Giants

After moving McCutchen and Pence, Giants looking at veteran center fielders

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After moving McCutchen and Pence, Giants looking at veteran center fielders

SAN FRANCISCO — Steven Duggar never played for the 2017 Giants, but that 98-loss team still might have an impact on where Duggar starts the 2018 season. 

The front office learned a harsh lesson after leaving left field to young, unproven players. With the hole now sitting in center, Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans are eager to add a veteran, despite the fact that they think very highly of Duggar. They do not want a repeat of 2017, when they felt comfortable with Jarrett Parker at the end of the offseason, only to watch him get injured and the position turn into a rotation of failure. 

“We think Duggar is pretty much ready, but we’d love to give him a little more time at the minor league level, although I think he’s going to make a push to make this club,” Evans said. “This is a time of year when you would rather have Duggar in your back pocket and bring in a center fielder that allows us to have more time.”

The Giants already have one option in-house, and on the same conference call that Evans spoke, manager Bruce Bochy went out of his way to mention Gorkys Hernandez. “He really, the second half, was a pretty good player. Sometimes we forget about him,” Bochy said. Other options are being considered, though. 

The Giants have never been keen on giving up two high draft picks and $1 million in international money to sign 31-year-old Lorenzo Cain to a monster deal, but guys like Jarrod Dyson, Jon Jay, Austin Jackson and Cameron Maybin are still on the market. Per ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, the order of preference in the front office is Dyson, Jay and then Maybin. 

All would provide a defensive upgrade over Denard Span, but the Giants need to decide how many on that list would be worth a financial commitment beyond the pre-arbitration salary the team already owes Hernandez, who hit .281 after the All-Star break and played solid defense in center. Dyson would for sure, but he was said to be seeking a two-year deal earlier in the offseason for a salary that would vault the Giants right over the luxury tax line. 

If they’re patient, it’s possible the Giants find that one of the others is sitting around in mid-February and willing to accept a cheap non-guaranteed deal, with the likelihood of winning the job in Scottsdale. That would be the best financial fit for a club that appears to be about $3-4 million from hitting the tax line for a fourth consecutive year. While Evans said being under is not a mandate, he did mention it as a target. Sabean went a bit further in his remarks. 

“Against our payroll,” he said, “We’re mindful of what we’re going to do.”

A cheap option, whether it’s Hernandez or a veteran free agent, could allow the Giants to try and find one more arm for the bullpen. In this extremely slow market, a few options remain. 

Such a plan would also allow for Duggar, still just 24, to move quickly. Injuries kept him from reaching the big leagues last year, but he got a cameo in Triple-A and then impressed in the Arizona Fall League. Talent evaluators credit Duggar for his center field defense and discipline at the plate, and Sabean is said to be a huge fan. 

If he lives up to the hype, Duggar won’t be in the back pocket for long, no matter what else the Giants do before pitchers and catchers report. 

Ex-Giants manager Dusty Baker reveals his challenge when MLB returns

Ex-Giants manager Dusty Baker reveals his challenge when MLB returns

Dusty Baker has been a part of professional baseball since 1967, and if and when the sport returns in 2020, he will have to kick a few habits he's probably been doing since he was drafted by the Atlanta Braves.

All players, managers and coaches will have to stop spitting, among other things.

In the name of health and safety during the age of the coronavirus pandemic, MLB sent a 67-page document to teams outlining what the players can no longer do.

For Baker, the former Giants manager and current Houston Astros skipper, he isn't sure how he's going to stop spitting.

“Now the biggest challenge is gonna be what my mom has been chastising me about my whole life — spitting,” Baker told The Athletic's Jayson Stark and Doug Glanville. “I am not kidding you. That’s the first thing my wife asked me. She goes, ‘How you gonna stop spitting?’ I don’t know.

“And my mom, I swear — she has been getting on me since I was 10 years old about spitting. Know what I mean? And I used to practice spitting. I’m the most accurate spitter in the world.”

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

If you've seen Baker anywhere near a baseball diamond, he always has a toothpick sticking out of his mouth. Those little pieces of wood have become synonymous with the 70-year-old.

Baker told Stark and Glanville that there was a time in his career where he called a toothpick company trying to get an endorsement. Yes, a toothpick endorsement.

“So they wrote me back,” Baker said. “Nice letter. And they said, ‘Thank you, Dusty. It’s a great idea. But we don’t need you to sell toothpicks.' ”

Only Dusty could try to get a toothpick endorsement.

[RELATED: Zac Efron's epic Dusty autograph story]

Whenever baseball returns, Baker will manage an Astros team coming off a turbulent offseason in which they were severely punished for a sign-stealing scandal. Former manager AJ Hinch was fired for his role, opening the door for Baker get the chance to lead his fifth MLB team to the playoffs.

If Baker gets back to the playoffs, he'll have to do it without his trusty toothpicks.

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]

Why Giants' Hunter Pence feels such 'deep connection' to organization

Why Giants' Hunter Pence feels such 'deep connection' to organization

Hunter Pence was part of two World Series-winning teams with the Giants in 2012 and 2014. He rejoined San Francisco's roster in February after an impressive comeback season in 2019 that included All-Star honors with the Texas Rangers.

The 37-year-old outfielder joined 95.7 The Game on Friday and explained why he decided to return to San Francisco.

“Obviously I feel a deep connection with the Giants organization,” Pence said. “The city, and these years, you never know which one is gonna be your last. I think everyone thought two years ago was my last year, and I’ve been fortunate that I made some adjustments.

“I want to be a part of passing on a lot of the things that I’ve learned to the young people, and I wanna come and transition back into the winning ways.”

[RELATED: Five Giants hitters who've had much more success when visiting Rockies]

Pence also noted that he’s appreciated getting a chance to work with the organization’s new leadership.

“It’s been really exciting to learn from Farhan, and the new metrics and I learned a lot of that with the Rangers. So I’m excited to share. I wanna pass all that on, I feel right at home, I’m in love with the city and the organization, and in love with everything with the Giants. It feels like home, it feels like family and it means a lot to be a Giant.”

Pence hopefully will be able to once again take the field in a Giants uniform soon.

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]