Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
The Official Site of the San Francisco Giants

news

Giants News

Giants hit Florida with optimism, many needs

Team seeks outfielders, third baseman, bullpen depth at Winter Meetings
MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

SAN FRANCISCO -- Though the Giants' bids to obtain Giancarlo Stanton and Shohei Ohtani fell short, maybe the timing was right.

The Giants officially ended their pursuit of a trade with Miami for the slugging Stanton on Friday, hours after Ohtani, the pitching/hitting phenom, announced that he had chosen the Angels ahead of six other teams, including San Francisco.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Though the Giants' bids to obtain Giancarlo Stanton and Shohei Ohtani fell short, maybe the timing was right.

The Giants officially ended their pursuit of a trade with Miami for the slugging Stanton on Friday, hours after Ohtani, the pitching/hitting phenom, announced that he had chosen the Angels ahead of six other teams, including San Francisco.

There was a redeeming aspect to this: With baseball's annual Winter Meetings set to begin in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., on Sunday evening, the Giants can concentrate fully on obtaining less-celebrated but still-useful performers to upgrade the roster.

"Other scenarios as well exist that address our needs," Giants general manager Bobby Evans said.

Those needs are significant, given the Giants' last-place finish in the National League West in 2017. Their 64-98 record was their second worst since the franchise moved from New York in 1958.

The Giants need outfielders and a third baseman who can provide authoritative offense. They also seek depth for a bullpen that had relatively few leads to protect this year.

Hot Stove Tracker

Evans won't be choosy about the method the Giants use in their attempts to add talent, whether it's through trade or free agency. They're already warmed up in both areas, so to speak, having tried to trade for Stanton and pluck Ohtani from free agency.

The Giants' reported willingness to pick up an ample portion of Stanton's contract, which has 10 years and $295 million remaining, indicated that money shouldn't be an issue.

"I think as a group we're optimistic that we're going to be able to address our needs," Evans said.

If the Giants don't engineer a deal here, they still have two offseason months and all of Spring Training left for shopping.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

San Francisco Giants

Moore to wear Lincecum's No. 55 for Giants

MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

SAN FRANCISCO -- It was bound to happen eventually: Jersey No. 55, which Tim Lincecum wore during his eventful San Francisco Giants tenure, is back in circulation after two seasons on the shelf.

Left-hander Matt Moore has inherited the number. It's listed alongside his name in the Giants roster that appears in MLB's guide to the Winter Meetings, which start Monday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

SAN FRANCISCO -- It was bound to happen eventually: Jersey No. 55, which Tim Lincecum wore during his eventful San Francisco Giants tenure, is back in circulation after two seasons on the shelf.

Left-hander Matt Moore has inherited the number. It's listed alongside his name in the Giants roster that appears in MLB's guide to the Winter Meetings, which start Monday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Moore wore No. 55 since beginning his Major League career with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011, but was issued No. 45 when the Giants acquired him in the Aug. 1, 2016, deal that sent infielder Matt Duffy and two Minor Leaguers to Tampa Bay.

Video: COL@SF: Moore whiffs six over six-plus shutout frames

Lincecum's 55 was never considered for official retirement. The franchise reserves that honor for Hall of Famers. However, the Giants tend to honor a select few performers unofficially by temporarily or indefinitely suspending the use of their numbers.

For example, no Giant has worn Barry Bonds' No. 25 since his active career ended in 2007. As a Giant, Bonds became baseball's all-time home run leader, won five of his seven National League Most Valuable Player Awards and made 12 All-Star teams.

Another instance: Right-hander Robb Nen's jersey (31) hung in the clubhouse throughout 2005. Nen earned undying respect in 2002 by continuing to pitch despite knowing that he could sustain a career-ending shoulder injury. Right-hander Vinnie Chulk began wearing 31 in 2006.

Lincecum captivated fans with his on-field charisma and ability to throw pitches with startling velocity or movement despite his slight build. He became the fourth pitcher in history to win back-to-back NL Cy Young Awards (2008-09). A four-time All-Star, Lincecum led the NL in strikeouts for three consecutive years (2008-10), threw two no-hitters and excelled in postseason play (5-2, 2.40 ERA).

After pitching his final game as a Giant on June 27, 2015, Lincecum owned a 108-83 record with a 3.61 ERA and 1,704 strikeouts in 1,643 2/3 innings spanning nine seasons.

He underwent left hip surgery in September 2015, signed with the Angels the following year and went 2-6 with a 9.16 ERA in nine starts.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

San Francisco Giants, Tim Lincecum, Matt Moore

With Stanton out, who's next on Giants' radar?

MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants are out of the Giancarlo Stanton sweepstakes, according to a statement released by the team Friday.

