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MLB free agency: Eight non-tendered veterans who could fit Giants

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MLB free agency: Eight non-tendered veterans who could fit Giants

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants stunned much of their fan base Monday when they decided to let go of Kevin Pillar, but the veteran center fielder wasn't the only notable big leaguer to suddenly find himself a free agent. 

Ahead of the deadline to offer contracts to arbitration-eligible players, 56 big leaguers were non-tendered. The list includes top draft picks, All-Stars, and a couple of familiar names. Former Giants Derek Law and Josh Osich were let go and now are on the open market. 

Farhan Zaidi has four roster spots open as he heads to the Winter Meetings. That'll allow him to be active in the Rule 5 Draft if he wants, as well as take a long look at the non-tenders. Here are a few veterans who could make sense for the 2020 roster: 

Cesar Hernandez 

A switch-hitting second baseman who has experience at other positions, a .352 career on-base percentage, and 29 homers the past two seasons? That's an intriguing piece even before you consider that Hernandez played for Gabe Kapler the past two seasons. 

The Giants brought Donovan Solano back but still could use middle infield depth in case Mauricio Dubon needs more time in the minors. Even if Dubon is the starting second baseman, they could use a left-handed bat to support Dubon, Solano and third baseman Evan Longoria, and Kapler could certainly use a former Phillie or two in the clubhouse to help ease the transition. 

Blake Treinen

The former A's closer might be the most intriguing name on this list. Treinen posted one of the best relief seasons in history in 2018, but his ERA jumped from 0.78 to 4.91 in 2019 as his walk rate more than doubled. Few relievers have better raw stuff than Treinen, and you can bet there will be a strong interest in a pitcher who could be a difference-maker if he finds anything close to his 2018 form. The Giants can offer him a guaranteed shot in the late innings, with a clear path to the closer job if Treinen gets off to a good start. 

Kevin Gausman

The fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft, Gausman is the type of pitcher a lot of front offices will look at and wonder, "What if we could get him on track?" 

Gausman, a 28-year-old right-hander, had a 5.72 ERA for the Braves and Reds last season but has had stretches of sustained success as a big-league starter. He had a 2.87 ERA in 10 second-half starts for the Braves just a year ago.

Regardless of what Madison Bumgarner decides, the Giants have enough rotation flexibility to take a shot on a player or two like Gausman. If they hit on one, they could have a heck of a trade chip in July. Aaron Sanchez (Astros) and Taijuan Walker (Diamondbacks) are others who fit this mold. Both are super-talented but coming off injuries.

Jason Adam

Most Giants fans have likely never heard of Adam, a 28-year-old who had a 2.91 ERA in 23 relief appearances for the Blue Jays. The right-hander has been in the minors for seven years but has piled up strikeouts the past two. Sam Selman had a somewhat similar background and found success in Triple-A last season before making it to the big leagues for the Giants. 

Jimmy Nelson

The 30-year-old right-hander is just two years removed from posting a 3.49 ERA and 3.05 WHIP for the Brewers. Nelson missed all of the 2018 season with a shoulder injury and struggled in scattered appearances when he returned to the mound last season, but Zaidi likes taking chances on guys like this. The Giants claimed Tyler Anderson after an injury-marred 2019 season and might have had him in their 2020 rotation had he agreed to a deal Monday. 

Yimi Garcia

Zaidi has brought in a few former Dodgers -- Solano was a success story last year -- and Garcia also is familiar with Kapler. The right-hander had a 3.61 ERA and 0.86 WHIP last season, striking out more than a batter per inning. He gave up a ton of homers, but what if MLB unjuices the ball? 

Domingo Santana 

Some Giants people had an interest in Santana when he was in Milwaukee, but he ended up in Seattle, where he posted a .253/.321/.441 slash line with 21 homers last season. The 27-year-old was worth 3.3 WAR in 2017 but has been worth just one Win Above Replacement the rest of his career, in large part because of serious issues with the glove. 

Santana played left field and right in Seattle, but he was worth negative-10 Defensive Runs Saved in left and negative-7 in right. 

