Scutaro talks continue; Giants weigh LF options

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Scutaro talks continue; Giants weigh LF options

NASHVILLE -- The Giants replaced Angel Pagan with Angel Pagan, and didn't that work out neatly for all parties?

But they still have to figure a plan for left field, and let's not forget that Canadian defector Melky Cabrera led the major leagues in hits and runs when he was suspended for testosterone on Aug. 15.

As of now, the plan is the same as the day Cabrera got popped: Gregor Blanco.

"He did a great job for us so he'll be a part of this club and could be our left fielder," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "I can't tell you what's going to happen. Right now, he'll get a lot of playing time in left field."

The Giants are looking for a right-handed complement, and they've checked in with the agent for Scott Hairston. But Hairston reportedly has a two-year offer from Detroit.

Regardless, it's a back-burner issue for the Giants until they reach a result with second baseman Marco Scutaro. Despite all predictions that Scutaro would sign before Pagan, the Giants still find themselves without an agreement with the NLCS MVP -- and the Yankees might have entered the picture now that third baseman Alex Rodriguez is out until at least June because of hip surgery.

Asked to characterize the Scutaro negotiations, Giants VP Bobby Evans said he has been discussing "various offers and considerations from the beginning. Any time you've had the year he had, it'll make clubs look long and hard at how he can help you."

Scutaro hit .362 in 61 games after joining the Giants in the trade that sent minor leaguer Charlie Culberson to the Colorado Rockies. Then Scutaro became unconscious while going 14 for 28 and lifting the Giants to a seven-game NLCS comeback series victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.

Evans said he wouldn't rule out Scutaro, 37, getting a three-year offer on the open market.

"He can play multiple positions and is coming off a great year," Evans said. "The disadvantage is he has a little more age on him."

Evans acknowledged there is a much smaller pool of backup options at second base than there was in center field, if they had been unable to re-sign Pagan. (His four-year, 40 million contract is pending a physical.) Internally, Nick Noonan is the closest second baseman to the big leagues but is seen as more of a utility presence. The best infield prospect in the system, Joe Panik, is another year away.

The Giants have not discussed moving first baseman Brandon Belt to left field or anywhere else, Evans said.

If the Giants are unable to re-sign Scutaro, they might be able to divert some of those funds to the outfield. But they already spent more than they had planned to bring back Pagan, even crossing the bridge of offering a fourth year to a player who has exceeded 123 games in a season just twice in his career.

Evans acknowledged that B.J. Upton's five-year pact with the Atlanta Braves might have reshaped the market for Pagan. The Giants are banking that Pagan's athleticism will allow him to age well.

"You have to respond to the market at some level or be prepared to settle for a secondary option," said Evans, who might have been forced to overpay for Shane Victorino if the club didn't strike a deal with Pagan.

The last time the Giants overpaid for a former Philies outfielder in Nashville, they took home Aaron Rowand for five years and 60 million.

So Bochy was ecstatic to have Pagan back for 2013.

"It's a huge advantage," Bochy said. "You take away a lot of the unknown factors of a player playing in our ballpark. He had a great time here, I know the fans love Angel and there's chemistry with his teammates. He's a big fit for us.

"That's a pretty big need when you need a center fielder and a leadoff hitter, and we took care of both."

Giants spring training Day 6: Bochy looks for improvement on bases

Giants spring training Day 6: Bochy looks for improvement on bases

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Giants always put together a long list of potential minor league free agents as the offseason approaches and they tend to go hard after two or three players from that group. One of the guys who got the hard sell over the winter was speedy outfielder Wynton Bernard, and the Giants were attractive for reasons beyond the departures of Angel Pagan and Gregor Blanco.

“I thought it was a good opportunity, and it also was a good fit for me because I’m from California,” Bernard said. 

Bernard is technically from Padres territory, but that gives him a connection to one of the men he’s hoping to impress. When Bernard was playing for Rancho Bernardo High, he often went up against a Poway High team that included a young Brett Bochy. Bruce never saw Bernard play because his job kept him away from most of Brett’s games, but he should see plenty of the 26-year-old this spring as the Giants look for a needed speed dimension. 

A big part of the staff overhaul was about making sure the Giants fare better on the bases. Roberto Kelly and Billy Hayes are out and Phil Nevin and Jose Alguacil are in. The Giants stole 79 bases last season, ranking eighth in the National League, and it’s not like they made up for the lack of small-ball by hitting the ball out of the park. Advanced metrics — tracked externally and also by the Giants — showed an inability to make an impact on the bases. According to BsR, an all-encompassing metric tracked by FanGraphs, the Giants were below average, ranking 17th in the majors. 

“We just want to be smarter baserunners,” Bochy said. “You always want to be aggressive. Everyone has the same philosophy — run hard — but it’s the old adage ‘strong to compete, smart to win.’”

A full season of Eduardo Nuñez will help, as would 162 games of Hunter Pence — who tends to make things happen on his own — and Joe Panik, one of the team’s smartest runners. Jimmy Rollins could provide speed off the bench, and Bernard hopes to make himself a viable option in the outfield. He stole 23 bags in 28 attempts last season for the Tigers’ Double-A and Triple-A teams and he stole 88 total bases the two seasons before 2016. 

The Giants know the kind of potential Bernard has, so early in the offseason he got a call telling him to hook up with fellow San Diego resident Vince Coleman, a legendary baserunner who would be joining the staff. The two worked out often in advance of spring training. 

“The Giants said he was in the area and I called him 20 minutes later,” Bernard said. “I feel like I can add a different dynamic with my speed.”

Bernard can play all three outfield spots and he sports a .360 on-base percentage in the minors. He’s likely ticketed for Triple-A for now, but a player with the same profile showed up in camp in 2012, and it wasn’t long before Gregor Blanco had locked up a roster spot. 

Whether Bernard is part of the mix, or it’s a Gorkys Hernandez or Nuñez or Kelby Tomlinson, Bochy knows he needs a little more athleticism and baserunning savvy in a division where the games are often won by one run. 

“We probably made more mistakes than we should have last year,” he said. “The numbers show it.”

CUETO UPDATE: The co-ace remains in the Dominican Republic, where he is tending to his father. The Giants don’t have a timetable for Cueto’s arrival, but he didn’t miss anything Saturday. The workout was banged because of rain. 

Cueto is at a hotel a few minutes from the club’s Santo Domingo facility and he has been working out there. The hope is that Cueto’s father soon gets well enough to travel to Arizona, where Cueto can continue to take care of him. 

NEW FACE: Slade Heathcott, a former Yankee, signed a minor league deal with the Giants on Friday. He will be in minor league camp this spring, not big league camp. The Giants liked his athleticism. 

QUOTABLE: “You can always look back, study it, learn from it … the second half, I think for everybody, you learn from it. Did we drop our guard? Hopefully it wasn’t complacency, which lets you think you have a bigger margin for error. Hopefully you learn from it.” — Bochy, when asked about the lesson learned last season. 

Report: Giants sign former Yankees top OF prospect Slade Heathcott

Report: Giants sign former Yankees top OF prospect Slade Heathcott

The Giants reportedly added to their outfield competition by signing former Yankees top prospect and 2009 first-round draft pick, outfielder Slade Heathcott. 

Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports was first to report the news

Heathcott, 26, has only appeared in 17 MLB games, all in the 2015 season for the Yankees. In his short promotion, the lefty batted .400 (10-for-25) with two home runs and two doubles. 

Through multiple stints in the minors, Heathcott has slashed .266/.343/.390 with 26 home runs for his career. 

San Francisco reportedly signed Heathcott to a minor league deal with a big league invite for spring training.