Logan Webb

Giants expect to add starting pitching, possibly at Winter Meetings

Giants expect to add starting pitching, possibly at Winter Meetings

SAN DIEGO -- The Giants will meet with Madison Bumgarner's representatives this week, but there isn't a lot of optimism within the organization that the longtime ace will be back at Oracle Park next season. Regardless of what Bumgarner decides, the Giants expect to soon add to their rotation, possibly even doing so before the end of the Winter Meetings. 

The Giants didn't make a significant move at the Winter Meetings last year, but president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said he expects that to change this year, noting that there's additional payroll flexibility and that the free-agent market is moving at a much faster pace. 

"I would expect us to add at least one starting pitcher here. And by here I don't mean necessarily in San Diego, but there's a good chance we do that," Zaidi said. "We're having multiple conversations on that front. Pitching is a big priority here for us, as it is for a lot of teams. That's been a major focus for us leading up to this and we expect it to be busy this week."

The Giants came to the Manchester Grand Hyatt with a rotation containing question marks, even if you put Bumgarner's situation to the side. Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto are the veterans, but both also could be trade chips, either this winter or next July. Tyler Beede showed flashes of brilliance last season but is still relatively unproven. Logan Webb is highly thought of but will be under an innings limit in 2020. Shaun Anderson and Andrew Suarez were moved to the bullpen in the second half and Dereck Rodriguez bounced back and forth. 

The market is flush with veteran pitchers, and Zaidi could try to replicate what he did last year, signing multiple options to one-year deals. The Giants didn't get much out of Derek Holland and Drew Pomeranz, both of whom signed in January, but were able to deal both left-handers. The Pomeranz deal brought back Mauricio Dubon. 

The lower tier this season includes Wade Miley, Tanner Roark, Julio Teheran, Dallas Keuchel and others. Lefties like Miley, Gio Gonzalez or Alex Wood might be particularly attractive given how right-handed the current rotation is. 

Any of those players would come at a price point significantly lower than Bumgarner's. The longtime Giants star is expected to earn in excess of $100 million over the course of his new deal, but the Giants have not yet backed away from the table. 

[RELATED: Zaidi says Giants plan to meet with MadBum's reps this week]

"We're one of the suitors," Zaidi told NBC Sports Bay Area. "We're just going to put our best foot forward and see what happens, but he's earned this opportunity to be a free agent and, as we expected, there's no shortage of interest in a guy with his pedigree."

Why Giants pitcher prospect Sean Hjelle stood out to Ryan Vogelsong

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Ali Thanawalla

Why Giants pitcher prospect Sean Hjelle stood out to Ryan Vogelsong

SAN FRANCISCO -- A couple of years ago, the Giants sent Ryan Vogelsong to San Jose to help Madison Bumgarner evaluate one of the first rehab starts of his career. Vogelsong also shows up at big league camp in spring training and occasionally joins the Giants for short stints at Oracle Park. 

The longtime fan favorite is now a valued instructor and mentor, but where he really has made a difference is in the minor leagues. Giants prospects rave about spending time with Vogelsong in San Jose, Richmond or Sacramento, and Shaun Anderson, Logan Webb and Tyler Beede are among the pitchers Vogelsong has worked with the last couple of seasons. 

This year, Vogelsong spent time with the top three affiliates and got to work closely with a pitcher who could be part of the next wave to hit Oracle Park.

Sean Hjelle was the organization's second-round draft pick in 2018, and reached Double-A by the end of his first full professional season. On this week's episode of The Giants Insider Podcast, Vogelsong explained what he likes about the 6-foot-11 right-hander. 

"He's actually very easy mechanically because he's very athletic for how tall he is and his feet are very quick, and he has a very good sense of his body for being so long," Vogelsong said. "He has a very good delivery, too. It's actually pretty compact for how tall he is. There's not a whole lot to talk about in his delivery. That's why he's in Double-A already.

"He has the ability to throw the ball where he wants to a lot, he commands the strike zone, he's able to throw off-speed pitches in hitters' counts for strikes. He's on the track. Now it's just mentality, preparation, executing when things are going in a bad way."

Pitchers Hjelle's size typically have difficulty repeating their mechanics, but Hjelle walked just 2.3 batters per nine innings in 28 starts last season. The 22-year-old had a 2.66 ERA in Augusta and 2.78 ERA in San Jose before taking some lumps in Richmond, where he posted a 6.04 ERA in five starts. 

Hjelle is the organization's sixth-best prospect and second-best pitching prospect (after Webb), according to MLB Pipeline. He should start next season back in Double-A, but a quick promotion to Triple-A Sacramento wouldn't be a surprise. At either spot, Hjelle should get more time working with Vogelsong, who has tried to help young pitchers take the right mentality to the mound. 

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

"Sometimes the biggest fault with Hjelle is he cares too much. I know that's weird to hear, but this guy wears a game and everything on his sleeves like a lot of us did," Vogelsong said. "But he lets it engulf him too much. Once he matures a little bit and figures out that part of it, you're going to see him pretty quickly, I think."

On the podcast, Vogelsong also gave his thoughts on Webb, Anderson and Beede, and told stories about his time with Bruce Bochy and Madison Bumgarner. You can stream it here or download it on iTunes here.

How Giants prospect Logan Webb learned on, off field during rookie season

How Giants prospect Logan Webb learned on, off field during rookie season

SAN FRANCISCO -- If Joey Bart would have looked up into the seats during what ended up being his final game of the Arizona Fall League season, he would have seen a familiar face sitting a dozen rows behind the third base dugout. 

Logan Webb, a right-hander who is not far behind Bart on the Giants' prospect list, stopped by as a fan to watch a few innings of a Fall League game that he very easily could have been playing in under different circumstances. Webb, 22, is exactly the type of pitcher teams often send to the AFL in September and October. Instead, he was in Arizona recovering from what ended up being a long stint in the big leagues. The Giants didn't need him to make up any innings, because Webb arrived in the big leagues in August and never looked back, making eight consecutive starts to end the season. 

There were flashes of brilliance, but also plenty of bumps. Webb finished with a 5.22 ERA as a rookie but his FIP (4.12) was much lower, and he ended on a high note. Webb allowed six earned runs over his final three starts and held opponents to a .178 average. 

"I hate using the word 'learning' or 'developing' but it is part of it," he said on this week's Giants Insider Podcast. "I would say I am happy with some things, but also unhappy about certain things, and that's something I'm going to take into this offseason and learn from. I'll come into spring training like it's a fresh start."

Webb means that in multiple ways. He is eager to continue putting a suspension for a positive performance-enhancing substance test behind him, and he plans to train in Arizona this winter to prepare for a real opportunity to win a starting job this spring. 

[RELATED: DFA'd by Giants, Parra finds home with Nationals in World Series]

On this week's podcast, Webb opened up a bit about the suspension that cost him 80 games. He called it a "terrible time of my life" and described how he spent months thinking about what he might say when the news became public. Webb has never backed away from his original statement about the test result, but over time he learned to move on. He said teammates, family members and friends helped him realize what he had to do.

"You have a chance to do something special," Webb said of the message. "Once I finally learned that, I was able to maybe move past it and come back better than I was before."

For more from Webb on his up-and-down year, what he learned from pitching behind Madison Bumgarner, facing famous big leaguers and more, stream the Giants Insider Podcast here or download it on iTunes here.