"Our agreement with the Marlins to acquire Giancarlo Stanton subject to his waiving of the no-trade clause will not move forward, and it is our understanding that the Marlins and Stanton are exploring other options," the statement read.

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants are out of the Giancarlo Stanton sweepstakes, according to a statement released by the team Friday.

"Our agreement with the Marlins to acquire Giancarlo Stanton subject to his waiving of the no-trade clause will not move forward, and it is our understanding that the Marlins and Stanton are exploring other options," the statement read.

Stanton is reportedly headed to the Yankees, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman, who said early on Saturday morning that the parameters of a deal were "done."

Like the Cardinals, the Giants had a deal in place with the Marlins that was contingent on Stanton's final approval. According to Mish, that deal involved the Giants' top four prospects: Christian Arroyo, Chris Shaw, Tyler Beede and Heliot Ramos.

Stanton wants to join a serious contender. The Giants finished last in the NL West with a 64-98 record in 2017.

Common sense dictated that if Stanton, whose availability prompted trade proposals from the Giants and Cardinals, wanted to join either of those teams, he would have approved a swap by now. The full no-trade clause in his contract -- which the Marlins are trying to shed, since it guarantees him $295 million over the next 10 seasons -- gives him veto power over any deal.

Video: Haft on Giants' future plans after missing on Ohtani

Losing out in the Stanton market sharpened the focus on San Francisco's other efforts to upgrade the roster.

As Giants general manager Bobby Evans said in a radio interview Wednesday, "Our staff is very involved in a lot of discussions, and we have to make sure at the end of the day that we address our priorities for the offseason. That's our outfield and adding power to the lineup and our bullpen."

In other words, the Giants, who ranked last or next-to-last in numerous offensive categories this past season, already began considering options besides Stanton, who led the Major Leagues with 59 home runs and 132 RBIs.

Having discussed Stanton extensively with the Marlins, the Giants could make a smooth transition by launching trade talks regarding their left fielder, Marcell Ozuna. The Marlins are bent on trimming their player payroll, and Ozuna will be due for a nice raise after amassing 37 homers and 124 RBIs to go with a .312/.548/.924 slash line.

It has long been anticipated that the Giants will heavily pursue free agents, which has been their preferred method of player acquisition.

They'll face plenty of competition for outfielder J.D. Martinez, whose 45 homers and .303/.376/.690 slash line would make him a nice consolation prize if the Giants can't secure Stanton. However, Martinez's penchant for opposite-field power hitting, as demonstrated by Statcast™, might make him wary of playing home games at AT&T Park, given its 25-foot-high right-field wall.

The Giants could address two needs with one move by signing a slugging third baseman. Mike Moustakas, who homered 38 times in 2017, and Todd Frazier, who totaled 27 homers, are obvious candidates. There's also Mark Reynolds, whose 30 homers were partially offset by his 175 strikeouts -- a figure that clashes with the Giants' contact-conscious approach.

The Giants also reportedly have discussed trade possibilities with the Pirates regarding outfielder Andrew McCutchen, who's eligible for free agency after next season. McCutchen, who will receive a $14.75 million salary next year, compiled 28 homers and 88 RBIs to accompany a .279/.363/.486 slash line.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

San Francisco Giants, Giancarlo Stanton

Giants miss out on Ohtani, continue OF search

MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants missed out on Shohei Ohtani, the multi-talented Japanese star who is headed to play for the Angels, according to his agent. But the sting of losing the opportunity to obtain such an intriguing performer wasn't exceedingly sharp.

Ohtani, the pitcher/outfielder who considered the Giants among seven teams in free agency, surely would have been entertaining. However, he was far from a necessity.

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants missed out on Shohei Ohtani, the multi-talented Japanese star who is headed to play for the Angels, according to his agent. But the sting of losing the opportunity to obtain such an intriguing performer wasn't exceedingly sharp.

Ohtani, the pitcher/outfielder who considered the Giants among seven teams in free agency, surely would have been entertaining. However, he was far from a necessity.

The Giants seemed prepared to add Ohtani to their starting rotation. Yet that area is considered a potential asset, not a weakness, with Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija providing stability, and Chris Stratton showing promise. San Francisco tied for fourth in the Major Leagues with 82 quality starts in 2017.

Obtaining Ohtani might have enabled the Giants to trade one of their high-salaried starters to ease the payroll crunch. The Giants face the prospect of paying into the Competitive Balance Tax for the fourth consecutive year. Cueto is scheduled to earn $21 million per year through 2021; Samardzija is due $18 million per year through '20.

Video: Haft on possible reasons why Giants missed on Ohtani

Had the Giants concentrated on using Ohtani as an outfielder, their search for quality and depth at the three positions likely would have continued. He wasn't the be-all and end-all to their outfield issues.

