The GM's Office: San Francisco Giants

Possible pennant race X factors 

September, 5, 2014
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    Jarrod DysonAP PhotoSpeed never slumps and Jarrod Dyson has plenty of it. He could impact KC's postseason chances.
    It's coming down to the wire, and every game counts in the pennant race. With several teams still clinging to postseason hopes, even the slightest developments -- an injury, a surprise performance, an emerging rookie -- can make the difference. These X factors can decide whether a team is playing October baseball or going home.

    Here are 14 American and National League players or managers who could be X factors for their teams as they march to the postseason.

    American League

    Kansas City Royals | Jarrod Dyson and Terrance Gore | OFs

    The Royals have the best two-speed weapons in the pennant race. Dyson and Gore, along with the Reds’ Billy Hamilton, are considered two of the fastest players in baseball right now. Dyson, 30, has stolen 33 bases this year and been caught just six times.

Trade deadline objectives: NL West 

July, 27, 2014
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Ben ZobristRob Tringali/MLB Photos/Getty ImagesThe Giants already added Jake Peavy and could target an upgrade at second base as well.
Deadline objectives: NL East | NL Central | NL West | AL East | AL Central | AL West

The five teams in the National League West have stratified themselves into two distinct classes as the trade deadline and the final portion of the season approach. The San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers continue to jostle for the division title while the San Diego Padres, Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies are all at least 11 games back as of Sunday.

The teams have been active on the trade front, as the Padres shipped Huston Street and Chase Headley off recently and the Giants made a major acquisition Saturday, landing Jake Peavy. But the division's buyers still have some remaining needs, and the division's sellers still have some valuable pieces that can help to restock their farm system.

Here's a breakdown of what each team is buying or selling, along with a trade that I'd like to see each franchise make:

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Joaquin Benoit Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty ImagesJoaquin Benoit sports a sterling 1.86 ERA and 0.80 WHIP in 38 2/3 innings this season.
Over the course of July, Jim Bowden will be looking at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire that player.

Player: Joaquin Benoit | RP | San Diego Padres

Possible destinations: Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Dodgers, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels, San Francisco Giants


Milwaukee Brewers

Why? Because Doug Melvin is their GM, and his track record when his team is in contention at the trade deadline suggests he'll make a move. No one expects him to pull off a blockbuster like he has in the past -- to get CC Sabathia and Zack Greinke, just to name a few -- but most expect him to make a move of some kind.

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Martin PradoAP Photo/David GoldmanMartin Prado is a career .291 hitter and a versatile player defensively.
Over the course of July, Jim Bowden will be looking at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire that player.

Player: Martin Prado | 3B | Arizona Diamondbacks

Possible destinations: Toronto Blue Jays, San Francisco Giants


Toronto Blue Jays

Why? The Blue Jays are in dire need of good right-handed hitters, as they've struggled against left-handed pitchers all season.

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Ben ZobristRob Tringali/MLB Photos/Getty ImagesBen Zobrist's switch-hitting ability should appeal to many teams.
Over the course of July, Jim Bowden will be looking at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire that player.

Player: Ben Zobrist | 2B | Tampa Bay Rays

Possible destinations: Miami Marlins, San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals, Baltimore Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays




Miami Marlins

Why? Rafael Furcal batted .171 with a .216 on-base percentage for the Marlins prior to his injury. Ed Lucas is batting .256 with a .295 on-base percentage, Derek Dietrich is batting .228 with a .326 on-base, Jeff Baker is at .217 and .273, and Donovan Solano is at .182 and .241. In other words, second base has been by far the Marlins' weakest position from an offensive perspective, and it needs to be upgraded if they want to stay in contention in the second half. The fact that Zobrist is a switch-hitter capable of playing all infield and corner outfield positions also gives the Marlins much-needed depth around the diamond.

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Buzz: Kemp will be ready soon 

March, 12, 2014
Mar 12
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KempAP Photo/Paul SancyaMatt Kemp will break camp on the DL, but the Dodgers are stacked in the outfield.
Yesterday we looked at three AL spring training camps in Arizona and took stock of some of the buzz surrounding each one. The beauty of the Cactus League is the relative close proximity of all the team complexes to one another. It makes it very easy to jump from one camp to another and cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time.

Today, let’s take a look at two NL teams in particular, the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants. The two franchises share a storied rivalry that dates back to their beginnings as the Brooklyn and New York teams, and followed them out to California. These teams are primed to reignite that rivalry again this season.

