Rewind: Leake calls reunion with Giants 'strong possibility'


Rewind: Leake calls reunion with Giants 'strong possibility'

SAN FRANCISCO — Mike Leake asked Brandon Crawford to pick his walk-up song Wednesday and he ended up with a gem, “Ghetto Superstar.” Leake’s next decision will be a bit more complicated, and it’s a life-changing one he’ll have to make mostly on his own.

The right-hander hit free agency in superstar fashion, completely overwhelming the Dodgers in a two-hitter that was the first shutout of his big league career. The start — a 104-pitch masterpiece that included 19 outs on the ground — might have been Leake’s best as a big leaguer, and the timing couldn’t be better. It was his last one before free agency, and Leake is surely about to cash in.

After throwing his final pitch in a 5-0 win, Leake was ready to shift his focus forward. He said he hopes to make a quick decision.

“I’d rather not wait,” he said. “I’d like to pick a team and get ready to go with that team.”

[PAVLOVIC: Instant Replay: Leake goes distance, Giants top Dodgers]

Leake and the Giants haven’t had any significant talks since a late July trade that brought him over from Cincinnati, but he remains at or near the top of the offseason wish list. Larry Baer wasn’t in the clubhouse negotiating with Leake as he did with Hunter Pence late in the 2013 season, but it didn’t sound like Leake would be averse to such a tactic.

“It’s a strong possibility that this is a place I’d like to play,” Leake said. “It’s kind of wait-and-see. You never know what’s going to happen.”

Sometimes this game can be pretty predictable, though, and there are a lot of avenues that may lead Leake and the Giants to an agreement. Bruce Bochy has known him since he was a childhood teammate of Brett Bochy, and the front office has long chased Leake. He is a West Coaster at heart and went to Arizona State, which is just a few long tosses from the organization’s spring training facility in Scottsdale. Leake is represented by Beverly Hills Sports Council, an agency the Giants have worked with many times, from Tim Lincecum’s deals to the Pence extension. 

While the relationship wasn’t always smooth on the field the last two months, Leake has shown flashes of what he’s capable of. He has thrown at least six innings in seven of his nine starts, and for much of this season this was a team that lacked that kind of depth from starting pitchers. 

“He’s brought what we were hoping for,” Bochy said. “He’s young but yet he’s a veteran pitcher. He’s durable. He had the hiccup with the hamstring (strain) but that’s a freak deal. He knows what he’s doing out there. He’s got four pitches, and when he’s locked in he’s tough.”

The Dodgers found that out Wednesday. A soft single to center by Jimmy Rollins was the only hit until Carl Crawford reached on an infield single in the ninth. With the Giants bullpen needing a break, Leake retired 11 straight from the fifth through the eighth, getting into the ninth on just 94 pitches. 

It was the kind of quick and flawless performance that has the front office picturing what might be in a healthy season. They’d love to see what Leake can do with 33 starts in front of an infield defense anchored by four players who could all be Gold Glove candidates next season. Leake will be a priority, and Bochy didn’t shy away from casting his vote Wednesday.

“It’s obvious we like Mike a lot,” he said. “We traded for him … we think a lot of him, and that’s why we acquired him.”

Leake had some rough outings as the Giants fell out of the race, but he admitted Wednesday that a sore forearm has bothered him more than he has let on. He said he took the mound against the Dodgers with a “loose” body and “pretty clear mind" after weeks spent in the trainer's room.

The clutter will return when the season ends, and Leake said he’s not sure what to expect from his first foray into free agency. At 27, with a long record of durability and effectiveness, Leake will have no shortage of suitors. Leake said he’ll talk to his agent and his family and go over the many factors involved, but he’ll certainly sleep better Wednesday after rocketing into free agency with such a dominant performance.

“It was the Mike Leake Show,” Bochy said, smiling. 

The Giants hope it gets picked up for years to come.

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--- Nick Noonan hit his first career homer, and this one had to feel pretty good for reasons other than the obvious ones. Noonan thought he had his first homer in Pittsburgh two years ago but replay review sent him back to second base with a double. 

"Who invented that, anyway?" Noonan joked when asked about replay after that game.

His thoughts tonight? “I’m just glad it went over the fence this time.”

Noonan missed the 69th splash hit — and first this season — by a couple of feet. The Giants have four more games to make it happen.

--- This was the first season with full StatCast data, and there’s some cool stuff here. Pence and Crawford are mentioned.

--- Speaking of the offseason, my Facebook page is a good way to keep up on random stories and posts. I think I only need like 30,000 likes to reach Matt Maiocco. Get on it, people.

--- If you want to know how Matt Duffy turned into this version of Matt Duffy, go back and watch the eighth inning. Kenley Jansen threw a pitch up and in and Duffy smacked the next one into center field. He then stole second base on the first pitch to Crawford and raced around on Jarrett Parker’s single. A similar thing happened last month when Duffy sprained his ankle diving back into first. After a long injury delay, the Cubs threw over to first to make a hobbled Duffy dive back into the bag. On the next pitch, he stole second. 

That tells you a lot about the kind of player he is, and it explains why he’s so popular with teammates and the coaching staff. Oh, he added a two-run homer, too, and he leads the National League with 88 hits in the second half. In a somewhat lost season, the third baseman has been a huge bright spot.

Offseason can be tense on other side of Giancarlo Stanton rumors


Offseason can be tense on other side of Giancarlo Stanton rumors

SAN FRANCISCO — Just around dinner time on Monday, Tyler Beede got a call he had been waiting for. General manager Bobby Evans informed Beede, the Giants’ top pitching prospect, that he was being added to the 40-man roster, a significant step toward making his big league debut. Earlier that day, however, Beede’s phone brought him some unwanted news. 

