Which free agents will Giants bring back?

Which free agents will Giants bring back?

SAN FRANCISCO — General manager Bobby Evans walked through a somber clubhouse earlier this week and said goodbye to as many players as he could. Buster Posey did the same in a situation that was new and somewhat awkward. 

The Giants have grown accustomed to only two endings. In odd years, they get eliminated with enough time to fully wind down before the final out. In even years, they gather for parades and then retreat to AT&T Park, packing up in a glow of euphoria. 

This was different. For the first time in the Bruce Bochy era, the Giants exited the postseason before it was over.

As Posey worked the room, several players said quietly that they weren’t sure what they would do next. In the moment, they mostly opted for hugs, knowing this particular group won’t be together again. The Giants have six free agents who have 14 total rings in orange and black. All could be gone. 

“When I addressed the team after we lost, I made a point to thank all the free agents,” Bochy said. “We don’t know whats going to happen. It’s baseball, but what they’ve done for us and our success, I couldn’t thank them enough. I made a point to thank all of them at that point and talk to them after things settled down.”

Bochy, Evans, Brian Sabean and the rest of the staff will spend October discussing future plans. Here’s an early look at the free agents, and the likelihood of reunions: 

Javier Lopez: Some team officials expected the 39-year-old to call it a career after the final out, but Lopez, the only active big leaguer with four rings, did not sound like a man headed for the TV booth quite yet. “I don’t know what’s next for me,” he said. “Free agency is going to be what it is. If I have an opportunity to come back, I’ll welcome that. It’s out of my hands at this point.”

Lopez is as good as it gets in a clubhouse, but he had a down year by his standards, working carefully to the lefties he sees almost exclusively. Left-handed hitters posted a .318 on-base percentage against him, a far cry from the .177 of 2015.

Lopez is said to have a very small list of teams that he would play for next season, but the Giants likely will go with Will Smith, Steven Okert and Josh Osich from the left side.

Sergio Romo: He briefly regained the closer job in late September, but he gave the lead back in Game 3 and was a key part of the Game 4 collapse. As he spoke to reporters Tuesday, Romo seemed to sense that his time in the room might be up. He said he would love to be back, but he understands that his status has changed. 

The Giants will bring in a closer, and Hunter Strickland, Derek Law, George Kontos and Cory Gearrin — who replicates much of what Romo does — are likely returning from the right side. Where does Romo, 33 years old and coming off an injury-marred season, fit in? The Giants know Romo’s positives and negatives, and he is a player who values comfort, but a return is a long shot. 

Santiago Casilla: A key part of three championship clubs, he lost his ninth-inning role in mid-September and Bochy didn't even have him warm up in Game 4. That should really tell you all you need to know. Casilla wept after the game, and Bochy said he would reach out in the coming days. 

“He did so much for us,” Bochy said. “I know there were some hiccups with him. I was trying to keep him out of high-leverage situations because of that towards the end, but this guy really helped us put some rings on our finger and I’ll never forget that. "

Casilla posted the highest strikeout rate of his career and lowered his walk rate. He still throws 95 with a good curveball, and his ERA+ was 15 points better than the league average. Casilla is capable of pitching in the late innings. It won’t be in San Francisco. 

Angel Pagan: After five years of peaks and valleys, Pagan deemed himself unable to play the two most important games of the season because of back spasms. Only he knows the precise level of his pain, but it did not play well in the clubhouse. Pagan helped the Giants win the 2012 title, and for that they will forever be grateful, but he was worth just 1.4 WAR over the length of a four-year, $40 million deal. The Giants intend to get younger and more explosive in left field. Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker are waiting. 

Gregor Blanco: A shoulder injury limited him to one at-bat in September, but he ended up starting two NLDS games thanks to the Pagan injury. That has been the story of Blanco’s tenure, and he has been one of the better backup outfielders in the National League since winning a bench spot in 2012. 

Blanco had a rough year, posting a .224/.309/.311 slash line, but he still provides speed off the bench and solid defense at all three outfield positions. He wants to come back. His problem? Gorkys Hernandez does all the same things, and he’s three years younger with a chance at some upside. At first glance, it seems Blanco’s run here is done, but a match might be made late in the offseason. 

Jake Peavy: Bochy walked out of his office an hour after the season ended and asked a reporter if Peavy was still around. The veteran right-hander came up with Bochy’s Padres and helped turn the tide after a trade from the Red Sox in 2014. This was supposed to be his final year, but it didn’t work out as hoped on or off the field. 

Peavy fought through injuries while posting a 5.54 ERA in 31 appearances, 10 coming out of the bullpen. Nobody tried harder in the second half to try and change the vibe in the clubhouse, and the 35-year-old still holds tremendous value in that respect. He will forever be welcome at AT&T Park and in Bochy’s clubhouse, but the Giants have four starters locked into the rotation, with Matt Cain signed for one more year and Blach and Tyler Beede itching for a full-time look. There simply isn’t a job in San Francisco for Peavy. He is expected to try and win a rotation spot elsewhere next spring, likely as a non-roster invitee. 

