Matt Cain not planning on being a member of the Giants' bullpen

Matt Cain not planning on being a member of the Giants' bullpen

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Madison Bumgarner has the same memory as many of the Giants who checked into spring training Monday morning. On his first ever day in big league camp, eight years ago, Bumgarner met Matt Cain.

“He made a point of coming up to me to speak,” Bumgarner recalled.

That’s been Cain’s role for the better part of a decade. He is the longest-tenured Giant, and these days that means a bit more than it used to. Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez have retired. Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla have moved on, along with stalwarts like Gregor Blanco and Angel Pagan. Cain is the ultimate veteran in a clubhouse full of relative newcomers and prospects, but the 32-year-old also finds himself in a spot not often reserved for pitchers heading for Year 13. 

It’s no secret that Cain has to compete for his job this spring, and while he’s the frontrunner for the fifth starter spot, Cain will find tough competition in youngsters like Ty Blach and Tyler Beede, as well as holdovers such as Albert Suarez. 

“Good. That’s good,” Cain said Monday. “Let’s go with it. That’s a good competition. Let’s all compete for it. That’s fine with me.”

Cain already has a leg up, and not just because he has made 308 starts in orange and black. It’s hard to get a true read on ability in Arizona, where breaking balls often don’t break and Double-A kids stroll to the plate intent on hacking. Cain won’t need to post a 2.50 ERA this spring, he’ll simply need to prove that he’s healthy and he can command the ball. In that respect, he’s off to a good start.

“The biggest thing is having a normal spring,” he said. “I haven’t had that the last couple of years.”

Cain isn't coming off elbow surgery this time around. He is not dealing with a cyst on his pitching arm, either. He had a normal offseason, traveling with his family and starting a throwing program in December. He didn’t go back and watch film of his 2016 starts because he didn’t need to. The numbers — a 5.64 ERA in 21 appearances — speak for themselves, but Cain was able to find positives in certain outings. His fastball velocity was generally fine, and there were innings and stretches of starts where he felt like his old self. Then it would unravel. 

“It’s all there, everything is still there,” he said of his repertoire. “It’s just about not having the huge waves that I had last year. It was really good moments and really terrible moments.”

At FanFest on Saturday, pitching coach Dave Righetti said he feels Cain can still get through a lineup twice and often a third time, noting that he just needs to clear a hurdle that’s keeping him from getting deep into games. And if not, that’s fine too, Righetti said. 

The Giants will more often than not take five-and-dive if that’s the best case scenario. They have a deep rotation, with four guys at the front end who expect to sail past 200 innings. Cain, as always, has that same goal, but the Giants are realistic after a series of down years. They are also at times hopeful. 

“In a perfect world, Matt Cain would be Matt Cain and he would take that spot,” general manager Bobby Evans said recently. 

That’s the expectation Cain has for himself. He shied away from talk about his future on Monday, saying this being the final guaranteed year of his contract “doesn’t matter.” He’s not thinking of following Affeldt and Lopez or about the possibility that his final years in the big leagues might be spent in a much different role. 

“The bullpen is always a possibility for anyone,” Cain said, “But that’s not where I plan on being.”

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.

11:05 p.m. PT: The Giants are looking to add in the outfield, and two pretty big names are reportedly available at the Winter Meetings: Jackie Bradley Jr. and Ender Inciarte.

Both players are coming off of down years offensively, but Inciarte remained an elite defender in 2018 with 17 defensive runs saved in the outfield, according to Fangraphs. The Giants have a need, and both players are available, so keep your eyes on these two as the Winter Meetings proceed.

10:58 p.m. PT: The St. Louis Cardinals are reportedly shopping first baseman/outfielder Jose Martinez, and they reached out to the Giants, according to the San Francisco Chronicle's Henry Schulman.

Martinez was a bit of a late-bloomer, playing a career-high 152 games in his age-29 season. He slashed .305/.364/.457 in 2018, and hit 17 home runs. The Giants are reportedly drawing interest on Brandon Belt, so could Martinez be his replacement? 

