Saturday, December 20, 2014

Hot Stove Update: AJ Preller Blows Up the Hot Stove

New San Diego Padres GM, AJ Preller, likes to watch the fire grow after throwing another log on.  Yesterday, something snapped and he just kept throwing log after log in until the old Hot Stove couldn't contain it anymore and the thing just blew up!  That's all figuratively speaking, of course, but oh my!  A day after the Matt Kemp trade was finalized, Preller quadrupled down on RH power hitters by acquiring Justin Upton from the Braves for a package of prospects.  He also sent recently acquired veteran C Ryan Hanigan to the Red Sox for 3B Will Middlebrooks and sent of a couple of very promising young pitchers to the A's for C Derek Norris.

The common denominator in all these Padres deals is the acquisition of RH power to the point of selling out everything else for it.  The Padres now have a projected starting OF of Kemp, Upton and Myers.  Who is going to play CF out of that bunch?  Kemp is going to want to, but can he?  Myers played some CF in the minors, but nobody thinks of him as a MLB CF.  Upton has never played there, so he's out.  There is some speculation that Myers might move to 1B or that Preller might flip him to Texas for Jurickson Profar who would become the Padres SS if he can stay healthy.

The Padres already had decent options at 3B in Cory Spangenburg and Yangervis Solarte.  Middlebrooks joins that mix as an all or nothing power hitter who is not much of a fielder.  Derek Norris is also a guy who can jerk the ball out to LF and his BA has improved over the last 3 seasons.  Norris' defense came under criticism after the Royals ran wild in the Wild Card game.

Beyond that, trying to sort out who will be starting where for the Padres and who will be a reserve and who will be shopped out gives me a gigantic headache.  As for the Braves, they seem to be burning the ship down to the water line.  Fried may be a legitimate pitching prospect, but is coming off TJ.  The other prospects look more suspect to me.  Billy Bean made a nice haul for Norris as both Hahn and Alvarez are legitimate pitching prospects who both broke in last year.  Hahn went 7-4 with a 3.07 ERA in 12 starts for the Padres last year and Alvarez is a hard throwing RHP with a good shot at eventually being a MLB closer.

In other news, the Marlins acquired Martin Prado from the Yankees for RHP Nathan Eovaldi.  Prado will play 3B for Florida after Casey McGehee got sent to the Giants.  Prado is nice player, but Miami might have been better off to just keep McGehee and Eovaldi.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Hot Stove Update: Giants Fill 3B Hole With Casey McGehee

The Giants filled their 3B hole today with a reported trade for Casey McGehee from the Marlins.  McGehee has had an up and down career including a stint in Japan in 2013.  He is coming off a return season to MLB in which he had a solid BA for the Marlins but almost no power.  He was a late bloomer who got started on his MLB career late so is still arbitration eligible at the age of 32.  MBLTR estimates that he will make $3.5 M through arbitration this year.  After initial rumors had the Giants shipping out Matt Duffy and/or Hunter Strickland, they ended up giving the Marlins RHP's Kendry Flores and Luis Castillo.  I had Flores at #21 in my preliminary Top 50 prospect list with Castillo as an Honorable Mention at best.  Flores has displayed solid K rates with very low BB's indication plus command at an early stage of development.  On the other hand, he has been more hittable than you would like from a top pitching prospect.  Flores has probably been passed by both Keury Mella and Michael Santos in rankings of Giants pitching prospects.

McGehee was not what I had in mind for the 3B position, but you could argue he was the best available 3B after Chase Headley was taken off the market.  McGehee comes dirt cheap compared to Headley and Headley is not without his risks, so this is a low risk deal for the Giants which could pay decent dividends.  If it allows some flexibility to fill other needs, either in the offseason or in midseason, it is even better.

