Giants

Why free agent Michael Brantley could solve one of Giants' big issues

Why free agent Michael Brantley could solve one of Giants' big issues

SAN FRANCISCO — The lack of power sucks up most of the oxygen in the room, but for the 2018 Giants, there was a bigger offensive issue. 

The Giants ranked 14th in the National League with a .300 on-base percentage, the eighth-lowest OBP in franchise history and lowest in 33 years. New president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi knows that’s one of the first issues he must address. The 10 playoff teams last season all finished in the top 13 in the majors in on-base percentage, and Zaidi’s Dodgers ranked third in the NL at .333. 

On the Giants Insider Podcast last week, Zaidi, who previously also worked for the OBP-obsessed A’s, talked about ways to improve a San Francisco lineup that had major issues simply getting on base last season. 

“Any team that walks at a high level, it’s a function of a couple of things,” he said. “One is, it is a function of personnel — there are guys that just have the skill of being able to work the strike zone and being able to take walks. Then there’s a mindset of, ‘What’s our goal?’ Is our goal to put the ball in play, or is our goal to get on base? I think both of those things are areas that we can look at philosophically. 

“How are we attacking the game from an offensive standpoint, and then, also, do we have the type of personnel that can play the type of offense that we want, which is a real grinding approach and getting guys on base and creating pressure for the opposing pitcher.” 

The mindset aspect can be addressed with coaches throughout the organization up to and through spring training. As for personnel, that’s a bit more pressing, and there are multiple ways to add OBP to the lineup in free agency.

You can go straight to the top of the market with Bryce Harper, who led MLB with 130 walks and ranked seventh with a .393 OBP, but there might be a much more cost-effective option. Michael Brantley, formerly of the Cleveland Indians, ranked 17th with a .364 OPB, which would have led the 2018 Giants. 

Throughout an injury-plagued career, Brantley has shown an ability to get on base. He has a .351 career OBP — only one current Giant, Buster Posey (.359), finished above that mark in 2018 — and has finished above .350 in four of the last five seasons.

There’s a reason Brantley, who hit 17 homers and had a .832 OPS last season, isn’t looking at a massive contract, of course. He has had trouble staying on the field, with shoulder, ankle and biceps injuries limiting him to just 101 total games in 2016 and 2017. That, plus the fact that he turns 32 in May, will limit his market, and MLB Trade Rumors predicts that he’ll receive a three-year, $45 million deal. That would be less than the Giants paid Hunter Pence annually.

Zaidi wants to get younger and more dynamic in the outfield, but if he’s looking for a short-term solution that won’t break the bank, Brantley might end up being a solid fit, and someone who could help solve one of the Giants lineup’s most glaring issues.

Editor's note: This week across the NBC Sports Regional Networks, we'll be taking an in-depth look at some of the top free agents in baseball. Tuesday is dedicated to free agent outfielder Michael Brantley.
Why the outfielder-rich A's should pass on Brantley
Does Brantley really fit the White Sox's long-term plan?
Brantley should be far down on Red Sox's free agent list
Phillies should pursue Brantley if they whiff on Harper
Could signing Brantley soften blow of Nats losing Harper?

Giants owe it to Madison Bumgarner to trade him, Tim Flannery says

Giants owe it to Madison Bumgarner to trade him, Tim Flannery says

For the first three months of the MLB season, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that the Giants would trade franchise legend Madison Bumgarner before the July 31 MLB trade deadline.

But after winning 12 of their last 14 games, the Giants all of the sudden stand just 2 1/2 games out of a playoff spot, and the chatter of whether they should actually deal Bumgarner has increased exponentially.

Should they trade him anyway despite the recent hot streak? Or should they hold on to their ace and hope he can lead them to another magical October?

NBC Sports Bay Area analyst Tim Flannery, who coached Bumgarner on Bruce Bochy's staff through 2014, believes that if the Giants don’t sign their ace to a market-value contract extension right now, they have to trade him.

“If you’re going to keep him, you have to re-sign him to market value with an extension now,” Flannery told NBC Sports Bay Area. “You can’t keep him and not sign him. Free agency, as we have seen, is not working with the compensation draft pick connected to a team signing him.”

Indeed, free agency was not kind to pitchers last offseason. Both Dallas Keuchel (Atlanta Braves) and Craig Kimbrel (Chicago Cubs) had to wait until June to sign with their current clubs because of the draft pick compensation rule. Essentially, signing a marquee free agent -- like Bumgarner will be this offseason -- would cost the signing team a draft pick in the 2020 MLB draft. 

So for Bumgarner, his market could be tepid this offseason if the Giants hold on to him. But if they trade him this summer, by rule, the draft pick compensation is nullified.

“They owe it to Bumgarner to trade him,” Flannery said, noting how staying put in San Francisco without a new deal could hurt Bumgarner’s earning potential this offseason.

“Bum signed a very team-friendly contract a few years ago. He helped win three world championships and made lots of money for this organization. Now he needs to be treated with class and respect. You either sign him to an extension or trade him so he can get paid and you can get something for him.”

This trade wouldn’t just be the Giants doing charity. Dealing Bumgarner at the deadline instantly would replenish the Giants' farm system and give San Francisco something in return for its ace rather than losing him for nothing in the offseason (other than the aforementioned draft pick compensation). 

Although the Giants are surging right now and there’s optimism for ending Bochy’s last season on a high note, this current group still is not a World Series contender. Holding out hope for the pipe dream of Bumgarner putting the team on his shoulders again simply is not worth it.

[RELATED: What Giants draft pick Bishop learned from Bonds]

The Giants need to trade Bumgarner. It’s in Bumgarner’s best financial interest to get traded by the Giants. Barring an in-season extension, this is the only outcome that makes sense for both sides.

Bumgarner forever will be a legend at 24 Willie Mays Plaza. But as Flannery says, it’s in the best interest for all if he dons another uniform come Aug. 1.

Kevin Pillar wants to gift Giants tickets to fans after heartwarming clip

Kevin Pillar wants to gift Giants tickets to fans after heartwarming clip

Ready for the cutest thing you'll see today? Maybe even this week? Sure you are.

On Wednesday during the Dodgers-Phillies game, a young Phillies fan snagged a foul ball in the stands. Upon retrieval, without skipping a beat, he handed it to another fan.

But just wait for it:

There are really good people in this world, and Giants outfielder Kevin Pillar noticed that after seeing this clip. He wanted to hook these young guys up with some tickets for the next time the Giants are in town:

Twitter can be a really cool place if you use it the right way.

Good on you, Pillar.