With McCutchen trade, Giants offseason going according to plan

With McCutchen trade, Giants offseason going according to plan

SAN FRANCISCO -- The end-of-season press conference at AT&T Park in October felt more like a funeral than a session with reporters. Larry Baer, Brian Sabean, Bobby Evans and Bruce Bochy sat at a podium with grim faces and few answers about how a $200 million roster lost 98 games. 

It seemed like the Giants should look toward the future. They disagreed. 

"This isn't a 'blow it up,'" Sabean said that day. "We hope it's a reset."

It was hard to see how that would work at the time. A few days earlier, Pablo Sandoval of all people had kept the team from having the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft. The Giants had holes in the outfield, the bullpen and third base. Their starting staff didn't inspire confidence. Just about every contributor was on the wrong side of 30. 

What, exactly, was the plan?

"We can't come back next season with the same roster and expect different results," Evans said. 

No matter where you fall on these offseason moves, give Sabean, Evans and the rest credit for this: They are not coming back with the same roster and expecting a magical uptick. 

On Monday morning the Giants made their second significant trade of the offseason, acquiring Pirates star Andrew McCutchen in exchange for right-hander Kyle Crick and outfield prospect Bryan Reynolds. The offseason is not over, but it's approaching the finish line, and the final accounting looks generally positive. 

The Giants have added Longoria and McCutchen -- two potent right-handed bats -- to the lineup, while still... 

- Staying under the luxury tax. Because Denard Span was included in the Longoria deal and the Giants got cash back from the Rays, it appears they'll be able to avoid becoming a tax team for the fourth consecutive season. That will help in the bid to rebuild at some point and allows them to fish in next season's offseason pond, the deepest in MLB history. 

- Trading only one of their marquee prospects. Christian Arroyo might come back to haunt the Giants, but the team held onto Heliot Ramos, who has superstar potential, and Chris Shaw and Tyler Beede, who should contribute to the 2018-19 clubs. Reynolds was a former top pick, but he generally was viewed as part of the organization's second tier of top 10 guys. 

- Keeping the big league roster intact. If you think you can compete in 2018 -- and whether you agree or not, the front office believes it can -- you don't want to create additional holes. The Giants kept Joe Panik, who should team with McCutchen atop the lineup, and Brandon Belt, who will hit behind Longoria and Buster Posey. Crick was more of a sixth-inning guy in this bullpen, and that spot can be filled internally. 

- Maintaining some semblance of flexibility. McCutchen is on a one-year deal, and if this all goes south, he should be a nice trade piece at the deadline. Ditto with Belt, Panik and others. And if the Giants hold McCutchen all year, they can make him a qualifying offer to recoup a draft pick. 

Having said all that, there are a million ways this offseason plan could blow up. 

Longoria is 32 and McCutchen is 31, and there's a very real chance that this entire lineup is in decline. Johnny Cueto's blisters could return. The back end of the rotation could be a mess. The bullpen could duplicate what the 2016-17 bullpens did. Injuries will pop up. The division is still loaded, and we all should remember that the Giants didn't just finish 40 games behind the Dodgers, they also finished well behind the other three West clubs. 

But, at least on January 15, the Giants appear significantly better than they were during that somber press conference, and the future roster and payroll situation isn't much bleaker than it already was.

It's a different roster. Now we'll see if that leads to different results. 

Down on the Farm: How Giants prospects performed in Single-A All-Star Games

Tim Cattera

Down on the Farm: How Giants prospects performed in Single-A All-Star Games

The MLB All-Star Game is less than a month away and two Giants -- Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford -- are currently leading their position groups in fan voting to start for the National League. Down on the farm, prospects are already representing their teams in the MidSummer Classic.

In total, eight Giants prospects -- three from the Augusta GreenJackets and five from the San Jose Giants -- participated in All-Star Games on Tuesday night. The five from San Jose represented the North in the California League All-Star Game and the three from Augusta represented the South in the South Atlantic All-Star Game. 

Here's how all eight fared for the Noth and South: 

Augusta GreenJackets, South Atlantic League All-Star Game 

Manuel Geraldo, SS: Geraldo started at shortstop for the South and batted sixth in the lineup. The 21-year-old had a great night going 3-for-5 with two runs scored and a solo home run to lead off the seventh inning, giving the South an 8-3 lead. Geraldo is batting .284 on the year with eight home runs and 16 stolen bases.

John Gavin, LHP: Gavin was the first pitcher out of the bullpen for the South, replacing Joe Cavallaro in the second inning. The San Jose native earned the win, allowing one earned run on three hits in one inning. Selecting in the eighth round of the 2017 MLB Draft, Gavin has been dominant this season with a 1.94 ERA and 0.99 WHIP in 12 starts. 

