Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Johnny and Jeff

From Brandon Crawford, via Andrew Baggarly:

“With these two, we’ve also added a good amount of hair, which is never a bad thing…”

No argument here. My own locks are in out-of-control retirement mode so I'm in favor tonsorial adventurousness. I must say I was surprised by the Johnny Cueto deal. I did not expect the Jeff Samardzija signing but it seemed like a natural move for the club, picking up a talented under-performer for a reasonable free agent cost. The Cueto thing is bizarre. The front-loaded nature of the contract plus the opt-out makes it a puzzler. If Johnny does well, the Giants get two years for $46m ($23M/yr) and then he leaves to get a bigger windfall on the open market. But the Giants would have gotten two years of stellar starting pitching. Perhaps they are also thinking that one of the young arms in the system will be ready by 2018 (that's Matt Cain's option year). If Johnny does poorly or gets hurt, the Giants are on the hook for four more years and the remainder of the contract (about $84M or $21M/yr). So he gets paid less over the long haul if he sticks around. Matt Cain's $21M/yr will be off the books by then so if the team is going to overpay for an aging starter (Cueto is younger by a year-plus) he'll have dreadlocks instead of a crew-cut. Madison Bumgarner also has a 2018 option and will likely require a Greinkian investment to stay in orange-and-black. But this is why teams pay those smarty-pants accounting types, so we don't have to worry about it.

What am I thinking about? I'm thinking about next season. And it looks good. Consider that the Giants now have a full rotation: Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Jake Peavy, and Matt Cain. That's a hell of a thing, man. I'm stoked. Peavy was hurt for much of last season but when he was healthy he pitched well. Cain is a question mark but he's healthy and I think he will deliver far more than fifth-starter value. And the team still has Chris Heston who can ably fill in for one of the Big Five if need be. (And then Timmy can be the 6th man!)

What's left? A little outfield help, I suppose. But it has less urgency now that the rotation has been solidified. A lefty for the 'pen, but I think that may come from within. The lineup was excellent last season and I expect more of the same. If they need a piece or two I feel like BobbyE will pull off a mid-season move and get it done.

Giants: thank you for surprising me. And thank you for fixing what was broken. Should be a hell of an interesting race in the West next year.


p.s. Warm farewells indeed to Hector Sanchez and Joaquin Arias--champions in orange-and-black. May they succeed brilliantly in their new roles but rack up 0-fers vs. the Giants.


Zo said...

I think the reason that we are excited about Johnny Cueto is because Matt Duffy, not Pablo Sandoval.

El said...

Timmy can be the 6th man

Or Zito!

Ron said...

Today, I have nothing but questions:

Which do we need more? A new Utility Infielder or an Outfielder or a seasoned Bullpen addition, preferably left-handed?

Is Kelby Tomlinson the final answer on the Infield? In which case, why is Ehire Adrianza still taking up space on the 40-man Roster? Anyone interested in a reunion w/ Juan Uribe, pinch-hitter extraordinaire?

Any sleeper OF choices, or will it be Fowler or Austin Jackson? The Cueto signing probably eliminates us from contention for Cespedes, Gordon, or Upton.

Lefty out of the pen? Franklin Morales, anyone?

Why is no one talking about Daniel Murphy? This isn't a Giants question, because we don't really need a left-handed hitter backing up our current left-handed hitting 2B & 1B. But, why isn't anyone trying to sign him?

M.C. O'Connor said...

I think it will be Tomlinson but you never know. Adrianza is still under team control though he may be out of options.

I think the 'pen needs a lefty. I'm hoping it is Osich.

Yeah I agree no big-time OF upgrade now. That's OK, although my big question mark is Angel Pagan. I think they'll find some pieces easily enough. And it's only a matter of time before Brandon Belt is the LF, right?

Murphy ain't Zobrist. Not that he isn't a good player, but he doesn't stand out when there are guys like Cabrera, Desmond, Kendrick out there, too.

obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

I don't believe the Giants thought that they would get Sandoval. If the negative rumors made it out to public already, I'm sure insiders got a heaping helping of it and knew they were just bidding for show.

Adrianza is out of options, he was even released last season but nobody claimed him so we kept him. He'll probably be gone the next time he's DFAed, either claimed or FA.

Most teams hold two IF bench spots. That's Tomlinson and Adrianza, so I'm not sure what the issue is with Adrianza. Why he's kept is that he's a true SS defensively, and Uribe and Tomlinson are not, so the team would take huge hit defensively anytime Crawford is not playing, whereas Adrianza would at least keep that part going.

