Giants

Giants spring training Day 22: Three weeks in, Bochy looking for versatility

Giants spring training Day 22: Three weeks in, Bochy looking for versatility

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Aaron Hill has not started a big league game at shortstop since 2006. Jimmy Rollins has never started a meaningful game at second base. Yet there they were Monday, lining up in a strange alignment for a coaching staff that is trying to piece together a 25-man puzzle. 

Manager Bruce Bochy said he’ll start to throw guys into new spots over the next couple of weeks, and the returns Monday certainly didn’t harm the opening day chances of the two veterans. Hill smoked an RBI double in the second and got a great read while scoring on a bloop to left, and he looked fine at short. Rollins, who has been a bit slower to come around at the plate, made two diving snags in the field. 

Bochy said the staff isn’t really looking at spring numbers yet. The Giants are more concerned about seeing where all the veterans might fit in.

“I think this early, it’s hard to judge them, it really is,” he said. “I know it seems like we’ve been here quite a while, which we have because camp started earlier, but as we get into the later weeks of spring these guys should have their swings and their comfort and a sense of timing. It is hard to evaluate right now.”

Hill will continue to see time at short, Bochy said, especially with Brandon Crawford off to the World Baseball Classic. Rollins has done daily work at second. Bochy is looking at other permutations, too … 

  • He said Chris Marrero, who has swung a hot bat early, will see time in left field. Marrerro has played first base all spring. Kelby Tomlinson will also see time in left field. 
  • Trevor Brown continues to work out occasionally at first, second and third. The staff hasn’t ruled out carrying three catchers. 
  • Jae-gyun Hwang will see some time at first base and Bochy also wants a glimpse of him in the outfield. Hwang has played third base all spring. This could be particularly meaningful if he’s in Triple-A, where Christian Arroyo will play third. 
  • Ty Blach came in with one out in the fourth. He said this is the first time he can remember ever coming in during the middle of an inning, and it was done on purpose. “It’s a good situation for Ty to come in,” Bochy said. “It could be his role. I’m not saying it will be, but it could be. We’re going to keep those options open. Early on we’re going to keep options open on the pitching side and position player side. You’re trying to get that flexibility.” Blach is still competing for the No. 5 spot, but Matt Cain hasn’t done anything to make the staff think he won’t win that job, so Blach could be a long reliever or short-stint lefty to start the year. 

GAME RECAP: The Giants won 3-2, snapping an eight-game losing streak that cost them any shot at the prestigious Cactus League title. Kyle Blanks had three hits and drove in a run. Cain was charged with a couple of runs but Blach, Dan Slania, Derek Law and Hunter Strickland took it home. 

A DIFFERENT LOOK: Strickland threw only splitters and two-seamers while picking up the save. He’s looking to get hitters off his four-seam fastball a bit. 

“That felt good today,” he said, smiling. “It felt effortless.”

The returns were positive; he faced three Indians in the ninth and got three ground balls, with the final two outs coming on a double play. The addition of a reliable third pitch would certainly be a huge boost for a guy who should be pitching the seventh or eighth. A year ago, he threw 57 percent four-seamers and 23 percent sliders.

TRAINER’S ROOM: Will Smith remains on track to pitch in a game around March 20 or so. “Smitty will be ready (for opening day),” Bochy said. “I’m confident in that. He’ll be ready.” Conor Gillapie (sore arm) said he’s ready to get back in the lineup Tuesday. Jose Alguacil hoped to visit the clubhouse Monday afternoon. 

ICYMI: From this morning, Crawford and Buster Posey are off to wear the red, white and blue. And if you didn’t see it yesterday, Crawford’s WBC glove is going to lead to a lot of fire emojis on Twitter. 

QUOTABLE: “It’s always a tough at-bat. He’s going to give you a tough at-bat. He’s a guy who has got a great ability to put an at-bat together. He likes to play hard-nosed baseball and that’s what we’re looking for.” — Cain on Hill. It turns out the two go way back; they first faced off in Double-A and Hill lined a first-pitch curveball right back up the middle, nearly taking Cain’s head off.

 

Why Madison Bumgarner trade now seems more likely at July deadline

bumgarnershrugusatsi.jpg
USATSI

Why Madison Bumgarner trade now seems more likely at July deadline

LAS VEGAS — When the Giants arrived here on Sunday, Madison Bumgarner was their Opening Day starter. After four days of circulated casino air, room service, $7 cups of coffee, a few rumors and one minor transaction, Madison Bumgarner is still their Opening Day starter.

That still could change, though. 

While the Giants are not close to any deals and have not gotten close, multiple sources familiar with their discussions said this week that the front office is still fully ready to trade the franchise’s ace if the right deal comes along. The Giants have come to grips with the reality of making such a move, but also believe at this point that if they are to trade Bumgarner, the best deal likely will come before the July 31 trade deadline. 

