Will Smith

Giants sign five to one-year deals

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USATSI

Giants sign five to one-year deals

SAN FRANCISCO — Joe Panik spent the first half of the offseason hearing his name in trade rumors. On Friday, his winter became much more enjoyable. 

Panik was one of five Giants to sign a one-year deal and avoid arbitration, joining relievers Hunter Strickland, Will Smith, Cory Gearrin and Sam Dyson. Financial details were not immediately available for all the players, but Panik got a raise to $3.45 million according to Beyond the Box Score, and Smith got $2.5 million per USA Today. 

Friday’s deadline gave the Giants some clarity as they continue to try and fill roster holes after a 98-loss season. Team officials said trade talks slowed in recent days as teams exchanged figures with their arbitration-eligible players. The Giants found the process to be a bit more complicated than in past years, but they now have five projected members of the Opening Day roster locked up and a better idea of exactly how much room they have under the luxury tax. Per a source, the Giants remain about $15 million under the $197 million tax line as they continue to seek one or two new outfielders. 

Healthy Melancon and Smith expected to bolster Giants' bullpen

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AP

Healthy Melancon and Smith expected to bolster Giants' bullpen

ORLANDO — There were few positive sights down the stretch last season for the Giants, but Will Smith occasionally gave the coaching staff a reason to smile. The left-hander’s rehab from Tommy John surgery in late March went so smoothly that he was able to play aggressive games of catch at AT&T Park before going home for the winter. 

The Giants believe Smith will be ready for opening day, barring a setback in spring training, and he should be fully back to his old self by the All-Star break, allowing Bruce Bochy to use him multiple days in a row or for multiple innings. They are even more confident that closer Mark Melancon, who had a minor procedure on his pitching arm, will be ready when pitchers and catchers report to Scottsdale the second week of February. 

In an offseason when there are more holes to fill than answers, those developments could prove crucial. The confidence in Smith and Melancon has allowed general manager Bobby Evans to focus on the lineup here at the Swan and Dolphin Resort. 

“We’re still looking at the bullpen as an area we would like to strengthen, but we don’t necessarily have that as our focal point at this stage of the offseason,” Evans said. 

The bullpen has been an issue for two years, but the Giants feel it will be much better in 2018. Melancon will serve as closer, with Sam Dyson — a 2017 surprise — and Smith giving Bochy two veterans in the eighth inning. If all three find their normal form, it's a reliable trio. The manager would love another lefty addition, but if nothing of significance is done, the Giants are confident that Ty Blach can be a weapon as a reliever. Hunter Strickland comes up in trade rumors but is likely to be back, and Cory Gearrin was tendered a contract last month after a solid season. Kyle Crick showed flashes of dominance as a rookie and there’s still hope that Derek Law — once the future closer — will again become a force. 

Once the dust settles and relievers start signing shorter-term deals, the Giants expect to add to the mix, but they also could get help from a couple of unlikely areas. They expect to use their second pick in the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday and they have primarily been focused on hard-throwing relievers who were left off 40-man rosters elsewhere. Any player chosen would have to spend the year on the active roster to remain a Giant, but that’s easier to do in the bullpen, and other teams have pulled it off in recent years.

Another 2018 option could be top pitching prospect Tyler Beede. Evans said he could break in as a reliever, although the preference remains giving him a shot to win a rotation spot. That could happen as early as the spring. 

“Our discussions internally see him as very close to being ready,” Evans said.

Giants spring training Day 40: Belt continues domination of Rockies' home park

Giants spring training Day 40: Belt continues domination of Rockies' home park

BELT RIVER FIELDS, Ariz. — Earlier this spring, Brandon Belt moved his schedule around so he could get additional at-bats. That led to some random trips across the desert, but there was never any doubt Belt would be in Friday’s road lineup.

Belt demolishes the ball at Salt River Fields, spring home of the Rockies and Diamondbacks. After coming out of Friday’s win, he shook his head in mock disgust when talking about the day’s stats.

“One for four, you’ve gotta be kidding me,” Belt said. “That’s terrible.”

That one happened to be a homer, a three-run shot off Jon Gray, the likely opening day starter for the Rockies. Belt thought he crushed the ball but it ended up pretty high, so it simply dropped onto the berm in right. 

“It squeaked out,” Belt said. “Good mojo, I guess.”

The mojo kept his remarkable run going at Salt River. His updated career stats here: 22 for 35, with eight homers, four doubles, one triple and 18 RBI. Belt said he’s not quite sure why he turns into the flames emoji every time he steps onto this field. 

“I don’t know what it is, but I like hitting here,” he said. “Maybe it’s the batter’s eye?”

Salt River has a dark green batter’s eye with no distractions on either side, and the Giants certainly saw the ball well Friday. They had seven straight hits in the third before Gray was pulled with a sore foot. Belt hit second, and manager Bruce Bochy said that wasn’t simply because Joe Panik had the day off. Bochy will look at several different lineup permutations over the next week, and a Span/Belt/Pence/Posey/Crawford one-through-five is one option. 

“I like (that spot) a lot,” Belt said. “I feel good getting started and knowing I’ll get to bat in the first inning. It’s a good spot. I don’t think my approach changes that much: Get a pitch to hit and try to hit it hard.”

GAME RECAP: Jeff Samardzija was sharp in four innings, allowing just two hits and striking out three. He threw about 45 pitches on the field and then went down to the bullpen for 45 more. Samardzija certainly benefited from having Buster Posey back in the lineup. He said Posey noticed during warmups that Samardzija’s delivery was a little flat and his arm was dragging too low. 

“That doesn’t happen often,” Samardzija said of having a guy like Posey back there. “You have a lot of catchers who are afraid to say something.”

The rest of this one was a laugher until the ninth, when the Rockies rallied and brought the winning run to the plate. It hasn’t been a great spring for the bullpen.

STOCK WATCH: Chris Marrero hit a deep homer, his seventh of the spring. He also made a nice pick at first, where he looks much more comfortable. At this point, it appears it’s either Marrero or Kelby Tomlinson for that final bench spot.

TRAINER’S ROOM: The news on Will Smith was as expected. He will have Tommy John surgery next week. 

There is good news for Trevor Brown: The catcher, who has a sore ankle, took some swings and he’s feeling much better. Brown did not, as first reported, get hurt hiking on an off day. It happened during a game. Brown won’t be ready in time to return to Cactus League action, so he’ll likely stay here during the Bay Bridge Series and then travel home with Triple-A Sacramento. 

ICYMI: Brandon Crawford, Buster Posey and Mark Melancon are back in camp. Here’s a story on Posey’s WBC experience, with the catcher saying he’d like to play again in four years. Here’s Crawford on his month, which ended with him giving an NL West rival a slump-busting bat. 

ROSTER UPDATE: The Giants released David Hernandez, at his request. They have started to tell others that they’re not making the opening day roster, so there should be a series of minor transactions this weekend. (You know where to go.)

QUOTABLE: "I swung at a heater and a slider went right into my bat. I was happy to be able to track (pitches), and happy that the next time the bunt didn't go off my beautiful face." -- Samardzija, when asked about his double off the wall.