Brian Sabean

Giants free agent predictions that’ll look silly in a few days/weeks/months

SF Giants Jake Peavy

Since the Giants used the Winter Meetings as an avenue to display the lighter side of Bobby Evans, but not as a time to restock their roster, one has to wonder when they’re going to do anything at all. We know they’ll do SOMETHING, but the question is which of two strategies they’ll employ. Will they outbid other teams for the few remaining top free agents, or wait out the market and snag a few players who aren’t getting the offers they expected?

Yep, thanks to California’s tax situation, the Giants’ offers, their sales pitches, or a combination of those elements, there’s been nothing to report. So let’s put a pot of speculation on that hot stove, shall we?

Prediction No. 1: I think they’ll go with the latter strategy (bargain hunting rather than let’s-satisfy-the-fans-and-talk-show-hosts splurging).

Max Scherzer is a Scott Boras client who apparently thinks $200 million is a possibility. That isn’t happening, at least not with Larry Baer’s (OK, Charles Johnson’s) approval. James Shields is dependable, durable and quite good. But he’s 33 years old in a week, and he turned down the Royals’ qualifying offer. Scherzer is also a QO guy. That brings us to my next prediction.

Prediction No. 2: The Giants will hang onto their first round draft pick (No. 19 overall).

The Giants are routinely mocked for having a pathetic farm system (by a lot of the same people who say they should sign a qualifying offer guy because they’re getting the No. 31 pick for losing Pablo Sandoval). Something tells me the Giants want to stockpile draft choices, and that the order to do exactly that has probably come from the executive committee.

“Could things change up the line? Perhaps,” Sabean told me. “We’re not going to be interested in giving up our first-round draft pick, so anybody with a qualifying offer with  first-round draft-pick compensation attached to that, we’re probably not going to be in on.

“So that shrinks the pitchers’ list, and quite frankly, whether it’s through trade or free agency, the ability to get the bat is going to be difficult and may just have to happen over time.”

In that case, “me” was Henry Schulman, and the quotes from Brian Sabean came from last November (2013). Things could certainly change, but why would the organization flip-flop on this issue AFTER winning a World Series? Signing a qualifying offer player is a total “win now” move, and they Giants just won their third trophy.

Prediction No. 3: They’ll re-sign Jake Peavy or Ryan Vogelsong.

Peavy wants to play with Jon Lester, but do the Cubs want Jake Peavy? The Dodgers may want Peavy, and a return to the Padres would make some sense. Generally, Peavy needs to stay in the National League, the Giants need a starting pitcher, and Peavy is probably the most dependable option aside from Scherzer or Shields.

Vogelsong got some interest from the Twins, who signed Ervin Santana. While he and his family have their reasons for wanting to stay in San Francisco, there might be some hesitancy to agree to yet another reunion from one or both sides. Ahmed Fareed seems to think the Giants wouldn’t ask Vogelsong to battle for a job in the rotation, “out of respect.” If that’s true — and I have no reason to believe it isn’t — Vogelsong is probably a possibility only if Peavy signs elsewhere.

Prediction No. 4: A short-term deal with Aaron Harang or Edinson Volquez (if they can’t sign Peavy or Vogelsong).

The Giants have had decent luck with aging pitchers who spent the previous season(s) with the Atlanta Braves. OK, one aging pitcher. Harang isn’t exciting, but he pitched over 200 strong innings last year.

Volquez is said to be seeking a two-year, $20 million deal. He pitched well last year, and fairly decently in 2012, but he somehow finished both 2011 and 2013 with an ERA of 5.71. That would fit in with the Giants’ “every other year” philosophy, although they probably aren’t purposefully punting on odd years. (Although fans may think they are this year, considering their tendency to finish as the runner-up on all of their preferred offseason targets.)

Prediction No. 5: The Giants will sign Mark Reynolds as their new third baseman.

He was one of the several veterans I figured would eventually join the team at some point. There’s still time, but Reynolds signed a one-year deal with the Cardinals on Thursday.

Prediction No. 6: The Giants will sign Jed Lowrie.

Chase Headley might be a little too overpriced for a strikeout machine with a bad back (the Giants don’t want to go four years on Headley), Asdrubal Cabrera has only played 1 1/3 innings at third base in his career, and while Emilio Bonifacio is versatile and can steal bases … he isn’t much of a hitter. Jed Lowrie fits what the Giants do. In other words, he doesn’t strike out a whole lot, he’s a switch hitter, and he can play second base, shortstop and third. And if the Giants aren’t going to sign a mega-FA after failing to land Pablo Sandoval and Jon Lester, they can certainly afford to splurge on Lowrie, who should cost a fair amount more than Bonifacio, but a bit less than Headley.

Prediction No. 7: The Giants will sign Alex Rios … in several weeks.

Call it this year’s Michael Morse signing. Rios’ power dropped off precipitously in 2014 (just four homers), he’s a Scott Boras client, and Jon Heyman says there’s a few teams that aren’t the Giants that have poked around. But as far as potential platoon partners with Gregor Blanco go, the Giants could do a lot worse if the so-called interested teams lose interest. His OPS against lefties was .898 in 2014 and .889 in 2013, and he’s slightly more mobile than Morse.

Prediction No. 8: The Giants will sign a right-handed reliever.

I thought there was no way Sergio Romo would come back after going from closer to setup last season, but the door hasn’t been shut on a possible return. Rafael Soriano is a possibility here — he pitched 2.1 scoreless innings against the Giants in the NLDS and has experience as a closer, a quality that’s prized by Sabean and Bruce Bochy.

Hunch for what the Giants will end up with (in total): Peavy, Lowrie, Rios, Soriano.

And if/when Tim Lincecum falters, Sabean will look at the trade market in July and see what starter he can add. It’s not the sexiest group of offseason signings, but the Giants aren’t going to spend big on one guy just because they put in bids on a few big names. I don’t expect them to, anyway. (Watch them sign Shields an hour after I publish this post.)

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