Hunter Pence and Denard Span spent time on the disabled list in 2017, and both will be eligible for free agency after next season. Chris Shaw, the organization's top power-hitting prospect, is being converted from first base to left field and can be expected to lack defensive polish. A competent center fielder is needed as a caretaker for the position until rookie Steven Duggar is ready to handle the spot full-time.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

San Francisco Giants

Unsure thing: '92 Bonds deal a scramble

Slugger came to San Francisco during Winter Meetings after false start
MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

SAN FRANCISCO -- Barry Bonds, who spent a lot of time jogging unimpeded around the bases, actually began his Giants career with a false start.

Rewind a quarter-century to the 1992 Winter Meetings in Louisville, Ky. As the Meetings approached, Bonds was expected to sign with the Yankees. Then, as now, the Yankees were automatically mentioned as a likely destination for every talented, high-priced free agent. And few ballplayers, if any, seemed as talented as Bonds, who was fleeing the Pirates after winning his second National League Most Valuable Player Award in three years.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Barry Bonds, who spent a lot of time jogging unimpeded around the bases, actually began his Giants career with a false start.

Rewind a quarter-century to the 1992 Winter Meetings in Louisville, Ky. As the Meetings approached, Bonds was expected to sign with the Yankees. Then, as now, the Yankees were automatically mentioned as a likely destination for every talented, high-priced free agent. And few ballplayers, if any, seemed as talented as Bonds, who was fleeing the Pirates after winning his second National League Most Valuable Player Award in three years.

However, word swept through the Galt House hotel, headquarters for the Meetings, that a surprise team had joined the bidding for Bonds. That club was the Giants, with whom Bonds was more than well acquainted. His father, Bobby, spent the first seven years of a productive Major League career with San Francisco. Moreover, the franchise's leading legend, Willie Mays, happened to be Bonds' godfather.

Hot Stove Tracker

A late-night news conference was scheduled. Accompanied by his father and his agent, Dennis Gilbert, Bonds strode to the podium and began to speak. Suddenly, somebody approached Bonds, who was then hustled out of the room.

Before long, explanation replaced confusion: The Giants had recently been sold to Peter Magowan and a posse of local investors. Bob Lurie, the San Francisco's existing owner, didn't want to be responsible for Bonds' record-breaking, six-year, $43.75 million contract if Magowan's purchase weren't officially approved. The final, official vote of NL owners hadn't happened yet.

Larry Baer, now the Giants' president and chief executive officer, was part of a group that stayed awake until almost dawn to create contractual language that would protect Lurie and allow the Bonds deal to go through.

The incident illustrated the difference between Lurie and Magowan. Lurie was quoted as saying, "We did not want [Bonds] for the San Francisco Giants at that price." By contrast, Magowan was so eager to acquire Bonds that he ignored the formality of his pending ownership status.

With the ink dry on the clause absolving Lurie from any economic responsibility for Bonds, the principals for the news conference convened again -- this time without a hitch.

Bonds would go on to hit 586 homers in 15 seasons with the Giants, including four consecutive NL MVP Awards from 2001-04.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

San Francisco Giants

San Jose Sharks host Giants night with jerseys

On Thursday night, the San Jose Sharks hosted the Carolina Hurricanes at the SAP Center on Giants Night.

Last month, the Sharks celebrated their neighbors, the Oakland A's, with a festive theme night and a visit from the 1989 World Series trophy (and A's outfielder Mark Canha). The Sharks returned the favor to the other Bay Area baseball team, the San Francisco Giants, with a theme night of their own. 

25 years ago, Bonds signed with Giants

When news broke on Dec. 6, 1992, that the Giants signed Barry Bonds, the 28-year-old two-time National League MVP became the highest-paid player in baseball history. In response to the then-record six-year, $43.75 million deal, Giants owner Peter Magowan said, "It's a lot of money, but there's only one Barry Bonds." Over the course of what would turn out to be a 15-year tenure for Bonds in San Francisco, Magowan would be proven right beyond his wildest dreams.

Like any pivotal moment in baseball history, Bonds landing in the Bay could have just as easily never happened. Prior to the '92 season, the Pirates -- perhaps sensing they would be unlikely to retain their star when he became a free agent -- had agreed to a deal that would have sent the left fielder to the Braves for Alejandro Pena, Keith Mitchell and a prospect. Braves GM John Schuerholtz was confident that he could work out an extension to keep Bonds in Atlanta, and the teams were all set to announce the deal -- that is, until Pirates manager Jim Leyland got wind of it.

