What do you want me to say? Want me to make a funny?
So, the Giants weren’t interested in Johnny Cueto. And then they were. And they Arizona Diamondbacksed him away.
So why do I have a sense of dread?
The stats are impossible to avoid, so I won’t do too much rehashing. Generally, Cueto has been fantastic. He’s overpowering when he’s at his best. Over the last five years, he’s been one of the three best starters by ERA in baseball.
Here’s another fun fact: Of all the aces that started a playoff baseball game against the Giants, he was the only one the Giants didn’t beat.
Because he hurt himself in the first inning, after getting a strikeout against the only batter he faced.
And there is the twist.
It’s pretty ironic that one of the things that the Giants trumpeted about Jeff Samardzija was his durability, his lack of injury, his innings. Cueto is about as far away from that as you can say without him not being an ace anymore. He has that reputation.
Is it misplaced? After his injury-plagued 2013 that made him miss a few small spurts, and one big chunk of the second half, Cueto made 30+ starts in each of the next two…the last two…seasons. He hasn’t made the 30 start plateau only twice in eight seasons. He had some elbow pain early last year, but continued to be awesome with the Reds.
Then he was the big acquisition by the Kansas City Royals. The eventual World Series Champion Kansas City Royals.
And he sucked. Well, not really really sucked, but he had a 4.76 ERA in the regular season with the Royals. In the four postseason appearances, he was a very mixed bag, including a horrible ALCS outing, but a good World Series outing.
There’s not a lot about Cueto that makes sense, and that’s what makes him scary. He went from a homer-friendly park where he thrived, to a good pitchers park, and was pretty damned bad. From a loser to a winner. He was hurting when he was good, and supposedly healthy when he wasn’t.
If the Giants get a healthy Cueto (along with healthy others), they now have one of the top rotations in baseball. If they don’t…well, they have a lot of money in a pitcher who isn’t healthy.
The Giants don’t have a great track record with huge contracts for incoming free agents. There are the outliers, like Barry Bonds. Zito had his moments when they counted, but they took a long time to come around. Aaron Rowand didn’t get his moments. Edgardo Alfonso was an incredible mistake. And the Giants don’t give out these contracts often.
But the contract…that’s the biggest wild card in this discussion. Forget Cueto getting six years when Greinke didn’t. Sure, he’s two years younger by his birth certificate. Forget the seventh option year, which had to be added in on a lark by Bobby Evans.
There’s an opt-out after two years, and it’s a front-loaded contract.
Cueto will get to opt-out at 32, and go after an even bigger contract. With a front-loaded contract, he has millions less reasons to stay with the Giants into his mid and late thirties than a standard contract normally would.
It’s crazy. It’s ridiculous. It could be absolute genius that the Giants gave him it, unless he’s ridiculously injured in the next two years. But it minimizes so much risk, so much dead money.
It could be the new wave. Greinke really introduced it. The Giants could make it absolutely genius.
That’s one reason I’m not dreading this contract. Because that opt-out could be amazing. And if Cueto is healthy….oh, that could be really amazing.
I’m not going to say it’s an even year. But…
A few other random thoughts about this move:
I really, honestly am hoping for the best. But this free agent signing scares me more than any in a long time. But next season sure got interesting.
The baseball draft is so different than every other sports draft. In almost every other draft, even the 7 rounds of the NFL draft, nearly every player is known, with video, scouting combines, and more available.
In baseball, with 40 drafts, you might come across a first rounder without video and/or a scouting report, and are very likely to have the happen with regularity during the third round. And looking for people to recap or grade like they do in other sports is crazy. For instance, SBNation has three various draft grades. Here’s one draft grade for Day 1 which gives the Giants a C+ (only one team got less than a C, the Angels with a D). Here’s a combined grade for Days 1 and 2 which gives the Giants a B (there was just a C and a C+ for this one’s lowest grades). Finally, here’s a Day 1 and 2 grade for the Giants an A-, but a C+ is the draft’s only sub-B grade.
I’d grade the curve that these drafts must be using a 30, with a 50 potential. Ugh.
Still, the Giants are still the Giants, taking guys they love out of the Cape Cod league.
So, since I still love the minors, let’s talk the Giants Draft.
On the first day, the guys the Giants picked were a little above of their slotted values, but not obnoxiously so. All three picks were risky, high-ceiling picks that could pay off well. However, on Day 2, the Giants picked up a couple of players who slipped, and while they are not guaranteed to sign, both could easily join the Giants and give them an interesting mix of talent. There is a lot of pitching to like in this draft class that the Giants got, and the position players have much upside, if riskier downsides.
Phil Bickford, RHP, 1st Round – Most everyone was talking about Bickford’s hair and reported marijuana conviction after the Giants’ pick. Mostly, that was because this wasn’t that would surprise many. Bickford has a big arm with inconsistency, the kind the Giants love to work with, and that they have tried to recently with Stratton (with less than awesome results), and Tyler Beede (Pretty good so far). Bickford’s fastball is the best offering, which pops high on the gun, but is probably going to rest a bit lower, but has great movement. He also has a good breaking pitch. He’s a strong pitching prospect who could develop really nicely if things go right.
