What are the San Francisco Giants doing with the Outfield?
By Hiren Patel
The San Francisco Giants entered the offseason with clear set of needs, but a bleak 2019 outlook after an underwhelming 2018 campaign. Last year’s team had not shortage of flaws, but the most obvious was likely the inept outfield.
So far, nothing has been done to fix that problem, and this year’s outfield might somehow be even worse than last year’s. Each of the top five outfielders in terms of games played for the San Francisco Giants last season (Andrew McCutchen, Gorkys Hernandez, Gregor Blanco, and Austin Jackson), are no longer on the team, so an entirely new group will need to be ushered in.
With some of those players, especially the ladder three, the Giants will definitely be adding by subtracting, but are the internal options really better for the team than the free agent crop or potential trade targets?
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Some free agent outfielders who have already been snapped up off the market are Michael Brantley, A.J. Pollock, McCutchen, Nick Markakis, Jon Jay, and Avisail Garcia.
I can understand why the team wouldn’t want to give out a multi-year contract given the current state of the franchise, but Markakis, Jay, and Garcia all signed reasonable deals for one year and would have been a theoretical fit.
Any of the three could have been a veteran corner outfielder who could be flipped at the deadline for prospects if they have a decent season. This seems like the type of low-risk, medium-reward move that new decision maker Farhan Zaidi would have pursued.
Perhaps even their relatively marginal pricetag was too much for his taste, or he has his eyes on other targets, or maybe he is even comfortable with the current group – regardless of how untested they may be at the big league level.
The current Giants depth chart projects a starting outfield of Chris Shaw, Steven Duggar, and Austin Slater from left to right. Mac Williamson and Rule 5 draftee Drew Ferguson are the bench options. Mike Gerber, who the Giants claimed in December from the Detroit Tigers, was DFA’d last week when they signed Drew Pomeranz.
Duggar certainly deserves his chance to play every day in center field, but I’m not confident in the rest of the group’s ability to produce in 2019.
Zaidi comes from the Dodgers and A’s, franchises known for making at least under the radar acquisitions, but he hasn’t really made an outfield transactions outside of those with Gerber and Ferguson.
Additionally, the Giants had roughly $40MM in player salaries taken off the books after the season ended and were under the luxury tax threshold, but have only really spent a portion of that newfound breathing room on Derek Holland and Drew Pomeranz.
I’m not saying they need to immediately spend that money, but there are similar deals out there for outfielders too.
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Most options would really only need to be able to play the corner with Duggar in center, and they should definitely stay away from the major commitments they’ve made in the past to players like Angel Pagan, Denard Span, and Hunter Pence.
Towards the end of the offseason (i.e. now) should even be the best time to pick from the remaining free agents as players get antsy and their asking price may drop. Short-term options include Gerardo Parra, Adam Jones, Carlos Gonzalez, Derek Dietrich, and Cameron Maybin, among many others.
The trade options may be a little more inspiring, and I’ve previously cited Adam Duvall and Nick Castellanos as potential targets. Kevin Pillar, Randall Grichuk, Eric Thames, Mikie Mahtook, and Steven Souza are other options that could likely be had for the right price.
I personally think acquiring a veteran free agent or two is the better way to proceed, as the Giants won’t have to give up prospects in exchange for their services.
If the acquired player succeeds, they’ll take some at bats away from a younger player, but would serve as a trade chip down the road. Meanwhile, if the acquisition is a flop, the Giants could release him and will only come out a little bit poorer.
There isn’t much of a downside either way, so I hope the Giants and Zaidi recognize that and bring in some external outfield competition this spring.