Giants

McCutchen Mailbag: What does trade mean for Giants' young outfielders?

McCutchen Mailbag: What does trade mean for Giants' young outfielders?

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants will introduce Evan Longoria on Friday at AT&T Park (we’ll be airing it and doing Facebook Live, so get ready) and at some point they figure to get Andrew McCutchen up on a podium with a brand new jersey. 

At that point, McCutchen can talk a bit more about his new team and his walk year. For now, let’s run through some questions about the trade and what might come next … 

How are you liking this move, Alex? I love it. — @DionTheDude

I was an advocate of taking a step back in 2018 and rebuilding a bit for the future, but the Giants were never going to do that. So, if you’re going to go for it, I think McCutchen is the perfect fit and a really savvy move. I also don’t think it cost the Giants very much. For my full thoughts, check out the Emergency Andrew McCutchen Podcast I did with Ahmed Fareed. 

Slater showed some promise with the glove last season. Do you see him as an option in center field? 566 career CF innings in the minors. — @BrooksKnudsen 

I do, and at the winter meetings, team officials talked about him playing all three outfield spots. At the time it seemed the emphasis would be right field, but with McCutchen now out there, I would guess Slater sees most of his time in left with starts in center, as well. A lot of people asked about Slater, Jarrett Parker, Mac Williamson etc. Simply put, the Giants are now in a position that normal teams hope to be in. They don’t have to rush some of these guys into a ton of starts in the outfield. The ones who have options can ride the Sacramento-San Francisco shuttle and provide more talent than in the past when a player gets hurt -- and on this old team, players will get hurt. Parker is out of options, but you’ll see some other familiar names fill out the outfield in Triple-A. If you missed it yesterday, here's the plan for Steven Duggar. 

Could the Giants go the Dee Gordon route and just sign Eduardo Nuñez to play center? - @raj_sidhu_123

I liked what the Mariners did with Dee Gordon, but Nuñez was pretty rough in left field last year. Having said that, I recently asked about him as a potential February addition, perhaps on a minor league deal if his market just turns out to be completely dry. I was told, “Nuñey is going to be just fine,” so I assume that he has some solid infield offers in hand. 

How about some pitching? - @pablodiablow 

My friend, we’re on the same page. The bullpen has been bad for two years and just lost a promising arm in Kyle Crick. Hopefully Derek Law fills that void, but he’s coming off a down year. I think they need another bullpen arm and another starter, because it would be rather shortsighted to build a lineup that you think can contend, and then turn the back end of the rotation over to a bunch of rookies. I expect a veteran or two to be in camp to compete for an Opening Day job. 

Does this mean Billy Hamilton is still possible? - @Gaberino4 

In conversations with sources, I haven’t heard Hamilton’s name in weeks. It was McCutchen, McCutchen, McCutchen at some point. I think that ship has likely sailed, as the Reds set a high asking price and didn’t waiver. Per Zach Buchanan, one of their beat writers, Hamilton is expected to start the season in Cincinnati. 

Was hanging onto Belt a priority? Seems like that would’ve been an ideal contract to get rid of given their cap issues. — @JoshSessler 

Yes, I’m told Belt was made just about untouchable at the start of the offseason, and frankly not many teams have asked about him given his potentially scary concussion issues. But to a larger point, holding Belt should’ve been a priority. He’s a good baseball player. End of story. Sorry, Belt Bashers. Even with McCutchen and Longoria, if I had to bet on who will lead the 2018 Giants in OPS, I would choose Belt. He should benefit quite a bit from hitting lower in the order. 

Do you have an estimate of how much money they still have for a center fielder? - @PeteDeBoerWar 

According to Cot’s, the best tracker out there, the Giants have about $4.4 million until they reach the tax. They were helped by the Pirates picking up $2.5 million of McCutchen’s $14.75 million deal. I think the actual number is $3-4 million under the tax, so that’s the budget for a defense-first center fielder, if that’s the way they go. 

You think they should go for Lorenzo Cain at a reasonable price now even if they lose the second-round pick? - @pejvahdat 

I do not. Cain is still going to be very expensive and he turns 32 in April, so forgive me for immediately thinking about the years I’ve spent covering an aging Angel Pagan and Denard Span. Cain is a much better defender than either of those two, but still, I think he comes with a lot of risk. Plus, the Giants just traded two of their top five prospects and they have a poor farm system. They need to nail those second- and fifth-round picks next year and add to what appeared to be a very good draft in 2017. At some point, a rebuild is coming. 

Where are all the people wanting Bobby Evans’ head now? — @kmav88

Oh, they’re still on Twitter. I still hear from them every day. Make no mistake about it, if this doesn’t work and the Giants fall well short of the postseason again, this will all come down on the front office. But for now, Evans has to be sleeping better. At the end of the day, he came away from the offseason with Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen, and so far he’s kept ownership from paying the tax again and given them two new stars to sell. That’ll play. 