Chris Shaw, 1B/OF, 1st Round (compensatory pick) – So, this is the one that the Giants got in compensation for losing Pablo Sandoval. Shaw is a big-hitting first baseman/outfielder, one of the few real power prospects in this draft. He was hitting “legendary” home runs in the Cape Cod league (according to Baseball America). He’s a hit-first player, who probably won’t play well in the outfield, and end up at first. There are also questions about his ability to hit for average, which would affect how good a power hitter he’d be. He also broke a hamate bone in college, limiting him, but the Giants know how players can recover from those, thanks to Sandoval.
Andrew Suarez, LHP, 2nd Round – How about another guy coming off of an injury? Suarez actually had labrum surgery two years ago, and was drafted 57th overall by the Nationals anyway last year. The Giants got him at #61 this year. He had some injuries, including the worrisome oblique injury this year, but he’s another guy whose fastball can run up high (around 95), but will probably will sit lower. Suarez, however, has good control for a power pitcher. He is another pitcher who has a pretty high ceiling to come into the Giants’ system.
Jalen Miller, SS, 3rd Round – Anyone reading draft recaps knows that shortstops were the toast of the town this year, being drafted as the first three picks overall. Jalen Miller, as a high school player, wasn’t far behind. He’s got good speed and good hands at shortstop, though his arm strength is questionable. Miller has all the intangibles that the Giants love, and some had him rated highly enough to be a first rounder, depending on if he’d stay at shortstop, or move to second base.
* – If he signs. As a high schooler who some thought would be a first rounder, he might not like being a third rounder, and go to school to try and improve his spot.
The Not-Nepotism Pick:
Jose Vizcaino Jr., SS/3B/OF?, 7th Round – Yes, the son of THAT Jose Vizcaino. This isn’t just about celebrating a former player, after all, not in the Top 10 rounds. Where Viz Sr. was a wiry utility infielder kind of player, Viz Jr. is 6’3, big and strong. Playing at Santa Clara University, he was one of the best offensive shortstop prospects in the WCC. He played shortstop in college, but as he taps into his power, he’s likely to end up at third or in center field. Viz. Jr. grew up around the Giants dugout, and was in the dugout when Bonds broke Hank Aaron’s record*. And yet, for some reason, he said pre-draft “I bleed Dodger blue…”
It’s called a jinx, Viz Jr. You just invoked it. The Giants got you. Learn how not to do it in the future, okay?
* – Asterisk to say that there is no asterisk involved about Bonds breaking Aaron’s record.
Boom or Bust Pick:
Steven Duggar, OF, 6th Round – The MLB Draft Tracker said he had the best all-around tools in the, say it with me, Cape Cod League, but he rarely lived up to them. Baseball America said he had the loudest tools on a loaded Clemson team…and then says he has well below-average power, which makes me wonder about the use of the adjective “loudest”. However, Duggar has plus-plus speed, and is a very good defender. He played right in Clemson, but could play center. Either spot could be good in San Francisco. The question is, will his hitting be enough. (Calling Gary Brown…)
Future Closer Pick:
David Graybill, RHP, 9th Round – Graybill didn’t pitch much out of Arizona State, but he has big, big heat, consistently throwing around 95 mph. He has control issues, and is very raw, but hey, the Giants can work with that. Plus, he has a name that sounds like a mix of baseball and Game of Thrones. That’s worth a shot.
Other Future Closer Pick:
Michael Silva, RHP, 25th Round – Silva had some real problems as a starter in college, but when he switched to relief work, also throwing around 95 with some control issues, but his slider looks like a good second pitch.
Name That Seems To Be Made To Made Fun Of, But It Isn’t That Funny:
Nathaniel Pecota, OF, 38th Round – For those who don’t know, Baseball Prospectus started to develop a sabermetric system to project players called PECOTA. It is an acronym for Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm. It started in 2003. So obviously, make fun of this kid’s name, right? Well, Nate Silver actually made is a backronym, named after Nathaniel’s father, Bill Pecota, a major league journeyman who played at De Anza College in Cupertino. So it’s not that funny to tease the kid after a name that really is named after his family. Plus, as a 38th round high schooler, he’s unlikely to sign.
Best of the Best Names:
Mac Marshall, LHP, 4th Round – And actually, this is a good value pick. Picked up #126 overall, Marshall was rated #57 overall by Baseball America. Marshall is coming out of JC, so maybe he won’t sign, but there’s still real chances that he will. His fastball is low-90’s stuff, but he has a very good changeup and curve as well, with the intangibles. If he signs, he won’t be noticed behind Bickford and Suarez as much, but could have real talent, and along with Miller, has some draft reviewers liking the Giants’ value of their picks.
Other Great Names
Cody Brickhouse, C, 15th Round
Dillon Dobson, 2B, 23rd Round
Ashford Fulmer, OF, 28th Round
Tucker Forbes, RHP, 30th Round
Hunter Bowling, LHP, 39th Round
So that’s your 2015 Giants Draft Recap. In a few years, we’ll see how this draft shakes out. But there’s some good picks here, and it should be fun to watch.