Big Moves and the Probability of the SF Giants Actually Pulling Them off
The Giants completed deals with two of their own stars, Hunter Pence and Tim Lincecum, prior to either player hitting the free-agent market. However, there is still a lot more work to be done.
The Giants are in the market for two starting pitchers, an outfielder and at least one left-handed relief pitcher.
Let's take a look at some of the moves the Giants will consider and assess the probability of each of them happening.
All stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com.
5. Masahiro Tanaka
The most intriguing pitcher who will likely hit the market is Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka.
Two issues must be worked out in order for Tanaka to sign with a team in the United States.
First, Major League Baseball and the Nippon Professional League must reach a new posting agreement. This establishes the parameters for Japanese players to come to the U.S. Until an agreement is reached, Tanaka will not be able to sign with the Giants, or any other team.
The second issue is Tanaka's contract itself. He had an unbelievable season and is only 25 years of age.
Tanaka pitched for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles and won 24 games without a single defeat. In 212 innings of work, Tanaka allowed 168 hits and 32 walks while striking out 183.
Tanaka's ERA was a miniscule 1.27, and his WHIP an equally impressive 0.943.
Granted, Japanese baseball is not the major leagues, but it is a step above the Triple-A level. Given the success of other Japanese pitching stars like Hideo Nomo, Hiroki Kuroda, Yu Darvish and Koji Uehara, the expectation is that Tanaka will be very successful.
Several teams are interested in Tanaka, including the New York Yankees. The price will be prohibitive for the Giants, and the chances of Sabean being able to sign him are very small.
Probability of Masahiro Tanaka signing with the Giants: 1 percent.
4. Trade for Giancarlo Stanton
The San Francisco Giants are in the market for an outfielder who can hit without being a huge defensive liability. Giancarlo Stanton fits that mold.
Stanton, who just turned 24 years of age, is a massively powerful hitter, and the Giants could move him into their vacant left field spot. Stanton battled injuries in 2013 but will come into the spring healthy.
In 2013, Stanton hit just .249, a career low. In 425 at-bats, he had 24 home runs and 62 RBI. His OBP was a very good .365, with an excellent OPS of .845.
The Miami Marlins will demand a king's ransom for Stanton, but he would be worth it.
The Giants would need to include players who can help Miami now, plus prospects. It would take an offer of something like Brandon Belt, Andrew Susac, Ehire Adrianza and Kyle Crick.
Belt had a breakout season in 2013, with a .289 average, 17 home runs and 67 RBI in 509 at-bats. It would be very hard for the Giants to move Belt, but in order to acquire Stanton, a player of Belt's pedigree must be included.
Susac is the Giants' best catching prospect, and Adrianza is a slick-fielding shortstop. However, with Brandon Crawford ahead of Adrianza, the latter becomes expendable.
Kyle Crick is the one pitching prospect the Giants do not want to trade. He was selected by the Giants in Round 1, No. 49 overall, of the 2011 draft.
In 2013, Crick threw 68.2 innings and allowed only 48 hits, but his walk total of 39 was too high. Crick is a power pitcher and struck out 95. His ERA was 1.57 with a WHIP of 1.267. However, these stats are in Single-A, and Crick needs more development before he will be ready for the big leagues.
The Giants do have other good young arms in the minors, including Clayton Blackburn, Kendry Flores, Josh Osich, Martin Agosta and Chris Stratton. Although trading Crick would be very tough, you must be willing to give in order to receive.
It would be a gamble to trade any of these four players, but Stanton has tremendous talent and that elusive star quality that every team covets. In addition, Stanton is not eligible for free agency until 2017, which would place him under the Giants' control for at least the next three seasons.
Probability of the Giants acquiring Giancarlo Stanton: 5 percent.
3. Sign James Loney and Move Brandon Belt to Left Field
The free-agent outfield market is very thin, especially considering the top five free-agent outfielders all received qualifying offers from their original clubs. Carlos Beltran, Shin-Soo Choo, Nelson Cruz, Curtis Granderson and Jacoby Ellsbury were all tendered qualifying offers.
This virtually takes each of these players off the market for the Giants. In addition to having to offer a sizable contract, the Giants would give up their first-round pick in the 2014 amateur draft if they signed any of these outfielders. It is very unlikely that Sabean would do that.
