With Cueto in tow, LF only void
Obviously a popular question after the Giants signed Cueto last week was whether or not the Giants had the resources left to upgrade left field. Most assumed that the Giants would pretty much be done, but Bobby Evans actually said he would be surprised if they weren't able to upgrade there. He also said recently that the team would be more than comfortable with Gregor Blanco heading into the year if need be. So the big question is which route is the most realistic way to upgrade left field, if they are indeed able to? All outfielders who were available after Jason Heyward are still available on December 22nd, which is a bit surprising as many thought things would start falling into place after Heyward signed. However, after committing over $200M this winter to Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, it's doubtful the Giants will be in on the top few guys on the free agent market. That likely rules out Justin Upton, Yeonis Cespedes and Alex Gordon. That being said, we're getting close to January, and if the Giants somehow get lucky and bring Yeonis Cespedes or Justin Upton in on something like a 5-year, $80M deal or something like that then who knows? It's doubtful, as both are likely to get north of $100M, but not many expected the Giants to snag Cueto and look where we are now!
So, outside of those top guys we've talked about here before, the Giants are likely focused on the second-tier guys, led by Dexter Fowler. I mean, Fowler is borderline up there with those guys above him, as his defense is superior to all and he's the only one with the natural ability to play center field, which is where he could slide in 2017 after Pagan's deal expires. The question I have about Fowler would be how his bat would fare at AT&T Park. He's coming off a year where he hit 17 jacks but hit only .250 while playing his home games at Wrigley Field. I think the spacious outfield at AT&T would allow for more hits to drop for Fowler, but his power would probably take a nice hit. So when your all said and done, you may be looking at a younger version of Angel Pagan with better defense and will get on base a helluva lot more. Not a bad player at all, but not worth $17M/year if that's what he's seeking. Fowler would be great on a 4-year/$50M deal. I'd even go as high as $60M over four years but I don't think he's worth more than $15M oer year. That's getting to the point where I'd really rather just pay the extra couple million per season and get a legit offensive slugger like Upton (it's not my money after all).
The other free agents worth a look after Fowler would be Denard Span, Gerardo Para, Austin Jackson and Marlon Byrd. Seeing as they have Blanco on the roster already, it doesn't make a ton of sense to go at Span, as the two are similar players. Para is a little more dynamic offensively, and also a defensive stud, but his asking price is likely going to be inflated after his .291/14/51/.780 season and he's really just a notch above Blanco as a glorified platoon corner outfielder. Jackson is a little more intriguing as he to has been a solid center fielder in the past and is just 29 years old. My guess is that if the Giants go the free agent route, a return of Marlon Byrd, who wasn't bad during his stint here last year (39 G .272/4/31/.764), or an Austin Jackson dice-roll would seem very plausible.
As far as trade, it's tough to gauge because there are still a lot of free agents out there and teams aren't quite sure yet how their final rosters are going to look. Too many teams feel like they have an outside shot at contending. Carlos Gonzalez has been the most intriguing name on the rumor mill, but he'd probably cost half the farm system. Matt Kemp is someone who I've been keeping an eye on this winter and is an interesting subject. The Dodgers ate a lot of Kemp's contract upon the his trade to San Diego last December, so the Giants would be on the hook for four years and $60M (not bad in today's market). Kemp is coming off back-to-back solid, healthy seasons. Petco slashed away at his slugging and batting average, but he still hit 23 jacks and drove in 100 runs. Another slugging outfielder who's been rumored to be on the block is Jay Bruce. He, however, is coming off back-to-back dreadful seasons in which he hit .217 and .226, respectively. Still, his 30+ HR/year potential and age, 29, gives him value and the Reds certainly won't part with him unless they're getting back at least two prospects who are pretty sure bets to be good major league players.
The trade route is certainly an option but it would definitely cost them, prospect wise. They could also look at someone like Khris Davis, who would probably come cheaper, but also doesn't have the upside a guy like Bruce does. Again, I really don't think the Giants wanna do another long-term, big money deal this winter and won't go after one of those top outfielders. They may not even wanna pay Dexter Fowler what he's going to get, which is why I really think bringing back Byrd on a one-year $4-5M deal is where they're going to find themselves. He can platoon with Blanco and then if that combo isn't getting it done come June, then they dial up Cincinnati and check on Jay Bruce (if he's still there) or make that big blockbuster splash and bring in Carlos Gonzalez.
We may not post again until after the holidays, unless there is a move that is made. We'll try to get one more in before the calendar flips to 2016 (hopefully bringing some even year success with it) but just in case we don't we wish all our readers a very happy and safe holiday week. I truly appreciate everyone who stumbles across this site and a true thank you to anyone who's taken the time to read and comment on posts. I appreciate all feedback, good and bad, and look forward to expanding out website in the new year with possibly a new domain and updated graphics. So stay tuned!
HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM THE GIANTS BASEBALL BLOG!!!