Jon Heyman: Giants eyeing shortstops, first basemen, outfielders

According to Jon Heyman, there’s no belief that San Francisco will pursue Jose Reyes or Jimmy Rollins. They are, however, focused on the market for shortstop, first base, and outfield:

No belief #sfgiants will make play for reyes or rollins. They are eyeing ss as well as 1b and OF. but pitching still the focus

We’ve heard this again and again: the Giants, due to budgetary constraints, are not in on Reyes or Rollins. They’ve really embraced the pitching-first philosophy (although it’s almost like a pitching-first and pitching-second and pitching-third philosophy).

Anyway, they seem focused on finding a backup option for Brandon Crawford, and Clint Barmes seems like the obvious target (at the right price, that’s not such a bad thing). The market for middle infielders is shaping up to be pretty ugly though; bad ones, the likes of Willie Bloomquist, are making more money than they should. Hopefully the Giants don’t fall down this trap.

It’s a little odd that they’re looking at first basemen — as they have both Brandon Belt and Aubrey Huff – but they could definitely stand to add an outfielder. I’m guessing they’ll re-sign Cody Ross, who would like to return in 2012. He’ll be cheap, and seems like a good fit (if he can still play a serviceable centerfield).

Giants interested in Grady Sizemore

Hot stove season is…heating up. According to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN, the Giants are among several teams interested in Grady Sizemore:

Grady Sizemore’s market is expanding rapidly. Add the #Rangers, #Cubs, #SFGiants & #Yankees to the list of teams with interest

Several weeks back, I looked at Grady Sizemore as a free agent target, concluding that he’s a solid medium-risk/high-reward guy:

In any event, the Giants should definitely consider targeting Sizemore on a reasonably-priced one-year deal. They could capitalize on the recent injury-warped portion of his career, taking a gamble on his ability to stay healthy. This is exactly the kind of move that could pay huge dividends for the Giants (if all goes well), while keeping within payroll restrictions. More often than not, these deals don’t reap big rewards. But it’s certainly worth a shot in this case.

I’m no longer as sold on the idea, though. The Giants have limited funds, and I don’t know that Sizemore represents a wise allocation of said funds. Sizemore could go for something in the range of $6-8MM (with incentives), and that’s a lot of money for a guy with a recent history of injuries and poor performance. As Lookout Landing noted a couple weeks ago, Sizemore’s contact rate has dropped in the past couple years. It’s not just a matter of whether he can stay healthy — it’s a matter of whether he can stay healthy and recapture the Sizemore of a few years ago — the one that was a very productive hitter.

Anyway, I doubt the Giants actually will end up signing Sizemore. He’s generating a lot of interest, and it doesn’t seem like the Giants would be willing (and/or able) to spend a lot of money on a guy like Sizemore.

Chone Figgins on the trade market, Mariners hope to engage San Francisco

According to Jon Morosi, the Seattle Mariners are looking to trade Chone Figgins and are willing to include cash. This, of course, comes as no surprise. The Giants, apparently, are a target of interest for the Mariners, as a team that’s “in need of a leadoff guy”:

Mariners officials are hopeful that teams in need of a leadoff man will engage them in trade talks over the next few weeks. Sources say Seattle officials view Cincinnati, Detroit, and San Francisco as possible fits for Figgins.

Figgins, 33, is signed through 2013 on a four-year $36MM deal, and he has a vesting option worth $9MM for 2014 (it vests if he gets 600+ PAs in 2013). He’s a career .280/.352/.368 hitter but in the past couple years, those numbers have dropped significantly. He posted a .302 wOBA (88 wRC+) in 2010, and hit just .188/.241/.243 (.218 wOBA, 34 wRC+) last year.

He’s somewhat of a utility player, having played around the diamond throughout his career, but he’s mostly spent time at third base, second base, and centerfield. In addition to the dropoff in performance at the plate, his defensive skills seem to have eroded over the past few seasons.

Needless to say, Figgins isn’t a very attractive target (the guy was worth -1.2 wins above replacement last year). He doesn’t seem to be a great fit even if he rebounds. Bill James, who’s notoriously optimistic when it comes to projections, projects Figgins to post a .305 wOBA next season.

Even assuming that Seattle throws in a significant sum of money, it would make little sense for the Giants to acquire Figgins.

MLB Players and Owners Could Soon Reach Agreement on New Labor Deal

Players and owners are close to finalizing a new labor deal that would bring significant changes to MLB, particularly when it comes to the draft. The deal is expected to have “significant restraints” on draft spending, as well as significant changes to the current system of draft pick compensation. The general reaction is not positive, and for good reason.

In other news…

The Yankees were never in on Jonathan Sanchez

Yesterday, Jon Heyman tweeted that the Yankees were disappointed that Jonathan Sanchez went to the Royals.

Apparently (with a tip of the cap to Giants Win), that’s not the case:

The Yankees’ prime directive this winter is adding pitching, but they were never in on trade talks for lefty Jonathan Sanchez, who the Giants traded to the Kansas City earlier this week for Melky Cabrera, Yanks’ GM Brian Cashman said.

The Giants offered more for Willie Bloomquist than Arizona

Per Nick Piecoro:

Sources say utility man Willie Bloomquist had a two-year offer from the Giants worth more than the $3.8M he took to stay in Arizona.

Absolutely ridiculous. This is a guy that’s been worth $4MM over his entire ten-year career, according to Fangraphs’ estimates. What were they thinking?!

