Giants

Jaylin Davis lives up to Giants' expectations, shows off elite speed

Jaylin Davis lives up to Giants' expectations, shows off elite speed

For weeks, Bruce Bochy has been asked about Jaylin Davis' power. It wasn't on display in the outfielder's debut, but another intriguing attribute was. 

Giants people have described Davis, called up Wednesday, as a good runner, and that certainly showed as he got his first big league hit out of the way. Davis did so quickly, reaching on an infield single in his first at-bat. He hit a slow grounder to third and got up to 30.1 feet per second while beating out a wide throw. 

That was the second-best sprint speed of the season by a Giant, trailing just an Austin Slater dash of 30.4 feet per second. Anything above 30 is considered elite. 

Hitting seventh, Davis went 1 for 3 in his debut with a walk. He was removed on a double-switch in the sixth as the Giants tried to hold a lead, but it didn't work. Paul Goldschmidt hit a two-run double off Tyler Rogers to give the Cardinals the lead. 

The Giants would rally back, though, getting a 9-8 win on a wild night in St. Louis. Kevin Pillar's two-run homer in the eighth was the difference and gave him 21 for the season. Pillar ended up with four hits. 

"I'd be lying to you if I didn't say my confidence grew a little bit when I saw that first (hit) get through the infield and drove in a run and kinda opened the floodgates for me a little bit," Pillar said. "Just keeping things simple, seeing the ball, focus on staying on the ball ... I know that homers are (on) mistakes and was just trying to capitalize on the mistake he made in the eighth inning."

MLB free agency: What we learned about Giants at Winter Meetings

MLB free agency: What we learned about Giants at Winter Meetings

SAN FRANCISCO -- "We were jealous."

Those were the words of a rival executive after the Giants took on Zack Cozart's contract in order to get shortstop prospect Will Wilson, the No. 15 pick in this year's draft. The Giants made just two moves this week, but that one certainly caught the attention of many around the game, and it was one team officials couldn't stop talking about over the last couple of days of the Winter Meetings.

It was a creative move, one straight out of an NBA offseason, with the Giants using their financial flexibility to pry away a good prospect from an Angels organization that soon would give Anthony Rendon $245 million. This isn't the type of move that will sell season tickets, but I think it's the most instructive one so far when trying to determine how Farhan Zaidi and now Scott Harris will turn this around.

Ownership hired smart people to run the baseball operations department. Zaidi, Harris and the rest are trying to make the kinds of creative decisions that have been seen in places like Oakland and Tampa Bay for years, while flexing the financial power of a big market.

Eventually, that money will be spent on free agents. For now, it allows the Giants to add players in other ways. The ownership group was thrilled with the Cozart/Wilson move (the Giants completed the deal Thursday by sending lefty Garrett Williams to the Angels) and has granted permission to seek similar, and possibly bigger, deals.

In Wilson, the Giants get a player who was one of three or four in the mix when they took Hunter Bishop at No. 10 overall in June. They would have been happy to end up with Wilson, and now they have both young hitters. Cozart has a "ways to go," before being ready after shoulder surgery, Zaidi said. He added that there's "uncertainty there." But that doesn't matter.

A few front office folks surveyed this week said a big-market team would spend $20-30 million to get a mid-first-round pick like Wilson if that was an open market (draft picks are kind of getting screwed, eh?) and the 21-year-old enters the Giants organization as one of their top 10 prospects, according to multiple outlets.

"We're really excited about him," a team executive said. "We're not going to need three or four guys like that to turn this around, we're going to need eight or 10."

The Giants got a bit closer to that goal by being creative. Here are four more things we learned over four days in Scottsdale.

Positional Versatility

Where were you when the Triple-A portion of the Rule 5 Draft went to a fifth-round?! What a time to be alive.

In the first round of Triple-A drafting, the Giants added Brewers minor leaguer Bryan Torres to the River Cats' roster. It potentially was significant because it fits with the theme of the meetings. The Giants announced Torres as a catcher even though he played first base, third base and a bit of outfield last season.

Zaidi has talked in the past of how appealing it is to have players who can catch but also play other positions -- like Austin Barnes or Kyle Farmer did in Los Angeles -- and it seems the Giants will give Torres, a catcher earlier in his minor league career, that shot. Get ready to hear a lot of this.

