With that comes the first rush of business that the Giants took in the post season. They signed three players to minor league contracts, two oldies, one newbie: Kyle Blanks, Ricky Romero, and Jason Johnson (the newbie). Romero and Johnson had been All-Stars not that long ago, but are recovered from injuries and hoping to return to their careers. In particular, Johnson is being viewed as a potential reliever (Schulman). Plus, they released Tony Sanchez, outrighting him to AAA, freeing up a 40-man spot.
There currently are 35 spots taken, assuming all the free agents on the list leaves: Casilla, Lopez, Romo, Nathan, Beckham (I think he's a free agent), Blanco, Pagan. I believe we still control Suarez and Hernandez. I'm not sure who are the five players who will be added out of the prospects, but the Rule 5 draft happens in early December, at the Winter Meetings, if I remember right, so the news will be out in a couple of weeks.
More importantly, they quickly picked up Matt Moore's option for 2017 at $7M (Pavlovic; Schulman; SFGiants). We still have options for 2018 at $9M and 2019 at $10M. He will be 28 YO for the 2017 season (Bumgarner is 27).
Lastly, Greg Holland, who had been amazing as a closer for the Royals from 2011-2014, until TJS at the end of the 2015 season knocked him out for the 2016 season. He's having a showcase soon, in time for free agency (unlike Lincecum's long delayed showcase), and Evans said that the Giants are interested and attending, as will other teams (Pavlovic). He's 31 YO. Evans also noted that closer is his major goal for the off-season (Haft) and that it is great that the Giants have so many options available, both in terms of free agents, as well as one-year and two-year trade options available.
The Cubs are in a real good position to be The Team of the 2010 Decade, with their 2016 title and all the good young players and prospects they have. And they won in spite of Jason Heyward's colossal collapse as an offensive player. But the Giants are not that far off either from continuing to be good, now that they have a rotation of Bumgarner, Cueto, Moore, and Samardzija. If Cainer can consolidate the progress he made in 2016 - he had a nice stretch of dominant starts just before his hamstring injury, the first good stretch that he had had in years - or if Blach shows that his great pitching at the end of the season wasn't a fluke (but remember how we all felt after Heston's great 2015, to help temper those feelings), the Giants should make the playoffs again and be capable of pushing it to the World Series again.
Closing the Deal
But it's going to take a closer to seal the deal. The bullpen is actually in pretty good shape. We have a lot of good pitchers who might actually be closers in the future: Law, Strickland, Okert, Osich (plus Smith, Guerrin, and Kontos). But Cueto is only here for another year, potentially, and so we need a closer for 2017.
Holland would be an interesting choice if he's anywhere near what he was before. Heck, even if he's not quite what he was before, that would still be better than our closer situation that we have had since BWeez, probably, he was that good (1.86 ERA from 2011-2014; even including 2015 his ERA was a stupendous 2.15 ERA). Given that he's just recovered and hasn't pitched against live MLB hitters in a game that matters, he most likely will be facing a "prove it" one year deal (which he'll want to leverage into a long term deal), and that's exactly what the Giants would love to get, as that allows them to try him out for 2017, and if he's good, they can try to sign him long-term, and if not (or he's too expensive), it's just one year and our young relievers will have another year of experience under their belt and perhaps ready for more responsibility in the bullpen (particularly Law and Okert).
I could also see a trade happening, particularly for a one-year rental/tryout (a la Nen). We have some trade pieces that could be valuable to other teams, including Heston, Blach, Nunez, relievers with MLB experience, and a ton of pitching prospects. Much like how we bundle some current value (Susac, Duffy) along with potential (Bickford, Fox, Santos), that is how the Giants could get a "proven" closer in the trade market for 2017.
Moore is More
Matt Moore was a steal to me when the trade happened, and it continues to be. Some may point out his poor 4.08 ERA, but in 12 starts, SSS, it was skewed greatly by having to pitch in Colorado, which skews most pitcher's numbers. Of course, everyone will need to pitch there at some point, but for this exercise, we are trying to see what his real value as a starter is, without a random Colorado bad start messing up his overall stats. In his other 11 starts, the results were as good as expected: 3.43 ERA, 9.3 K/9, 2.62 K/BB, .306 OBP, .300 SLG, and .606 OPS, with a very average .294 BABIP. Just like we need to view Belt's stats in light of the fact that AT&T depresses his production, we need to see how Moore normally produces to appreciate his full value.
