Giants

MLB rumors: Giants interested in free-agent slugger Nicholas Castellanos

MLB rumors: Giants interested in free-agent slugger Nicholas Castellanos

Giants fans were scratching their heads and furiously typing Monday night when the team decided to part ways with center fielder Kevin Pillar

The veteran tied for the team lead in homers with 21, made highlight-reel plays on defense and was one of the only players who hit with success at Oracle Park. One day later, San Francisco's front office reportedly is interested in a much more powerful bat in the outfield. 

MLB Network's Jon Morosi reported Tuesday that the Giants are showing interest in free-agent outfielder Nicholas Castellanos. The 27-year-old could be the perfect fit for the Giants, too. 

Castellanos was an absolute star for the Cubs last season after Chicago acquired him from the Tigers at the July 31 MLB trade deadline. In 51 games with the Cubs, Castellanos hit .321 with 16 homers, 21 doubles and a 1.002 OPS. 

And Giants general manager Scott Harris had a front-row view of Castellanos becoming a pitcher's worst nightmare. Harris was the Cubs' assistant general manager last season, and he certainly had a helping hand in bringing the slugger to the Windy City. 

President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said he wants to add power to the Giants' lackluster offense, and that's exactly what Castellanos would do. Between Detroit and Chicago, the veteran hit 27 homers last season, his third straight year with at least 20 long balls. 

Adding a right-handed power bat would be a welcome move, too, especially to Oracle Park. The Giants could place Castellanos at one of the corner outfield positions, with left-handers Mike Yastrzemski and Alex Dickerson occupying the other two open spots. Austin Slater could serve as a utility man and another right-handed bat, while lefty Steven Duggar would be a great defensive replacement with speed off the bench. 

Castellanos also played the majority of his time in the field at third base to start his career, and he has expressed a willingness to play first base when needed as well. 

[RELATED: What are Giants' plans in CF after letting Pillar go?]

The Giants ranked 26th in all of baseball last season with only 167 homers as a team. They also ranked 28th in slugging percentage (.392) and runs scored (678). Castellanos would be an instant upgrade offensively and likely wouldn't break the bank. 

It shouldn't take too much convincing from Harris for the Giants to make Castellanos a much richer man.

Why Giants brought up Bryce Harper, Gerrit Cole when explaining new staff

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USATSI

Why Giants brought up Bryce Harper, Gerrit Cole when explaining new staff

SAN DIEGO -- When you hear the words "player development," you think of 19-year-olds learning on back fields at the minor league facility in Scottsdale, or a roving hitting instructor spending time making swing changes with prospects Joey Bart or Heliot Ramos, or a coach teaching a Logan Webb or Sean Hjelle a new pitch. 

But when Giants manager Gabe Kapler talks about player development -- and he does so often -- he's also thinking about guys like Buster Posey, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford. Kapler said this week that there's "not much I feel more strongly about" than players continuing to develop at the big league level, and that played a huge role as he hired a young staff that will ideally bring an innovative approach.

"There's evidence all over the place in Major League Baseball about players who reinvent themselves or take major steps forward and reestablish their value at the Major League level," Kapler said this week at the MLB Winter Meetings. 

The Giants are building for the future, but they also believe they can squeeze much more out of the existing core. And when Bart and Ramos are veterans one day, they want those guys to continue to find new levels, too. As he talked about player development at the big league level, Kapler pivoted and told a story about Bryce Harper, who already had more than 900 games under his belt when he joined Kapler's Phillies last season. 

"Bryce Harper, I think, was influenced heavily by Paco Figueroa, our first base and outfield coach, mostly just because Paco was not concerned about approaching Bryce," Kapler said. "He recognized that Bryce Harper wanted to be coached and wanted to develop, and he was willing to approach. Bryce recognized that so much so that at the end of the year when we were doing our exit meetings, Bryce recognized that Paco had been influential in his career and helped him become a better outfielder and baserunner."

Harper was worth negative-26 Defensive Runs Saved in 2018 according to Fangraphs -- just about the only blemish on his résumé as a free agent -- but was plus-9 in his first season in Philadelphia, a massive improvement. The Giants were actually intent on going that path long before Kapler arrived. When they offered Harper $310 million last year, their existing analytics and coaching staffs had ideas about how they could get more out of Harper defensively with positioning changes. 

Harper's not the only example the Giants will use to sell their vision to veteran players. General manager Scott Harris mentioned Gerrit Cole as another who found new ways to add to his game. 

"Look at the strides he made the last two seasons and now he signed the largest free-agent contract (for a pitcher) in the history of the game," Harris said. "You look at the strides he made when he first burst onto the scene for the Pirates and what he did in Houston. Their coaching staff was largely responsible for the development he saw at the Major League level."

The Astros' staff has gotten a lot of credit for turning Cole into the pitcher the Pirates were expecting when they took him first overall in 2011. Cole had a 3.50 ERA in Pittsburgh and a 2.68 ERA in Houston, where his strikeout rate jumped from 8.4 per nine innings to 13.1. He was worth 15.4 WAR in five seasons with the Pirates and then skyrocketed to 13.4 in two seasons in Houston. 

[RELATED: Kershaw believes Dodgers signing MadBum would be 'great']

Kapler and Harris are not walking into an organization that has a Harper or Cole, but they believe their new coaching staff and player-development methods can get the most out of existing talent. That'll be a focus in spring training, and the conversations have already begun with some veterans. Kapler, who mentioned J.D. Martinez as another example of late-career adjustments, said he has spoken to Posey multiple times since getting hired. 

"I think that a lot of established successful Major Leaguers want to get better and sometimes they don't know how," Kapler said. "In some cases, it's because coaches haven't approached them because they don't want to break something that's working well, but I think those days are gone and I think players crave having coaches approach them and ask them to make changes."

Dodgers signing Madison Bumgarner would be 'great,' Clayton Kershaw says

Dodgers signing Madison Bumgarner would be 'great,' Clayton Kershaw says

Despite what Giants fans want to believe, Madison Bumgarner and Clayton Kershaw are friends.

Before many Giants-Dodgers games over the years, they could be seen talking on the field, in plain sight of everyone.

So it should come as any surprise that Kershaw would love to have Bumgarner on the Dodgers.

"I love Bum," Kershaw said Friday at a Dodgers holiday event according to Dodgers Nation. "If we signed him, that’d be great."

NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic reported Thursday, citing sources, that the Dodgers and Bumgarner have a mutual interest in a deal.

Bumgarner in Dodger blue is the worst nightmare for Giants fans. But it's a real possibility with Los Angeles missing out on top free agent Gerrit Cole.

[RELATED: Padres reportedly looking at Bumgarner]

Kershaw hasn't been able to bring a World Series to Los Angeles on his own, so of course, he would love for a postseason hero to come help him end the Dodgers' title drought.