Giants

MLB Winter Meetings Notes: Familiar faces abound; Giants' John Barr honored

MLB Winter Meetings Notes: Familiar faces abound; Giants' John Barr honored

SAN FRANCISCO -- On the first day, Stephen Strasburg got $245 million. A night later, Gerrit Cole blew that away with a record $324 million contract. Finally, Anthony Rendon got $245 million to switch leagues. 

By the end of the four-day MLB Winter Meetings, super-agent Scott Boras was within striking distance of watching his clients -- led by those three -- get more than $1 billion in new money. So, there was a reason Boras was smiling as he walked through the lobby at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego on Wednesday night. 

Boras met with the Giants, as he always does, but they weren't involved with the big fish this time around. So far they have spent $9 million, but general manager Scott Harris said the team wasn't spooked by the frenzied pace this week.

"That happens every winter," he said of the market, smiling. "We just sequenced it differently this winter."

It's true that most of the heavy lifting was done much sooner than a year ago, but the Giants still have plenty of time to put together an improved roster. As they work the phones, let's look back on the four days in San Diego with some news and notes ... 

A Giant honor

John Barr, who now serves as a special assistant in baseball operations, was honored Wednesday night as the Scout of the Year for the East Coast region. The award was particularly meaningful to Barr because it was voted on by his peers. Barr was in charge of drafts for the Giants for more than a decade, bringing in Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, Joe Panik, Matt Duffy among many others. He recently had another huge day, watching Mike Mussina get into the Hall of Fame.

Barr was the scouting director who selected Mussina for the Orioles, and he is Barr's first Hall of Famer. 

The Giants kept Barr around even after Michael Holmes took over amateur scouting, and they have leaned on him during the transition and brought him back in a new role. In fact, new boss Farhan Zaidi was the one who gave the speech introducing Barr at the ceremony. 

"He commiserated with me when I first started about moving from the Dodgers to the Giants and the fact that we both got aired out by Tommy Lasorda," Zaidi joked. "He's been a tremendous resource and support for not just myself, but obviously Michael Holmes, as well, and the entire scouting staff. It's a super well-deserved honor."

Forever Giants

Kevin Frandsen, now a broadcaster for the Phillies, was in San Diego. At one point, he found himself in conversation with Brett Pill and Dan Runzler. That was quite common over the course of the week.

Among those spotted in the lobby in San Diego: Yangervis Solarte (who is looking for a job), Bobby Evans, Jake Peavy, Moises Alou, Aubrey Huff and, of course, Bruce Bochy, who will manage next spring for Team France. 

Pill will also be on a new staff. He's joining the Dodgers as their Double-A hitting coach, and Manny Burriss will be their Triple-A hitting coach. The Giants aren't the only ones hiring from a rival. Carl Kochan, their former strength coach, apparently also works for the Dodgers. 

Still Looking

A couple of former Giants expressed disappointment that Curt Young, the pitching coach the last two years, is not on a big-league staff anywhere. Young has had a good career but the Giants went in a much different direction, hiring Andrew Bailey, who actually pitched for Young in Oakland. 

The Giants may hit it big with their young staff, but it's disappointing to see the sport turn its back on so many experienced coaches. Jose Alguacil, once a rising star in the organization, is managing in the Dominican Republic and looking for an opportunity elsewhere.

The Giants have not yet decided if they'll bring Shawon Dunston back but it doesn't sound likely, and it's unclear where Rick Schu has ended up.

The same thing is happening on big-league staffs around the game and at the minor league levels, although some people around the game believe it will swing the other way in a couple of years. The Phillies, for example, followed Gabe Kapler with Joe Girardi. 

Oracle Changes

The big news Thursday -- other than the potentially crushing news about Madison Bumgarner -- was that the Giants officially announced their dimensions. Triples Alley might not play all that different, because studies have shown that the wind and cold weather actually has the biggest impact, but I do think we'll see a lot more homers to dead center. A ton of balls die on the warning track there every year and last year's track now will be beyond the wall. 

There was one other bit of ballpark news. All 30 MLB teams will expand their netting and the Giants are one of seven that will have the protective nets go all the way to the foul poles. 

Panda Party

My favorite part of the Winter Meetings came late one night when a team employee walked up and asked, "Did you hear about Pablo's wedding?"

Sandoval's wedding last weekend was apparently one of the parties of the year, and it was full of present and former Giants, all of whom saw their old manager, Bochy, who made the flight out to Miami. I mean, how many can you count in this photo alone? 

Yes, that's Albert Suarez. Yes, Mike "Glass of Whiskey" Yastrzemski formed such a bond with Sandoval over one season that he ended up at his wedding. 

I won't get into all the details, and hopefully Sandoval is back late next season to give us the full scoop, but the wedding started late and dinner was apparently served at midnight, and then again and again throughout the night.