Los Angeles Dodgers

• For now, the Dodgers are committed to keeping all five of their outfielders. Their Opening Day alignment should be Yasiel Puig in right, Andre Ethier in center, Carl Crawford in left, Matt Kemp on the DL and Joc Pederson in Triple-A. Long-term, however, picture Puig, Pederson and Kemp from right to left.

It is wise to keep all of them now, even though at some point it will become a problem if all of them are healthy, because they all deserve to play.

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10 guys scouts are raving about 

March, 10, 2014
Mar 10
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Ryan ZimmermanGreg Fiume/Getty ImagesRyan Zimmerman's shoulder is finally healthy, which should help him at third and at the plate.

While you never like to put too much stock in spring training performance, there is no question that scouts, coaches and execs take notice when a player looks particularly good during camp. I'm not talking about the stat sheet, but rather their actions on the field, which could be anything from their swing, to their fastball, to the way they move.

Here are 10 players who have evaluators excited this year.

1. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Washington Nationals

Zimmerman is taking some grounders at first base this spring, but that is only to give the Nationals more lineup flexibility when a left-hander is on the mound. He looks great at third this spring and his arm strength has returned. This will allow him to once again play a deeper third base and restore his inclusion within any Gold Glove conversation. More important for fantasy players, with a healthy right shoulder for the first time in years, they should anticipate a return to his 2009 numbers.

2. Brandon Belt, 1B, San Francisco Giants

Around the trade deadline last July, Belt made some significant changes at the plate.

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10 undervalued fantasy targets 

February, 26, 2014
Feb 26
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Ryan BraunMike McGinnis/Getty ImagesDespite the Biogenesis scandal, don't forget about Ryan Braun, who could put up big numbers.
Most fantasy baseball players are going to have the usual suspects atop their draft boards: Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, Andrew McCutchen.

However, to "win" drafts, the key is to find the undervalued players. Perhaps a player is coming off of an injury-plagued campaign. Or he has perennially flown under the radar like Baltimore’s Chris Davis did for a couple of years before breaking out in 2013.

The one thing these undervalued targets all have in common is they’re coming off relatively poor seasons so a shrewd fantasy player could nab one or two at a lower draft slot than that player has traditionally had.

Here is a list of 10 players who I think will have significantly better seasons than they did in 2013. If you select them at the right spot, they could become difference-makers for your team.

1. Ryan Braun | RF | Milwaukee Brewers

Braun is coming off his worst season after being suspended for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal. Certainly there are reasons to be concerned -- we don’t know if his career numbers were influenced by PED use, and he’s also switching positions.

I don't think Braun's success was a product of PEDs and believe he wants to prove that to the world.

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The missing link for every NL team 

January, 14, 2014
Jan 14
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Clayton KershawAP Photo/Jeff RobersonThe Dodgers likely will cease chasing Masahiro Tanaka after Clayton Kershaw gets his extension.
For the vast majority of major league teams, pitchers and catchers will report to spring training exactly a month from now. Usually teams are simply fine-tuning their rosters, whether it's that last utility bench guy or an additional bullpen arm.

But with teams from both leagues waiting on the fate of free-agent pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, many teams still have significant moves they must make to shape their team into a championship club. What is the missing link for each team? On Tuesday I will focus on the National League teams and Wednesday I’ll present the American League.

NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST

Arizona Diamondbacks

Missing link: Top-of-the-rotation starter
Solution: Sign RHP Masahiro Tanaka or Ervin Santana or Matt Garza
Both general manager Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson’s option years for 2015 were not picked up, leading Towers to admit that both are on the hot seat to win this year. Every move they’ve made this offseason has involved trading future assets for win-now results. With this type of pressure on him, Towers knows the best way to keep his job is to add an elite starter.

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Seven underrated moves of the winter 

December, 31, 2013
12/31/13
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BourjosOtto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesPeter Bourjos is a much better defender than Jon Jay, St. Louis' incumbent center fielder.
While most of the discussion this winter has focused on the big-money deals given to the likes of Robinson Cano and Jacoby Ellsbury, there have been plenty of smaller moves that will shift pennant races in 2014.

Here are seven moves that I think have been the most underrated of the offseason.

1. St. Louis Cardinals trade for CF Peter Bourjos

The Cardinals were in obvious need of a defensive upgrade in center field and Bourjos is among the best defensive outfielders in the game. He's so good, in fact, that his former manager, Mike Scioscia, often played him in center field instead of Mike Trout. Bourjos has tremendous range in the gaps and there is not a ball he can't outrun.

