Giants not looking at rebuild, but rather at a reload for 2018

Giants not looking at rebuild, but rather at a reload for 2018

SAN FRANCISCO — When Ian Desmond’s fly ball landed in Denard Span’s glove Wednesday afternoon, the Giants officially hit the halfway point of the season. They gathered at the mound for handshakes and fist bumps. Never in their wildest dreams could they have imagined that the handshake line would be just their 30th of the first 81 games. 

With half their season gone, the Giants — even with a sweep of the Rockies this week that brought good vibes back to AT&T Park — are 21 games under .500. Their .370 winning percentage would be the third-lowest in the franchise’s long and storied history, and they are threatening to join the 1985 squad as the only 100-game losers. 

It is the type of season that has led to complete rebuilds elsewhere, including in Chicago, the home of the defending champs, and in Houston, home of the American League’s best team this year. Don’t expect that blueprint to be unrolled in the executive offices at Third and King. 

“This is not going to be a thing where we go underground for three years to five years,” team president and CEO Larry Baer told NBC Sports Bay Area. “It’s just not who we are.”

This will not be a rebuild. If anything, the Giants consider it a reload. Baer echoed the thoughts of other team employees who spoke about the future over the past week: The Giants have a core they believe in, and they don’t intend to break it up. This season might be lost, but that doesn’t mean competing in 2018 has been taken off the table. 

“We’re in the human performance business and you can’t script it out,” Baer said. “This was certainly not what we expected, but the commitment is there and the energy is there from everyone throughout the organization to get us back. In baseball, you’ve found that teams in today’s world can change fast. Arizona flipped their record the exact opposite of where they were this time last year — same thing with Colorado, and then you look at the Yankees.”

The Yankees, current leaders of the American League East, are mentioned often around the ballpark. They sold some big pieces last year, most notably Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, to restock their farm system, and this year it’s paying off. The Giants can’t count on their own Aaron Judge walking through the door, but other aspects of the model are already in place. After Judge, four of the team’s next five position players by WAR — Aaron Hicks, Brett Gardner, Didi Gregorius, Starlin Castro — were already in-house. Their rotation is filled with holdovers (CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda, Mashiro Tanaka) and homegrown arms (Luis Severino, Jordan Montgomery). 

As the July 31 deadline approaches, the Yankees provide a roadmap for how to trade players away without taking an axe to your roster. The Chapman deal brought back a haul, and then he signed back in the offseason. 

“That’s possible,” Baer said of trading player and then re-signing him. “I think more in that mode. Now, I can’t promise any of that because it depends on (a lot) but directionally that’s sort of where we are.”

This could only really come into play with two Giants, and they are the two most likely to be dealt. Johnny Cueto has an opt-out at the end of the year, and while sources say there has been no decision made to deal him, he would likely bring back the biggest return, even with his contract hanging over negotiations. Cueto has indicated he would not hold a trade against the Giants. If he was dealt and became a free agent in November, he would consider returning. He has told teammates he loves playing in San Francisco. 

The same holds true for Eduardo Nuñez, a versatile player who will return this weekend in Pittsburgh. Nuñez does not want to be traded, but he knows it’s likely. Nuñez, it is said, would also welcome an offseason reunion. 

The Giants will listen on both, along with just about every other player on the roster. General manager Bobby Evans has shown during his tenure that he kicks the tires on any opportunity. Remember, before landing Cueto, the Giants went hard after Jon Lester and Zack Greinke, and last year they came out of nowhere to land Matt Moore. 

Cueto and Moore are now part of a surprising downturn, and like just about every other player on the roster, they have had a hand in the last-place start. But the front office believes both can be part of the next winning Giants team, and team executives are not operating under the belief that the uptick is years away. 

A one-year dip would come with benefits, too. The Giants should land a top draft pick and the increased bonus pool that comes with it, and it’s possible they could slide under the luxury tax ahead of schedule and reset their penalty payments. 

