Giants

Source: Bryce Harper, Giants met this week in MLB free agency visit

Source: Bryce Harper, Giants met this week in MLB free agency visit

SAN FRANCISCO — Farhan Zaidi hinted last month that the Giants could get back in on some of the bigger free agents if prices continued to drop. They’re now targeting the biggest name still out there. 

Members of the Giants’ front office met with Bryce Harper this week in Las Vegas, multiple sources told NBC Sports Bay Area on Wednesday.

The Giants sent Zaidi, CEO Larry Baer and manager Bruce Bochy to Las Vegas to meet Tuesday with Harper, his wife Kayla, and agent Scott Boras. Harper, one of the most accomplished free agents in MLB history, still has not found a home with less than a week until pitchers and catchers report for spring training.

One source familiar with discussions said the chase was a “long shot,” but if the Giants have seriously entered the Harper market, they have done so at a time when the former National League MVP appears unhappy with his other options.

Harper reportedly turned down at least $300 million from the Nationals early in the offseason. That’s the type of deal the Giants would like to stay away from moving forward, but it’s also one they can afford, and that was the case even before Oracle promised hundreds of million for naming rights to the team’s ballpark.

The Giants have added just three free agents this offseason, and none were guaranteed even eight figures. Derek Holland, Drew Pomeranz and Pat Venditte add up to about one-third of what Harper would demand per season, but after the Pomeranz deal, Zaidi left the door open for bigger moves. 

“As the market evolves, there might be guys that you had kind of questioned or doubted the feasibility of at one point that you now circled back on,” Zaidi said last month. “It’s our job and responsibility to keep tabs on all parts of the market, and we’re continuing to do that. Yeah, I do think things can change and your target list evolves over the course of the offseason.”

The Giants had quietly targeted Harper over the past couple of years, but they underwent a shift in strategy when Zaidi was hired in November. The new plan was to overhaul the roster incrementally and add to the existing core, but Zaidi is known to be opportunistic, and if Harper’s price truly has dropped, the Giants could find a more suitable deal. Although they have been out of the headlines, they never eliminated Harper as an option. 

It’s unclear, of course, if the end price ultimately would be any lower than expected. Harper and Boras went into this offseason hoping to set records, but they have found a market lacking big-market suitors. The Phillies and the White Sox have been connected to Harper throughout the offseason, and at several points, it seemed he was close to joining Philadelphia, with the Nationals thought to be always on the periphery. 

The Padres were connected to Harper last week, and perhaps that helped jolt the Giants. Bigger spenders such as the Yankees, Dodgers and Cubs have shied away. 

Those three are all contenders and have filled their holes in other ways, while the Giants have taken a not-so-subtle step back, preparing to rebuild a bit. Still, even a partial rebuild could include a player like Harper.

[RELATED: How signing Bryce Harper would affect Giants payroll]

At 26, he is young enough to be part of the next contending Giants team, yet also accomplished enough that he would immediately become the lineup's best hitter. Even in what was considered a down year, Harper hit 34 homers in 2018. All of the outfielders currently on the Giants’ roster have combined for 20 career homers. 

Randy Miller of NJ Advance Media and Jon Heyman of MLB Network first connected Harper and the Giants on Wednesday morning. 

Giants rookie Tyler Rogers opening eyes with unique submarine slider

Giants rookie Tyler Rogers opening eyes with unique submarine slider

Only jury duty kept Giants pitching coach Curt Young from putting together a summit of submariners this month. Young was with the A's when Chad Bradford dominated hitters with his unique approach, and he hoped to put Bradford in a room with Giants rookie Tyler Rogers.

"He got called in for jury duty," a smiling Young said of Bradford. "But we'll make it happen at some point."

With the way Rogers is pitching, there's no real rush. Nobody is taking greater advantage of a September opportunity than Rogers, a submarining right-hander who has a 1.54 ERA in 12 appearances and has allowed just seven hits. Rogers provides a look that's not seen anywhere else in the majors, and big leaguers haven't adjusted yet.

With every bewildered stare back at the mound, Rogers gets closer to putting himself in position for a bullpen job in 2020. 

"The results kind of speak for themselves so far. I've been able to execute pitches," Rogers said. "Between the two levels, that hasn't changed. If you execute the pitch, more times than not you're going to be successful. And if you don't, you know, they're going to hurt you."

