Giants

Willie McCovey, Giants legend and Baseball Hall of Famer, dies at 80

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Willie McCovey, Giants legend and Baseball Hall of Famer, dies at 80

SAN FRANCISCO -- Willie McCovey, one of the most prolific hitters in MLB history, died Wednesday afternoon. 

The Giants announced that McCovey, a Baseball Hall of Famer, passed away peacefully after losing his battle with ongoing health issues. McCovey was 80 years old. 

“San Francisco and the entire baseball community lost a true gentleman and legend, and our collective hearts are broken,” Giants president and CEO Larry Baer said in a team-issued statement. “Willie was a beloved figure throughout his playing days and in retirement. He will be deeply missed by the many people he touched.

“For more than six decades, he gave his heart and soul to the Giants — as one of the greatest players of all time, as a quiet leader in the clubhouse, as a mentor to the Giants who followed in his footsteps, as an inspiration to our Junior Giants, and as a fan cheering on the team from his booth.”

McCovey is survived by his wife, Estela; his daughter, Allison; and her children, Raven, Philip and Marisa, as well as his brothers, Clauzell and Cleon, and his sister, Frances. The Giants plan to hold a public celebration of McCovey’s life at a later date. 

McCovey had health issues in recent years and was confined to a wheelchair, but he still was a regular at AT&T Park, where the cove beyond right field has taken his name. In his playing days, McCovey was one of the most feared hitters in the game, and he put together a career that is nearly unmatched by left-handed hitters in MLB history. 

McCovey played 19 of his 22 seasons with the Giants, debuting at the age of 21 and going 4-for-4 off Robin Roberts, a future Hall of Famer. That simply was a taste of what was to come.

McCovey, was the National League’s Rookie of the Year in 1959 and the MVP in 1969. He hit 521 home runs and drove in 1,555 runs. He slugged .515 across more than 8,000 career at-bats — for comparison’s sake, just 10 NL players bested that number in 2018. 

McCovey dealt with multiple health complications in recent years, but his daughter, Allison, said he passed away peacefully. 

“I am grateful that my father passed peacefully surrounded by his family and friends while listening to his favorite sports channel,” Allison said in a statement put out by the team. 

Estela McCovey said Willie will be “terribly missed.”

“He was my best friend and husband,” Estela said in a statement. “Living life without him will never be the same.”

McCovey was a six-time All-Star and led the NL in homers three times. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986, his first year of eligibility, but his legacy off the field is just as strong.

Every year, the Giants hand out the Willie Mac Award, given to the player who best exemplifies the spirit and leadership consistently shown by McCovey. In short, it is the award given to the most inspirational Giant, and it is voted on by teammates, coaches, clubhouse staff and McCovey. 

Despite his health issues, McCovey always made it out to the ballpark for the ceremony, and he was on hand last month to give the award to Will Smith.

MLB rumors: Cardinals 'entering the fray' to pursue Madison Bumgarner

MLB rumors: Cardinals 'entering the fray' to pursue Madison Bumgarner

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.

[RELATED: How Wheeler's reported $118M contract could affect MadBum]

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.

MLB rumors: Yankees make signing free agent Gerrit Cole top priority

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MLB rumors: Yankees make signing free agent Gerrit Cole top priority

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.

[RELATED: Report: Giants targeted UGA's pitching coach for same role]

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.