In addition, he has shown a good bat in the minors when he's not the youngest guy by a lot. Plus, when he's been playing regularly in the majors, he has hit decently given his good defense, good peripherals, I think he can be a Blanco in the infield, OK bat, good defense type of bench player. And he's still only 26 YO for 2016.

I like Uribe, but not if it'll cost us Adrianza.

I don't see why Osich isn't the lefty, I've been including him on my rosterbations.

I think the answer on Murphy is clear: if the Mets, who has the money, lets him go, when they are trying to be competitive in 2016, that says a lot about what they think of him. And his defense at 2B hurt their team, particularly since they are trying to be like the Giants with a great starting rotation, it's like having a high-end car but then you go to Rotten Robbies for regular gas, and your neighbor for oil changes.

Sleeper choice? How about Kyle Blanks in LF? And I'm betting the Giants sign De Aza in January for $1-2M.

M.C. O'Connor said...

Yeah I think Kyle Blanks may have a real shot at breaking camp with the big club. Classic under-the-radar Giants re-hab project. The team seems to be good at finding talent on the cheap and utilizing it properly. Blanks does not have to be a star, just a steady performer who maximizes the skills he has rather than being expected to be something he is not. With a star rotation and star infield and a star RF the LF job is not as crucial as it would be on some teams. There are lots of guys out there who can deliver quality ML-level work that won't cost much to acquire. De Aza, as you say, is such a type. Plus I think we all believe LF will be Belt territory in a year or two. I like what I see--spend the money on starting pitching and rely on the great young infield, Buster, and the Return of Pence. With the addition of innings-eaters like Jeff and Johnny the bullpen will not get over-worked like last season. Romo, Casilla, Lopez, Kontos, these guys are solid. One thing we know the Giants can do is find bullpen help, but like OGC I want Osich to be the new Affeldt.

Ron said...

Affeldt wasn't Affeldt, until he had been an ML player for 5 seasons & was 28 years old. Osich is a baby in terms of ML service. I think that we should acquire a veteran lefty & continue to develop Osich. Lopez is absorbing fewer & fewer innings - the last time that he topped 40 IP was 2011. We need a proven lefty who can go multiple innings, if necessary.

I hope that Kyle Blanks turns out to be better than Justin Maxwell, but that is who he seems like. I'd rather have De Aza (who can hit) or Austin Jackson (who can field & run).

As far as Belt goes, I, of course, have been advocating that for awhile - at least, on a 50% basis. It's a good plan.

M.C. O'Connor said...

The Giants have always prized versatile lefty relievers. I'm not worried, they'll find the pieces they need. I'm damn excited about the beefed-up rotation and impressed by BobbyE's skill and sangfroid.

obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

There's a huge difference between Affeldt and Osich though: Affeldt wanted to be a starter much of that time in the majors, whereas Osich embraced relieving basically from the get-go.

Why is that important to this story? Tim Worrell, a former good reliever for the Giants, was asked what was the big change for him that changed him from so-so reliever to a set-up guy. He said it was the moment he finally gave up wanting to be a starter. Once he embraced the reliever role, that's when he started to excel. I also recall Affeldt telling a similar story, but my memories been fuzzy lately, so I'm not absolutely sure of that.

I would also bring up TINSTAAPP here: Osich needs no development, he's an MLB pitcher and he's ready. What did he do this season on the majors that suggest that he needs to learn something else? 2.20 ERA, check! 1.12 WHIP, check! 8.5 K/9, great! 2.5 BB/9, good! 3.38 K/BB, excellent! He got in 35 games, so while there's reliever SSS and flukiness, that's half a season of relieving goodness right there. He don't need more development other than being put into more MLB pressure spots and getting out of them. Him being a closer for us in the minors should help, and he should be our Affeldt replacement now, not later.

Maxwell had no history of performing well regularly in the majors, Blanks does, only injuries have prevented him from doing that more regularly. I would not mind De Aza, but Jackson probably will put us over the threshold, there's no way to hide FA spending unless you spread it over many years.

nomisnala said...

