The middle-infield market is not flush with options whether you are looking at free agency or trades. There is one, no-risk move the SF Giants could make to address defense up the middle - Adalberto Mondesí.
One no-risk move the SF Giants shoulder consider to upgrade middle infield defense
If you were a Giants fan in the 1990's, then like me, you probbaly spent a lot of time booing his father, Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Raúl Mondesí. He was good and he was on my least favorite team, so he was easy to boo.
The elder Mondesí was not alone in that regard. We all spent time booing Mike Piazza, Eric Karros, or Todd Zeile just to name a few others.
We have spent all offseason looking at middle infield options and there are just not that many players available. Perhaps, Elvis Andrus is one of the better free-agent infielders remaining. His defense remains solid, but his bat is well below average. On the trade market, Santiago Espinal of the Toronto Blue Jays checks a few boxes as well. Neither is a perfect or even a great fit, but either player can functionally fill a role on a 26-man roster.
The Giants need someone who can functionally fill a role in case of injuries. Giants second baseman posted a 72 wRC+ (27th in MLB), whereas their shortstops tallied a 70 wRC+ (25th in MLB) in 2023. Perhaps, the lack of production at second base is surprising given that Thairo Estrada had a solid year last season.
Estrada was not the problem. When he was injured, the Giants struggled to get any meaningful production from the depth options such as Brett Wisely.
In 2024, the Giants have Estrada penciled in at second base and Marco Luciano at shortstop. They really need to avoid the situation they encountered last year where they had no depth at either position. It was a poor misjudgment by the front office in relying on the 40-man roster to fill that role, which they tried to correct by adding Johan Camargo and Paul DeJong late in the year.
As I mentioned above, there is no perfect fit. There are no well-rounded options in free agency. Some of the better middle infielders available are limited by range or arm strength to second base. And, the ones who can field cannot produce much with the bat.
This brings us to Adalberto Mondesí. Mondesí is a free agent for the first time in his career but does not have the leverage to command any type of contract security. He has missed substantial time in recent seasons, including the entire 2023 season. If you have been following the Giants for the past several seasons, you will agree that while they are generally risk averse, there is one type of risk they accept - injury risk.
The 28-year-old infielder suffered a torn ACL in his left knee early in the 2022 season that sidelined him for the remainder of the year. Following an offseason trade to the Boston Red Sox, he continued to feel discomfort in that knee while appearing in rehab games before being shut down for the season.
Following a significant injury like that, there is no telling whether he will have the same athleticism and speed he displayed earlier in his career. That said, when he was healthy, he was quietly a well-rounded player who is worth the gamble.
His best year came in 2019 when he slashed .276/.306/.498 (115 OPS+) with nine home runs, 62 RBI, and 58 runs in 443 plate appearances. This includes 43 stolen bases in 50 opportunities. When was the last time a Giants player has stolen 40 or more bases in a season?
Now, it has been a long time since 2019 for Mondesí. Even when he was not putting up offensive numbers like he did in 2019, the switch-hitting infielder still played solid defense. In only 15 games in 2022, he recorded +4 Outs Above Average (OAA) at shortstop before sustaining a season-ending injury.
There are not going to get a well-rounded player who is coming off of a strong season in free agency. That type of player is no longer available at this point in the offseason. Though, they should still be able to target traits and one of those traits is defense.
Prior to his injury, Mondesí was an above-average glove. That is something the Giants should take a chance on and given that he has only played in 15 total games over the past two seasons, the cost will not be much. It is even possible that a minor league deal could get it done.
What the Giants need to avoid is entering the season without any reliable, middle infield options beyond Thairo Estrada and Marco Luciano. Even if Mondesí does not make an impact at the end of the day, it would still be a move that would make a lot of sense for the front office.