One guest said the party lasted until 9 a.m. and breakfast was actually served at some point. There were multiple bands and singers who were flown in, and plenty of panda hats, as Hunter Pence shared:

[RELATED: Giants add interesting arm on way out of Winter Meetings]

I don't know how true this is, but one guest told me Pence showed up for the wedding and was told that he was actually the best man. Surprise! Maybe Sandoval just knew that nobody else could give a better speech? 

Giants add Alyssa Nakken to Gabe Kapler's 13-person coaching staff

Giants add Alyssa Nakken to Gabe Kapler's 13-person coaching staff

Gabe Kapler spent most of his first month with the Giants interviewing candidates for his ideal coaching staff.

When the final pieces were put into place Thursday afternoon, it became even more clear that the Giants are going with a group that's unlike anything the game has seen before. 

The organization announced that Mark Hallberg and Alyssa Nakken are joining Kapler's staff as Major League Assistant Coaches, giving the Giants 13 coaches in all, including Nakken, who is the first woman to hold a coaching position on a big-league staff. In a statement, Kapler said Hallberg and Nakken will "focus their talents on helping to build a winning culture in the clubhouse."

"In every organization, environment affects performance, and baseball clubhouses are no different," Kapler said. "That's why in addition to assisting the rest of the coaching staff on the field, Mark and Alyssa will focus on fostering a clubhouse culture that promotes high performance through, among other attributes, a deep sense of collaboration and team."

Long before Kapler arrived, Giants officials had grown concerned about the energy in a clubhouse that has suffered through three straight losing seasons. The Giants plan to make that a focus in spring training, and they're using their resources toward that end. You are only allowed to have seven uniformed coaches in the dugout, but there is no limit on how many you can pay in general, or how many can work with players between games.

The two new hires give the Giants 12 big league coaches who were not on Bruce Bochy's staff. The lone holdover is Ron Wotus, who will remain as third-base coach. 

Nakken played softball at Sacramento State, worked at USF, and got degrees from both schools. She joined the Giants as an intern in 2014 and has done work related to the amateur draft and player development. 

[RELATED: Richardson, Ortiz join Gabe Kapler's staff]

Hallberg was the manager in Salem-Keizer in 2019 and was their fundamentals coach in 2018. He played his college ball at Florida State with Buster Posey and was a ninth-round pick by the Diamondbacks in 2007. The 34-year-old played in the minors for five seasons before becoming a coach in the Cape Cod League. 

Giants sign pitcher Drew Smyly to one-year contract, add rotation depth

Giants sign pitcher Drew Smyly to one-year contract, add rotation depth

Last January, the Giants signed lefties Derek Holland and Drew Pomeranz to one-year contracts, with mixed results. This year, Drew Smyly is the lefty joining the rotation mix. 

The Giants announced Thursday that they've signed Smyly to a one-year, $4 million big league contract. Right-hander Trevor Oaks, claimed from the Kansas City Royals earlier this offseason, was DFA'd to clear a 40-man roster spot. Smyly can make an additional $3 million on bonuses tied to starting pitching and $1 million in reliever bonuses. He'll get a $250,000 bonus if he's on the opening day roster.

Smyly, 30, spent last season with Gabe Kapler's Philadelphia Phillies, posting a 4.45 ERA in 12 starts but averaging more than a strikeout per inning. He'll immediately join a crowded race to be in the Opening Day starting rotation, and he has a leg up simply because of the arm he throws with. The Giants are extremely right-handed on the roster, and Smyly joins Tyler Anderson as lefties who could help break up Jeff Samardzija, Johnny Cueto, Kevin Gausman, Tyler Beede, Logan Webb and others. Anderson currently is rehabbing from a knee injury. 

Smyly has bounced around the American League for most of his career, and he put up good numbers before Tommy John surgery derailed him in 2017. Smyly had a 3.53 ERA in three years in Detroit and a 3.93 ERA in three seasons with the Rays. He was a good enough young pitcher that at one point he was included in a deal for David Price, but Smyly has struggled to stay in a rotation since having elbow surgery. 

[RELATED: Joey Bart named second-best catching prospect in baseball]

Smyly didn't pitch in the big leagues in 2017 or 2018 and had 13 rocky appearances for the Texas Rangers in 2019. He was released by the Rangers and Milwaukee Brewers before catching on in Philadelphia, where he was a solid rotation piece down the stretch and posted a 3.65 ERA in five September starts.

The Giants had been looking for left-handed help, and Smyly should find himself with the same opportunity Pomeranz and Holland were given last year. Both started the season in the rotation and eventually ended up in the bullpen. Pomeranz turned into a nice trade chip, bringing Mauricio Dubon to San Francisco at the deadline.