There’s a very real possibility that the Giants go 0-for-6 on their key free agents. That would have been unthinkable three or four winters ago, but Evans has proven willing to move on. Remember, Ryan Vogelsong spent this season in Pittsburgh. Tim Lincecum pitched in Anaheim. Yusmeiro Petit is a National. 

There is one free agent I haven’t mentioned, though, and I actually think he’s the most likely to return. Gordon Beckham spent just a week with the Giants, heading home after Game 162, but he was such an energetic and funny breath of fresh air that one key member of the clubhouse said he would personally approach Evans to suggest a reunion. 

The Giants were a serious bunch this season, and bringing back a Ryan Theriot/Jeremy Affeldt type for one of the last bench spots wouldn’t be a bad idea. In the coming months, we’ll find out if Beckham or any others make the cut.

“You hope they’re all back,” Posey said. “You get close to guys after seven years of playing together, but the main thing is to remember all the good stuff that we accomplished together. Whether people go in different directions, that’s the stuff that you hold on to.”

Matt Moore blanks Rockies, continues late-season surge


Matt Moore blanks Rockies, continues late-season surge

SAN FRANCISCO — Matt Moore knew there was something different about his final home start at AT&T Park this season, and not just the fact that he received a loud ovation as he walked off the mound in the seventh. Moore noted later that the outing was the first shutout he has been a part of this year. In fact, it was the first time in 30 starts that he walked off the mound without having allowed a run. 

“I guess it’s better late than never,” he said. 

The Giants are hoping it’s actually a preview of things to come. They counted on Moore to be a big part of their 2017 push, but instead, he likely will finish with the worst ERA of any full-time starter in the National League. Still, general manager Bobby Evans has informed Moore that his 2018 option will be picked up, something that Moore appreciated given the time of year. 

“I always pictured myself here,” he said. 

Whether coincidence or some kind of “weight off the shoulders” situation, Moore’s first start since the public revealing of the decision was his most encouraging of the year. Facing a good lineup, and a team that needed a win desperately, he pitched six shutout innings. The Giants beat the Rockies 4-0. 

Moore was already showing signs of life, with a 3.76 ERA over his seven previous appearances. Bruce Bochy viewed this as another step forward. 

“It’s been getting better and better with each start,” he said. “What he did really well today was on the arm side. He had good balance to both sides of the plate.”

Moore peppered the outside corner with fastballs, and he credited catcher Nick Hundley with stealing a few strikes. The plan allowed Moore to put hitters away in big spots, one of three points of emphasis he brought into the second half. The other two: limiting lefties and getting ahead of hitters.

That’s Moore’s roadmap back to being the player the Giants acquired. For the team as a whole, the roadmap back to relevance is similar to Wednesday’s plan. This is not a home-run hitting lineup, but the Giants are 47-21 when scoring four runs, and Wednesday was a reminder of the different paths to that magical number. 

Brandon Crawford had a solo homer, but the first two runs came on sacrifice flies and the fourth on a walk-wild pitch-single combination. Bochy said he liked “the brand of ball” his team played.

“They executed so well today,” he said. “It’s just good baseball, and that’s what I felt good about.”

Doing due diligence, Giants send Evans, Shelley to scout Shohei Otani in Japan

Doing due diligence, Giants send Evans, Shelley to scout Shohei Otani in Japan

SAN FRANCISCO — A couple of weeks ago, a Giants official expressed amazement about how little was known about the desires of Japanese two-way star Shohei Otani.

“Teams know just about as much as you guys (in the media),” he said. 

The Giants are hoping that changes this week. General manager Bobby Evans and assistant GM Jeremy Shelley have traveled to Japan to take a look at the 23-year-old, who reportedly will come over to play in Major League Baseball next season. 

“There’s going to be a lot of attention on him and it’s part of the scouting process every club goes through,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “It’s doing our due diligence, as you say.”

Otani is a rare prospect, a potential ace on the mound and lineup-altering bat in the outfield. He has 47 homers in just over 1,000 professional at-bats, and this season he’s batting .341. As a hard-throwing pitcher with a wipeout breaking ball, Otani has a 2.57 career ERA for the Nippon Ham Fighters. He had a 1.86 ERA last season with 174 strikeouts in 140 innings. 

Because he’s said to be coming over at such a young age, Otani will sacrifice the chance to sign a massive contract. The CBA limits him to collecting money from a team’s international bonus pool, and the Giants are limited to $300,000. Still, some other big-market teams are in the same boat, and despite their lack of pool money and poor season, the Giants surely believe they have plenty to offer. 

It’s not known what Otani is looking for, but perhaps he wants to play in a big city to make up some of his lost earnings? Perhaps he wants to play on the West Coast, closer to his home country, or in a region with a big Japanese population? Perhaps he’s just a big Buster Posey fan? The Giants intend to find out, and to be in the bidding. 

It’s possible that Otani has seen the way Bochy uses Madison Bumgarner as a pinch-hitter, but Bochy said he can’t imagine using a true two-way player. 

“I don’t think it would work,” he said. “You’re talking more of something that might work in the American League. That’s a lot of throwing and wear-and-tear.”