[RELATED: What Giants CF plans are after Pillar non-tender]

The Giants of old would put anyone with a pulse in left field, but that may not be necessary after the 2019 discoveries of Mike Yastrzemski and Alex Dickerson. Still, this club needs right-handed power, and Santana has a career .473 slugging percentage against lefties.

Catcher To Be Named Later

The Giants need to replace Stephen Vogt, and they haven't seemed all that ready to hand the job to Aramis Garcia. Nobody will be as clean a fit as Vogt, a great clubhouse guy who hit left-handed and could platoon a bit with Buster Posey, but there are a few veterans who became free agents Monday, including Josh Phegley, John Ryan Murphy and Kevin Plawecki. 

 

Giants Mailbag: Could young starting pitchers be headed for bullpen?

Giants Mailbag: Could young starting pitchers be headed for bullpen?

While the Bay Area focused on the 49ers this week, the Giants had their eyes on a different patch of grass. They're currently holding their developmental camp in Scottsdale, giving prospects an early chance to impress before the real fun starts next month:

We're two weeks from FanFest, and a few days after that, the players will actually take the field under new manager Gabe Kapler for the first time. Baseball season is coming fast, so let's run through another round of Giants questions (from my Instagram followers) as we wait for pitchers and catchers to report ... 

"In all seriousness Alex -- why should I watch/spend money on the Giants in 2020?" -- erniepomin

Well, first of all, we have a new state-of-the-art set that'll allow us to do a lot of cool things on the pre-game show next season, so that's a start. Plus, Kruk and Kuip! Come on, that's all you need. 

As for the team, I've long said that I'll never tell people how to spend their money when it comes to the Giants. It can get expensive, so if you'd prefer to sit out a couple years, you have every right to do so. But, I do think this season is going to be more interesting than the past couple. 

I happen to think "youth breaking through" is an intriguing storyline, so shortstop Mauricio Dubon and pitchers Tyler Beede and Logan Webb could provide plenty of reasons to watch early on. Catcher Joey Bart will be up at some point this year, and there's a chance that somebody like outfielder Jaylin Davis or infielder Chris Shaw finally puts it together.

Every Johnny Cueto start has the chance to provide plenty of entertainment regardless of the team's record.

Regardless of your feelings about Gabe Kapler, I do think it'll be interesting watching a different manager pull the levers for the first time in over a decade. If you're tuning in expecting to watch a win, you'll be disappointed more often than not. But if you try and view this as the start of something, I think you'll have a lot more fun in 2020. 

Are the Giants one of the rumored teams to have made a multi-year offer to Ozuna?" -- mgmatter17

I never once heard of any interest in Marcell Ozuna this offseason, and the fit wasn't really there. He's a good player, but not a game-changer, the type you re-arrange all your (rebuild) plans for. And if he was looking to re-establish his value as a power hitter, Oracle Park is a terrible place to play. 

"Is Sean Hjelle going to be one of the main focuses for at least early spring training?" -- aedinbratton18

Hjelle, the organization's top pitching prospect, is always going to be a focus purely because of his height. You can bet that early in camp someone will tweet out a photo of him dwarfing his fellow pitchers. 

But seriously, he will get plenty of attention for what he's capable of. He spent limited time in San Jose so we haven't really seen much of him, and it's going to be fascinating to see what his mechanics look like in early bullpen sessions. Hopefully, he's able to get into a game or two before getting sent to minor league camp. 

"Who will be the Giants' ace now that Bum is gone?" -- dianebertocchinoonan

Cueto has done it before, but he is coming back from Tommy John and there's a decent chance he gets traded before the end of his deal. Long term, this is a hell of a question.

Beede and Webb have the stuff to get there eventually and Hjelle is their top pitching prospect, but the organization is pretty thin on high-end starting pitching. I don't think you can look at anyone the Giants have right now and think, "He's going to start on Opening Day in 2022."

"If Beede or Webb don't make the rotation, do you think they'd let them pitch out of the bullpen?" -- _juanvillaseno_

This is a question we'll legitimately be asking in a couple weeks, because Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Drew Smyly and Kevin Gausman have the inside track on four spots. Either one of these young guys could be a good bullpen piece, but the Giants aren't ready to go there. 

