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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Giants' possible targets through free agency

With only Madison Bumgarner, Jake Peavy and an uncertain Matt Cain under contact for 2016, it's obvious where the majority of the Giants' attention should be early on in the offseason. Luckily for them, there are set to be more than a few options in the free-agent market.

Last winter, the Giants were in heavy pursuit of one of the top arms on the market in Jon Lester, narrowly missing out to the Chicago Cubs. They also strongly considered James Shields too, but wound up spending significantly less by re-signing Jake Peavy and I think they did so with an eye towards this offseason. Here is the list of the upper-tier arms that are set to hit the open market after the World Series: RHP Johnny Cueto, RHP Zach Grienke, LHP Scott Kazmir, LHP David Price, RHP Jordan Zimmerman. Any of those guys, some more than others obviously, would look nice slotted behind MadBum in the Giants rotaion. The problem is, the Giants need more than just a single, top of the rotation arm, so that may enable them from going after a top guy like Price or Grienke. They need to add at least two starters, and also will need to address left field as well as shoring up the bullpen. With that in mind, their goal should be to add at least one arm from the group mentioned above, and maybe one from the second-tier of free agent starters which also isn't too shabby. That list includes RHP Jeff Samardzija, RHP Yovanni Gallardo, LHP Brett Anderson, RHP Marco Estrada, RHP Matt Latos, RHP Mike Leake and RHP Ian Kennedy. I would be all for bringing in Cueto/Zimmerman as well as a guy like Kennedy, Samardzija or even re-signing Mike Leake. A MadBum-Cueto/Zimmerman-Leake-Peavy-Cain/Heston rotation would be the strongest the Giants have entered a season with since 2012.

Obviously I'd love to see them land Grienke and give them that 1-2 punch the Dodgers have had the last few seasons. It would weaken the Dodgers, as there really is no equivalent to Grienke out there for the Dodgers to replace him with (Price is close, but not quite up to Grienke's level), and would make the Giants rotation a strength again even if that was their only upgrade there this offseason and both Cain and Heston wound up on the opening day staff. However, if it's a difference of $40-60M or more on a deal for Cueto or Zimmerman rather than Grienke, it could make quite a difference in ability to make another impact-upgrade.

Again, as they stand now, it's not quite clear what they'll do in terms of their starting left-fielder job and their returning center fielder is coming back in final year of his deal and has seen his play drastically decline ever since the end of 2012. Luckily for them, some in-house candidates did emerge at the end of the 2015 season, and there's always Gregor Blanco you can fall back on, but they may be in the market for two outfielders this winter just to really shore things up out there. As far as some of the outfielders go, the Giants will have the option at retaining Nori Aoki or letting him become a free agent by not tendering him a deal, so the ball is in their court with him. Seeing as he'll still be relatively cheap and was a highly productive player when healthy last season, retaining him may not be a bad idea if they want to slot most of their free dollars into the rotation. However, if they want to venture outside of Aoki, they could look at minimal upgrades like Dexter Fowler or Austin Jackson, or go into the next tiere and look at Jayson Heyward, Justin Upton or Yeonis Cespedes. After watching Aoki succeed in the leadoff spot last season, and seeing that he'll probably make around $7M compared to a guy like Fowler, who is virtually Aoki with more pop and less average and will likely land a multi-year deal worth over $12M annually, I like him more and more. However, if the Giants do want to upgrade, Cespedes would seem to be the ideal guy. Solid defender, great athlete and home run-champion type power that really came to light after moving over to the NL this summer.

The infield looks rock-solid with Kelby Tomlinson likely to become the utility guy in 2016 and all positions solidified with above-average guys at each position. They could use another veteran infielder who can play shortstop and take free agent Joaquin Arias' old role. Macier Izturis, Mike Aviles and Juan Uribe are the three guys who I would make immediate inquires about. An Uribe reunion would be pretty sweet, as he'd provide plenty of pop from the right side off the bench, as well as multi-position versatility. Izturis would give them another speed guy with good defense and contact, sort of a Blanco for the infield and Aviles is a solid all-around player, although he may hold out for a gig that promises more playing time.

Of course, we still have some time before free agency kicks off, but it may come sooner than later after the Kansas City Royals have looked like an unstoppable steamroller all postseason long that even the young power arms of the Mets haven't yet been able to tame. Speaking of which, Johnny Cueto may have erased some of the doubts people had about him with his outing in game two. If that's his last start of 2015 then I would feel absolutely fine with the Giants giving him a multi-year deal. I wouldn't give him Jon Lester money, but a 5-year/$100M deal wouldn't be outrageous in my opinion. I'd say he and Zimmerman are pretty darn equal, although Zimmerman has the edge in the durability department and Cueto can be more dominant when he's right. Zimmerman probably is the safe choice and if the money was pretty similar, I'd take him, but I just think Cueto, who didn't have an ERA higher than 2.82 since 2010 before his switching of leagues in July, has the slightest of edges when both are at their best. Another thing against Cueto though is his clubhouse reputation which is less than stellar.
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