Billy Hamilton

McCutchen Mailbag: What does trade mean for Giants' young outfielders?

McCutchen Mailbag: What does trade mean for Giants' young outfielders?

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants will introduce Evan Longoria on Friday at AT&T Park (we’ll be airing it and doing Facebook Live, so get ready) and at some point they figure to get Andrew McCutchen up on a podium with a brand new jersey. 

At that point, McCutchen can talk a bit more about his new team and his walk year. For now, let’s run through some questions about the trade and what might come next … 

How are you liking this move, Alex? I love it. — @DionTheDude

I was an advocate of taking a step back in 2018 and rebuilding a bit for the future, but the Giants were never going to do that. So, if you’re going to go for it, I think McCutchen is the perfect fit and a really savvy move. I also don’t think it cost the Giants very much. For my full thoughts, check out the Emergency Andrew McCutchen Podcast I did with Ahmed Fareed. 

Slater showed some promise with the glove last season. Do you see him as an option in center field? 566 career CF innings in the minors. — @BrooksKnudsen 

I do, and at the winter meetings, team officials talked about him playing all three outfield spots. At the time it seemed the emphasis would be right field, but with McCutchen now out there, I would guess Slater sees most of his time in left with starts in center, as well. A lot of people asked about Slater, Jarrett Parker, Mac Williamson etc. Simply put, the Giants are now in a position that normal teams hope to be in. They don’t have to rush some of these guys into a ton of starts in the outfield. The ones who have options can ride the Sacramento-San Francisco shuttle and provide more talent than in the past when a player gets hurt -- and on this old team, players will get hurt. Parker is out of options, but you’ll see some other familiar names fill out the outfield in Triple-A. If you missed it yesterday, here's the plan for Steven Duggar. 

Could the Giants go the Dee Gordon route and just sign Eduardo Nuñez to play center? - @raj_sidhu_123

I liked what the Mariners did with Dee Gordon, but Nuñez was pretty rough in left field last year. Having said that, I recently asked about him as a potential February addition, perhaps on a minor league deal if his market just turns out to be completely dry. I was told, “Nuñey is going to be just fine,” so I assume that he has some solid infield offers in hand. 

How about some pitching? - @pablodiablow 

My friend, we’re on the same page. The bullpen has been bad for two years and just lost a promising arm in Kyle Crick. Hopefully Derek Law fills that void, but he’s coming off a down year. I think they need another bullpen arm and another starter, because it would be rather shortsighted to build a lineup that you think can contend, and then turn the back end of the rotation over to a bunch of rookies. I expect a veteran or two to be in camp to compete for an Opening Day job. 

Does this mean Billy Hamilton is still possible? - @Gaberino4 

In conversations with sources, I haven’t heard Hamilton’s name in weeks. It was McCutchen, McCutchen, McCutchen at some point. I think that ship has likely sailed, as the Reds set a high asking price and didn’t waiver. Per Zach Buchanan, one of their beat writers, Hamilton is expected to start the season in Cincinnati. 

Was hanging onto Belt a priority? Seems like that would’ve been an ideal contract to get rid of given their cap issues. — @JoshSessler 

Yes, I’m told Belt was made just about untouchable at the start of the offseason, and frankly not many teams have asked about him given his potentially scary concussion issues. But to a larger point, holding Belt should’ve been a priority. He’s a good baseball player. End of story. Sorry, Belt Bashers. Even with McCutchen and Longoria, if I had to bet on who will lead the 2018 Giants in OPS, I would choose Belt. He should benefit quite a bit from hitting lower in the order. 

Do you have an estimate of how much money they still have for a center fielder? - @PeteDeBoerWar 

According to Cot’s, the best tracker out there, the Giants have about $4.4 million until they reach the tax. They were helped by the Pirates picking up $2.5 million of McCutchen’s $14.75 million deal. I think the actual number is $3-4 million under the tax, so that’s the budget for a defense-first center fielder, if that’s the way they go. 

You think they should go for Lorenzo Cain at a reasonable price now even if they lose the second-round pick? - @pejvahdat 

I do not. Cain is still going to be very expensive and he turns 32 in April, so forgive me for immediately thinking about the years I’ve spent covering an aging Angel Pagan and Denard Span. Cain is a much better defender than either of those two, but still, I think he comes with a lot of risk. Plus, the Giants just traded two of their top five prospects and they have a poor farm system. They need to nail those second- and fifth-round picks next year and add to what appeared to be a very good draft in 2017. At some point, a rebuild is coming. 

Where are all the people wanting Bobby Evans’ head now? — @kmav88

Oh, they’re still on Twitter. I still hear from them every day. Make no mistake about it, if this doesn’t work and the Giants fall well short of the postseason again, this will all come down on the front office. But for now, Evans has to be sleeping better. At the end of the day, he came away from the offseason with Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen, and so far he’s kept ownership from paying the tax again and given them two new stars to sell. That’ll play. 

