Giants

With Ohtani officially available, Giants ready to make their pitch

shohei-ap.jpg
AP

With Ohtani officially available, Giants ready to make their pitch

SAN FRANCISCO — Late in the season, after watching his team lose yet another game to the Dodgers, Bruce Bochy pulled up some Shohei Ohtani clips on a laptop and spent a few minutes watching the two-way star. The highlights brought a smile to Bochy’s face even as the Dodgers celebrated a division title a few hundred feet away. 

Two months later, the Giants — along with 29 other teams — will finally get their shot at the 23-year-old who throws 100 mph on the mound and hits mammoth homers in his spare time. Ohtani was officially posted on Friday when a new agreement was reached between Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball. He can negotiate with MLB clubs until 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 22. 

It’s unclear what exactly Ohtani is looking for in a future home, and the Giants, per multiple sources, have gotten no indication that they are or are not in the running. But they have taken the chase seriously, with Bobby Evans and assistant GM Jeremy Shelley scouting Ohtani in Japan in September and team officials spending much of their offseason preparing a recruiting pitch. 

Bochy has watched a lot more film and pored over scouting reports since September. His first impression of Ohtani hasn’t changed at all. If anything, he is more convinced than before that Ohtani could be a frontline starter and play a corner outfield position multiple times a week. 

“This guy is special,” Bochy said on Friday, shortly after Ohtani was posted. “I see him as somebody who could be a starter and it’s possible you’re also looking at 300 or 400 at-bats. It’s going to make it a little easier next year with our days off, looking at the new schedule, to where he could play even more because he’ll get that additional rest. That’ll make it easier, too.”

The new CBA calls for an expansion of off days, from 21 to 25, and interested teams are said to be mapping out prospective schedules for Ohtani. With four veteran starters already, along with Chris Stratton and Ty Blach as swingmen, the Giants would seem well-positioned to manage Ohtani’s initial workload as a pitcher. He would not be blocked in the outfield on a team desperate for power, and Bochy has shown with Madison Bumgarner that he has no concerns about giving pinch-hit at-bats to a pitcher who can hit. Bochy said he could see Ohtani playing the outfield on the days after starts and then spending the day or two before his next start preparing to pitch. 

The workload would be unprecedented in modern baseball and nobody truly knows if Ohtani can actually make it work. It’s clear, though, that teams will have to let him try in order to be in the running. Ohtani is potentially giving up hundreds of millions by coming over at the age of 23, but he wants to test himself against the best in the world. On talent alone, he appears ready to give this a shot. 

“He’s got a great swing,” Bochy said. “We all know he has a great arm and he’s got the equipment to be a No. 1 starter, but the overall athleticism is what’s so impressive with this guy. He’s got a great arm but he runs well and he’s a good outfielder with a nice swing. He’s got plus power and great plate discipline. You can tell it’s a swing he’s worked hard on. It’s a beautiful swing.”

Giants to hire former Red Sox exec Brian Bannister as director of pitching

Giants to hire former Red Sox exec Brian Bannister as director of pitching

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants have quietly spent most of the past month putting a staff together, one they expect to announce in the coming days. One new addition won't be working in a traditional dugout role, but still is expected to make a huge impact on the next generation of Giants pitchers. 

Brian Bannister, a former big leaguer who spent the previous five seasons with the Red Sox, will join the Giants as director of pitching, NBC Sports Bay Area has learned.

While it's unclear what Bannister's exact duties will be, his background is in development and the fact that he's joining the Giants but not as their pitching coach would seem to indicate he'll mostly be working with younger pitchers. 

Bannister has been a rising star in baseball circles since joining the Red Sox in 2015. He became their assistant pitching coach a year later and a few months after that added the title of vice president of pitching development. According to NBC Sports Boston, Bannister had an unusual contract that allowed the Red Sox to deny interview requests from other organizations that wanted to make Bannister a pitching coach, something they did repeatedly. In that story, Bannister explained his role and what he liked about it. 

