The SF Giants have been in the market for a pure center fielder and are casting a wide net. They have been connected to both Cody Bellinger and Jung-Hoo Lee, but are in the market for Harrison Bader as well according to Jon Morosi of the MLB Network.
MLB insider believes the SF Giants are "active" on former Gold Glove winner
The position-player side of the market is weak this offseason. While the Giants seemingly have a lot of holes to fill, there are not a lot of obvious fits for what they need. Bader is another example of that.
This offseason might be an exercise in identifying where the team is deficient and seeing what traits can help that. That would be the case with Bader. He is not an all-around solid contributor but has traits that could help the club.
At the plate, the right-handed bat has an inconsistent track record. He has registered a .243/.310/.396 (92 OPS+) with a 7.3 percent walk rate, 24.3 percent strikeout rate, and a .153 ISO. He often flirts with being a slightly above-average hitter to a below-average hitter, but rarely does so in a predictable way.
That said, he does have an .824 OPS against left-handed pitching throughout his career, so he could be used in matchups.
The 29-year-old can make an impact defensively. He has a strong reputation with the club, including earning a Gold Glove award in 2021. The 2023 campaign was no different as he posted +9 Outs Above Average (OAA), which was seventh-best among outfielders.
Since he debuted in 2017, Bader has recorded +68 OAA. Only Kevin Kiermaier (+69 OAA) has been a better defensive outfielder during that time. Anyone who has watched the Giants in recent years knows that outfield defense has been a glaring issue.
Upgrading the outfield defense was an obvious need last offseason but it was not properly addressed. Since the start of 2022, Giants outfielders have combined to tally -26 OAA, which is the worst mark in baseball.
Adding Bader would considerably upgrade the outfield defense. Plus, he is a very fast runner. Of course, the Giants were one of the slowest teams in baseball last year.
MLB Trade Rumors predicts that he could land a deal of two years and $20 million. A $10 million average annual value feels a tad high for a player who has struggled to the tune of a .635 OPS over the past two seasons.
The Giants are clearly casting a wide net in their search for an upgrade to the outfield. A rumor does not carry a lot of weight during the offseason, but it is usually a talking point. This feels like a square-peg, round-hole type of fit, but perhaps, would be a marginal upgrade and a better fit than someone like Austin Slater. Maybe as a fourth outfielder, I could see him being a nice addition but he would not change the dynamic of the roster. He would help address a couple of areas where the Giants have struggled recently, however.