Giants

Analysis: Young Rockies provide latest wake-up call for last-place Giants

Analysis: Young Rockies provide latest wake-up call for last-place Giants

DENVER — When Nolan Arenado’s game-winner cleared the wall Sunday, the third baseman had his 21st homer in 80 career games against the Giants. He also has 32 doubles and 75 RBI, but there’s another Arenado-related number that might be even scarier. 

The dude who has been terrorizing the Giants for the last five seasons just turned 26 years old. 

Arenado is younger than every current Giants starter except for Austin Slater, the left fielder who has been in the big leagues for all of two weeks, and it’s a trend up and down the Rockies' roster.

Kyle Freeland (24), Jeff Hoffman (24) and Antonio Sentazela (22), three pitchers who have helped the Rockies get into first place — and sweep the Giants over the weekend — are all younger than the rookie starter on the other side, 26-year-old Ty Blach. German Marquez is in the Rockies’ rotation at the age of 22. Their injured ace, Jon Gray, is just 25 years old. DJ LeMahieu (28), Trevor Story (24), Pat Valaika (24) and Raimel Tapia (23) all did damage in Colorado's first four-game sweep over the Giants. Both of the team's catchers are under the age of 27. 

The series dropped the Giants an astounding 19 1/2 games out of first place in the division. It’s their biggest first-half deficit since 1985, and it has made the situation crystal clear: The front office needs to move on to the next step, and as they do so, they can no longer just keep an eye on the Dodgers. The Giants have three of the National League’s best teams in their division, and while the Diamondbacks still could pivot and sell veteran pieces at some point in the next year or two, the Dodgers and Rockies look poised to field contenders for years to come. Both have farm systems that were generally ranked in the top 10 before the season. 

“They’ve got all the tools,” Mark Melancon said Sunday, after taking the blown save and loss. “Speed, power, average — all the way through the lineup. You’ve got to tip your hat.”

If you’re Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans, you have to wonder when the same can next be said about your Giants. Speed? The only notable burner in the lineup, Eduardo Nuñez, turned 30 during the series and is a free agent after the season. Power? The Giants are last in the majors in homers, and it isn’t close. Average? They’re 27th there, and they rank 28th in on-base percentage. 

All those numbers add up to the same reality. It’s time to revamp the lineup, and there were rumblings in Denver that some around-the-edges moves could be made soon. Ryder Jones, a 23-year-old having a good year in the Pacific Coast League, is said to be the closest to a call-up. Bruce Bochy has been eyeing Jones for a while, and given what Slater has provided in left, it’s about time to see what Jones — who plays outfield, first and third — can do with his next challenge. Jae-gyun Hwang, the Korean infielder, has an opt-out on July 1. Shouldn’t he get a look as a potential bench bat? 

Christian Arroyo will have an MRI on his sore hand on Monday, so he’s not currently in the picture, but Arroyo will be back at some point and other young players like Joan Gregorio (25), Kyle Crick (24) and Tyler Beede (24) figure to be in line for second-half auditions. Chris Shaw (23) has had a slow adjustment to Triple-A, but he could hit his way into a September call-up. The front office also needs to figure out what Jarrett Parker (28) and Mac Williamson (26) can provide moving forward, because left field is now the least of the concerns in the outfield. 

The Giants were a step behind seemingly every fly ball and line drive over the four-game series, and they talked often of bad luck. Another way of looking at being a “step behind” is that you've lost a step or three. This is a team that regularly starts five players in their 30s -- including 34- and 33-year-old outfielders -- with a matching bench.

The Giants won’t be able to compete in 2018 with this kind of outfield play, and the easiest way to find a fix would be to sell a big piece or two for young outfield prospects. In that respect, the organization has given no hint that a decision to sell has been made. 

Sources say a “we’re open for business” meeting has not been had, noting that the draft was the main emphasis in recent weeks. Johnny Cueto, the most talked-about player in trade circles, has not been approached and asked about his future plans. Cueto is said to be happy in San Francisco, and those familiar with his thinking say he’s in no rush to immediately head back to the American League and he doesn’t have an issue with the clubhouse. His biggest concerns have always been about winning and losing. No matter how Cueto feels, there will be pressure to opt-out and seek a bigger deal, and the Giants need to figure out exactly where all this stands. 