To get Bourjos, the Cardinals gave up third baseman David Freese and reliever Fernando Salas, while also getting outfield prospect Randal Grichuk from Los Angeles.

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Offseason grades thus far: NL 

December, 15, 2013
12/15/13
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Curtis Granderson AP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackCurtis Granderson went across town and helps the Mets' outfield substantially.
On Saturday, I graded every American League team based on the moves they have made thus far this season, and today we move to the NL.

While the free-agent class wasn't as exciting in years past, we've seen some bold trades that should change the baseball landscape in 2014 and beyond. (Teams are listed in order of their grade, by division.)

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One deal for every NL team 

November, 18, 2013
11/18/13
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The hot stove league is already fired up, as the Philadelphia Phillies struck first by signing outfielder Marlon Byrd last week. With such a weak free-agent class this offseason, teams will look heavily in the trade market.

Below you will find a proposed trade or free-agent signing that could help each National League team. On Tuesday I'll address the American League.

NL East

Atlanta Braves

The move: Trade top pitching prospect Lucas Sims, shortstop Jose Peraza and Alex Wood to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for left-handed pitcher and former Cy Young Award winner David Price and outfield prospect Drew Vettleson.

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Seven players poised to rebound in '14 

September, 18, 2013
9/18/13
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Matt KempKirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsMatt Kemp has endured a nightmare 2013, but all signs point to a resurgent 2014.

Teams can rely on offseason trades and free agency to supplement their teams for the next season. But one of the easiest and most gratifying methods is simply having an important player return to form.

In 2013, baseball has witnessed the comebacks of a number of players who have had a direct impact on their teams' success this season.

Pitchers bouncing back from lackluster 2012 seasons include Ubaldo Jimenez (Cleveland Indians), Francisco Liriano (Pittsburgh Pirates), Jorge De La Rosa (Colorado Rockies), John Lackey (Boston Red Sox) and Ervin Santana (Kansas City Royals).

Bounce-back position players who made the biggest impacts include Jayson Werth (Washington Nationals), Eric Hosmer (Royals), Shane Victorino (Red Sox), Hanley Ramirez (Los Angeles Dodgers), Jacoby Ellsbury (Red Sox) and James Loney (Tampa Bay Rays).

Forecasting how well these players will bounce back can be tricky, but based on a player’s track record and work ethic, general managers often will take gambles based on hunches. They often are the best offseason acquisitions because they cost nothing in terms of trade assets or signing values.

Here are seven players who I believe will have bounce-back seasons in 2014 after subpar 2013 seasons:

1. Matt Kemp | CF | Los Angeles Dodgers

Kemp’s injury-plagued 2013 season was nothing short of a nightmare. Early in the season he didn’t display his typical power, and while the team maintained he was healthy, most observers attributed his lack of power to a surgically repaired shoulder. He also was hampered by a sore right hamstring in May, then again in June.

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Grading the GMs at the deadline 

July, 31, 2013
7/31/13
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While many people are going to say this year's trade deadline was a bit of a dud, there were still plenty of deals made. Here's the way I would grade how every GM did leading up to the deadline, but please keep in mind that sometimes standing pat is the best course of action, and some GMs who did very little still received good grades.

So here are the grades for every GM, with the teams listed in alphabetical order.

Kevin Towers, Arizona Diamondbacks

This was a team that I thought should stand pat, but they did make one notable move, shipping Ian Kennedy to San Diego for Joe Thatcher, pitching prospect Matt Stites and a competitive balance draft pick. Kennedy once looked like a potential No. 2 starter, but he's had a terrible year and would have been the odd man out in Arizona's deep rotation next year. Thatcher is one of the best situational lefties in the game, and he will come in handy against Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier in September, when the D-backs face the Dodgers seven times.

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Cliff LeeAP Photo/Matt SlocumNow it's just a waiting game for Cliff Lee as to whether he will be traded by Wednesday.
With the clock ticking down to the major league trade deadline, there has been some activity the past two days, and we're bound to see some more between now and 4 p.m. ET Wednesday.

So I decided to handicap the odds of these players being traded and which teams they’d best fit based on what I’m hearing from around the front offices. You can bet any movement that happens will somehow involve one of these guys.


Starting pitchers

Jake Peavy | RHP | Chicago White Sox | Odds: 75 percent
The White Sox have been demanding prospect packages far beyond what the Texas Rangers gave up to the Chicago Cubs for Matt Garza. Although the White Sox should get slightly more than the Cubs got for impending free agent Garza -- because the acquiring club would be getting an additional year of control of Peavy in 2014 -- their asking price still must come down if they want to move him.

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