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Where we tend to talk about the recent past a lot

Updated: 2018-02-19T10:14:31-08:00


Tim Lincecum has a guaranteed contract offer from a team that isn’t the Giants



This means a reunion isn’t likely to happen.

Tim Lincecum has a guaranteed contract offer from a team that’s not the Giants, according to a source. This means that if the Giants want to compete with this offer, they’ll need to offer something better than a minor-league deal, which almost certainly isn’t going to happen.

A successful reunion was a beautiful dream, but some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Fly, fly away, dreams of a new Ryan Vogelsong. Fly free and far. Like, out of the state, please.

If we’re being entirely honest, the Tony Watson deal was probably the final nail in this particular coffin, as the Giants are going to be squeak-squeak-squeaking against the luxury tax threshold this year. Really, the Watson deal was probably bad news for Derek Holland, Gregor Blanco, and Andres Blanco, too, but that’s a story for another time.

What we know is that the Giants were complimentary but not exactly super-duper-jazzed after Lincecum’s showcase, which would seemingly put them in minor-league-deal territory. That wouldn’t have been a huge problem if every interested team offered the same thing, but the guaranteed contract is a pretty substantial development. Unless Lincecum is willing to pass up the guaranteed money for hometown fuzzies, he’s not likely to accept anything less.

(As an aside: I was also told that there are old, grumbly beat writers sharing my obviously satirical Twitter bio with each other as proof that the younger generation doesn’t care about ethics in baseball journalism anymore, and I laugh every time I’m reminded of this. But this #source was not Tim Lincecum’s agent, so maaaaybe I should change that bio to clear up any potential confusion.)

If there’s any good news to be gleaned from this Lincecum update for people hoping he would return, it’s that the Dodgers are also extremely unlikely to be the team interested in a guaranteed contract.

The Padres, though?

Oh, you’d better believe this fits with what the Padres would consider. Note that I don’t know which team has the offer on the table, just that it isn’t the Giants. But the Padres’ rotation would probably be improved with a papier-mache Tim Lincecum with levers and pulleys that are controlled by the second baseman, and they have money to spend. Lincecum wants to stay on the West Coast, so you don’t have to draw a complicated diagram to get him there.

There’s also the chance that the guaranteed contract is from, like, the Marlins, and it’s good for negotiating purposes but less than desirable for a player who might want to have fun in 2018. If you want to respond with a “so you’re saying there’s a chance” GIF, that’s your absolute right.

But it looks like there’s a team that’s willing to give Lincecum guaranteed money and a spot on a 25-man roster based on his showcase. While that’s good news for him — and great news for baseball if he’s successful — it’s bad news for anyone hoping the Giants were going to swoop in and sign him to a minor-league deal and have him compete with Ty Blach, Tyler Beede, Andrew Suarez, and Derek Holland for the last spot in the rotation.

