Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Old and New

The Giants dipped a toe into the Asian baseball market by signing Korean free agent Jae-gyun Hwang to a minor-league deal. He's a slugging 3B/SS type, is 29 years young, and has ten seasons of KBO experience. This looks like a high reward/low risk venture for the Giants: power bat, infield depth. Could be a fresh face on the big club this year--we'll see what happens with Ehire Adrianza, Kelby Tomlinson, and Jimmy Rollins. I've been expecting Conor Gillaspie to be the hot corner backup and/or platoon partner for Eduardo Nunez, but a good showing by Hwang in Spring Training could mean a shake-up. I will not attempt to guess at what this guy can do, but we know that Korean ballplayers are serving notice in MLB and it's exciting for Giants fans to get in on the action. Not to mention Hwang is coming from the Lotte Giants! They sport orange-and-black and play in Busan. History buffs may recall the "Pusan Perimeter" from the Korean War--that was the previous Westernized spelling of Busan, a port city in southeast Korea. "Lotte" is a multinational conglomerate, teams in Korea are named for the businesses that own them. He looks good in the colors, wouldn't you say?

One of the stalwarts of our team's recent run of success has been outfielder Gregor Blanco who became a free agent after this past season. He signed a minor-league deal with Arizona last month. Blanco was an average hitter at best but a defensive wizard and his speed on the bases and little-ball skills made him a very valuable guy. He made important contributions to two World Series teams. When the Giants lost left fielder Melky Cabrera to a suspension in 2012 the unsung Blanco took over and made the transition seamless. In 2014 he took over center field from the injured Angel Pagan and delivered once again. He made a lot of great plays but the most famous one of course was snagging a ball to save Matt Cain's perfect game. I'd say he earned his rings. Good luck, Gregor, and thanks for everything!

Twenty days until pitchers and catchers report.


Thursday, January 12, 2017


Santiago Casilla pitched brilliantly for the San Francisco Giants for seven years and was a key part of a dominant bullpen that helped nail down three World Series titles. Check out the bWAR totals (2010-2016): 1.7, 1.4, 0.5, 1.1, 2.0, 1.1, 0.8. Not bad for a guy who pitched less than 65 innings per season. And his post-season work was also excellent: 19-2/3 IP, 15 H, 20 K, 5 BB, only three runs allowed in 25 appearances. We are left with the bitter taste of last season's failures, but closing out wins was a team-wide problem, much of it due to the end of the Core Four. Jeremy Affeldt retired and neither Sergio Romo nor Javier Lopez could conjure up the old magic in 2016.

Casilla returns to his original team, the Oakland A's, on a two-year deal. He's still an effective pitcher and I expect he'll contribute positive value to that club. But the Giants had to move on. All the bullpen roles are up for grabs (other than closer!) and we will finally get to see if the young arms can deliver. Even if Lopez and/or Romo return there's a good chance neither will play as big of a role as they once did. It's a "whole new ballgame" for the Giants relief corps. Thanks for everything, Santiago. Wear those rings proudly, you earned them.

In other news, the Giants avoid arbitration with Conor Gillaspie and sign him to a one-year deal for $1.4M. I think he'll be a useful role player in 2017. It's nice to have a veteran left-handed bat who can play the hot corner. And none of us will forget his post-season heroics!

Pitchers and catchers report in 32 days.