MLB Pipeline's Top 50 Draft prospects for 2018

MLB.com @JonathanMayo

For the first time in three years, the top spot on MLBPipeline.com's early Draft Top 50 list is not occupied by a high school pitcher. It should come as no surprise that the top guy is still a pitcher, and one from the 2017 College World Series champion Florida Gators. Right-hander Brady Singer, who helped pitch them to that title as a sophomore, is the clear choice as the best overall talent in the 2018 Draft class, which some think could be the best since 2011.

It's nothing new to see one of Florida's starting pitchers head into a new season as a potential No. 1 overall pick. Lefty A.J. Puk was No. 2 on the 2016 list behind high school left-hander Jay Groome. He ended up going No. 6 overall that June. A year ago, Gators right-hander Alex Faedo came in at No. 4 on the Top 50 led by prep phenom Hunter Greene. He ended up going No. 18 overall to the Tigers, who have the No. 1 pick in 2018. While Puk and Faedo were obviously highly regarded, scouts do feel Singer's all-around game on the mound gives him a better chance to stay in that 1-1 conversation.

For the first time in three years, the top spot on MLBPipeline.com's early Draft Top 50 list is not occupied by a high school pitcher. It should come as no surprise that the top guy is still a pitcher, and one from the 2017 College World Series champion Florida Gators. Right-hander Brady Singer, who helped pitch them to that title as a sophomore, is the clear choice as the best overall talent in the 2018 Draft class, which some think could be the best since 2011.

It's nothing new to see one of Florida's starting pitchers head into a new season as a potential No. 1 overall pick. Lefty A.J. Puk was No. 2 on the 2016 list behind high school left-hander Jay Groome. He ended up going No. 6 overall that June. A year ago, Gators right-hander Alex Faedo came in at No. 4 on the Top 50 led by prep phenom Hunter Greene. He ended up going No. 18 overall to the Tigers, who have the No. 1 pick in 2018. While Puk and Faedo were obviously highly regarded, scouts do feel Singer's all-around game on the mound gives him a better chance to stay in that 1-1 conversation.

Top Draft Prospects

"There's less things that can go wrong," one National League scouting director said. "I can't see him coming out and 'laying an egg,' so to speak. He's a little more of a pitcher, when they were more power guys."

While the list doesn't have a high schooler at No. 1, it does have a ton of high-end prep pitching on it, starting at No. 2 with Ethan Hankins. The Atlanta area standout had a very impressive summer and is armed with the best fastball in the Top 50. He might not be atop the list, but that doesn't mean he doesn't belong in the same class as Groome and Greene, who went No. 12 and No. 2 in their respective Drafts.

"He's right up there," the scouting director said. "He's very, very impressive. He has size, strength and stuff. What Hunter had over him, he could do it as a position player, so you knew that when he gives that up, there might be more to come. But he's right up there with the better high school kids I've seen in the last couple of years."

2018 Draft order | 2018 Draft: June 4-6 | All-time Draft picks

The top high school bat comes in at No. 4 on the list in the form of Phoenix-area infielder Nolan Gorman. His raw power was on display for much of the summer as he stood out in multiple elite-level home run derbies, with the ability to drive the ball also showing up in games. Nick Madrigal is the top college position player on the list, coming in at No. 11. He's undersized, but that doesn't seem to matter as much these days, and the Oregon State infielder has a strong track record and perhaps the best hit tool in the class.

Video: Draft Report: Nick Madrigal, College 2B/SS

College hitters are often hard to come by, especially this early, but scouts are encouraged that there seems to be more advanced bats to consider in the first round than usual. Given that college performers tend to float up as the Draft nears, seeing Madrigal or some of the others on this Top 50 land in the top 10 seems very feasible.

"I think I like the list this year more than last year," the scouting director said. "I like the depth. There's college pitching, if you're at the top. I think there are some college position players. Who were the college players last year at the top? There's very good high school pitching. I think it's deeper all the way around."

Class breakdown

It's a fairly even split in this year's Top 50, with 26 high schoolers and 24 from the college ranks. It's split right down the middle at the top, with the top 10 filled with five college players and five prepsters. While it is pitching heavy at the top, with seven of the top 10 on the mound, there are more bats to be found later on. That speaks to the aforementioned depth. There might not be a college bat in the top 10, but there are five in the 11-20 range -- led by Madrigal at No. 11 -- and no one would be surprised to see some of them end up in the top 10 once the Draft rolls around.

