SAN FRANCISCO — It has been a slow start to the offseason for the Giants' roster, but at their home ballpark, there’s been nothing but nonstop action.
The Giants are in the process of replacing their scoreboard with a state-of-the-art version about two times the size of the current one. Team president and CEO Larry Baer compared the project size-wise to the massive Jumbotron the Dallas Cowboys put up when they built a new stadium.
“We’re going to have the best scoreboard in baseball, we believe,” Baer said. “It’s going to be the first 4K scoreboard (in baseball). We’re going to be able to show information and entertaining features that we’ve never been able to show before just because of the capacity.”
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The new scoreboard is designed to serve different audiences at the same time. Baer said the Giants want to be able to show features for kids attending games, while also expanding their presentation in terms of advanced statistics. Last season, launch angles and exit velocities were shown on a tiny board underneath the main scoreboard, but advanced metrics will have a home on the new one. The Giants had been behind the times in this regard; several NL clubs already have scoreboard sections devoted to exit velocity and pitch information, including the rival Dodgers, who display it prominently.
“We’re going to be able to accomplish a lot more for people who want baseball information,” Baer said.
The Giants traditionally make one or two notable tweaks to the ballpark every offseason, but the main game-experience changes this season are big ones. In addition to the new scoreboard, weekday home games have been moved up from 7:15 p.m. to 6:45.
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As for the look of the field itself, not much will change. At the MLB Winter Meetings last week, Farhan Zaidi said he'd heard nothing to indicate the Giants will move their fences in or find a new location for the bullpens.
With the Winter Meetings rapidly approaching, MLB free agency is heating up.
One of the top available pitchers -- Madison Bumgarner -- is expected to be in high demand, particularly now that Cole Hamels has signed with the Braves and Zack Wheeler reportedly has agreed to a five-year contract with the Phillies. For teams who scoff at Gerrit Cole's price tag, Bumgarner might be the logical compromise.
The Giants have been "in communication" with Bumgarner, but rumor has it another interested team has entered the mix.
MLB.com's Mark Feinsand reported Thursday that the St. Louis Cardinals have been linked to Bumgarner, citing a source.
St. Louis already has brought back veteran Adam Wainwright on a one-year deal, and after he, Jack Flaherty, Miles Mikolas and Dakota Hudson, there appears to be an opening for Bumgarner in the starting rotation. Signing with the Cardinals would not only allow Bumgarner to continue pitching in the National League, but would also allow him to continue taking his own at-bats, which we know he loves so much. He also has been linked to teams such as the Twins and White Sox, but would forfeit his at-bats to a DH in each of those situations.
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While Bumgarner is expected to receive a contract in excess of $100 million, Feinsand suggests Wheeler's reported $118 million payday might serve to increase the total.
Gerrit Cole is far and away the gem of the 2019 MLB free-agent class.
The former Pirates and Astros ace led the American League in both ERA and strikeouts last season and finished just behind teammate Justin Verlander in the AL Cy Young Award race.
The team that historically always has had the deepest pockets in baseball -- the New York Yankees -- have made Cole a priority in free agency, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported Thursday, citing a source.
Cole is a Southern California native with familial ties to the Giants, a team that also features one of the most pitcher-friendly ballparks in the MLB. San Francisco also has been mentioned as a destination for the ace, who reportedly desires a return to the West Coast.
But if the Yankees, who always have jumped to outbid every other team for talent in free agency, decide to back up the proverbial Brinks truck for the 29-year-old, the Giants might be swiftly eliminated from contention for Cole.
Reports indicate that Cole’s price tag will “shatter” the record set by David Price when he signed a $217 million contract with the Boston Red Sox in 2015.
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While San Francisco has plenty of money to spend this offseason, it likely won’t engage in a bidding war that could approach $300 million.
Even if longtime Giant and current free agent Madison Bumgarner elects to go elsewhere in free agency, it remains to be seen how much money San Francisco would be willing to shell out for an elite talent like Cole in the heart of his prime.