Giants sign Tony Watson, improve bullpen dramatically


The left-handed reliever will help bolster the Giants’ bullpen in the late innings. Left-handed reliever Tony Watson has agreed to terms with the Giants, according to Robert Murray and Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. The deal is reportedly a multi-year deal, although the exact terms are unknown for now. They’ll be revealed as soon as I close my laptop. Edit: Two years, $7 million guaranteed, with a player option and all sorts of escalators that help limit the luxury-tax hit in 2018. No, I don’t really understand it, either. Watson is something of a late-inning prize, as his ability to get left-handers and right-handers out is an ultra-desirable one, and for as slow as this offseason has been, the best relievers were snatched up quickly. For whatever reason, though, Watson hung around to the point where the Giants could swoop in after pitchers and catchers have already reported. There has to be a concession, here. One of the following has to be true: The Giants have traded someone who makes a significant salary to make room for Watson The Giants are willing to go beyond the luxury tax threshold for Watson The Giants are paying Watson $2 million or less, which allows them to stay under the luxury tax threshold. Which one of those makes sense? ŊƠṊḔ ŎƑ ŢĦƐⱮ. Absolutely none of them. I don’t see the Giants trading Sam Dyson to make room for Watson. I don’t see the Giants doing all sorts of awkward contortions for four freaking months to get under the luxury tax, just to give it up in February because Will Smith might miss the first month of the season. And I don’t see Watson working for Keiichi Yabu money, not when he’s accomplished so much in his career and is coming off a strong season. NONE OF THIS MAKES SENSE. Except, and hear me out: A 20-year, $20 million contract. This would be the Bobby Bonilla of contracts. In 2038, when President Duchovny is rationing your water, the Giants would still owe Watson a million bucks. But it would sure fit under the luxury tax this year. That probably didn’t happen. But something happened! Maybe the Giants are in a screw-it-let’s-party mode if they’re contending by July 31, and they’re willing to go over the tax if this wacky plan works. And if they’re under .500, they’ll shed some salary, no big deal, and get under the tax. Edit: So the deal is an average of $2.33 million without the escalators, which I’m assuming really get going in year two of the deal. He agreed to Keiichi Yabu money, but if he’s still throwing well next year, he’ll make a healthy amount. It’s hard to believe no one else wanted Watson for under $10 million guaranteed. Regardless, here’s what this means for the Giants: They’re better. Upgrading from Josh Osich and/or Steven Okert to Watson is pretty freaking substantial. One of those pitchers (or Derek Holland, or maybe even Ty Blach) will be around for the start of the season while Will Smith recovers, but the Giants will have a steady left-handed presence in the late innings for the beginning of the season. Watson threw 66⅔ innings last year, striking out 53 and walking 20, with a 3.38 ERA. He was effective with the Dodgers after a midseason trade, including two wins in the World Series in five appearances. While his ERA has outmatched his FIP for most of his seven-year career, Watson’s left-handed funk-sink is one of the unusual profiles that makes it hard to trust FIP entirely. Over 453 career innings, the ERA is probably more predictive. This is Tony Watson: src="" style="border: 0; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; position: absolute;" allowfullscreen="" scrolling="no"> Do you hear the announcer make the Sherlock Holmes pun? That means it’s off the table for you. Forever. Ah, but he will combine with Kyle Crick for the greatest DNA joke that we can possibly ... ... aw, nuts ... Still, if you’re looking for a recent comp, it’s Jeremy Affeldt. That’s not hyperbolic. That’s the best pos[...]

The Giants pitching staff has a depth problem


That problem is that ... they don’t have depth. Please read the article. Going into Spring Training, the Giants offense has extremely good odds of not being the worst in baseball (A welcome change from last year). The front office identified the many, many needs they had in the lineup, they went out and did their best to fill them, and even if I am perhaps worried about the long term consequences of some of those moves, well, at least it’s an ethos. So let’s talk about the pitchers. Projection systems think the top of the Giants rotation will be okay. Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, and Jeff Samardzija are projected to combine for about 8 wins by ZIPS, and about 6 according to Baseball Prospectus. By ZIPS, that’s about one win better than they did last year; by BP, it’s about one win worse. None of those projections are especially rosy, but none are projected to be disasters, and these systems are notoriously shy about predicting breakouts, especially for players coming off injuries. Wanna slap on a few extra wins? Hey, go ahead. Free country and all. Here’s what the Giants need to back that up: no injuries and better seasons from their fourth and fifth starters than they’ve gotten from any farm product since Madison Bumgarner. Fangraphs had Chris Heston worth 1.5 wins in 2015 and Ty Blach worth 1.3 last year; those are the two best seasons for homegrown Giants who weren’t in the majors in 2009 (a sentence I carefully phrased so as to exclude Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Jonathan Sanchez) since they started winning World Series and whatnot. It’s not ragging on Tyler Beede to say that he had a 4.79 ERA in AAA last year. It’s not insulting Andrew Suarez to point out that he only started 13 games for Sacramento and we don’t know how major league ready he is. It’s not unreasonable to look at Chris Stratton putting up a sub-3 ERA as a starter in the majors last year and notice that that’s completely out of line with everything he’s done in the minors since he was in Augusta (and also with advanced stats). Ty Blach either wore down as the season went on or the league figured him out. Derek Holland, uh, (pats him on head) there, there, buddy. There, there. The 2017 Giants came into the season with 4 established major league starters you could expect to be good (Bumgarner, Cueto, Samardzija, Matt Moore), Matt Cain, and not much in AAA. It didn’t go that well. The 2016 Giants were counting on 4 guys (Bumgarner, Cueto, Samardzija, Jake Peavy), also had Matt Cain, and ended up trading for Moore midseason. That rotation was top-heavy and it faded after the All-Star Break, but overall it was pretty dang good. In 2015, the team mostly expected a bunch of over the hill guys to rebound or keep defying age even though they’d stopped defying age at some point in 2014, and the strategy failed. The 2014 rotation necessitated the Jake Peavy trade, the 2013 rotation had a very good Bumgarner and an okay Cain and after that was a disaster, and the 2012 team saw Tim Lincecum fall apart but otherwise everything basically went as right as you could hope. Every single Giants team since 2012 has desperately needed a pitcher to step up from the farm system, and every time it hasn’t happened. Now Plan A is for two pitchers to step up, and man, that’s dangerous. Plan B is for two different pitchers to step up, and I don’t know what Plan C is. As much as I’m for playing the kids, giving them 40% of the rotation on a supposedly contending team when they absolutely have not proven themselves is the kind of big downside risk that we haven’t seen from the Giants in a long time. The back of the pitching staff is basically the 2018 Giants equivalent of the 2017 Giants left field situation, where you had a lot of red flags on both Option A and Option B, and after that, things really started to get dicey. When things go wrong — and things always go wrong in baseball seasons, especially with pitching staffs — the team is going to need pitc[...]

