After swinging a trade to acquire speedy outfielder T.J. Hopkins, the SF Giants now have nine outfielders listed on the 40-man roster. So, what is the plan with all of these outfielders?
What are the SF Giants going to do with all of those outfielders?
Those nine outfielders do not even include players whose primary positions are elsewhere but appeared in the outfield in 2023 such as Blake Sabol, Tyler Fitzgerald, Brett Wisely, Thairo Estrada, and LaMonte Wade Jr.
The Giants will enter next season with five outfielders under contract. This includes Mitch Haniger, Michael Conforto, Austin Slater, Mike Yastrzemski, and Jung Hoo Lee. You can write Lee's name into the lineup on a daily basis. Team president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi confirmed that Lee would be the everyday center fielder during his introductory press conference.
After that, the rest of the alignment is less certain. Yastrzemski is cleary the next-best option behind Lee and should see more time in right field following the addition of Lee. Yastrzemski performed competently in center field over the past couple of years, but is a plus defender in right field.
I guess Haniger and Conforto will rotate between DH and left field. That is a bit of an odd set up given that both have had nice careers up until this point. That said, 2023 was a down year for both veterans.
Plus, it bears mentioning that both could be looking to score one more payday in free agency. Conforto is a free agent after the 2024 season, whereas Haniger has an opt-out clause he could exercise after 2024 if he performs well. There could be a sense of each player stepping on the other one's toes. This does not feel like an ideal situation for both players.
I do wonder if the Giants could still work out a trade from the main contingent of outfielders. Yastrzemski could fetch a modest return given that he has two years of team control remaining and is capable of playing all three outfield positions.
Slater would not net much in return and it is possible that the Giants still look at his roster spot as an opportunity to upgrade. He is an excellent role player, but it might behoove the Giants to add more of a traditional fourth outfielder option like a Harrison Bader.
Haniger is probably immovable at this point. I am more confident that the Giants could find a trade partner for Conforto. You would not get anything in return for him, but the Giants could pay down a huge portion of his remaining salary. Let's say they pay down 75 percent of his salary, leaving about $4.5 million remaining for a prospective team.
Why would the Giants do this? We have established that they would not receive much in return if anything. That would not be the point. However, that would open up a roster spot to add someone with a higher upside. Perhaps, that is through free agency with Kevin Kiermaier.
Or, it simply creates playing time for someone like Luis Matos. That roster spot might have more value based on the possibilities it creates than what Conforto can offer next season. The Giants have the money to make a move like this. Perhaps, they are banking on Conforto to hit closer to his career numbers than he did in 2023. That is a worthwhile risk.
Of course, behind the main group of outfielders, the Giants have several other options like Wade Meckler, Heliot Ramos, and Hopkins. They have some needs to address and it feels like they could use the glut of outfielders to find better roster fits.