Like most Giants fans, Beede woke up to a report out of South Florida that he was one of several names the Giants and Marlins had discussed in Giancarlo Stanton trade talks. For fans or team employees, it would be painful to give up a Beede or a Chris Shaw or a Joe Panik, but images of Stanton taking aim at the Coke bottle at AT&T Park would soon wash away most concerns. 

For players, the reality this time of year is much different. The Giants are the only organization that all of the rumored pieces have ever known. Panik is a New Yorker, but he and his wife have grown to love San Francisco. Beede and Shaw have spent years dreaming of debuting at AT&T Park and playing in front of sellout crowds. That makes the Hot Stove Season a particularly tense time of year. 

“I try to be a guy who doesn’t look those kinds of things up too frequently, but obviously I’m a normal guy, so I tend to dig into it a little bit more and see what’s going on and see what people are saying,” Beede said on this week’s Giants Insider Podcast. “It’s funny. I don't really know how to handle it. It’s my third year going through the trade deadline and trade talk. I’ve just go to keep telling myself it’s a realistic possibility and not to be shocked if anything were to come out or a trade were to be made.”

The rumor mill is nothing new for these players. Panik acknowledged several times during the season that he could be the odd man out. Shaw actually already once thought he got traded to Florida. For a few minutes at the 2016 deadline, Twitter had him as a key piece in the Matt Moore deal. The outfielder came out of a hotel bathroom right after the deadline to see two teammates staring at him in disbelief as Twitter rumors flew. 

Five minutes later, he got a call from Bobby Evans. “You’re still a Giant,” Evans told him. “Don’t take your jersey off.”

“It’s a little tense for sure,” Shaw said earlier this year. “It’s not something you can try to predict. You can have a feeling but that means nothing.”

Evans has always communicated to players and their agents that they can reach out any time they have a question or concern about what they might be hearing, but when it comes to getting on the phone himself, he treats the trade deadline and offseason differently. There’s more urgency to clear the air in July when players might have to take at-bats or throw pitches with rumors weighing on their minds. In the offseason, Evans will wait to reach out until deals are closer to being agreed upon. He tries not to worry as much about “hot stove banter,” he said. 

“In the offseason I think it’s a little less of an issue because a lot of things get thrown out there that don’t have validity,” he said. “We certainly don’t try to respond to every single rumor with an update because there are new rumors every hour, so it’s hard to keep up. A lot more names are mentioned this time of year.”

Players try to find different ways to get away from it all. Every year, several Giants prospects talk of playing golf during the trade deadline to stay away from MLB Network and their phones. For veterans, it’s often easiest to just take offseason vacations, and Panik planned to visit Europe with his wife. 

Beede has a somewhat unique distraction as rumors trickle out. He’s getting married on Saturday, which along with the holiday, has kept him busy all week. Still, he knows the rumors will be out there. 

“After a couple of days I start to just understand that (my) name is going to be in rumors or there may be things that people say or speculate,” he said. “(If) Bobby tells me something, or my agent says something, then I can start to maybe engage in it a little bit more. But as of right now, I’m just trying to go about my preparation and I’ll continue to enjoy being a San Francisco Giant.”

Projection system loves Giancarlo Stanton at AT&T Park


Projection system loves Giancarlo Stanton at AT&T Park

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants have made a habit in recent winters of “kicking the tires,” so to speak, on as many free agents as possible. General manager Bobby Evans is committed to being thorough, but at times there is probably no need. 

Hitters have made no secret of the fact that they prefer friendlier confines, and if you’re a power hitter, you’re going to ask Evans for a significantly larger check to play 81 of your games at the harshest power park in the majors. That’s what makes Giancarlo Stanton, readily available via trade, so intriguing. But would Stanton be fully immune to the realities of AT&T Park?

The numbers, at least in a small sample, suggest he would. Stanton has played 27 games in San Francisco and taken 108 at-bats. He has nine homers, 11 doubles and a triple. His .676 slugging percentage at AT&T Park isn’t far off his mark at Coors Field (.714), and his 1.048 OPS is higher than his OPS during the 2017 season, when he hit 59 homers. 

The damage has been done in limited time, but the Giants clearly believe it’s fully sustainable, and a recent study done by ESPN’s Dan Szymborski backs that up. Szymborski ran his ZiPS projection system to estimate Stanton’s stats over the next 10 years for a variety of suitors. The numbers in orange and black are overwhelming. 

The projections have Stanton at 46.2 WAR over the next 10 seasons, including 7.1 in 2018 and 6.8 in 2019, the two seasons the organization should be focused on given Madison Bumgarner’s contract situation. ZiPS projects Stanton at 46 homers next season if he plays for the Giants, followed by 43, 42, 39, 35 over the following four years. For comparison’s sake, Brandon Belt led the Giants in homers each of the last two seasons and he has 35 total during that span. 

Any sort of projection system needs to be taken with a huge grain of salt, especially with a player who has had injury issues in the past. But ZiPS believes Stanton -- who plays in a huge park already -- is a rarity, the kind of power hitter who can keep crushing well into his 30’s and put up huge numbers even if he is limited by the realities of getting older and getting hurt. Szymborski’s projections have Stanton playing just 102 games in 2025, but he’s still projected to hit 23 homers, 20 doubles and post an OPS+ of 121. Even in the 10th year of the projections, ZiPS has Stanton down for 16 homers. 

There are no sure things in this game, but as Evans continues to chase a blockbuster deal, he can be confident that Stanton is one player who should be able to provide power for years to come, no matter what AT&T Park does to hold hitters down.