Brian Sabean is back, baby


Bobby Evans is still the GM, but Brian Sabean is moving back to a hands-on role with the major-league club. When the news broke that Brian Sabean was leaving the Giants’ GM position to walk around the earth, like Caine from Kung Fu, and get back to his scouting roots, it’s possible that I didn’t make enough about it. I figured since Bobby Evans was in the front office with Sabean for all those years, that the front office was going to retain the same hive mind from the championship years, just in a different permutation. Nothing had really changed except for a few key assignments, no big deal. The ownership group of the Giants didn’t see it that way, however. And after last year’s 98-loss debacle, they want Sabean back in a day-to-day role instead of overseeing the entire organization, from instructional leagues to the majors. From Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic: Sabean is back in a hands-on role. “I will be more involved with Boch and the major league staff and the major league team, and whatever else I can get to — the draft, travel in the minor leagues — will follow suit,” Sabean said in an interview with The Athletic. As a confirmed Giants outsider™, it’s hard to write about this and not speculate wildly. I was uninformed enough to think that Sabean’s new role wasn’t a big deal in the first place, after all. But what I do know is that he wanted to focus more on the organization, traveling around, sharing his particular brand of baseball genius at every level. He wanted to “get back to his roots” and use those Jeter-spottin’ eyes to help the franchise develop and thrive. And I also know that if there’s one thing that was worse than the Giants’ 98 losses last year, it was the Giants’ 98 losses combined with the absolute dirigible accident that was their farm system. Almost nobody took a step forward. There weren’t players who pushed their way to the major leagues, except for maybe Christian Arroyo and Austin Slater, and then they were kicked into the volcano by forces beyond our comprehension. Top prospects were hurt. Fringe prospects disappeared. There were disappointments, stalled developments, and small fires. Now, I’m not saying that any of it is Sabean’s fault, necessarily. It’s just that there was an absence of any evidence that his new role was helping the system. All we know is that the major league team melted into a puddle of goo at the same time the minor-league system melted into a puddle of goo, and it wasn’t really a puddle of goo before the switch. So the owners would like things the way they were, thank you. At the risk of repeating my past mistakes, I don’t think this is a change that’s going to have substantial, noticeable effects from our vantage point. Whatever Sabean does that’s so valuable on a day-to-day basis is largely obscured from us, and that’s just the way he likes it. But Evans is going to continue being the GM and the negotiating wizard, so it’s not as if we’re going to get a flurry of transactions to reshape the team in Sabean’s image. As Baggarly notes, this offseason looks like it was the product of a lot of cooperation and synergy already, so we might have already seen what the effects of his return might look like. But if you want Giants news from this offseason, here’s a rundown: There’s a new pitching coach and hitting coach. There are old coaches in the front office, and the front office also has an old GM to help support the new GM. They aren’t giving up, and they’re very interested in resetting the luxury tax threshold for next year, when they’re going to tease us for at least four weeks before absolutely not getting Bryce Harper. They have a roster that is somehow fascinating to statistical projection systems and the regular ol’ fans at the same time. It’s been a boring offseason around baseball. Sure hasn’t been boring for the Giants, though. [...]