They have other potential chips in Jeff Samardzija and Matt Moore, who despite a poor start is young and still oozing with talent. Trading Nuñez should be an easy decision; he can help any contender with his versatility and speed. Brandon Belt’s name will come up as it always does, and perhaps there’s a contender that sees bench value in the likes of Aaron Hill, Conor Gillaspie or Nick Hundley. While many fans will scream for a complete teardown, the truth is that most of the oft-mentioned names are untradable because of performance, contracts, or age. 

The July 31 deadline is fast approaching, but the Giants have been in the same situation for weeks. The series at Coors Field was never going to change the math, but it did end up being instructive. The Rockies are younger, deeper, and more talented than the Giants, and they’re only going to get better. As the deadline gets closer, it’s up to the front office to figure out some way to try and keep up.

How Giants prospects acquired at MLB trade deadline played this season

How Giants prospects acquired at MLB trade deadline played this season

There are just nine games left in the Giants' 2019 season. Manager Bruce Bochy already earned his 2,000th win. Mike Yastrzemski already had his magical moment at Fenway Park. 

What's left in the season is cherishing every game Bochy writes the lineup card and perhaps Madison Bumgarner's last days as a Giant, among others. 

As we look back at the most memorable moments from the season, the most important for the future could be several calls president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi made during the July 31 MLB trade deadline. In his first year calling the shots for the Giants, Zaidi might have made all the right moves. 

Let's look back at all the prospects the Giants acquired at the trade deadline and how they fit into the future. 

Mauricio Dubon, 2B/SS

This seems like a rare win-win trade for both sides.

Dubon, 25, is the future at either second base or shortstop for the Giants. Drew Pomeranz has a 2.42 ERA with 38 strikeouts in 22 1/3 innings for the Brewers, who enter Thursday with a one-game lead for the second NL wild-card spot. Ray Black also has been a formidable option out of Milwaukee's bullpen.

With Dubon's age and the fact he's under team control, the Giants are the real winners here. Through 19 games with the Giants, Dubon is batting .284 with three homers, four doubles and an .802 OPS. Before joining the Giants, Dubon hit .323 with four homers and an .876 OPS over 25 games in Triple-A for the Sacramento River Cats.

He's listed at just 160 pounds, but Dubon has flashed some power, has great baseball instincts and could be a future Gold Glover.

Tristan Beck, RHP

No matter how long Zaidi leads the Giants' front office, one of his greatest accomplishments will be getting rid of Mark Melancon's contract.

The veteran reliever still was owed nearly $20 million of his four-year, $62 million contract. That now belongs to the Braves. The Giants traded Melancon to Atlanta at the deadline for pitchers Tristan Beck and Dan Winkler. 

Beck, 23, is the prospect in the deal and he's an interesting one. The former Stanford star struggled at the start of his minor league career, but turned it around after joining the San Jose Giants in High A. He went 3-2 with a 2.27 ERA and 1.29 WHIP over six starts. 

Now, Beck joins River Cats pitching coach Steve Kline in the Arizona Fall League. If he keeps progressing, he could be a quick riser through the farm system.

Dan Winkler, RHP

Winkler, 29, pitched 27 games out of the bullpen for the Braves this season. He went 3-1 with a 4.98 ERA and 1.34 WHIP with Atlanta prior to the trade. 

The veteran reliever spent the rest of the season in Sacramento where he had a 0.64 ERA in 12 appearances out of the 'pen. Winkler is arbitration-eligible this offseason and likely doesn't have a long-term future in San Francisco. 

Jaylin Davis, OF

The Giants might have fleeced the Twins when they traded reliever Sam Dyson to Minnesota.

Dyson was 4-1 with a 2.47 ERA in 49 appearances for the Giants when they shipped him off. He has dealt with multiple bicep injuries since joining the Twins and had a 7.15 ERA in 12 appearances on his new team. 

Davis, 25, was slugging his way through the minors with 25 homers between Double-A and Triple-A when the Giants acquired him. He added another 10 with the River Cats in only 27 games. 

In eight games with the Giants, Davis is yet to knock one over the fence and is batting just .130. He has shown off his athleticism with his speed and arm in the outfield, but can he catch up to major-league velocity? 

That's a question the Giants will have to answer. 

Kai-Wei Teng, RHP

Teng, 20, is a big starting pitcher at 6-foot-4 and 260 pounds. He throws from a 3/4-arm angle and had a dominant season this year. 

Teng went 7-0 with a 1.58 ERA between two Class A teams. After joining the Augusta GreenJackets, he struck out 39 batters in 29 innings and opposing batters hit just .160 off him. 

