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Tuesday, December 08, 2015

A look at the top of the outfield market

There has been so much talk all over the airwaves and throughout internet media sources about Major League Baseball free agency and most of the talk has centered on the free-agent starting pitching market.

It does make some since though as there were really only two true, legit aces on the market in David Price and Zack Greinke. That's no knock on Johnny Cueto or Jordan Zimmerman (who are aces on plenty of squads out there) but the former two are the top guys on whatever staff they join, baring maybe a few exceptions. So, it makes since why so much attention has centered around the starting pitching market, but with Johnny Cueto the only real intriguing arm yet to find a home (and my guess is that should be coming sooner than later), let's just hope it's not the Dodgers. As for the next wave of arms (Samardzija, Mike Leake, Wie Yen-Chen, Hisashi Iwakuma, Kenta Maeda), Jeff Samardzija, considered by many the next best thing after the front-four, landed with the Giants. Although you know here that I was a strong advocate of going after Johnny Cueto but since the Giants didn't feel that same affection, what can you do as a lowly blogger and fan after all?

Anyway, away from the mound for a moment and into the outfield, where yes, they still have a major hole to fill, and it's a little more important than many people are making it out to be. I hear the "We have Jarrett Parker now, we have Blanco yadayada" but if the Giants fail to address their outfield depth AGAIN and role into next season without some legit options out there, I may just protest outside AT&T Park on opening day (if I weren't so damn lazy).

The one name we've been hearing most about filling Nori Aoki's void in left field was Ben Zobrist, but it came out Monday that the 34 year-old super-utility All-Star would prefer to play second base on a daily basis. That pretty much rules out the Giants unless they overpay or have some trade in the works involving Joe Panic and some outfielder, but that's so doubtful. So, with Zobrist slipping further off their radar, the Giants need to decide whether they go the next-tier up and spend a little more for the Alex Gordon's, Jayson Heyward's or Justin Upton's?

Yeonis Cespedes showed last summer he's a superstar who's only gotten better but the Giants haven't been linked to him, much like with Jordan Zimmerman. I don't think the Giants like something about him or how he'll develop over the next couple of years. But wow, look what dude did in just two months in the spacious Citi Field: 230 AB, 39 R, 17 HR, 44 RBI, .287, .337,.934) shredding NL pitching and he wasn't much worse in that huge Detroit yard before the deal. He did, however, disappear significantly in the playoffs. I wouldn't give him the $150M deal he's looking for, but I would give him 5-years in the $100M range, I mean, he's proven healthy and durable with the ability to hit 30+ a year with a nice average and a dependable left fielder who can play center in a pinch. So long as they feel he could fit in here. He's been the model of consistency since coming over and has even improved each year. At 30, he still has plenty of high-level play and the ability to carry an offense when he's on, left in him.

As for the others, I feel like Cespedes just slightly behind the top-men Justin Upton and Jason Heyward and then Gordon is the clear fourth option (Note I'm not including Chris Davis in this because he won't be playing outfield where he signs). I think Heyward's game would translate well at AT&T as he hits those home runs down the right field line a lot and that 309 foot porch could be conducive to that. Plus he's fast with gap power and could hit them out to triples alley and run for days. It's just too bad he can't play center for when Angel Pagan moves on after this season (assuming he does) or else he'd be so much more valuable. Heyward does a little bit of everything well though. Almost like a left-handed version of Hunter Pence and who wouldn't take another one of those guys on the team? However, your going to have to pay for his services, because not only is Heyward valuable now, he's 26 and hasn't even hit his prime yet, meaning his agent will be telling people he's only a shade of what he'll be in  four years. That's something that I think will shy many people away besides the notorious rich teams like Boston, New York, St. Louis, Chicago and Washington.


Then there's still my personal favorite, Justin Upton, who along with Heyward, Gordon and Cespedes, are the last of the real impact-able corner outfielders left on the market and Upton is a guy who always seems to pop-up on the Giants' radar. Problem is, if I remember correctly, he voiced worry about possibly joining the Giants and having to hit in their home ballpark each night, but who knows how serious that was, or whether his tune has changed. I do know he does strike out his fair share, but he also does get on base and is a shoe in for 25+ long balls and 85+ RBI and typically a .270+ average (minus last year). He's the guy that was looking like he was gonna take off and become one of baseball's elite in 2011 with that huge bat speed and ability to run and and get on base. However, ever since that year, he's either gone down or stayed the same, which is odd for a player in his mid-20's with that skill-set.

