SAN DIEGO — It’s been three years since executives, agents and the media gathered at a hotel for MLB’s annual winter meetings, but the Texas Rangers weren’t going to wait for everyone to arrive to kick off the fireworks.
A year after locking up Corey Seager and Marcus Semien for half a billion dollars, Rangers handed Jacob deGrom a five-year, $185 million deal to leave New York and become the new ace at Arlington.
It means the first winner of the offseason is none other than old friend Bruce Bochy, who didn’t retire due to the promise that Rangers were all-in, then watched his new bosses sign the one of the most dominant arms in MLB history. The first loser? Any executive who thinks he’s going to get a good deal next week.
The buzz in the Manchester Grand Hyatt lobby is that the sport is gearing up for a crazy week of action and big business, and the Giants should be right in the middle of it. “They made it clear they were going to spend,” an agent said Saturday night.
It was here in San Diego three years ago that the Giants signed Kevin Gausman and then made an unusual trade for Zack Cozart and Will Wilson. This time around, Farhan Zaidi should get much, much bigger.
From Justice Aaron’s lawsuit to Hall of Fame announcements, this week will be largely all about the Giants. Here’s what you need to know about what to expect:
What’s going on with Judge Watch?
He’s been remarkably calm with Judge since his two-day meeting at Oracle Park last week, but is expected to make a decision this week with the Yankees and Giants widely seen as tied.
Some in the industry are still expecting a last minute mystery team, but so far there has been no sign of another serious suitor. Some people at the Giants expected the Dodgers to host Judge as well, but if he did make a trip to Los Angeles, he was very quiet about it.
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported on Saturday that it would likely take nine years to secure Judge’s signature, which could push the final cost of the contract up to around $340 million. That would be about double what the Giants spent on a player, but they’re still involved.
What is Plan B?
Chairman Greg Johnson raised his eyebrows in September when he mentioned “the person who can knock in the Bronx that’s over there,” but the other part of that comment was just as interesting. “We’re well aware of shortstops,” Johnson said.
The Giants have one shortstop, but they’ve shown plenty of interest in a loaded class of free agents, hoping to pair one with Brandon Crawford in the final year of his contract. All four – Carlos Correa, Trea Turner, Dansby Swanson and Xander Bogaerts – are still on the board.
Correa, the sources say, is at the top of the front office roster, and he’s certainly the biggest star the Giants could sign if Judge returns to the Bronx. At 28, he’s a player the Giants could build future rosters around, and he has a good reputation as a club leader. The only mark on his resume is the Astros sign-stealing scandal, but the Giants just hired a new general manager who comes from the same organization and their fans won’t care about that scandal anyway. On the contrary, it cost the Dodgers a title.
Speaking of the Dodgers, Turner would bring an extra layer of buzz simply because signing him would represent a direct hit for the division champions. When it comes to ability on the pitch, he is as good as any player in this class.
Turner played second base when he was traded to a Dodgers team that had Seager short-term, so he could play there alongside Crawford in 2023. He’s 29 and one of the most fast from the big leagues, so he seems a better bet to age gracefully than most of the other stars this offseason.
What about pitchers?
The Giants have a Carlos Rodón-sized hole in their rotation, but the southpaw is likely to find his healthy nine-figure deal elsewhere. The Rangers, Yankees and Mets are among the teams reportedly interested, and Rodón is now considered likely to land a six-year contract for well over $150 million.
Under Zaidi and Co., the Giants preferred to find pitchers with red flags on their resumes and help them get to the next level on short-term deals. Jameson Taillon, Andrew Heaney and Sean Manaea are among the veterans who might intrigue Brian Bannister, Andrew Bailey and the rest of the staff.
The Giants haven’t been connected to Justin Verlander, but they did host Kodai Senga at Oracle Park last month. He is considered the fourth-best option in this class and rival evaluators consider the Giants one of the favorites to sign him.
“He’s very talented, very physically talented,” Zaidi said last month during GM meetings. “We also heard good things about the person. For us it’s now just a matter of assessing and understanding where their market is going to be and for us to think about how we can help them to to be as good as possible in the Major Leagues.”
Senga throws 100 mph and has a good splitter, but it comes with risks due to command issues and Japan’s transition. However, the Giants are very well placed to take this kind of risk. They have solid starting depth and Kyle Harrison waiting in the wings, so now would be a good time to aim high.
What other names should I know?
The Giants love bringing in guys with local ties and are interested in Mitch Haniger, an outfielder who would have a very strong market. They also checked in on former Dodger Cody Bellinger, a source said, knowing he would provide elite center field defense on the kind of one-year deal that front office loves.
As the dominoes begin to fall, Brandon Nimmo could make a lot of sense. He’s a high OBP guy who plays above average defense in the center, which would allow Mike Yastrzemski and Austin Slater to slip into the corners.
The most intriguing name is familiar. Trading Bryan Reynolds for Andrew McCutchen was one of the worst decisions made by the previous regime. Now that Reynolds has requested a trade, will the new front office put together a prospect package to bring the All-Star outfielder back to San Francisco? The price for Reynolds would be very high, but he’s a perfect match for the Giants, with or without a judge.
What is the rest of the division doing?
After turning down Bellinger, declining their option on Justin Turner and letting Trea Turner into free agency, the Dodgers have the financial leeway to make a splash again. They haven’t been as connected to Judge as expected, but they are one of the favorites to sign Verlander.
The Padres are rumored to be in the shortstop class, which would be a very odd move for a franchise that brings back Fernando Tatis Jr. But AJ Preller likes to think big, so you can’t count them. The Diamondbacks should trade one of their left-handed outfielders and would like to find someone to take on Madison Bumgarner’s contract (no, it won’t be the Giants).
Finally, the Rockies, which tend to be pretty quiet from an acquisition standpoint. They would have an interest in Nimmo, a native of Wyoming.
What else should I watch out for?
The meetings themselves don’t start until Monday, but Giants fans will want to tune in Sunday night. The Contemporary Baseball Era Committee will meet during the day to discuss eight potential Hall of Famers, and if it gets 12 of 16 votes, Barry Bonds will finally make it to Cooperstown.
In a perfect world, Bonds will be joined next July by the man who called his most memorable home runs. Duane Kuiper is nominated for the Ford C. Frick Award and the winner will be announced on Wednesday. Between these two announcements, on Monday, Bochy will organize its first media session since obtaining deGrom. On Tuesday, Gabe Kapler speaks to reporters.
Aside from the big signings and trades, there’s plenty of other business to take care of over the next four days. The Rule 5 draft is on Wednesday and the Giants have been active on that front since Zaidi took over. They also had to leave good prospects unprotected, so they could lose a minor leaguer or two.
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Finally, the first MLB draft lottery will take place on Tuesday. Because they missed the playoffs, the Giants are technically eligible, but they only have a 0.48% chance of getting the first pick. They have a much better chance of going up the hill with Judge than with the No. 1 overall pick.
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