Giants Rumors: Hiroyuki Nakajima, Cody Ross, Carlos Beltran

Very busy day for rumors. Here’s the latest on Hiroyuki Nakajima, Cody Ross, Carlos Beltran, and more:

Giants decline to offer arbitration to Cody Ross, Pat Burrell

Via John Shea:

No surprise, but #SFGiants are not offering arbitration to Pat Burrell and Cody Ross. Contractually, they can’t offer it to Carlos Beltran.

Burrell and Ross were both Type B free agents, and would have brought back compensatory draft picks had they declined arbitration then signed elsewhere. So…no comp picks. Burrell’s expected to retire, but Ross could still re-sign. Even with the Melky Cabrera acquisition, I could see the Giants bringing back Ross on a cheap-ish one-year deal. He does have interest in returning, but I’m sure he could find more playing time by signing with another team.

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).

News and Notes: Gold Glove Awards, Elias Rankings

Cody Ross wants to return to the Giants in 2012

Via Hank Schulman, Cody Ross wants to sign with the Giants this offseason. Schulman has exchanged emails with Ross, and Ross has said:

“I have talked to them briefly, but no negotiations have taken place. They have interest and so do i. Hoepfully we can get something done.”

Ross’ season (.240/.325/.405), which I recently reviewed, wasn’t particularly impressive — but he was certainly of value (especially with the 49 walks he drew in 461 plate appearances). As I speculated before, the money Ross makes this offseason will be largely dictated by whether or not teams still believe he can play a passable centerfield. Considering that the Giants currently have a gap there, and that Brandon Belt and Nate Schierholtz unofficially enter 2012 as starting LF and RF (respectively), it’d make a lot of sense for the Giants to pursue him.

Schulman believes that the Giants will only bring back Ross for some figure smaller than the $5.3MM that he earned this season. If that is the case, it’s quite possible Ross ends up somewhere else. The free agent market for centerfielders this offseason is quite thin, which works to his advantage.

If the Giants don’t intend to hand Ross an everyday job, a platoon with Andres Torres would make a ton of sense. Ross destroys southpaws (career .282/.349/.563), but is pretty much Torres’ equivalent when it comes to hitting RHPs (nearly identical career OPS splits). In that case, Torres is of higher value (because of his superior baserunning and defense).

Anyway, I predicted a few days ago that Ross would not return with the Giants next season, and I still believe that to be the case.

2011 Season in Review: Cody Ross

2011 was a season defined by injuries, and that’s how Cody Ross got his year started. Back in Spring Training, Ross left a game with a strained calf, and didn’t end up playing until April 20th. From there, things didn’t get much better, as he got off to a rather slow start. Through his first 16 games, he’d posted a .213/.245/.234 line.

And that’s about the time he started to get hot. Over the next 36 games, he channeled his inner-SSORYDOC, proceeding to hit .300/.400/.550 in 140 plate appearances.

And back and forth, back and forth, that seemed like Ross’ 2011. A few prolonged hot streaks, and a few prolonged slumps. (And, of course, a bunch of flying bats). On June 17, he was sitting at an .821 OPS; by the end of August, that line had fallen to .692.

His season was cut short by a hamstring issue, but in the end, he finished with some fairly predictable numbers. A career .265/.323/.466 hitter prior to the season, Ross finished at .240/.325/.405 (thanks to a major uptick in walks — one that is likely not sustainable) in a year when offense was down league-wide:

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB H 2B 3B HR SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
2011 30 SFG NL 121 461 405 97 25 0 14 5 2 49 96 .240 .325 .405 .730 105

With Ross leaving for free agency, the Giants will have to decide whether they want to bring him back. There’s a gap in centerfield, and the Giants don’t seem too keen on the idea of filling it with the likes of Justin Christian, Andres Torres, or Gary Brown (who has yet to play a game above High-A). Ross is at the point where he quite possibly is no longer capable of playing passable defense in center, and the money he gets this offseason will surely be dictated by whether or not teams believe that’s the case. If I had to guess though, I’d say he won’t return to San Francisco in 2012.

Ultimately, it was neither a good nor bad season for Ross, just an average one (when he was healthy, that is). He did all that the Giants would have reasonably expected, for better or for worse.

Splash Hits: Cody Ross, Brett Pill, Ian Kennedy

After last night’s outing, Clayton Kershaw has now made 11 starts against the Giants in his career (12 total games). He’s also surrendered 11 earned runs to San Francisco over his career (79 innings), posting a stellar 1.25 ERA. The Giants have a collective OPS of .485 against Kershaw in those 79 innings. A few links to ease the pain…

Giants

Free Agent Stock Watch: Cody Ross: MLB Rumors – MLBTradeRumors.com
Cody Ross would have been better off hitting free agency last year, after the Giants won the World Series and Ross hit five postseason home runs on his way to winning the NLCS MVP.

A risk that paid off – McCovey Chronicles
On the Giants taking a huge risk in 2008 that’s paying off now.

Teams With 3+ SP Under Age 30 With 30+ GS & ERA+ > 99 In Same Season » Baseball-Reference Blog » Blog Archive
Since 1901, how many teams had 3+ starters, age 29 or younger, with 30+ Games Started and an ERA+ of 100+ in the same season?

Prospect of the Day: Brett Pill, INF, San Francisco Giants – Minor League Ball
Prospect of the Day: Brett Pill, INF, San Francisco Giants

MLB

Baseball Prospectus | Spinning Yarn: Removing the Mask
Quantifying the heretofore hidden contributions of catchers.

A Discussion About Evaluating Pitchers | FanGraphs Baseball
A conversation about pitchers, pitching metrics, and end-of-season awards.

Kennedy’s fastball-first approach – Baseball Analytics Blog – MLB Baseball Analytics
The 26-year-old righty has increased his fastball usage from 55 percent of his pitches in 2010 to 66 percent in 2011.

Were the Best Closers Just Failed Starters? – Beyond the Box Score
Were the best closers just failed starters? This week, Rob Neyer pointed out that Mariano Rivera never actually did fail as a starter. How about the other elite closers in history?