Slumping Giants can get younger, better

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Indications are that the Giants, losers of five in a row, are thinking about having Eric Hacker replace Todd Wellemeyer at the back of the rotation. It’d be another stopgap for a team that has generally given more weight to short-term solutions over long-term considerations during GM Brian Sabean’s time at the help.
Fortunately, the time is approaching at which those short-term needs and long-term goals will meet. Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey are looking ready for the majors, and it’s going to make sense to bring both to San Francisco next month.
Bumgarner, who essentially had a rotation spot to lose this spring, has regained his velocity over the last month and gone 2-0 with a 1.17 ERA in five May starts for Triple-A Fresno.
Posey has been hitting all season long, but only recently did the power start to come. He has four homers and seven doubles for Fresno this month, and he’s hitting .327/.422/.506 in 156 at-bats for the year.
There is one complication with both players. Since they were up last September, they already have a few weeks of service time. The Marlins can call up Mike Stanton on June 1 without any worries that he’ll be a super-two arbitration case after 2012. The Giants, though, would have to wait until around July 1 to be guaranteed that same protection with their two elite talents.
That might be too long, and the Giants probably won’t wait once they’re convinced the youngsters can help them win ballgames. Bumgarner, in particular, could make a big impact right away, given that the alternatives for the fifth spot in the rotation are less than stellar. The 27-year-old Hacker is 7-1 with a 2.20 ERA as Bumgarner’s rotationmate, but his fastball is below average and he major leaguers won’t be particularly vulnerable to his curve.
Inserting Posey into the mix would be more complicated. Bengie Molina got off to a great start, only to fall into an awful slump of late. He hasn’t had an extra-base hit since May 6 or an RBI since May 5.
The Giants, though, are happy with how Molina handles the pitching staff. And backup Eli Whiteside has done fine work in limited action, hitting .298/.340/.532 in 47 at-bats. The other position Posey can play, first base, is home to Aubrey Huff. Huff’s 800 OPS in unspectacular, but only part-timers Whiteside and Andres Torres have higher marks on the Giants.
Whether Posey gets the call in the next couple of weeks will probably be determined by how Molina bounces back. If Molina starts producing runs again, the Giants would rather have his experience behind the plate. Posey, though, is likely the second-best hitter in the organization at the moment, behind only Pablo Sandoval. He’d likely be an asset while catching two or three times a week and playing first base against lefties. The Giants have made the right move for his future in letting him catch regularly in Triple-A for two months, but it’s about time for a change.

Report: The Nationals are still in on Chris Sale and Andrew McCutchen

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 05: Chris Sale #49 of the Chicago White Sox pitches against the Detroit Tigers during the first inning on September 5, 2016 at U. S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
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The Nationals are trying to go big this offseason, and FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal notes that they are still in trade talks for White Sox’ left-hander Chris Sale and Pirates’ center fielder Andrew McCutchen. Both players figure to command a big return, as Sale delivered another Cy Young-worthy performance in 2016 and, despite a downturn in his production rate, McCutchen is still one of the more coveted sluggers in the National League.

In 2016, Sale led the league in complete games, with six, and turned in a 3.34 ERA and 5.2 fWAR in 226 2/3 innings. While teams have been sniffing around the White Sox’ ace since the trade deadline, the club is expected to maintain a high asking price — so high, said FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, that it may keep the left-hander in Chicago for the foreseeable future.

According to Heyman, four other teams are reportedly in the mix for Sale, including the Red Sox, Astros, Rangers, and Braves, though parts of Rosenthal’s tweet hinted that the Red Sox were maintaining their interest in hopes of striking a more affordable deal. Should the Nationals pursue a deal for Sale, it’s likely that they’d have to move shortstop/center fielder Trea Turner, which they appear reluctant to do.

McCutchen, meanwhile, is also drawing interest around the league after batting .256/.336/.430 with 24 home runs in 675 PA during 2016. He didn’t appear to lose much power in his eighth season with the Pirates, but took considerably fewer walks and struck out at a career-high clip.

The Nationals were said to be in the lead for McCutchen on Thursday, and there was some expectation that the club would wrap up a trade for the center fielder by the non-tender deadline on Friday. FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi pointed out that the Rangers were also talking to the Pirates, however, and no deal has come to fruition as of yet.

Astros sign Carlos Beltran to one-year, $16 million deal

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 9: Carlos Beltran #36 of the Texas Rangers hits an RBI against the Toronto Blue Jays in the first inning during game three of the American League Division Series at Rogers Centre on October 9, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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The Astros have reportedly agreed to terms with free agent DH/outfielder Carlos Beltran for a one-year, $16 million contract, per ESPN’s Buster Olney. The deal includes a complete no-trade clause, according to a report from Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

Beltran elected to return to the Astros after fielding offers from the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Red Sox. He appeared in Houston during the second half of 2004, batting .258/.368/.559 with 23 home runs in 399 PA and making his first postseason run to the tune of a .435 average and eight homers as the Astros battled their way through to a seven-game loss in the Championship Series. Beltran also played with Houston manager A.J. Hinch and bench coach Alex Cora in separate stints with the Royals and Mets, which the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan cited as possible influences in the Astros’ decision to pursue the free agent.

In 2016, Beltran split the season between the Yankees and Rangers after getting dealt at the deadline for a package of right-handed pitching prospects. He was stationed in right field for the majority of his time in New York, but was almost exclusively utilized as a designated hitter over 52 games in Texas. Between the two clubs, he batted an impressive .295/.337/.513 with 29 homers and earned his ninth career All-Star designation to boot.

The veteran slugger is expected to fill a similar role on the Astros, who need a full-time DH but could use some additional support in the outfield corner. Olney envisions a lineup with Beltran in the five-spot, per an earlier report: