Giants

EXTRA BAGGS: Don't expect return of Ross the Boss, etc.

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EXTRA BAGGS: Don't expect return of Ross the Boss, etc.

NASHVILLE – From several angles, Cody Ross would appear to be a perfect fit to rejoin the Giants.

He remains hugely popular from his magical postseason in 2010. He’s a right-handed hitting outfielder. And the Giants would like to acquire a platoon partner for Gregor Blanco in left field.

But it wouldn’t be a perfect fit for Ross, who wants a multiyear contract with an everyday role. And obviously, in a platoon, the right-handed hitter always gets the short end.

So don’t expect Ross the Boss to return.

“Many of these guys aren’t going to sign for a platoon,” Giants vice president Bobby Evans said. “If you’re going to make a multiyear commitment, are you really going to platoon him?

“I wouldn’t rule it out, but we’re looking at one-year deals.”

That likely will preclude them from signing Scott Hairston, who is attracting a lot of interest as he holds out for a deal similar to the two-year, $10 million contract the Red Sox gave to Jonny Gomes.

And although the Giants made a strong two-year offer for Ryan Ludwick, it was contingent on talks falling apart with second baseman Marco Scutaro. Once Scutaro agreed to his three-year, $20 million deal, the Ludwick dollars disappeared.

Nick Swisher? He expects to be in a whole other bracket.

With the Giants already bumping up against their payroll ceiling in the $140 million range, they expect to start the season with Blanco as the starting left fielder – a stance they feel able to make because of the defensive value he brings to their pitching staff.

Barring an abrupt change, the Giants’ key personnel are set for 2013.

“You’re never really done, but certainly, the starting lineup and rotation and top end of our bullpen has been set and that’s very satisfying,” said Evans, who was able to re-sign center fielder Angel Pagan and left-hander Jeremy Affeldt in addition to Scutaro. “Brian (Sabean) and Bruce (Bochy) had a clear vision of what they wanted to happen, and didn’t take for granted that it would. Those players had options and perhaps even options beyond where we were.”

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The Giants fell in love with Scutaro’s attitude and clubhouse presence as much as his unbelievable run as the No.2 hitter.

They appreciate him even more now. From what I’ve been told, Scutaro’s agents came to the Giants early in the offseason and told them that a three-year, $20 million contract would get it done.

The Giants preferred a two-year structure. Meanwhile, Scutaro’s agents fielded other offers and the money went up and up. He had a two-year offer for close to $18 million from the Cardinals, who went as far as to arrange Matt Holliday to give Scutaro a call in case there were any lingering hard feelings from his takeout slide in the NLCS. I’m not sure that call was ever made, though, as the Giants sweetened their offer to three years and $20 million.

That’s a far lower average annual value, obviously, and there was some doubt whether Scutaro would accept it. But just as Scutaro’s agents promised, three and twenty got it done.

Scutaro was good to his word.

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John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle flagged down the year-by-year on Scutaro’s contract: He gets a $2 million signing bonus and $6 million in each of the next three seasons.

You’ll recall that Angel Pagan received a $5 million signing bonus as part of his four-year, $40 million deal. That money is not deferred and payable immediately.

Expect more players and agents to request front-loaded contracts with a signing bonus, and the reason is simple: The fiscal cliff is looming, President Obama has vowed to increase taxes on the wealthy, and most of these players are very much among the 1 percent.

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All indications are that the Giants will not seek to re-sign right-hander Guillermo Mota. They would like to add more relief depth, though.

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A lot of people ask me which Giants minor leaguers could make the opening-day roster or make an impact early in the season. I think you’d have to look in the outfield, where the Giants’ depth is likely to be tested. Roger Kieschnick showed that his shoulder is healthy in the Dominican winter league, and Francisco Peguero, while not a finished product, is a right-handed hitter with all the tools to be a plus defender with surprising power. Peguero still has the best bat speed of anyone in the Giants farm system.

