Giants

Giants notes: Pence, Panik ready for rehab assignments

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Giants notes: Pence, Panik ready for rehab assignments

SAN DIEGO -- Bruce Bochy had a nice, relaxing All-Star break, and when he got to Petco Park on Thursday, he got good news. Bochy's right fielder, Hunter Pence, could start a rehab assignment as soon as Saturday. Second baseman Joe Panik might be just a day behind.

Pence (hamstring surgery) is running the bases at nearly 100 percent and the Giants have a soft target of July 25, the first game of the next homestand, for his return. But Bochy acknowledged that Pence could be back sooner depending on how his rehab games go.

"Pence is doing very well," Bochy said. "If he feels as good as he has been, he'll (play a minor league game) on Saturday."

[RELATED: D'backs option struggling RHP Miller to Triple-A]

Panik has been out with a concussion, but his symptoms have all but cleared and he's the closest of the injured to actually returning to the big leagues. The Giants think Panik may need just a handful of rehab at-bats and Bochy is hoping he rejoins the lineup when the Giants play the Yankees next weekend. Panik is surely aiming for that; he's a New York native. 

The road is a little longer for Matt Duffy, who tested his injured Achilles by running during the break. 

"He's still in rehab mode," Bochy said. "It's coming around a little slower than we had hoped and he had hoped. We're going to slow-play him a little bit more. We're having a hard time getting over the hump with him."

--- Bochy made one change to his rotation, sliding Jeff Samardzija between Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto. Jake Peavy and Matt Cain (who has one more rehab start remaining) are on track to start in Boston.

Bochy said they decided to move Cueto back a day as soon as he was named the All-Star starter. Cueto threw 32 pitches on Tuesday night. For now, the Giants are not planning to reunite Bumgarner and Cueto atop the rotation.

"It's not a priority," Bochy said. "We're fine with the way we have it set up right now."

--- If you missed it during the break, power rankings at the end of the first half (spoiler: the Giants are good) ... and here's a look at 10 questions for the second half of the season.

MLB rumors: Why Giants should trade for Yankees pitcher Sonny Gray

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MLB rumors: Why Giants should trade for Yankees pitcher Sonny Gray

The Sonny Gray era in New York appears to be coming to an end, and the Giants should pounce at the chance to add the former Cy Young candidate. 

According to Fancred's Jon Heyman, the Yankees are pushing hard to complete a Gray trade soon. He also lists the Giants as one of seven teams that have been involved as possible partners, and perhaps recent favorites.

Why would the Giants want to trade for someone that had a 4.90 ERA in only 130 innings and a whopping 1.50 WHIP last season? The numbers aren't that simple. 

It all starts with Yankee Stadium, or "The Sandbox in the Bronx." Gray had a brutal 6.98 ERA in 15 games in his home park in 2018, but a great 3.17 ERA in 15 games away from it. His WHIP went from 1.91 in New York to 1.16 at all other ballparks. 

The Yankees are known as the Bronx Bombers for a reason. They turn games into Home Run Derby in their own backyard. Now imagine being on the other side of the ball, the one who throws the pitches and sees a pop-up turn into a jog around the bases. 

When looking at Park Factors, which compares the rate of stats at home versus the rate of stats on the road, Yankee Stadium was the sixth-best home run park in the league. It's no coincidence Gray allowed 11 home runs there and only three on the road. 

By comparison, AT&T Park Oracle Park was the second-worst ballpark for home runs last season by Park Factors. 

It's well known that the Giants play in one of the most pitcher-friendly places in all of baseball. Gray has never had the luxury of pitching in San Francisco -- he's also never pitched at Petco Park (Padres) or Coors Field (Rockies) -- but he's only allowed two earned runs in 15.1 innings combined at Chase Field (Diamondbacks) and Dodger Stadium. 

Gray, 29, could thrive in a new environment like San Francisco -- especially by working with his old pitching coach Curt Young again. Young was Gray's pitching coach on the A's, when Gray had his most success (including a third-place finish for the Cy Young Award in 2015).

As Gray is a free agent after 2019 season, he could either help the Giants contend this season or become a valuable trade chip if San Francisco is out of the playoff hunt by the July 31 trade deadline. 

In an offseason where bringing back Derek Holland has been the biggest move, it's time to take a chance and make it Sonny in the Bay again.

Giants Mailbag: Is there an ideal fit still out there on the market?

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Giants Mailbag: Is there an ideal fit still out there on the market?

SAN FRANCISCO — On Friday, we will be one month from the first full-squad workout at Scottsdale Stadium.

If the Giants gathered today, they would look eerily similar to the team that finished far out of contention last season. 