Tim Lincecum throws showcase for 20-plus teams


He was throwing in the 90s, but he wasn’t throwing in the mid-90s. Let’s talk about what that means. Tim Lincecum threw a showcase for 20-plus teams outside of Seattle today, and the early reports were mostly positive. According to a scout who talked to the Seattle Times, Lincecum was throwing between 90 and 92 mph. Jon Heyman pushed that up to 93. But his fastball certainly wasn’t a time machine that took scouts back to 2009. If you’re a fan of the Giants signing Lincecum to compete for a spot in the rotation, that’s a good thing. If Lincecum were throwing 95 mph, there would almost certainly not be a way for the Giants to sign him. At least one other team would have offered him guaranteed money — Jaime Garcia or Andrew Cashner money — and that would have been the end of it. As is, he’s likely to sign a minor-league deal that pays a fair amount of money if he makes the major league team. The Giants can compete with that. From that Seattle Times article: He threw all four of his pitches and kept them around the strike zone with “a better shape and bite to his curveball than in past years.” “The split changeup remains the better weapon for me, but there’s not a real out pitch there,” the scout said. “He looks to be in great shape and has added muscle in his traps and shoulders. I would be surprised if he’s not signed soon.” Good enough to get a spot in a major league camp. Good enough to get nerds like me excited. Not good enough for the scout to make homina-homina-homina noises as he ran in circles with smoke coming out of his ears. This is something of a best-case scenario for Lincecum fanatics. Still, strip the name and nostalgia away. What we have here is a pitcher who hasn’t been good since 2011. He’ll be 34, and he’s been away from the game for an entire year. When he was right, he was one of the best pitchers in the game, if not the best pitcher in the game. His velocity, while better than when he left the game, is still below the average major league starter at this point. Would you be in favor of the Giants signing a pitcher like that to a minor-league deal, even if he had no association to the franchise? Yeah. I’m fine with that. The Giants’ current fifth starter is Ty Blach, you know. That’s not a slam on Blach! Or Tyler Beede, Derek Holland, or Andrew Suarez. It’s just a note that things aren’t settled, and more raffle tickets aren’t a bad thing for this team. This one comes with something of a circus atmosphere, comparatively speaking, but Lincecum is going to compete for a job with a team. The Giants have one of those jobs open. Why not the Giants? [lights incense in front of Ryan Vogelsong statue] It’s our destiny. But if we could take a big-picture view and step back from the talk about if he’s right for the GIants, and just appreciate that this showcase suggests we have a great chance of seeing Tim Lincecum play baseball again. I remember when the Giants brought Vogelsong back for his retirement ceremonies, there were a lot of people hoping that Lincecum was next. Him pitching in the major leagues is even better. Like, a million times better. The way he was kicked off the baseball planet was unceremonious and awful. It’s even worse when you realize that there’s at least a chance that he was unlucky (his FIP was just 4.08 from 2012 through 2015, which wasn’t great, but it sure isn’t career-ending). Tim Lincecum will probably pitch again. That makes me happy. I’m still skeptical the Giants will sign him, considering that they already have a bunch of split contracts out to different Blancos and Derek Holland. But if they were interested, a showcase that was promising without being stunning was probably the best possible news. [...]

Just how good would this Giants team have been in 2013?