A lot of rosterbation going on. If we look at the lineup, the weak spots seem to be Pagan, and Blanco. Yet when Pagan is healthy, he is a plus. Problem is, he is less and less healthy even when he plays. Blanco seems streaky, and at times plays like a regular, but I prefer him as a 4th or 5th outfielder and possible defensive replacement. i worry about Pagan diving for a ball and then playing at lower level for a few months. We had a seasoned reliever in petit, but he is a righty. Another lefty, and one who is not a loogy would be welcomed to the pen. I cannot tell if Adrianza is ever going to be a decent major leaguer or not. He is listed at six feet one inch. He short looks smaller. The giants should be contenders and win more games than last year, but two possible weak spots in the lineup, and we will be losing some 2-1 and 3-2 games that we should otherwise be winning.

El said...

Excellent calls on Blanks & De Aza.
Typical SF types - valued for what they can do when used properly.

obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

I was also surprised by the Cueto deal! But it makes sense after the fact. He's actually been Greinke-like for many years, but he had the injury shortened 2013 season and then his hiccup in 2015. In fact, better, he's second only to Kershaw in ERA since 2011. So the Giants probably were worried that he would command something closer to $30M.

But after the failed D-backs bid of 6 years, $120M, it seems from the reporting, the Giants realized that they could maybe get Cueto at a potentially good deal.

This deal has a number of components. First, front loaded, to recognize how good he's been but not that high to recognize the risk Giants taking on. Second, opt-out, which makes the first two years more of a "make good" contract where he rebuilds his Greinke value and leave in two years. Third, all reward for Cueto, as many long term contracts are, dead for the team but pay the player for prior goodness, should the other team be right about his arm/health. However, front-loaded makes these payments relatively not as bad, plus acts as incentive (relatively) for him to opt-out.

Because he was really good before, 4-6 WAR over recent years, even if he declines to 3 WAR level, with inflation, that's roughly $30M value anyway, and he will opt-out, though if the Giants like him enough, I'm sure they will instead announce a new deal that extends him instead. He would have to have a drastic fall for him to fall below the roughly average pricing in the back half 4 year deal ($21M then is roughly 2 WAR). So basically the Giants are making a huge bet that his arm is not going to fall off in the next two years.

According to the press conference, they did an MRI and found nothing wrong, that the flexor problem he had earlier in the year was fully healed.

But this is baseball. Weird health stuff happens. Durham was a rock before we signed him, basically a cripple after, he never reached 150 games again, and the only reason he got to 140 was because of PH or he would start and get an AB or two before bowing out. Pence had the longest consecutive game playing streak when he went down and missed most of 2015 due to two injuries.

Here's how I see the deal. He's relatively healthy, enough for the Giants doctors to OK him. So 2016 should be OK, and reportedly, his decline with KC was due to catcher, which should not be a problem with Posey. Even with that, he was at 4 WAR for the season, and that's $32-34M produced. At $23M per season, that's roughly 3 WAR pricing, so if he produces 2 WAR in season 2 while healthy, we got what we paid for, and he would opt out, because with us it's only 4 seasons left, and he probably can get at least 5 years (since he's healthy enough to produce 2 WAR).

More likely, since he's been relatively healthy over his career, with just the lat strain in 2013 and the elbow hiccup (reportedly healed) in 2015, he should deliver, say, 4 WAR in 2016, 3 WAR in 2017, and that would be enough for him to opt-out and expect a 5 year, $30M deal like Greinke's.

At that point, the Giants should still have Bumgarner and Samardzija, both going strong, Peavy is gone, and probably replaced by Blackburn, Cain would either be good to go and have some Hudson years or gone, and hopefully two from Heston, Beede, Bickford, Johnson, Stratton, Coonrod, Mejia, Blach, Crick would be ready to man two rotation spots.

And if Cueto is healthy, good in the clubhouse, and produces to prior levels (near 5 WAR; these are all fWAR, he has actually out performed his peripherals in past, so you could tack on 1-2 WAR in terms of actual production), maybe they decide to keep him (but given Baer's comments about deals over 5 years not being good, I doubt it; as noted, the odds favor this deal being only a two year bargain deal for the Giants if Cueto is healthy, and if healthy, produces like before).

And great observation about his deal replacing Cain's deal as the "Zito".

obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

I believe in Cain, and I believe Peavy will miss part of the year, enabling Heston to get a fair number of starts in his place. Luckily, with Heston around, they are not going to risk any Peavy starts, hopefully, if he's not 100%, unlike last year's "I'm healthy" starts at the start of the year that imploded for Peavy. And I would not be surprised if Blackburn gets a chance at some point too, if Peavy is struggling with health.

