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Mudville: April 13, 2024 9:26 am PDT

Showcase: Giants

BY KEVIN KERNAN

The San Francisco Giants have become baseball’s version of the Island of Misfit Toys

Except this is the Island of Talented Misfit Millionaires who landed in San Francisco because they could not get deals in other cities.

With the signing of free agent pitcher Blake Snell to a two-year, $62 million contract, the Giants have turned around their expectations. Now all Snell has to do is pitch like Blake Snell the two-time Cy Young winner.

Not an easy task.

The last time Snell won the Cy Young in 2018 for the Rays, when he was 21-5 with a 1.89 ERA, he followed up that season with a 6-8, 4.29 ERA stinker.

In fact, before going 14-9 with a 2.25 ERA with the Padres last season, Snell was a combined 25-26 with a 3.85 ERA from 2019-22. So Snell has something to prove, that he can be successful two seasons in a row and he already has put himself behind the eight ball by not signing until this week, starting spring training now, and that is on him and super agent Scott Boras.

The market has not worked out to Boras’ liking because so many big spending teams have taken a back seat and it must be noted, something I’ve said all along here, Boras wasn’t exactly working from a power position with Snell because it was obvious from the start that Snell preferred pitching on the West Coast and not in the cauldron of East Coast baseball.

This was never in the cards for the Yankees.

Snell wanted the West Coast lifestyle so, in essence, that took a lot of teams out of the running. He can opt out after a year, but being a year older for a pitcher is never a great thing and Snell will be 31 after this season.

The bottom line here, though, is that the Giants are better.

2023 National League Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell #4 of the San Diego Padres speaks to the crowd after accepting his award poses for a portrait at New York Hilton Midtown on Saturday, January 27, 2024 in New York, New York. (Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

In essence, the 2024 Giants have become the 2023 Padres. New faces hoping to click but it never worked out for the Padres last season. The Giants even have the Padres manager in Bob Melvin, a manager I respect, and Melvin has quality coaches on his staff in the likes of Pat Burrell, Bryan Price and Matt Williams, so already the Giants are better off than they were under Gabe Kapler.

The heat is justifiably on baseball boss Farhan Zaidi, who was given way too much credit much too early in his career, and even with the good season the Giants had in 2021, a lot of that was because of the leadership they had on that team. Zaidi has to produce a winner now so changes have been made. Presidents of baseball operations really start operating when their POBO neck is on the line.

When you run out of people to blame and ownership holds up a mirror to your empty words, that is when things get done and to the Giants credit they were finally able to give away that money they have been trying to give away through the years with the Lost Pursuits of Aaron Judge, Carlos Correa, Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Shohei Ohtani, among others.

In addition to Snell finding a home for at least this season there is solid third baseman Matt Chapman, who signed a three-year, $54 million deal. Chapman can opt out after the first and second year of the agreement.

Believe me, these players were not looking for contracts with opt outs, they were looking for tons of money and a longtime home, so this is not a win for Boras, who is used to winning.

The Giants also signed slugger Jorge Soler to a three-year $42 million deal and went all out to sign South Korean outfielder Jung Hoo Lee to a $113 million deal. High velo Jordan Hicks is on board with a four-year, $44 million deal as he attempts to move from reliever to starter.

Soler bashed 36 homers for the Marlins last year while striking out 141 times. Matt Chapman hit 17 home runs last year for the Blue Jays while striking out 165 times.

There will be strikeouts on both sides of the ball.

This is quite the baseball experiment and I’m here with a box of popcorn to watch. In this age of Showcase Baseball, Dr. Z is essentially putting together a Showcase Team, with name tags and all. And like those Showcase teams you never quite know who is on your team until everyone shows up on the field.

“I guess two Cy Young Awards are worth $31 million a piece, $62 million,’’ the evaluator said. “He usually doesn’t bounce back after a good year, but he only threw five innings every outing.’’

Robbie Ray is also an addition to the Misfit Millionaires Club but he is not ready to perform yet because he is returning from Tommy John surgery.

The Giants forfeited some draft picks in the signings of free agents, but that’s life. If they don’t turn it around Dr. Z will be working somewhere else so those draft picks mean nothing to him.

That is another benefit of being a baseball boss these days. No matter how bad a job you do, you are in the club for life and someone else will hire you in some capacity.

What does a top evaluator think of the Giants moves, starting with Snell?

“I guess two Cy Young Awards are worth $31 million a piece, $62 million,’’ the evaluator said. “He usually doesn’t bounce back after a good year, but he only threw five innings every outing.’’

Snell managed 180 innings last season, a big jump from the 128 innings in 2022 and 2021.

Those 180 innings turned into a 14-9 record with an outstanding 2.25 ERA as Snell struck out 234 batters but also walked 99 for Melvin in 2023.

Having to track down the Dodgers is not an easy thing and all the money they threw at Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto and also Snell’s old Rays teammate Tyler Glasnow. But at least the Giants are making this interesting and for that I give them credit.

I am curious, in the same way I was curious about the Padres last year, to see how this Opt-Out team opts-in for the 2024 season. Will they mesh as a team or will they be Boras Mercenaries?

“Their pitching should be pretty good because they are going to get Alex Cobb back and they have Logan Webb and Snell,’’ the evaluator said. “What version of Snell shows up is the big question.’’

Will it be Cy Snell or High ERA Snell?