This brings us to the next level of available outfielders. Players like Nate McLouth, Mike Morse, Chris Young, Rajai Davis, Marlon Byrd, David Murphy, Raul Ibanez and Franklin Gutierrez make up this next tier.
None of these players are particularly exciting, and all come with some sort of shortcoming in their games. Whether it is age, a history of injuries, poor defensive skills or an inconsistent bat, all these players have major flaws in their respective games.
If the Giants are unable to make a trade for a top outfielder, the next best option would be to acquire a solid first baseman and move Brandon Belt to left field.
James Loney would be a very good option for the Giants, and he would be reasonably priced. Loney played the 2013 season on a one-year, $2 million contract. He had a good season but still would be much more cost effective than many others on the market.
Loney hit .299, with 13 home runs and 75 RBI. His OBP was .348, with an OPS of .778. His 75 RBI would have ranked him third on the Giants, ahead of Buster Posey.
Loney does not have a lot of power but is more of a gap-to-gap line drive hitter. The expansive AT&T Park could actually work to Loney's advantage.
Loney has shown very good durability, averaging over 156 games played over the past six seasons. At age 29, Loney has plenty of good baseball left in him.
Belt would need more reps in the outfield, but he has played left field before. He is a good athlete and would be adequate defensively. Loney is a solid defensive first baseman, so the Giants would not be losing much with him at first base.
Sabean could probably lock up Loney on a three-year deal for $12-$15 million. Given the current outlook of available players, Loney would be a good addition for the Giants.
Probability of James Loney signing with the Giants: 20 percent.
2. Sign Scott Feldman
The Giants are in the market for two starting pitchers. They should be able to find a competent fifth starter, but there is a hole at the No. 3 spot in the rotation.
In addition to Masahiro Tanaka, who was mentioned earlier, there are several quality starters who could fill this void. Currently on the free-agent market are Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez, A.J. Burnett, Bronson Arroyo, Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Matt Garza, Scott Feldman and Hiroki Kuroda.
Three of those pitchers—Santana, Jimenez and Kuroda—were given qualifying offers by their respective teams, so the Giants are unlikely to sign one of them and lose their first-round draft selection in the 2014 draft.
Of the remaining pitchers, Burnett and Arroyo have a lot of mileage on them, so they should not be prime targets for Brian Sabean and the Giants. In addition, Johnson has a history of arm problems, so he is also a huge risk.
This leaves Garza, Nolasco and Feldman. Garza is the most accomplished, but he will also be the most expensive.
The best fit for the Giants becomes Feldman. He is from the San Francisco Bay area and will be less costly than either Garza or Nolasco.
In 181.2 innings of work, Feldman allowed 159 hits and 56 walks while striking out 132. His ERA was 3.82, and his WHIP was a very solid 1.183.
Feldman would benefit greatly from pitching at AT&T Park. He is not a strikeout pitcher, so the large dimensions and cool, damp evenings would be an advantage for him.
Feldman, who will be 31 years of age when the 2014 campaign gets underway, made $6 million last season. Sabean and the Giants could likely sign him to a three-year deal for about $35 million.
Probability of Scott Feldman signing with the Giants: 45 percent.
1. Sign Javier Lopez
Javier Lopez came to the Giants in a 2010 trade with the Pirates. He was a valuable pitcher in both the Giants' championship seasons.
Lopez is a true specialist, and his job is to get the opposition's top one or two tough left-handed hitters out when the game is on the line. Lopez has excelled in these critical situations.
In 2013, Lopez appeared in 69 games but threw just 39.1 innings. This clearly shows how Giants' manager Bruce Bochy typically calls on Lopez to get one or two batters out.
Frequently, these are the best left-handed hitters on the opposing team. Lopez's job is to get the likes of Carlos Gonzalez, Freddie Freeman, Andre Ethier, Jay Bruce, Joey Votto, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley out.
Lopez is extremely proficient in his role, as he has allowed only 30 hits and 12 walks while striking out 37. His ERA is 1.83 and his WHIP is 1.068.
Lopez has allowed only six of 57 inherited runners to score and held opposing left-handed hitters to a .156 average.
Lopez is a high priority for the Giants as he should be. Look for him to return to the Giants with a two-year deal for roughly $12 million.
Probability of Javier Lopez returning to the Giants: 70 percent.