Giants

Giants agree to six-year deal with Johnny Cueto

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Giants agree to six-year deal with Johnny Cueto

SAN FRANCISCO — As they sorted through options at the Winter Meetings, Giants officials said they had a “slight lean” toward adding another starting pitcher instead of a left fielder. There was nothing slight about the move the organization made Monday.

The Giants agreed to a six-year, $130 million deal with right-hander Johnny Cueto, adding another frontline starter three days after introducing fellow right-hander Jeff Samardzija at AT&T Park. The Giants rotation, a major question mark in 2015, will now go: Madison Bumgarner, Cueto, Samardzija, Jake Peavy and Matt Cain, with Chris Heston serving as insurance.

Cueto’s deal, which is pending a physical, includes an opt-out after the second year, meaning he can go back into the market after the 2017 season if he chooses. The Giants hold a club option for a seventh year. 

The 29-year-old Cueto, a native of the Dominican Republic, went 11-13 with a 3.44 ERA last season, with his numbers taking a big dip after a July trade to the Kansas City Royals. Cueto had a 4.76 ERA in 13 starts for the Royals, and alternated brilliant starts with rough ones in the postseason. Cueto gave up two runs over eight innings in Game 5 of the ALDS and then allowed just one run in a complete-game victory over the Mets in Game 2 of the World Series. In between, he allowed eight earned runs in his lone start in the ALCS. 

Cueto’s overall big league resume is one of the best in this free agent class. He has a 3.30 career ERA and three 200-inning seasons in the last four, and he twice has finished in the top four in the Cy Young balloting. Clayton Kershaw is the only pitcher who has thrown 500 innings since 2011 and has a lower ERA than Cueto’s 2.71. 

So why was Cueto still looking for the right deal so late in the offseason? His performance in Kansas City — along with the fact that the Royals went out of their way to have him pitch at home and not in hostile road parks — scared off a few suitors. Then, there are the health issues. Cueto missed a start in May because of concern about his elbow, but an MRI revealed no tears or structural damage. He made just 11 starts in 2013 because of lat and shoulder problems, and most Giants fans likely know Cueto from the 2012 NLDS, when a strained oblique knocked him out of the series after just eight pitches. 

The Giants are betting that Cueto is the pitcher who dominated in Cincinnati for so many years. And they’re betting big, as they did with Samardzija. 

They now have guaranteed $220 million to two starters who had major issues in 2015 but were brilliant the year before. Samardzija posted a 2.99 ERA two seasons ago and Cueto went 20-9 with a 2.25 ERA and 242 strikeouts. He finished second in the Cy Young voting behind Kershaw, who also won the MVP. 

Including the Brandon Crawford extension, the Giants have now committed $295 million this offseason to three players. That should keep them in bargain-bin territory in the search for a new left fielder, but if Cueto and Samardzija pan out as hoped, the Giants won’t need much from the corner outfield spot.

Giants Review: In limited time, Avelino was 'a breath of fresh air'

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AP

Giants Review: In limited time, Avelino was 'a breath of fresh air'

SAN FRANCISCO — Abiatal Avelino had just 11 at-bats in the big leagues in 2018, three of which resulted in singles. He left a much larger impact on the front office, though. 

When Larry Baer, Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy met with beat reporters before the season’s final day, Bochy smiled as he recalled a conversation he had with the rookie in his office a day earlier. Sabean called Avelino “a beautiful young kid” and “very passionate.”

“He has a lot of fun playing the game, and that’s half the battle,” Sabean said. “He’s an interesting personality and I mean that in a positive way. He was a breath of fresh air, even though he didn’t play that much.”

Giants coaches noticed how Avelino seemed to grow two feet the second he got that first hit out of the way, brimming with confidence in subsequent at-bats. They noticed that he was often the first one out of the dugout, greeting teammates who had never heard of him a week or two earlier. He did all the right things off the field, and on the field, there’s plenty of talent. 

Here, Avelino is the latest profiled in our look at the 2018 Giants. If you missed any of them , here are Pablo Sandoval, Ty Blach and Nick Hundley. You can find the rest of them here

What Went Right

Avelino broke through with Double-A Trenton, hitting .337 with 10 homers, 28 RBI and 15 stolen bases in 49 games. That earned him a promotion to the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate. His numbers took a dip there, but overall, he hit .283 in the minors in 2018, totaling 15 homers, eight triples, 13 doubles and 27 stolen bases for three affiliates. 

Avelino made his MLB debut on Sept. 8 and picked up his first two hits on Sept. 26. He singled off Clayton Kershaw in his second-to-last appearance of the season. 

Avelino did not play enough to make any kind of real determination about his defense, but he appears to be a true shortstop with the skills to play other infield spots, and team officials want to see if he can play the outfield, too. 

(Also he had one of the funniest celebrations of the season.)

What Went Wrong

It’s hard to take too much away from the Major League numbers. At two Triple-A stops, Avelino struggled a bit, posting a .663 OPS after a promotion with the Yankees and then going 2-for-13 with the River Cats. He was 23 and repeating Double-A, so perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that he dominated the level in 2018.

The Giants would like to see more from him in Triple-A early next season. 

Avelino is certainly fast, but some on staff believe he’s more of an above-average runner than the elite burner that his minor league stat lines say he is. That’s to be determined. He didn’t get to run much in September. 

Contract Status

Avelino was added to a 40-man roster for the first time in September. He has not used any minor league options. 

The Future

Avelino, acquired in the Andrew McCutchen trade, will play winter ball this offseason and the Giants will be open-minded about him when he arrives in Scottsdale. But a number of things will have to go wrong elsewhere for him to be in the big leagues early next season. He needs more minor league at-bats, but he should be a factor at some point in 2019.

It’s been a while since the Giants had a true backup for Brandon Crawford, and Avelino could become interesting quickly if he shows he can be a super-utility player.

Giants executive David Bell named finalist for Reds next manager

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AP

Giants executive David Bell named finalist for Reds next manager

SAN FRANCISCO -- As the Giants continue their search for a new head of baseball operations, one of their top executives may be headed elsewhere.

The Cincinnati Reds announced Thursday morning that three men will get second interviews in their search for a new manager: Joe Girardi, Brad Ausmus and David Bell, currently serving as the Giants' vice president of player development. 

Bell, who joined the Giants last offseason, also reportedly has interviewed with the Rangers and Blue Jays. Some within the Giants organization have viewed him as their future manager, but it seems a decent bet that he'll get his shot well before then.

Bell was a manager in the Reds' minor league system earlier in his career and his father played for the Reds. 

The Reds had 12 candidates interview initially, according to MLB.com. Bell was joined by, among others, current Giants bench coach Hensley Meulens.