SF Giants quietly addressed weakest area on roster with Robbie Ray trade

San Diego Padres v San Francisco Giants
San Diego Padres v San Francisco Giants / Ezra Shaw/GettyImages

The SF Giants traded from their outfield surplus by shipping Mitch Haniger and Anthony DeSclafani to the Seattle Mariners for Robbie Ray. In doing so, they may have quietly addressed one of the weakest areas on the 2023 roster - left field.

SF Giants quietly addressed weakest area on roster with Robbie Ray trade

Giants left fielders ranked last in baseball with a 70 wRC+ and -1.4 fWAR in 2023. It would be very easy for the Giants to improve upon that mark next season. Perhaps, even running the same group out there in left field would yield better results.

Haniger led Giants left fielders with 179 plate appearances followed by Blake Sabol with 120 plate appearances. It would be unfair to pin the below-average production in left field all on Haniger.

No one performed well at the position. Joc Pederson, Austin Slater, Michael Conforto, and Mike Yastrzemski all saw time in left field and, for one reason or another, they struggled offensively and defensively there.

This is likely just a case of random occurrences because all players are better than how they performed in left field last year. For example, Conforto recorded a .271 OPS in 50 plate appearances while appearing at the position.

Overall, he was much better than that, slashing .239/.334/.384 (100 wRC+) with 15 home runs, 58 RBI, and 58 runs in 470 plate appearances. Left field was a cursed position for the Giants.

They are poised to reverse that trend next season and the Haniger trade paves the way for that. Of course, the Jung Hoo Lee signing changes the defensive alignment as well. The former KBO outfielder is expected to be the everyday center fielder with Mike Yastrzemski shifting to right field and Conforto moving to left field.

Lee flashed a strong glove across seven seasons in the KBO. On the other hand, Yastrzemski's best defensive position is right field. Outfield defense has been a problem area for the Giants over the past couple of years but they should be improved in that area in 2024.

Of course, shifting Conforto to left field should give them better production than what they saw last year. Even if the eight-year veteran replicates his numbers from last season, it will still be an improvement. That said, being a replacement-level player would be an improvement as well.

The bar in left field is not too high given how that position performed in 2023. Fangraphs' Steamer projection has Conforto recording a .250/.343/.412 line (109 wRC+) with 17 home runs, 63 RBI, and 62 runs in 546 plate appearances.

That would be a huge improvement from the .602 OPS Giants left fielders tallied last season. And, it Conforto being another year removed from major shoulder surgery should help his performance as well. It feels like they can only go up from here.