Gabe Kapler repeatedly said this week that the ability to play different positions will be huge for prospects, even noting that it could help Joey Bart's value down the line. The Giants are planning this at the big league level, too, with Mauricio Dubon set for time in center. Kapler compared Dubon to the Phillies’ do-everything hitter Scott Kingery.

"From the perspective of looking at Dubon, the more capable he is at moving around the diamond, the more valuable he becomes to the San Francisco Giants," Kapler said.

The Giants want to mimic what the Dodgers do with guys like Kiké Hernandez, Chris Taylor and Max Muncy. Get ready to see box scores where a guy moves back and forth, potentially two or three times a game.

A Hint With a Core Giant?

On the same day, the Giants acquired Cozart, it was reported they were a runner-up for shortstop Didi Gregorius. Now, Cozart may not be ready by Opening Day -- Zaidi said it's possible he's out until deep into the first half -- and he may not end up on the team at all. The Giants added him just to buy a prospect.

But, Gregorius is a starting shortstop.

Signing Gregorius -- assuming that rumor is true -- would have installed a new starting shortstop right then and there. It's also interesting to note what Kapler said about Brandon Crawford during his media availability.

"Brandon Crawford at times has been a plus defender up the middle," Kapler said. "I think he still has that capability to be a plus defender at shortstop."

"At times" is not the most ringing endorsement of a three-time Gold Glove Award winner. Crawford surely is motivated to come back strong next season, but it's clear the front office is contemplating some major changes.

The Next Yaz?

The Giants are looking for a right-handed bat in the outfield, but some team officials believe they might already have the solution in-house. There's a lot of excitement about Jaylin Davis, who hit 35 homers in the minors last year but went just 7-for-42 in a September cameo.

The goal with the coaching hires was to unlock the potential that's inside a lot of these prospects, and the 25-year-old Davis certainly is going to be one of the top projects for Donnie Ecker, Justin Viele, Dustin Lind and the rest. The new regime believes there are some changes he can make to carry that minor league success over to his big league at-bats.

Zaidi said the Giants continue to look at other options in free agency and through trades. The Giants have been connected to Nicholas Castellanos, perhaps the best remaining fit, but the reports that they're the leading contender for his services are overstating it, per sources.

[RELATED: Winners, losers of MLB Winter Meetings]

Who Is Left Out?

The Giants added Kevin Gausman to their rotation, giving them a group that currently is led by five right-handers.

"I think we want to have balance," Zaidi said. "Obviously we've got Tyler Anderson, who we're hoping can be ready on Opening Day or at least early in the season. He factors in from the left side and (Andrew) Suarez and (Conner) Menez and some of our younger guys as well. But that's going to be an area we're going to keep an eye on in free agency as well."

This is where the fans will stop and note that, uhh, a man named Madison Bumgarner still is available. The Giants still are involved, but are expecting to lose him, possibly in a painful way. No matter what happens with Bumgarner, expect more changes to the rotation group.

Given the money that's flying around, $18 million is a very palatable salary for Jeff Samardzija, who had a nice season. He might be traded, and Johnny Cueto could have suitors, too. The Giants are excited about Tyler Beede and Logan Webb, but keep in mind that a year ago at this time Zaidi was saying he wanted Dereck Rodriguez and Suarez -- coming off solid rookie years -- to start the season in Triple-A as depth. Neither ended up as a rotation regular. Webb, the organization's top pitching prospect, will be on an innings limit next year, too.

So, here on Dec. 13, do not at all lock in a rotation of Cueto, Samardzija, Beede, Webb and Gausman, or even four of those guys and Anderson as the fifth. The Giants have more rotation changes on the way.

MLB Winter Meetings Notes: Familiar faces abound; Giants' John Barr honored

MLB Winter Meetings Notes: Familiar faces abound; Giants' John Barr honored

SAN FRANCISCO -- On the first day, Stephen Strasburg got $245 million. A night later, Gerrit Cole blew that away with a record $324 million contract. Finally, Anthony Rendon got $245 million to switch leagues. 

By the end of the four-day MLB Winter Meetings, super-agent Scott Boras was within striking distance of watching his clients -- led by those three -- get more than $1 billion in new money. So, there was a reason Boras was smiling as he walked through the lobby at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego on Wednesday night. 

Boras met with the Giants, as he always does, but they weren't involved with the big fish this time around. So far they have spent $9 million, but general manager Scott Harris said the team wasn't spooked by the frenzied pace this week.