McGehee's batting line last year was .287/.355/.357, 29 2B, 4 HR, 4 SB, 9.7% BB, 14.8% K, 177 H, 691 PA.  Just for a point of reference, McGehee had the 13'th most hits in MLB last year.  In fact, his nickname in Miami was Hits McGehee!  His OBP would have been second on the Giants after Buster Posey, his 29 doubles would have tied for 2'nd with Hunter Pence.  His 56 Runs would have been 4'th on the team and his 76 RBI's would have been 3'rd.  The question of course is whether he can sustain that level of production. It came with a BABIP of .335.

Hot Stove Update: Giants To Re-Sign Jake Peavy

The Giants apparently threw in the towel on signing a frontline starter and will instead bring Jake Peavy back on a 2 year/$24 M deal.  The deal calls for a $4 M signing bonus with $7 M in 2015 and $13 M in 2016.  As we all know, Peavy came to the Giants in a midseason trade with the Boston Red Sox last year for Edwin Escobar and Heath Hembree.  At the time, it looked like a too little, too late trade as the Giants had several other holes to fill.  The headline deadline deals were being made by Billy Beane across the bay.  As it turned out, Joe Panik filled a huge hole at 2B and Peavy stepped into the gap left by Matt Cain's early departure to the DL and the Giants season was saved.  Peavy turned out to be the single biggest impact acquisition out of the deadline trades.  His pitching line after joining the Giants was 5-4, 2.17, 78.2 IP, 17 BB, 58 K.

Part of his turnaround with the Giants was undoubtedly due to ballpark differences between SF and Boston and the NL West and the AL East.  Dave Righetti also helped him with some mechanics tweaks, emphasized establishing the FB on the inside corner which opened up the outside half of the plate to his breaking stuff which he threw more often.  His changeup also improved noticeably.  Peavy's postseason performance was disappointing and may have hurt his market value this offseason.  I thought he looked a bit gassed in the postseason which might be explained by his 202 IP in 2014 compared to 144 in 2013.  He also had a thumb injury prior to WS Game 6 which only lasted a couple of innings.

If you compare this deal to the ones given out to the likes of Jason Hammel, Edinson Volquez and Brandon McCarthy, it looks pretty good from the Giants perspective.  It would be foolish to expect Peavy to replicate last year's August and September for a full season, but he should be solid pitching in he NL West.  The dollars are not going to constrain the Giants from acquiring other players they may need in the future and it avoids a risky, big money, longterm commitment.

I assume this means the James Shields talks are dead and the Giants will keep their first round draft pick, which makes me very happy, although the backloading of the contract into 2016 suggests the Giants may have something else up their sleeve for 2015.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Hot Stove Update: Giants Re-Sign Sergio Romo; Wild Three-Way Trade and More

The Giants finally made their first significant move of the offseason and, wait for it, they re-signed Sergio Romo to a 2 year/$15 M contract.  It might be a slight overpay, but considering MLBTR had him pegged for 3 years/$21 M, it's probably a pretty good one in the current FA environment.  Romo had some struggles mid-season as he started hanging his slider a bit too often and lost his closer role, but finished strong and was again a solid contributor in the postseason.  This signing gives the Giants a solid 5 in the bullpen with Casilla, Affeldt, Machi and Lopez.  Yusmeiro Petit will presumably move back to his long-man/6'th starter role after the Giants acquire another starter.  That would leave 1 spot open to competition among Hunter Strickland, Eric Cordier, George Kontos and others.

Whether this impacts the Giants search for another high profile starter remains to be seen.  If the Giants have a self-imposed salary cap equal to the luxury tax threshold, then it would seem to put a cramp in efforts to land a James Shields, Max Scherzer or Cole Hamels.  With a large chunk of payroll coming off the books after 2015, the Giants may decide they can go above the threshold for 1 season then go back down below it next year.

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The Padres, Rays and Nationals completed a wild 3-team trade that just may have been won by the Nationals even though they were apparently latecomers to the deal.

