Giants

Giants notes: No move for Posey; six-starter plan

Giants notes: No move for Posey; six-starter plan

SAN FRANCISCO — The last press conference of the year tends to reveal fresh information about the health of players, but general manager Bobby Evans said Thursday that there are no surgical procedures scheduled for current Giants. 

That includes Buster Posey, who played through several issues, including nerve irritation in his right thumb. Posey was out for five days in June and required a cortisone shot. He had just three homers after the All-Star break, and just two in his final 63 games. Evans wouldn’t go into the extent of any injuries that might have sapped power.

“He keeps a lot of things close to the vest. That’s who he is,” Evans said. “But nobody works harder or prepares more.”

Posey started a career-high 122 games behind the plate. His time at first base dipped from 37 starts in 2015 to 11 in 2016, in part because Brandon Belt put together an All-Star campaign. Posey posted a .292/.366/.478 slash line in the first half but was at .282/.357.383 in the second half. Evans said the drop in slugging does not make it more likely that Posey sees more time away from the squat next season.

“It doesn’t make me think more about first base,” he said. “We’re always monitoring his health. We’re still confident that (catcher) is the best spot for him. Whether he has better power numbers next year, I couldn’t predict, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he does because he's very competitive.”

The Giants would love more power in the heart of their lineup, obviously, but as those numbers have dropped, Posey has turned himself into the best defensive catcher in the league. That's a tradeoff they're willing to make. 

The majority of Thursday's press conference revolved around the bullpen, and there's much more coming on that here, on TV and in podcast form. There were also changes to the coaching staff. There were plenty of other notes from the final day at AT&T Park. Here are some highlights:

--- Evans said Eduardo Nuñez (hamstring) would not have been healthy enough to start Game 5 of the NLDS. He wouldn’t have started, anyway. Conor Gillaspie had four hits in the final game. The staff isn’t sure about Angel Pagan. He was to be tested on Wednesday to see if his back could hold up, but obviously that wasn’t necessary. Pagan instead got on a flight home. 

--- The Giants would like Christian Arroyo to get at least a few months in Triple-A next season. The internal evaluation is that he isn’t ready, not after a season in which he hit .274/.316/.373 with three homers. Arroyo is just 21 years old, and there’s no desire to rush him. The Giants believe they have a budding superstar if they handle this right. 

Nuñez and Gillaspie are locks to make the roster as third basemen next year, and while Joe Panik’s name will come up in trade talks, it’s very unlikely the Giants part ways with a young All-Star-caliber player after dealing Matt Duffy away. Arroyo is mostly focused on third base right now. 

“l’ll go into spring training hoping Christian continues to show progress in his defensive role and with the bat,” Evans said. “I anticipate him starting next year in the minor leagues.”

Arroyo will be in camp for a second straight year. Evans said, “I love it when a player tells us he’s ready by how he performs,” and the Giants did once put Duffy on the Opening Day roster because he forced the issue. 

--- Evans said Albert Suarez will come into camp as a guy providing depth. He’ll be competing for a long reliever role on the Opening Day roster. Suarez posted a 4.29 ERA in his first year with the Giants and provided some valuable spot starts. 

--- Ty Blach and Matt Cain will go into camp competing for the fifth starter job, and Tyler Beede will be around to try and swipe it away. The guess right now is that Blach wins the job. Players raved about the young left-hander as they packed up Thursday. But Cain has earned the right to compete, Evans said. 

“Matt wants to be a starting pitcher,” Evans said. “He’ll come into spring training expecting to start and he’ll be given every opportunity, and he deserves that.”

If Cain doesn’t blow the Giants away, it would be worth seeing if he could transform into a Joe Blanton-type. Blanton is much further removed from starting success than Cain, and posted a 2.48 ERA in 75 appearances for the Dodgers this season. There are some in the Giants’ organization who wonder if Cain — with a rare four-pitch mix out of the bullpen — could make a similar transition. 

--- Before you look forward, you must first look back. In case you missed it, here's a pitch-by-pitch recap of the ninth inning.  Bochy said Thursday that he has no regrets about the pitchers he used. "We just had a hard time getting that last out," he said. 
 

