Giants

With Warriors' season over, here's what you need to know about Giants

With Warriors' season over, here's what you need to know about Giants

SAN FRANCISCO -- There has been a theme at Oracle Park over the past month. The Giants have shown as many Warriors highlights and score updates as they can on their new $10 million scoreboard, knowing that's an easy way to get energy out of a crowd that's not always pulling it from the action on the field. After one particularly listless loss, the team's official Twitter account didn't even send out the final score, choosing instead to focus elsewhere ... 

Well, the Warriors are done, too. They have a lot of decisions to make and a fascinating offseason ahead, and they'll remain in the headlines every single day before they move into a shiny new arena down the street from the Giants' ballpark. But for the time being, the only action at China Basin will be at Oracle Park. 

So as you dip your toes back into baseball season, here's what you need to know about the state of the Giants. 

1. It's Not Going Well. 

They're 28-38 and 16 1/2 games out of first place in the NL West. They're actually just four games out of last place in the entire National League. 

2. Bruce Bochy Still Plans to Retire

Perhaps Kevin Durant will still be in the Bay Area in the fall. Bruce Bochy won't. Bochy announced before the season that this is his final year, and he has been given a few gifts from opposing teams as he makes his last tour. Most of them have been some variation of alcohol.

"Looks like I have a problem," Bochy joked recently, "But I don't, trust me."

The Giants hoped to use Bochy's announcement as their rallying cry, but he won't experience October baseball in his final year. You can still expect this to be a huge story, though. September will largely be about celebrating the man who helped bring three titles to the city and experienced so many other highs along the way.

3. Where is Bumgarner Going?

No matter what the Warriors do, the Bay Area will likely lose a legend over the next six weeks. The Giants intend to try and kickstart their rebuild by getting a top prospect or two for Madison Bumgarner, who has a 3.83 ERA but has shown much-improved stuff since the start of May. 

Bumgarner submitted a savvy eight-team no-trade list that gives him some control over the process, but he still could be playing for one of those eight teams by the July 31 deadline. The Yankees have scouted him recently and the Brewers will get an up-close look on Saturday at Oracle Park. The Phillies and Braves are among the teams most often mentioned, although Atlanta might have filled that hole with the Dallas Keuchel addition. 

The most interesting spot may be Houston. Bumgarner wants to pitch in October, and the Astros could throw him into a devastating postseason rotation with Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole.  

4. That Fire is Still There

Yes, we have spent a lot of time here talking about how rough the season has been going. But Bumgarner vs. Muncy was highly entertaining, and the two face off again next week at Dodger Stadium. That's always a good time, and given that this very well could be Bumgarner's last Giants start against the Dodgers, it counts as must-see TV.  

5. Hey Will, You're An All-Star

Closer Will Smith has brought calm to the ninth inning, finally. Smith has 16 saves in as many opportunities and is a lock to represent the Giants at the All-Star Game -- unless, of course, he gets traded. With a 2.03 ERA and high strikeout rate, he has been one of the best relievers in the game, and Farhan Zaidi may actually get more for Smith than he does for Bumgarner. 

Not every contending team needs a closer, but just about every one could use a dominant left-hander somewhere in the late innings. Fellow relievers Tony Watson and Sam Dyson also could be popular names before the deadline. 

6. Meet the Future

Rookie right-hander Shaun Anderson has three consecutive quality starts, a good fastball-slider combination, and flow that gives him a Thor vibe. He has been one of the big positives of this first half, and he'll spend the rest of the year continuing to try to lock down a rotation spot. Anderson has a 3.97 ERA through his first six starts. 

7. What's With the Core?

Just about every key piece is hitting below his career norms. Buster Posey, in his return from hip surgery, has a .256/320/.404 slash line. Brandon Crawford is hitting .206. Joe Panik has a .661 OPS. Evan Longoria is at .715. Brandon Belt (.850 OPS) has the best numbers of the bunch but has been limited by knee and neck pain recently. 

At some point, Zaidi is going to shake it up. The most fascinating part of the next six months might be seeing which big names are still around as the next generation starts to arrive. 

8. Panda's Surge

Pablo Sandoval has a .869 OPS and eight homers, and has been the best pinch-hitter in the league. He has been a positive from the start of the year, and if he's still around after the trade deadline he should provide some of the second half's best highlights. Bochy always has Sandoval around as an option to pitch -- he has a scoreless inning already -- and has said in the past that he wants to let him play all nine positions in one game. That seems like a lock for late September if this season keeps going this way. 

9. Who Else Will Be Around?

With two superstars out for an extended period and facing free agency, the Warriors may have to decide if it makes more sense to build for 2020-21. The Giants have the same thoughts permeating through their building, and the jury is still out on a number of young players who may or may not be part of the next contender at Oracle Park. 

Tyler Beede has shown flashes of brilliance, but also has been wildly inconsistent. Dereck Rodriguez is now pitching out of the bullpen. Andrew Suarez is in Triple-A. Trevor Gott looks like a keeper and Tyler Austin could be a platoon piece, but Mac Williamson is now a Mariner, Mike Gerber's audition was short-lived, and Connor Joe and Michael Reed -- well, that whole series of transactions turned into a punchline. 

A big part of this second half will be about finding out which young players can succeed here. It's frustrating at times, but also kind of exciting. 

10. The Next Core 

Speaking of exciting, the best developments for the organization have come an hour away in San Jose. Joey Bart has five homers in 18 High-A games and continues to look like a future star. Heliot Ramos looks like a top prospect, too; the 19-year-old has an OPS over 1.000 in his second pro season. 

With pitchers Sean Hjelle, Jake Wong and Jose Marte also in San Jose, the Giants can start to dream about a bright future in San Francisco. They are excited about their high-upside draft class, and outfielder Hunter Bishop could join Bart and Ramos in the heart of a future lineup. 

Why Giants mentioned Bryce Harper, Gerrit Cole in explaining new staff

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USATSI

Why Giants mentioned Bryce Harper, Gerrit Cole in 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.