The Padres get OF Wil Myers, RHP's Gerardo Reyes and Jose Castillo and veteran C Ryan Hanigan.  This is kind of an all or nothing trade for the Padres as they role the dice on Myers, who has a huge upside, but is coming off an injury and slump plagued season with the Rays.  As for the Rays, they were willing to sell low on the guy who cost them 2 good years of James Shields, so that may tell you something right there.  The deal is contingent on Myers passing his physical with the Padres.  Hanigan is being brought in to mentor and take pressure off Austin Hedges who will likely move up to the MLB club in the wake of Rene Rivera leaving in this trade after Yasmani Grandal got moved to the Dodgers in the Matt Kemp trade.

The Rays get C Rene Rivera, RHP Burch Smith and 1B/DH Jake Bauers from the Padres, and OF Steven Souza and LHP Travis Ott from he Nationals.  Rivera had a breakout season last year at the age of 31.  He recently had an article written about him in The Hardball Times featuring his pitch framing technique which resulted in a lot of extra strikes for the Padres last year if you believe in those measurements.  I am not impressed with Burch Smith.  Bauers looks like a good hitter, but he is still in the lower minors.  Souza is an interesting case.  He's bit long in the tooth for a prospect at age 25, but he has put up the kinds of numbers in the minors that make sabermetric enthusiasts drool with power, speed, great walk rates and manageable K rates under 20%.  I would not be shocked if Souza turns into a better hitter than Wil Myers!  Ott is a big LHP in the lower minors.  This may not be as bad a haul for the Rays as it looks at first glance as Souza and Rivera will help right away and there is younger talent to boot.

The Nationals get RHP Joe Ross and SS Trea Turner from the Padres.  This is a huge win for the Nationals as they trade a blocked OF, albeit a good one, for a first round draft pick and obvious replacement for Ian Desmond who they are rumored to be trying to trade.  Since Turner was drafted just last year, he will have to be a PTBNL and will not come to the Nationals until after the 2015 draft in June.  The Nationals also get a high ceiling pitcher who is much closer to the majors than the guy they gave up, Ott.

On a side note, the Matt Kemp trade to the Padres appears to have hit a snag, possibly having to do with Kemp's physical.  It is unclear if this trade has anything to do with the Kemp situation.  Obviously, the Padres are denying that it does.

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The KC Royals agreed to terms with RHP Edinson Volquez for 2 years/$20 M.  Interesting since he will be replacing James Shields who the Giants are rumored to be trying to sign since the Giants could have signed Volquez as a FA.  I like this deal for the Royals, although Volquez has admittedly  had his ups and downs and his success last year appears to be largely BABIP driven.

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The Mariners traded for another player who I think could have helped the Giants, Justin Ruggiano.  Ruggiano is an OF with enough defensive chops to play CF and has some pop and speed from the right side of the plate.  He would make a nice platoon partner for the LH hitting Gregor Blanco at the least. All the Mariners gave to the Cubs in the deal is a relatively low level pitching prospect.

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Last but not least, Michael Morse signed a 2 year/$16 M deal with the Marlins.  He will likely play mostly 1B for the Marlins.  Sounds like a good deal for him.  Wish him the best.  He was a good Giant.  He didn't really have a place to play with the Giants as they had given up on him as an OF and there is no room at 1B.

What do you think of these moves?

Scouting the 2015 Draft: Ashe Russell

Ashe Russell is a HS RHP from Indiana.  He has a prototypical pitching prospect's body at 6'4", 195 lbs with oodles of room to fill out.  He's got a long, loose arm.  He throws both a 4 seam and 2 seam FB in the 91-94 MPH range topping out at 96.  He adds a plus slider which he uses as a put away pitch and a changeup that is also a plus pitch at times.  He maintains velocity deep into games.

On video, he looks like he puts a considerable load into the elbow with a hint of the dreaded inverted W which may be a concern in terms of future injury.  The delivery is 3/4 to low 3/4.

BA and Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs both have him ranked as the #14 draft prospect going into 2015.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Hot Stove Update: Giants Remain Quiet As Options Dwindle

We have not heard a peep out of the Giants camp since the Lester deal went south, or north depending on your point of view.  Meanwhile several players who have been mentioned as free agent options went off the board yesterday in a new flurry of activity around the Hot Stove.

