Author Archive

Giants might be eyeing Ludwick, or vice-versa

Monday, Dec. 5

DALLAS — Add Ryan Ludwick to the list of free-agent outfielders who might intrigue the Giants.

The Giants were believed to have scheduled a meeting Monday with Ludwick’s agent, Dan Horwits. Ludwick earned $6.775 million last season but might be more affordable than that this winter, even on the open market.

A right-handed batter, Ludwick thrived in 2008-09, when he hit .283 with 59 home runs and 210 RBIs for St. Louis.
When the Cardinals sent him to San Diego at the 2010 Trade Deadline, Ludwick remained productive, as he was batting
.281 with 11 homers and 43 RBIs in 77 games at the time.

Since that deal, however, Ludwick has hit .229 with 19 homers and 101 RBIs in 198 games for San Diego and
Pittsburgh. He batted .237 with 13 homers and 75 RBIs overall last season. The 33-year-old’s on-base percentage has
dwindled each year since 2008, from .375 to .329 to .325 to .310. His slugging percentage also has declined
annually, from .591 in 2008 to .447 to .418 to .363.

Ludwick has performed adequately at AT&T Park, where he owns a .265 batting average (22-for-83) in 23 games. His total of five home runs in 83 at-bats by the bay indicates that, unlike many hitters, the ballpark’s dimensions don’t intimidate him.

Other free-agent outfielders to whom the Giants have been linked include Coco Crisp and Josh Willingham. They also
were thought to be interested in David DeJesus before the A’s traded him to the Cubs, and in Grady Sizemore before he re-signed with Cleveland.

Chris Haft

Multiyear deals for Lincecum, Cain?

Wednesday, Nov. 16

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants are well aware that they have something special in Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, who are essentially co-aces of their pitching staff.

So reports that the Giants are trying to sign both right-handers to multiyear deals, thus buying them out of their first few years of free agency, make perfect sense.

Cain will earn $15 million next year in the final season of a three-year $27.25 million contract and would then become eligible for free agency. Lincecum, who can expect a huge increase through salary arbitration from the $14 million he earned last year, will vault into free agency after the 2013 campaign.

Unless the Giants lock him up first.

Jon Heyman of reported that the Giants are considering four-year deals for Cain and Lincecum. Most teams consider such longterm contracts risky. But Cain and Lincecum aren’t most pitchers. Both are 27, have combined to make six National League All-Star teams and have not endured a serious arm injury.

“We have to keep our pitching together,” Giants vice president of baseball operations Bobby Evans said this week at the General Managers Meetings. Retaining Cain and Lincecum through the first half of this decade would accomplish that.

— Chris Haft

Sabean’s upbeat on Beltran, not on more deals

Thursday, July 28

PHILADELPHIA — Brian Sabean said Thursday that he’s continuing to pursue more offensive help as Sunday’s Trade Deadline approaches, but the Giants general manager didn’t sound optimistic about making more deals.

Asked if the market for catchers and shortstops, two positions where the club could stand some strengthening at the plate, had gained any life in recent days, Sabean replied, “Not really.”

Sabean spoke on a conference call to trumpet Wednesday’s acquisition of outfielder Carlos Beltran from the New York Mets for right-handed pitching prospect Zack Wheeler. Predictably, Sabean was upbeat about obtaining Beltran, who’s expected to bolster the Giants’ sagging run production.

“He’s a legitmate third hitter probably on any team,” Sabean said of Beltran.

Snippets from the call:

— Sabean indicated that Beltran, a six-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner, was the player the Giants wanted most. Sabean recalled that he initiated talks with his Mets counterpart, Sandy Alderson, on July 1. “We always had one foot in the door,” said Sabean, who related that as he returned home from Monday’s White House visit, he received a phone call from Alderson that “rekindled” trade talks.

— Sabean’s confidence in Beltran to fill the void at the batting order’s third spot is virtually limitless. “Once (Buster) Posey went down, I thought we were dead in the water with being able to replace him,” Sabean said. “Carlos has a chance to do that.”

— Sabean was reluctant to part with Wheeler, San Francisco’s No. 1 draft choice in 2009. “I truly hate that we gave up a really good prospect,” Sabean said. “But we’re at an interesting place in time.” Translation: The Giants are in win-now mode, and Sabean said that the organization didn’t expect Wheeler to contribute at the Major League level for another few years. “It’s our job to find another Wheeler,” Sabean said, expressing confidence in the organization’s ability to develop pitching and in the haul of pitchers from this year’s draft.

