While much of the conversation during the Giants’ end-of-season press conference Monday concerned plans for the starting rotation, team officials touched on a number of other topics following an 84-78 season in which they missed the playoffs and a chance to defend their 2014 World Series title.
The overall tone was one of optimism, with officials pointing to injuries as a big reason why this year’s Giants failed to reach the postseason and saying they were encouraged by some of the younger players who had a chance to play as a result. The Giants will look to add a starter or two this winter, but said they feel good about what they have returning in the lineup and the bullpen.
“As we go into this winter, it’s not like we have to do a lot,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “Our core guys are here. We just missed them for most of the season.”
A full story on how the Giants’ might fill the hole (or holes) in their rotation can be found here. Meanwhile, a rundown of other topics hit Monday:
▪ The Giants hold a $5.5 million team option on outfielder Nori Aoki for 2016, and GM Bobby Evans said it will “probably be a close call” whether the Giants exercise it. Evans said the Giants will assess their lineup for next season, including the plans for Gregor Blanco, who had one of his best offensive seasons in 2015 before suffering a concussion.
Aoki also ended the season inactive because of a concussion. Evans said the Giants are “confident in Aoki’s health, so that plays a significant benefit in Aoki’s chances. But we need to discuss it further before we come to a conclusion.”
▪ Center fielder Angel Pagan will have minor surgery on his right knee Tuesday -- what Evans called a “patella flush -- a non-invasive procedure for which recovery time is 2-3 weeks. Evans said Pagan wanted to have the procedure to ensure he’s healthy for spring.
“I just think the knees were a bear to him this year,” Evans said. “This is him being extremely cautious to make sure he’s able to go 100 percent without reservations. His intention is to come back strong.”
Pagan was ranked by some defensive metrics among the worst defensive center fielders in the game this year, but Evans said there’s no plan right now to move Pagan to a corner outfield spot.
“I don’t see that happening,” Evans said. “We’re anticipating he’ll be healthy next year.”
The Giants are sending Kelby Tomlinson to the instructional league to get some innings in center field, increasing Tomlinson’s versatility for next season. But it might be a lot to ask Tomlinson to come into camp ready to be a regular center fielder, even in a platoon.
▪ Asked about the possibility of Tim Lincecum returning next season, Evans said: “Our focus right now is on his rehab. That’s our priority, is to make sure he’s healthy.”
Lincecum is rehabbing from arthroscopic hip surgery and said last week he’s focused on his recovery and not where he will be next spring. However, Lincecum is optimistic that he can still pitch in the majors.
“This is a pretty stiff rehab for him,” Evans said. “He’s learned that early on. Hopefully that will progress and give us an opportunity to assess him as we get into the offseason.”
▪ Ryan Vogelsong is another free-agent starter, and the right-hander has made it clear he does not expect to be back with the Giants next year. Vogelsong pointed to his lack of use over the final month as “the writing on the wall.” Evans, however, didn’t rule out at least considering Vogelsong as an option.
“We have needs to improve our pitching and that could come in any form,” Evans said. “I’m not in the mode to eliminate options.”
The Giants have another in-house free agent in outfielder Marlon Byrd, and Bochy touted Byrd’s offensive value late in the season. But the writing on Byrd’s wall may have come when the Giants left him six plate appearances short of vesting a contract option for 2016. Asked about Byrd, Evans said he is “aware how much Byrd helped us,” but that “our focus initially will probably be more on the pitching side.”
▪ In discussing options for the starting rotation, Evans cited Clayton Blackburn as a top in-house candidate. Blackburn, 22, had a strong season at Triple-A Sacramento, going 10-4 with a 2.85 ERA in 23 games (20 starts).
“He’s really turned a corner for us,” Evans said. “His command, his stuff, pitching the way he did at Triple-A, which is a very tough hitters’ league. He’s certainly the guy on the tip of our minds at this point.”
Evans also named Tyler Beede, Ty Blach and Chris Stratton as prospects who head into spring with a chance to make an impression.
▪ The Giants lost a member of their “core four” relievers in left-hander Jeremy Affeldt, but Bochy said the Giants already have a likely replacement in Josh Osich. Bochy also said Hunter Strickland established himself as a seventh-inning guy, and George Kontos had a “huge year.”
“Forget (Sunday),” Bochy said of Kontos’ blown save. “He carried a really heavy work-load for us this year.”
The Giants will have to decide whether to tender an offer to Yusmeiro Petit, who is one of five arbitration eligible players Evans named. The others are Kontos, Hector Sanchez, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford. Petit has been a fixture for the Giants as a long reliever and spot-starter, but he pitched in just four games this season after Aug. 31.
“Petit’s been a very valuable part of our bullpen, and it’ll be a hard choice to make if we decide to do anything different than tender,” Evans said. “But again, we haven’t made those decisions yet.”
▪ One thing that’s not up for consideration: Buster Posey is the Giants’ catcher, despite his finishing the season playing more first base due to Brandon Belt’s concussion. Posey wants to catch, and Bochy said that’s where Posey will be next year, with the occasional start at first.
▪ Bochy said he has no changes planned for his coaching staff. Roberto Kelly had some rocky moments in his first season as a third-base coach, but it sounds like he’ll have the chance for a smoother ride in 2016.
▪ Evans said the Giants “didn’t reach our ultimate goal” in 2015, but that as he turns the page to his first offseason under the title of general manager, “We’ll keep many balls in the air to keep our options open” about addressing their needs. The Giants have become used to starting their offseason a little later. We’ll see how they use a full one.