In total, there are a dozen college hitters in the Top 50, up from eight a year ago. The 12 college pitchers on the list, five in the top 10, is down a touch from 15 on our 2017 Top 50. Of the 26 high schoolers, half are pitchers. High school right-handers are a particular strength in this class, with 11 in this Top 50. The complete positional breakdown of this list is as a follows:

RHP: 18
OF: 11
LHP: 7
SS: 4
1B: 3
3B: 3
C: 3
2B: 1

Top tools

All players, as always, are given grades on the 20-to-80 scouting scale for all tools or pitches. These are future grades, a reflection of what the scouting industry thinks each of these amateur players can become in the future. Here are the top grades for each tool and pitch.

Position players
Hit: 60 - Nick Madrigal, 2B/SS, Oregon State, Jarred Kelenic, OF, Waukesha (Wis.) West HS
Power: 60 - Nolan Gorman, O'Connor HS (Phoenix)
Run: 70 - Xavier Edwards, SS, North Broward Prep (Coconut Creek, Fla.), Connor Scott, OF, Plant HS (Tampa, Fla.)
Arm: 70 - Joe Gray Jr., OF, Hatiesburg (Miss.) HS, Will Banfield, C, Brookwood HS (Snellville, Ga.)
Field: 60 - Mike Siani, OF, William Penn Charter (Philadelphia), Alek Thomas, OF, Mount Carmel HS (Chicago)

Pitchers
Fastball: 80 - Ethan Hankins, RHP, Forsyth Central HS (Cumming, Ga.)
Curveball: 65 - Tim Cate, LHP, Connecticut
Slider: 65 - Brady Singer, RHP, Florida
Changeup: 65 - Steven Gingery, LHP, Texas Tech
Control: 60 - Casey Mize, RHP, Auburn

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Giants extend offers to 5 arb-eligible players

MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

The Giants tendered contracts to second baseman Joe Panik, right-handed relief pitchers Cory Gearrin, Sam Dyson and Hunter Strickland, and lefty reliever Will Smith on Friday.

The club non-tendered righty reliever Albert Suarez, who has appeared in 40 games over the last two seasons.

The Giants tendered contracts to second baseman Joe Panik, right-handed relief pitchers Cory Gearrin, Sam Dyson and Hunter Strickland, and lefty reliever Will Smith on Friday.

The club non-tendered righty reliever Albert Suarez, who has appeared in 40 games over the last two seasons.

Panik, 27, has been the club's regular at second base since June 2014. Dyson, 29, was acquired in a June 6 trade with the Rangers and Strickland, 29, has attained Super 2 status (among players between two and three years' service time, his is in the top 22 percent). All three are arbitration-eligible for the first time.

Hot Stove Tracker

Smith, 28, and Gearrin, 31, are in their second year of arbitration eligibility.

Players have a Jan. 9 deadline for filing for arbitration and the deadline for teams and players to exchange arbitration figures is Jan. 12, although the sides could work out agreements before then.

If teams and players don't reach agreements at the time of the exchange, hearings will be scheduled between Jan. 29 and Feb. 16. Cases will be heard in Phoenix. However, the rules allow for agreements to be negotiated and reached between the exchange dates and when a hearing occurs.

Thomas Harding has been with MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and like his Facebook page.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

San Francisco Giants

Q&A: Meet new Giants hitting coach Powell

S.F. native joins club after World Series run with Astros
MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

Alonzo Powell will bring a wealth of experience with him into his first season as the Giants' hitting coach. Powell, 52, played professionally both in the Major Leagues and in Japan. The San Francisco native played alongside Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. and Cooperstown candidate Omar Vizquel as a member of the Mariners. He also competed against Barry Bonds while performing for Lincoln High School. Powell joined the Giants after serving as the assistant hitting coach for the World Series-champion Astros. MLB.com recently caught up with Powell for a brief chat:

Being born and raised in San Francisco, what did you come to appreciate about the city and the Bay Area the most?

Alonzo Powell will bring a wealth of experience with him into his first season as the Giants' hitting coach. Powell, 52, played professionally both in the Major Leagues and in Japan. The San Francisco native played alongside Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. and Cooperstown candidate Omar Vizquel as a member of the Mariners. He also competed against Barry Bonds while performing for Lincoln High School. Powell joined the Giants after serving as the assistant hitting coach for the World Series-champion Astros. MLB.com recently caught up with Powell for a brief chat:

Being born and raised in San Francisco, what did you come to appreciate about the city and the Bay Area the most?

I feel so lucky to grow up in that area because it's so diverse. You have people of all colors and backgrounds. It gave you a good appreciation for what the world is like.

What neighborhood did you live in?

I lived in the Ingleside area, by San Francisco State.

Did you play other sports at Lincoln besides baseball?

I played football -- I was a strong safety and receiver -- but my senior year I did not play. I got hurt my junior year, and I knew that baseball was going to be my next venture, so I kind of stuck with baseball my last year.

Are you a 49ers fan and/or a Warriors fan also?

