SF Giants linked to pair of free-agent outfielders

Brandon Nimmo
Brandon Nimmo / Jim McIsaac/GettyImages

A handful of teams are considered to be in the running to sign this off-season's prize free-agent outfielder, Aaron Judge. The SF Giants are included in those and seem to have a legitimate shot to pick up the Northern California native, but they are still checking in on other flychasers in case their Judge pursuit fails.

Two of the main players San Francisco has interest in, according to Susan Slusser's reporting in the SF Chronicle (subscription required) on Monday, are Cody Bellinger and Brandon Nimmo.

Both players are able to play at least league-average center field defense, which is important after the Orange and Black had eight players start at least one game in center in 2022.

The difference between Nimmo and Bellinger is at the plate

Nimmo, who will turn 30 years old just as the 2023 season gets underway, just played over 100 games for the second time in parts of seven seasons in the Major Leagues with the New York Mets. A first-round pick out of high school in Wyoming in 2011, he saw his first MLB action in 2016 and has batted .260 or better every year except 2019.

In 2022, Nimmo batted .274 with an .800 OPS and a league-best seven triples. He added 30 doubles and 16 home runs while driving in 64 and scoring 102 times. The left-handed hitter struck out just 116 times, which in 673 plate appearances represented the lowest strikeout rate of his big-league career at 17.2%. Nimmo put up 5.1 bWAR and a 130 OPS+ in 2022.

On the other side of the offensive performance spectrum was Bellinger. A career Los Angeles Dodger since being drafted in the fourth round in 2013 and making The Show in 2017, the lefty hit .210 with 19 homers and 68 RBI in 144 games in 2022.

Bellinger won the National League Rookie of the Year in 2017 with 39 home runs and 97 RBI in just 132 games, and he was the Most Valuable Player in 2019 on the strength of a .305 average, 1.035 OPS, 47 homers and 115 RBI. Since 2020 he hasn't been the same at the plate, with a .203 batting average and 41 HR in 295 games since the pandemic began.

Just 27, some believe Bellinger can be fixed and regain some of his offensive thunder - but after the hitting-forward Dodgers refused to offer him a contract and let him go, it will take a lot to make him right again.