“I think I’m kind of in that sweet spot right now where I know what our needs are, and I have the opportunity to work with staff at all levels of the organization to try to produce pitchers at a faster rate to keep that major league product winning on the field,” Bannister said. “I’ll be scouting one day, I’ll be in player development the next day. I’ll be in the front office working in analytics on Day 3. And the diversity of the role and the exposure to every aspect of the organization is what’s so appealing.

"Because you really start to see on an interdepartmental basis, how each person positively impacts the Boston Red Sox. And then figuring out ways to fill in the gaps. How to get the players from amateur scouting, through player development as efficiently as possible, and prepare them with exactly what they need for the major league staff. That part’s fascinating. I definitely enjoy the exposure to everything and trying to add value to everything. And that’s probably where my role is unique.”

The Giants have been looking to put together a unique staff, one that can focus on development of younger players in Kapler's first year. In that respect, Bannister fits perfectly, but he also has the playing experience that carries so much weight with players who prefer traditional methods. 

Bannister finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting in 2007 after putting up a 3.87 ERA in 27 starts for the Royals. That was the highlight of his professional career, as he finished with a 5.08 ERA in five big league seasons.

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A USC grad, Bannister is coming home in multiple ways. He lives in the Bay Area and was born in Scottsdale, where he later starred at Chaparral High, which is about a 20-minute drive from Scottsdale Stadium. When Fox Sports first reported that Bannister would be headed to San Francisco, he thanked his previous organization. 

The Giants are expected to announce some staffing decisions over the coming week. The only known member of Kapler's staff thus far is previous third base coach Ron Wotus.

MLB rumors: Free agent Madison Bumgarner prefers to stay with Giants

MLB rumors: Free agent Madison Bumgarner prefers to stay with Giants

Madison Bumgarner stepped to the plate against longtime Dodgers rival and friend Clayton Kershaw at Oracle Park on Sept. 29, 2019. The pitcher who rakes pinch-hit for shortstop Brandon Crawford in the seventh inning of Game 162, and lined out on a 3-2 fastball to third baseman Jedd Gyorko.

The day belonged to manager Bruce Bochy in his last game as the team's skipper. It very well might have been goodbye for a longtime ace and franchise hero, too. 

USA Today's Bob Nightengale reported Wednesday that Bumgarner, who is a free agent for the first time this offseason, prefers to continue his career with the Giants but the team has "shown no inclination to keep him." 

After free-agent pitcher Zack Wheeler reportedly agreed to a five-year, $118 million contract with the Phillies on Wednesday, it became clear Bumgarner very well could sign a nine-figure contract this offseason. That doesn't seem to fit into the rebuilding Giants' plans. 

Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said late last month that San Francisco has "financial flexibility" but that doesn't mean he and general manager Scott Harris are going to throw huge contracts at veteran players. In fact, Zaidi seems focused on the opposite of that this offseason. 

"We need to be careful given our recent history about creating too many long-term commitments that can get us back in the jam that we very recently put ourselves in," Zaidi told The Athletic's Tim Kawakami on the "TK Show."

Nightengale also reported Wednesday that the Giants were interested in free-agent pitcher Cole Hamels before he signed with the Braves. Though San Francisco wants to get younger, Hamels' one-year, $18 million contract is much more in line with their plan. 

Bumgarner likely is looking for a four- or five-year contract on the open market. With veterans Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija still on the team's books, and young arms next in line, the Giants don't seem too inclined to sign a pitcher to a hefty, long-term contract. 

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MadBum debuted with the Giants in September 2009, and has spent his entire career in San Francisco. He is a four-time All-Star, two-time Silver Slugger and three-time World Series champion. His real impact, however, came in the playoffs. 

The lefty is regarded by many as the greatest postseason pitcher of all time. He is 8-3 with a 2.11 ERA in 16 playoff appearances, and is a perfect 4-0 with a 0.25 ERA in five World Series games.

Relish the memories, Giants fans. Bumgarner's days of walking to the mound in San Francisco with the Marshall Tucker Band's "Fire on the Mountain" playing in the background, might be over.