They really made a commitment last year to giving Beede a shot in the rotation, even when he had some brutal starts, and he showed what he's capable of at times. The Giants are going to give him every opportunity to make the rotation his long-term home. As for Webb, there's been enough "innings limit" talk this offseason that it seems likely he starts the year in the minors, but he's definitely still a starter. 

[RELATED: Giants sign veteran Drew Smyly]

The caveat here is that I do think the Giants will try some new things this year, using semi-regular openers and potentially "piggybacking" guys, allowing them to go 3-4 innings at a time. That might lead to some "relief" appearances for young starters. 

"Why will Logan Webb have an innings limit this season?" -- tyler.j.burton

Webb threw 104 2/3 innings in 2018 but was limited to 103 across all levels last season because of the suspension. Ideally, he would have gotten around 130-140 last year, but that wasn't possible, so the Giants will hold him back a bit this season so he's not jumping from 103 to 160-170. 

Remember, he just turned 23. His health is a priority right now, even if that costs him some time in the Majors. 

"Will ticket prices drop this season with the current state of the team?" -- rioscristian15

I'm not sure of exact rates -- the Giants usually talk about that side of the business at their media day in March. I will say, it's pretty easy to find a cheap ticket to a game on the secondary market during the season. A lot of fans told me they were getting in for like $6 the last couple of seasons. Take advantage of the lack of interest while you can. 

"Which core veteran player is most likely to have a good bounce-back year?" -- shockmaan

I know the staff is really excited about working with Brandon Belt and there's a belief that Buster Posey will be much more productive after a normal offseason. I don't know which veteran is most likely to bounce back, but I will say I'm most curious to see what kind of season Brandon Crawford turns in. 

He's 33 now, but he's athletic enough that the age shouldn't be an issue yet, and he's not far removed from All-Star caliber play. Crawford hit .292./.363/.462 in the first half of 2018 and basically carried the lineup for weeks at a time. There are newcomers to the organization who have looked back at that stretch to see what the difference was, because it really wasn't that long ago. 

"Any way to find out if they are adding anything crazy to the menu like a 25-inch corndog?" -- takem84

The Giants traditionally unveil new menu items and giveaways at their media day. Last year, I asked my bosses if a cameraman could follow me around as I ate every single thing at the stadium and they somehow said yes. That ultimately led to me standing in the heat at SunTrust Park eating a burger covered in chicken tenders, nacho cheese and tater tots. Life comes at you fast. 

"Favorite restaurant to hit up during spring training?" -- uscgabe

The lock of the spring is that every Giants beat writer and a dozen team employees will be at ChopShop after the first team workout on February 12. That's the go-to for lunch, and The Mission is the place you have to hit up for dinner. I also try to visit Rudy's BBQ a couple of times because it's a Texas treasure that has somehow found its way to Arizona.

(Full disclosure: There's a Chick-fil-A outside half the Cactus League ballparks and a Shake Shack in the Scottsdale mall, so spring training is peak "This place doesn't exist in San Francisco so I might as well go here 17 times while I'm in Scottsdale" season.)

MLB rumors: Giants sign Korean-leaguer Darin Ruf to minor-league deal

MLB rumors: Giants sign Korean-leaguer Darin Ruf to minor-league deal

The Giants reportedly have signed first baseman and outfielder Darin Ruf to a minor league contract.

The Athletic's Jayson Stark was the first with the news on Ruf who spent the last three seasons playing in Korea.

The 33-year-old batted .313/.404/.564 with 86 home runs, a .968 OPS and 350 RBI in 404 games across those seasons in the Korean Baseball Organization. He certainly made an impression overseas.

Ruf was drafted by the Phillies in the 20th round of the 2009 MLB Draft and played in the organization for five seasons. His numbers weren't anything to brag about when he hit .240/.314/.433 with 35 homers and 96 RBI from 2012-16.

He was part of a trade in 2016 with the Los Angeles Dodgers that sent him and Darnell Sweeney to LA for All-Star infielder Howie Kendrick.

[RELATED: Zaidi expects Giants to be aggressive promoting top prospects]

Ruf was then released by the Dodgers in February of 2017. 

His contract reportedly will also include an invite to major league spring training.