The winter meetings are in full swing in Nashville, and the Giants have lots of money to spend if only they can find the right guys to take it.
Now that Jeff Samardzija has been signed to fill the No. 2 spot in the rotation, cough-cough, the focus has turned to left field. Talent-wise, Justin Upton, Yoenis Cespedes and Alex Gordon are the best options, but each has a hefty price. Upton also isn’t big on AT&T Park, which is unkind to right-handed power hitters. More likely, the front office will shop for comparative bargains such as Dexter Fowler, Geraro Parra and Denard Span among others.
But don’t count on Ben Zobrist, who has been a hot name lately.
Zobrist has experience, versatility, gap power and the ability to put the all in play, all of which make him an ideal fit for AT&T Park. He also can play any number of infield and outfield positions, which makes him attractive in the open market. Giants officials met with the switch-hitter in the Bay Area on Sunday, the eve of the winter meetings. The Mets wined and dined him in New York last week and met with his agent on Monday. The Washington Nationals will get their turn today.
The sticking point is Zobrist’s desire to settle into one position, preferably second base. Whereas the Mets have a vacancy there, the Giants have All-Star Joe Panik in place, although they may want to give his troublesome back more rest next season.
Zobrist also wants a four-year deal, which the Giants aren’t inclined to offer a player who will turn 35 years old in the spring.
CHAPMAN ON HOLD: The Giants better get a move on if they don’t want to fall farther behind the contenders. The Chicago Cubs did well to sign veteran pitcher John Lackey to a reasonable two-year, $36-million deal recently, and Los Angeles Dodgers weren’t about to sit on their wallets after the Zack Greinke walked out the free-agent door.
On Monday, the Dodgers rolled the dice on pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma for three years and $45 million and were on the verge of another deal for Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman in return for a pair of prospects. Or so they thought.
Reports surfaced that Chapman was involved in an incident two months ago in which he allegedly choked his girlfriend and fired eight shots from a handgun. According to the police report, no arrests were made because of conflicting stories and a lack of cooperation from the parties involved. Now the trade is on hold pending a Major League Baseball investigation as part of its domestic violence policy.
GOOD, BETTER, BEST: The College Football Playoff is an upgrade from the BCS system, but as Stanford coach David Shaw suggests, there’s still a better way.
Fact is, the four-team tournament will be without a member of the most competitive conference in the nation, which points to a major flaw in the system.
The Big Ten has a right to claim the title as the best conference, what with five teams among the top 14 in the final CFP poll. Yet the top-heavy Big Ten isn’t in the same class as the Pac-12 from top to bottom. Only half of the 14 Big Ten teams own better-than-.500 records. The Pac-12 doesn’t have many softies like Rutgers (4-8, 1-7) or Maryland (3-9, 1-7) or Purdue (2-10, 1-7) to beat up each week, yet it will send a conference record 10 teams to bowl games.
There’s also the imbalance of schedules to consider here. The Pac-12 plays nine conference games, and for that reason, it’s less likely to have a so-called great team.
Better to have the five power conferences play like number of games and expand the playoffs to six or eight teams. The six-team format would include the champions of the power conferences and the next highest-ranked team. Similar to the NFL system, the top two qualifiers would sit out round one. The eight-team format would include the power winners, that of the next highest-rated conference and a couple of wild card teams. Either way, a conference runner-up such as once-beaten Iowa could get the second chance the Hawkeyes deserved.
HOORAY FOR TORREY: So frustrated was 49ers receiver Torrey Smith at times this season, Balls almost wanted to buy the poor guy a bag of Skittles to cheer him up.
Smith finally scored a touchdown to beat the Chicago Bears in overtime on Sunday, only his third of the season and second reception in the game. He caught more than three passes in a game exactly one time this season.
“As a player, sheeesssh, it has been of a year of patience-building for me,” Smith said. “I’m actually kind of thankful for it, because it makes you appreciate the things that happen. It makes you appreciate just the whole grind.”
Smith will be paid base salaries of $750,000 this year, $4.5 million next year, $6.5 million in 2017, $6.5 million in 2018 and $6.5 million in 2019 to act as a decoy for an offense that doesn’t have a quarterback who can throw deep or a line that can allow him to do it.
OH, HAPPY DAY: The players whooped it up in the locker room like they had clinched a spot in a bowl game. But what the heck, it had been so long since the Niners won on the road, let’s give ’em pass.
Even the jovial side of Jim Tomsula made a rare appearance at his news conference Monday.
“It was by no means a perfect game, but to battle it all the way through and to a come out with a victory makes those moments in the locker from after the game more exciting and more emotional,” said Tomsula, who looked like a guy who had saved his job. “So, that part of it, we let that go a little bit longer for the guys to be able to feel that.”
GO FIGURE: This NBA math has Balls very confused. (Insert punchline here.)
We already know that Luke Walton can be Coach of the Month with a 0-0 career record, but how can his team be credited with 26 consecutive victories when it lost games in the interim?
According to the league, the Warriors’ streak includes the final four games of the 2014-15 regular season. That ignores the fact that they lost five times last postseason. In that case, they’ve actually won 25 in a row — the final three in the 2015 NBA Finals, plus 22 this season.
There’s also the argument that the record shouldn’t carry over from one season to the next. The 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers own the current mark of 33 consecutive victories, and the fact that they took place in the same season is that much more impressive.
But, hey, Balls wasn’t very good in physics, either.
THE LIST: Top 10 Giants prospects per Baseball America:
Christian Arroyo, shortstop
Tyler Beede, pitcher
Phil Bickford, pitcher
Lucius Fox, shortstop
Chris Shaw, first baseman
Sam Coonrod, pitcher
Aramis Garcia, catcher
Clayton Blackburn, pitcher
Jarrett Parker, outfielder
Adalberto Majia, pitcher
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