Mike Krukow discusses options for Giants in center field

billy-ap.jpg
AP

Mike Krukow discusses options for Giants in center field

As we inch closer to 2018, the Giants' outfield is still a mystery. The team sent Denard Span to Tampa Bay in their trade for Evan Longoria, there have been talks for months of Hunter Pence moving to left field, Jay Bruce remains linked to them in the free agent market and Billy Hamilton likewise as a trade option

One thing is certain though, the Giants need a defensive upgrade in center field.

"You have to have a center fielder who covers ground at that ballpark," Mike Krukow said Thursday on the Murph & Mac Show. "You have to have a center fielder who can cover ground in that division. You think about all the ballparks in the National League West, they're big yards and you cannot ham-and-egg it in center field. You have to have coverage there." 

Hamilton, 27, is currently with the Reds and becomes a free agent in 2020. He is one of the fastest players in the game and saved nine runs in center field this past season, according to FanGraphs

But getting on-base to use his speed has been an issue. Hamilton has a .298 career on-base percentage and finished at .299 in 2017. He also only walked 44 times to 133 strikeouts.

"In regards to Hamilton, on-base percentage is huge. You can't steal first base," Krukow said. "And that's going to be a challenge for Hamilton as he goes forth in his career.

"He needs to learn how to take a walk. He hasn't mastered the art of leading off yet. I think there's improvement that can be made to his game." 

The Giants could also stay in-house and put a younger, cheaper option in center field. Prospect Steven Duggar is known to be high on the team's radar. 

"If you get another guy like a Jay Bruce that lengthens out your lineup, you're just looking for someone to get on base at the top of your lineup. That means you can eat a position in the lineup with a guy like Steven Duggar," Krukow said. "I haven't seen him play center field, but they say he can go get it. 

"Well, why not get a guy on the cheap that's a defensive player out there and let him learn to hit at the big league level in the eight spot?" 

Between three levels, Duggar slashed .262/.365/.445 with six home runs and 10 stolen bases in 2017 while battling injuries. 

After trading for Evan Longoria, what's next for Giants?

After trading for Evan Longoria, what's next for Giants?

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants waited nearly three months after their final game to announce their first significant move of the offseason, so they understand that there’s not much of a grace period after the Evan Longoria trade. What’s next? Team officials seemed to know that question was coming Wednesday, and at several points they indicated that another hole was about to be filled. 

After calling the Longoria trade “a long-awaited day in our offseason dealings,” vice president of baseball operations Brian Sabean said, “We hope to add accordingly and we hope it will be as significant a move as this one.”

So what actually is next? In conversations with league sources after the Longoria deal, a picture emerged of what the team hopes to do after adding Longoria at third base. The Giants obviously want to add an outfielder, but they also have pivoted back to the relief market, and there’s some hope within the organization that the team can fill two holes -- outfield and bullpen -- with one trade. 

Team officials believe the trade market holds more appealing relief options at this point than free agency, and there is newfound financial flexibility to take on another team’s heftier deal after a pair of trades. The Matt Moore deal wiped $9 million off the books, and while exact figures of what the Giants got back from Tampa Bay are not known, the Giants actually are further under the tax line than they were before the Longoria trade. The combination of Denard Span’s contract and cash — believed to be about $14 million — shipped over from the Rays created additional breathing room.

Does that mean Jay Bruce? Andrew McCutchen? Billy Hamilton? While the Giants like Bruce, he is not said to be Plan A at this point, despite his name being connected to the Giants all week. McCutchen also is not on the front burner, but the team continues to discuss a Hamilton deal with the Reds. Those talks have been held up by high demands, and the Giants hope to be a bit more cautious with their prospects after dealing Christian Arroyo. Those long-term concerns continue to come into play for other potential moves; while national writers like to connect the Giants to Lorenzo Cain, the front office has held firm in a belief that it cannot sacrifice the two draft picks it would cost to sign a player who got the qualifying offer. 

The Longoria discussions picked up at the winter meetings, and while in Orlando, team officials talked to the Brewers about their outfield surplus and the White Sox about outfielder Avisail Garcia. The offseason started with the front office looking for a center fielder, but Sabean is said to be a big believer in prospect Steven Duggar, so it’s possible the Giants will ultimately spend most of their remaining resources on a corner bat. 

On paper, the Giants need a leadoff hitter, but manager Bruce Bochy said Wednesday that non-traditional options have already been discussed internally, so the Giants could instead opt for another power bat to hit sixth. Right now, the lineup has Longoria, Buster Posey and Brandon Belt hitting 3-4-5, although Belt is one of the names being thrown around for a top-of-the-order slot. 

The Giants seemed confident this week that the seeds have been planted for an outfield addition and a new reliever, but that won’t end the winter shopping. The front office is canvassing the starting pitching market for back-end guys, and it’s expected that at least one veteran is brought in to compete with Chris Stratton, Ty Blach, Tyler Beede and Andrew Suarez for the last two rotation spots. Even before the winter meetings, Evans was talking to veteran starters who could come into camp on a minor league deal and try to win a job.