Giants

Astros know Gerrit Cole wants to be 'West Coast guy' in MLB free agency

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USATSI

Astros know Gerrit Cole wants to be 'West Coast guy' in MLB free agency

The Astros are trying to soak in every start Gerrit Cole makes for them. As Houston sits two wins from reaching the World Series, they know their staff ace likely will be pitching for a different team next season. 

Cole is expected to possibly sign a record-breaking contract as a free agent this upcoming offseason. His teammates have an idea of which part of the country he will be packing his bags for, too. 

"We know he wants to be a West Coast guy," Astros outfielder Josh Reddick told Bleacher Report's Scott Miller

Cole, 29, grew up in Southern California and attended UCLA before the Pirates took him with the No. 1 pick in the 2011 MLB Draft. Could his future be in Northern California, though? 

Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford and Cole are brothers-in-law. ESPN's Jeff Passan also listed San Francisco in late August as one of nine destinations that are "positioned and motivated to explore adding Cole."

The three-time All-Star also told Miller that he has been to six or seven Giants postseason games in the past, including taking his grandfather to two World Series games in 2012.

Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has some big decisions to make regarding the roster this offseason. Longtime ace Madison Bumgarner will be a free agent, but Cole certainly would be an upgrade. The right-hander is a front-runner to win the AL Cy Young award this year after going 20-5 with a 2.50 ERA and 326 strikeouts over 212 1/3 innings. 

But Cole could be in line to sign a contract worth well over $200 million this winter. 

[RELATED: Maddon agrees to three-year contract to be Angels' next manager]

The Giants rode star pitchers like Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain to three championships this decade. Adding Cole to start off the next decade could be the perfect addition. A healthy Johnny Cueto is returning to San Francisco's rotation next season, along with Jeff Samardzija -- whose 3.52 ERA this year was his lowest since 2014. 

San Francisco will have plenty of competition if they do pursue Cole, especially from Southern California teams in the Angels and Dodgers. He certainly will be sought after from the Bay Area to Los Angeles and beyond.

Wilmer Flores looks to add more power to Giants' lineup this season

Wilmer Flores looks to add more power to Giants' lineup this season

Wilmer Flores made history this offseason. He became the first player Farhan Zaidi signed to a multiyear contract with the Giants, when the veteran infielder inked his two-year deal earlier this month. 

Now that he's with the Giants in spring training, Flores is trying to add something to San Francisco that the team badly lacked last season: Power. It's not like that's what the 28-year-old is known for, though. 

Flores hit nine homers in 89 games for the Arizona Diamondbacks last season, but his .848 OPS was a career-high and his .487 slugging percentage was one point off the best of his career. 

"I've always been a guy who puts the ball in play," Flores said Friday on KNBR's "Murph & Mac Show." "I'm trying this year to hit the ball a lot more in the air. That's what I'm trying to do a lot more this year. Ground balls are not hits anymore. You gotta hit the ball in the air." 

From 2015-2018, however, he averaged 15 long balls per season and clearly has bought into baseball's power movement with more launch angle. 

Flores should have an interesting role on the Giants this season. The keyword around Gabe Kapler's spring training is "versatility." Mauricio Dubon already has embraced it, and Flores believes he can thrive anywhere around the infield. 

"In the infield, I can play anywhere if you want me to," Flores said.

But he clearly prefers a certain spot.

"If you ask me, I'll stay at second base," Flores said. 

[RELATED: Sanchez brings revamped swing, fun celebration to Giants]

That position is full of competition for the Giants this season. Along with Flores and Dubon, Yolmer Sanchez -- who won an AL Gold Glove last season -- and Donovan Solano are vying for time as well. Flores played 64 games at second base and 16 at third last year. He also has plenty of time at shortstop and first base under his belt as well. 

Whether it's more defensive versatility or adding more power, Flores figures to be a key player for the Giants this season.

Giants GM Scott Harris explains signing Hunter Pence over Kevin Pillar

Giants GM Scott Harris explains signing Hunter Pence over Kevin Pillar

Madison Bumgarner wearing a jersey other than one for the Giants still remains a shock to some. The front office made a bit of another controversial decision as well when moving on from last season's home-run leader. 

Kevin Pillar quickly became a fan favorite in San Francisco for his diving catching in center field and ability to actually his the ball out of Oracle Park. And then, the Giants let the Willie Mac Award winner walk this past offseason. 

The Giants non-tendered Pillar in December, making him a free agent. The veteran outfielder was expected to make around $10 million in arbitration. Instead of bringing him back, the Giants essentially opted to replace him with a Hunter Pence reunion, costing the front office only $3 million.

Pillar wound up signing a one-year, $4.25 million contract with the Boston Red Sox earlier this month.

General manager Scott Harris further explained what went into those decisions. 

“Hunter fills an important hole for us on our team," Harris said on KNBR's "Murph & Mac Show" on Friday. "He helps us run out a very formidable lineup against left-handed pitching. He’s also familiar with our ballpark and brings leadership skills we think are going to complement our young core.

“In Kevin’s case, he was an excellent player for us last year, he had one more year of team control so he was going to be a free agent at the end of next year anyways.

"We wanted to create opportunities for our young players and invest in our young players. That doesn’t mean money, it means investing at-bats, it means investing innings in center field, it means investing in the opportunity to grind through a major league season and really prove yourself at this level.”

The Giants still seem to have question marks in center field. Middle infielder Mauricio Dubon will get innings there this spring, and has embraced being a versatile player for manager Gabe Kapler. Mike Yastrzemski is expected to start the season in center, and he can play all three outfield positions. Steven Duggar, Jaylin Davis and the speedy Billy Hamilton all are expected to fight for innings as well. 

Pence, however, will not play any center field. He is expected to mostly play left field while also helping in right as well. 

As Kapler and the Giants hope to be versatile all over the field, it's likely their outfielders will have to play multiple positions. 

[RELATED: How MadBum pitched for D-backs in his first spring outing]

Harris is right, though. While Pillar hit .278 with nine homers and an .823 OPS against lefties last season, Pence was even better. In his comeback season with the Texas Rangers, Pence batted .327 with a 1.015 OPS and knocked out eight homers against southpaws. 

Whether Harris wants to admit it or not, money did play a factor here. But Pence does bring mentorship to a young roster, and fans already are clamoring about having him back in San Francisco.