"That happens every winter," he said of the market, smiling. "We just sequenced it differently this winter."

It's true that most of the heavy lifting was done much sooner than a year ago, but the Giants still have plenty of time to put together an improved roster. As they work the phones, let's look back on the four days in San Diego with some news and notes ... 

A Giant honor

John Barr, who now serves as a special assistant in baseball operations, was honored Wednesday night as the Scout of the Year for the East Coast region. The award was particularly meaningful to Barr because it was voted on by his peers. Barr was in charge of drafts for the Giants for more than a decade, bringing in Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, Joe Panik, Matt Duffy among many others. He recently had another huge day, watching Mike Mussina get into the Hall of Fame.

Barr was the scouting director who selected Mussina for the Orioles, and he is Barr's first Hall of Famer. 

The Giants kept Barr around even after Michael Holmes took over amateur scouting, and they have leaned on him during the transition and brought him back in a new role. In fact, new boss Farhan Zaidi was the one who gave the speech introducing Barr at the ceremony. 

"He commiserated with me when I first started about moving from the Dodgers to the Giants and the fact that we both got aired out by Tommy Lasorda," Zaidi joked. "He's been a tremendous resource and support for not just myself, but obviously Michael Holmes, as well, and the entire scouting staff. It's a super well-deserved honor."

Forever Giants

Kevin Frandsen, now a broadcaster for the Phillies, was in San Diego. At one point, he found himself in conversation with Brett Pill and Dan Runzler. That was quite common over the course of the week.

Among those spotted in the lobby in San Diego: Yangervis Solarte (who is looking for a job), Bobby Evans, Jake Peavy, Moises Alou, Aubrey Huff and, of course, Bruce Bochy, who will manage next spring for Team France. 

Pill will also be on a new staff. He's joining the Dodgers as their Double-A hitting coach, and Manny Burriss will be their Triple-A hitting coach. The Giants aren't the only ones hiring from a rival. Carl Kochan, their former strength coach, apparently also works for the Dodgers. 

Still Looking

A couple of former Giants expressed disappointment that Curt Young, the pitching coach the last two years, is not on a big-league staff anywhere. Young has had a good career but the Giants went in a much different direction, hiring Andrew Bailey, who actually pitched for Young in Oakland. 

The Giants may hit it big with their young staff, but it's disappointing to see the sport turn its back on so many experienced coaches. Jose Alguacil, once a rising star in the organization, is managing in the Dominican Republic and looking for an opportunity elsewhere.

The Giants have not yet decided if they'll bring Shawon Dunston back but it doesn't sound likely, and it's unclear where Rick Schu has ended up.

The same thing is happening on big-league staffs around the game and at the minor league levels, although some people around the game believe it will swing the other way in a couple of years. The Phillies, for example, followed Gabe Kapler with Joe Girardi. 

Oracle Changes

The big news Thursday -- other than the potentially crushing news about Madison Bumgarner -- was that the Giants officially announced their dimensions. Triples Alley might not play all that different, because studies have shown that the wind and cold weather actually has the biggest impact, but I do think we'll see a lot more homers to dead center. A ton of balls die on the warning track there every year and last year's track now will be beyond the wall. 

There was one other bit of ballpark news. All 30 MLB teams will expand their netting and the Giants are one of seven that will have the protective nets go all the way to the foul poles. 

Panda Party

My favorite part of the Winter Meetings came late one night when a team employee walked up and asked, "Did you hear about Pablo's wedding?"

Sandoval's wedding last weekend was apparently one of the parties of the year, and it was full of present and former Giants, all of whom saw their old manager, Bochy, who made the flight out to Miami. I mean, how many can you count in this photo alone? 

Yes, that's Albert Suarez. Yes, Mike "Glass of Whiskey" Yastrzemski formed such a bond with Sandoval over one season that he ended up at his wedding. 

I won't get into all the details, and hopefully Sandoval is back late next season to give us the full scoop, but the wedding started late and dinner was apparently served at midnight, and then again and again throughout the night.

One guest said the party lasted until 9 a.m. and breakfast was actually served at some point. There were multiple bands and singers who were flown in, and plenty of panda hats, as Hunter Pence shared:

[RELATED: Giants add interesting arm on way out of Winter Meetings]

I don't know how true this is, but one guest told me Pence showed up for the wedding and was told that he was actually the best man. Surprise! Maybe Sandoval just knew that nobody else could give a better speech?