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MLB rumors: Cardinals 'have done due diligence' on Giants' Tony Watson

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MLB rumors: Cardinals 'have done due diligence' on Giants' Tony Watson

The only MLB team hotter than the Giants is the St. Louis Cardinals, and they reportedly are looking to San Francisco's roster in order to improve at the trade deadline. 

The Cardinals "have done due diligence" on Giants left-handed reliever Tony Watson, The Athletic's Mark Saxon reported Saturday, but St. Louis has "concerns" about Watson's contract. 

Watson has been a key part of a Giants bullpen that has been the team's strength all season. In 42 innings this season, Watson has notched 32 strikeouts and posted a 2.79 ERA. His 4.13 fielding independent pitching (FIP) in 2019 is the fourth-highest of his career, but his 1.07 WHIP is right in line with his career average. 

Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said earlier this week he is looking "to see if there's an upgrade on the left side of the bullpen to complement [Andrew] Miller" (H/T MLB Trade Rumors) and Watson would fit that bill. The Cardinals currently have one lefty to go with Miller in their 'pen (Tyler Webb) and just two other left-handed pitchers on their 40-man roster. But those two, Genesis Cabrera and Austin Gomber, are starting pitchers. 

Watson needs just 10 more appearances for his contract escalators to hit $10.5 million, and has a player option next season for $2.5 million. While Saxon mentioned that could be a hang-up, it's possible the Giants' own recent run could be, too.

Watson pitched a perfect ninth inning in the Giants' win over the San Diego Padres on Saturday. With Baseball America ranking the Cardinals just below the Giants at 16th in organizational talent, would it be worth it for San Francisco to retain salary to get a prospect back if Farhan Zaidi and Co. believe the team's form is sustainable for the postseason? 

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With no Aug. 31 waiver trade deadline, the Giants' decision on July 31 will be one they have to live with for the remainder of the season. Watson has helped the Giants get back into the playoff mix so far, and could help them stay there down the stretch. But this still is a team with a minus-42 run differential after its hottest run of the season, so it's fair to question whether or not they belong in the mix at all. 

What the Giants do with Watson will indicate if they agree. 

Sources: Madison Bumgarner, Dodgers have mutual interest in free agency

Sources: Madison Bumgarner, Dodgers have mutual interest in free agency

There wasn't a lot of time to soak in the sunny weather, but the Giants enjoyed their stay in San Diego. They made a creative trade that impressed rival clubs, added a pitcher they believe can break through, announced an innovative approach to a coaching staff, and by all accounts embraced the collaborative spirit that Farhan Zaidi wants in the front office and new manager Gabe Kapler is preaching to his staff.

But they also left staring at a potential nightmare scenario.

There is mutual interest between Madison Bumgarner and the Dodgers, sources told NBC Sports Bay Area this week, and the Dodgers met with Bumgarner's representatives at the MLB Winter Meetings. It's unclear if the Dodgers will satisfy the Giants ace's salary desires, but Bumgarner and Hyun-Jin Ryu are the top options left on the pitching market after a shockingly active week in San Diego, and LA would like to add to its rotation.

The Dodgers struck out on Gerrit Cole and Anthony Rendon on back-to-back days, and quickly pivoted to Bumgarner, as Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic first reported. While the Dodgers have seen Bumgarner's numbers dip in recent years, they still view him as a durable starter, someone who is young enough to be a contributor for years to come and can give them an innings-eater alongside Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw. And yes, they're well aware of what a blow such a move would be to the fan base of their main rivals.

Giants officials downplayed those concerns this week, repeatedly noting that they will build back up the right way and not be swayed by emotion. There was some skepticism about the Dodgers' true intentions, but sources say the interest is real, and that could put the Giants in a tough spot.

They met with Bumgarner's representation on Tuesday, and Zaidi said the next day that he remained engaged in conversations with the franchise's longtime ace. The price has gone higher than expected, and that's ultimately one of the main reasons Bumgarner might not end up with the Dodgers. But he also said repeatedly late in the year that his main priority as a free agent was finding a spot where he could win, and not many teams can offer a better shot at that than the one in LA.

[RELATED: Giants announce Oracle Park changes with new dimensions]

The Dodgers have limited their free-agent spending during their run to seven consecutive NL West titles. On the other side, the Giants have not yet spent more than $9 million on a free agent since Zaidi took over as president of baseball operations. Bumgarner's camp, per sources, wants to top the $100 million mark, making up for a below-market deal he signed as a 22-year-old.

Bumgarner has drawn interest from plenty of others this week, with the Angels mentioned as one potential home and the Twins known to be a strong suitor. It's unclear when he'll make a decision, but he certainly finds himself in a nice spot. The free-agent market has exploded, and he can count two longtime rivals among the teams still in the bidding for his services.

Giants announce changes to Oracle Park, move bullpens to outfield

Giants announce changes to Oracle Park, move bullpens to outfield

On the first day of the Winter Meetings, Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi joked that Brandon Belt might often be checking his phone these days for updates on exactly how much the Giants would be chopping out of Triples Alley. On Thursday the Giants finally made their new dimensions official, with changes that aren't all that drastic and still will keep Oracle Park as a pitchers' park with a deep alley in right-center.

It still will be difficult for left-handed hitters to yank the ball out in Triples Alley, but the Giants did change enough that offense should get a slight boost. 

With the bullpens moving from foul territory to the outfield, Triples Alley will be cut from 421 feet to 415. The wall will be five feet closer in left-center and eight feet closer in straightaway center. The bullpens will be situated in center field on either side of the garden that already exists out there. 

"Obviously it's something that started off really as a safety issue with some of what we've seen over the last couple of years, but there's going to be a fun baseball element," Zaidi said earlier this week. "We've done a lot of studies on how we think it's going to impact things but until you actually start playing games and the ball starts flying, you're never quite sure how it's going to go. It'll be a fun and exciting time."

It'll also be a much different look for relievers and fans who sit out in the bleachers. The Giants announced that several bleacher seats will directly overlook the bullpens and they will have two new standing-room terraces out there for fans. The garden in center field will also provide a direct view into the Giants' bullpen. 

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For the players, the bullpens will have padded chain link openings in the wall so they can watch the game. The centerfield wall will also be one foot shorter, going from eight to seven feet, which could aid a hitter or two every year but may also make it easier for the centerfielder to rob an opposing batter. 

The Giants expect a touch more offense from the new look, but as they ran studies in recent months, they discovered that the weather was actually the main factor in knocking down potential home runs. The heavy air will still be there at night, protecting pitchers and frustrating hitters. 

That'll be good news for Giants relievers. The press release continued one more bit of important news for that group. Both bullpens will have their own bathroom for players.