San Francisco Giants: 8 Players Trying to Save Their Jobs for 2015
As the 2014 season begins to wind down, the San Francisco Giants are battling for a playoff berth.
In the NL West, the Giants currently trail the Los Angeles Dodgers by 3.5 games but only two in the all-important loss column.
The stretch run will give the Giants management a good opportunity to see their players competing under the utmost pressure of a pennant race. How some of them perform will go a long way toward determining if they will be in orange and black for 2015.
Let's take a look at several players whose future with the Giants is in question. For the sake of argument, let's assume that each of these players wants to return.
Travis Ishikawa broke into the big leagues in 2006 with the Giants. After spending 2007 in the minors, he played three more seasons in San Francisco, ultimately departing after the 2010 season.
The Giants bench has been a major disappointment this year, so any production is a welcome addition. Ishikawa has actually played well since rejoining the Giants, albeit in a small sample size.
Ishikawa has seven hits in 20 at-bats, including two doubles and five RBI. He is currently hitting .350 with an OPS of .800.
Ishikawa is a decent pinch hitter, and the veteran has experience coming off the bench. The Giants can use a player like Ishikawa as their 24th or 25th man.
The Giants typically carry five reserves, and one is a backup catcher. A first baseman by trade, Ishikawa can enhance his value by proving that he can fill in adequately in the outfield. The ability to play multiple positions is something manager Bruce Bochy covets from his reserves.
Looking ahead to 2015, Ishikawa will not command much more than the veteran minimum salary and would be a valuable role player off the bench.
Joaquin Arias has had a miserable season. He contributed nicely to the Giants in 2012 and 2013 but has fallen on hard times this year.
Arias can play all infield positions and even has some experience in the outfield. His value is as a super-utility player. He is a solid defender at any position he is asked to play.
Arias hit .270 over his first two seasons in San Francisco. In that span, he had 544 at-bats, with six home runs and 53 RBI.
Unfortunately, Arias has not hit this year. In 140 at-bats, he is currently hitting just .207, with an OBP of .237 and OPS of .487.
He is under contract for 2015 at a salary of $1.45 million. He will likely come to spring training with a chance to redeem himself. If Arias finishes the year with a hot streak, he will go a long way toward saving his job for 2015.
A lot depends on Marco Scutaro's status heading into the 2015 season. If Scutaro can play on a semi-regular basis, then Arias will be competing against Joe Panik, Ehire Adrianza and Matt Duffy for a utility infield job.
Panik has played well and looks like he can handle things at second base on the big league level. If Scutaro is unable to play, Arias will have a decent chance to make the team, provided he hits well in the spring.
The Giants will be on a tight budget for 2015 and ideally will not want to just waste the money already committed to Arias. However, if another player, such as Duffy or Adrianza, outplays Arias, it's not enough money that the Giants won't send Arias to the minors.
General manager Brian Sabean made only one trade at the deadline. The deal brought in veteran pitcher Jake Peavy for minor league prospects Edwin Escobar and Heath Hembree.
Since joining the Giants, Peavy has pitched well. In five starts, he has thrown 32.2 innings, allowing 33 hits and eight walks while striking out 23. He has a record of 2-3, which could be a lot better if the Giants offense had provided him with better run support.
Peavy's ERA is a solid 3.58, to go along with a WHIP of 1.255. With the loss of Matt Cain to elbow surgery, Peavy has stepped in to fill the void very nicely.
Peavy's 2014 salary is $14.5 million, and he will be a free agent after the season. He has proved that he can still pitch, so it all depends on how much money he will demand.
If he is willing to take a pay cut down to $7-8 million, he is worth signing for a year or two. However, if his demands are above that, the Giants will not make that investment.
At best, Gregor Blanco is a platoon player and late-inning defensive replacement. As a fifth outfielder he is an ideal fit.
However, the Giants get into trouble when they are forced to start Blanco on an everyday basis. He is not capable of producing enough offensively to be a regular starting outfielder.
Blanco made slightly more than $2.5 million in 2014 and is arbitration-eligible. With Angel Pagan in center field, who is very injury prone, having Blanco as the fourth outfielder is not ideal. He is forced to play too much and is exposed as a light hitter.
In 274 at-bats, Blanco is hitting .244, with an OBP of .318 and OPS of .627. He has one home run, 21 RBI and 13 stolen bases.