Discussions about Bumgarner have been overshadowed by contenders focusing elsewhere. The Yankees filled their hole by trading for James Paxton and signing another lefty, J.A. Happ. The Nationals signed Patrick Corbin. Other dominoes will fall, but the Giants have never been all that close to finding their own deal, and they are sensitive to a perceived shift in recent weeks.

[REPORT: Giants might hold Bumgarner until midseason]

Some recent stories written by national outlets have focused on Bumgarner's declining velocity, poor road numbers and concerning peripherals, but for the Giants, he still is valued highly. "He's still Madison Bumgarner," one Giants person said this week. He also, several team officials pointed out, remains an incredible bargain at $12 million, regardless of what some might believe about Bumgarner's current skill level. 

“I would never bet against him,” another source said when asked if Bumgarner’s value has dropped. 

During his required media availability on Wednesday, manager Bruce Bochy said he’s confident Bumgarner will bounce back from an up-and-down season, pointing out that he had a tremendous spring in 2018 and looked poised for a big year before a line drive caught his finger. 

“I can assure you he is working and he’s going to come in like he did last spring,” Bochy said. “He’s young. He’s strong. He’s smart. He has the ability to adjust. So I’m not going to be surprised if he has done something to tweak his delivery or whatever. Not that I think he needs to. This guy, he’s still really, really good.”

Bumgarner had a 3.26 ERA in 21 starts last season but his strikeout rate was down and his walk rate was a career-worst. There are other concerns for scouts who watched him last season, mainly a 4.97 ERA and 1.45 WHIP away from pitcher-friendly AT&T Park. 

But for the Giants, Bumgarner remains more than just the numbers. When asked about Bumgarner on Monday, team president and CEO Larry Baer pointed down to a ring on his hand, one Bumgarner helped the Giants win.

[MORE: Bumgarner almost played first base?]

Baer said the organization has dealt with “conflicting feelings” when discussing Bumgarner’s future. There is an emotional pull, certainly, but this is also Farhan Zaidi’s show now, and he has no ties to Bumgarner. Zaidi’s most interesting quote this week may have come when asked about the Diamondbacks taking a step back by trading Paul Goldschmidt. He challenged that assumption that they’re rebuilding, saying that deal was largely about the Diamondbacks "trying to fill multiple spots with a guy that maybe they had doubts about their ability to re-sign.”

The Giants and Bumgarner did not have extension talks last season, when the previous regime was in place. New leadership will make the decision, and multiple rival executives said this week that Zaidi will do what he thinks makes sense for the Giants on the field, no matter the resulting PR hit. 

“You hired the experts — Farhan and his team — to do what’s best for the organization,” Baer said. “At the end of the day, it’s the San Francisco Giants on the front of the uniform, and we’ve got to figure out a way to build this into where we want to go.

“If it’s with Bum, great. There are multiple scenarios here. It’s just too early to forecast it because we want to put the best team together. He may or may not be in that equation. Obviously you have your heart, and then you have what’s good for the team. There are a lot of scenarios to understand where it’s going to go. You may very well see him on Opening Day as the starting pitcher.”

For now, Bumgarner is still in that position. But the Giants do not in any way feel that they have approached the meaty part of their offseason, and they will remain open to any possibility with Bumgarner, even if this drags deep into the offseason. They believe there could be a contender — perhaps the Astros, or Braves, or Phillies — still looking for another big arm when the dust settles in January. This likely, though, will drag into the season and all the way to the trade deadline.

After weeks of whispers, the Giants still do not know where they’ll end up with Bumgarner. He’s still a Giant, but there’s a long way to go before he’s set to take the mound at Petco Park on March 28. 

MLB World Series odds: Each team's chance to win the 2019 World Series

worldseries.jpg
AP

MLB World Series odds: Each team's chance to win the 2019 World Series

The MLB Winter Meetings have wrapped up for the most part -- but we aren't done yet. We still have to figure out who will win the World Series next year.

We know, it's early. There is snow on the ground, and Red Sox players and fans are still sobering up from the World Series parade, but we need to be prepared. 

So, what are the odds your favorite team will win the World Series in 2019?

Are you hoping the A's 2018 season weren't a fluke? Do you want the Giants to prove their front office hires were successful? Or are you a fan who really wants any other team but the Yankees to hold that trophy at the end of the season?

OddsShark will put some of those thoughts to rest. They put out a tweet to show the odds now that free agency is getting interesting:

It's no surprise that the last two World Series champions, the Astros and Red Sox, are atop the list at +700. But the Mets and A's are at the same odds? Strange.

I suppose it has something to do with the fact that the A's haven't exactly made any blockbuster transactions yet, but c'mon.

The Giants are at +8000 odds after not trading away Madison Bumgarner, so there's that.

Do you think these are fair odds?