Giants

MLB rumors: Bryce Harper, Giants brass had second meeting in Las Vegas

MLB rumors: Bryce Harper, Giants brass had second meeting in Las Vegas

SAN FRANCISCO -- The chase for Bryce Harper still includes both sides of one of the game's best rivalries. 

The Giants have insisted in recent days that they believe they're still in on Harper, even with the Dodgers becoming more serious, and they backed that up by meeting with the slugger this week, according to Kerry Crowley of the San Jose Mercury News.

Harper hosted CEO Larry Baer and president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi on Tuesday in Las Vegas, according to Crowley

This would be the second known meeting between Harper and the Giants. Earlier in February, Baer, Zaidi and Bruce Bochy traveled to Las Vegas to meet with Harper, his wife Kayla, and agent Scott Boras. 

The Dodgers sent an impressive contingent, including president Andrew Friedman, manager Dave Roberts and members of the ownership group, to meet with Harper over the weekend. Also over the weekend, Harper had yet another meeting with Phillies owner John Middleton. 

The Phillies are still the favorites for most in the game, but the Giants and Dodgers are hoping to convince Harper to play close to his Las Vegas home. It's unknown what the two sides are offering, but the Giants have made at least one offer to Harper. 

[RELATED: Harper watch -- Brinks truck now seen at Giants camp]

The Giants have been focused on shorter deals, but they also know that the market has shifted. After Manny Machado signed a $300 million deal with the Padres, a source said the Giants were under the belief that nothing under that would get it done. Nolan Arenado's extension on Tuesday further reset the market, and it's possible Harper will now also aim to set a new record for average annual salary. Arenado is the new record-holder at $32.5 million per season. 

New Giants catchers thriving in this advanced defensive statistic

New Giants catchers thriving in this advanced defensive statistic

How do you make up the gap when you still have a large talent deficit most times you take the field? The Giants are trying to do it by exploiting every edge, from platoons to increased shifts to aggressive use of relievers. 

There have been mixed results, but when it comes to the catchers, there's a clear area where they're excelling in finding an edge. 

Tyler Heineman and Chadwick Tromp have had their growing pains as rookies, but both have done a pretty good job at pitch framing, an area of emphasis for new bullpen coach/catching coach Craig Albernaz. 

Per Baseball Savant's framing metrics, Heineman ranks 15th and Tromp is 17th (out of 55 qualified catchers) in strike rate, which looks at how often a catcher converts non-swing pitches into strikes when they're in the "shadow zone," which Savant counts as one ball width inside the zone and one ball width outside. In layman's terms, it's how often catchers are stealing strikes on the edges of the zone with their framing. 

The league average is 49.1 percent. Heineman is at 52.4 percent and Tromp is at 52.1.

"One of (Albernaz's) main points of emphasis is how we can swing counts in our favor for our pitchers, and some of the most important work that they can do is keeping balls that are strikes in the zone," manager Gabe Kapler said. "I think they've done a nice job of that so far and they've responded to Albie's emphasis, and as a staff I think we all believe that the number one job of a catcher is to kind of make a pitcher look great. From that standpoint, the catchers have done a nice job."

[RELATED: Giants activate Cahill, Rodriguez]

The two newcomers have gone about it in similar ways but with different styles. Heineman has been particularly adept at framing pitches on the left edge of the zone, ranking first overall in that area so far, while Tromp is 10th. Tromp ranks eighth on framing low strikes (Heineman has been good there, too, ranking 12th) while using a unique method. Like several other catchers around the game -- including Houston's Gold Glover Martin Maldonado -- Tromp often gets down on his right knee to receive low pitches. It's a setup that might cost him a wild pitch here or there, but should help him steal strikes. 

"The one-knee setup is something that we feel actually makes him slightly more athletic and enables him to push in both directions and be stable and balanced," Kapler said. "It's definitely a work in progress and a focused area of development for Tromp, but it also enables him to get up underneath the low strike, and I think part of the reason that his receiving numbers have been good so far is that the unconventional setup works well for him."

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Giants add pitchers Trevor Cahill, Derek Rodriguez in roster shuffle

Giants add pitchers Trevor Cahill, Derek Rodriguez in roster shuffle

On the final day of a long road trip, the Giants added two bulk innings arms and sent two rookies to the alternate site in Sacramento. 

Trevor Cahill and Dereck Rodriguez were called up, with Cahill set to start Wednesday afternoon against the Astros. To clear spots, right-hander Rico Garcia and left-hander Conner Menez were optioned off the 28-man roster and right-hander Andrew Triggs was DFA'd off the 40-man roster. Triggs made just one appearance for the Giants and got roughed up before being put on the taxi squad. 

Cahill missed the start of camp after injuring a finger with a screwdriver while working on his bicycle. He had been throwing well at the alternate site and is expected to be available for 40-50 pitches tonight. Rodriguez has been on the taxi squad and impressed in two recent bullpen sessions. Kapler said he was sitting 92-94 mph. 

"It's a little bit more difficult to earn a promotion in today's environment, but he had a really good bullpen in Los Angeles and had another good bullpen two days ago," Kapler said. "It's nice to have some length on the roster tonight with the fact that Cahill is not especially stretched out."

While Garcia has been roughed up on this trip, Menez has a 2.38 ERA in seven relief appearances. His demotion was a bit of a surprise. 

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

"The message to Conner was there's really not much you can be doing differently," Kapler said. "You're doing a great job. This is more about us getting someone who can give us some length today, and it's not going to hurt him to get a little bit of a blow and come back even stronger."

--- Kapler announced that Johnny Cueto, Kevin Gausman and Logan Webb will start against the A's this weekend. They're likely to face Frankie Montas, Jesus Luzardo and Sean Manaea. 

If you're keeping track at home, the current rotation is Cueto, Gausman, Webb, Tyler Anderson and Cahill. Drew Smyly (finger) is throwing but doesn't sound close to returning. An MRI revealed posterior rotator cuff inflammation and a shoulder impingement for Jeff Samardzija. Seems like he won't be available for a while. 

[RELATED: Where Giants rank in farm system in Baseball America mid-year update]

--- Donovan Solano, the hottest hitter not named Charlie Blackmon, was out of the lineup again with abdominal soreness. 

The Giants are off Thursday and Kapler thought Solano could be ready to start Friday.