Why did the SF Giants bring in slick-fielding shortstop Nick Ahmed?

Baltimore Orioles v Arizona Diamondbacks
Baltimore Orioles v Arizona Diamondbacks / Chris Coduto/GettyImages

The SF Giants brought in a veteran glove on Monday. Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic reports that longtime Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop Nick Ahmed has joined the Giants on a minor league deal. What role could he fill?

Why did the SF Giants bring in slick-fielding shortstop Nick Ahmed?

The Giants have a major need for middle infield depth and it felt like they were making the same mistake as last offseason with not having serviceable options in case something happens to the top option.

In 2024, the Giants are prepared to go into the season with infield prospect Marco Luciano as their top option at shortstop. What happens in the case of injury or underperformance? As Baggarly eloquently notes, there is a difference between addressing a need and filling a need. In the case of Ahmed, it feels like the latter where he checks the box as infield depth, but does not necessarily address the need as shortstop could still be a problem area.

The Giants do not have many roster battles going on in camp, but the utility role is one to monitor. Ahmed joins Otto López, Tyler Fitzgerald, and Casey Schmitt as some of the players vying for the Opening Day spot. Of course, this group is extremely inexperienced outside of Ahmed.

That does not necessarily mean that the veteran infielder has an egde in this battle. In an ideal world, the Giants would like for the utility role to see some time in the outfield. Fitzgerald and López have experience in the outfield, so either player's skill set would seemingly be a better fit with respect to multi-positional versatility.

However, Ahmed is still solid defensively and will arguably be the best shortstop with the glove in camp. He has the track record to back it up as he won two Gold Glove awards with the Arizona Diamondbacks in the late 2010's.

He is no longer a Gold Glove-caliver shortstop, but he continued to post favorable marks last year with +1 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and +6 Outs Above Average (OAA). It is no secret that the Giants defense has been an issue in recent seasons with several spot spots in the field.

The defensive metrics at shortstop were mixed in 2023. Giants shortstops tallied -21 DRS and +3 OAA. Depending on the metric you use, they were either the worst in baseball or the middle of the pack.

There were not any all-around fits for the Giants this winter in terms of middle infielders. At that point, you have to target qualities and the quality Ahmed brings to the table is defense. There is no denying that he offers very little offensive value with the bat. He has struggled to the tune of a .664 OPS in 10 seasons with the Diamondbacks.

However, shortstop is just a position where you cannot ignore defense. This is especially true since the rotation features some groundball-heavy arms like Logan Webb, Alex Cobb, and Jordan Hicks. You need a defense that can convert ground balls to outs.

So, if Luciano is unavailable for any reason and if Ahmed makes the club, the Giants can be reasonably confident that the defense at that position will be okay. It is a no-risk move.