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Dodgers GM Ned Colletti, asked about the Giants on CSN Bay Area: “It’s part of our mission to not let them keep winning.”

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There is a dearth of catching in the league, as illustrated by the fact that Eli Whiteside has been claimed on waivers twice this offseason (by the Yankees and then the Blue Jays).

So it stands to reason that Jackson Williams and Johnny Monell could be the Giants minor leaguers most liable to be snagged in the Rule 5 draft on Thursday. Monell, a left-handed hitter whose bat is much more valuable than his defense, is having a terrific season in the Puerto Rican winter league, too.

A week ago, the Giants signed 31-year-old catcher Guillermo Quiroz to a minor league contract. He has played in 103 games over parts of eight major league seasons with the Blue Jays, Mariners, Rangers, Orioles and Red Sox.

Sounds like a modern-day Yamid Haad.

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On Tuesday, A's insider Casey Pratt and I both accepted the challenge and worked in an "I reckon" into our TV appearances from Nashville. Casey outdid me by getting in two of 'em. He would've been tough to beat in "Name That Tune."

MLB free agency debate: Where will Michael Brantley sign this offseason?

MLB free agency debate: Where will Michael Brantley sign this offseason?

Editor's note: Each day this week, Giants insider Alex Pavlovic and A's reporter Ben Ross will debate where one of the top five free agents might land this offseason. Tuesday's free agent to discuss is Michael Brantley, an three-time All-Star outfielder who has spent his entire career with the Cleveland Indians.

ALEX: Ben, yesterday we went right to the top of the market and discussed Bryce Harper. If you're looking for outfield help -- and a lot of teams are -- it gets kind of sketchy after Harper.

Andrew McCutchen still is a good player, but he's no longer an MVP candidate. A.J. Pollock has had a ton of injury issues. Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and others are really getting up there in age. But I'm intrigued by Michael Brantley, who has never really lived up to the hype because of his own injuries. If you're looking for a guy who has a moderate amount of pop and gets on base at a high rate -- hellooooo, Giants -- he could be your guy.

BEN: He might be a great fit for the Giants, but the A’s already have enough outfielders, for a fraction of the cost. What have you heard about the Giants’ interest in Brantley? Where else do you think he could end up?

ALEX: I haven't heard anything concrete regarding their interest, but I think he's an interesting case. On one hand, they've been burned over and over again by giving money to position players -- particularly outfielders -- in their 30s. But they also have two corner outfield spots open and desperately need established hitters.

Brantley, who has always been a good OBP guy, would fit in that respect. Perhaps Farhan Zaidi can pull a Chris Taylor or Max Muncy out of another organization, but if Brantley's price drops, he could be a fill-in for a couple of seasons.

I wonder if he'll end up with a team that missed out on Harper and still has that need. The Phillies could fit there. The Braves have been a rumored destination. Maybe the White Sox? Who am I missing?

BEN: I think he makes a lot of sense in San Francisco. As you mentioned, he has a great career OBP with decent power and speed. It looks like he'll probably get around $15 million per year, which is reasonable for a back-to-back All-Star.

I think the Phillies and Braves both make a lot of sense, especially if Philadelphia doesn't land Bryce Harper. Maybe the Nationals if Harper leaves? He also could be a nice A.J. Pollock replacement in Arizona, although Pollock plays center. How about the Rockies? Both Carlos Gonzalez and Gerardo Parra are free agents.

ALEX: It sounds like the Diamondbacks are rebuilding, and I think the Rockies need to spend that money elsewhere. This feels like a #MysteryTeam situation, but in the end, I'll go with a safe prediction.

I think Brantley ends up with the Braves as a Nick Markakis replacement, but the twist will be that it'll be a shorter deal. I don't believe the talk that last year's free agency dip was a one-year thing. I think the second tier of veterans again will struggle to get those long-term deals, so I'll put Brantley down for a two-year, $32 million deal. What's your call?

