Notes: Ex-Giants not getting much traction, not expected to return

Notes: Ex-Giants not getting much traction, not expected to return

SOMEWHERE IN THE AIR, United States — On the first day of the Winter Meetings, I discovered that my hotel room for the week was a few doors down from a section of rooms and suites dedicated to the Chicago Cubs. So either I have a lot of juice with Marriott or the Cubs have very little juice. 

They were a happy group as they came in and out, and for good reason. The Cubs are the reigning champions and they’re the heavy favorites going into 2017. Every other team at the Gaylord National Resort was chasing Theo Epstein and his guys. The Giants, after landing closer Mark Melancon, feel they have the firepower to compete with the Cubs. 

The Melancon move is the big one of the Giants’ offseason and it obscured just about everything else. Here are some other notes, quotes and rumors from five days at the Winter Meetings: 

--- Bobby Evans said the Aroldis Chapman deal ($86 million) came in right around where the Giants expected. The two sides never met in person, and while the Giants kept tabs on the Chapman market, he was always viewed as an unlikely choice. Part of that has to do with a 30-game suspension last season for a domestic violence incident. Evans said the off-field stuff was “not lost on us.” The Giants knew many of their fans were strongly opposed to a Chapman deal. 

“Our hearts and minds were really focused on one guy,” Evans said as he discussed the closer market. It was Melancon, and the Giants got the guy who will now head a bullpen that blew 30 saves during the regular season. 

Evans took some good-natured shots at that number, by the way. He pointed out that many of those “blown saves” came in the sixth or seventh innings and the Giants won a lot of those games. The more important number for the front office was ninth-inning blown saves that led to losses. The Giants lost nine such games, including five in September. 

“That’s the difference,” Evans said. “If you reduce that number to five or four, then that’s maybe the difference in your division.”

The Giants finished four games behind the Dodgers.

--- Joe Maddon said his biggest fear in the postseason was facing Johnny Cueto in Game 5.

--- Angel Pagan was not at the ballpark for the final game of the season. He had an injection in his injured back and was allowed to stay home to try and recover. The Giants told Pagan to prepare for a Game 5, but some team officials believe his postseason was probably over regardless of how far the Giants got. 

--- It was a little surprising, by the way, how little mention there was of Pagan and other Giants free agents. Pagan was briefly connected to the Orioles at one point but otherwise his name has not come up. There are no Gregor Blanco rumors, and nothing significant with Sergio Romo, Jake Peavy, Javier Lopez or Santiago Casilla. 

Giants people who have talked to Romo say he has at least a couple of offers and he’s confident he’ll find a good fit. Lopez is said to be headed for retirement unless an East Coast team (he lives in Georgia) makes a great offer. Peavy is said to be ready to fight for a job as a non-roster invitee in spring training. It seems the majority of the ex-Giants might have to go the non-roster route. Currently, none are expected to return to San Francisco. 

--- Gordon Beckham is technically a “Giants free agent” and several people in the clubhouse approacedh management to relay what a positive impact Beckham had in his week there. He is the kind of energetic, ball-busting presence that helps over a 162-game season, and everyone in the organization loved having him around, but they’re looking for power bats right now when it comes to the bench. 

--- Ramiro Pena is close to a deal to return as a non-roster invitee. The Giants will also add a catcher for Triple-A depth. They’re selecting from a group that includes former Dodgers and Cubs catcher Tim Federowicz. 

--- There will be new managers up and down the minor league system. The affiliates are expected to announce those choices soon. 

--- At the risk of wiping out a bunch of future "The Player to be Named Later has not been named" tweets, here's how it works: The Giants gave the Mariners a small list of prospects they'll watch in spring training, and they'll scout them and choose one player as the return for Chris Heston. It will not be a significant prospect. 

--- Under Armour will be the exclusive uniform provider of MLB starting in 2020, and all jerseys will have a small Under Armour logo on the chest. No exceptions, from the awful Diamondbacks jerseys to the Yankees pinstripes to the Giants. It was bound to happen eventually. The Giants have some of Under Armour’s most prominent baseball players, including Buster Posey, Brandon Belt and Joe Panik. 

--- The Giants never had any intention of pursuing a reunion with Pablo Sandoval. If they can add depth at third, they will, but for now Eduardo Nuñez is slated to be the opening day starter. Keep in mind, too, that Christian Arroyo will primarily play third base in the minors from now on. 

--- Bill Hayes, who was relieved of his duties as first-base coach, will stay with the big league staff. His exact role has not been determined. Roberto Kelly will not return in a different role. 

--- CSN did a bunch of one-on-one interviews this week, and two of them — Evans and Bruce Bochy — are available here as podcasts. If you’re a fan of the podcast, please consider hitting subscribe on iTunes. It’s good for the pod. 

--- In case you missed it: Here's an explanation of why the Giants are unlikely to add an expensive outfielder. The Giants currently have four players set for the WBC. Hensley Meulens will manage the Netherlands. Ryan Vogelsong helped Melancon choose the Giants. Bochy on if he has any postseason regrets. 