There's been very little pain thus far, particularly on a slider that's become a put-away pitch for Rogers and has fascinated teammates and fans. Because of where Rogers releases the ball -- he's dead last in the majors with a release point of just 1.05 feet above the dirt -- the slider often appears to be rising the entire way to the catcher's glove. It floats into the strike zone and elicits ugly swings. 

"Absolutely, it almost rises even for the catcher," said Aramis Garcia, who caught Rogers in Triple-A. "Depending on how he throws it, if it's high or in the middle of the zone, it gets really good rise. Guys in the batter's box say it all the time. They hate seeing that slider after the fastball."

Rogers' slider isn't a high-spin pitch. At 2,279 RPM, it has one of the lowest spin rates on the Giants' staff, but the results thus far have been impressive. Rogers has thrown the pitch 36 times and allowed just one hit, a single. Seven of his eight strikeouts have come on the slider and it's being hit an average of just 79 mph when put into play. 

The funny thing about the pitch for Rogers is that it didn't even use to be in his repertoire. As a freshman at Austin Peay, he threw exclusively fastballs. 

"I just couldn't figure (the slider) out and it still takes a lot of tinkering in practice," Rogers said. "That pitch has definitely evolved a lot over the years. Now I just kind of let it do what it wants that day. It's not the same day to day. Some days I can really cut it loose and give it what I've got and other days I've got to be a little more about finesse with it."

The pitch, which Rogers throws off of his low 80s sinker, helped him put up eye-popping numbers during a curiously long stay in Triple-A. Rogers had a 3.27 ERA in 179 career appearances in a tough league for pitchers, but the Giants didn't take a look until this September, the end of his fourth season in Sacramento. 

Teammates who were there the day Rogers got called up say the eruption from the clubhouse was as loud as they could remember. They were curious to see how Rogers' delivery would work against big league hitters, and so far the results have helped Rogers grab a more high-leverage role in a shifting bullpen.

That doesn't surprise Garcia, who actually might have learned more about Rogers' slider when an opposing hitter had success against it. Garcia often played first base in Sacramento and said even a hitter who reached would come away grumbling. 

[RELATED: Sacramento River Cats win Triple-A National Championship]

"There were a lot of times where a guy would get to first base and all he would be talking about is how much he hates facing him," Garcia said. 

Big league hitters apparently feel the same way. 

Giants affiliate Sacramento River Cats win Triple-A National Championship

Giants affiliate Sacramento River Cats win Triple-A National Championship

While the Giants were busy breaking a record and beating the Red Sox 7-6 in 15 innings on Tuesday night, their Triple-A affiliate was winning another title. 

The Sacramento River Cats already took home the crown of Pacific Coast League champions this season. Now, they can add an even bigger trophy to their mantle. 

Instead of a series, one game decides who is the king of Triple-A baseball. That title now belongs to the River Cats after they beat the Columbus Clippers, 4-0, in the Triple-A National Championship. 

Sacramento became the first franchise to have three Triple-A National Championship titles. It's the first time the River Cats have done so as an affiliate of the Giants. 

“It feels great,” Brundage said to the Sacramento Bee's Joe Davidson after the win. “They played their hearts out.”

Brundage deserves all the credit in the world for the title. This season was a marathon, to the say the least, for him and his entire staff. The River Cats played 146 games and dealt with 319 player transactions. 

That's right, 319. 

In a world where Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi is willing to make any move and use a player's minor league options, the River Cats will have to deal with plenty of changes to their roster as long he's in charge. Caleb Baragar, the game's winning pitcher, is a prime example. 

When the Richmond Flying Squirrels -- the Giants' Double-A affiliate -- saw their season end without a trip to the playoffs, Baragar thought he could finally take break. Wrong. Baragar was added to the River Cats' roster for the playoffs and ended up being a hero. 

The 25-year-old right-hander pitched five shutout innings Tuesday night while allowing just two hits and striking out five batters. He was named MVP of the game for his valiant effort.

[RELATED: Bochy will be in a league of his own with 2,000 career wins]

"I saw a young man who wasn’t scared,” Brundage said to Baseball America. "Sometimes you’re not sure. Is the moment too big? The moment wasn’t too big against Vegas. He was even better tonight.”

In a year of constant shuffle for San Francisco and Sacramento alike, the River Cats came out on top with a ring. The Giants hope they too can soon do the same.