Giants

Giants acquire Connor Joe, who has shot at making Opening Day roster

Giants acquire Connor Joe, who has shot at making Opening Day roster

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants swapped out a Rule 5 pick who wasn't going to make the team for one who now very well might. 

Drew Ferguson, an outfielder picked up from the Houston Astros in the Rule 5 Draft, was designated for assignment Thursday to clear a roster spot for Connor Joe, a utility man who was acquired from the Cincinnati Reds. Joe is under the same restrictions, and given that the Giants picked him up one week from Opening Day, there seems a good chance that Farhan Zaidi will try to tuck the former Dodgers prospect onto the roster. 

Joe, 26, has moved all over throughout his minor league career, primarily playing first base, third and the outfield. As a right-handed bat with a .363 career OBP in the minors, he fits a lot of what the Giants are looking for on their bench. That also could lead to some interesting decisions next week. 

The Giants already were trying to decide how to squeeze Yangervis Solarte, Alen Hanson and Pablo Sandoval on the roster, with the latter two looking like tough calls. They also could try to put Joe in the outfield mix, perhaps at the expense of a player like Mac Williamson or Cameron Maybin. 

Joe had a .935 OPS with 17 homers in Double-A and Triple-A for the Dodgers organization last season. He was the sixth player selected in the Rule 5 Draft at the Winter Meetings, and hit .275 this spring for the Reds. 

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The Giants had hoped Ferguson would fill these holes, but he had a poor spring and was not in position to make the club. The Giants would have had to offer him back to the Astros next week, with very little hope of keeping him in their system. 

To acquire Joe, the Giants traded minor league right-hander Jordan Johnson and cash considerations to the Reds. Johnson had a 4.37 ERA in 86 minor league appearances for the Giants. 

Cameron Maybin, a Giant this spring, will visit Oracle Park with Yankees

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USATSI

Cameron Maybin, a Giant this spring, will visit Oracle Park with Yankees

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants will face two Yankees lefties this weekend at Oracle Park, and for most of this spring their plan would have called for Cameron Maybin to start those games. If Maybin is in the lineup, it'll be for the visitors. 

Maybin, a non-roster invitee in Giants camp this spring, was traded to the desperate Yankees on Thursday morning and added to their big league roster. The Yankees sent cash considerations to the Indians, who stashed Maybin at Triple-A after he was let go by the Giants. 

The Yankees turned to Maybin because of unbelievable injury issues in their outfield. Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks are on the DL, and Clint Frazier -- who hit six homers in fill-in duty -- joined them after spraining his left ankle earlier this season. Frazier became the 15th Yankee to hit the injured list (by comparison, the Giants have just one, the rehabbing Johnny Cueto).

The Giants at one point thought Maybin could form a platoon with Steven Duggar or provide depth in their corner outfield spots. But he had a poor spring on and off the field, and ultimately the front office started the year by taking a look at Michael Reed in that spot. It is now Kevin Pillar who provides the right-handed balance and plays center field. The Giants, it's fair to say, are happy with how this all turned out. 

Maybin played 14 games in Triple-A for the Indians, hitting .216 with three doubles and 13 walks. 

Giants takeaways: What we learned from a 4-4 trip through East Coast

Giants takeaways: What we learned from a 4-4 trip through East Coast

SAN FRANCISCO -- It's amazing how 18 innings can change the perception of a whole road trip. 

A 4-4 road trip is not going to end up on any postseason DVD, but hey, it's fine. It's just fine, and given the way the Giants played over the weekend, coming back home that way is something they'll take. 

There were signs of life, and for a lineup that was so, so bad on the road most of last year, hitting 11 homers in eight games was a huge improvement. Even scoring 31 runs in eight games -- in mostly fair ballparks -- is a nice step, given that this team averaged a league-worst 3.5 runs per game on the road last year. 

Yep, the road trip was fine, just fine. Here's a look at some of what we learned ... 

You know ... they're really not buried

Because of the way the Giants started the season, it hasn't at any point seemed that they're contenders. They don't have the look of a contender, either, to be fair. But they return home just three games out in the loss column, and the entire NL West is separated by 3 1/2 games. 

The Dodgers have outscored them by 66 runs in less than a month, but the Giants have the best pitching staff in the division thus far. They'll get a chance to make a dent next week when they host the Dodgers for three games at Oracle Park. 

Red-hot Panda

I mentioned Pablo Sandoval in the recap of the last homestand and Bruce Bochy was asked about him during just about every media session in recent days. But for good reason: Sandoval is slugging .694 and picking up a hit in a third of his at-bats, and you have to wonder if he'll eventually earn more time in the starting lineup.

The Giants will see two lefties to start the homestand but then three consecutive right-handed pitchers. Perhaps we'll see a change in the lineup. 

No Sophomore Slump

Dereck Rodriguez beat Stephen Strasburg and Chris Archer on the trip, continuing a solid start that has backed what he did as a rookie. Rodriguez is 3-2 with a 3.54 ERA and his xFIP (4.08) is actually about half a run lower than it was last year. His strikeout rate is up from 6.77 to 7.07 and his walk rate has dropped from 2.74 to 1.61. 

Launch angle? Exit velocity against? Expected batting average? Dig into any advanced metric you want and you'll find that Rodriguez's numbers are eerily similar to what he did in 2018. Seriously, his expected batting average was .243 last year and it's .244 this year. He is using pretty much the exact same pitch mix and getting the exact same results, and that's what you love to see in Year 2. 

Buster's Back-ish?

This is not yet the Buster Posey of old, but he was certainly far improved on the road trip, slashing .261/.346/.478 and hitting his first homer in 10 months. Posey still doesn't quite have the command of the zone that he had even last year, but he struck out just three times on the trip, a dip from the start of the season when his strikeout rate was at concerning levels. 

There are some more reasons for optimism, too. His hard-hit rate (42.9 percent) is his highest in three years and he's barreling the ball more than at any point in the Statcast era. Maybe he just needed a bit more time after surgery?

What Happened to Crawnik?

A lot of the focus has been on Posey early on, but now that he's showing signs of improvement, you kind of look around and go, "Uhh, what's going on with Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik?" It's a question being asked in the front office and coaches room, too.

Crawford had a brutal second half last year, slowed by injuries, and he has a .515 OPS through 24 appearances this year. He is striking out at a career-high rate, doesn't have a homer, and is hitting the ball on the ground nearly 52 percent of the time. That's not great given how many shifts these guys see. Crawford's average launch angle of 5.3 percent is less than half of what it was the past three seasons. 

Crawford did get off to a slow start last season and then became the hottest hitter in the league for about six weeks, but this is a slump that's lasted quite a while. 

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Panik is interesting because he had such a great spring but has opened with a .186/.266/.271 slash line. Nothing in his profile really jumps off the page as being terribly different, but perhaps that's the problem, given the issues he had last year. The Giants hoped for a bounce back and so far a lot of the peripheral numbers are in the same area. 

Panik has been much improved defensively, and Crawford remains a huge strength out there. But Panik already has lost just about all his starts against lefties, and you may see both guys get some extra time off if this continues.