On the heels of hiring Bob Melvin as manager, team president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi met with the media to discuss the team's next steps. In doing so, he listed a pure center fielder as a need this winter, which seemingly could hint at KBO star Jung Hoo Lee.
Did Farhan Zaidi hint at KBO star when addressing SF Giants need for center fielder?
Zaidi discussed the offseason on the Tolbert and Copes show on KNBR earlier this week. They covered topics such as what Melvin's coaching staff might look like as well as what some of the team's needs are this offseason. The front office executive listed a pure center fielder, shortstop depth, and a frontline starter as just a few areas they want to address.
The desire for a pure center fielder is an interesting phrase as it suggests that defense will be a priority for any prospective target. This was arguably a need that should have been addressed last winter as well.
Zaidi indicated that the hope is to add someone to the mix so that Mike Yastrzemski and Austin Slater can spend more time in the corners. If you look at the Giants' 40-man roster, it is hard to make the case that they even have one true center fielder in the mix. They have players with true center field qualities like Wade Meckler's sprint speed or Yastrzemski's efficient routes, but no one who combines speed, instincts, and arm strength all into one.
This is where someone like Lee comes into play. The front office has been actively scouting both Lee and star NPB pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto. Zaidi cannot comment on the team's pursuits, but it is clear that the team is doing its due diligence on both players.
This is where the team actively scouting Lee and the desire for a true center fielder mix together. The 25-year-old has appeared across seven seasons in the KBO and played primarily center field for the Kiwoom Heroes. He has experience in the corners, but center field remains his primary position.
While defensive metrics are not easily accessible in other leagues, each league hands out awards at the end of the season like MVP and Gold Glove awards. And, it just so happens that the 2022 KBO MVP has won five Gold Glove awards in seven seasons. That streak might come to an end in 2023 as Lee appeared in only 86 games after suffering a season-ending ankle fracture.
The seven-year veteran certainly has the accolades of a true center fielder. Plus, the left-handed bat does a lot of things in the batter's box that the Giants like in a hitter. He has registered a .340/.407/.491 line in his KBO career while reaching double digits in home runs twice.
This includes a 9.7 percent walk rate against a 7.7 percent strikeout rate. The Giants struggled badly at putting the ball in play in 2023 as they had the sixth-highest strikeout rate at 24.5 percent. Adding a hitter with a more contact-heavy swing would help them in more ways than one.
Of course, there are other true center fielders on the market this winter, including Cody Bellinger, Michael Taylor, Kevin Kiermaier, and Harrison Bader. The Giants will likely be connected to Bellinger this winter, but Taylor or Bader would serve as low-cost options.
It is refreshing to hear the Giants seemingly prioritize defense at the premium positions. You might be able to get away with a below-average left fielder, but successful teams usually have good gloves up the middle.