Those would be benefits that would be felt three or four years down the line. For now, the future starts in 2018. Baer pointed out that the Giants lost 94 games in 1996 and then made the postseason the next season, and that the 90-loss 2008 team was followed by a championship two years later. The 2013 Giants decided not to blow it up and held on to Hunter Pence, Javier Lopez and Tim Lincecum at the deadline; a year later they were parading down Market Street. 

“Directionally it’s, ‘How can we get right back there in 2018,’” Baer said. “It’s not how can we get right back there in 2022 or 2021.”

You can make the argument that this is a different group than some of the others. The Giants have played much worse and they are older, with some of their key players exiting their peak years. But that also means this is a roster that is essentially pot-committed. Many of the names being thrown around on the airwaves and social media cannot be traded, either because of they money left on their deals, no-trade clauses, lingering injury concerns, poor performance, or some combination of those factors. 

This is, for better or worse, pretty much the group that will return in 2018, with some youth mixed in and some offseason additions. Perhaps that will be untenable or unwatchable a year from now, too, but at the moment, the Giants are not as under siege as they might look. Their average ticket price is actually the exact same as it was a year ago, despite the cheap tickets flooding the market, and they still lead MLB in tickets sold on StubHub. The vast majority of empty seats over the past two months belong to season ticket holders who don’t show up, and that’s a locked-in base of 31,000 with a long waiting list.

Perhaps the sellout streak will disappear later this season. But the core of this team won’t. 

“Look, we’ve had these kinds of years before,” Baer said. “I don’t know where this is going to turn out, but if it turns out to be a losing year — I’m not going to proclaim it is halfway through — but if it does turn out to be a losing year, we’ve shown the ability to bounce back fast from tough years. This organization will throw the resources at it to do that.”

Here's a scouting report on Giants' interest Yusei Kikuchi

The Japan Times

Here's a scouting report on Giants' interest Yusei Kikuchi

There have been multiple teams reportedly interested in Japanese lefty pitcher Yusei Kikuchi. The most recent of which is the Giants as reported by Henry Schulman of The San Francisco Chronicle.

Across eight seasons in Japan, Kikuchi was 74-48 with a 2.81 ERA. Sung Min Kim of "The Athletic" provided NBC Sports Bay Area with a scouting report on the 27-year-old:

"He's a lefty who throws 92-95 mph and has touched 98," said Kim. "His slider is a sure Major League pitch and he can get a lot of strikeouts. He also throws a change and curve."

Kim, who has seen Kikuchi pitch 15-20 times, also touched on Kikuchi's injury concerns saying they're just that -- a concern. 

In a previous article he wrote for Sporting News, he mentioned that the states were extremely interested in him at one point. As a matter of fact, the Rangers recruited Derek Holland in 2009 in an effort to recruit Kikuchi who was 18 at the time. But he chose to stay in Japan and wanted to be drafted by an NPB team. 

There was a concern, however -- well, a snafu if you will: A legality problem with Kikuchi's motion. 

During a game in August of 2017, the umpires "deemed he was making an illegal double-kicking motion" which forced him to change his delivery mid-game. 

It appeared it didn't maim his career, but it was brought up to the point where there were worries he would have to expedite his debut to the Majors.

To say a pitcher of his caliber is a huge want in baseball is an understatement. It doesn't matter how deep your rotation and bullpen is. But when it comes to his performance, the only thing that needs to be deep is the pockets of pursuing teams. 

MLB rumors: Live 2018 Winter Meetings news, trade talk, updates on Day 2


MLB rumors: Live 2018 Winter Meetings news, trade talk, updates on Day 2

Executives and agents arrived Monday at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas for the 2018 MLB Winter Meetings, but they didn't do much on Day 1.

[RELATED: News, rumors on Day 1 of the MLB Winter Meetings]

That's sure to change Tuesday, as teams continue conversations that might allow them to alter their rosters, through signings and/or trades. Both Bay Area teams could be busy: The Giants, under new president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi, have confirmed their interest in adding two more outfielders, and the A's are focused on starting pitchers, along with depth at catcher and second base.

Now, it's time to see what deals will be struck. Keep it here throughout Day 2 of the Winter Meetings for the latest live news, rumors and trade chatter.

