MLB Free Agency

Why George Springer should be Giants' Mookie Betts free-agency Plan B

Why George Springer should be Giants' Mookie Betts free-agency Plan B

Editor's Note: This week, NBC Sports Bay Area will theorize hypothetical front-office acquisitions for each of our teams. Today, we examine a potential move the Giants could make.

Giancarlo Stanton. Shohei Ohtani. Bryce Harper. Were these smokescreens in San Francisco or real pursuits by the Giants?

No, $310 million isn't a smokescreen. That's what the Giants offered Harper in February 2019 before the former NL MVP eventually signed with the Philadelphia Phillies. Harper, at 26 years old, was the rare free agent who made sense for the rebuilding Giants to offer such a larger, and long (12 years), contract. So, who's next in line for the Giants to make a run at as early as next offseason?

The obvious answer is Mookie Betts, who turns 28 in October. Regardless of if a shortened season is played or not this year, teams will line up to hand Betts a blank check. The first in line will be the Los Angeles Dodgers, and they rightfully will be the frontrunners to sign the 2018 AL MVP. 

After jumping through all the hoops and clearing all the hurdles, Betts headlined a five-player trade where he went from the Boston Red Sox to the Dodgers in February. The fact that someone named "Jeter" joining the Red Sox isn't the most absurd part of this trade shows just how bonkers this blockbuster was. San Francisco surely will test the waters when it comes to signing Betts, but if you're a betting man (yeah, I know) put your money on Mookie making Hollywood his home. 

That doesn't mean the Giants can't find a star on the open market, though. There's a cheaper, slightly older, power-hitting outfielder they can get their hands on. Farhan Zaidi should be all-in on making George Springer a Giant.

Before we dive into Springer and how he would fit the Giants, let's compare him and Betts by the numbers last season. 

Betts (150 games): .295/.391/.525, 29 HR, 135 R, 80 RBI, 16 SB, .915 OPS, 135 OPS+
Springer (122 games): .292/.383/.591, 39 HR, 96 R, 96 RBI, 6 SB, .974 OPS, 150 OPS+

Despite missing a chunk of games after straining his hamstring in late May and then suffering a concussion when running into the outfield wall in early September, Springer had a career year at the plate. He finished seventh in AL MVP voting, Betts finished eighth. Springer was worth a career-high 6.4 bWAR, while Betts was worth slightly more at 6.9. 

Betts has won four straight Gold Glove awards, but both players were worth 1.2 dWAR last year. FanGraphs had Betts edging out Springer, who can play center or right field, in Defensive Runs Saved at 16-12.

Springer also is three years older than Betts and won't get paid nearly as much. The Astros star will enter free agency having just turned 31 years old. It will be a wild offseason, too, with the league coming off the financial ramifications of losing games to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Springer could be hoping to hear offers starting around six years and $180 million. With past injury concerns and contract constraints after such odd circumstances, that number will come down. It could come down a long way, too. 

Justin Upton signed a five-year, $106 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels in November 2017 after hitting 35 homers that season. He was 30 years old, turning 31 in August, at the time of the signing. In his age-24 through 29 seasons, Upton averaged 28 homers, an .817 OPS and 122 OPS+. Springer has averaged 27 homers (in 164 fewer games) with an .849 OPS and 131 OPS+ in his first six seasons, when he was 24 through 29 years old. 

The Astros will do what they can to keep Springer in Houston, and they already have expressed their interest in a long-term deal. Springer also was one of the most remorseful and outspoken players regarding the Astros' sign-stealing scandal. 

"I feel horrible for our sport, our game, you know, our fans, our city, our organization -- just fans in general," Springer said to reporters in spring training. "I regret everything."

For those concerned about Springer's production away from Houston, he is a .278 career hitter with 87 home runs on the road, compared .262 and 73 homers at Minute Maid Park.

In this hypothetical world, the Connecticut native wants to come West and signs a five-year, $118.5 million contract with the Giants this Winter. 

