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Offseason Review Chat: San Francisco Giants (3/31/23)
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Steve Adams
Greetings Giants fans! Looking forward to talking about their offseason Friday at noon for me / 10am SF time! Feel free to ask questions in advance, and hopefully you can make it back to join in live!
*** Friday, March 31 ***
Steve Adams
Welcome all! Let's get this underway
Sean Hjelle
Does he have a future on the team?  Is he a longterm starter - albeit likely on the back end? Or is he a bullpen piece at best?
Steve Adams
One second -- I dumbly posted the wrong link to the chat in the post on the site, ha. Fixing quickly
I'm a big Hjelle believer though generally out of the bullpen more than the rotation. His velocity was way up in spring training, in the 97-98 mph range, and he already had a good blend of missed bats, limited free passes and grounders in 2022 -- particularly grounders (59%)
I think Hjelle should and will be up early in the season and can be a major part of that bullpen. The 6'11" frame is always a little scary because there's just such long levers and so many moving parts that you wonder about consistently repeating the delivery, which is why I think he'll work better in shorter stints. And, that huge frame also ups his perceived velocity since he can get above-average extension  on his pitches
Spring stats are always best taken with a grain of salt, absent context, but the fact that Hjelle had a big velo spike and posted strong spring results with an 18-to-2 K/BB ratio in 15 innings is pretty intriguing.
What is your evaluation of Farhan Zaidi's performance wheeling and (not) dealing during the offseason?  A, B, C...?
Steve Adams
On the whole, I found their offseason generally both understandable but a little lacking. I like pretty much every move they made in a vacuum, and I of course understand there's a pronounced difference between risk over a 13-year deal and a bunch of short-term deals. But the optics of backing out on Correa then signing a slew of injury risks instead is less than great.

The Giants need a ton to go right to contend this season, and to that end, I like the individual risks for Conforto, Manaea, Haniger, Jackson, etc. It's just a LOT of risk when you pile them all up, and for a team that came out wanting to get younger and more athletic, well ... they didn't REALLY do that in a meaningful way.

I'm not sure this roster can be expected to perform better than the 2022 roster when you bake in all the added injury risk, and that feels disappointing.
What was the point in acquiring Matt Beaty when I raved about Bryce Johnson during camp?
Steve Adams
I don't really get the Beaty pickup, so I can't speak to it. I'm sure Zaidi knows him well from his Dodgers tenure and there's probably some elements of his approach and batted-ball data that speak to the front office, but it's a generally low-upside move. I imagine Johnson will still get to the big leagues and still get 300-400 PAs because injuries, lackluster performances, etc. always come into play and lead to roster turnover. I still agree with Giants fans that it felt odd to immediately push him down to AAA after a big spring and singing his praises.
Your thoughts on letting Evan Longoria go. Does he still have something left for the Dbacks?
Steve Adams
I understand the move in the sense of their stated goal of getting younger and wanting to get a look at David Villar (typed Jonathan for a second there, ha).

Keeping him at the price he wound up commanding ($4MM) would've been perfectly defensible in a vacuum, but perhaps not with respect to the front office's broader goals.

Longo kind of faded down the stretch last year, but he was still making hard contact at high levels for much of the season and is still a genuine threat against left-handed pitching. He's not the star player he once was, but as a part-time DH/occasional corner infielder in Arizona, I think he can be productive.
Just don't play him against righties that much
Sabean Wannabe
Any rumors whether the Giants were offered an opportunity to match/beat the Correa offer?  Gotta think 6/$200 is gonna work out well for Minnesota.
Steve Adams
Boras wouldn't be doing his job if he told any team, "all right, you're out now -- you missed your chance." Farhan Zaidi suggested right around the new year that it was unlikely the Giants would circle back:

By that point, there was concern among the Mets' camp regarding Correa's physical as well, so you have to imagine Zaidi was aware that the 13-, 12-year terms etc. might end up being reduced.

They still never seemed to circle back. I don't know whether that's because the physical put them off entirely or because they didn't want to offer the type of AAV the Twins wound up committing on the six-year deal.
As for the deal itself, I like it for the Twins and think it would've been a worthwhile risk for the Giants to try to engineer something similar or edge them out. That didn't happen, of course.
Cheever J. Loophole
Longoria has a bigger injury risk than some of the guys you you criticize Zaidi for signing.
Steve Adams
Sure. I said $4MM for him is defensible, not that the Giants should've absolutely matched it or anything. Again, it all comes down to context. Signing him for a year at that price is fine for any team. I'm not necessarily critical of any individual move the Giants made -- I just think they took on a lot of injury risk without getting younger the extent that they hoped. Longoria would've run counter to that goal as I said. I get why they let him go and think the decision to do so was fine.
Is there ANY chance for ohtani?
Steve Adams
I don't see why not. I understand the doom-and-gloom feeling after missing out on Harper a few years ago and now Judge and Correa, but the Giants are a deep-pocketed, major market team who can make Ohtani a ridiculous offer if they so choose.