4:42 p.m. PT: Yasiel Puig to ... Cincinnati? That's a real possibility, according to Fancred's Jon Heyman and The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal.

Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow wouldn't mind seeing Puig in San Francisco, but he doesn't think that's a real possibility. 

4:20 p.m. PT: A's general manager David Forst said Monday that "you don't ever make it your goal to actually do something" at the Winter Meetings, but he may be contradicting his own advice.

Oakland announced its first signing of the Winter Meetings: Catcher Chris Herrmann. 

They also appear to be headed in a different direction at second base, according to NBC Sports California's Ben Ross. One possible name? Bay-Area native Troy Tulowitzki.

11:58 a.m. PT: Andrew McCutchen just got PAID! According to multiple reports, Cutch will get a three-year contract worth $50 million from the Phillies. The deal will also include a club option.

11:30 a.m. PT: The Red Sox just won the World Series, and now they want to shed some payroll. According to USA Today's Bob Nightengale, some rival executives are wondering if Boston will try to move former Cy Young winner Rick Porcello.

Would the Giants or A's be interested in Porcello? With his $21.125 million salary for 2019, it's not likely either would be able to add him without the Red Sox kicking in some money.

11:22 a.m. PT: Is Andrew McCutchen headed back to Pennsylvania? According to NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jim Salisbury, the Phillies have expressed interest in signing the former Giants outfielder.

11:11 a.m. PT: The A's loved having veteran Jonathan Lucroy as their backstop this past season, but it's possible they could be looking for an upgrade in 2019. Could that mean a run at Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto?

11:04 a.m. PT: The Pirates and White Sox made their trade official. Right-handed pitcher Ivan Nova is going to Chicago, while 19-year-old right-handed pitcher Yordi Rosario and $500,000 in internation signing bonus pool money will go to Pittsburgh.

10:03 a.m. PT: Does Jerry Dipoto sleep? A little more than a week after acquiring Carlos Santana from the Phillies, the Mariners GM reportedly talked to the Marlins about the first baseman/designated hitter last week.

9:58 a.m. PT: We have an arms race in the AL Central! OK, maybe not.

But one day after the Tigers added Tyson Ross, the White Sox reportedly will acquire Ivan Nova from the Pirates.

9:26 a.m. PT: On Monday night, Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi told reporters that he let Hunter Strickland go in part because of the depth in the bullpen. But The Athletic's Mark Saxon is reporting that the Giants are receiving a lot of calls on left-hander Will Smith.

9:22 a.m. PT: With Patrick Corbin off the market, lefty JA Happ is one of the top free-agent starting pitchers still available. Happ's decision could come soon if he receives a three-year offer.

9:21 a.m. PT: While the Phillies pursue top free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, they reportedly are trying to beef up their pitching staff.

8:14 a.m. PT: Yankees third baseman Miguel Andujar finished second on the AL Rookie of the Year voting, but he might not get a second season in the Bronx. According to The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal, Andujar could be moved in a potential blockbuster deal with the Mets and Marlins. If the Yankees traded Andujar, that could open the door for them to sign free agent Manny Machado.

7:06 a.m. PT: The Yankees might be serious about their pursuit of shortstop Manny Machado. On Monday, GM Brian Cashman said he has spoken several times with Machado's agent. Now, they reportedly have reached out to former Orioles manager Buck Showalter for his thoughts on the Machado.

The Yankees are showing great hustle in their background work on Machado ...

7:03 a.m. PT: Late on Monday night, rumors started to swirl that the Mets, Yankees and Marlins were working on a blockbuster trade that would send catcher J.T. Realmuto to Queens, All-Star starter Noah Syndergaard to the Bronx and prospects to Miami.

But the Marlins are downplaying that potential deal, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale.

6:57 a.m. PT: With Patrick Corbin officially signed, the Nationals might look to move starter Tanner Roark. According to Yahoo's Jeff Passan, Washington has talked to several teams about a deal for Roark, who is projected to make $9.8 million in arbitration.

Could Roark be a fit with the A's? They need several starters to fill out the rotation, and the teams have made a lot of trades over the last decade. Stay tuned ...