— Sabean hopes that players appreciate the Beltran trade, which reflected the organization’s efforts to keep the Giants on top. “If I were a player, I’d applaud it,” said Sabean, who acquired second baseman Jeff Keppinger last week in an attempt to strengthen the lineup. “I always worry about how [players] react or what they think.”

— Sabean apparently doesn’t have to worry about what Beltran thinks. He spoke to the switch-hitter, who had to waive a no-trade clause, and received positive feedback. “He very much wanted to be a Giant,” Sabean said.

Chris Haft

Beltran-to-Giants looking imminent

Wednesday, July 27

PHILADELPHIA — At this point, it would seem surprising if the Giants didn’t acquire outfielder Carlos Beltran from the New York Mets.

Giants general manager Brian Sabean isn’t dropping any hints, and his underlings are sworn to secrecy — unless they want their next job in baseball to feature rolling out the tarp for an independent league team. But given the national media buzz, along with Sabean’s reputation for obtaining the man (or men) he wants as the Trade Deadline approaches, Beltran might find himself spending an extra day or two in Cincinnati, where the Mets currently are playing. Conveniently, the Giants travel to Cincinnati for a weekend series beginning Friday.

Beltran would have a ripple effect through the Giants’ lineup. Depending on whether Beltran were to bat third or fourth, the hitters surrounding him in the batting order  — Jeff Keppinger, Pablo Sandoval, Nate Schierholtz — would see better pitches with him on deck or on base. As a switch-hitter, he might even enable manager Bruce Bochy to maintain some (gasp!) stability in the lineup.

Sabean doesn’t want to part with top prospects such as right-hander Zack Wheeler, outfielder Gary Brown or first baseman-outfielder Brandon Belt. That probably won’t be necessary. Conventional wisdom suggests that the Giants can seal the deal by sending the Mets three capable prospects.  According to the smart money, Double-A Richmond outfielder Francisco Peguero would be included in the package the Mets would receive. Peguero is a nice-looking hitter, but possesses relatively little power.

Speculation has fingered left-hander Dan Runzler, who has divided this season between the Giants and Triple-A Fresno, as somebody else who the Mets probably would want. That makes perfect sense. Except there’s that little matter of the $5 million club option on the 2012 contract of Jeremy Affeldt, another left-hander. Affeldt has performed well. But with pay hikes imminent for salary-arbitration-eligible players such as Tim Lincecum, Pablo Sandoval, Ryan Vogelsong, Sergio Romo, Nate Schierholtz and Jonathan Sanchez, among others, the Giants might elect not to pick up Affeldt’s option to save money to allocate to others. If that’s part of the Giants’ plan, they might be reluctant to part with Runzler — who would help sustain their inventory of left-handers — and would offer the Mets a different pitcher or two.

Then again, teams are forced to trade players they’d rather keep all the time.

Meanwhile, the existing Giants are continuing the day-to-day existence that has become habit for established big leaguers. Outfielder Cody Ross, whose playing time likely would decrease if Beltran arrived, insisted that he and his teammates aren’t dwelling on Sunday’s deadline.

“To be honest with you, we don’t really talk about it a whole lot,” Ross said Tuesday night. “With this particular club, we’ve been around, for the most part, for a while. I remember being a rookie, a second-year guy, and talking about trade deadlines. It was exciting. But now it’s just another day and we just go out and play. We can’t really worry about it. We have to make do with what we have and I think we have a pretty good team. We’re in first place, so, as long as we can stay there …”

Chris Haft

SF trades for Keppinger, promotes Belt

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants altered the look of their roster Tuesday by recalling outfielder-first baseman Brandon Belt and acquiring infielder Jeff Keppinger from the Houston Astros.

Belt, the Giants’ Opening Day first baseman, has been recovering his stroke with Triple-A Fresno since going on the disabled list June 4 with a hairline fracture in his left wrist. Manager Bruce Bochy has said that Belt, considered San Francisco’s top position-player prospect, wouldn’t be brought to the Majors until a vacancy in the lineup was created to enable him to play regularly.

Belt was hitting .324 with seven home runs, 29 RBIs and a 1.011 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) in 43 games for Triple-A Fresno.

Keppinger, 31, was obtained for Minor League right-handers Henry Sosa and Jason Stoffel. In 43 games with Houston, Keppinger hit .307 with four home runs and 20 RBIs. He’s a career .284 hitter in 530 games with the Mets, Royals and Reds besides the Astros.

Chris Haft