--- Melancon will be introduced at a 1 p.m. press conference on Friday. It will air on CSN Bay Area and you can stream it on this website. 
 

Giants spring training Day 10: Bochy on board with new rules

Giants spring training Day 10: Bochy on board with new rules

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — During his season managing Barry Bonds, Bruce Bochy watched the slugger get intentionally walked 43 times. 

“There were (managers) who had the (signal) up before he even got to the batter’s box,” Bochy said Wednesday. 

That’s part of the reason Bochy is completely on board with a new rule stating that managers only have to signal for an intentional walk. The elimination of the four pitches has been approved by MLB and the MLBPA, with the caveat that a manager can change his mind in the middle of the plate appearance. 

“I’m fine with it,” Bochy said. “I know a few pitchers are happy because they kind of have a thing about throwing (those pitches), not on our team, but last year it happened to us and we didn’t go. I’m fine with it.”

It’s rare that an intentional ball would go to the backstop, but the Giants experienced it last year against the Yankees. Dellin Betances threw wide as he tried to put Brandon Crawford on and Angel Pagan didn’t react quickly enough to score from third. 

Bochy met with league officials last week to go over some of the new rules and ideas, and he said he wants MLB to keep pushing to cut the time of games. 

“We talk about it so much but we really haven’t done a lot,” Bochy said. “I’m all for (limiting mound visits). I’m all for it, I am. It’s gotten more and more popular in the game. It used to be the catcher, and now it’s the catcher and infielders, and they go to the mound and come back and then the pitching coach goes out there.”

EXHIBITION SCHEDULE: Bochy said Madison Bumgarner is currently slated to start Friday’s Cactus League opener, with Matt Cain also throwing an inning. Ty Blach will start Saturday, Matt Moore and Tyler Beede will pitch Sunday, and Jeff Samardzija will start Monday. It’s possible that 18 or 20 different pitchers will take the mound over the first two days since almost all of them will be scheduled for just three outs. With the exception of Will Smith, every projected Giant should see the field this weekend. Hunter Pence is the only guy who has been held back at all, but his intercostal issue has cleared up. Pence put several on the left-field berm during BP on Wednesday.

“Hunter wants to (play Friday). He's ready to go,” Bochy said. “I’ll make that call tomorrow once I talk to the staff, but Hunter assured me he’s a full go with no limitations, and he really wants to play.”

PROSPECT WATCH: Bochy took the van over to the minor league facility to watch some of the projected Triple-A players take part in live BP. Jae-gyun Hwang hit a homer off Jose Dominguez during his session. 

“He’s a guy that rotates (well) and he’s got good power,” Bochy said. “He can go the other way. He’s got some bat control. He’s got a nice swing.”

Over on the main field, Gorkys Hernandez hit an impressive homer to left-center. 

ICYMI: From this morning, Smith is being held out of workouts. Reporters spoke to him in the afternoon and he said there’s no concern. Also, here’s a podcast with Derek Law and Josh Osich. Subscribe on iTunes if you haven’t … there’s a very popular Giant coming soon.

QUOTABLE: Smith missed time last season because he tore a knee ligament while taking his shoe off, so this spring’s speed bump is somewhat easier to take. He had a message for the trainers: “I said I’m going to sit down every day this spring,” when I take my shoes off.

MLB players’ union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

MLB players’ union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

NEW YORK -- There won't be any wild pitches on intentional walks this season.

The players' association has agreed to Major League Baseball's proposal to have intentional walks without pitches this year.

"It doesn't seem like that big of a deal. I know they're trying to cut out some of the fat. I'm OK with that," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said.

While the union has resisted many of MLB's proposed innovations, such as raising the bottom of the strike zone, installing pitch clocks and limiting trips to the mound, players are willing to accept the intentional walk change.

"As part of a broader discussion with other moving pieces, the answer is yes," union head Tony Clark wrote Wednesday in an email to The Associated Press. "There are details, as part of that discussion, that are still being worked through, however."

The union's decision was first reported by ESPN .

"I'm OK with it. You signal. I don't think that's a big deal," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "For the most part, it's not changing the strategy, it's just kind of speeding things up. I'm good with it."

There were 932 intentional walks last year, including 600 in the National League, where batters are walked to bring the pitcher's slot to the plate.

"You don't want to get your pitcher out of a rhythm, and when you do the intentional walk, I think you can take a pitcher out of his rhythm," Girardi said. "I've often wondered why you don't bring in your shortstop and the pitcher stand at short. Let the shortstop walk him. They're used to playing catch more like that than a pitcher is."

Agreement with the union is required for playing rules changes unless MLB gives one year advance notice, in which case it can unilaterally make alterations. Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed hope Tuesday that ongoing talks would lead to an agreement on other changes but also said clubs would reserve the right to act unilaterally, consistent with the rule-change provision of the sport's labor contract.

Some changes with video review can be made unilaterally, such as shortening the time to make a challenge.

"I know they were thinking about putting in a 30-second (limit) for managers to make a decision," Francona said. "I actually wish they would. I think it would hustle it up and if we can't tell in 30 seconds, maybe we shouldn't be doing it anyway."