Giants notes: Bruce Bochy praises fight despite loss to A's

Giants notes: Bruce Bochy praises fight despite loss to A's

OAKLAND — After off days, Bruce Bochy occasionally admits that he spent his free hours watching more baseball. He’s a fan of the game, whether he’s managing or not. On Saturday night, he was able to appreciate a game played well, even if it didn’t come with a win. 

Bochy mentioned repeatedly that he appreciated how hard the Giants fought despite the fact that they lost 4-3 in extra innings. They appeared to be done about an hour earlier when Alen Hanson struck out, but the third strike was wild and Hanson reached with two outs in the ninth. He scored the tying run on Hunter Pence’s double into the bullpen that came with some chair controversy. 

“That’s what speed does,” Bochy said. “Hanson was flying and scored easily.”

The Giants did a lot of good things. The bullpen was dominant after Madison Bumgarner lost his command. Brandon Belt hit a homer. Pence had his first three-hit game of the season. Brandon Crawford made two incredible catches on pop-ups. It didn’t lead to a win.

“That was a great ballgame,” Bochy said. “You hate to say that when you lose, but these guys fought hard.”

—- Belt was hitless in 18 at-bats when he took Trevor Cahill deep. He snapped a streak of 63 at-bats without a homer.

—- The Giants have started switching their shifts this season, with Crawford and the third baseman swapping positions in certain counts so that Crawford can patrol an entire side of the infield. It paid off in the sixth. Matt Olson hit a pop-up toward the bullpen and Crawford took off on a dead sprint.

He snagged the ball about 150 feet from where he started. According to Statcast, Crawford reached a sprint speed of 28.8 feet per second, his fastest sprint of the season on any play.

In the 11th, Crawford went a lot way into right-center for another eye-popping grab. That one saved Hanson, who had missed two earlier pop-ups. 

—- Steven Duggar struck out in nearly a third of his at-bats in the minors this season, and we’re starting to see some of that up here. Duggar struck out twice in the series opener and twice Saturday. He has at least one strikeout in every game he has played since a promotion, and double-digit strikeouts in five of his eight starts. 

—- Evan Longoria (fractured finger) was hitless in four at-bats in his second rehab game. He’s 2-for-7 in two games and could play nine innings Sunday in a bid to speed things up. 

—- It’s not quite Scoreboard Watching Season, but… you’re always watching the team atop your division. The Dodgers lost 4-2 to the Brewers, who got two shutout innings from Josh Hader. The controversial reliever’s first road appearance will come Thursday in San Francisco, by the way. 

 

Madison Bumgarner loses feel for strike zone in 'weird situation'

Madison Bumgarner loses feel for strike zone in 'weird situation'

OAKLAND — For the first time since April 16, 2015, Madison Bumgarner did not complete five innings. He did not get hurt. He did not really get rocked, either. He just lost the strike zone during a strange sequence that even he couldn’t really explain after having a couple hours to think about it. 

Bumgarner walked five of the final seven batters he faced, including four of five in the fifth inning, and Bruce Bochy had no choice but to come out and get his ace. The Giants would go on to lose 4-3 in the 11th inning, but they probably didn’t even expect to be around that long given how the fifth unfolded. 

Bumgarner had walked two batters with the bases loaded in all his starts prior to this one. He walked back-to-back A’s with the bases loaded in the fifth. Sam Dyson got him out of the jam, but enough damage had been done that the Giants weren’t able to put this one away in nine innings, despite allowing just two hits to that point. 

Asked if he felt as off as he looked, Bumgarner paused. 

“Yes and no, I guess,” he said. “The first four innings I was cruising, pretty much. In the fifth I just couldn’t find the zone. I was trying to throw strikes. I wasn’t trying to pitch to corners… It was a weird situation to just kind of lose your feel for a minute.”

Bumgarner is maniacal about his mechanics, and he said he already had ruled out any issue there. His velocity was fine, so there was little reason for bigger-picture concern. It was just an odd stretch.

“That’s unlike Bum,” Bochy said. “But it happens occasionally.”

A night like this had never happened to Bumgarner before. He walked a career-high six batters. Bumgarner wasn’t particularly sharp from the start, missing his spots repeatedly even on pitches that were called strikes. Several others leaked from corners to the heart of the plate, but he escaped disaster until the fifth. 

A walk of Matt Olson and Matt Chapman's bloop single to right put the A’s in business. Bumgarner loaded the bases by walking Chad Pinder. The bullpen didn’t stir, but a few moments later there was action. Bumgarner went 3-2 on Josh Phegley and just missed with a fastball inside. Dyson started to warm up. Bumgarner then went 3-2 on Marcus Semien and missed with a cutter outside that never scared the plate. Dyson took over from there. 

“I just lost the feel there there in the fifth,” Bumgarner said. “I just couldn’t throw strikes. That’s it.”

That meant he couldn’t stick around as long as he normally does. Bumgarner had completed five innings in a franchise-record 89 consecutive starts. That was the longest active streak in the big leagues. He reacted harshly a few weeks back when a reporter mentioned records. This time, he admitted this particular run meant something, if only because of what it represents. 

“The whole idea is going deep into games,” he said.

For once, Bumgarner wasn’t able to do so.