[RELATED: Why Giants would be at big disadvantage with DH change]

San Francisco has a lot of big contracts coming off the books in the near future. Jeff Samardzija will be a free agent this upcoming offseason. Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford's contracts both end after 2021. And Buster Posey and Johnny Cueto, who both have 2022 team options, could be out after '21.

The rebuild also will be ramping up by the time Springer would be on board. Joey Bart should be ingrained into the Giants' lineup by 2021, as should fellow top prospect Heliot Ramos. Hunter Bishop, and even Marco Luciano, could be playing at Oracle Park in 2022. 

Zaidi and the rest of the Giants' front office could use San Francisco's rising farm system as a selling tool to Springer. They also might make it clear they have their eyes on a handful of the 2021-22 free-agent class that includes the likes of Noah Syndergaard, Nolan Arenado, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Francisco Lindor, Trevor Story and Carlos Correa.

If the Giants want to get back to get back to wearing championship rings, adding a former World Series MVP won't hurt. Springer doesn't just smash in the regular season -- he already has 15 postseason homers and hit .379 in the 2017 World Series.

Mookie Betts will be baseball's biggest star when free agency starts this offseason. George Springer is a hell of a backup plan, and the Giants already should be plotting ways to get him in Gabe Kapler's lineup.

Why canceled 2020 MLB season would hurt Dodgers much more than Giants

Why canceled 2020 MLB season would hurt Dodgers much more than Giants

Giants fans want to watch their favorite team play baseball. This indefinite pause of the MLB season is no fun for anyone.

The league remains hopeful that some form of a 2020 season can take place, but there are numerous large hurdles to clear before getting to that point. In the event the 2020 season is ultimately canceled due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, certain teams and players are going be disproportionally affected compared to others.

As part of the agreement between MLB and the Players Association last month, if the 2020 season is canceled, all players will receive the service time equal to what they accrued in 2019. So, players that received a season's worth of service time in 2019 would do so again. That's a big deal, as it will keep those players on track to hit free agency as expected.

On the flip side, players that didn't qualify for a season of service time will miss out on it again in 2020. That's going to be particularly painful for players who got a cup of coffee in the majors last season, but expected to spend all of 2020 with the big club.

In both situations, the Giants appear to be set up much better than most other MLB teams. Jeff Samardzija is the only thing close to a big name that would hit free agency after a canceled 2020 season. And some of San Francisco's younger players would be delayed from hitting free agency for another year.

Listen and subscribe to the Giants Insider Podcast:

Meanwhile, one could argue that no team would be more adversely affected by a canceled 2020 season than the rival Los Angeles Dodgers.

Forget the fact that they're considered heavy favorites to come out of the NL. The Dodgers made the blockbuster move of the offseason, acquiring outfielder Mookie Betts, pitcher David Price and $44 million in cash from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for prospects Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs and Connor Wong. Many pundits argued that trade was heavily tilted in Los Angeles' favor, but if the 2020 season is canceled, that would revert like a seesaw.

Betts is entering the final year of his contract. If the season is canceled, he goes directly to free agency without ever playing a game in a Dodgers uniform. Additionally, Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors reported Tuesday that Los Angeles would miss out on at least $16 million of the original $48 million included in the trade, since the Red Sox would no longer be required to pay the canceled season's portion.

Making matters worse for the Dodgers, they would still lose the players they gave up in the trade, as Verdugo, Downs and Wong would remain with Boston. On top of that, they would lose a crucial year of control on reigning NL MVP Cody Bellinger, among others. Yes, they'd essentially gain an extra year of control on some of their top prospects, but in total, you can be sure that's not a tradeoff Los Angeles would find palatable.

If the 2020 season is canceled, the Dodgers can still make Betts a qualifying offer heading into free agency. But, he'll be able to negotiate with every team in the league, and even if his salary demands are somewhat diminished by the lack of revenue resulting from a canceled season, that wouldn't necessarily play into Los Angeles' hands.

