Team loses 98 games, there’s going to be some new faces.
Last week it was the San Francisco Giants coaching staff’s turn to get an introduction. Today, it’s time to meet the new players in Scottsdale this season. Yesterday was the first day of full squad workouts so everybody should be in camp.
Somehow, the Giants have not had to deal with a strange free agent market. They have managed to stay below the $197 million tax threshold by being smart and making trades to fill needs. It’s not a hard cap, but the Giants have paid tax in the past and it accumulates. This is a way to hit the reset button on the competitive balance tax, or CBT. Nobody can accuse the Giants of tanking or shedding payroll. They are milking every resource available without selling the farm down the line.
So here’s a quick refresher on the new names in camp. The big trades, the grand total of two free agent signings, and a former Giant or two getting another shot with the team on a minor league deal.
Welcome to the Giants
The first addition came by way of a December trade when the Giants acquired 3B Evan Longoria from Tampa. Longoria is the Rays all-time leader with 1435 games played, and pretty much holds the top spot for every statistical category in Tampa Bay history. He leads their franchise in runs scored, home runs, doubles, total bases, walks, intentional walks, and sacrifice flies. Ironically, he’s not the single season leader in any of these categories.
Part of the reason the Rays felt they had to part with Longo is because he was going to become a 5 and 10 guy this season. Meaning, he would have 10 years MLB service time, and 5 years with the same franchise. With that comes the right to veto any trade. It is essentially a no-trade clause. So, with Longoria’s clock just under 10 years service time, the Rays made the move and the Giants get to be the beneficiary. Plus, the Giants unloaded Denard Span’s contract while getting money back from the Rays. I’m still stunned at this. The Rays paid money now so they wouldn’t have to pay Longoria more, later. I like it.
Longoria is 32 years old and under contract through the 2022 season. He won the 2008 AL rookie of the year while helping the Rays to their only pennant and has 3 all-star nods and last year won his first Gold Glove at 3rd base. Longoria will anchor the 3rd base job for a few years and still have some productive years ahead of him. Switching from that awful, nasty turf in Tampa to the lush green grass of California may help Longo’s body with the strain of getting older. I think it’s a solid move for the Giants and like Evan mentions in this interview below with our own Chad King, I look forward to that moment when he does something big at home and the faithful embrace him as a Giant. Playing in front of 40,000 people has its perks.
And that brings us to the other all-star player the Giants acquired this offseason. Andrew McCutchen became a Giant after a January trade with the Pirates that sent 3 players to Pittsburgh. Once again, the Giants received money back in the deal to help keep costs down. I swear, the team is run by wizards.
McCutchen was the face of a Pittsburgh franchise who finally returned to the playoffs in recent years. He won the NL MVP in 2013, and probably could have won the year before if not for a certain guy named Buster Posey. Cutch also has 1 Gold Glove, 4 Silver Sluggers, and is a 5 time all-star. He’s number 4 all-time on the Pirates HR list with 203, behind Roberto Clemente (240) and ahead of Barry Bonds (176). That’s good company.
McCutchen has played mostly CF but will be tackling RF at AT&T Park with Hunter Pence switching over to LF. He talks about Hunter helping the transition and seems quite fond of Pence if you check out the video below. McCutchen still has speed and can hit for power. After 2018, he will be a free agent, and most guys tend to perform well in a contract year. Let’s hope we can see the same from McCutchen. He seems excited about the year ahead and that can only mean good things. Meet your new #22.
Random thought from these 2 videos. Longoria mentions that he thinks if you get enough of a ball, it will go out no matter what. McCutchen compares left-center field in Pittsburgh to Triples Alley at AT&T and recognizes that some balls will not carry. We’ve seen what happens here, some balls are demolished and still they die at the warning track.
There wasn’t much doing on the free agent front. Remember, the Giants were all about creativity with their roster this Hot Stove. On January 22, Austin Jackson signed a 2-year, $6 million dollar deal with the Giants. You may remember Jackson best from the 2012 World Series when he was the starting CF for the Tigers. The last few years he has been a utility outfielder, starting 79 games for the Indians last season. Of those starts, 29 were in LF, 38 in CF, and 12 in RF.
The Giants signed him to start in CF, but another new face in camp could push Jackson back to the utility role. Steven Duggar, the Giants 6th round draft choice in 2015, has been invited to his first camp with the big club. Reports have been that his swing looks good and Duggar had a decent showing in the Arizona Fall league, hitting 3 homers and 3 doubles in 76 at bats. The guess here is, Duggar starts the season in Sacramento and Jackson is the everyday CF. By the end of May though, Duggar should be knocking on the door of the big club.
The Jackson signing provided depth to the outfield and the other free agent signing helped solidify the bullpen. Just the other day the Giants signed left handed reliever Tony Watson to a 2-year deal for $6.5 million with a player option for 2020. It was more creative wizardry from the Giants as they managed to load the contract with incentives and only absorb a $3 million hit to the payroll. I’m telling you, whoever is doing the Giants accounting right now should be nominated for the Willie Mac award this September.
Tony Watson adds depth to a bullpen that has been a bit of a question mark. Reports are Will Smith is out until May 1, so Watson will serve as the primary left-handed set up man for closer Mark Melancon. Watson may just be a Giant because of Melancon. The two are friends and former teammates in Pittsburgh. Last year, Watson got a chance to pitch in the World Seires with LA. Thankfully, he was not the reason they lost.
Fun fact about newly acquired Tony Watson: he won 2 of the 3 games for the Dodgers in the World Series (games 4 and 6). He also made 5 WS appearances and didn’t give up a single earned run.
— TortureCast (@TortureCast) February 17, 2018
Watson’s arrival puts the heat on Josh Osich and Steven Okert. After being traded to LA last season, Watson improved his ground ball rate from 46% to 62%. He did this by mixing in a heavy 2-seam fastball that stayed low in the zone around 94 mph. With the Giants infield, Watson can throw ground balls all day to his heart’s content.
Finally, there’s some old faces returning. Nick Hundley signed a 1-year deal to be the backup catcher once again for the Giants. He was a clubhouse favorite last season, winning the Willie Mac award. Pablo Sandoval is back, and competing for a backup role in the infield. He’s taken reps at both 1st and 3rd base already in camp this year. The bonus with Panda, is he is a no risk player. The Red Sox are still paying 95% of his contract.
Quick, name the guy who started for 2 different Giants title teams but always gets forgotten? Did you think of Gregor Blanco? He’s back with an invite to spring training after spending a year in the DBacks organization and primarily playing a bench role. Hector Sanchez is also returning on a minor league deal with an invite to Scottsdale. The former back up catcher for the Giants will no longer kill his original team with the Padres. Even if Sanchez doesn’t make the big club, he’ll be an asset on the farm.
There’s a few more random names on the list of non roster invitees. Josh Rutledge, a former Rockies infielder is getting a look, along with Chase d’Arnaud, who you may remember from the Mets a few years back as well as former Phillie Andres Blanco.
Who knows if any of those guys crack the roster, but it’s good to see the Giants go out and make some moves to improve upon last year. The big names at the top of this page should help the Giants be a contender in 2018. The other guys are there to try to provide depth to the roster.
37 days until Opening Day.