Blanco tends to hit the ball in the air far too often. He has good speed and would be better served hitting the ball on the ground.
The Giants cannot afford to have Blanco as their fourth outfielder. It would be a much better fit if he was the fifth outfielder.
Ryan Vogelsong has done a credible job as the Giants' fifth starter. He has given the Giants a chance to win in almost every outing. The fact that his record is 7-9 is more of a reflection of the lack of offensive support the Giants have given him.
Vogelsong has worked 144.2 innings, allowing 142 hits and 39 walks while striking out 118. His ERA is a very respectable 3.73, and his WHIP is 1.25.
In 2014, Vogelsong made $5 million. Even though he is 37 years of age, if he is willing to accept a similar deal, the Giants should do it. As a fifth starter, he is well worth the cost.
In the unlikely event the Giants retain both Vogelsong and Jake Peavy, Vogelsong can pitch out of the bullpen. Another possible option is to move Tim Lincecum into the bullpen, although that would not be the Giants' first move.
Sergio Romo is a fan favorite and loves pitching for the Giants. However, we may be seeing his final weeks in a Giants uniform.
Romo, who opened the season as the closer, lost his job after a series of poor outings. He seems to have regained his confidence and, most importantly, his slider.
Romo has thrown 47.1 innings this season, allowing 36 hits and 11 walks while striking out 48. Romo's ERA of 4.18 is the highest of his career, as he has had trouble avoiding the big inning and delivering the home run ball. His WHIP is still a very good 0.993.
Romo is at the end of his contract and is currently being paid $6.3 million for the 2014 season. If he wants closer-type money, he will not be back with the Giants.
Santiago Casilla has taken over as the closer, and Romo has moved into a setup role.
Romo will have a tough decision to make. If he wants to stay in San Francisco, it will probably mean a pay cut and not being the closer. If he is unwilling to do that and wants to close, it will likely be with another team.
The Giants signed Michael Morse to a one-year, $6 million contract prior to the onset of the 2014 season.
Morse began the season and got off to a good start. However, along with the rest of the Giants offense, he went into a long slump. His slump and the injury to Angel Pagan were two catalysts to the Giants losing their lead in the NL West.
Morse has recently shown signs of snapping out of it and actually reached base nine consecutive times in a stretch a few days ago.
If Morse can finish strong, it will go a long way to helping the Giants reach the playoffs and also give him more bargaining power when it comes time to negotiate his next deal this winter.
Over the course of the season, Morse is hitting .283, with 16 home runs and 57 RBI. His OBP is .342, with an OPS of .827. These are good numbers for a player who looked like his career might be over after an injury-plagued 2013 season.
Brian Sabean and the Giants will look for a younger player in the outfield, but if they can't find one in their price range, Morse could be back in 2015.
If Morse wants to stay in San Francisco, he will need to be conservative in his demands. Something along the lines of $8 million for the 2015 season is realistic. If another team offers him a lengthy deal for more money, the Giants will not go overboard.
Morse will be 33 years of age by the time the 2015 season begins. It would be unwise for the Giants to offer him anything more than a one-year deal. His previous injury history mandates a more conservative approach.
One of the most popular Giants and a fan favorite is Pablo Sandoval. The Panda hats are seen scattered throughout the stands at AT&T Park.
Sandoval is in the final year of his contract. Earlier in the year, his agent demanded a contract along the lines of what Hunter Pence received, which was five years and $90 million.
Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com reported on the early negotiations.
After a very slow start, which may be due to the distractions pertaining to his contract status, Sandoval has come around. He has been much better offensively and is also playing Gold Glove-caliber third base.
Sandoval is hitting .284, with 14 home runs and 58 RBI. He has an OBP of .327 and OPS of .763. He is also playing excellent defense at third base.
The main question the Giants are wrestling with is whether they can trust Sandoval to stay in reasonably good shape if they give him a long-term deal.
The fear is that they will give Sandoval a long-term contract, and he will get lazy and complacent once again. His weight will balloon up, and he will become slow with the bat and a defensive liability.
A three-year deal in the $45 million range is appropriate. However, another team could offer the Kung Fu Panda a lot more, and the Giants will not be willing to go that far.
It is a tossup as to whether Sandoval remains a Giant.