Slumping Giants can get younger, better


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: Justin Turner and Kenley Jansen could return to the Dodgers in 2017

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22:  Justin Turner #10 of the Los Angeles Dodgers warms up prior to game six of the National League Championship Series against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on October 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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With their 2016 season and 11-game playoff run in the books, the Dodgers are refocusing their attention on the upcoming 2017 season. Two outstanding performers, third baseman Justin Turner and right-handed closer Kenley Jansen, are on the cusp of free agency heading into the offseason. According to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, the Dodgers intend to make qualifying offers to both Turner and Jansen, but may not be prepared to go the distance to keep both of them on the 2017 roster.

Turner finished his third season in Los Angeles with a .275/.339/.493 batting line and a career-best 27 home runs, riding a hot streak that made him one of the most productive players on the Dodgers’ squad this October. He started in all 11 games of the NLDS and NLCS, engineering a .286 average and two home runs — one of which was the difference-maker in a 4-3 win during Game 1 of the NLDS. His glove has become a much-needed asset within the Dodgers’ organization as well, as he currently ranks sixth among qualified third basemen with seven Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and second with a 14.1 Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) in 2016.

While Turner’s production rate suggests that he’s made a full recovery from the microfracture procedure he underwent in 2015, the Dodgers appear to have reservations about the 31-year-old’s age. Heyman indicated that the veteran infielder prefers to stay in Los Angeles, but the chances of the Dodgers jumping into a fierce bidding war appear to be low for the time being.

Jansen, on the other hand, is expected to incur more interest from the club. The right-hander commanded a 1.83 ERA and 9.45 K/BB rate through 68 2/3 innings in the regular season and was instrumental in closing the door on five wins during the postseason. His 3.2 fWAR performance in 2016 made him the most valuable reliever in the major leagues, eclipsing fellow standouts like the Indians’ Andrew Miller and the Cubs’ Aroldis Chapman. Assuming the Dodgers are as serious about retaining Jansen as they were about pursuing Chapman during the 2015 offseason, the 29-year-old closer should stand a decent chance of returning to Los Angeles for another season.

Should the Dodgers fail to match an offer levied to either Turner or Jansen, they’ll receive compensation in the form of unprotected draft picks.

The Cubs’ NLCS finish was one for the history books

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22:  Chicago Cubs fans hold a sign after the Chicago Cubs defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 in game six of the National League Championship Series to advance to the World Series against the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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The Cubs obliterated the Dodgers in Game 6 of the NLCS, riding nine shutout innings to their first pennant win since 1945. Here’s what you should know about their historic finish:

  • By virtue of the Cubs’ 71-year World Series drought, Jon Lester and Javier Baez became the club’s first and only postseason MVPs in franchise history. The World Series MVP award was first distributed in 1955, while the NLCS MVP awards have been issued since 1977.
  • Lester and Baez are also the first co-MVPs of the Championship Series since the 1990 Reds celebrated left-hander Randy Myers and right-hander Rob “Nasty Boy” Dibble following the team’s ninth pennant win (per’s Jenifer Langosch).
  • Anthony Rizzo’s fifth inning solo shot in Game 6 tied him with Miguel Cabrera, Alex Gonzalez, and Kyle Schwarber for the most postseason homers hit at Wrigley Field, with three (per Comcast SportsNet’s Christopher Kamka).
  • Rizzo and Willson Contreras’ home runs were the first Clayton Kershaw had given up in the playoffs since Game 4 of the 2015 NLDS. The twin blasts also accounted for a fifth of the total home runs Kershaw had given up in 2016.
  • Clayton Kershaw’s Game Score of 33 was not only the lowest the left-hander had put up since the start of the 2015 season, but the lowest the Cubs had seen from an opposing pitcher in the postseason since 1989. During Game 4 of the 1989 NLCS, Giants’ right-hander Scott Garrelts pitched 4 2/3 innings with eight hits, four runs, and two homers en route to a 6-4 loss and a 33 Game Score.
  • By contrast, Kyle Hendricks’ Game Score of 86 was the third-highest among Cubs’ postseason starters, ranking just below Jake Arrieta’s 11-strikeout complete game during the 2015 wild card tiebreaker and Orval Overall’s three-hitter in Game 5 of the 1908 World Series.
  • The last major league season to feature an ERA leader on the Cubs’ roster was 1945, also the last season in which the Cubs rode to the World Series. In 2016, the MLB ERA leader is Game 6 winner Kyle Hendricks (2.13 ERA); in ‘45, it was left-hander Ray Prim (2.40 ERA), who capped a dominant year with a loss against the Tigers in Game 4 of the World Series and blown save in Game 6.
  • Not to be overlooked in the lefty’s gem on Saturday night: Hendricks and Aroldis Chapman combined to face the minimum number of batters, at 27. According to MLB Stat of the Day, only the 1956 Yankees had also faced the minimum batters in a postseason game, though they did it with just a bit more panache.
  • With Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, Albert Almora Jr., Javier Baez, and Addison Russell penciled into the lineup, the Cubs became the first MLB team to utilize five starters under 25 years old to clinch the NLCS (also via MLB Stat of the Day).
  • If you want to talk postseason drought, the Cubs-Indians World Series will set a precedent for combined championship-less streaks, at 174 years between the two clubs (per ESPN Stats & Info).
  • Speaking of unpleasant streaks, there’s this: with the Dodgers’ loss in the NLCS, they’ve now gone to the postseason four consecutive times without participating in a World Series showdown. According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, that’s a first in major league history.