Melky Cabrera signed a 3 year/$42 M deal with the White Sox.  Cabrera was looking for a 5 year deal so apparently settled.  At one point the Giants were thought to be interested in bringing Melky back to play LF.  Melky is 30 years old which makes this a nice deal for the White Sox.  On the other hand, he is a negative defender and has to pretty much hit .300 to contribute on offense.  He also would have cost the Giants a first round draft pick to sign him.  No great loss here.

Chase Headley agreed to a 4 year/$52 M deal with the Yankees with a chance to earn an extra $1 M each year if he makes 550 PA's.  Headley was the last viable replacement for Pablo Sandoval left on the market.  This is one I personally wanted for the Giants.  He has out-produced Pablo by fWAR every year for the last 3 years and just signed for barely over half Pablo's cost.  He does have his warts. He has had back issues and went through a prolonged slump at the plate which he seemed to come out of in the second half last year.  Maybe the Giants really weren't that into him or maybe he just wanted to remain a Yankee.  IMO, it's a good deal for the Yanks and one the Giants may come to wish they had topped.

Jed Lowrie agreed to a 3 year/$23 M deal with the Houston Astros.  Again, there was talk of the Giants signing Lowrie and moving him to 3B.  Lowrie's camp went so far as to signal his willingness to move.    I believe Houston is his hometown and he will get to play SS there.  His downside is his lengthy injury history.

Alex Rios agreed to a 1 year/$11 M deal with the KC Royals.  Rios had a down year in 2014 largely due to a thumb injury and is looking to rebuild his value on a 1 year deal.  This is a couple of $M more than I thought he might get, but still a nice risk/reward for KC.  On the downside, Rios' D has been slipping which might be less likely to come back than the bat.

Michael Morse is rumored to be close to a 2 year deal with the Marlins.  A bit of a surprise he would not go to an AL team where he could DH.  The Marlins have an opening for at least a platoon at 1B where his D is not nearly the liability that it is in LF.  The bat is good enough for 1B.  Happy for Morse if this is true.  Wish him the best.  He was a good Giant!

Where this all leaves the Giants is unclear, but they are looking more and more like they are up a creek without a paddle.  They are presumably in negotiations with James Shields who will likely overpriced, at least in number of years and will cost the first round draft pick.  At this point, I don't think Shields alone is enough of a difference maker to be worth losing the draft pick.  Shields just seems like the pitching version of Aaron Rowand to me.  I would rather go after Edinson Volquez who looks like he would cost about a 2 year/$18-20 M.  He's had his ups and downs but is still relatively young and still has good stuff.

As I mentioned, there are no obvious 3B options left on the market.  They might consider signing Gordon Beckham on the cheap and letting him compete for the 3B job, although he is not a clear upgrade on internal options.  They might be able to swing a deal with Boston for  Brock Holt or for my White Whale, Garin Cecchini.  Chris Johnson in Atlanta is probably available by trade, but it's pretty tough to get too excited about him.

As for LF, they might try to revive the Justin Upton talks but he would be costly and they would be only getting him for 1 year.  Besides, Upton is on record as hating AT&T Park.  They might be better off just going with Blanco as a stopgap until one of Carbonell, Williamson or Horan are ready.  Again, it seems  like Gary Brown should get a decent look somewhere in all this, not that he deserves it.

Man!  It may all still work out in the end, but so far, this offseason is looking like a disaster!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Community Question: Is Gary Brown Still a Top 50 Giants Prospect?

Hey team!  I'm hard at work on the annual Top 50 Giants Prospects for 2015 and the usual thorny questions come up.  It's always hard to compare pitchers with hitters, power guys vs speed guys, AAA prospects with low ceilings vs rookie ball prospects with high ceilings.  One this year that has me a bit flummoxed is what to do with Gary Brown.  He seems so close, but at the same time, so far away.  He seems to have no support from the organization and no clear path to the majors.  Where would you rank Gary Brown?  Is he even a Top 50 prospect anymore?  Yes or No and please defend your answer.

Bonus Question:  Same question for slightly different reasons for Adam Duvall.