They wouldn’t have been good. They would have been great. The Giants are almost certainly going to be better than they were last year. You can argue about the cost of delaying the inevitable rebuild, or the specific prospects and players who were traded away, but we can all agree that this doesn’t look like a roster that will lose 98 games again. The Giants are going to catch a lot of guff from people who like to laugh at old rosters. Both things can be true. Maybe they should be true. The Giants got better; the Giants got older; old teams can disappoint; the Giants should be the target of ribbing. It’s a rich tapestry of new information. I’m choosing to believe in the abacus twiddlers like Eno Sarris who say that the team is much improved and should contend. That doesn’t mean the jokes will stop: Or that they are new jokes. Manny to the Giants? They're building the 1997 All-Star team.— Andy Lutzky (@rockatalic) January 3, 2009 But all this has me thinking about what this Giants team would have looked like in 2013. Would they be something of a super team? Can we put Pablo at second base? We’ll start with the lineup. My guess is that it will look pretty, pretty, pretty good. YEP. PRETTY GOOD. Note that the Panik numbers were taken from the 2013 Baseball Prospectus Annual because I didn’t really know how to convert his (lackluster) Double-A numbers into MLB numbers. There have been just a couple dozen teams to feature lineups with six players worth 3.5 WAR or more. One of them won the World Series last year. A lot of the won the World Series, actually. Probably a coincidence. The rotation doesn’t fare quite as well, but ... ... that’s because of Cueto’s injury. I was torn by which year to choose for this post. Do you get Posey’s monster 2012? Well, you lose Evan Longoria to injury, and Brandon Crawford isn’t fully formed. If you do 2014, you get All-Star Samardzija and Cy Young Finalist Cueto, but you lose a ton from Austin Jackson, miss out on anything from Holland, and don’t get as much from Longoria. I could listen to arguments about any of the 2012-2014 versions. I won’t go through the entire bullpen because it’s mostly filled with younger pitchers, but Mark Melancon was a certified badass in 2013, so he can stay. What does this mean for the 2018 Giants? Uh, nothing. Nothing at all, really. It means that a lot of these players used to be really good in their prime. Except that players who are excellent in their primes tend to have slower declines, so maybe it does mean something. Maybe we can actually take solace in all these old-timey numbers as a proof of concept. The only member of the lineup who hasn’t made an All-Star team is Austin Jackson, and he probably deserved to in 2010 or 2012. It can’t hurt to get all of those guys on one team. Unless they aren’t as good anymore. Then it can hurt, I guess. Maybe I’ll shut up now. But if you were curious if the Giants would have had a pretty sweet roster in 2013, now you aren’t. They would have been pretty, pretty, pretty good. Let’s hope the scientists working in the underground bunkers for GiantsCo™ have been productive with their de-agening ray. [...]

McCovey Chronicles chronicles: Some site news


Don’t think of this as a goodbye. Think of this as an annoying roommate moving out and being surprisingly cool to hang out with on a limited basis. I recently dreamt that the Giants were playing on Opening Day, and I wasn’t watching it. I was with some friends, realized the game was on, and checked my phone to find out that Brandon Belt had given the Giants an 8-7 lead with a grand slam off Clayton Kershaw. I panicked because I knew this was going to be a game worth writing about, and I wasn’t watching. When I got to AT&T Park, it was covered in snow, and Hunter Pence rode a snowboard down a ramp to get to the plate for his at-bat. Except it wasn’t baseball, but a game of kickball, and every position was filled with a kid under the age of 10. I got to sit on the field, in the snow, and watch. Then it was in my living room. Also, don’t forget the surreal part where the Giants got four baserunners against Kershaw and Belt hit a home run. None of that last paragraph was important, but they were all actual parts of this dream, and I had to get them out of my brain. Focus on the first paragraph, though. The one where I had a dream about missing a Giants game. I have these dreams a lot. For most of November, I have dreams about not knowing who’s in the World Series. For the rest of the offseason, I dream about Giants games. It’s not my favorite. It’s a sign that what I’ve been doing — running a Giants-themed site and being a lead writer for SB Nation — is untenable. I could keep going the way I’ve been going for the last seven years, I guess, but not in a way that would make me proud of what I’m publishing. Every August, I realize that a player on another team is having a fantastic season, and I’m completely taken aback. YONDER ALONSO: [has been excellent for three or four months] ME, A NATIONAL BASEBALL WRITER: Wait, Yonder Alonso is on a major league roster? Someone needs to tell me this stuff. It’s a horrible feeling. And I’m missing what’s happening in baseball because I’m deeply engaged in Reyes Moronta news. Except when it’s time to write about a Giants game or Moronta’s debut, I’m mentally exhausted from writing about Yonder Alonso. It’s been a vicious circle for years, and while I’ve made it work, I’ve always realized that my split role made me objectively worse at both Giants coverage and national coverage. It also made me worse at being a dad, but kids are resilient little buggers, ha ha, aren’t they? I always wondered if I would choose to follow the Giants full time or if I would do national baseball full time if I had the choice. Recently, I got that choice, and it made me realize just how much I wasn’t looking forward to covering the Giants more than I already was. I’m running out of jokes, insight, and creativity. I’m running out of different ways to say a team stinks or that relievers are unpredictable. I’m running out of ways to gloat about three championships in five years. I’m sick of my own voice when it comes to the Giants, and I’m living in constant fear that everyone else has, too. I’m not leaving the site. This reads like a buildup to me saying, “Aaaaand I’m out of here. Later, nerds,” but I promise that’s not how this ends. I’m just not going to do nearly as much as I’ve been doing. Consider the great Spencer Hall at Every Day Should Be Saturday. That was/is his baby, and it is covered in the glorious placenta of college football. Eventually, his responsibilities for SB Nation grew and grew, and he couldn’t write for the site every day. Except he never left. He just writes there when he’s inspired, not because he has to fulfill a posting quota. Every year, he still writes an ode to the opening Saturday of college football that I’ll read three times even though I couldn’t give a single crap about college football. He’s inspired to do[...]