Yeah, all of the above. I also had the Raiders back then, too, because they were pretty good. Again, the good thing about growing up in the area was getting to see baseball from the American League side and the National League side.

To fast-forward, at what point this season did you sense the Astros had something special going?

We kind of knew it over the winter. With the additions that were made, bringing in [Brian] McCann, [Josh] Reddick, Carlos Beltran, we knew if we stayed healthy, we'd be able to compete for the division title. That was our main goal going in. The way the game is now, it's paramount to win your division so you don't have to get yourself involved in a one-game [Wild Card] shootout.

Have the Astros asked you what your ring size is?

I'm sure that will come in due time. They haven't officially asked as of yet.

Is Jose Altuve good because of his height (5-foot-6) or in spite of it? Or does it not make much difference?

I think it's all of the above. He had to overcome so much in his young career just to prove that he belonged. I think you've heard the story about him trying out and they basically told him to go home, and his dad said, "If you're that confident about how well you did, go back." He's been proving people wrong since then, and he's doing it now. He's an unbelievable player. I've been around a long time and I got a chance to see Ichiro [Suzuki], and I thought I would never, ever say there was a better hitter than Ichiro. But two months into my first season [with Houston] in '16. ... Watching Jose day in and day out, he was just as good if not better than Ichiro with his willingness to drive the ball and get extra-base hits.

What's the most basic thing you tell hitters as a hitting coach?

Before you can do anything, you have to have the ability to see the ball, which allows you to decide whether or not to swing. And then balance comes into that.

What do you recall about your first big league hit (off Cincinnati's Tom Browning in 1987)?

It was my first Major League game. I made the Montreal Expos roster from Double-A; we had some injuries that spring. That was the year Andre Dawson and Tim Raines somehow couldn't find a job. Here I am, a 22-year-old rookie. It was Opening Day, my first day in the big leagues. ... My first at-bat I was so nervous, I didn't even swing. I ended up striking out on about five pitches. Here's the opportunity I've been waiting for my whole life and I didn't even swing the bat. I think they knew I was a little nervous, so my next time up we had a runner on first and they put on a hit-and-run, since obviously on a hit-and-run you have to swing the bat. I got a fastball middle-away and I hit a line-drive double into the right-center-field gap for an RBI. That's something you're never going to forget.

What was it like playing with Ken Griffey Jr.?

Unbelievable. He's the best player I've ever been on a field with. Oh, maybe I shouldn't say that, because I played against Barry in high school. Junior, I thought, all-around, was the best player that I was a teammate of, let's put it that way. He made the game so easy. He was a very smart player, he knew exactly what was going on and he had a great feel for what he was doing.

What was it like playing with Omar Vizquel?

I met Omar when I played against him in winter ball. I think that was in 1986 in Venezuela. He had a great feel for the game and didn't swing the bat too well, but everybody knew he was going to be a great shortstop. To Omar's credit, he made himself into a really good hitter.

When you played against Barry Bonds in high school, was it possible to think that this guy might become the all-time home run leader?

Well, you knew he was good, there's no doubt about that. Did you know that he would be the all-time home run leader? Probably not. But you knew he was going to be a superstar-caliber player. There wasn't anything on the field that he couldn't do. Me and my high school buddies joke that we were 20 years ahead of the game because we knew we couldn't get him out, so we'd walk him, and he'd steal second and third and score on a ground ball. But at least he didn't hit it over the fence or in the gap.

Q&A: Giants pitching coach Curt Young

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

San Francisco Giants

Span ramps up charitable efforts for holidays

Outfielder's foundation provides cars for single-parent families
MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

SAN FRANCISCO -- As a leadoff batter, Denard Span knows that reaching base ranks among his top priorities. He can dictate a game's tone by establishing his team's offensive rhythm.

Span, the Giants outfielder, intends to create similar empowerment through his charitable efforts. And in American society, few possessions are more empowering than a car.

SAN FRANCISCO -- As a leadoff batter, Denard Span knows that reaching base ranks among his top priorities. He can dictate a game's tone by establishing his team's offensive rhythm.

Span, the Giants outfielder, intends to create similar empowerment through his charitable efforts. And in American society, few possessions are more empowering than a car.

So through his eponymous foundation, which benefits single-parent families, Span intends to donate an automobile to the head of a household who particularly needs the wheels for day-to-day living.

Living near Tampa, Fla., Span was partly inspired by former Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Warrick Dunn, who gave houses to the less fortunate. Span explained that he wanted his foundation, which has operated for three years, "to go in a different direction to make a bigger impact."

Span's endeavors have enriched the lives of numerous single parents. He shall forever be shaped by his experiences with his mother, Wanda Wilson, who raised him and his older brother, Ray, alone.

