It was around this time last year that the SF Giants officially lost out on Aaron Judge. At that point, they were preparing to pivot to Carlos Correa. That spectacularly fell apart. It has been a year since that dreadful December, but the Giants are relatively unchanged in that they are a still stale product.
Are the Giants' recent struggles hindering their free agent recruitment?
The Giants are recruiting the top of the free-agent class as they did last year. Shohei Ohtani, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, and Blake Snell are just a few of the names they have been connected to so far this offseason.
Unfortunately, the Giants just do not have a lot to offer in terms of tangible recruitment value. Of course, they can try to outbid the market for some of the top names. In that sense, they can put everything on the table and it is up to the other side to agree.
However, free agents seek qualitative factors like the chance to compete or play with another superstar. The Giants just cannot offer that. They have had one winning season since 2017. That was when they set a franchise record in 2021 by winning 107 games. The Giants are closer to a decade-long stretch of poor play than just a gap year or two.
The roster has one star player - Logan Webb. And, Webb is certainly that type of player after finishing second on the NL Cy Young voting in 2023. Outside of him, it is still a roster full of quality complementary players, but thin on impact talent.
This is one of the reasons why upgrading the lineup is more challenging than it seems on the surface. This year's free-agent class is light on impact talent on the position-player side with a few exceptions. The Giants could use help at just about every position, but also have serviceable players at just about every position.
The front office has to decide whether it makes sense to invest $20 million per season in a player like Matt Chapman, who might net the team one or two more wins over someone like J.D. Davis. If it improves the team, then that is what they need to do but the cost would not be insignificant.
You can do the same exercise in the outfield. Teoscar Hernández and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. are improvements to Michael Conforto or Mitch Haniger in the outfield. However, Conforto and Haniger are under contract for next season while Hernández or Gurriel Jr. might net the team an extra win or two.
All of this is compounded by the fact that the farm system has not consistently produced in years. The Giants saw a lot of rookies debut in 2023 and they hope that some of those rookies make an impact down the road. Overall, the farm system is closer to the middle of the pack, which is tough to sell to prospective targets.
The Giants are yet again facing an uphill battle in free agency. They just cannot offer the chance to compete on an annual basis like the Los Angeles Dodgers or the ability to join a team that re-opened its competitive window like the Chicago Cubs.
The addition of Bob Melvin helps. That might be the biggest factor that separates them from a year ago. Melvin has experiences and connections that span decades. The Giants hired him in part to his ability to attract free agents.
At the end of the day, recent performance and the current roster will be some of the biggest non-financial selling points for free agents. The Giants do not have recent history in their favor and the roster is light on impact talent outside of Webb. They had plenty of opportunities to improve the roster in the past whether it be re-signing Kevin Gausman or bringing back a local player such as Marcus Semien. However, the contracts that those players received were outside of the front office's comfort zone. The front office tried to be the smartest person in the room and it backfired.
Unfortunately, that continues to haunt them as they just do not have a roster to sell free agents. All it takes is one star to sign up and help change the direction of the franchise. The Giants have been eager to welcome that next star for years, but have struggled badly to attract that type of talent. That could change this offseason, but on the surface, it is very much the same team as it was last year.