They have $102MM on the books in 2024. That's $90MM less than their current payroll and more than $100MM less than their all-time record.

And that number will drop if/when some combination of Conforto, Manaea and Stripling opt out. They showed the willingness to pay Judge up until his 40th birthday and to go 13 years for Correa (and 12 for Harper).

I'd be more surprised if they DIDN'T factor prominently into his market. It's way too soon to predict where Ohtani might land, but I expect the Giants to legitimately pursue him and they have the money, payroll space and ostensible risk tolerance for superstar players to be a real contender for him.
Robb Nen
Is there a better closer in baseball than Camilo Doval?
Steve Adams
I don't think Doval gets the love he deserves. I wouldn't call him the best closer in MLB; a healthy Edwin Diaz probably gets that nod, and Emmanuel Classe is otherworldly himself. Doval's raw stuff is crazy though, and if he can cut back on his walks a bit this season -- he was over 10% last year -- he's in that conversation. He's already very good as it is though.
Who can the Giants target via trade/free agency next offseason if the Bart project doesn’t work out?
Steve Adams
This is our list of closers from our 2023-24 Free Agent List:

Jorge Alfaro (31)
Tucker Barnhart (33) – player option
Victor Caratini (30)
Curt Casali (35) – $2.5MM club option with a $750K buyout
Travis d’Arnaud (35) – $8MM club option
Mitch Garver (33)
Yan Gomes (36) – $6MM club option with a $1MM buyout
Yasmani Grandal (35)*
Austin Hedges (31)
Sandy Leon (35)
Luke Maile (33)
Martin Maldonado (37)
Tom Murphy (33)
Roberto Perez (35)
Manny Piña (37) – $4MM club option
Kevin Plawecki (33)
Austin Romine (35)
Mike Zunino (33)
It's not a great group. (The * by Grandal indicates he's received a QO before and thus can't a second time, not that he'll be a candidate this time around)
There's some decent short-term options in there but I don't see a long-term solution.
On the trade front, the Reds have the most interesting established option for me, in Tyler Stephenson. He has four years of control remaining, including 2023, so he'd have a steep asking price. I think it'd be hard to pry him loose, but he's a solid defender and very good hitter for the position, and that club control would be worth paying a prospect premium for
On the other side of the coin, the Cardinals have one of the top catching prospects in baseball (Ivan Herrera) and basically just blocked him with a five-year deal for Willson Contreras. I have to imagine that at some point, some team is going to pry Herrera away from the Cardinals, because he's good enough to be a big league starter (albeit without the same offensive upside that Contreras has)
Arm chair GM
The Giants have 6 starters (Manaea, Stripling, Cobb, Webb, Wood & DeSclafani) plus a 7th and 8th in Junis and Jelle. Should they trade one to strengthen other areas?
Steve Adams
You're not even including Harrison in there, and I imagine he'll get a chance sooner than later in 2023. I don't think trading from that depth just because it exists is the way to go, though. A lot of those arms -- Wood, Cobb, Stripling, Manaea, Junis -- can become free agents this offseason.

As I said  earlier, I like Hjelle more out of the 'pen than the rotation anyhow.
If the Giants are out of it in July, then it makes more sense to market Wood, Cobb, Stripling and Manaea, if they're pitching well. But I don't know that a rental of Wood, 1.5 years of Cobb, or the downside of the opt-outs on Manaea/Stripling's contract will create huge trade value, either.
They can get some talent back, but it's not going to be a franchise-defining haul or anything.
Let the rookies play!
Do you think David Villar will continue to hit like he did in the minor leagues and during his brief time with the big club last year?
Steve Adams
Not if he can't improve upon his contact skills (or lack thereof). He seemingly had pretty good pitch recognition, as he chased off the plate at a well lower-than-average rate (26.3% to the league-average 32.6%). But even though he's not chasing much, when Villar DOES swing off the plate, his contact rate is 20 percentage points lower than average (43.2% vs. 63.5%), and his in-zone contact rate is similarly (arguably more) troubling: 75% compared to the league-average 85.3%.
His batted-ball profile last year was also pretty weak.. low exit velocity, infrequent hard-hit balls and barrels. If he were chasing a ton of bad pitches and hitting balls he shouldn't be swinging at, that'd be one thing, but he's not chasing at wild amounts and not hitting a lot of those pitches when he does swing.

He needs to improve on his ability both make contact and do damage with the in-zone pitches he SHOULD hit. He had great numbers in Double-A and Triple-A, so I don't necessarily doubt that it's in there, but the version of himself he's shown so far has a lot of problems, and without improvement, I don't think he can even maintain last year's .231/.331/.455 output.
Padre Pete
TIL that Alfaro, Barnhart etc are "closers."
Steve Adams
Ha. Obviously meant to type catchers, whoops.
A Pedant
Does the increase in velocity for Manaea give you any hope that he's more than a back end starter for SF this year?
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