In fact, given some of the revenue-generating projects the Giants currently have in the works, San Francisco could potentially be an even bigger player in the 2020 free-agent market than originally expected.

Imagine the Giants opening the long-awaited 2021 season against the Dodgers at Oracle Park. Only instead of Betts playing against them, he's playing for them -- against the rival who he indirectly weakened.

[RELATED: California 'unlikely' to allow any fans at games this summer]

We all have our fingers crossed that some form of a 2020 season takes place. But depending on how you look at it, it might not be the worst thing for the Giants.

Certainly not as bad as it would be for the Dodgers.

How Giants' Mauricio Dubon stays ready after missing first Opening Day

dubondugoutusa.jpg
USATSI

How Giants' Mauricio Dubon stays ready after missing first Opening Day

Mauricio Dubon likely would have been the most interesting part of Gabe Kapler's Opening Day lineup. Would Dubon have been the second baseman in the opener, or would Kapler have gone straight to the plan to get the exciting young Giant more time in center field? Would he dare start the right-handed-hitting Dubon at shortstop on day one, with Clayton Kershaw -- who gave up a homer to Dubon in September -- on the mound for the Dodgers?

Perhaps we'll never know. There's no telling what the schedule will look like at this point, but Major League Baseball remains cautiously optimistic that there will be a mid-summer start.

That means Dubon will finally get to line up on Opening Day, something he has been dreaming of for most of his life. During an interview that aired on The Giants Insider Podcast this week, Dubon said he was a little sad about not getting to take part in his first opener Thursday, but there's much more at stake here.

"There's more in life than baseball, it's obviously the bigger picture," Dubon said. "From a baseball standpoint, it was kind of emotional because it was supposed to be the first one. Not being able to walk down the first or third baseline, it's just a little heartbreaker."

Like everyone else, Dubon is back home, practicing social distancing and trying to find ways to pass the time. He has played plenty of MLB: The Show and picked up Fortnite this week so he could compete with his 10-year-old brother. "It was pretty rough, but it was fun," he said, smiling. His fiancée, Nancy, has gotten into TikTok videos and Dubon has been dragged into some filming. 

From a baseball perspective, there's only so much you can do in an apartment. Dubon said he's doing weight work and keeping in shape with exercise bands, and they've ordered rubber balls so Nancy can help him simulate fielding ground balls. 

The staff is keeping in regular contact with players, particularly the younger ones, with recommendations for training exercises and healthy meals. A lot of that information was passed along last week in what ended up being a frantic end to camp. As COVID-19 spread throughout the world, spring training was relatively unbothered for a while.

Arizona, in general, was a couple of weeks behind the Bay Area in terms of the seriousness of the situation, and team employees who remain there say it seems the worst is yet to come. Players typically are on the field early in the morning and Cactus League games don't end until about 4 p.m. It's not like they were glued to their phones or news networks as the final day of camp approached. 

"I was so blind at the time, my fiancée was telling me the whole time 'this is happening, this is happening' and I was not paying attention," Dubon said. "I was more worried about am I playing center tomorrow or am I playing second tomorrow. I wasn't thinking about it. Then, when I stopped doing all that and just focused in on the world it was literally an eye-opener. You start looking at what's going on in Italy and all those countries and it was pretty crazy."

[RELATED: Giants, A's miss Opening Day, just like us, on social media]

The baseball world has caught up, and several players took to social media Thursday to encourage social distancing. The Giants are a close-knit group and Dubon said he speaks to teammates every day. They are sheltering in place, hopeful that at some point this all passes and allows for a 2020 season. It was supposed to be a breakout year for Dubon, and he said he'll be ready whenever he's allowed to get back between the lines. 

"I think we're going to be ready, we're going to be ready to go and ready to play. We're disciplined enough to stay on our craft and practice every day and get ready for the season," Dubon said. "You go to spring training ready to go. Some of the guys need more time but I think we'll be ready to go from day one."