It is no secret that the SF Giants had one of the worst defenses in baseball last season. After signing Carlos Correa to a 13-year, $350 million contract, the infield defense should see a boost in 2023. However, the outfield defense is unresolved with a few options who could make sense.
3 glove-first outfielders that the SF Giants should target to bolster the defense
Last season, the Giants outfield defense combined to be worth -44 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), -21.8 Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), and -25 Outs Above Average (OAA). In terms of DRS and OAA, they had the worst outfield defense in baseball, whereas UZR painted a slightly better picture as the third-worst defense.
The Giants brought back Joc Pederson on a one-year, $19.65 deal and signed Mitch Haniger to a three-year, $43.5 million pact. That is not going to move the needle enough, but Pederson seeing less time in the field should pay dividends on defense.
Pederson and Haniger will join Austin Slater, Mike Yastrzemski, and LaMonte Wade Jr. as the primary outfielders as currently constructed. Wade Jr. is the primary left-handed bat at first base, so he could see some time in the infield as well.
Yastrzemski and Slater handled much of the work in center field. Yastrzemski graded out well as he was worth +4 DRS and +4 OAA in center field, whereas Slater received mixed reviews with -9 DRS and +2 OAA.
Yastrzemski did nicely in center field, but Slater likely need to stay in the corners at this point. If the Giants target a glove-first outfielder, it should be a center fielder. Not as a reason to push a good glove like Yastrzemski out of the lineup, but to move him to right field. That would improve the defense at two positions. Options are limited at this point in the offseason, but there are a few outfielders who make sense:
1. Kansas City Royals outfielder Michael Taylor
There is no perfect solution, so there will be a tradeoff on offense in prioritizing defense. That said, there are few better defensive options than Michael Taylor. The 31-year-old took home the AL Gold Glove award for center field in 2021 and proved to be a standout defender in 2022 as well.
He was worth +19 DRS, +13.2 UZR, and +5 OAA in center field last season. He ranked as the best center fielder in baseball in terms of DRS and the third-best outfielder based on UZR. Adding Taylor would considerably improve the Giants' outfield defense and the Kansas City Royals are poised to trade the nine-year veteran this winter.
Taylor is in the final year of a two-year, $9 million extension, so he is on an expiring deal. The Milwaukee Brewers shipped outfielder Hunter Renfroe and Kolten Wong, who were both on expiring contracts, this winter for minimal returns, so Taylor's cost would not be prohibitive.
Of course, San Francisco's lineup already features a lot of right-handed-hitters and Taylor would only add to the surplus. That could be a moot point as he derives a lot of his value from his glove.
The right-handed bat has not been known for his offense and the 2022 campaign was no different as he slashed .254/.313/.357 (90 OPS+) with nine home runs, 43 RBI, and 49 runs in 456 plate appearances. The Giants' lineup might not be strong enough to have too many glove-first players, but center field is one position where you can make an exception. Taylor feels like the best fit in terms of improving defense.