"Thankfully, we've been able to bless a good number of people during Thanksgiving and holiday seasons," said Span, 33. "God has blessed me with this platform, and the last thing I want to do is to let it go to waste."

Wasting time and energy is foreign to Span. For obvious reasons, the 10-year veteran waited until he had established himself in the Major Leagues to launch his foundation. But when the time was right, he selected a cause "near and dear to my heart," having seen what his mother endured.

With his wife, Anne, Span is diversifying his efforts by hosting a fundraising dinner on Dec. 14 at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa.

Said Span: "We're kind of relaunching our foundation so we can get it off the ground a little bit more and do bigger and better things in the community -- both here in Tampa, my hometown, and in San Francisco as well."

That will be the second-biggest event of the offseason for the Spans. On Oct. 4, Anne gave birth to the couple's first child, Denard James.

"It's been nothing but busy," Span said of the offseason. "But it's a good busy."

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

San Francisco Giants, Denard Span

Bonds, Kent lead SF contingent on HOF ballot

MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

SAN FRANCISCO -- Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent frequently appeared back to back in the batting order as Giants teammates. When the subject is Hall of Fame voting, however, Bonds has steadily separated himself from Kent in recent seasons. 

Bonds and Kent again joined forces to lead the Giants' contingent on the 2018 Hall of Fame ballot that was released Monday. The momentum surrounding their respective candidacies, however, is vastly different.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent frequently appeared back to back in the batting order as Giants teammates. When the subject is Hall of Fame voting, however, Bonds has steadily separated himself from Kent in recent seasons. 

Bonds and Kent again joined forces to lead the Giants' contingent on the 2018 Hall of Fame ballot that was released Monday. The momentum surrounding their respective candidacies, however, is vastly different.

2018 Hall of Fame ballot

Bonds appears to be surging toward enshrinement by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, befitting his status as baseball's all-time home run leader and a seven-time National League Most Valuable Player. He received votes from 44.3 percent of the electorate in 2016, up from 36.8 percent the year before. Bonds received another bounce in '17 to 53.8 percent. Seventy-five percent of the vote is required for induction.

By contrast, Kent's backing has remained stagnant. The voting percentages he has drawn range from 15.2 in 2014, 14.0 in '15, 16.6 in '16 and 16.7 last year.

Voters apparently have overlooked Kent's prodigious slugging. He hit 351 of his 377 career homers as a second baseman, more than anyone ever to play the position.

Possible reasons for the lukewarm enthusiasm Kent generates among voters include his supposedly ordinary defense -- as opposed to the wizardry of Roberto Alomar, a second baseman who was elected to the Hall on the second ballot in 2011. There's also a perception that Kent has seemed to encounter just a few too many can't-miss candidates each year who siphon off his support.

"I think he belongs in the Hall of Fame," former Giants managing general partner Peter Magowan said. "After World War II, who has a better record than Jeff Kent?"

A newcomer to the ballot with Giants ties is shortstop Omar Vizquel, who spent 2005-08 with San Francisco. Experts believe that Vizquel, who signed with the Giants as a free agent, may have bolstered his Hall of Fame chances by joining San Francisco, which enabled him to showcase his diverse skills for a fresh audience after spending 1989-2004 with Seattle and Cleveland in the American League.

Besides becoming the first Giants shortstop to win a Gold Glove Award for defensive excellence in 2005, Vizquel earned the honor again in '06. He also batted .265 with 67 stolen bases as a Giant. Vizquel broke Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio's Major League record for games played at shortstop while performing for the Giants in May 2008.

Another former Giant who appears on the ballot is first baseman Aubrey Huff, who was a member of San Francisco's World Series-winning teams in 2010 and '12.

Results from this year's balloting are scheduled to be announced on Jan. 24 on MLB Network.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

San Francisco Giants

Beltran retires a champ after 20-year career

9-time All-Star wants to spend more time with family, manage some day
MLB.com @feinsand

Carlos Beltran's last official act as a Major League player was hoisting the World Series trophy for the first time in his career.

And although the 40-year-old is riding off into the sunset as a champion, the Astros' championship was not a factor in his decision to walk away from the game he loves.

Carlos Beltran's last official act as a Major League player was hoisting the World Series trophy for the first time in his career.

And although the 40-year-old is riding off into the sunset as a champion, the Astros' championship was not a factor in his decision to walk away from the game he loves.

Video: Carlos Beltran announces retirement from baseball

The veteran outfielder, who officially announced his retirement Monday in an essay on The Players' Tribune, told MLB.com he reached the verdict to hang up his spikes sometime over the summer, never wavering from that choice during Houston's memorable run.