Before the Snell signing the big Giants news in San Francisco was that longtime public address announcer Renel Brooks-Moon did not have her contract renewed after 24 years. Fans gravitate toward the PA announcer, look how Bob Sheppard became a Yankee legend.

But it helps to have Hall of Fame players to announce. For Sheppard, announcing “Now batting for the Yankees, No. 2 Derek Jeter, No. 2’’ was essentially one Hall of Famer announcing another Hall of Famer.

So if the Giants are going to get this right, they have to have better players to announce and with the signings they have made, they have better players than in 2023. Michael Conforto has a little help.

Two can play the money game of baseball and that is exactly what the NL West will be with the Dodgers and Giants, two great rivalries, taking shots at one another this season. The Padres, having imploded last year, may have something to say out West after trading for Dylan Cease.

Jung Hoo Lee (51) of the San Francisco Giants signs his contract with agents Scott Boras and Jeong Moon Lee after a press conference to introduce his contract with the San Francisco Giants on December 15, 2023 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Andy Kuno/San Francisco Giants/Getty Images)

The Little Engine That Could Diamondbacks shocked the Dodgers last year in the postseason and made it all the way to the World Series and I think they are an even better team this year, a team that understands 2024 MLB is not just about home runs and strike outs, but is about athleticism, and the D-Backs finally realized that you have to have four starting pitchers for the postseason, you can’t re-invent the wheel in October. Signing lefty Eduardo Rodriguez was a solid move.

Snell would have gone to the Angels if Arte Moreno was willing to spend the money but this is a good home for him. Oracle Park is gigantic, a pitcher’s paradise and having Logan Webb at the top of the rotation will help show the way for Snell.

First off, you can’t walk 99 batters again this year. Make them earn their way on.

The bottom line is that it will be worth it to stay up late and see what is happening in the NL West. I am all for divisions with big time rivalries.

That is why it is such a shame what has happened to the AL East with the Red Sox stepping away from their rivalry with the Yankees. The Orioles have taken the place of the Red Sox and that is a good thing, it is fun to see hard-working, hustling teams like the Orioles. And that is the key. The Orioles are a team, their young players have come up together, there is magic in being a team.

Will the Giants come together as a team and that is on Bob Melvin at this point. He is going to have to have the will to impress upon all these new millionaires they have to play together as a team.

“You’re going to have solid defense at third base in Chapman and that is a big plus,’’ the evaluator said. Here at Baseball or Bust we are all about defense.

“The key is Alex Cobb, if he comes back and he is healthy they will have pretty good starting pitching,’’ the evaluator said. “And they have the young closer in Camilo Doval at the end of the game so they can be pretty competitive.’’

Being competitive is what it is all about, just ask some of Melvin’s coaches like Burrell, Williams and Price.

The competitive tool is misunderstood in the Land of Metrics that baseball has become. You have to want to beat the other guy. It doesn’t just happen. Jung Hoo Lee is a question mark and let’s see what he brings to the major league table, that is another reason I want to watch Giants games to get a read on the $113 million man. Clearly, the Giants believe in him.

Human performance coach (we know) Harvey Martin (L) talks with pitcher Alex Cobb #38 of the San Francisco Giants during workouts at Scottsdale Stadium on February 23, 2024 in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

All these signings put the Giants over the luxury tax in a big way but that’s life playing with the big boys. When you drop from 107 wins in 2021 to 81 in 2022 and 79 in 2023, there is a financial price to be paid to get better. Now part of that slippage has to be attributed to players being worn down by the “Gabe Kapler Effect.’’ But some of it is because you don’t have the talent to succeed. This will be a time for the gamers on the roster to step up like second baseman Thairo Estrada, a player I really liked when he was with the Yankees. Same for Conforto and Mike Yastrzemski.

The Giants were 26th in runs scored last season while the rotation was 10th in ERA with a 4.12 mark.

With Rob Manfred’s expanded playoffs you don’t have to be great, you just have to be good enough to get there. The Giants don’t have to win the NL West but they have to find a way to be near the top. The Phillies and Braves present a big challenge over in the NL East. The team that does not win the NL East is in competition with the Giants for a playoff spot.

The Giants haven’t won a World Series since the Brian Sabean/Bruce Bochy days of 2014. It’s been awhile. They have only been to the postseason twice since then and have not won a Division Series. The magic from 2010, 2012 and 2014 is a fleeting memory.

Dr. Z’s Giants have to be better and adding Snell & Co. helps but don’t forget it’s going to be awhile before Snell is in pitching shape and you have to wonder with an opt out after this season how much will Snell push this year. But there is no denying his pitching talent. As Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said: “I wish the best players would quit coming to the NL West.’’

He made that comment after the Padres traded for Dylan Cease.

Now with Snell back in the NL West, but this time with the Giants, the NL West is where it is at in 2024. If these Showcase Giants come together, this will be a monster division.

It’s about time Dr. Z’s Giants get it together.

45+ years, columnist at NY Post for the last 23 years prior to joining BallNine. Elected to the NY Baseball Hall of Fame. Former SportsTalk Host (KFMB), ESPN’s First Take and Cold Pizza contributor. Frequent guest on radio shows and podcasts nationwide. Author of seven books. Seen in episode 10 of ESPN’s “The Last Dance” (the one with Dennis Rodman). First baseball interview he conducted was with Thurman Munson. Now you know why he is America’s Most Beloved Sportswriter.

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