Joey Marciano, LHP: Marciano is the final GreenJacket and second lefty out of the bullpen. He was the fifth pitcher to toe the rubber for the South and tossed a scoreless fifth inning, allowing one hit and striking out one batter. The 23-year-old is 4-2 with a 2.33 ERA and 1.11 WHIP this season. 

San Jose Giants, California League All-Star Game

Jalen Miller, 2B: Miller started at second base and was No. 2 in the lineup for the North. He went 1-for-5 with a double in an 8-1 win over an eventful weekend. Prior to Tuesday night's game, Miller was in the Home Run Derby and hit eight long balls. In 64 games, Miller is on the rise with seven home runs and a .305 batting average. 

Wander Franco, 3B: Franco's day didn't go quite as smooth as Miller's. He started at third base and batted sixth, but went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. The 23-year-old is batting .294 with 22 doubles this season. 

Johneshwy Fargas, CF: Coming off the bench, Fargas was a perfect 2-for-2 with two runs scored for the North. The speedy 23-year-old has 18 stolen bases this year to go with his .266 batting average. 

Logan Webb, RHP: The Rocklin native was the first bullpen arm for the North and earned the hold for the night. Webb threw one scoreless inning, allowing one hit and striking out one batter. The 21-year-old is 1-2 with a 2.30 ERA over 14 appearances, 13 starts. 

Sandro Cabrera, LHP: Two innings later, it was Cabrera's turn to get on the bump and it couldn't have gone any better. Cabrera pitched one perfect inning and struck out two batters. He has appeared in 14 games this season -- half as a starter, half as a reliever -- and is 6-2 with a 3.49 ERA. 

Giants, Marlins play beanball near end of dramatic season series

Giants, Marlins play beanball near end of dramatic season series

SAN FRANCISCO — On Tuesday morning, in Los Angeles, Evan Longoria had his fractured fifth metacarpal repaired. In the afternoon, in San Francisco, Hunter Strickland had a similar procedure. 

The metacarpal madness did not lead to any excess caution for a team that has dealt with injuries throughout. It was the opposite, in fact. The Giants sprinted headfirst into a beanball war with a team with nothing to lose. That led to a scary moment for Buster Posey, but ultimately the Giants came away unscathed, and with a win. 

Players and coaches predictably shied away from the drama in the moments following a 6-3 win. But manager Bruce Bochy repeatedly praised rookie Dereck Rodriguez for the way he handled himself — he drilled opposing rookie Lewis Brinson — and said this was just part of the game.

“It’s baseball,” Bochy said. “We’re men. This is what happens in baseball.”

The Giants say they were upset over a Dan Straily pitch last week that sent Longoria to the disabled list, and Bochy twice mentioned that Kelby Tomlinson was hit in Monday night’s game. This doesn’t quite hold up under scrutiny. If the Giants wanted to get revenge on behalf of Longoria, they would have hit a Marlin on Monday night. Or they could have waited for Straily’s at-bat in the top of the second inning Tuesday. No, this was about more than a couple of pitches that hit Giants players.

There was never much doubt that the Giants would retaliate against Brinson, and Rodriguez didn’t waste any time. His first pitch to Brinson, with two on and one out in the second, was a 92 mph fastball that drilled his hip. 

“Runners on second and third and less than two outs, you don’t want him to get a sacrifice fly,” Rodriguez said. “I was trying to go in. It got him. It happens.”

Brinson knew it was coming following Monday night’s theatrics. After a 95 mph fastball from Strickland shot up toward his head, he lined the game-tying single into right. Brinson, 24, hopped up and down as he headed toward first and turned and yelled something at Strickland. A few minutes later, Strickland’s night was done, and he walked near third base on his way to the dugout, exchanging words with Brinson. 

Rodriguez’s pitch a day later led to warnings for both sides, but the Marlins are headed for the top of the draft, and they didn’t much seem to care about losing their starting pitcher. Dan Straily drilled Posey on the arm in the bottom of the second and was immediately ejected. Retaliation?

“I don’t know,” Posey said. “I don’t know. It seemed that way.”

Bochy came out raging, and he later said that Marlins manager Don Mattingly had indicated payback was coming.

“I don’t know what happened there when he came out,” Bochy said. “I guess he was upset about the warnings. I guess they thought they have to do something. I guess there was fuzzy math going on when our third baseman is on the DL for eight weeks and we had a guy get hit in the back last night.”

The only math that ultimately mattered was 90 feet. Whether they were upset about Longoria, or about Brinson’s trip around the bases Monday night, the Giants decided to get into it at a time when they can’t afford another injury. The pitch to Posey rode up and in, and was near his hands, where metacarpals are all too easy to break, but he jogged the 90 feet down to first and chatted with Justin Bour. 

That would be it for the drama, but the Giants and Marlins may not be done, no matter what’s said behind closed doors. The visiting starter for the final matchup of the season between these two will be Jose Urena, who hit an MLB-leading 14 batters last year and three Cubs on opening day this year.