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?

Splash Hits: Cody Ross, Pablo Sandoval, Larry Baer

Giants

An argument for Cody Ross – McCovey Chronicles
Why the San Francisco Giants should sign Cody Ross.

Panda’s (Historically?) Big Boned Cycle | FanGraphs Baseball
Less than a year ago, Sandoval was getting benched in the playoffs for the likes of Juan Uribe and Zombie Edgar Renteria less than a year ago. Today, he is the most voluptuous guy to hit for the cycle in at least 37 years.

Larry Baer: Giants’ mission won’t change much
This week’s KNBR Conversation was conducted between Brian Murphy, Paul McCaffrey and the Giants’ Larry Baer. It has been edited for length.

Lefty Malo – The Perhaps-Not-So-Difficult Andres Torres Decision
If Torres has indeed reverted back to pumpkinhood — a backup outfielder used almost exclusively for late-game D and pinch-running — he can still earn his keep.

A Suggestion For Dumping Chone Figgins | U.S.S. Mariner
My guess is that’s exactly what the M’s will try to do with Figgins this winter, and in that vein, I’d like to offer up a suggestion on one particular team to call – the San Francisco Giants.

MLB

MLB Looks at Europe as Newest Source of Baseball Talent – MLB Daily Dish
Europe certainly produces premier athletes as we can see on the basketball court and the soccer pitch, but when will we see their athletes make an impact on the baseball diamond?

Explaining OFP in scouting – SweetSpot Blog – ESPN
A scout compiles OFP by adding up all five future tool grades (hitting, power, speed, throwing and fielding), and then dividing that total by five. Scouts can then adjust the OFP by ten or so points if they please.

The Platoon Advantage: Naive PLAYOFFS+ MVP awards since 1995
A look at how PLAYOFFS+ correlates with actual MVP voting.

A Quick Look at the Toughest Batters Using Pitch Values – Beyond the Box Score
To that end I took a look at the accrued pitch value numbers for all batters with 1,000 plate appearances or more from 2008 – 11. I decided to focus on how they fared against fastballs, sliders, curve balls, and change ups since these are the major repertoire’s of most big league pitchers.

All-time NL Hispanic greats – SweetSpot Blog – ESPN
Yesterday, in recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, we talked about one person’s list — mine alone — for the AL team’s all-time greats of Hispanic heritage, so naturally enough, let’s turn to the senior circuit and look at the best of the National League’s teams.

Previewing the 2012 Free Agent Oufield Market

Aaron Rowand‘s gone for good, and the Giants will lose several outfielders — Carlos Beltran, Cody Ross, Pat Burrell — to free agency. Nate Schierholtz will be back, in with a breakout season, could potentially see regular playing time in the outfield. In addition, the Giants will presumably tender Andres Torres a contract, though it remains to be seen what role he’ll play next season.

Anyway, the Giants will be in the market for outfielders; if they envision Nate Schierholtz as the starting right fielder, and Brandon Belt as the starting left fielder, the big void is in centerfield — where the market is very thin. A brief preview of the 2012 free agent outfield market:

Re-Signs

Cody Ross: He made $6.3MM in his final year of arbitration, and has had a somewhat disappointing season – .238/.327/.399; that said, his numbers (thanks to a very-high walk rate) are bascially in line with his career norms, and he’s posted the best BB/K of his career (0.53). He averaged roughly 2.5 WAR/season from 2007-2010, and I imagine he’ll be looking for a starting role (which he deserves). The thing that makes Ross special is that he can play centerfield — and an average hitter in center is of value. Given his versatility in the outfield, and the fact that he’s solid at the plate, Ross represents one of the best available outfield options for the Giants.

Carlos Beltran: Easily the top outfield bat on the market. It’d be nice to retain Beltran, as he solidifies the middle of the Giants’ lineup. He’s the cream of the crop though, and could command a whole lot of money. If I had to guess, I bet he’ll end up elsewhere.

The Athletics

David DeJesus: initially suggested by Zack in the September roundtable, DeJesus could provide decent value at an affordable price. Here’s what Zack had to say:

I’d love to see them make a cheap offer to David DeJesus. He’s putting the worst offensive numbers of his career, but he hasn’t been nearly as bad Oakland fans tend to think. He has the ability to take a walk, and unlike other “sluggers” on the market (Jason Kubel, Josh Willingham, etc.), he still rates well defensively. I’m inclined to give DeJesus the benefit of the doubt because 1) he may still be recovering from an injury, 2) half of his games are in Oakland, and 3) his playing time has been iffy due to the managerial situation. And while he’s not exactly young, it’s not like it would be a long-term deal. One or two years would be great.

Coco Crisp: Another Oakland A’s outfielder, Crisp is an intriguing option for a number of reasons: he can still play centerfield, and despite the fact that he’ll be entering his age-32 season, he still flashes speed on the basepaths — in fact, his 40 steals in 2011 represent a career-high, and he’s stolen 72 bases in all since 2010, at an 86% success rate. Over his career, he’s pretty much been an average hitter (.276/.331/.407, 99 wRC+), but he’s been especially solid at the plate over the past two seasons (114 wRC+).

Josh Willingham: a very nice bat (career OPS+ of 121), but he’ll be 33 years old and his defensive limitations mostly restrict him to left field. Given that the Giants will probably enter 2012 with Brandon Belt as the regular left-fielder, Willingham doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense.

The Other Centerfielders

Rick Ankiel: Wrong side of 30 and a below-average hitter, but he’s also posted +17 DRS (defensive runs saved) in centerfield this year.

Nate McClouth: He’ll be four years removed from his all-star season, and he really hasn’t impressed of late. Over the last two seasons (609 PA), he’s posted a .650 OPS. He can play passable defense in centerfield, but he’s not a particularly good defender.

Some other CF names: Willie Bloomquist, Corey Patterson, Scott Hairston

Some Right-Field Names: Michael Cuddyer, J.D. Drew, Lance Berkman, Jason Kubel, Ryan Ludwick, Kosuke Fukudome