Beltran may be perfect fit as Yanks' skipper

"At the beginning of this year, being in Houston while my family was in New York, it was the first time I've been away from my family for months," Beltran said in his first interview since announcing his retirement. "I told [my wife] Jessica I really missed the family and I wanted to be with them, so I was really contemplating retirement after this year. I said, 'Hopefully we can get to the World Series and win the World Series, so I can go home on a happy note.'

Video: Beltran discusses whether managing is in his future

"When the family came to Houston for the summer, I told Jessica, 'This will be my last year for sure.' I couldn't be away from my family for such a long time anymore."

• Justice: Beltran's next chapter only a matter of time

Beltran got his storybook ending with the Astros' Game 7 victory over the Dodgers, giving him that long-awaited championship that had eluded him for the better part of two decades. Beltran's finest contribution was his clutch double in the ninth inning of Game 4 of the AL Division Series vs. the Red Sox, which helped Houston clinch the series.

Video: HOU@BOS Gm4: Beltran hits RBI double off the Monster

What now for Beltran? He is looking forward to spending time with his family in New York, where his two daughters attend school, though he knows he wants to manage in the Majors someday.

"As a family, we're looking forward to spending time together, traveling, enjoying ourselves and doing things with our kids," Beltran said. "At the same time, I've told Jessica that at some point in my career, I would love to have the opportunity to manage."

The 2017 season had been a different one for Beltran, a nine-time All-Star who had been an everyday player for the bulk of his first 18 full seasons. The Astros signed him to be their primary DH, though as the season progressed, his playing time decreased.

Video: Must C Comical: Beltran has glove buried, bat rises

That didn't minimize Beltran's significance to the Astros, whose core was comprised of young players who lacked the wisdom and experience of their elder statesman. As George Springer struggled through the American League Championship Series, he relied on Beltran's advice to help him stay focused. Springer responded with a huge World Series, earning MVP honors as Houston captured its first title, giving Beltran plenty of credit along the way.

"As a player, you get to a point where you're pursuing this goal every year and you know how hard it is to accomplish that," Beltran said. "This year was different for me; by the end of the season, I didn't play as much. I was very active with the guys in the clubhouse, working with the younger players, so I got to see a different side of the game. It was a different role, but I really enjoyed it.

Video: Beltran's powerful postseason run carries Astros

"I told Jessica, 'If I win the World Series, it will be an amazing story; but if I don't, that won't diminish or define who I've been as a ballplayer.' There are so many players that played this game and never had the chance to win the World Series or even go to the playoffs. Being able to win was a great feeling, especially with a great group of guys. It's something we'll remember for the rest of our lives."

Tweet from @darenw: An absolutely amazing career by Carlos Beltran. Here are all of his hits from 2001 on. pic.twitter.com/HYQlqCUHGQ

Beltran retires with a .279/.350/.486 slash line, 2,725 hits, 435 home runs, 1,587 RBIs and 1,582 runs scored. He admits that falling short of some milestones -- 3,000 hits, in particular -- is disappointing, but he feels comfortable that he took full advantage of his talent during stops with the Royals, Astros, Mets, Giants, Cardinals, Yankees and Rangers.

Video: Must C Classic: Beltran hammers 400th career home run

Chasing milestones, however, wasn't enough to keep him playing instead of going home to spend time with Jessica and their three children, Ivana (10), Kiara (6) and Evan Carlos (2).

• Beltran's best moments with each team

"I didn't tell anybody, but I was 100-percent sure that I was going to go home [after the postseason]," said Beltran, who tried to soak everything in during the final months of the season. "There were days when the family was in Houston that I didn't feel like going to the ballpark. I was having such a good time with the family, with the kids. When I started getting those feelings, it made me think.

Video: STL@NYM: Beltran blasts a walk-off two-run homer

"I have such a passion for baseball, but at some point, it's time. I wish I could play this game for a few more years to get to some goals like 3,000 hits or things like that, but at the end of the day, I just felt like it was time for me to move to my next chapter in life."

Video: Cashman reflects on Beltran's career, retirement

Beltran's name is frequently thrown around in Hall of Fame conversations, but he hasn't spent much time considering that possibility. After more than two decades of focusing only on things he could control, he's not going to get wrapped up in something completely out of his power.

Video: KC@CWS: Beltran records his first Major League homer

"I'm satisfied with my career," Beltran said. "I can see myself back in my hometown of Manati [Puerto Rico], walking to the ballpark when I was a kid, trying to become a professional ballplayer. Seeing the things that I have accomplished in the game, not a lot of guys have accomplished that. That God chose me to be one of those guys, I'm extremely blessed."

Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined MLB.com as a reporter in 2001.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

New York Yankees, New York Mets, Houston Astros, Kansas City Royals, Carlos Beltran