The San Francisco Giants have been fairly quiet this off season. Most of their initial forays in to free agency have not produced very much in terms of talent acquisition, or excitement. The Giants had focused on, at least publicly, trying to lure either, or in hopefully both, Florida Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton or Japanese import Shohei Ohtani to come play their homes games at AT&T Park.
Neither player opted to call San Francisco home. Internally, as has been now rumored/reported, it has been said that the Giants considered themselves longshots at landing either of the big fish (one literal pun there). As a result, the Giants are left to consider the next tier of free agents and trade targets to infuse their roster with talent and hope for the next several years.
While the Giants are cognizant of repeating, for the fourth year in a row, soaring past the luxury tax threshold and therefore incurring financial penalties and loss of draft picks; they have begun to shift some of their focus to the stacked 2018 free agency class that will be one to remember certainly.
The Giants did make a splash, albeit not quite the dip in to the deep end of the talent pool, but nonetheless it was a move. San Francisco traded one of their top prospects, young third baseman Christian Arroyo, outfielder Denard Span, and two pitching prospects for Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria. The Giants primary motivation for the deal was to get better defensively at third base, which they did, as well as improving their power numbers at third base also.
Another goal achieved with the trade for Longoria, was the shedding of Denard Span’s $9 million dollar contract, along with his shoddy defense in the outfield and being oft-injured during his two year stay with the Giants. While Longoria is 32, having just turned it in October, he is a former all-star with a solid glove at third base and someone capable of hitting 20+ homers. The Giants were desperate to find a right handed power bat, and this definitely checks that box. While Longoria is still owed $87 million for the next five years, the Giants are more than willing to gamble on the next two years being paramount with the current age of their roster.
The signing of Evan Longoria marks the second significant move the team has made this off-season, with the first being recently jettisoning off struggling and enigmatic pitcher Matt Moore. The 2017 season was unkind to Moore, who endured an abysmal year on the mound with a 6-15 record and a league worst 5.52 ERA. Ouch. The Giants traded Moore to the Texas Rangers, for two minor league pitching prospects. While their names won’t draw too much enthusiasm for the Giants faithful, we can keep our fingers crossed that these two prospects right handers Israel Cruz and Sam Wolff, one day soon ascend past Triple A and make it to The Show.
Meanwhile, until more moves are made by the Giants brass, the voices of discontent will grow louder and louder among San Francisco Giants season ticket holders and fans everywhere. Fresh off a last place finish in the improved National League West that saw the Giants lose 98 games and finish 40 games behind division winner Los Angeles Dodgers, Giants fans are hoping to add some sizzle to the squad that finished last in just about every meaningful power category there is- especially home runs.
No longer the same game it was just 3 short years ago when the Giants were finishing off their third world championship in a five year window, that was based primarily on stout starting pitching, lights out work by the bullpen and clutch hitting up and down the order. Today’s major league baseball game, as it does so often, has cycled back around to power being premiere. While great pitching still usually beats great hitting, the gap has narrowed. And in the court of public opinion, power is sexy. Power sells. Home runs keep fans in their seats. Singles up the middle or a sacrifice fly keeps the fans in line to get coffee for fear of falling asleep.
Giants president Larry Baer, executive vice president of baseball operations Brian Sabean and general manager Bobby Evans are tasked with reshuffling the cards in the Giants deck. The need for more speed and better defense in the outfield is most likely priority number one; or at least it should be. Upgrading third base and maybe even first base are also on the table. Re-stocking the bullpen with quality arms who can get strike outs and ground balls consistently is also high on the shopping list for the Giants.
I actually am a believer that you can never have too much quality starting pitching. Ever. In that regard, I hope the Giants make a run at another starting pitcher that can help them back up the NL West ladder. Especially if the Giants are unable to get a power hitter or two to come to San Francisco, they will need as much starting pitching depth as possible to neutralize the rest of the league’s big bats.
Names that have been mentioned as matches for the Giants, either in trade or free agency are Boston Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradly Jr, Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen, St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Randall Girchuk, Milwaukee Brewers outfielders Keon Broxton and Domingo Santana, free agent third baseman Todd Frazier formerly of the New York Yankees, free agent outfielder Jay Bruce formerly of the Cleveland Indians, New York Yankees outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, Chicago White Sox outfielder Avisail Garcia and Cincinnatie Reds centerfielder Billy Hamilton.
Which of these, if any, will don the Giants uniform when spring training starts in a few months? Hopefully at least one, and though the Giants farm system is generally thought of as being weak and lacking top tier prospects that would inhibit them from making deals with other teams, the Giants do need an influx of talent immediately. They have to get it done this off season. As the Giants proudly proclaim themselves, they don’t rebuild; they reload.
Of all the names connected to the Giants listed above, I prefer Reds centerfielder Billy Hamilton. His speed is unmatched, meaning he can turn the cavernous outfield grass at AT&T Park his playground. He also wreaks havoc on the base paths. When he gets on first base, it is like a triple as he is prone to swept second base and third base handily. Even though Hamilton’s on base percentage and batting average are borderline average, he is young enough and has the tangiles the Giants need where it makes complete sense to trade for Hamilton; as long as it does not cost the Giants too many minor league prospects.
The Giants have promised their loyal fan base, season ticket holders and investors alike that change is coming, and that the 2018 San Francisco Giants will be much different than the latter half of 2016 and entitle 2017 versions [snax_content]