Giants

Evans attends Holland's showcase; Giants 'getting a little more clarity'

Evans attends Holland's showcase; Giants 'getting a little more clarity'

PHOENIX — In talking about a pitcher he ultimately wasn’t able to reel in, Giants general manager Bobby Evans often jokingly referred to Andrew Miller as a “North Carolina guy,” a plus to Evans, who graduated from UNC. Is it possible the GM’s solution for the ninth inning is another closer from a Carolina school?

Evans and Dick Tidrow, the front office’s pitching guru, were among the executives in attendance Monday when former Royals closer Greg Holland held a showcase in Phoenix. The organization is casting a wide net in search of a ninth-inning solution, and Evans has already touched base with the agents for the big free agents. Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon are the marquee names, but Holland is an intriguing under-the-radar candidate.

“Based on his experience and success, you’re certainly going to look at him as an option to close,” Evans said Tuesday at the annual GM Meetings. “But these things are just barely unfolding right now.”

In the opening days of free agency, Evans has started to get a picture of the trade options that might be out there. The big fish in that respect would be Kansas City’s Wade Davis, but it hasn't yet been made clear that he's available. The Giants checked in with the Royals before the deadline but backed away when Davis got hurt. Ultimately, the Giants opted to bolster the rotation with Matt Moore. That left them short in the bullpen, and after a month of watching closers star in the postseason, finding a new one remains the No. 1 priority. 

“We’re getting a little more clarity on our options but it’s still only a little more clarity because there’s a lot of time left to see how things will unfold,” Evans said. “But we’re very clear that we want to be very sure who is finishing our games.”

The Giants saw in 2014 that Holland is capable of doing it as well as anyone, but they’re not alone. Per the New York Post, about 60 scouts from 18 different teams gathered to watch Holland throw at a small local college. Holland pitched a couple of simulated innings, sitting around 89-90 mph.

When healthy, Holland is on par with the game-changers who dominated in October. He posted identical All-Star seasons in 2013 and 2014 and might have been the most consistent relief pitcher in the game. Holland saved 47 games in 2013 with a 1.21 ERA and 13.8 strikeouts per nine innings. A year later, he saved 46 games, posted a 1.44 ERA, and struck out 13 batters per nine innings. 

No big league pitcher who threw at least 50 innings over that span had a lower ERA, and only Craig Kimbrel saved more games. Holland capped that run by saving seven postseason games and allowing just one run in 11 appearances, helping the Royals reach the World Series and take the Giants to a Game 7.

Holland’s numbers dropped off in 2015. He had, a 3.83 ERA and 9.9 strikeout rate before reconstructive elbow surgery ended his year. His agent, Scott Boras, believes that Holland will be back to his old self by the time spring training roles around. 

“The reaction should be pretty positive after (the showcase),” Boras told the New York Post. “He just had to illustrate that he was healthy because when he has been healthy, he has been elite.”
 

Q&A: Damon Minor on Giants' Steven Duggar, Chris Shaw and Aramis Garcia

Q&A: Damon Minor on Giants' Steven Duggar, Chris Shaw and Aramis Garcia

For the past two seasons — either in Triple-A Sacramento or the Arizona Fall League — Damon Minor has worked with the Giants prospects trio of Steven Duggar, Chris Shaw and Aramis Garcia. In 2018, Minor saw all three of them as the River Cats’ hitting coach before each player made their major league debuts in San Francisco. 

NBC Sports Bay Area recently spoke to Minor, as the former Giants first baseman assessed each hitter’s development at the plate.

NBCS Bay Area: You’ve worked with Steven Duggar the last two years (13 games in 2017, 78 in 2018). He obviously made a big impression on the Giants this past season. What were his biggest improvements the last two years at the plate? 

Minor: I think it was just the adjustments to the leagues. He had to adjust to Triple-A pitching with guys who can command the ball better, and learning the strike zone. Obviously when he went up to the big leagues, it was another challenge for him to learn, and Alonzo [Powell] and Schuey did a good job of honing in on him really knowing the strike zone, and staying in the strike zone.

It was just unfortunate that he got hurt because he was starting to break through with it. 

[RELATED: Why Giants assistant hitting coach sent Steven Duggar film of Nick Markakis]

Ideally, you’d want him as your long-term lead-off hitter. Can he be that guy for the Giants? 

The best thing about Duggar is that I think with his ability, he can lead off, he can go to the 2-hole or 3-hole depending on how hot he gets, he can drop down to hit in front of the pitcher, too. He learned how to hit a little bit in front of the pitcher, so that flexibility that you give a manager, that’s really, really good for him.

Does Chris Shaw have some of the best natural power you’ve seen? 

Yes. He has someone of the best natural power there comes from the left side. I was fortunate enough to play with some guys who had that power. It was good for him to go up and see what the big leagues are about.

