Joe Espada

How MLB's punishment of Astros will impact Giants' rebuild, draft picks


How MLB's punishment of Astros will impact Giants' rebuild, draft picks

The Giants don't match up with the American League West in interleague play this season, and unlike their rivals across the bridge, they certainly don't have to worry about what the Astros look like for 162 games. 

But Monday's announcement of penalties for a cheating scheme that involved stealing signs will have a small impact on Farhan Zaidi's rebuild. The Astros were hammered by the commissioner's office, with GM Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch getting suspended through the end of the 2020 postseason and the organization being fined $5 million, the maximum allowed under the sport's rules.

They also were docked four draft picks, and that will move everyone else up, including the Giants, who have fortuitous timing. 

MLB announced that the Astros will forfeit their first and second-round selections in 2020 and 2021, which means two picks ahead of the Giants' compensation picks have now been wiped off the board. The Giants made qualifying offers to Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith and got an extra draft pick when Smith signed with the Braves and another one when Bumgarner signed with the Diamondbacks. The Bumgarner pick now will be No. 68 overall and the Smith pick will be No. 69. 

The Giants already were picking well ahead of the Astros in the first two rounds. They will have the 13th pick in the first round and will choose in the second round at No. 49 overall. That's four picks in the top 69 -- plus the corresponding pool money -- for a team that's working on a rebuild. It'll be a big year for the team's amateur scouts. 

The rest of the punishment was announced by MLB on Monday morning and was first reported by The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal.

There is more on the way, too. MLB sent out an extraordinarily detailed release explaining how the Astros banged on a trash can -- occasionally with a massage gun -- and sometimes used a smartwatch or a hidden cell phone to transmit information.

Alex Cora, now the Red Sox manager, was mentioned repeatedly as being involved, and he will be punished at a later date.

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For Giants fans, there are two more connections here. While Joe Espada wasn't mentioned in the release, this certainly would have been an awkward day for the organization if the former Astros coach had been hired instead of Gabe Kapler.

Espada will take over as acting manager in Houston after both Luhnow and Hinch were fired Monday, as owner Jim Crane wouldn't confirm whether the title would be on an interim or full-time basis going forward. 

Big picture, the cheating might have had an impact on the Giants' biggest rival in Los Angeles. The Astros beat the Dodgers in the 2017 World Series and Cora's Red Sox -- who currently are under investigation -- did the same in 2018. 

Giants closing in on new manager after hiring Scott Harris as their GM

Giants closing in on new manager after hiring Scott Harris as their GM

SAN FRANCISCO -- As Giants officials and members of the media filed out of the press conference room at Oracle Park on Monday, a team employee reached over and flicked off one set of lights. Nobody bothered to take down the podium or remove the temporary seating. That all might be needed again in a few hours.

The Giants introduced Scott Harris as general manager on Monday and are poised to hold another press conference for their new manager. Harris is in the process of meeting with the remaining candidates and Farhan Zaidi said he would "have significant input into the final decision."

Zaidi said the manager announcement would come this week, and the Giants were internally preparing to introduce a new manager as soon as Tuesday. There are still three known finalists, and no decision had been made as of Monday morning. There are two who have separated from the pack, though. Former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler and Astros bench coach Joe Espada both have high-level supporters in the organization, per sources, and Kapler met with Giants officials again on Monday. He is said to be the frontrunner at this point. 

The search has lasted more than a month now, in part because it ran as the same time as the search for a new GM.

[RELATED: Why GM Scott Harris didn't root for Giants]

"Having both of these balls in the air at the same time has made scheduling difficult and tricky at times," Zaidi said. "I'm just really happy that we have been able to get (Harris) in place and he does have that chance to connect with those candidates and provide input and really have a say in the final decision that I expect us to make this week."

MLB rumors: Rays coach Matt Quatraro finalist to be next Giants manager


MLB rumors: Rays coach Matt Quatraro finalist to be next Giants manager

Several MLB teams entered the offseason searching for a new manager. The Giants and Pirates are the final two looking for a new leader. 

Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi seems to have a list of finalists, too. The third name is the real mystery, though.

NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic reported on Oct. 31 that the Giants were down to former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler, Astros bench coach Joe Espada and Royals quality control coach Pero Grifol. One week later, it appears Kapler and Espada remain in the race, but Grifol no longer is part of the group. 

The San Francisco Chronicle's John Shea reported Wednesday that Rays bench coach Matt Quatraro is a finalist -- not Grifol -- along with Kapler and Espada. Quatraro was first tied to the Giants on Oct. 17, as reported by the Tampa Bay Times' Marc Topkin. 

Quatraro, 45, was named Tampa Bay's bench coach prior to this past season. He spent 2018 as the Rays' third base coach after four seasons as the Indians' assistant hitting coach. 

The Indians ranked fifth in MLB in runs per game (4.6) during his time in Cleveland and fifth in on-base percentage (.327). The Giants ranked 28th in the majors last season in total runs scored (678) and in on-base percentage (.302). 

[RELATED: Report: Cubs' Harris is a candidate for Giants' GM opening]

Though Quatraro doesn't have managing experience in the big leagues, he has managed in the minors. He managed two seasons in Short-Season Class A Hudson Valley (2006-07), one season for Class A Columbus (2008) and one season for Class A Bowling Green (2009).

Quatraro has experience in multiple roles on winning teams. As Zaidi hones in on who should lead the Giants, it makes plenty of sense why Quatraro is a finalist.