That should change, of course. Team officials expect to make multiple additions over the next three weeks, taking advantage as prices continue to fall for the dozens of quality free agents still on the market. Trade talks have remained steady, too. 

But right now, we’re still in the midst of an extremely quiet offseason. On Wednesday, Ahmed Fareed joined me for a lengthy podcast that went over the slow pace, the Harper-Machado markets, the issues with the CBA, young players vying for jobs and much more. You can stream it here or download it on iTunes here. 

Thank you to everyone who sent questions along. There were so many that it’s time to add a mailbag to the podcast … 

Sign Marwin Gonzalez as a super utility, seems like a Zaidi kinda guy, provided he’s not too expensive. Then look to trade him at the deadline to a team in the hunt. - @brayden_cleland

Longtime listeners of the podcast know that Gonzalez has been my target throughout this offseason. He could be the opening day left fielder and provide depth throughout the infield, and he would add some pop. He has been connected to some contenders — primarily the Braves, lately — but for the most part, he has been out of the headlines.

It’s possible Gonzalez is waiting to see where Harper and Machado end up, knowing that the teams that miss out will have plenty of money left to spend. 

The second part of this question is interesting to me because we don’t quite know what Zaidi thinks of no-trade clauses. Bobby Evans handed them out to just about everyone, and the Giants are paying for that. You can bet Zaidi would like to avoid doing the same. But it’s possible that veterans — like Gonzalez — will make that a prerequisite of signing with a team that’s not looking like a contender. It’ll be interesting to see how Zaidi handles the no-trade issue. 

Will Watson and Smith both be traded this year? What teams do you think are the best trade partners? - @Dc_cargo

I would be surprised if they’re both on the Opening Day roster. Ahmed made a good point on the podcast, predicting that the Giants will actually make their trade during spring training. There will be a team that loses a valuable reliever to injury during spring training, and perhaps that’s when Zaidi will pounce. 

Before then, I still think there’s a strong chance that Smith gets dealt. Team officials were awfully shy about naming him the closer when they gathered in Las Vegas last month, and they’ve made no secret of the fact that they get calls on Smith. Andrew Baggarly mentioned the Angels as a team that’s been hot on Giants relievers.

This is just my speculation, but if the Red Sox aren’t able to bring Kimbrel back, Smith could make a ton of sense for them. With Adam Ottavino and Zach Britton in New York, the Red Sox certainly have some work to do to keep up with their rival. 

How does the Giants brass feel about possibly sharing Oracle Park with the Raiders next season? - @SportsAnthony

I’m sure there are mixed feelings throughout the organization. Some people I’ve talked to were shocked that this was an option, but at the same time, it could bring some serious cash into the organization, and this remains a business.

The Giants looked seriously into having an XFL team play at AT&T Park when that league reboots, so they’re prepared to continue hosting occasional football games. I checked on this about a week ago and was told it’s still possible that the Giants and Raiders strike a deal. 

Is Zaidi going to keep the infield and try to trade bullpen pieces for a veteran outfielder? Also, how does the rotation stack up for you? Bum, D Rod, Holland, Suarez, Stratton? Will they trade Samardzija? Will Pablo and Longoria platoon at third? Better athlete...Ahmed or Alex. - @Hardeepd2

A lot to unpack here. If the Giants do trade a Smith or Watson, they won’t be aiming to get veterans back. The goal in any deal right now is to get young cost-controlled contributors who have options remaining. Think of it as trying to get another team’s Andrew Suarez or Steven Duggar. Zaidi wants flexibility. 

It’s just about impossible to trade a guy with a shoulder injury, so the best the Giants can do with Samardzija is hope he’s healthy — his throwing program is said to be going well — and run him out there as part of the rotation, either for their own benefit or to rebuild his trade value before July 31. Right now, it’s Bumgarner, Rodriguez, Holland, Samardzija, and Suarez in some order. 

RELATED: [What Zaidi learned from Muncy, Taylor discovery]

They won’t put Longoria in a straight platoon, although I think all the veterans will lose some time when the matchups are right. Longoria doesn’t have huge splits but I still think they’ll give him more rest. 

As for the final question, this is certainly something we should have settled when the Giants were losing every day in September and we were trying to figure out what to talk about on the pre-game show … 

Any thoughts on Adam Jones? - @jakewilcken420

On a cheap, one-year deal that puts him in an outfield corner? Sure. There’s no harm in that, and the roster certainly needs a veteran right-handed bat in the outfield. But I think there’s a fine line with some of the remaining veterans. You look over the outfield list and at some point, you reach a point where you might as well throw Williamson, Slater, Shaw, Gerber, and Ferguson out there and let them sink or swim.

A big part of the 2019 season is figuring out who can be part of a more potent team in 2020, and the Giants won’t do that if they give too many at-bats to 33-year-olds.