Update: $4.6 million over two years. That was the Giants’ offer.

Willie Bloomquist has an offer from the Giants

Via Jon Heyman:

Willie Bloomquist has offers from #dbacks, #sfgiants. ties to AZ may give dbacks edge

Bloomquist, 33, is a career .264/.317/.337 hitter, and beyond the ability to play nearly ever position, he has little to offer. Even though he is pretty versatile — a classic utility player — he’s not much of a defensive asset anywhere. He’s racked up a grand total of 1.6 rWAR (and 1.3 fWAR) in his career.

It also appears that the Giants will in fact go with Brandon Crawford as the starting shortstop, and simply shop for a backup this offseason. That would make a lot of sense for the team, particularly if they can find a bat that complements Crawford. I think they should consider Clint Barmes: he can hit lefties (career .793 OPS v. LHPs), and he’s a solid defensive shortstop. If he can be had at a relatively cheap price, he’s definitely worth pursuing.That’d certainly be a better solution than overpaying Jimmy Rollins with a five-year deal.

Update: Bloomquist has signed with the DBacks. On a two-year deal! You can’t make this stuff up.

Giants Rumors: Carlos Beltran, Willie Bloomquist, Hiroyuki Nakajima

- Yesterday, Schulman tweeted that Ryan Verdugo was key to the Cabrera/Sanchez trade. As Dan Szymborski speculated yesterday, Verdugo could quite possibly have the best future of anybody in the trade.

- Via @HangingSliders, Bruce Bochy went on KNBR this morning and basically said that Melky will play LF or CF, and that Barry Zito is the de facto fifth starter.

- This morning, Jon Heyman tweeted that the Yankees felt they had better pieces to offer for Jonathan Sanchez than the Royals.

- As Danny Knobler wrote yesterday, the Giants might not be able to afford Carlos Beltran. Ken Rosenthal confirmed that today, as did Jon Heyman. According to Hank Schulman, the Giants have not yet made an offer to Beltran.

- According to Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports, the Giants might pursue free agent Willie Bloomquist.

- The Giants have been linked to Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima.

Danny Knobler: Carlos Beltran could be a “stretch” to fit in Giants’ budget

With the acquisition of Melky Cabrera (reaction here), the Giants don’t have much left on their offseason checklist. Perhaps find a back-end starter — if they’re not entirely comfortable with the current options (Barry Zito, Eric Surkamp). Maybe go out and get a shortstop — though it’s looking increasingly likely that the organization will just go with Brandon Crawford as the starting shortstop. In fact, Danny Knobler of CBS Sports reiterated today that it’s very unlikely that San Francisco pursues Jose Reyes or Jimmy Rollins (but again, this is old news).

The biggest remaining question is Carlos Beltran. The Giants’ offense was bad in 2011 — unbelievably bad, and retaining Beltran would certainly improve their outlook. He’ll be somewhat expensive — but we’re not talking Albert Pujols/Prince Fielder money. Extra Baggs wrote today that the Giants are still pondering Beltran:

“We’ll see and that’s one of the things we need to do to: Reconvene on where else we’ll spread our money.”

Unfortunately, according to Knobler, Beltran could be a ‘stretch to fit’ in the Giants’ 2012 budget. If this is the case — that the Giants do end up backing out of Beltran talks due to financial concerns, this makes the Javier Lopez/Jeremy Affeldt moves all the more questionable. Not exactly a prudent allocation of money, considering the Giants’ dire need for offensive help.

The Giants are willing to trade Jonathan Sanchez

According to Jon Morosi of FoxSports.com, the Giants are willing to trade Jonathan Sanchez “in an effort to free up money so they can pursue offensive upgrade.” Sanchez, 28, projects to make around $6MM in arbitration; with Barry Zito under contract through 2013 and Eric Surkamp under team control, Sanchez is somewhat expendable — that is, if the Giants are content with putting Zito or Surkamp at the back end of the rotation.

2011 was a down year for Sanchez, and he only managed to make 19 starts (due to injuries); In 101.1 innings, he posted a 4.26 ERA/4.30 FIP/4.36 xFIP. Few starters in baseball can strike out hitters at the rate that Sanchez has maintained over his career — his 9.36 K/9 is tied with Clayton Kershaw for second-highest among active starters (min. 500 IP). Though he incurred a couple injuries and lost complete control of the strikezone this season (14.9% BB%), his trade value is helped by the fact that this year’s free agent market for starting pitchers is pretty thin.

Back in September, it seemed as though the Giants were all but prepared to slide Sanchez into the fifth slot of the rotation:

Zito will be in camp this spring to compete for the No.5 starter job. It’s looking like Sanchez will be the guy, though.

Zito, then, would presumably become the fifth starter. In his nine starts this year, the results were not pretty: 5.87 ERA/5.60 FIP/4.65 xFIP. He lost a couple MPH off of his fastball, and his strikeout rate dipped accordingly (5.37 per nine innings, the lowest of his career). He’s more-or-less been a league-average pitcher during his time in San Francisco, but it’s hard to believe he’ll continue to pitch like that in 2012 and beyond, as he continues to age.

Eric Surkamp, too, had an underwhelming 2011 (in the majors, that is), and is an even more unattractive option than Zito at the back of the rotation.

Anyway, for the right return, this could be a good move for the Giants. But only if they trust that they won’t trouble finding a replacement for Sanchez in the rotation.