At his young age, Teng will be an interesting prospect to keep track of next season. 

Prelander Berroa, RHP

Berroa only is 19 years old and is extremely unpolished. While he's only 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds, he sits in the mid-90s and has touched 98 mph. 

As the third piece of a trade, Berroa is a low-risk-high-reward prospect.

Joe McCarthy, 1B/OF

The Giants acquired McCarthy from the Rays for Jacob Lopez, their 26th-round pick from the 2018 draft. McCarthy was the Rays' No. 28 prospect at the time. 

McCarthy, 25, struggled with Sacramento, batting .165 in 24 games. He doesn't seem to have too much of a future with San Francisco.

How Bruce Bochy uses Madison Bumgarner for advice when he's not starting

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AP

How Bruce Bochy uses Madison Bumgarner for advice when he's not starting

ATLANTA -- In the bottom of the ninth inning last Wednesday, the Giants got a walk and a single off then-Pirates closer Felipe Vasquez, inviting their fans back into the game as they attempted an unlikely comeback. As those remaining stood and cheered, Madison Bumgarner emerged on the top step of the dugout and stood to Bruce Bochy's right. 

Bochy turned to Bumgarner and had a quick conversation, and then both men focused their attention back to the field. As Austin Slater walked up for a pinch-hit appearance, the two spoke again. Bumgarner stood next to Bochy, a hoodie on, throughout the ninth, ending the conversation only a few seconds before the rally fell short. 

Part of the discussion was exactly what you might imagine. 

"It was, 'Listen, this guy throws really hard and has great stuff ... but you know I'm a great matchup for him,'" Bochy recalled, smiling. 

Bumgarner actually might have been as good a matchup as Bochy had for Vasquez. He once drew a walk off Aroldis Chapman, another lefty closer with similar stuff, and this season has two walks in two pinch-hit plate appearances. But most of the conversation wasn't about giving Bumgarner a shot. The two discussed Bochy's pinch-hit options, and as he has done often over the years, Bochy used his ace's advice as part of his decision-making process.

Bumgarner is famous in the clubhouse for the way he can read swings during a game. While his process has changed a bit over the years, he's still pretty old-school for the most part, watching where a hitter sets up in the box, the way he places his hands, and how he approaches different pitches. That has instructed the majority of Bumgarner's game planning over the years, and Bochy has taken advantage. 

"He's got a good feel for the game, he really does," Bochy said. "He watches the game and studies the game. He has a great feel. There's been a couple of times this year when he gets by me and we're talking strategy or a move or possibly who to use as a pinch-hitter. A couple of times I've used his advice. It's great because if it doesn't work, I can get on him."

Bochy used Bumgarner with Vasquez on the mound, asking him which right-handers on the bench he felt were the best matchup. It's a process that Bumgarner said started later in his career. He was curious to know what Bochy was thinking during games he wasn't starting. 

"I'd seen a lot of moves he made early in my career and they always seemed to work," Bumgarner said. "Granted, you've got to have the players to do that, too, but when I got comfortable enough with him and he made a move, I would ask him about it. If I was thinking something else or I was thinking the same thing, I would just ask him how he decided to do what he did. He would walk me through it and it helped me learn a lot about this game, also."

Asked how often he feels his advice has pushed Bochy in a new direction, Bumgarner paused for a moment and then frowned. 

"You know, it has, but I'm pretty sure it's whenever I say whatever he's already thinking," Bumgarner said. "A lot of times he'll ask me what I would do here, but most of the time he does the same thing that I say. But I think the only reason for that is that's what he was going to do anyway."

Coach Bumgarner has been a resource for Bochy, and the manager thought Bumgarner would be "great at it" if he ever wanted to coach or manage.

"You look at how he prepares for his games, reads hitters -- he can assimilate information very well," Bochy said.

Don't hold your breath waiting for Bumgarner on the top step, though. A large part of Bochy's job is briefing the media every day, and there's no chance Bumgarner would sign up for that gig. 

[RELATED: MadBum's road struggles continue before ace's free agency]

Instead, he'll enjoy his final week as an extra set of eyes for Bochy, trying to find an edge even on days when he's not starting. Bochy cherishes the interaction, in part because he knows what's usually coming at some point. He laughed when asked what kind of advice Bumgarner gave him as they went over options against Vasquez. 

"He said, 'I think you might want me to pinch-hit here,'" Bochy said.