Cain is reported to be healthy now. And he noted his issues dealing with his "new" body during the season, and how that was finally all gone in his last start, which was good. It gets back to what I've pointed out before, how there's two modes of mechanics, learning mode and muscle memory mode, and he was in learning mode most of the season, but finally in muscle memory mode in his last start. So I believe he will be the best 5th ever, and even challenge to add a 4th top of rotation guy under 3 ERA to Bumgarner, Cueto, and Samardzija. In fact, I believe in that happening more than I believe we can get Shark under 3.00 ERA, like he was in 2014.

And this is key because if these four do end up good #1, #2 starters, that pushes Peavy into long relief in the playoffs (if four top of rotation starters, we are in! :^), where he's never had a really good start ever.

nomisnala said...

Very possible, analysis, but very optimistic. More optimistic on Cain than on Cueto. Not sure how the muscle memory from early October will translate into next April. On pre-season paper, the upside potential is very good

obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

I didn't explain it right.

Cain said that all season long, he was never comfortable because he was dealing with aches and pains from the surgery and recovery. He never was able to throw like he did before until that last start, that's when he was able to throw from the muscle memory of years of pitching baseball. That's a good sign to me,

But that's my opinion. And I do realize that it's optimistic, much as I was last season, wrongly. I'm doubling down. :^)

obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

Just to be clear, my optimism over 2016 has nothing to do with my optimism for Cain. My assumption has been that Cain is a wild card, not sure what to expect, but that's doable when you got 2-3 guys who can be horses, much like we survived 2009-2012 fine with 2-3 horses. Peavy is fine as well, because we have Heston and Blackburn in backup, and by mid-season, we could trade for an upgrade.

And that's how we won in 2009-2012, with great pitching and fielding but poor hitting.

However, now we got great hitting to boot, so I'm really optimistic about the season, barring injuries. I predicted great things for the team last season. And it was true for the games Pence started, they went 34-17. Unfortunately he was injured the rest of the time, and so was a lot of the lineup.

So I understand your skitishness about weaknesses in the lineup, but the vast majority of the missed time were not recurring, they were random crap that happens in a baseball season. And really, you can drive yourself crazy if you think you can cover for all that by getting another good player, because then life will deal you a stacked hand against you and throw another two guys on the DL.

Better for the Giants to do their best with what they got, and see how it works out, and let it be by letting it go, you can't cover for every contingency, no matter how many rabbit foots you rub. But the Giants have done good, they have put together a great team: good offense, good defense, good bullpen, and now good starting rotation. Now lets see what fate deals us/them.

Zo said...

So now the doggers deal for Iwakuma fell through and he has re-signed with Seattle? What's up with that?

Ron said...

LA decided that they didn't like something in his physical - apparently, it scared them off from a 3-year commitment. Seattle, who didn't want to lose him anyway, signed him for 1 year w/ options for 2 more.

So far, LA's off-season has been somewhat comical w/ the loss of Greinke & the Chapman & Iwakuma deals both falling through. Hopefully, they will continue to make poor decisions.

campanari said...

Or, in keeping with the Lies, Ambiguities, and Deceits that LAD stands for, they are pretending medical problems with Iwakuma so as to rid themselves of him in preparation for a trade for Carrasco or Sale . . .x

M.C. O'Connor said...

A fond farewell to Ryan Vogelsong. He did a great job in the orange-and-black, a crucial part of two championship teams. I hope we don't have to watch him pitch against the Giants this year!

nomisnala said...

Vogelsong was fun watch. Great intensity.

nomisnala said...

The best upside would be that Cueto has one of his excellent years, The Shark turns into Jason Schmidt, Cain becomes the old Cain, Peavy consistently gives the giants six good innings, and Bumgarner continues to pitch well and throws a lot of inning with a below 3.00 ERA.

obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

Perhaps not lie on part of LA. Mariners originally offered two years, $30M guaranteed but in new contract, only $12M is. Appears to be long term health concern involved according to article I read.

obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

Nice if we can get best, but even last season, Cueto was worth 4 WAR and Shark was averaging 2.7 WAR in prior years, Peavy is covered by Heston WHEN he's down but generally been good otherwise, and Cain is covered by Blackburn should he fail, plus Giants rotation and pitching staff has survived in past with huge variable in #5 slot. Anything good he can give is gravy.