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Giants must fill center field void at Winter Meetings

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 11: Kevin Pillar #1 of the San Francisco Giants hits a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh inning against the Colorado Rockies at Oracle Park on April 11, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 11: Kevin Pillar #1 of the San Francisco Giants hits a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh inning against the Colorado Rockies at Oracle Park on April 11, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /
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After non-tendering Kevin Pillar, the San Francisco Giants must walk out of the Winter Meetings with a new starting center fielder.

The San Francisco Giants added Kevin Pillar just after the start of the 2019 season and he finished as the team leader in hits (157), doubles (37), home runs (21), RBI (87), runs scored (82) and steals (14) while playing 129 games in center field. All told, he tied for the team lead with 156 games played.

However, those statistics alone were not enough for the front office to feel their starting center fielder for most of 2019 should be tendered a contract this offseason, and he was cut loose into free agency.

As the roster stands here at the beginning of the 2019 Winter Meetings, it is fair to say the Giants are without a legitimate candidate for the starting center field job.

Beyond Pillar, just two others players made an appearance in center field during the 2019 season: Steven Duggar (39 games) and Mike Yastrzemski (7 games).

In his two seasons at the big league level, Duggar owns a .241/.286/.358 slash line over 433 plate appearances with six home runs and six stolen bases. That is likely all the Giants can expect from Duggar going forward.

In parts of three seasons in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League at the Triple-A level, he totaled little more than a good slash line of .283/.377/.443 with nine home runs and 16 stolen bases in 114 games.

Yastrzemski undoubtedly earned himself a starting spot after a breakout rookie season where he hit .272 with 21 home runs over 411 plate appearances. Though he has spent time in center field in the minors, he has far more experience in the corners and does not have the typical speed a team would desire to cover the space in the middle of the outfield.

The 40-man roster has just two other outfielders with any recent experience in center: Austin Slater and Jaylin Davis. They have also both logged far more time in the corner outfield spots than in center.

After non-tendering last season’s top hitter in Pillar and with rumors swirling that the team is no longer interested in re-signing Madison Bumgarner, the Giants front office will need to do something to begin appeasing the fan base.

Filling the gap in center would accomplish that, and the Winter Meetings are just the place to do it.

Center fielders rumored to be available on the trade market include All-Star Starling Marte (PIT), Odubel Herrera (PHI), and Jackie Bradley, Jr. (BOS), to name a few.

A Marte trade could benefit both clubs, but the acquisition cost would be steep for the Giants. However, with Herrera on the outs in Philadelphia and Bradley a potential casualty of cost-cutting measures in Boston, those two could come at a significantly lower price.

The free-agent market is decidedly thinner on viable options.

In fact, Pillar is probably the best of the bunch, while speedsters Billy Hamilton and Jarrod Dyson are best suited in a fourth outfielder role.

Next. The state of the bullpen for 2020

No matter what direction they go, the Giants must be buyers at Winter Meetings. They should be willing to make significant moves, be it for next season or the future of the club. With no clear option on the 40-man roster and top prospect Heliot Ramos still not MLB ready, filling the void in center field should be the team’s No. 1 priority.

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