And, as I stated before, this is nothing against the players we gave up in the trade: Duffman, Lucius Fox, or Michael Santos. Duffman will produce good cheap value for the Rays for at least his defense, and perhaps with his offense, particularly since they might be playing him at SS. But given that he was not that highly valued as a prospect, I feel like the Giants sold high on him. Fox is the $12M prospect (Giants paid him $6M and about $6M in penalties to get him), struggling with his first season as a pro, but most do, and he still has his superlative speed and good bat skills that might still greatly develop. But the window is now, and Fox most probably is at least 3-5 years away from producing, and we need good players now, while our core of Bumgarner, Posey, Belt, Crawford, Panik, and now Moore and Smith, are still young and/or in their prime, and not on their downside (though that could be coming soon, as Posey and Crawford are 30 YO next season, and Belt is 29). Same for Santos, he's a few years away, at best, and given his lack of pedigree, may never develop into MLB value.
For that bundle of average production, potential and long off value, we get a SP in Moore who could become ace level performance (he's done it once before, in 2013, and showed that potential with the Giants). In the 12 games he started for us, he had a 67% DOM/17% DIS, which is nearly elite level production (I've defined 70%+ plus under 20% as elite), as well as his 9.1 K/9. He also delivered a DOM start in the playoffs.
He walks more than one would like, but that is mainly because he's pulling a Rueter by avoiding RHH power, which trades off a lot of walks to RHH, but reducing their SLG from league average of .413 to .389, and ISO from league average of 159 to 147, over his career (and I'm using NL league averages even though most of his stats is AL). With the Giants, his SO% was 23.9%, high for his career, average 21.7%, and 22.3% in his best season (2013). And groundballs galore: GB/FB of 0.72 with Giants, vs. 0.64 career, vs. 0.66 in 2013; GO/AO of 0.85 vs. 0.80 career, vs. 0.87 in 2013.
Lots of strikeouts (9+ K/9) plus a good number of ground outs (though that could be improved some; perhaps Righetti can do his magic with Moore like he has with the Giants staff for years now, as Fangraphs noted how the Giants team, even with adjustments, prevents homers at a greater rate than the mean of 10% HR/FB that every pitcher is supposed to regress to) is what you want to see from a pitcher, especially a starting pitcher. And he's equally good vs. both sides of hitters:
- RHH: .242/.325/.389/.714, 147 ISO, .295 BABIP, 32.6 HR/AB
- LHH: .241/.315/.364/.678, 123 ISO, .278 BABIP, 37.1 HR/AB
That is great to have in the #3 spot, and most teams would love to have that in their #2 spot. Our rotation should be close to the great 2011's rotation, particularly if Cain or Blach comes through. 2017 is very promising just from this standpoint.
Rule 5 Draft
Unlike recent years, when the Giants lost players either to Rule 5 (Biagini) or DFA (Smith, Hall), there is not a lot to lose, it seems, this season. From what I understand, college players drafted in 2013 and high school players drafted in 2012 are eligible to be drafted via Rule 5 if not on the 40 man. The only names that caught my eye are Dan Slania, Chase Johnson, and Tyler Rogers, who is in the AFL, as there were no HS draftees in 2012 who are interesting. In fact, the only HS draftee retired after the 2015 season (Shilo McCall). Martin Agosta, Jake McCasland, Tyler Horan, and Chase Johnson are other possibilities, but no sure things in this bunch, and probably unlikely.
I think Slania is a sure thing, and Johnson and Rogers are strong possibles, and the others are possibles, but unlikely because the Giants need at least one spot for a closer to sign/trade, plus perhaps another spot for a reliever, and another spot for a veteran LF to compete with Williamson and Parker for starting LF position. With Slania and one of the other two, there goes the five spots open on the 40-man roster.