MLB Rule 5 draft: Giants make franchise history with two selections


MLB Rule 5 draft: Giants make franchise history with two selections

LAS VEGAS — The Rule 5 draft is generally a time for dozens of reporters and scouts to gather in a massive conference room and discuss assorted hangovers. On Thursday, though, it was a chance to learn a bit more about a franchise moving forward under new leadership. 

For the first time in their history, the Giants made two selections in the Rule 5 draft, which allows teams to add minor leaguers who must stay on the big league roster the entire season or be offered back to their original club. We learned a couple of things about Farhan Zaidi, who flew home Thursday morning but sent a half-dozen longtime team employees to the draft to select left-handed reliever Travis Bergen from the Blue Jays and outfielder Drew Ferguson from the Astros.

Zaidi clearly — and for obvious reasons — was not particularly enamored with the roster he inherited, and while the Giants last month protected only three prospects from the Rule 5 draft, they did not lose anybody in the major league portion of the proceedings. Nobody was clamoring for their older prospects. Instead, Zaidi added two players who have a shot to win Opening Day jobs for a team that has plenty of holes to fill this winter.

[RELATED: Giants interested in Japanese flamethrower Yusei Kikuchi]

The other thing we learned, both Thursday and from Monday’s waiver claim of Mike Gerber, is the new emphasis offensively. In marathon discussions inside their suite on the 62nd floor at Mandalay Bay this week, Giants officials repeatedly came back to the need to add players who have displayed an ability to reach base and have a better walk-to-strikeout balance. That used to be a hallmark of the lineup; in 2018, the Giants ranked 28th in the majors with a .300 collective on-base percentage, their worst mark in 33 years. 

Ferguson, 26, had a .436 OBP in Triple-A last year and is at .393 in four minor league seasons. Gerber, claimed off waivers from the Tigers earlier in the week, has a .346 career OBP in the minors.

“We’re valuing, as Farhan outlined, plate discipline,” assistant general manager Jeremy Shelley said. “It’s certainly something we’re trying to value more.”

Ferguson, who hits right-handed, had five homers in 71 minor league games last season, with 14 doubles and three triples. Shelley said he can play all three outfield spots — like Gerber — and adds versatility to an outfield that needs plenty of help. It is somewhat rare for position players to stick as Rule 5 picks, and the Giants would have to offer Ferguson back to the Astros for $50,000 if he is not on their big league roster, but he certainly has a shot at a bench job. Steven Duggar is the only current Giants outfielder locked into a spot.

Bergen joins an organization that was willing to let Julian Fernandez compete for a bullpen job last spring before his elbow blew up. The Giants are listening to trade offers for lefty relievers Will Smith and Tony Watson. Bergen — who has a two-pitch mix, fastball in the lows 90s, and deceptive three-quarters delivery — will get a long look.

Bergen has struck out 12 batters per nine innings throughout a minor league career that was set back by Tommy John surgery in 2016. He has a 1.27 career ERA, and in 2018 he compiled a miniscule 0.95 ERA in 43 appearances at High-A and Double-A. Shelley said Bergen’s fastball has a whiff rate that is double the major league average. 

“He has swing-and-miss stuff,” Shelley said. 

Any Rule 5 pick is a long shot by nature, but Zaidi has no connections to the prior roster, giving Bergen and Ferguson relatively equal footing with much more familiar names like Mac Williamson, Austin Slater, Steven Okert and Josh Osich. It’s a new era, and that will mean plenty of new players. On Thursday, the Giants added two they’re excited about. 

Rangers should trade for Brandon Belt from Giants, ESPN analyst writes


Rangers should trade for Brandon Belt from Giants, ESPN analyst writes

Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi finds himself in quite the conundrum before the July 31 MLB trade deadline.

With an 11-5 win over the Rockies on Wednesday, the Giants completed a four-game sweep at Coors Field and have now won 12 out of their last 14 contests. Prior to the Arizona Diamondbacks facing the Rangers later in the night, San Francisco currently is 2.5 games out for the second NL wild card spot. 

But the Giants appear to be still be sellers at the deadline, ESPN's Jeff Passan reported earlier in the day. If that's the case, the front office could move more than just pitchers Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith. 

If the Rangers -- who recently have slipped in the AL wild card standings -- are buyers, they could be suitors for a Giants bat. Brandon Belt would be a major upgrade at first base over Ronald Guzman, which is one reason why ESPN's Dave Schoenfield believes Texas should make a move for the long-time Giant. 

"They need a first baseman and Belt's numbers would take a leap moving over from San Francisco," Schoenfield wrote Tuesday.

Belt, a Texas native, has hit eight of his 11 home runs on the road this season and his batting average nearly is 70 points higher -- .272 compared to .203 -- away from Oracle Park. He is signed through 2021 at $17.5 million per season, and might not have an easy contract to move, however. 

Trading Belt could open a spot for Zach Green, who is not on the 40-man roster but has hit 22 home runs in Triple-A for the Sacramento River Cats this season. With Belt gone, the Giants could also move Chris Shaw back to first base. The former first-round pick has caught fire in Sacramento and has 18 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A this season. 

[RELATED: How Dickerson has conquered the horrors of Oracle Park]

All of this is speculation, though. Belt hasn't been a name thrown around in trade rumors yet, and it's highly unlikely the Giants actually move the former All-Star this season. 

MLB rumors: Giants to be sellers, not buyers, during trade deadline

MLB rumors: Giants to be sellers, not buyers, during trade deadline

The Giants find themselves facing a question nobody ever expected: Should they be buyers or sellers at the July 31 MLB trade deadline? 

For months, the answer was obvious. The Giants found themselves at the bottom of the standings as one of the worst teams in baseball. Having two of the best trade assets in the game in pitchers Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith, San Francisco was built to sell and keep building for the future. 

Oh how quickly the narrative changes. 

As the Giants enter Wednesday only three games back for the second NL wild-card spot, fans are clamoring for president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi to be a buyer and hold onto the two left-handers. That won't be the case, however, ESPN's Jeff Passan reports. 

"San Francisco's recent success isn't throwing a wrench in the team's trade-Bumgarner-and-all-the-relievers plan," Passan wrote Wednesday morning. "Even with their best run of the year, the Giants are three games below .500 and have the third-worst run differential in the NL. They are selling. One more time, a bit slower. They. Are. Selling." 

And they should. Despite being on a four-game win streak and going 8-2 in their last 10 games, the math just doesn't add up, as Passan points out. Plus, it makes no sense for an aging roster that likely isn't a title contender to hold onto Bumgarner and Smith, both of whom will be free agents this upcoming offseason. 

The Giants have been dangling Bumgarner to interested teams for a while now. According to Passan, they tried to get a deal done last month but nothing substantive came from the trade talks. As the deadline approaches, teams reportedly believe he won't be moved until the final days of the month. 

Bumgarner and Smith both will be on the move. Who gets the greater return for the Giants is the biggest question now.

[RELATED: How Zaidi's reacting to Giants' hot streak ahead of deadline]

Everyone knows who Bumgarner is. While he isn't the same dominant pitcher he once was, his pedigree in the playoffs speaks for itself. A team on the verge of being World Series favorites knows adding someone like Bumgarner with his October experience could make all the difference. 

But October is a month driven by bullpens and Smith has been one of the best relievers in baseball this season. Plenty of relief help will be on the way at the deadline, and the Giants' closer could be the cream of the crop.