Just like Duggar did, he just has to make those adjustments and be more of a hitter to be able to get to his power. I think with time, and as young as he is, he will [make adjustments].

[RELATED: Chris Shaw showed potential, needs more time at Triple-A]

Are there any keys you see to Shaw unlocking that power by becoming more of a pure hitter first? 

First, it comes down to getting at-bats. And then just knowing the strike zone. It’s not really a swing issues. Little tweaks here and there. It’s more timing. If you have time to recognize the pitch more often, you’ll be more consistent and on time and ready. Your swing will take care of itself, and you’ll hone in on the pitches you want to hit.

For someone like Chris Shaw, what’s the toughest part mentally after struggling right away in the majors as a top prospect? 

It happens as a young player. You go up there, and everything’s a little bigger. You got a bigger crowd, it’s the big leagues, and you’ve been striving to get there through the minor leagues. When you do, it is a bigger picture.

You just have to learn how to control the emotions and not let things get overly big for you. For him, he’s a tough kid. He’s from Boston. He’s a hockey player. The best thing about Chris Shaw is that he’s gonna find a way to figure things out. He’s not stubborn, and he’s gonna make changes accordingly to have success in the big leagues.

What was your first impression of Aramis Garcia once he made it to Triple-A? 

I was fortunate enough to work with Aramis in the Fall League when I was there last year. I’ve been seeing him work his way up from Double-A to up here the last couple weeks before he was called up. The main thing with him was not only his bat, but being a catcher and being a guy to handle a pitching staff. I think that was the most impressive thing.

It just so happens he’s a pretty good hitter as far as staying through the field, being able to drive the ball the other way, and he’s learning to pull the ball a little better. He has a really good high ceiling. 

[RELATED: Aramis Garcia flashes power, opens eyes in September]

He looks like someone who could at least a backup in the bigs sooner than later. 

And it took him a little bit of time. He’s a little bit older at 25, turning 26. But that happens with players. He stuck with it, and he’s been more aggressive. You see it as a hitting coach and what he does behind the plate. I’m happy for him. 

Going from Sacramento to AT&T Park, do you think there’s a swing or mental adjustment for players? 

Fortunately, the Sacramento field actually plays to the tendency of AT&T. It’s got some shadows to it. It’s deep in center field like AT&T, and when the sun goes down, the ball doesn’t carry. It plays fairly fair. But obviously just like anywhere, you still gotta hit and do your damage on the road, like Colorado. In the PCL, it’s Las Vegas and different places like that.

There is a different mindset [to AT&T Park], but the thing is, if you keep your mindset of going up there and staying with your plan, things will take care of itself. If you put too much pressure on yourself — I was fortunate enough to play there, and you crush some balls, and I’m not fast enough to run around even in Triples Alley. There was only one guy that made that place look small, and that was Barry [Bonds]. 

MLB rumors: How Dodgers' Dave Roberts could replace Giants' Bruce Bochy

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AP

MLB rumors: How Dodgers' Dave Roberts could replace Giants' Bruce Bochy

The Giants already made one drastic change to their franchise this offseason in hiring Farhan Zaidi away from the Los Angeles Dodgers as their new president of baseball operations. Another year from now, could they add another prominent figure from their archrival?

According to FanCred's Jon Heyman, the Dodgers and manager Dave Roberts appeared close to a multiyear contract extension a week ago, but they now sit at a standstill, unable to come to an agreement. Roberts is said to be on vacation overseas, per Heyman, and the sides “remain far apart."

Los Angeles picked up Roberts’ $1.1 million option for 2019, meaning he’s under contract for next season, but not beyond. If the sides can't come to an agreement on an extension, Roberts essentially will enter next season as a lame-duck manager.

How do the Giants figure into this, you ask? Well, they just might have a managerial opening in one year’s time.

Bruce Bochy is entering the final year of his contract, and while the Giants have experienced plenty of success under the future Hall of Fame manager, there is plenty of reason to believe this will be Bochy’s last season in orange and black.

If 2019 indeed is Bochy’s final season with the Giants, could Roberts be the front-runner to replace him, provided he and the Dodgers don’t reach an extension? In many ways, it would be a logical pairing.

Zaidi obviously is familiar with Roberts, having served as general manager of the Dodgers since the beginning of the 2015 season. Roberts was hired as manager the following year, and Los Angeles has won the National League West in every season since, ultimately losing in the World Series each of the last two years.

Giants fans should be familiar with Roberts as well, and not just because of the last few years. The Dodgers manager spent the final two seasons of his 10-year playing career in San Francisco, batting .252 and stealing 36 bases in 166 games for the orange and black. He also played three seasons in Los Angeles and two in San Diego.

There’s still plenty of time for Roberts and the Dodgers to come to an agreement on an extension, but if for whatever reason they don’t, he could find another home within NL West a year from now.