10:44 p.m. PT: It was reported on Monday that the Los Angeles Dodgers were looking to deal some of their outfielders. Two of those names, reportedly, are ones Giants fans love to hate.

8:53 p.m. PT: Openers on both sides of the Bay? The Giants are exploring following the A's lead, and using relievers to start certain games in 2019. 

8:10 p.m. PT: If you want to #GorkTheVote in 2019, you'll have to vote for a Boston Red Sox outfielder, as Gorkys Hernandez reportedly signed a minor-league deal with the defending champs. 

Hernandez was out of options with the Giants and, as Alex Pavlovic noted in a piece on Monday, his .285 on-base percentage fell short of what the new regime was looking for. 

“One area that we want to look at is improving the offense from a plate discipline standpoint, even something as basic as the walk-strikeout ratio of the guys on the team,” Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said Monday. 

7:58 p.m. PT: Another option for the A's at second base? Veteran Ian Kinsler, per MLB Network's Jon Morosi. 

7:02 p.m. PT: As Madison Bumgarner trade rumors continue to swirl, Mark Feinsand of reported that MadBum is likely to stay put ... at least for now.

Coming off two injury-marred seasons and with only one year left on his contract, Bumgarner's market is hard to quantify. Rather than trade him now, the Giants could be better served hoping their ace lefthander rebuilds his value with a strong start to 2019 before trading him at the July 31 deadline. 

6:46 p.m. PT: After using "openers" to start games became popular last season, new Giants president Farhan Zaidi says San Francisco has discussed the idea as a strategy for their 2019 team.

Many teams, including Zaidi's former club in LA, used the "opener" strategy to various degrees of success in the 2018 playoffs. It'll be interesting to see if Zaidi can convince old-school manager Bruce Bochy to utilize it for the Giants.

6:06 p.m. PT: The Orioles have reportedly found their manager...maybe. The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal reported the O's hired former Cubs bench coach Brandon Hyde to lead their club.

However, Baltimore GM Mike Elias denied that the team has made any hires, per MASN's Roch Kubatko.

After going an MLB-worst 47-115 in 2018, the Orioles are facing a massive rebuild--regardless of who ends up managing the club.

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 ...

Giants could find right-handed bat, platoon Joe Panik at second base


Giants could find right-handed bat, platoon Joe Panik at second base

LAS VEGAS -- Over the past two days, Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has spent more than an hour meeting with reporters in his suite at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. The word "platoon" has come up over and over again.

There certainly are players the Giants hope to have out there just about every day, but at some spots, Zaidi plans to take advantage of the matchups. That might be a case at second base, where the Giants brought Joe Panik back on a one-year deal but still could bolster their infield depth.

Zaidi said Panik could have a right-handed-hitting partner at times, although he pointed out that the veteran still will see the lion's share of the playing time. 

"I think with a guy like Joe Panik, who does hit right-handed pitching better than left-handed pitching -- although he has hit lefties in the past -- we kind of look at it as a way to strategically plan his days off (more) than necessarily a straight platoon," Zaidi said Tuesday at the MLB Winter Meetings.

[RELATED: Hundley's Giants return could hinge on versatility]

Panik hit .282 against right-handed pitchers last season but just .191 against lefties, with two extra-base hits -- including, to be fair, a homer off Clayton Kershaw -- in 110 at-bats. There have been times in his career when Panik has fared well against lefties, but overall he has a .665 OPS against them, compared to a .760 OPS against righties.

If the Giants were to limit Panik's time against tough lefties, they would need to bring in help. They like Abiatal Avelino, who hits from the right side, but anticipate him getting more seasoning in Triple-A.

"A lot of it is going to depend on how we fill out the bench, but there are a few different guys on this team where I do see platooning as an option," Zaidi said. "Platooning doesn't mean you're a left-handed hitter who never plays against left-handed pitching, but maybe for a guy whose workload you're trying to manage, who you are trying to have be a 120- or 140-game player, when he gets those days off you strategically plan around a left-handed pitcher."