The Dodgers will be at Tim Lincecum’s showcase


So will at least nine other teams, but you weren’t going to click on that headline. Technically speaking, there was a higher chance of Shohei Ohtani signing with the Giants than of Tim Lincecum signing with the Dodgers. The Giants were one of six finalists in that showcase; there are 10 teams curious about Lincecum. If he throws well enough to impress the Dodgers, he’ll have thrown well enough to impress those other teams. This is nothing more than naked scaremongering. On the other hand, it takes just one sentence to gross me out beyond words: The longtime-rival Dodgers, plus the Yankees and Red Sox, are among at least 10 teams known to have signaled that they will be there in out-of-the-way Seattle to see whether he still has it — or whether there are enough signs that he still can regain it. Tim Lincecum coming out of the bullpen for the Dodgers. Tim Lincecum making a spot start for the Dodgers when one of their pitchers is on the 10-day General Fatigue List, which is every week. Tim Lincecum shutting the Giants down in a crucial September start, with the Dodgers 16 games up and the Giants a half-game out of the second wild card spot. Tim Lincecum breathing the same air as Tommy Lasorda on purpose. NO, I SAY. Gross. But we can also use a li’l logic for this one. The Dodgers are just as worried about the luxury tax as the Giants. There isn’t an obvious hole for a fifth starter on the Dodgers’ roster, and they have Walker Buehler in a glass case. If Lincecum blows the doors off his showcase and has people thinking about 2008 and 2009, he’ll go to a team with an open spot in the rotation If Lincecum pitches well enough and has people thinking about 2015, pre-injury, he’ll choose the minor-league deal with the clearest path to a roster spot. Which isn’t the Dodgers. Nobody chooses to breathe the same air as Tommy Lasorda on purpose. Except for Chase Utley, but we should have expected that. Plus, as Jon Heyman notes at the end of his article, you would have to think the Giants get some extra credit for the good times. This, by default, would give the Dodgers negative credit. Because athletes are just like us and absolutely care about these stupid rivalries with the same amount of passion. Mostly, though, the calculus hasn’t changed. There are teams looking for a fifth starter. It’s possible that one of them is so impressed by a 95-mph fastball that they take a $5 million gamble with incentives and an eye toward the trade deadline. If that’s the case, the Giants are out. Luckily, the Dodgers probably would be, too. It’s possible that all of the teams at the showcase are kinda sorta interested, but no one is really willing to guarantee more than a cool $1 million. There are more than a few fifth-starter types still on the market. It’s likely that nobody busts out anything better than a minor-league invite. Those are just the odds as they apply to a 30-something pitcher who hasn’t been good since Jeff Keppinger was on the Giants. It doesn’t matter how hard he’s been working or with whom he’s training. Baseball is hard. Pitching is hard. And it takes a lot for a team to give guaranteed money to a pitcher in this market. But there’s a non-zero chance that the Dodgers will sign Tim Lincecum. If you think it’s impossible, well ... ... it really, really isn’t. I suppose the best-case scenario is that Lincecum throws well enough to get a major-league contract and chooses the Giants because of ~feelings~, then shows up to spring training with even more velocity on his fastball. And the worst-case scenario is ... ... well ... ... you know. [...]