Hunter Strickland

Arb-eligible players should tack on about $14 million to Giants payroll

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AP

Arb-eligible players should tack on about $14 million to Giants payroll

SAN FRANCISCO — There are years when you look at the Giants’ arbitration list and you can easily point to a few salaries that can be shed. This isn’t one of those years. 

The Giants have six arbitration-eligible players this offseason and the list includes their starting second baseman (Joe Panik) and four pitchers who should make up the chunk of their bullpen (Sam Dyson, Hunter Strickland, Will Smith and Cory Gearrin). The sixth member of the group is Tim Federowicz, and while he would make sense if Nick Hundley doesn’t return, the Giants can probably punt their backup catcher decision down the road a bit. 

Assuming they tender contracts to the first five, the Giants will be on the hook for about another $14 million next year. MLB Trade Rumors puts out arbitration projections each year that have proven to be pretty close to accurate. Here are their numbers for this year’s arbitration eligible Giants: 

Dyson: $4.6 million
Panik $3.5 million
Smith: $2.5 million
Strickland: $1.7 million
Gearrin: $1.6 million
Federowicz: $1.3 million

If you take Federowicz out of the mix, that’s $13.9 million for five members of next year’s team. The Giants already have about $166 million committed for 11 players when you pick up the Madison Bumgarner and Matt Moore options and assume Johnny Cueto and Pablo Sandoval are back, so, basically, you can see why management has talked about adding via trades instead of free agency. 

Pre-arb players like Chris Stratton and Ty Blach, as well as some spread-out contracts, ease the tax burden a bit, but the Giants are still inching up on the Competitive Balance Tax ($197 million in 2018) for the fourth consecutive year. The 50 percent tax rate they paid last season is a big reason why guys like J.D. Martinez were never an option in left field, and why you can probably cross him off your wish list this year, too. During an interview that aired on this week’s Giants Insider Podcast, team president and CEO Larry Baer addressed the CBT concerns. 

“That (tax) is something that’s punitive financially but it’s also punitive from a player acquisition standpoint, because if you’re in the CBT you then have penalties sprinkled through the collective bargaining agreement that affects the draft choice compensation, affects the pool of dollars you can use to sign international players and a couple of other areas,” he said. “It hurts you from a player acquisition and player development standpoint, so you have to be mindful about that, but if there’s an opportunity we’re not going to let the CBT stand in the way.”

Before this season, team officials talked about the desire to dip under the tax for a year — either this offseason or next — and reset those penalties. They obviously never thought the season would go the way it did and they would be sitting here in October with so many holes to fill, but here we are. For more from that interview with Baer, you can download the Giants Insider Podcast here.

Giants continue to find few right answers as they try to build a better bullpen

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AP

Giants continue to find few right answers as they try to build a better bullpen

SAN FRANCISCO — It is generally a terrible idea to wade into free agency with the belief that you’re going to fix your bullpen. Free agent relievers are older, with too much mileage on their arms and salaries that are out of whack with their limited roles.

For years, the Giants avoided paying big bucks in that sinkhole-filled market. They developed from within and turned to reclamation projects, and if those players panned out, they were rewarded with big deals and kept in the fold. Last season, the Giants had no choice. They turned to Mark Melancon, giving him what was at the time a record deal ($62 million) for a reliever. Melancon has a mysterious arm injury that at some point this month will require a shutdown and medical procedure that will sideline him for six to eight weeks. 

The Giants do not want to go down that path again. The thing is, what other choice do they have? As scary as free agent relievers are, this current group is a nightmare that no manager should have to deal with. 

Bruce Bochy once again tried to pull different levers Friday night. Just about every choice left Bochy and pitching coach Dave Righetti staring out at the field in disbelief. 

Eight different members of the bullpen took the mound. Four of them gave up runs, including the three pitchers — Melancon, Sam Dyson and Hunter Strickland — who are supposed to control the final third of the game. Another, Josh Osich, continued his trend of walking the first batter he faces. He was done after that. The other clean sheets belonged to two relievers called up Friday morning — Derek Law and Steven Okert — and one — Kyle Crick — who has been a rare bright spot. 

The Giants gave up nine runs in the final three innings. They lost 11-6 to the Cardinals, wasting a huge night from Brandon Crawford and a solid return from Johnny Cueto. 

Bochy has been dealing with this problem for two seasons. Rarely has the collapse been so all-encompassing. 

“I can’t recall one that was as tough for us as tonight,” he said. “You look at the extra-base hits (the Cardinals) had — six there in the last three innings against our setup guys and closer. You’re probably not going to win ballgames like that.”

Strickland gave up two in the seventh to get the Cardinals going. Melancon was charged with one in the eighth. Dyson was charged with five runs after coming into a tied game in the ninth.

Melancon is locked in here long-term, and the Giants expect big things once he gets his arm fixed up. Dyson has been a revelation, and this was just one bad night. But for the rest of the relievers, this is audition time, and it would be hard for Bochy to look around Friday night and see many pitchers he wants getting high-pressure roles next season. He called the final month “critical” for some of his younger pitchers and vets who want to return. 

“We’re evaluating and trying to figure out what we need to do to get back where we were,” he said. “These are big games for everybody. We’re going to look at everything and see where we can improve. It’s not a lot of fun to be in this situation when you’re used to being in important games, but because of that, these are important games.”

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Strickland reacts to raining boos at Nationals Park: 'I don't blame them'

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AP

Strickland reacts to raining boos at Nationals Park: 'I don't blame them'

WASHINGTON D.C. — When the Giants arrived at Nationals Park on Friday, Bruce Bochy was asked if he would let Hunter Strickland face Bryce Harper in this series. He said that without a doubt he would, if the situation called for it. 

Harper was lost before Strickland ever took the mound, suffering a knee injury in Saturday night’s series opener. A few hours later, Strickland did end up facing the heart of Washington’s order, and the home fans showed they haven’t forgotten a fight that occurred earlier this season at AT&T Park. 

Strickland was booed as soon as the bullpen door opened up, and the chorus became overwhelming when he was announced as the pitcher for the eighth inning. The grumbling continued throughout the inning. After giving up a two-run homer in his frame, Strickland walked off to 30 seconds of additional boos. 

“I don’t blame them,” Strickland said. “They’re obviously pulling for him and didn’t like how things went down (in San Francisco). I didn’t expect anything different.”

Asked about the boos, Bochy smiled. 

“I thought it would be a standing ovation,” he joked. “I was a little surprised.”

Harper wasn’t around to try and get revenge, but the Nationals’ No. 3 hitter got a piece. Anthony Rendon hit a two-run shot that cut the deficit in half. The Giants went on to win 4-2. 

“Obviously I made a mistake on one pitch and he got the best of it,” Strickland said. 

The right-hander said he hopes to get another shot in the nightcap of the doubleheader. As for Harper, the Nationals got good news Sunday. What initially looked like a devastating injury is just a hyperextension and bone bruise. The Nationals expect Harper back in the lineup at some point this year. 

“That’s huge for them, and huge for him in his career,” Strickland said. “You don’t wish injuries on anyone, no matter what.”