An Early Look at the San Francisco Giants Approach to Free Agency
The season is winding down, and the San Francisco Giants are in the process of evaluating their team for 2019 and beyond.
This means identifying holes on the roster, and figuring out how to plug those holes. Free agency is certainly one way to go for the San Francisco Giants.
The Giants, like most teams, have been burned in free agency. The slow market last offseason was due in part to the players available. However, it was also due to many of the contracts becoming albatrosses by the end of the deal.
As a result, teams were unwilling to meet contract demands in terms of length of time. If the players do not change their demands, then we may see another slow offseason.
On one hand, the Giants will have extra money to spend in free agency. Both Hunter Pence‘s $18 million and Andrew McCutchen‘s $14.75 million salaries will come off the books after this season. Additionally, the luxury tax threshold will increase by another $9 million.
All told, this will give the San Francisco Giants about $40 million in spending this offseason. However, when you factor in raises earned through arbitration, it will be closer to $30 million.
Thirty million dollars can buy a lot of shiny, nice things. The Giants, presumably, will have holes to fill at either corner outfield spot. And, they may be in the market for a low-cost starting pitcher or two.
Ostensibly, the Giants could look for an upgrade at second base as well. Thirty million dollars will not plug all of those holes, so the Giants will need to get creative. Now, if the Giants find a way to trade one of their high-priced players, this gives them more spending ability.
It should be noted that some of the Giants recent free agent acquisitions include Jeff Samardzija, Johnny Cueto, Denard Span, and Mark Melancon.
Some of those deals made sense at the time of signing. However, the Giants have not been hitting home runs with handing out expensive, free agent contracts. Jeff Samardzija gives up home runs, but that’s probably not the same thing.
The Giants are not unique in having seemingly bad and expensive contracts on their roster. When a team buys a free agent, they are paying for a player whose best years are likely behind them. Baseball is littered with expensive contracts that teams wish they could get rid of.
With that being said, the Giants have some holes to fill. A list of potential fits for the Giants include Bryce Harper, A.J. Pollock, Michael Brantley, Patrick Corbin, Gio Gonzalez, D.J. LeMahieu, and Brian Dozier. Others could be considered as well.
Harper is a unique player. Any team that has the wherewithal, and is a plausible fit, should pursue him. This includes the Giants. They will likely make an effort to bring him to San Francisco. However, what should they do if they miss here?
Then, they could pivot and target consolation prizes. Some consolation prices include Pollock, Brantley, LeMahieu, Corbin, Dozier, or someone not listed. There is a problem with this.
The Giants have enough highly paid veterans on their roster. Roster building through free agency is an expensive approach. It is proving that it just does not work. Other teams are aware of this as well. Don’t take my word for it, just look at last season’s free agent market.
The Giants really need to get with the times. In particular, the Giants should avoid handing out long-term contracts. These are the contracts that are most difficult to trade. And, they remain in the books far beyond the player’s usefulness.
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Any deal beyond two years should be avoided by the Giants. The trade-off with a short-term deal is that the Giants may need to pay a higher average annual value (AAV). That is an okay trade-off, especially if the player does not perform.
However, the Giants could use this to their advantage. If a player’s market does not develop, they may be able to get a quality player on a short-term, bargain. They have a few holes to fill. So, they will need to be cost-effective in approaching free agency.
Ultimately, the San Francisco Giants best approach might be signing one or two players in free agency. Then, filling the rest of the holes through trades. However, they do not have the prospects to acquire an all-star with multiple years of control remaining.
As a result, they will have to rely on their scouting. Scary thought, I know. They may have to target buy-low options. Hopefully, some of those options exceed expectations.
With the Giants shifting focus from this season to their future roster, they will be in evaluation mode. They have been burned far too many times in free agency by handing out long-term, expensive contracts.
The San Francisco Giants should veer away from targeting top-tier talent in free agency. Their focus should be on identifying bargains instead. This will be a season in which they will have some money to spend, but they should not spend it all. Unless, they spend it on Bryce Harper, of course.