BEN: It sounds like the Braves are pushing hard for Brantley, so they're my prediction, too. As you said, they need a Markakis replacement. Brantley played his college ball at Coastal Carolina University, which isn't too far from Atlanta. While he's been a bit injury-prone, he's still just 31 years old. I'll say he gets three years, $45 million.

Editor's note: This week across the NBC Sports Regional Networks, we'll be taking an in-depth look at some of the top free agents in baseball. Tuesday is dedicated to free agent outfielder Michael Brantley.
How Brantley could help solve one of the Giants' biggest issues
Why the outfielder-rich A's should pass on Brantley
Does Brantley really fit the White Sox's long-term plan?
Brantley should be far down on Red Sox's free agent list
Phillies should pursue Brantley if they whiff on Harper
Could signing Brantley soften blow of Nats losing Harper?

Why free agent Michael Brantley could solve one of Giants' big issues

Why free agent Michael Brantley could solve one of Giants' big issues

SAN FRANCISCO — The lack of power sucks up most of the oxygen in the room, but for the 2018 Giants, there was a bigger offensive issue. 

The Giants ranked 14th in the National League with a .300 on-base percentage, the eighth-lowest OBP in franchise history and lowest in 33 years. New president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi knows that’s one of the first issues he must address. The 10 playoff teams last season all finished in the top 13 in the majors in on-base percentage, and Zaidi’s Dodgers ranked third in the NL at .333. 

On the Giants Insider Podcast last week, Zaidi, who previously also worked for the OBP-obsessed A’s, talked about ways to improve a San Francisco lineup that had major issues simply getting on base last season. 

“Any team that walks at a high level, it’s a function of a couple of things,” he said. “One is, it is a function of personnel — there are guys that just have the skill of being able to work the strike zone and being able to take walks. Then there’s a mindset of, ‘What’s our goal?’ Is our goal to put the ball in play, or is our goal to get on base? I think both of those things are areas that we can look at philosophically. 

“How are we attacking the game from an offensive standpoint, and then, also, do we have the type of personnel that can play the type of offense that we want, which is a real grinding approach and getting guys on base and creating pressure for the opposing pitcher.” 

The mindset aspect can be addressed with coaches throughout the organization up to and through spring training. As for personnel, that’s a bit more pressing, and there are multiple ways to add OBP to the lineup in free agency.

You can go straight to the top of the market with Bryce Harper, who led MLB with 130 walks and ranked seventh with a .393 OBP, but there might be a much more cost-effective option. Michael Brantley, formerly of the Cleveland Indians, ranked 17th with a .364 OPB, which would have led the 2018 Giants. 

Throughout an injury-plagued career, Brantley has shown an ability to get on base. He has a .351 career OBP — only one current Giant, Buster Posey (.359), finished above that mark in 2018 — and has finished above .350 in four of the last five seasons.

There’s a reason Brantley, who hit 17 homers and had a .832 OPS last season, isn’t looking at a massive contract, of course. He has had trouble staying on the field, with shoulder, ankle and biceps injuries limiting him to just 101 total games in 2016 and 2017. That, plus the fact that he turns 32 in May, will limit his market, and MLB Trade Rumors predicts that he’ll receive a three-year, $45 million deal. That would be less than the Giants paid Hunter Pence annually.

Zaidi wants to get younger and more dynamic in the outfield, but if he’s looking for a short-term solution that won’t break the bank, Brantley might end up being a solid fit, and someone who could help solve one of the Giants lineup’s most glaring issues.

Editor's note: This week across the NBC Sports Regional Networks, we'll be taking an in-depth look at some of the top free agents in baseball. Tuesday is dedicated to free agent outfielder Michael Brantley.
Why the outfielder-rich A's should pass on Brantley
Does Brantley really fit the White Sox's long-term plan?
Brantley should be far down on Red Sox's free agent list
Phillies should pursue Brantley if they whiff on Harper
Could signing Brantley soften blow of Nats losing Harper?