronald Acuna, who turns 20 on Monday. He was the most valuable player of the Arizona Fall League and Baseball America's minor league player of the year.

"We expect Ronald Acuna to be a very good player for a very long time," Anthopoulos said. "When he's ready to go, we're going to look to make room for him and certainly a deal like this won't hurt."

The 35-year-old Gonzalez helped the Dodgers win five straight NL West division titles after being acquired from the Red Sox in August 2012. He was an All-Star in 2015 and led the NL in RBIs in 2014, but went on the disabled list with a herniated disk in his back last season for the first time in his career. He was usurped at first base by NL Rookie of the Year Cody Bellinger.

Gonzalez is owed $21.5 million in the final year of a $154 million, seven-year contract that the Dodgers absorbed in the 2012 trade with Boston.

Kazmir didn't pitch last season because of a hip injury, one of many in his career. The 33-year-old left-hander went 10-6 with a 4.56 ERA in 26 starts in 2016, his first with the Dodgers. He is owed $15 million in 2018.

"I spoke to him and he's pretty encouraged and excited about the work he's been able to do in the offseason, so we're excited to get a look at him in camp," Anthopoulos said. "If we can get him back and he can bounce back, there's certainly some upside there."

McCarthy was 11-7 with a 4.51 ERA in 29 starts over three seasons with the Dodgers. The 34-year-old right-hander missed most of 2015 and 2016 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He went on the DL three times last season, when he was limited to 19 appearances and went 6-4 with a 3.98 ERA.

McCarthy was added to the Dodgers' World Series roster after missing the first two rounds. He gave up a home run in extra innings of a Game 2 loss to Houston in his only appearance. He is owed $12 million in the last year of a $48 million, four-year deal.

Anthopoulos said he sees McCarthy being in the Braves' rotation, which needs a veteran arm after not re-signing knuckleballer R.A. Dickey and releasing Bartolo Colon during last season.

"He came back at the end of the year and was on the World Series roster because of how good he looked, how good his stuff was, up to 94 (mph) and he started throwing a slider that h