Could Giants trade Madison Bumgarner? Here's why Buster Olney believes so

Could Giants trade Madison Bumgarner? Here's why Buster Olney believes so

Madison Bumgarner forever will be a Giants legend for his 2014 playoff heroics. There was no way that former general manager Bobby Evans could emotionally separate Bumgarner from the Giants and trade the team's ace. 

Farhan Zaidi, the Giants' president head of baseball operations, doesn't hold the same history with Bumgarner, though, and that could be a good thing, writes ESPN's Buster Olney, who believes the left-hander's recent production shows the team should entertain a trade now sooner than later.

Bumgarner is 29 years old, and is scheduled to hit the open market after the 2019 season when his eight-year, $58.06 million contract comes to an end. Injuries from a dirt bike accident and a line drive off his hand in his last start of spring training have sidelined Bumgarner the last two years. When healthy and on the field, though, he hasn't been his former dominant self.

[RELATED: Giants Review: Bumgarner beset by injury for second consecutive year]

Over the last two years, Bumgarner has started 38 games, or four less than his dominant 2016 season. In that span, he has gone 10-16 with a 3.29 ERA and 210 strikeouts in 240.2 innings. It might all start with his slight dip in velocity. 

Since 2014, Bumgarner's average fastball, four-seam or two-seam, has slightly been slower, according to numbers from FanGraphs. He sat at 92.1 mph in 2014, was the same in 2015, fell to 90.9 in 2016, bumped up to 91 mph in 2017, and was back down to 90.9 mph this past season. 

Bumgarner also relied much more on his off-speed pitches than his fastball in 2018, according to FanGraphs. The lefty threw his fastball just 34.2 percent of the time last season, the lowest percentage of his MLB career. His fastball was heavily replaced by his curveball, which he threw a career-high 22.8 percent.

The rate of hard contact by opposing batters against Bumgarner also has increased every year since 2014, and reached a career high in 2018. According to FanGraphs, since 2014, Bumgarner's hard contact rate has gone from 26.9 percent, to 27.8 percent, to 31.6 percent, to 35 percent, and finally all the way to 41.6 percent last season. 

Here's the reality of the situation: The Giants have been awful the last two seasons, and while Bumgarner has been far from that, he's simply not his past self. He has to rely more on his off-speed as his fastball is slower and less effective, and batters are hitting him harder and harder. 

A contender will pony up for Bumgarner because of his playoff history, and he still can be at least a No. 2 on a playoff team. Is now the time to take advantage of the market? 

[RELATED: Farhan Zaidi says it's 'not absolutely necessary' for Giants to hire GM]

“Where we are, everything has to be on the table in terms of how we move this team and roster forward,” Zaidi said on a possible Bumgarner trade at his Giants introductory press conference. 

No matter if it's figuratively or literally, Bumgarner will go down as a Forever Giant. How much longer he toes the rubber at AT&T Park could be a different story, though. 

MLB rumors: Giants among nine Nathan Eovaldi suitors in free agency

MLB rumors: Giants among nine Nathan Eovaldi suitors in free agency

Nathan Eovaldi is a classic risk-versus-reward case. 

The right-hander is coming off a Madison Bumgarner-esque playoff run in which he had a 1.61 ERA over 22.1 innings in helping lead the Red Sox to a World Series title. He also already has gone through two Tommy John surgeries.

The postseason dominance is hard to ignore, though, and the Giants reportedly are eyeing the starting pitcher in free agency, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported Sunday.

[RELATED: MLB free agency debate: Where will Nathan Eovaldi sign this offseason?]

Cafardo noted that Eovaldi's preference is to return to Boston, and the writer lists the Brewers, Phillies, Braves, Angels, White Sox, Blue Jays and Padres as other teams showing interest. 

It's easy to forget Eovaldi still is just 28 years old -- he'll turn 29 in February. After making his MLB debut at 21 years old for the Dodgers in 2011, Eovaldi was traded one year later to the Marlins, and he already has pitched on five different teams.

He missed the entire 2017 season because of Tommy John surgery. 

Farhan Zaidi, Giants president of baseball operations, has a history of giving contracts to pitchers with injury issues in their past. And there's an occurring theme. 

As Dodgers general manager, Zaidi signed Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy and Rich Hill to contracts worth three years and $48 million. Eovaldi, however, is expected to demand more.