Giants

Giants Mailbag: What's the asking price for Cubs outfielder Soler?

Giants Mailbag: What's the asking price for Cubs outfielder Soler?

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.

Giants' Evan Longoria expresses displeasure with slow MLB free agency

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USATSI

Giants' Evan Longoria expresses displeasure with slow MLB free agency

Despite playing 11 years of Major League Baseball, Giants third baseman Evan Longoria has never gone through free agency. He signed a six-year contract with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008, and then a 10-year extension with the club in 2012.

But with what he's witnessing this offseason, it's safe to say he isn't looking forward to the day he has to partake in the process.

Longoria took to Instagram to share his displeasure, writing the following: 

We are less then a month from the start of spring and once again some of our games biggest starts remain unsigned. Such a shame. It’s seems every day now someone is making up a new analytical tool to devalue players, especially free agents. As fans, why should “value” for your team even be a consideration? It’s not your money, it’s money that players have worked their whole lives to get to that level and be deserving of. Bottom line, fans should want the best players and product on the field for their team. And as players we need to stand strong for what we believe we are worth and continue to fight for the rights we have fought for time and time again.

What Longoria is arguing is a lot of common sense that baseball fans need to understand.

Let's look at the following point: "As fans, why should “value” for your team even be a consideration? It’s not your money, it’s money that players have worked their whole lives to get to that level and be deserving of. Bottom line, fans should want the best players and product on the field for their team." 

He's not wrong. 

The money either goes to players, making them millionaires, or owners, making them billionaires. Who are we watching on the field? It's quite simple. 

Sure, it might be fun to play armchair GM, but fans should want the best and most entertaining product on the field. We can understand why teams rebuild, but that doesn't mean we have to get to this point as fans. Every team can afford a Bryce Harper or a Manny Machado.

The best game is the most competitive game, and that's what players want. Fans should be nodding their head in agreement. 

What's most interesting from Longoria is the fact that he's calling out the system and calling for players to fight back. The MLB collective bargaining agreement ends at the end of the 2021 season. If anger increases from players, negotiations could get quite awkward. 

Joey Bart named Giants' best defensive prospect by MLB Pipeline

Joey Bart named Giants' best defensive prospect by MLB Pipeline

Giants top prospect Joey Bart is known for his bat. The No. 2 pick in the 2018 MLB Draft hit 13 home runs in his first 51 minor league games, which is just three behind Evan Longoria's team lead on the big-league club. 

Don't forget about his defense, though.

Bart, the top catching prospect in baseball, also has been named the Giants' top defensive prospect by MLB Pipeline of MLB.com. He has markedly improved since high school, when scouts wondered if he could stay at catcher, enhancing his agility and receiving and improving the accuracy of his strong arm.

The fact that scouts once questioned Bart's future at the position and now his defense is being praised, as it pertains to the Giants' farm system, says a lot. On the 20/80 scouting scale, MLB Pipeline rates Bart's defense as a 55 and his arm as a 60. 

At Georgia Tech, Bart was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2018. He also called pitches, a task that manager Danny Hall didn't even let two-time Gold Glove winner Matt Wieters do when he was a Yellow Jacket. 

In his final college season, Bart had a .992 fielding percentage and threw out 12 of 21 stolen base attempts. After joining the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (Short-Season Class A), Bart's fielding percentage dropped to .983 after he allowed six passed balls and five errors. He did, however, gun down 15 of the 21 runners trying to swipe a bag on him.

Bart's bat most likely always will be ahead of his glove. The fact that he's seen as such a well-rounded prospect, though, is an added bonus to the player the Giants hope can lead them back to the top in the near future.