SAN FRANCISCO — Major League Baseball was riding high after a thrilling postseason that was capped by a tremendous World Series. The month that followed threatened to be far too quiet.
The sport was mostly out of the headlines in November, with reports that even the Winter Meetings, the marquee event of the offseason, could be shut down. Yoenis Cespedes changed all that. The outfielder returned to the Mets on Tuesday morning, getting a reported $110 million over four years. The stove is heating up, and while the CBA -- which expires Thursday -- is still front and center, the Cespedes deal temporarily got MLB back to what it does best in the offseason: Big rumors and bigger deals.
Will the Cespedes deal set the offseason in motion or was it an aberration? We'll have to wait and see. In the meantime, this is as good a time as any for our first Giants Mailbag of the offseason. It won’t be the last, so if you have questions, hit me up on Twitter or Facebook.
Q: “When are the Giants going to sign somebody?” — Half my Twitter followers.
A: This is a good time for a reminder of how last offseason’s spending spree actually went down. Jeff Samardzija was the first addition, and that deal leaked out on December 5. The Johnny Cueto deal wasn't announced until December 14 and the Denard Span contract wasn’t finalized until January 7. So, even without the CBA stuff, November might have been quiet.
Having said that, the Giants will be as curious as any team to see how the CBA talks play out, and that’s surely part of the equation right now as they chase the Chapmans and Jansens and Melancons of the world. The competitive balance tax — which the Giants are paying — is a big part of the pie, and it’s understandable that the biggest spenders are waiting to see how it all shakes out before adding to payroll. The Mets weren't quite in the same situation; even with the Cespedes deal, they are far short of being a tax-paying team.
Q: “What do you see as being the likely makeup of the bullpen for 2017. I know the Giants are going to be going after a closer, will the rest of the bullpen be made up of guys already in the organization or do you see additional help coming in via FA or trade?” — Via Matt S. on Facebook.
A: Some fans probably disagree after the way the season ended, but I’m of the belief that the pieces are already in place for a really good bullpen -- assuming a veteran is added for the ninth. Will Smith is set as the late-innings lefty and Derek Law and Hunter Strickland are ready for the seventh/eighth in some form. George Kontos is a lock as Bruce Bochy’s mid-game guy (with a 2.48 ERA the past three seasons, you could argue he deserves a shot at a bigger role). The loser of the Matt Cain/Ty Blach battle could be the long reliever, or Albert Suarez could reprise that role. There will be a second lefty, and Josh Osich and Steven Okert will compete for that role. Cory Gearrin will be back. Remember, he pitched his way into an eighth-inning job before getting hurt, and he was a guy Bobby Evans mentioned a couple of times at the GM Meetings in early November.
So, find a closer, work out some of those position battles, and you’ve got a solid eight-man core.
Now, the Giants won’t necessarily plan that way. Evans likes the group he has, but it’s good business to add a non-roster-invitee flyer or two for spring training depth. Josh Johnson has already been signed as one possibility, and you can bet three or four more veterans will be in camp.
Q: “What is the ask for Jorge Soler?” — Via Steve D. on Facebook.
A: I liked this question because it sent me down a wormhole that turned up a Baseball America list with Soler as the No. 41 prospect, eight spots BEHIND Kyle Crick and 15 ahead of Edwin Escobar. That's a reminder that top prospects quite often don’t pan out. Soler was supposed to be a superstar, but he had just five at-bats for the Cubs in the World Series and now might be trade bait for a team that could use young pitching. Crick is still far from the Majors. Escobar was traded away for Jake Peavy, and suqsequently waived by the Red Sox and Diamondbacks. He was claimed by the Indians two weeks ago.
As for the actual question, my guess is that any team that calls the Giants this winter is going to ask for Tyler Beede. That was the deal at the deadline, and the Giants held the line. They're pretty happy that they did, too.
Q: “Which non-Giants team are you watching?” — Via Carlos M. on Facebook.
A: The answer is always the Dodgers, both during the season and offseason. But keep an eye on the Diamondbacks this winter, too. They were the big story last offseason and it ended in disaster, but a lot of that had to do with A.J Pollock — a down-ballot MVP candidate in 2015 — going down before the season began. Imagine the gut-punch that a Brandon Crawford injury would be and that’s kind of what you’re looking at here. Pollock, Paul Goldschmidt and Jake Lamb give them a dangerous lineup, and new GM Mike Hazen (who has a very good reputation) is doing the right thing by swinging high and acquiring pitchers like Taijuan Walker. It’s a big if, but if Walker and Shelby Miller can sort things out, the Diamondbacks could have enough pitching to keep pace in the West. At the very least, an improved Arizona team would be a pain for the Giants, who went 13-6 in their meetings last season.