As much as I like him, Upton isn't coming to San Francisco though, and I doubt the Giants are even pursuing him. One guy they are pursuing, however, is Alex Gordon, and of all the upper-echelon free agent outfielders, I see him as the most likely option for the Giants. He probably won't break the bank, but should get five years in the $100M range. But I do think he'd be worth it, in this market. He's been Kansas City's Buster Posey the last five years and he's been about as steady as they come. He'd really be a good fit in the clubhouse, is a terrific defensive left-fielder and would probably see his numbers return closer to 2011 (.303/23/87/.879) hitting in front of Buster Posey and Hunter Pence. He's very similar to Ben Zobrist, who was clearly the Giants number one option, but I think Gordon is better because he's better suited for everyday left field duties and I think he's got more offensive potential than the elder Zobrist.

The things that drew them to Zobrist was switch-hitting bat and the defensive versatility, both of which make him a WAR monster (at such a reasonable price too!). Zobrist just does everything pretty well, but Gordon plays a better left field and is a more dangerous hitter than Zobrist. He's also three years younger than Zobrist which is a pretty big deal when your talking four and five year contracts.

The intriguing things with Upton and Heyward is their age under-30 age. Upton is curious at age 28, as that's when Barry Bonds came to San Francisco really went to the next level (Not in any way comparing the two, just saying Upton has similar skill-set and still has breakout potential). Because he's two years younger, I'd lean toward J-Up over Cespedes just because his ability to get on base when he's not hitting. Plus Upton's still so young to where he may take a 2 or 3 year deal to prove himself and become a free agent again at 30 and really cash in. But all in all, like I said, if it's a free agent, most all signs point right to Alex Gordon. He's the safe bet, will come cheaper than  the aforementioned options and still give you that middle-of-the-order threat.

I mean, there are more outfielders out there to and probably they're the ones the Giants will be going after. The likes of Dexter Fowler and Gerrado Para but the outfield class is slim pickings this year in terms of free agency. Teams know that too so if you try and trade for one your gonna have to overpay as well.

Speaking of trade, Bobby Evans made it clear the Giants aren't ruling out the trade route in their search for outfield help and even kept open the possibility of trading for an infielder with the ability to make that switch to left field. Heck, Michael Morse/Travis Ishikawa and Pat Burrell were the starting left fielders on a couple of those championship team after all. Far from defensive wizards in the outfield.

*Updated Giants' Free-Agent Wish List (The Giants Baseball Blog Edition)* 
1. SP Zach Greinke (Signed w/D-Backs 6 yr/$206M)
2. SP David Price (Signed w/Red Sox 7 yr/$217M)
3. SP Johnny Cueto
4. OF Jason Heyward (Signed w/Cubs, 8 yr/$184M)
5. OF Justin Upton
6. OF Yeonis Cespedes
7. OF Alex Gordon
8, SP Jeff Samrdzija (signed w/Giants, 5 yr/$90M)
9. UT Ben Zobrist (signed w/Cubs, 4 yr/$54M)
10. SP Mike Leake
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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6 Comments:

  • At 12:17 AM, Anonymous Kelvin Elling said…

    I may be dreaming but i think we can still get cueto in the 2 spot behind madbum. Have samardzja 3 then peavy and have cainer and heston battle it out for fifth spot the loser is the new Petit.

    Then for left field, sign Jason Heyward, He always reminded me of Barry Bonds and Barry starter in Pittsburgh wehre he was good but not great yet really, just like Heyward in Atl.... Compasions left and right I'd be so down for Heyward do you think there's a shot?

     
  • At 12:21 AM, Anonymous Kelvin Elling said…

    So check it @GiantsBlogger

    cf Pagan (or Blanco if Pagan craps out again)
    2b Panik
    LF Heyward
    C Posey
    RF Pence
    1B Belt
    3B Duffy
    SS Crawford

    LH Madison
    RH Cueto
    RH Samrdzja
    RH Peavy
    RH Heston

    Just saying... Thats a nice looking team folks!!!

     
  • At 4:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Still holdin out hope for Cueto.. Backload the "you know what outta the deal" for after cain is off and then look the eff out: Bum,Cueto,Samardzija,Peavy,Heston....Yikes!

     
  • At 4:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Gregor Blanco and Parker could be our LF for all I care if they got Cueto.. Then trade for left fielder if they need it in June. If dodgers get him and Chapman Imma be so heated!!!!

     
  • At 12:53 AM, Blogger Trevor Cole said…

    It doesn't appear as if the Giants have any interest in Cueto whatsoever which is a little surprising. They're probably just too worried about the health of his elbow and how it may have effected him in the second half of last season, when he was about as consistent as Matt Cain in August/September.

    Just so tough to count on Cainer after just 4 passable outings in 13 tries after his comeback in 2015. Not saying he's done by any stretch, just can't pencil him in for those 32 starts and sub-4 ERA like you could pre-2014...

     
  • At 12:55 AM, Blogger Trevor Cole said…

    Plus Heston was so tough to watch after the league sort of figured him out. For the Giants to count on those two to make up nearly half of their rotation would be too risky... They're gonna have to get someone else.

     

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